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Government News : United States : Federal Government : Department of State : Daily Press Briefings

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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 19, 2013


Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 19, 2013


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • EGYPT
    • Economic Support Fund / Security Assistance / Review of All Assistance Programs
    • Legal Review and Policy Review
    • Relationship with Egypt / National Security Interests / Regional Stability
    • Mubarak Trial / Internal Egyptian Legal Matter / Path to Sustainable Democracy
    • Secretary's Contacts / Coordination and Cooperation Among Partners
    • Inclusive Process Moving Forward
    • Arbitrary Arrests / Security Concerns
    • Condemnation of Violence / Sinai Peninsula / Christian Institutions / Muslim Brotherhood Prisoners
  • UNITED KINGDOM
    • U.K. Law Authority Operation
  • INDIA / PAKISTAN
    • Dialogue between Pakistan and India / Kashmir
  • SYRIA
    • Refugees Crossing into Iraq / Coordinated Efforts
    • Geneva 2 Planning / Political Solution / Under Secretary Sherman and Ambassador Ford to Meet with Russian Officials
  • ZIMBABWE
    • SADC Communique / Electoral Process / U.S. Sanctions Policy
  • LEBANON
    • Condemnation of Attack


TRANSCRIPT:

1:34 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Monday in August. I’m impressed you’re all here, joining me here today. I don’t have anything for you all at the top. I can bet what’s on your minds, so let’s start there.

QUESTION: Okay. Let’s start with Egypt, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So to start with, this New York Times story of yesterday, which cites Administration officials as saying that the State Department has put a hold on financing for economic programs --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that directly involve the Egyptian Government. Just so we’re clear, as I understand this story, that’s talking about the approximately $250 million – some subset of the $250 million in economic assistance. Is that true? Has the State Department put a hold on financing for any of the economic assistance to Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Well, thank you for your question, Arshad. To be clear, we have not made a policy decision to put a blanket hold on economic support – on the Economic Support Fund, ESF assistance. Clearly, that review is ongoing, as we’ve talked about in here quite a bit. That review includes military assistance, security assistance, and it also includes economic assistance. But we have not made a decision to put a blanket hold.

QUESTION: Let’s drop the blanket, like, minus --

MS. PSAKI: Hold, a hold.

QUESTION: But on any – on any of the $250 million in economic assistance?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we’ve said from the beginning, we’re going to abide by legal obligations and we will make adjustments as needed – as needed in the future. The review is still ongoing. Let me give you just a little bit more because I think – I know there’s been a lot of confusion on this and what applies to what.

So funding that goes – broadly speaking, funding that goes to nongovernmental entities in Egypt would not be affected, regardless of whether the restrictions were triggered, and is being continued. Programs with the government designed to promote free and fair elections, health assistance, programs for the environment, democracy, rule of law, and good governance can also continue in cases even where a legal restriction might apply.

So to the extent where there are ESF programs that would benefit the government, which is obviously a section, we are reviewing each of those programs on a case-by-case basis to identify whether we have authority to continue providing those funds or should seek to modify our activities to ensure that our actions are consistent with the law.

QUESTION: Okay. So how much money does that represent?

MS. PSAKI: In terms of the programs that are specific to the government?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an exact breakdown. Some of these programs are still being determined in terms of where funding will go.

QUESTION: Ballpark?

MS. PSAKI: A large portion goes to nongovernmental entities as well as governmental entities where it would be appropriate to continue assistance, as the ones I listed.

QUESTION: More than half goes to NGOs?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to put a percentage on it, but a large majority.

QUESTION: Well, how – a large majority? So more than half?

MS. PSAKI: Say a large chunk.

QUESTION: But is it a majority or not?

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s fair to say more than half would be in the category where it wouldn’t apply to those that --

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS. PSAKI: -- are being reviewed on a case-by-case.

QUESTION: So The New York Times is wrong, then, when it says that you have put a hold on financing for economic programs that directly involve the Egyptian Government?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: You’re identifying – correct? So that’s just flat-out wrong?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We are reviewing programs – and I know this has been a very confusing process, as funding programs often can be. So we are reviewing places where adjustments need to be made, and we will make those as needed.

QUESTION: Okay. So excellent to have dispatched with that apparently erroneous report. Can you take the question of – and it’s a question I think is perfectly reasonable to ask, because you are yourselves trying to figure this out – exactly how much of the $250 million in economic assistance falls into the category of assistance that benefits the government, and therefore that you are reviewing for whether you can continue it or not continue it under the law?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to look into this. I know it seems like there would be an obvious answer, but it’s a question I asked in anticipation that you all may ask. There wasn’t an easy answer --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- so let me see if there’s an easy answer or information more that we can provide to all of you.

QUESTION: Okay. Then, second, if I can continue on the --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- second set of questions related to this: The restrictions that obtain here on the economic funds, totally separate – I mean, this is the question – are they totally separate from those that could apply to the $1.3 billion under section 7008?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yes?

MS. PSAKI: So there are separate pots, right – there’s economic assistance, there’s security assistance. Security assistance includes FMF military assistance, which we’re all familiar with. It also includes law enforcement, nonproliferation, and antiterrorism programs. They’re reviewed in the same manner, with the same restrictions.

QUESTION: So just so I’m clear, though, does any of the $1.3 billion in military assistance fall within this review?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: The specific review of whether you – I’m talking about non-section 7008.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In other words, totally outside of that, do you still have to go through and scrub the $1.3 billion to see if any of that might also be restricted?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as the President said on July 3rd, we’re reviewing all of our aid, so all of those buckets.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) I know that.

MS. PSAKI: Right?

QUESTION: But I’m – what I’m trying to understand is whether the review that is being conducted on the $250 million or so also applies on the $1.3 billion.

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re different programs --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- right?

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So if it were to apply, section 7008, as you know, is a restriction on the obligation and expenditure on certain funds to the Egyptian Government, and we have carefully reviewed all assistance for Egypt with that legal authority in mind. So whether it applies, we’re still undergoing that review, but obviously, the review is of all the assistance.

QUESTION: Sure. No, I’m afraid I feel like you’re not --

MS. PSAKI: I may not be understanding your question --

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. I’m just --

MS. PSAKI: -- so why don’t you try it again?

QUESTION: Okay. So leaving aside the review that is --

MS. PSAKI: The legal review?

QUESTION: Leaving aside the question of whether you were to choose to determine that a military coup has occurred, and therefore whether you would then be obligated to cut off the $1.3 billion, right?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are there additional regulations similar – or rules similar to the ones that are requiring you to review the $250 million in economic assistance that would apply to the $1.3 billion as well, or not?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any, but let me check into that for you.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you ask? Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Yep, I’m happy to. I’m happy to.

QUESTION: Okay. And then --

MS. PSAKI: Let me – can I – oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: Please. Oh, no, no, go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: I just wanted to give – I know there’s also been some confusion about the FMF funding. So --

QUESTION: That was my next question, so go ahead. Yep.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. So of the $1.23 billion FMF financing, so Foreign Military Financing allocated for Egypt in FY2013, $650 million has been transferred to the Egypt account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. At no time are the funds transferred to full Egyptian control. That’s standard operating procedure.

After sequestration withholding, approximately $585 million remains unobligated. So that is the amount that is unobligated. That – appropriated funds are obligated and expended on a rolling basis, so this isn’t a FY2013 issue, this happens in other cases as well and has happened in past years. But it would be inaccurate to say that a policy decision has been made with respect to the remaining assistance funding.

QUESTION: So here’s my next question --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- directly pertinent to that.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: You told us and you reiterated it last week, but you told us going back to when Deputy Secretary Burns briefed the Hill, and you reiterated that it was still the case last week, that you did not intend to make a determination as to whether Section 7008 applies.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we did not – we did not intend to make a determination as to whether it was a coup.

QUESTION: Yes, a military coup.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: And there are – well, go ahead.

QUESTION: Is that still your policy that you do not intend to make a determination as to whether it’s a military coup?

MS. PSAKI: That is correct.

QUESTION: Okay. So then --

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s important to note, as we said at the time, because we are abiding by our legal obligations, as we’ve talked about from the beginning, obviously, the legal review and what that means and how it applies and working with Congress on applying it has been a multiweek process here and it’s ongoing.

QUESTION: Right. So --

MS. PSAKI: There is also a policy review, right, as it relates to our broad relationship with Egypt. That’s also ongoing, because as you know, it is not about whether a determination is made as to what our aid is; we can make other decisions related to our aid. But at the time when we said that we were not going to make a determination and we made clear that that abided with our legal obligations, we also talked about how there are national security interests, there are interests related to regional stability, and we fully believe that Egypt can return through a rocky path to a sustainable democracy. And there is an implication by naming one side or the other that you’re taking sides, and that has been a policy priority for us not to do that.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS. PSAKI: But we’re still abiding by our legal obligations.

QUESTION: So here’s what I don’t get, then.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Paragraph four of the Times story says whether to cut off the remaining $585 million in military aid available to Egypt this year was one of the questions that awaited President Obama as he returns to Washington from Martha’s Vineyard. But you’re telling me that the policy is unchanged, that you do not intend to find – you do not intend to make a determination.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. However --

QUESTION: Yes?

MS. PSAKI: -- there are still the review of what is applicable legally, also the policy review of our relationship broadly with Egypt, including all forms of aid, whether that’s FMF or ESF. That is ongoing.

QUESTION: Okay. So you could – so in other words, you’re opening up the – you’re making clear that you – that the President has the option, should he wish, of cutting off some or all of the remaining $585 million, whether he does so under Section 7008 or not; in other words, as part of the policy review he could reduce, cut, eliminate that if he wished?

MS. PSAKI: The President has a range of options, absolutely.

QUESTION: Including those, to cut some or all of that?

MS. PSAKI: Including those. And now, it’s not as simple as that, given there are – there is a process, just hypothetically speaking, which I don’t like to do but I’m trying to be very clear with this or as clear as possible. There is a wind-down process. There is no decision that’s been made, so any reports saying a decision has been made are inaccurate. That review is ongoing, as we said last week. And it’s important to note, obviously, events on the ground last week but moving forward will be taken into account as we consider our relationship. So I just wanted to be fully clear.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: Explain to us, what does unobligated mean? You said unobligated. What does that mean, $585 million?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obligated means it would have been --

QUESTION: All the aid is obligated.

MS. PSAKI: Let me – I’m answering your question, I think, Said.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: If not, you can ask another question. Six hundred and fifty million – there’s been some confusion, I’m not necessarily saying from this room, on what it means. I made the important point, or what I think is an important point, that at no point are funds transferred to Egyptian control. They’re transferred to an Egypt account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. That would be – the next step would be to transfer the remaining unobligated $585 million to that account.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: So Jen, just to be super precise --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- the President, without saying it is or it is not a coup, could put aid to Egypt on hold based on this policy review?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President has always had a range of options from the beginning. The best way I can explain it is there is a legal review and there’s a policy review – legal, it’s abiding by our legal obligations. And as I mentioned – and sorry to go back through this, but I think it’s important here – there are certain programs – in ESF, there are some programs in there as an example that we’d have to – we have to – we might have to adjust, depending. But that review is ongoing. But the President can certainly make decisions regarding – related to our relationship with Egypt and funding that we provide, absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay. Because this is kind of a big – now a very important moment here where you’re saying he can avoid making any decision on a coup but he could still stop the aid in one form or another. I mean, it might not be all, whatever.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to get too ahead of it, but to be as clear as we can here, there are separate questions here, right? Determinating – determinating, that’s not a word. Determining whether or not it’s a coup, you are very familiar with our position, as we’ve stated in here many, many times. But more broadly speaking, our ongoing review of our relationship, all of our programs, all of our aid, is, of course, part of our ongoing review of our own broad relationship with Egypt.

QUESTION: Jen, just to follow up on --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- what I was asking on the $1.3 billion that is actually military.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Now, most of it, as I understand it, goes back towards buying F-16s and tanks and equipment and so on, and all this. Do you have a breakdown of that? That goes back to American U.S. manufacturers; isn’t that true?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re right that only the defense – this is getting into the weeds, but since we’re there – only the Defense Finance Accounting Service may draw on the funds held in the Egypt Federal Reserve account. In coordination with the Government of Egypt, they may draw on the account for payments on contracts between defense contractors and the Department of Defense on behalf of Egypt. In terms of what percentage goes back to defense contractors, I would point you to the Department of Defense for any breakdown. I’m not sure what they have available.

QUESTION: Does that in any way gnaw at the leverage of the U.S. --

MS. PSAKI: Can you say that one more time, Said?

QUESTION: Does that minimize or actually mitigate the leverage that the U.S. could have in terms of threatening to cut off aid, because a lot of it goes back to U.S. manufacturers? Does that in any way compromise the leverage that you could have by saying we could cut off the aid?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, there are obviously a range of issues that are discussed. As you know, there’s this internal discussion on what steps should be taken next.

QUESTION: Oh, another weeds question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Sorry, Deb. We’ll go to you next.

QUESTION: Sorry, just a very --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- just a clarification. When you say “benefits the government,” what does that mean?

MS. PSAKI: Tell me again which context I said in that.

QUESTION: You said – well, remember back about 10 minutes ago you were talking about programs that might benefit the government, as opposed to some of the earlier ones like nongovernmental entities, et cetera --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that wouldn’t be stopped, but ESF that would benefit the government might be. What is that exactly?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I gave you some, kind of – the way I would view what I said is there are certain programs with the government that would not be impacted. So those that promote free and fair elections, health assistance, programs for the environment, democracy, rule of law, and good governance can all continue. So those are sort of the exceptions, for lack of a better term. In terms of specific programs, I’d have to check with our team and see if there’s an example that might be useful to all of you.

QUESTION: Okay. Two questions.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there any reaction to the court ruling that Mubarak might be freed or could be freed? And secondly, back on the funding thing --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is there any fear that if you reduce the military aid, or even the economic aid, that the Egyptian rulers at the time now will lessen the protection of the U.S. Embassy there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me do the first one first, as chronologically makes sense, so that’s nice. As we’ve long said with respect to the Mubarak trial – and I would point you back to many comments long before my arrival here with all of you – this is an eternal – internal Egyptian legal matter that is working its way through the Egyptian legal system, and otherwise we would refer you to the Government of Egypt for any further details.

On the second question, can you repeat that one more time?

QUESTION: Is there any fear that the reduction of aid in any form, military or economic --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- would – do you all fear that the ruling generals would somehow lessen the protection of the U.S. Embassy there?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: In retaliation, so to speak. Okay, you’re not going to help us; then we’re not going to provide protection for you.

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly we would hope that would not be the case. Obviously, this is a hypothetical, given we haven’t made decisions yet. But --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the decision-making process?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re getting several steps ahead in a hypothetical on a decision we haven’t made yet, so I just don’t want to speculate on any of that at this stage from here.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Saudi Foreign Minister Saud Faisal has said yesterday that to those who have announced they are cutting aids or their aid to Egypt or threatening to do that, we say that Arab and Muslim nations are rich and will not hesitate to help Egypt. And he expressed his concerns over the West’s criticism of the Egyptian Government, saying you will not achieve anything through threats. Do you think he’s talking to the U.S.?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t speculate on that. Obviously, every country makes their own decision about whether they’re going to continue to provide aid, what aid they will provide, and we’ve certainly seen that. As you know, we’ve worked with a range of regional partners who have supported different sides or both sides in this – these issues going on in Egypt and will continue to do that. But we’ll make our own decisions here, based on our own national security interests, our own concerns about regional stability. And that review is ongoing.

QUESTION: What do you think about the Saudis’ position that – towards what’s going on in Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more for you on it.

QUESTION: Are you --

MS. PSAKI: Every country is going to make their own decisions about aid and what they will or won’t provide.

QUESTION: Are you on the same page with them or two different pages?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we work closely with them, as we do with many regional partners. We share a belief that we need to return to a productive, stable path forward. And beyond that, I don’t have any more for you.

QUESTION: Yes. Can we expect a U.S. decision on cutting or not cutting the aid to Egypt in the coming weeks?

MS. PSAKI: Again, of course, the review is ongoing, but I wouldn’t want to get ahead of and box in the President on his own decision-making.

QUESTION: And just back to the Mubarak question --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- how would you take the fact that Mubarak may be freed and that President Morsy faces more charges, including criminal charges since this morning?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t conflate the two. We’ve been clear on what our position on Mr. Morsy is. That is the same. And beyond that, I would point you to the Egyptian Government on the Mubarak case.

QUESTION: Still on Egypt or --

QUESTION: Yes.

QUESTION: Sure, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Still on Egypt?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: In the determination of the coup, what part of the aid would be – would have to be cut?

MS. PSAKI: In the definition of a coup?

QUESTION: No. If a determination was made that it was a coup.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can – I’m sure I can get you the legal breakdown on the specifics of that.

QUESTION: Broadly.

QUESTION: Isn’t it the whole $1.3 billion?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on it. We’ll see if there’s a legal breakdown for it that (inaudible) --

QUESTION: Broadly speaking.

QUESTION: Just for the sake of clarity --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- historically for – in recent years, the military portion has run at $1.3 billion. The reason that you referenced $1.23 billion for this year is because of the cuts --

MS. PSAKI: Sequestration withholding.

QUESTION: -- that were obliged under sequestration?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Super. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Exactly.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You mentioned that there are two reviews are going separately, I assume, or maybe what you call it, parallel ones, legal review and political review. And as much as I got from your explanation and answering the question, the legal review is based – the answer is that if it’s a coup or not. I mean, I assume so.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not about whether it’s a coup or not.

QUESTION: The legal one.

MS. PSAKI: It’s about abiding by Section 7008.

QUESTION: Which is based --

MS. PSAKI: A restriction on the obligation and expenditure of certain funds to the Egyptian Government.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And if that’s the case for the legal review, what are the criteria of the political review? Based on what, then?

MS. PSAKI: The policy review? Well, I think it’s --

QUESTION: About what happened or what’s going on now?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. They’re all factors. Our national security interests. We have a long – decades long relationship with Egypt that we hope will continue. We fully believe that Egypt can return to a sustainable democracy, or they can continue on the path, I should say, to a sustainable democracy. We know that takes time. We know that Egypt plays an important role in regional stability. These are all factors. There are a range of factors and that’s, of course, why it’s an ongoing review and an ongoing discussion.

QUESTION: My second question is related to the contacts. Seems that in the last two days most of the things are coming through press or media --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- whether it is the Egyptian side or the American side. Since Thursday, which was the last time you appeared on this podium --

MS. PSAKI: That is true.

QUESTION: -- yes – any kind of contacts was – is going on? And in these contacts, are there other partners or not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly we remain in close contact on the ground, but let me read out for you the Secretary’s contacts. He spoke with Interim Foreign Minister Fahmy twice on Friday. He made clear our concerns about the actions on the ground last week. He encouraged, as he has publicly, as we have publicly, the interim government to continue to move forward on a posture toward reconciliation. He passed on concerns he’s had, he’s heard from members of Congress of varying degrees. As I’ve said from here before, the Secretary speaks regularly with many members of Congress, and pass that along. And he made clear that we, of course, condemn all violence regardless of the side it’s coming from, but reiterated that the interim government has a preponderance of power and it plays a unique role. So he spoke with him.

He also spoke with Foreign Minister Judeh of Jordan. They talked about a range of issues, including Egypt, as well as Middle East peace and Syria. And he spoke with the Emirati Foreign Minister just yesterday and reiterated many of the same concerns and discussed, of course, our ongoing review of our relationship.

QUESTION: Yes. Regarding the Foreign Minister Fahmy --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- he had a press conference the day before yesterday, I think --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the – one of the things he raised is the issue of this – according to his description of, which is internationalization of the Egyptian case --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- which was based – I mean, somehow related to the question of raising the issue to the UN Security Council.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any view about that? Do you have an attitude about that? I saw it was a – I know it was a closed session, and the only quote was attributed to Samantha Power, was like one line. It was not even clear what was the U.S. attitude toward this raising the issue in the Security Council. Do you have something about it?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the UN here for anything specific. Broadly speaking, we, of course, support ongoing coordination and cooperation and dialogue between our many partners. As you know, the Secretary – I mentioned some of his recent calls, but as you know, because we’ve talked about it in here, he’s also been in touch with EU High Representative Ashton in the past weeks on a regular basis and many different officials on that.

QUESTION: So another – somehow the trend which is in Egypt and according to the official announcements there, whether it’s somehow the spokesperson or the advisor of the President --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and others, it was – it is a matter of 24 or 48 hours, they are talking about dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood or even the political party of it. Do you have any comment about that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly seen those reports. As we’ve consistently said from the beginning, we believe any process moving forward needs to be inclusive and include all parties and all sides. That continues to be our public and private message.

QUESTION: So that means banning the Muslim Brotherhood is not a good idea?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Another subject?

QUESTION: No, just one --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Egypt, and then we’ll go to you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, you mentioned a legal review and a policy review. I was wondering if there was a potential judiciary review, or where that would fit in, and if the U.S. is able to discern if Egypt’s judiciary is functioning adequately in this crisis, and also if it’s maintaining some sense of impartiality with the rulings in both the Mubarak and the Morsy cases.

MS. PSAKI: I think those are – the reviews I mentioned are the reviews that are ongoing. Of course, we’re watching closely everything happening on the ground. And we have stated in the past, and let me reiterate today, that we have concerns about arbitrary arrests. We have said that we believe there should be a process put in place taking into account security and other concerns for Mr. Morsy and other members of the Muslim Brotherhood. That remains the case today and our position has not changed. And obviously, we look at all components on the ground as we continue to discuss and review our relationship with Egypt.

QUESTION: The Egyptian prosecutor said that Morsy would need to be detained for 15 days because he was inciting violence. Do you agree with that?

MS. PSAKI: Again, it’s not for us to determine or to make determinations, but we – our position has been clear, which I just stated, and obviously, we’re looking at all components of what’s happening on the ground.

QUESTION: Jen, has anyone been in touch with Baradei since he went to Vienna?

MS. PSAKI: With – I’m sorry, with whom?

QUESTION: The former Vice President, Mohamed Baradei --

MS. PSAKI: With Baradei.

QUESTION: -- in Vienna. Has anyone been in touch with him?

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary – I think I spoke about this last week. I’m not sure when he arrived in Vienna. But the Secretary did speak with him a number of times last week.

QUESTION: So who is taking the lead on this? I know that the Secretary is the top guy here, but who’s taking, let’s say, day-to-day events, or the point person --

MS. PSAKI: From the Administration?

QUESTION: -- from the Administration on the Egypt thing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is an issue that we’re closely focused on, and it’s one that’s discussed by the entire national security team. And so I would say many different players are in touch with many different counterparts, whether they are officials from other governments who have a stake in the region, or whether it’s Egyptian officials.

QUESTION: And finally, I know that the buck stops with the President and looking back – and I know you don’t do retrospect, but in retrospect, was it a mistake to have McCain and Lindsey at the same time as Burns was there? And it seems that all reports point to a close-but-no-cigar kind of a deal, that was basically sort of confused by the presence of the Senators. Do you agree do a retrospective in this case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re right, I’m not going to do a retrospect on that. I know we spoke about it a bit last week. I just don’t have anything further to add on it.

Do we have any more on Egypt? Is yours Egypt, Jill, or no?

QUESTION: No.

QUESTION: One more on Egypt. Would suspending aid be a propaganda victory for the Muslim Brotherhood?

MS. PSAKI: Would it be a propaganda victory?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

MS. PSAKI: No. We’re reviewing it with a number of factors in mind, all of which I’ve outlined. But again, it’s a hypothetical because we’re not at that point.

QUESTION: Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Egypt, in the back?

QUESTION: Yeah. Jen, do you have any comments on the situation in Sinai --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- especially after today, 24 soldiers have been killed and attacked by an extremist militia? And a follow-up question: In case that the U.S. decided to stop the military aid to the Egyptian military, do you think – do you – don’t you have any fears that it will affect negatively on the role of the Egyptian army to fighters, especially the United States, it’s – when you consider it the main supporter for the Egyptian army? What do you think?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’ll preview you for you that I’m not going to get into the second question, given it’s a hypothetical, but I can say that we, of course, strongly condemn today’s attack against Egyptian Central Security Force officers in the Sinai. We extend our condolences to the families of those who have been killed. The Sinai Peninsula remains an area of concern, and the current situation in Egypt has not improved the situation. A number of loosely-knit militant groups have formed in the Sinai. The United States, of course, continues to support Egypt’s ongoing efforts against terrorism and growing lawlessness in the Sinai, and we continue to cooperate with Egypt in these efforts.


If I may, there have been, unfortunately, a number of instances of violence, so let me just go through a couple of those as well.

We also condemn the attacks and violence that continue to occur across Egypt, including we deplore in the strongest terms the reprehensible attacks against over 40 Coptic Christian churches and other Christian institutions, including schools, social service societies, and businesses by extremists bent on sowing interreligious strife, when the vast majority of Egyptians reject such behavior. We’re also deeply troubled by the suspicious deaths of Muslim Brotherhood prisoners in a purported prison escape attempt near Cairo.

We, again, urge all those in Egypt to refrain from violence. There’s absolutely no place for such violence in Egypt. We call on all Egypt’s leaders and the international community to condemn such attacks without equivocation.

QUESTION: Why are those suspicious? Why have you judged those are suspicious?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a number of details that aren’t clear. But we’ve, of course, seen the reports and had some questions about that.

QUESTION: And have you raised it with the Egyptian authorities?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not – well, I know the Secretary’s last calls. I’m not sure beyond that. I know we’re in touch closely on the ground.

QUESTION: Can you check whether you’ve raised that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I’m happy to check what the last contacts have been.

QUESTION: And if so, at what level?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Related to this last point you made, the statement --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- do you still believe or consider the pro-Morsy protestors peaceful protestors or not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve consistently condemned all violence from either side in here. As the Secretary said last week in his statement, the interim government obviously has a large portion of the power in this case, but regardless of where the violence is coming from, that’s something we would condemn, and we don’t think there’s any place for it in Egypt.

QUESTION: Other subject?

QUESTION: Sorry. Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Any more?

QUESTION: -- I was wondering if I could just quickly clarify what you were saying before.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the legal and policy review, the – both of which are ongoing, right?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And the legal review consists of essentially making a determination on whether there was a coup or not? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: No. It is – Section 7008 is a restriction on the obligation and expenditure of certain funds to the Egyptian Government. I would point you back to the President’s statement on July 3rd, where he asked all of Administration officials to undergo a review of our aid. And certainly, as we’ve said from the beginning, our – one of our primary goals here is, of course, to abide by our legal obligations while we are still looking at the broad spectrum of our national security interests, regional stability, and our own belief that Egypt can return to a sustainable democratic path.

QUESTION: Okay. But and then aside from that --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- there’s also the policy review, under which only the $585 million that remains to be obligated is subject to that review. Is that right?

MS. PSAKI: Again, our broad relationship with Egypt, including all forms of aid, is part of any review. And that’s why the President asked six weeks ago – I think – I hope I’m doing my math correctly there – for all departments to review. So I wouldn’t partition it into one component. It is a broad review. Those discussions are ongoing.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. Final point.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Just I think I might have missed it, when you were talking about the $650 million --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that was transferred to the Egypt account at the Fed --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and you said that that doesn’t really go under Egyptian control. It goes --

MS. PSAKI: FMF funding doesn’t.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: There’s – and there’s often confusion about this, because it’s – it can be confusing. It goes – doesn’t go to full Egyptian control. It goes to the Egypt account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. And then through the Defense Finance and Accounting Service, the Government of Egypt will work with that entity moving forward.

QUESTION: And just so we’re clear, because --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- if I understand it right, you have a veto. In other words, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service – the money doesn’t get dispensed unless the U.S. Government agrees.

MS. PSAKI: No withdrawals may be made from the account without the Defense Finance and Accounting Service consent.

QUESTION: Okay. And then one other thing. I’m a little perplexed about one thing.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When you talk about the legal review --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- under 7008 --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- but you’ve made your decision that you don’t plan to make a determination, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: And that has not changed?

MS. PSAKI: That has not changed.

QUESTION: And are you reviewing that decision?

MS. PSAKI: I believe we’ve made a decision. Obviously anything we can review. But there’s no plans for that.

QUESTION: But to your knowledge, you’re not actually reviewing the decision not to make a determination?

MS. PSAKI: No. And what the point I was trying to make earlier – so let me just reiterate it now – is it’s important to note that when we announced we weren’t making a determination, we talked about our broad national security interests. It’s always been about the Egyptian people determining their path forward, and not making a determination was in part because we did not want to send a signal that we were taking sides. That’s an important component of working with Egypt and working with them as they try to get on a path back to sustainable democracy.

QUESTION: Yes, please, just a --

MS. PSAKI: Is this still on Egypt?

QUESTION: Yes. Clarification.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Are these numbers that you mentioned related to the Fiscal Year 2013, right?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Not 14?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. It’s FY2013.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Egypt or on a --

QUESTION: Yes, Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Egypt. Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: My name’s Ahmet from Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Ahmet.

QUESTION: Turkish Radio and Television.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, nice to meet you.

QUESTION: Turkish Ambassador to Egypt Huseyin Avni just is recalled to Turkey and he has briefed the cabinet on developments in Egypt. And then the Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan kept up pressure on Egypt and said – and calling the violence a shame for Islam and the Arab world. And he described inaction for the international community on Egypt crisis as shameful. So do you share these comments on the issue?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to every comment that comes from a foreign leader, and especially those that are close – we work closely with. I think I’ve stated clearly what our position is. The review is ongoing. Of course, we’ve condemned very clearly the violence that’s happening on the ground, and certainly when hundreds of civilians are killed, as they were last week, it’s not business as usual. You heard the Secretary say that last week, and the discussions are ongoing in the Administration, but I have nothing to announce for you today.

Let – is it Egypt?

QUESTION: No. Different subject.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let’s go to Jill. She’s been patiently waiting for a new topic.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Finally. Concerning Glenn Greenwald --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and his detention by the British – I’m sorry – his partner’s detention, David Miranda.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- did the U.S. actually request the British Home Office to do that, to detain him and to confiscate his electronic equipment?

MS. PSAKI: So we – of course, as you know, this is – this was U.K. law enforcement operation. We do have a close law enforcement and intelligence relationship with the U.K. and we were informed in advance, but we did not ask U.K. authorities to undertake this operation.

QUESTION: But isn’t it correct that now the U.S. actually does have access to his laptop and mobile and all of that?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything – any further information for you than I just portrayed.

QUESTION: Did you suggest it? Even if you didn’t ask, did you say: hey, this might be an idea?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more for you than I just conveyed, Arshad.

QUESTION: Does the United States support his detention?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you than I just conveyed.

QUESTION: On – in Pakistan today --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Pakistan?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Prime Minister today made a major speech since his inception, and he was underlining the importance of maintaining peace in South Asia --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and said that Pakistan and India should not waste their resources on fighting wars. Instead, they should fight poverty, illiteracy, and bring development to their people. Do you have any comments on that?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen that speech. I’m happy to take a look. As you know, our position remains the same, that we believe that Pakistan and India can work through any issues through dialogue, and we encourage that to, of course, continue.

QUESTION: Especially in the backdrop of tensions that have been simmering in the disputed Kashmir region, and he also said that Kashmir remains a vital outstanding dispute which must be resolved.

MS. PSAKI: And our policy on Kashmir has not changed. We still believe that the pace, scope, and character of India and Pakistan’s dialogue is for those two countries to determine.

QUESTION: But will you continue to encourage both capitals to return to peace talks and --

MS. PSAKI: We certainly continue to encourage further dialogue.

QUESTION: Jen, Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The UN has announced today that more than 30,000 people or Syrian refugees have fled to Iraq from Syria --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in the last five days. Do you have any reaction, and how do you view this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we, of course, are aware of reports that as many as 30,000 Syrians have crossed from Syria into Iraq since August 15th. We understand most of the refugees are from Aleppo, Afrin, Hasaka, and Qamishli. Reports are that the crossing reception and processing of the new arrivals have gone smoothly, thanks to the coordinated efforts of the UN, the International Organization for Migration, NGO partners, and local government officials. We also appreciate the efforts of the Kurdistan Regional Government to open the border, and remain deeply grateful to Iraq and other countries in the region that are providing protection, assistance, and hospitality to the nearly two million refugees who have fled the violence inside Syria.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new for you. I think we’ve talked about this a little bit in the past. Let me check with our team and see where we are on that question.

QUESTION: One more on Syria. A Russian official has talked today about a U.S.-Russian meeting next week in The Hague to cooperate or to talk about Geneva 2.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any announcement?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I do, actually. We have long agreed with Russia that a conference in Geneva is the best vehicle for moving towards a political solution. We all agree the talks cannot become a stalling tactic, and Secretary Kerry has been very clear on this point with the Russians. As you know, Secretaries Kerry and Hagel met August 9th, so just about 10 days ago, with their Russian counterparts on a range of bilateral and global issues, including efforts to build more momentum towards Geneva. They agreed to have senior members of their teams meet to continue to make progress on Geneva planning.

So Under Secretary Sherman, Ambassador Ford – and Ambassador Ford will meet in The Hague with their Russian counterparts to discuss this effort next week.

QUESTION: So it’s not at the level of, let’s say, with Secretary Kerry and Lavrov? It’s not at --

MS. PSAKI: Well, they – as you know, they speak on a regular basis, including just 10 days ago, and they talked about building momentum towards a Geneva conference. But these conversations, working through the logistics, have happened at this level throughout the process.

QUESTION: Okay. So that has not in any way sort of taken the urgency out of the process?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not. I’ll remind you that in the meetings that have taken place with the UN and with Russian counterparts, Under Secretary Sherman and either Ambassador Ford or Acting Assistant Secretary Jones have been typically the representatives from the United States.

QUESTION: And at that level, will they discuss countries that may be or may not be invited to the Geneva conference?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly continue to discuss participation, and that will be part of the discussion next week.

QUESTION: Do you know who’s going to represent the Russians?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that information. I will check and see if we have any clarity on that point.

QUESTION: Okay. And did --

QUESTION: Do you know which date?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have the date yet, just next week. That may still be being worked out.

QUESTION: And should we read into the fact of this meeting that there may be some progress on holding Geneva 2, notwithstanding that all public indications suggest that there’s been no progress for the last several months?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So should we, from the fact that there’s going to be this meeting, conclude that there has been any progress?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you can take from it that during the Secretary’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov this was a prominent topic of conversation. They agreed and reiterated their belief that this is the appropriate mechanism. They would like to move forward with it sooner rather than later, but in terms of what that means, that’s part of the discussion that will happen next week. Of course, the Russians and the United States, as we all know, are not the only players. We’re still continuing to encourage the Syrian opposition to develop a unified delegation able to present solid ideas, and that’s part of the calculus as well.

QUESTION: To your knowledge, have the – has President Assad’s government sent any recent signal suggesting that it is open to a Geneva 2 gathering?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that for you, but certainly expect that will be a part of the discussion next week with the Russians.

QUESTION: Jen, I think last week --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- Minister Lavrov was very critical of your position that suggested that the Syrian Government does not want to go to Geneva. So what made you, at the time, say that the Syrian Government is not desirous of going to Geneva?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, if they indicate they would like to go to Geneva, that would be a positive step, and we’re in touch with the opposition and encouraging them to develop a unified delegation as well.

QUESTION: But the Syrian Government does say that. I mean, time and again, they say, “We want a political resolution to this conflict.” Isn’t that an indication they want to go?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’ve said a range of things, Said. So the question is: Where are we now, and can we move this process forward? And as you know, the Russians are in close touch with them and I’m certain will be a part of the discussion next week.

QUESTION: Jen, Jordanian Prime Minister --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is talking about help providing by the U.S. to Jordan to protect itself to prevent any chemical weapons war --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- on Syria. Can you talk to or can you tell us about this cooperation and what help are you providing to them?

MS. PSAKI: I certainly can. As you know, we have provided a great deal of assistance to Jordan in the past. Let me see. I know I have something for you in here. Let me see if I have it. Thanks for your patience. Let me get back with you right after the briefing. I know I have something on that for you, and we’ll give it to you right after the briefing.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: I’m going to have to wrap this up shortly here, but Scott.

QUESTION: On Zimbabwe.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The SADC alliance has called on Western nations to lift their sanctions against Zimbabwe. Is that an opinion shared by the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we understand, of course, as you reference, that SADC, in its August 18th communique, assessed Zimbabwe’s recent elections as free and peaceful. The United States stands by our assessment that these elections, while relatively peaceful, did not represent a credible expression of the will of the Zimbabwean people due to serious flaws throughout the electoral process, as highlighted by the regional and domestic monitors. So our position, of course, is not the same.

QUESTION: The SADC chair, the Malawi President Joyce Banda, says the people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough and that’s why she believes that those sanctions should be lifted. Does the United States believe that the people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough?

MS. PSAKI: Well, of course, let me first say that SADC has played a very positive role in supporting democratic reform in Zimbabwe, and its continued involvement will be important to consolidate and advance still-needed reforms. We remain committed to working with them and our concerns were around the serious flaws highlighted by SADC’s own observation team.

In terms of sanctions and our own review, our own look at that, as I believe is your question, we have made clear to the Government of Zimbabwe and the region that a change in U.S. sanctions policy will occur only in a context of credible, transparent, peaceful reforms that reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people. That is how we make our decisions and the prism we, of course, make them through. Of course, we are always concerned about the suffering of any people, certainly the people of Zimbabwe, but that’s how we make our decisions. And if those changes are made, then we’ll certainly conduct a review.

QUESTION: So it’s conceivable that you could change your sanctions policy on Zimbabwe if Mugabe were to undertake credible, transparent reforms that reflect the will of the Zimbabwean people?

MS. PSAKI: It certainly is feasible. But our targeted – our program of targeted sanctions will remain in place as long as these conditions continue to exist in Zimbabwe.

QUESTION: One other subject?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary in the building today or is he on vacation?

MS. PSAKI: He is not in the building today.

QUESTION: So does that mean he’s on vacation?

MS. PSAKI: He is.

QUESTION: Anything on the peace process? Do we know any – about the next round of talks? When is it going to be?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t --

QUESTION: The Jericho talks?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update for you. As you all know, the next step here was scheduling the meeting in Jericho. That’s still being worked through, so I don’t have any announcement for you.

QUESTION: Just --

MS. PSAKI: Just a few more. Go ahead, Jill.

QUESTION: -- a quick one?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Al-Qaida leader Adam Gadahn’s threats urging attacks on American diplomats, if you had any response to that? And also, Senator Graham is saying he’s allied himself with al-Qaida, therefore the U.S. should use lethal force against him. Do you have any legal – has the State Department looked at this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that these – this was – this report just came out this morning, as I understand it, so we, of course, have seen them. We’re looking into them more closely, and as we have more, I’m happy to share that with all of you.

QUESTION: On the subject of intimidation, Glenn Greenwald says now that his partner’s been detained, he’s going to unleash more aggressive reporting. Is this – is he trying to intimidate the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on that. You know where we stand on the release of classified information.

QUESTION: If – now, see, I feel like we need some kind of analogy, so I thought maybe it was like a baseball question.

MS. PSAKI: I’ll think about an analogy, and maybe I’ll have one for you tomorrow.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MS. PSAKI: I think let’s just do two more here.

QUESTION: In reaction to a booby-trapped car exploding in Beirut on Thursday, I think --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the U.S. Ambassador in Beirut condemned everything, but she stopped short of calling the – calling this a terrorist attack. Are there rules to call attacks terrorist or not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we do note a group calling itself Aisha, the Mother of Believers Brigades for Foreign – let’s see – Missions has claimed responsibility for the attack. We have condemned it in the strongest terms. As you’re right, I don’t have any more for you on it. We’re obviously still looking into the details of what took place.

QUESTION: But you’re not calling it terrorist?

MS. PSAKI: I am not at this point.

QUESTION: And how do you look at the return of the car bombs phenomena to Lebanon after this bomb? Two days ago they found another car.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, we, of course, strongly condemn any violence in Lebanon, this incident and any others. We urge all parties to exercise calm and restraint and to desist from actions that could contribute to an escalating cycle of sectarian retribution and violence. We reaffirm our commitment to a stable, sovereign, and independent Lebanon and support the Lebanese Government’s efforts to restore stability and security in Beirut.

Last one.

QUESTION: I’ll make it very quick, thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Now that the CIA has formally made public its role in 1953 in the overthrow of Mossadegh, will the U.S. be offering any expression to the Iranians, anything even up to and including an apology?

MS. PSAKI: I would point – I know it’s a CIA report and I would point you to the CIA on that. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:24 p.m.)

DPB # 140

2013-08-19

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


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


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TRANSCRIPT:

12:33 p.m. EST

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

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

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

With that, Matt.

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

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

QUESTION: Yes.

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

Okay. Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: So on the Bangladesh murder --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

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

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

QUESTION: I don’t have anything else.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

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

QUESTION: Same topic? Same topic?

MS. PSAKI: Cuba?

QUESTION: Same --

QUESTION: Cuba, yeah. Could you explain --

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

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

MS. PSAKI: The benefits of --

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

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

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

Cuba?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Since he just asked about Cuba --

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Well --

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

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

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

QUESTION: When was that, the revision?

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

QUESTION: Back when it first became a problem.

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

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

QUESTION: Why not?

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

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

Oh, Michele, go ahead.

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

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Can we go back to --

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: I’m asking you --

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

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

QUESTION: No – one last one.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

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

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

QUESTION: Sometimes it feels that way.

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

Go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: One on Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

QUESTION: That would be good. Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

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

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

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

Go ahead.

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

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

Go ahead.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Sure.

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

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

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

QUESTION: Still on Asia?

MS. PSAKI: On Asia? Go ahead.

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

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Which institutions was she referring to?

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

QUESTION: And the --

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

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

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

Go ahead.

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

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

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Is a lie.

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

QUESTION: A lie.

MS. PSAKI: -- inaccurate.

QUESTION: Not a lie?

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

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

QUESTION: As far as you --

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: To his face.

QUESTION: -- to his face.

MS. PSAKI: Well --

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

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: And they still have a cordial working relationship?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli issue very quickly?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

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

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

QUESTION: Right. Please, yes.

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

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

QUESTION: Okay. Will the --

QUESTION: Do you know – related to Gaza --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

QUESTION: If I could just ask --

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: On the same topic --

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Very quickly --

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

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

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

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Same topic also, which is --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: They said during the phone call.

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

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

MS. PSAKI: A Kurdish journalist has been arrested?

QUESTION: Journalist, yes, few weeks ago.

MS. PSAKI: By Kurdish authorities?

QUESTION: By Kurdish authorities, yeah.

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

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: All right.

QUESTION: Okay. It’s Friday.

MS. PSAKI: It’s Friday.

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

MS. PSAKI: What dress?

QUESTION: Oh my God. Where have you been?

QUESTION: Where have you been?

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

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

 

2015-02-27


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


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


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TRANSCRIPT:

1:51 p.m. EST

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

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

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

QUESTION: I just got a note --

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay. (Laughter.)

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

QUESTION: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With that --

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Right.

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

QUESTION: Thank you.

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

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

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Matt.

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

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

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

QUESTION: Could I just --

QUESTION: Sorry. Just one more --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) if I may.

QUESTION: Yeah, on the same --

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: In Geneva, rather.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Good. Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure.

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

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

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Said.

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: The reported name?

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

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

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

Go ahead.

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

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

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

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

Go ahead. Justin?

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

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

QUESTION: Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: In Mosul?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we move on to Iran?

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay.

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

QUESTION: I do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Does it have to do --

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

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

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

QUESTION: Does that include the Pope?

QUESTION: Does that include the President?

QUESTION: Or the Pope?

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

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

MS. PSAKI: What – the point the --

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

MS. PSAKI: Let me be --

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: The opposition isn’t for that --

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Said.

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

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

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

Go ahead, Michael.

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

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

MS. PSAKI: Did I just do that?

QUESTION: No, but --

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Of these claims, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go ahead.

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

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

QUESTION: Thank you.

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

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: I don’t understand --

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Jen --

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: If you have any comment on that.

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

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

MS. PSAKI: With some waste?

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

MS. PSAKI: I can check into those reports.

QUESTION: Could you check? Yes.

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

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: It’s my understanding that the Secretary is on the Hill meeting Senate Democrats?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is that about?

MS. PSAKI: He has been, obviously, consulting quite a bit with Congress over the last couple of days. And as I understand it, this came about from a conversation with Senator Reid about continuing to have discussions about a range of issues.

QUESTION: But is it – I mean, is it a classified briefing?

MS. PSAKI: I can check. I don’t believe so, though, Arshad. I think it’s just an effort to continue to consult while he’s in town.

QUESTION: Does it have to do with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit and whether or not they attend his speech?

MS. PSAKI: No, it does not. That is a decision that senators will make. I expect it’s more likely they’ll talk about a range of foreign policy issues that we’re all talking about today and he talked about in the briefing yesterday.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you check and let us know if that is indeed what it was about?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. But it’s not about whether or not they attend Prime Minister Netanyahu’s --

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. National Security Advisor Susan Rice met yesterday with State Councilor Yang Jiechi of China in New York City.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on it?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the White House. They would have a readout of our national security advisor’s meetings.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Thank you. And thank you, Jen, for the last two years bearing asking --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, thanks.

QUESTION: -- Turkey questions and your (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: My pleasure.

QUESTION: On Turkey – this question was asked to you about a week ago, that there is this security bill. Now it’s being passed at parliament one by one. About thirty of them have passed. And leading rights groups across the globe, like Freedom House or Amnesty International – actually, Amnesty International waged a worldwide campaign against the bill. They claim that this bill is going to undermine democracy or threatens “human rights.” What is your comment on this?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific comment on the bill. It’s an internal matter for Turkey. As you know, we speak regularly, including in our annual human rights report, about any concerns we have about media freedoms and freedom to protest and other issues.

QUESTION: So these groups says that this bill must be stopped. And Susan Corke, director of the Freedom House, says it is no exaggeration to say that the future of Turkish democracy hangs in the balance with this law. And you are telling me that it’s internal matter, it is --

MS. PSAKI: I just conveyed what our views are on human rights, on freedom of speech. I don’t have anything to add. If there is, I’m happy to share that with you.

Go ahead, Michael.

QUESTION: Just – sorry, quickly back to --

MS. PSAKI: Israel?

QUESTION: -- Israel and the Palestinian issues.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the prime minister’s office says that Israel will be hooking up the new Palestinian city of Rawabi to Israel’s water grid and would take some of the frozen Palestinian Authority tax revenue to pay part of its massive electricity bill and ensure an uninterrupted flow of electricity to Palestinian cities. It’s just in, but do you have any comment?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to talk to our team about it. I think certainly we’d see that as a positive step, but let me look into the details.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just want to follow up on a few – two questions last Monday, I think --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- Monday of this week, we asked – one is about the – any update – do you have any update about Erbil and Baghdad agreement? Is there anything that --

MS. PSAKI: I think I provided everything I can provide on Monday, but do you have any additional --

QUESTION: No, Monday you --

MS. PSAKI: I provided quite a few details on Monday, but did you have a new question?

QUESTION: No, any update from – because that’s, I said, there was a briefing for the diplomats.

MS. PSAKI: I think I posed to you that you should ask the question of the Government of Iraq as well as Kurdish authorities, given that there are reported payments from last year that they passed payments in their budget, and that they have both committed to continuing with this agreement.

QUESTION: That is --

MS. PSAKI: So I don’t have anything new to add from that.

QUESTION: Right, but that’s – the payment you mentioned last year, it was less than 20 percent of their annual budget anyway – for the last year, but for this year. This is – the agreement is for this year, not for 2014.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: In 2014, they haven’t sent the money, anything. But the other thing is I asked you about the Peshmerga hostages by ISIS. Has KRG government asked (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to offer on that.

QUESTION: Like, did they ask anything (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to read out.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: As you know, sometimes there is quite a bit of sensitivity for good reason about hostages held from anywhere around the world, so we don’t typically --

QUESTION: But if they asked your government to help, would you – would the United States help?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t typically even, broadly speaking, outline that from – publicly.

QUESTION: Okay. So one more thing about that. Also still going to Iraq. Since the – anyway, these days the focus is on ISIS and the terrorism thing, but there’s another thing, which is Iraq is also troubling with, is the human rights, also including Kurdistan region of Iraq. In the recent report of the Freedom House, Iraq was characterized as “not free.” Do you have anything on the decline of human rights and also of freedom of speech and media? Because in the recent years, United States fund or support to human rights and also the media declined. Is there any way that you will support – increase your fund to, through the international organization or directly from the – through the Embassy to the media to promote freedom of speech?

MS. PSAKI: Okay, I’m – I just want to make sure I understand your question. Whether we are thinking about increasing our funding --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- for – to civil society groups in Iraq?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: We just put out a budget. I would point you to the specifics of what are included in there, which would outline what our proposals are for the next year.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Very quickly. You mentioned the Human Rights Watch report today. They also reported that the Peshmerga and the KRG are preventing Arab residents who have – who fled to their area from going back to their villages into areas that are disputed among them. Are you aware of that report?

MS. PSAKI: I am not. I don’t have any confirmation of that; don’t know if it’s accurate. We can look into it, certainly.

Justin, did you – or were you just scratching your head or --

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m just (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Okay, that’s fine. I understand.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Oh, Michelle, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. The Washington Post reported that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s nonprofit organization received money given by foreign countries during her tenure here at the Department. Any hesitation by the Department of State that this was proper business for the top diplomat to conduct here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think according to The Washington Post article that you referenced and a statement, I believe, that was put out by the Clinton Foundation, they said they received a contribution from the Government of Algeria for Haiti relief efforts soon after the Haiti earthquake devastated that country, which it should have submitted for review by the Department. At the time, as you all may remember, the United States was, of course – the government was supporting worldwide efforts to provide humanitarian relief for Haiti. The commitment by the foundation to provide information about foreign government contributions, broadly, went beyond the requirements of ethics law and regulations. And the purpose is to allow, of course, the Department to identify foreign policy concerns that might arise in connection with a particular donation.

So obviously, we like to review and we have reviewed every donation that has been submitted. But in this case, the fact that the process has – was not followed in this particular incident does not raise concerns with us.

QUESTION: Can you acknowledge, like, the look at impropriety here, especially for the American people that may look at this as this is pay-for-play is going on here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the question there is we’re talking about a contribution to a Haiti relief fund that was an international crisis that the United States broadly supported. So I’m not sure, and maybe you can share more with us, about what exactly the conflict of interest would have been there.

QUESTION: I suppose some people might say that for a – the countries would be getting access to Secretary Clinton.

MS. PSAKI: But what’s the evidence of that?

QUESTION: I’m just --

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re – that’s the question. So – and I don’t think there’s an answer that’s been provided or is one that suggests there was one.

QUESTION: Are you confident that there will be no other revelations of other donations given in violation of the agreement signed with the Obama Administration?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the foundation put out a statement on this. We obviously review any submission that they present to us. They have shown a commitment. Their commitment has been over and above the letter of the law, so – and that’s been consistently followed.

QUESTION: Are you confident that donations to the foundation and/or – or I should say and the vetting that went into speaking appearances by former President Bill Clinton during Secretary Clinton’s tenure were complete, that they – that you’re confident that there was no impropriety or appearance of impropriety with perhaps this one exception – I understand that you’re saying there wasn’t any, but that the procedure that was outlined and agreed to was followed in all cases, except for this one?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there was a letter that was submitted – I think early, even before the Administration started – in 2009 that covered everything from Secretary Clinton’s financial interests, speaking, writing, and consulting of former President Bill Clinton. In several respects, as I’ve mentioned, the commitments went far beyond applicable laws and regulations.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we can’t speak to – we speak to what we – information we have and what’s been reviewed, and that’s certainly what I can address.

QUESTION: Okay. But you’re confident that – in general, you’re pleased? You think that everything went according to the way it was supposed to go? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they went – they submitted – they have committed to something that was above the letter of the law. I can’t speak to information I don’t have access to, but --

QUESTION: Well, I understand that. But you’re satisfied that they kept that commitment? That’s all I’m asking.

MS. PSAKI: As – for all the information I have, absolutely.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: ISIS. At one of the hearings yesterday, the Secretary was asked some questions about the Administration’s proposed AUMF. Specifically he was asked whether groups that pledge allegiance to ISIS could be targeted under it. He said that only if they’re known to be operationally connected. I was wondering if this building or anyone in the Administration has assessed that any of these groups outside of Iraq or Syria are operationally connected to ISIS, and is there some kind of list that – of these groups that would qualify for a targeting --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a new assessment. And that is, as we’ve talked about – actually, you and I have talked about it quite a bit in here – this is something that we continue to review and continue to assess. And the point he’s making, which I think you certainly understand, is that just because a group says we’re with ISIL it doesn’t mean that they are operationally linked to ISIL. And as the President has said and the Secretary also reiterated, we’re not going to be limited geographically even though right now, of course, the President has not made the decision to go beyond Iraq and Syria. I don’t have any new public assessment beyond that, though.

QUESTION: Just because, I mean, if there’s a formal procedure that the Administration is using to make these judgment calls about who is and isn’t, I guess at what point is that determination made? Are they added to a list? Like just procedurally, how is that conducted? And if you’re saying that – are you saying that none of these groups have gone through that full vetting process?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just conveying there’s nothing more I can convey to you publicly. I can certainly check and see if there’s any more we can convey publicly. Sure.

QUESTION: Could I ask you a quick question on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, you would say that – they claim the militants (inaudible) pull back, and the Russians are saying that the ceasefire is holding. Could you confirm or comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the OSCE monitors have observed a decrease in ceasefire violations in the last few days, though violations do continue. And for the second day in a row, the Ukrainians have not experienced any casualties. But there are still violations in some areas, so I wouldn’t say it’s accurate to suggest that there is an abiding by the ceasefire all across eastern Ukraine.

QUESTION: But can you confirm that they are pulling their heavy weapons and whatever --

MS. PSAKI: We have seen some reports of that, but we don’t have confirmation of that because the OSCE have been – has been unable to send their monitors into the area to confirm that. So we don’t have eyes on the ground in that regard.

QUESTION: Yesterday during the morning session of testimony, if I’m not mistaken – they tend to run together --

MS. PSAKI: The nine hours or more.

QUESTION: -- the Secretary said that – suggested that additional sanctions on Russia would be contemplated if there were additional actions in eastern Ukraine that merited a significant response. He talked about if there’s another Mariupol or --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why isn’t the separatists driving out of Debaltseve all the Ukrainian troops after the ceasefire was supposed to go into effect sufficient for additional sanctions to be imposed on the Russians?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, what the Secretary was conveying is consistent with what our policy has been in this regard, that we obviously watch what’s happening on the ground and that impacts what consequences we may put in place. We obviously continue to consider a range of options, including sanctions. There’s active discussions in the Administration about that which the Secretary was referring to, as well as with our partners. But I’m just not in a position to outline for you the timing of that or what it means in terms of the decision making.

QUESTION: But why doesn’t the gobbling up of a strategic city with rail links that are important for the areas that the rebels have already seized, why isn’t that an action that merits additional sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: We weigh a range of options on the ground and make a determination about the appropriate steps. I don’t have anything more to outline for you in terms of internal deliberations or thinking on that.

QUESTION: But doesn’t it leave the impression that the rebels and what you say are their Russian backers, or in some cases actual Russian troops and equipment, can essentially get away with seizing another city?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it certainly should not. We have not hesitated to put sanctions in place or consider a range of options in the past. We continue to. And just because we have not announced or decided about what we will do or when we will do anything next, it does not mean those discussions are not ongoing.

QUESTION: But his suggestion was that it would require additional events on the ground – another Mariupol – for there to be sanctions that he said were already teed up. And I – the reason I’m asking the question is if part of the point of having sanctions is to eventually shift their policy and part of it, presumably, is to deter the Russians from pursuing what you say has been their policy of aiding the separatists to essentially seize control of chunks of another country, I don’t understand why you wouldn’t act more quickly or decisively in the face of their seizure of another city.

MS. PSAKI: He was simply conveying that we clearly are watching what’s happening on the ground and that will impact our future actions. He wasn’t making – drawing a line that there must be future actions for us to take additional steps. Obviously, if they continue on this path, that will lead us to put more consequences in place. If they take a different path, that will have an impact.

QUESTION: But there are no consequences for Debaltseve?

MS. PSAKI: We haven’t announced or I have nothing to announce for you in terms of any decision-making, Arshad. It doesn’t mean there aren’t ongoing discussions about what we may do.

QUESTION: Right, but I think the question is that you do not support the separatists having control of Debaltseve.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. So I think the question is a fair one. If they’ve – that’s something that’s already --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I wasn’t saying it wasn’t.

QUESTION: Right, but that’s something that’s already happened.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: If your position is that that’s a bad thing, why is there no action in response to it?

MS. PSAKI: It doesn’t mean it happens four minutes later, Matt. We obviously continue to discuss --

QUESTION: Well, we’re not talking about four minutes.

MS. PSAKI: -- what the appropriate actions are, what the appropriate consequences will be. I have nothing further to predict for you.

QUESTION: Okay. I want to go back to a part of a back-and-forth that happened either earlier this week or last week --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- about – you were talking about the separatists in the east and how they were not Ukrainians and that they were not in their own country.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I said on the day --

QUESTION: Were you – right.

MS. PSAKI: -- they are supported by Russia. There are Russian materials in there. They are trained by, and that’s what I was referring to.

QUESTION: But are you – so – but is it the position of the United States that Ukrainians – people who have Ukrainian citizenship who are fighting the government of Kyiv, in Kyiv, or forces of the government in Kyiv, are not actually Ukrainians?

MS. PSAKI: No, but I’m conveying, as we all know and we’ve confirmed many times, that there are Russian hands on this effort that’s happening in eastern Ukraine.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, if one accepts that that is true – and it is disputed by some --

MS. PSAKI: I understand who it’s disputed by.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. Well, so do I. But anyway, are you saying that separatists who you – because they are getting this Russian backing that you talk about, this support, are no – have given up their citizenship of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I was not, but --

QUESTION: Okay. I just --

MS. PSAKI: -- we’ve also seen that Russia consolidated its control over the separatist movement following its August invasion by removing problematic separatist leaders who did not follow Russian instructions. We’ve seen Russia supply and train separatist militants. We’ve seen that Russia transfer hundreds of pieces of military equipment to pro-Russia separatists. So the point is that they are clearly involved, engaged, and have their hands in this everywhere.

QUESTION: Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Right. I get what you’re saying there, but I’m just wondering if you believe that separatists, who are Ukrainian, who are fighting the government in Kyiv, have forfeited --

MS. PSAKI: No, I did not intend to suggest that.

QUESTION: Okay. You’re talking – you’re talking about Russians who are there who are not citizens of Ukraine --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- and in a non-sovereign country.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Yemen, very quickly?

MS. PSAKI: Yemen? Sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday the Security Council commended, I guess, the return of President Hadi to Aden, his movement to Aden. I just wanted to ask you: Have you been in touch with him in any way or capacity since the last time we asked --

MS. PSAKI: Not as of when we talked about it on Monday. I’m not aware of contact since then. I’m happy to check on it, Said.

QUESTION: Sorry, can I get in one more on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just on the whole ceasefire thing --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and the idea that if they do, the separatists continue to go, there will be more action.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Is your view right now that things are improving and that the – or not? I mean, are there – you say there will be more costs to Russia if they continue to go down the road that they were on.

MS. PSAKI: In --

QUESTION: Is it your judgment that they are still on that road, or are they on a better road now?

MS. PSAKI: It depends on how you compare the roads. There are – there is a reduction we’ve seen over the past two days.

QUESTION: Which is a good thing.

MS. PSAKI: Which is a good thing. But there are still violations.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So I wouldn’t say that – I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a positive step. It’s just a slight improvement, but obviously, there are still violations across eastern Ukraine.

QUESTION: So the actions that you believe Russia is continuing to take are actions that could draw new sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

Go ahead, Michelle.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Based on information from the U.S. ambassador in Yemen, we were told that the Marines had to give up their weapons curbside at the airport. But what we’re hearing is that the Marines spent a considerable amount of time in the terminal, unable to defend themselves and the diplomats. Are you comfortable with that amount of risk?

MS. PSAKI: The Marines – I would point you to them – they put out an extensive statement about the steps they took, the protocol they followed, the fact that they destroyed their weapons on site. They did that a couple of weeks ago. So I don’t have more information to add to that.

QUESTION: Sorry to go back one more time to Iran --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- but the prime minister’s office says that Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell have initiated an invitation to the prime minister to meet in a bipartisan fashion after his speech. Do you think that’s positive? Do you think --

MS. PSAKI: Which I think the prime minister declined, if I’m correct.

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, a new invitation.

QUESTION: It’s a new invitation that’s a bipartisan invitation from congressional leadership.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll leave that to congressional leadership and the prime minister to work through.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: One more on Iraq. Jen, in the past you’ve provided a lot of informations about the arms and supplies --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- to Peshmerga and the Iraqi army forces and even Anbar tribes. But still we are hearing from the KRG officials, including Bayan Sami, the KRG representative in U.S., in Washington, that that’s not enough and we are not getting what we need. What do you – what’s your comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to add in terms of the arms we’ve been providing. I think I said tens of thousands of tons. I think any independent individual would evaluate that as quite a bit of assistance, and we’re not the only country providing assistance. So beyond that, I don’t have any further comment.

QUESTION: Is there any hope that that will increase since --

MS. PSAKI: We’ve continued to increase it. I have nothing to outline for the future, but we’ve been very supportive. Obviously, we work through the Government of Iraq. That will continue. That’s our policy. But we’ve continued to be supportive of their efforts.

QUESTION: But why they are keep saying that? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: I would ask that question and pose what we’ve provided.

QUESTION: And they said it’s only three brigades, which is not like enough to protect city of Kirkuk, not even Muslim --

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

QUESTION: Because in the money like you provided it says only for three brigades. Is there any reason for only three brigades?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I would – again, I outlined for you very specifically all of the military equipment we’ve provided. Other countries have done the same. I would recommend you gather that all together and ask them the question on why that’s not enough for what they need right now.

QUESTION: That’s 3 billion with a B?

MS. PSAKI: Hmm? I don’t have the numbers in front of me. I’ve outlined them several times from here, but I can get them to you if you’d like, in terms of the equipment provided.

QUESTION: The Secretary yesterday was asked I think the same kind of question by Kay --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Kay Granger?

QUESTION: Yeah. And he started to go down this what appeared to be an enormous list of weapons and --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Which is – I’ve done that in here as well. I just don’t have it in front of me at this moment.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. But your understanding is that’s $3 billion worth of --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t.

QUESTION: It said three brigades. That’s --

QUESTION: Oh, three brigades. I’m sorry. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We can get around to all of you, if you’d like, the list of equipment. And as I mentioned, it’s not just the United States that’s provided.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There’s a think tank report that came out recently that says that North Korea could have 100 nuclear weapons by 2020. What’s your reaction to this? Does this square with the Administration’s assessments? And just do you think this warrants more sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: We just don’t get into those assessments from here.

All right. Thanks, everybody.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:42 p.m.)

# # #

2015-02-26


Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 23, 2015


Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 23, 2015


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TRANSCRIPT:

1:01 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Monday.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I have a couple of items for all of you at the top. The United States is deeply troubled by the new harsh sentences of three or five years in prison issued yesterday against 20 Egyptian activists, including Alaa Abdel Fatah, for organizing an unauthorized protest under Egypt’s demonstrations law. We urge defendants to pursue all legal avenues to contest this verdict, including the right to appeal. As a matter of principle, the United States believes that a country’s long-term stability is strengthened by protecting the right of its citizens to peacefully express dissent. These sentences and others under the law have had a chilling effect on key freedoms of expression and assembly. We encourage Egypt’s leadership to quickly complete its review of the demonstrations law and all court verdicts issued under it and to release an amended version that will enable full freedom of expression and association.

On Libya, the United States Government continues to strongly support the efforts of the United Nations and Special Representative to the Secretary-General Bernardino Leon in Libya to facilitate formation of a national unity government and bring a political solution to the ongoing political, security, and institutional crisis in the country. We reiterate our call for all Libyan stakeholders to participate in the UN-led political dialogue. Those who choose not to participate are excluding themselves from discussions which are critical to combatting terrorism as well as to the overall peace, security – stability and security of Libya.

Only Libyans can resolve their conflict through dialogue, and Libyan stakeholders being convened by Leon will have to choose their own national unity government. The United Nations-led process provides the best hope for Libyans to return to building the strong and representative state institutions that can most effectively address the terrorist threat and to confront all violence and instability that impedes Libya’s political transition and development.

The Secretary is on travel today; he’s on his way back, having spent the weekend in London and Geneva. In London, he met with UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, and in Geneva, he met with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and the negotiating teams. He will return to Washington tonight.

Finally, today the Secretary will announce that Randy Berry will serve as our first-ever special envoy for the human rights of LGBT persons. Randy is currently the consul general in Amsterdam, and in his new capacity will lead efforts underway by the White House and the State Department to advance our strategy on the human rights of LGBT persons. Despite the progress made by governments and institutions from all regions to affirm the universal human rights of all persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, more than 75 countries still criminalize consensual same-sex activity. Randy brings over 20 years of Foreign Service experience to this new leadership position. The Secretary will host a reception in Randy’s honor later this week. Watch for a notice in the press in the coming days.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, just on that briefly before we get to Iran, two on what you just mentioned.

MS. PSAKI: On Randy Berry?

QUESTION: Well, one on him. You said “progress made in all regions,” and then you said 75 countries still criminalize homosexual behavior – I mean, or acts? How can you possibly claim that there’s been progress in all regions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, that we have seen progress in all regions, but as I mentioned, I’ve highlighted the 75 countries because obviously there’s still a great deal of work to be done and that’s one of the reasons we’re naming someone to this position.

QUESTION: Okay, fair enough. Is it your understanding that these countries are receptive to an envoy coming and telling them that they need to do more to protect human rights?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speak for these countries. I’m sure some will be more receptive than others in the world, but part of his role is going to be coordinating and shepherding the implementation of the Department’s strategy on human rights for LGBT persons, adopted in 2011, and the presidential memorandum issued later that year with like-minded countries and working to continue to highlight these issues globally.

QUESTION: Okay. And then on your Egypt statement.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: You said that you urge the defendants to pursue all available avenues, including appeal – I mean, does that mean that you think that these people are not guilty?

MS. PSAKI: We believe, as I noted, that going – the fact that these individuals were arrested and charged, some for speaking out publicly, is something that we think we wanted to highlight. But there’s a legal process that will be seen through. We just wanted to highlight the stories and the cases of these individuals.

QUESTION: Well, but do you believe that the Egyptian judicial system is independent and that --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- they should – that, in fact, their best option is to pursue --

MS. PSAKI: We’ve spoken about our views on the Egyptian legal system, as you know, and – as well as our views on mass arrests and mass sentencing. And certainly, these cases that go after individuals for using freedom of expression and freedom of speech are of concern to us.

QUESTION: Despite all those concerns, though, you’re still sending them Apache helicopters and trying to find ways to get them the aid that’s – so you’re still supporting them. So is this a case where your national security interest has outweighed or trumped your human rights concerns?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, Matt, we have not certified the final tranche of money. That’s still on hold. We obviously watch what happens on the ground. We think there is reason to highlight concerns when we have them. But also, we know Egypt has important strategic and security needs. We have an important strategic relationship with Egypt. That’s why we released the Apache helicopters.

QUESTION: If there’s no more on Egypt, I just want to ask you --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- very briefly on Iran --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- because I’m sure you won’t be able to tell us anything. But there’s all sorts of speculation at the – or not even speculation; I guess it’s confirmed that talks will resume next week. Are these talks that the Secretary would take part of? How close are you to a deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we made some progress, as I believe my colleagues on the ground informed reporters traveling. We’re planning for the teams to meet at the political directors’ level starting next Monday to continue these discussions. As has been true and the case all along, the Secretary could certainly participate at some point in those discussions, but I don’t have anything to announce at this point. These talks have been productive. There’s still more work to do. And obviously, I’m not going to outline for you or give an assessment of where things stand at this point.

QUESTION: Why not?

MS. PSAKI: Because, as you know, we want to keep these discussions private in order to continue to make progress.

QUESTION: And private from the American people, private from Congress, and private from Israel?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, Matt, we have been briefing both Israel and Congress --

QUESTION: Apparently not --

MS. PSAKI: -- quite consistently.

QUESTION: You would accept, though, that your briefings to both have not been received – they haven’t been well received; is that not correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it depends on the individual you’re talking to.

QUESTION: Can I ask on that --

MS. PSAKI: On Iran?

QUESTION: On Iran, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There was a report in one organization today that you’re looking at some kind of phased agreement under which if Iran basically could assure the international community that it was abiding by the rules and abiding by the deal that was set out, that at some point in time it would be given a greater uranium enrichment program. I know that the briefers in Geneva have talked about something they mentioned before about a double-digit kind of program, but could you just outline exactly what it is that – or give us a bit more clarity, if you like, on what you mean by that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s unlikely I can give you too much more because we’re – we’ve always said we’re not going to negotiate publicly and I’m not going to change that policy now. I would point out --

QUESTION: Why not, Jen? Why not?

MS. PSAKI: I know. It would be so much more fun for all of us in here. But time – we only have a limited amount of time left here. So I would point out that it’s not news that the final version of what we are seeking, the comprehensive joint plan of action, would have a duration of a number of years. As you mentioned, some of my colleagues on the ground have spoken to that, but we’re not going to speak to where that stands or how long or how that will work. And obviously, that’s part of what’s being discussed.

QUESTION: But if at the end of this double-digit or whatever that double-digit is, whether it’s 10, 20, or whatever, is it the understanding that then you would agree to allow Iran to have a greater uranium enrichment program?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, there are a lot of details that are being discussed. As we’ve said before, there are pieces that need to work together like a puzzle, so I’m just not going to outline more about the discussions.

QUESTION: But it is correct – and I believe, actually, your colleague on the ground said this too – that you’re looking at a sort of a year breakout time.

MS. PSAKI: That’s been something the Secretary, I think, has also talked about in open testimony.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: But you have a certain, like, percentage that you would allow Iran to have, like 2 percent, 5 percent, under 5 percent --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, enrichment capacity is one of the issues being discussed. I’m not going to talk about it in more detail.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m sure you’ll remember the contract between Russia and Iran regarding the S-300 missile defense systems. Now today there is news saying that a Russian official has suggested that – they say – he says that they have offered another, a more advanced version of that system to Iran, but there’s no answer from Iran yet. I thought maybe this whole thing was finished, the contract, maybe with the U.S. pressure that was put on the Russians. Any comments on this new --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen these reports, the ones you’re referencing. And once we have more details – and as you mentioned, it’s just some reports; I don’t think a lot of it has been confirmed from both sides – we’ll certainly raise this at the appropriate levels as needed. If the reports are true that Russia has decided not to sell the S-300 system to Iran, we would certainly welcome that, but we would have similar objections to a sale of the Antey-2500 system. So we’ll wait for more details and comment on it at that point in time.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary talk to the Russian team on the ground whenever they’re at the talks – for example, today?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, without more details, we’ll wait for more details and then we’ll raise it at the appropriate level.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the 2,500 range, whatever? Is that because they have a certain range that these missiles might have?

MS. PSAKI: We’d also object to it for a range of reasons.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: A two-part question on the talks: First of all, an official said earlier today that in the talks – that negotiators managed to sharpen up some of the tough issues that need resolving.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know you can’t go too much in the way of details, but can you talk in general about what this entails? And then secondly, can you confirm reports that negotiators are looking at meeting in Geneva, specifically next week on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council meeting?

MS. PSAKI: So on the first question I’m just not going to go farther than what my colleagues on the ground briefed, and that would require me going into details, which we just aren’t going to do from here or publicly. On the second question, I think I answered in the beginning that we are planning for the teams to meet again at the political directors level starting next Monday. In terms of location, that’s still being determined.

QUESTION: Could I ask whether Energy Secretary Moniz will also be included in those next talks next week?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure that’s been determined yet, Jo. As you know, he was there this week. He – there’s been an official from the Energy Department participating in these talks all along. Obviously, it’s a reflection of how technical these discussions are, so I think over the coming days we’ll determine who will be in the delegation.

QUESTION: Why was the decision made to ramp it up to the Energy Secretary level? What was it that he could bring that the other people who’ve been involved couldn’t?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it just is – it indicates that this is an incredibly technical nature – there’s an incredibly technical nature of the discussions. Obviously, we all know that we’re working towards a framework, and that’s our goal in the coming weeks. It was necessary and appropriate to have technical people sit with Iran’s technical people at the highest level in order to try to resolve any differences that may exist. While there have certainly been people, colleagues from the Department of Energy with us in the talks from the beginning, the – Secretary Moniz has had several one-on-one meetings with the head of the Iran Atomic Energy Organization, and obviously having someone at a higher level enables you to have a discussion at a higher level.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Wait, I still have one more thing. And I apologize if this has been cleared up again --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- but I’m – your target date, end of March – is it the 24th or the 31st? Has this been decided?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve said --

QUESTION: Is there an official position on this?

MS. PSAKI: -- the end of March, Matt.

QUESTION: I know, but the --

MS. PSAKI: I think Congress had said the 24th --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- but we’re looking to the end of March.

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: We’ve said the 31st from here.

QUESTION: You said the 31st.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So despite the fact that the last talks in – or the talks in Vienna at which this target was announced finished on the 24th and it was described – the extension, if you will, was described in terms of months --

MS. PSAKI: Four months.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: But not four months and one week; four months.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think it got into that level of specificity, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, right. So I want to be – make perfect – understand perfectly clear that when you talk about this target date, it’s March 31st, not March 24th. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve – yes. We’ve referred to it as the end of March, yes.

QUESTION: Can I just ask on that, actually?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Because you’ve also said the technical details, the final technical details, you’re giving yourselves until June the 30th. Correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the annexes and – yes. But our goal is to achieve a framework by the end of March.

QUESTION: Because it would seem to me that all along – and you’ve mentioned it several times today – that this agreement has hinged on the technical difficulties. So --

MS. PSAKI: We haven’t called it technical. We’ve said obviously there are a lot of technical details that would need to be worked through, and annexes and things along those lines. So a framework is something that would certainly give you a path forward.

QUESTION: Because it seems to me you could have a framework – I mean, you could have a political deal on March 31st which could just be, “We agree we will reach by June 30th a technical, full, comprehensive agreement.”

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we envision something more than that in terms of a framework. I’m not in a position to outline what that means at this point. Obviously, we have several weeks to go here.

QUESTION: So you do envisage a sort of – a bigger framework deal which would say there will be annexes on this, this, and this issue?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to outline what it will look like. We’re obviously still talking through that, so – but a framework means agreement on some of the key components, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. First of all, a New York jury just found the Palestine Liberation Organization liable for an attack that took place in Jerusalem some 10 years ago, a decade ago, and so on. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: The – say that again? Who found them --

QUESTION: A jury found the PLO liable for an attack that took place in Jerusalem 10 years ago or so. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I can check with our team and see if we have a comment for you.

QUESTION: Is – now, do you expect that, like, a proliferation of these cases now? Because there were a number of attacks and so on by either the PLO directly or affiliates of the PLO over the past --

MS. PSAKI: I would ask the Government of Israel that question.

QUESTION: Okay. And while staying on the topic, the – everybody is warning that the PA is on the verge of collapse. Even the Secretary of State himself, he has stated --

MS. PSAKI: And I talked about this a bit last week as well.

QUESTION: And I understand. You did. But since then, has there been any steps taken to sort of avert such a disastrous outcome like this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve consistently engaged with key stakeholders at a range of levels, including the Israelis, the Palestinians, the EU, UN, Russians, the Arab League, and others over the past few weeks. We will continue to do so, and so that is certainly ongoing.

QUESTION: Why do you think the Israelis are not heeding your advice? Today, they cut off electricity to the West Bank, and in fact, they made an announcement that it will be cut off regularly to the West Bank because they owe back bills.

MS. PSAKI: And we’ve seen those reports. We’re concerned about the impact on the ground of any cuts to basic services, including electricity. We remain very concerned about the continued viability of the Palestinian Authority if they do not receive funds soon, either in terms of the resumption of monthly Israeli transfers of Palestinian tax revenues or additional donor assistance.

QUESTION: Is it expected that the Israelis will release – and I know I asked you this before – will release the tax money before the elections? Do you expect that?

MS. PSAKI: You should ask the Government of Israel that question.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Just on the jury verdict, can you – because the jury has awarded the plaintiffs in this case $218 million of damages. So it would seem that if you’re out trying to raise money or get other people to give money to the Palestinian Authority to prevent it from collapsing, they’re going to have to – if they decide that they’re going to respect this court – the jury’s decision, they’re going to have to have at least another $218.5 million. Is this – can you find out if it’s – if money that you would like to go to the Palestinian Authority could be used to pay such damages?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I’m happy to.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on this issue before we continue? Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Iraq, Kurds?

QUESTION: Yeah, absolutely.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Iraqi Kurdish officials have accused Baghdad – I’m not sure if you’ve seen the reports – of having failed to abide by the most recent agreement over oil and budget. Prime Minister Abadi says, because partly of the oil price drop, Iraq has no money to send to the KRG. KRG says why does Iraq – why is Iraq able to pay the salaries of all of the Iraqis, including the residents of Mosul, except for Kurdistan.

Is that your assessment that the agreement between Baghdad and Kurdistan is unraveling?

MS. PSAKI: It is not. We understand that both Baghdad and Erbil remain committed to seeking implementation of the deal that is enshrined in the budget law. We recognize that Iraq writ large is facing financial difficulties due to low oil prices, the large refugee and IDP population, and the need to focus on defense spending because of the fight against ISIL. I would refer you to the Government of Iraq, but I do also recall news reports that Baghdad transferred two payments totaling $1 billion late last year as part of the agreement that was reached. So certainly, it’s not accurate to suggest that --

QUESTION: But this year, they haven’t done it according to the top Kurdish officials. They were just in Baghdad last week. Baghdad said --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Iraqi parliament also just recently passed its $103 billion 2015 budget, which includes payments to the KRG. So I would point you to the Government of Iraq to ask that question.

QUESTION: So would you be concerned as the United States – if that is true, which is really true, that Iraq has not paid or is not going to pay KRG --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t see what you’re presenting as evidence that it’s true.

QUESTION: Why is --

MS. PSAKI: Or do you have more information you want to provide us?

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. The prime minister of Kurdistan, he just talked to the media, and he’s --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m just referring to the fact that last year there were two payments reportedly made. I would certainly have you confirm that with the relevant authorities. The budget just passed. It includes payment to the KRG – payments to the KRG. Both sides have said they’re committed to the plan. So I’d suggest you pose your questions to the Iraqi Government on this issue.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Venezuela?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There was a statement on Friday about – from the Department of State talking about the incarceration of the opposition leaders, and also you were urging some other countries to also adhere to the situation and put their claim against the Government of Venezuela. Did you hear any comments from other governments from Latin America that also are following this proposal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to outline private diplomatic discussions, as I’m sure doesn’t surprise you at all. We certainly did raise our concern about these accusations, highlighted the fact that they’re false, they’re ludicrous, and the Government of Venezuela needs to focus more on their own challenges in their own country and this is just an effort to distract. So I’d reiterate those points.

QUESTION: Because also if you see Telesur – that is the state channel of Venezuela that is aired in all Latin America – all the time they are accusing the U.S. 24 hours about this idea to make a plot against the government of Maduro. So I want to know if the U.S. also is working with other countries to explain the situation with them.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re making clear in all of our discussions the same points we’re making publicly, which is that these accusations are ludicrous. There absolutely is – the Venezuelan Government should stop trying to blame the United States and other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela. The Venezuelan Government needs to deal with the grave situation it faces. So part of what we do is convey that publicly and part of what we do is convey that privately.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. worried that this situation will escalate and also other leaders can be also arrested, or something like that? Is information on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly seen and unfortunately had to speak about these accusations, but as I spoke about last week, some recent arrests on the ground that are certainly concerning to us. That’s one of the reasons we talk about it publicly and why we raise it with our partners in the region.

QUESTION: Move on to --

QUESTION: Jen, just one more question.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, go ahead. On Venezuela?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: A follow-up to that, because it was part of the discussion we had with you last time. And you then said that the political – that the U.S. does not support coups, but – state coups, and that political transitions must be democratic and constitutional. And I just wanted to ask about Syria. Does that mean that you support a democratic and constitutional transition in Syria?

MS. PSAKI: In Syria we’ve long supported a political transition that would be worked out with the parties on the ground. I don’t – I think we’ve had a pretty consistent position on that.

QUESTION: And it must be democratic and constitutional?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: According to your rules that you said (inaudible), that it was also democratic, constitutional, peaceful, and legal.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just be clear for you on our position on Syria. We’re talking about a brutal dictator who’s killed tens of thousands of his own people. I’m sure you’re not suggesting that that is similar to what’s happening in other parts of the world. It’s a situation where also thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of refugees have flown into neighboring countries, and we’ve seen the brutality of what’s happening there. We don’t see a future for a brutal dictator who’s killed thousands of his people in Syria, and I think that’s no surprise to the international community. That’s long been our position.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: United States and international coalition provided a lot of support for Peshmerga and Iraqi army to fight ISIS, to defeat ISIS.

MS. PSAKI: Yep.

QUESTION: Is that correct that this amount of money and also the weapons, ammunitions provided for even the tribals in Anbar to defeat ISIS? This is – is that correct, right? I mean, in the recent.

MS. PSAKI: Correct, through the Government of Iraq has long been our policy, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. So that means this is conditioned to any forces, including Peshmerga, to participate in the offense against ISIS. If they said we are not participating in that, will that stop like --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe they’ve said that, and there’s a number of countries --

QUESTION: -- especially in the Sunni areas.

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. There’s a number of countries that have also provided assistance to the Peshmerga through coordinating with the Government of Iraq. And they have obviously played an important role fighting against ISIL.

QUESTION: What if they stop going offensive on ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: They haven’t, so I’m not going to talk about a hypothetical.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On the same issue, could I?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I stay with the coalition, please? There’s a couple of details coming out of France today on various issues to do with the coalition. One is that there’s a French aircraft carrier which has now launched operations in the Gulf alongside of the USS Carl Vinson as part of the operation against the Islamic State. I wondered if I could have your reaction to that.

And then I have another question, actually, as well.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I don’t – obviously, we’ve been working with coalition partners, including France, on specific military operations, several components of the coalition. I would certainly point you to DOD, who would be coordinating that.

QUESTION: Okay. And I just wanted to ask, following up on the counterterrorism conference last week, France today confiscated the passports of six French citizens, and another 40 are also going to be barred from leaving. They were heading out of the country towards the – part of the flock of foreign fighters towards Syria and Iraq. This is the first time France has done this. What would be your reaction to that? And is this something that other countries, including the United States, needs to do more of?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly seen countries, including France, talk about specific steps they want to take to prevent foreign fighters from leaving their country and coming back, having fought with extremist groups, and putting people in their country in danger. And so they’re taking a number of steps. We support them with – in those endeavors. I’d have to look into this more specifically and talk to our counterterrorism team about their thoughts on this.

QUESTION: Now, have the American authorities – have you actually taken any passports off people who were planning to leave the country to go and join the jihadist fight?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think some of this we don’t typically confirm publicly because we have our own laws in terms of what we do. We have a range of tools at our disposal, including those that are related to travel documents. But I can certainly talk to our – other officials in the interagency about whether there’s more we can share about what we’ve done from here. It’s not something from the State Department necessarily.

QUESTION: On Iraq?

QUESTION: Well, but it would be --

QUESTION: Passports would be also.

QUESTION: Well, not the actual revocation of them.

MS. PSAKI: But you’d work with a range of agencies, a range of other government entities on that. It’s not something we have the lead on.

QUESTION: Can you find out, though – I don’t know that the State Department is actually involved in taking, physically taking a passport off of someone. But you are involved in revoking them or making them invalid so that they can’t be used for travel, so if someone tried to use it if they still had it in their possession --

MS. PSAKI: Right.

QUESTION: -- they would be stopped, because --

MS. PSAKI: Yes, and we’ve talked about this a bit in here and haven’t been able to confirm specifics.

QUESTION: Have you talked – you have or have not?

MS. PSAKI: We have not.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just wondering if it’s possible to go back and see if we can find out --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: -- how many, if any, have been.

MS. PSAKI: Unlikely we’ll be able to confirm that, but I’m happy to check with the relevant agencies. Again, it’s not the State Department that has the lead.

QUESTION: Jen, on --

QUESTION: Right. But, I mean, other countries are more than happy to talk about this. It might behoove you to --

MS. PSAKI: Understood. Every country has different laws.

QUESTION: Well, given that also there was a big --

QUESTION: Well, but we’re not talking about specific names or anything like that, but a number.

MS. PSAKI: I understand. We still have different laws and policies.

QUESTION: I mean, given that it was one of the big things at the summit last week --

MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand why you’re all interested. We have different policies and laws. Every country has different policies and laws.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about – have you read or heard about former Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki putting the blame for the creation and the growth of ISIS on the United States of America?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen his comments, so --

QUESTION: Would you look at his comments and see what is your reaction?

MS. PSAKI: -- we’ll take a look and see if there’s something we want to offer.

Go ahead, Laura.

QUESTION: Do you have any readout on UN Envoy’s – de Mistura’s meeting last week with Deputy Secretary Blinken?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Deputy Secretary Blinken met with UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria and prospects for implementation of de Mistura’s Aleppo freeze plan ahead of the envoy’s upcoming trip to Damascus. The deputy secretary welcomed de Mistura’s efforts to reduce violence, especially against civilians, and to make credible progress toward a sustainable political solution in Syria, starting with a local freeze proposal for Aleppo.

The special envoy also is scheduled to meet later today with U.S. Special Envoy for Syria Daniel Rubinstein and other U.S. officials. And, as I think you may have seen from the NSC, he met with Susan – National Security Advisor Susan Rice and they put out a readout about that as well.

QUESTION: In light of his freeze proposal and his discussions with the Administration on that, is there any change in policy as far as whether the U.S. could work with President Assad on a solution to the violence there?

MS. PSAKI: No. Our policy has long been that we support his efforts – the UN special envoy’s efforts – to reduce the suffering of the Syrian people. We’ve seen these ceasefires tried around Syria before, and the result has been, unfortunately, that the regime has not abided by these ceasefires, and that has been the issue time and time again. So we support these efforts. We’re clear-eyed about the challenges, and we’ll see what happens when he has his meetings on the ground.

QUESTION: Let me just follow up on that very issue in terms of who would represent who among the Syrians and so on. You certainly do agree that Mr. Assad does represent a large portion of the – a large minority, let’s say, in Syria, including Christians and Alawites and others. You do.

MS. PSAKI: I’ll let the Syrian people speak for who they think represents them.

QUESTION: How would they speak? I mean, in your estimation --

MS. PSAKI: I would go --

QUESTION: -- how would they do it?

MS. PSAKI: I would encourage you to report on that, Said.

QUESTION: Jen, just --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry, the question about Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The – we’ve seen a lot of protests. That’s why I said it is true that Baghdad hasn’t paid the salaries of the KRG residents for at least the past two months, because the teachers and other civil servants were protesting for not having received their salaries this week. And also, the prime minister of Kurdistan reportedly said that he borrowed half a billion dollars from Turkey in order to pay their salaries.

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I don’t know if you have a new question here.

QUESTION: So this is the situation.

MS. PSAKI: I’m just encouraging you, given they just passed their budget, to ask the Government of Iraq about that. There are payments to the KRG in their budget and they did two payments, reportedly, last year.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to al-Shabaab’s threats to attack shopping malls in the U.S. and Britain, et cetera?

MS. PSAKI: I do. We are aware of the recent al-Shabaab propaganda video urging its supporters to undertake Westgate-style attacks against shopping centers around the world, to include in the United States. In recent months, the FBI and DHS have worked closely with our state and local public safety counterparts and members of the private sector, to include mall owners and operators, to prevent and mitigate these types of threats. Over the weekend, the FBI and DHS also provided law enforcement and other first responders, as well as our private sector partners, with relevant information regarding the propaganda video. As a general matter, however, we are not aware of any specific credible plot against the Mall of America or any other domestic commercial shopping center.

More on this before we continue? Okay. Go ahead, Laura.

QUESTION: In light of the fact that this is a threat not just against malls in the United States but abroad as well, is there any consideration being put into changing travel warning guidance for Americans that might be going to these sort of soft target locations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t predict that in advance, but obviously, we’re always weighing information, whether the threats are credible and whether it raises our concern enough to change our travel warnings. I don’t have anything to predict for you on that front.

QUESTION: Did you say against Mall of America or any other mall?

MS. PSAKI: Or any other domestic commercial shopping center, so – or any other mall, yes, is a shorter way of saying it, Jo. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Sorry, I was writing it down. I wasn’t quick enough. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Can I --

MS. PSAKI: Thank you for the translation.

QUESTION: You said that there is no specific threat?

MS. PSAKI: Not aware of any specific, credible plot against the Mall of America.

QUESTION: You don’t regard this video saying – encouraging attackers to go and commit Westgate-type attacks as --

MS. PSAKI: It’s – our view is it’s propaganda. Of course, we need to remain vigilant --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- as always is the case, but the point of this video --

QUESTION: In other words, you don’t --

MS. PSAKI: -- was to instill fear.

QUESTION: So you don’t take this video as a credible threat. It is a threat, though, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly there’s a threat in the video, but there’s not a credible threat against malls and --

QUESTION: You don’t have – is what you’re trying to say here is that you don’t have any information to corroborate that someone is out there who has taken them up --

MS. PSAKI: Correct, yes.

QUESTION: -- who has seen this video and decided to go ahead and do it? All right.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Elliot.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: First, do you have any new assessment of the status of the ceasefire?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. While the Ukrainian Government and Russian-backed separatists exchanged some prisoners over the weekend, the United States remains troubled by the continuing violations of the ceasefire around Debaltseve, the coastal city of Mariupol, and other locations in eastern Ukraine, all of which lie beyond the ceasefire line agreed to by all sides in Minsk in September and again in February.

The OSCE has also confirmed that ceasefire violations continue and that the Russia-backed separatists still have not allowed OSCE monitors access to Debaltseve and other areas.

QUESTION: So with the Ukrainians now saying that they cannot withdraw their heavy arms, which would apparently be a violation of the Minsk agreements – well, first, would you consider that a violation of Minsk agreements? They’re saying that it’s because they continue to receive fire.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we need to remember the context here, Elliot. Obviously, in terms of withdrawal of arms and moving back and de-escalating, a large percentage of that and the needs are from the Russian-backed separatist side. They’re in a country that is not their own that is a sovereign country. And so that is where we have the greatest concern.

I would also remind everybody that exactly a year ago on Sunday, the people of Ukraine cast off an authoritarian regime and chose a future based on democracy, free trade, and rule of law. For these actions, Russia occupied and attempted to annex a sovereign country’s territory, and that since then, that’s left more than 5,000 people dead and displaced several hundred thousand times more. There are many times over the course of the last several months where Ukraine has even put in place ceasefires where they’ve abided by it, and the Russian side has not, the Russian-backed separatists have not. And they need to protect themselves. I think their preference certainly is to see both sides abiding by the ceasefire.

QUESTION: I understand all the context that you just raised, but I guess – so you would say that the decision by the Ukrainian Government is justified to maintain the presence of their --

MS. PSAKI: They’re defending their own sovereign country. They have not shown an unwillingness to abide by the ceasefires in the past.

QUESTION: Jen, did you say it overthrew an authoritarian regime? The former regime was authoritarian and not elected?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think you know the history here.

QUESTION: I understand. I have – no, I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Ukraine? We’re moving on, thank you. Go ahead, Pam.

QUESTION: I have one on --

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry in his weekend comments talked about – raised the possibility of more sanctions against Russia. In light of these latest developments and the fact that it does not appear there has been a satisfactory pullback by pro-Russian forces, is there a stepped-up timeline on when these possible sanctions may come through?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you mentioned, the Secretary did talk about this a bit this weekend. As we’ve also talked about, Russia and the separatists are only complying in a few areas selectively – not in Debaltseve, not outside of Mariupol, not in other key strategic areas. This is clearly unacceptable. We have a range of options that remain on the table. If this failure continues there will be further consequences, but I’m not going to put a timeline or a date on that.

QUESTION: Jen, you said the separatists are not in their own country. What did you mean?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen Russian-backed separatists backed by the country of Russia with equipment, with support, coming in and victimizing people around eastern Ukraine. That’s what I was referring to.

Any more on Ukraine?

QUESTION: The people --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Libya? Okay, whoa. We have a lot.

QUESTION: Wait, wait. I --

QUESTION: The people there are Ukrainians.

QUESTION: Just – I just want to --

MS. PSAKI: And there are Russians who are supporting them.

QUESTION: It’s your position that the ceasefire, although it is – remains – it is still being violated, can still pave the way for a political resolution to this?

MS. PSAKI: Our focus remains on pursuing a durable solution through diplomatic means. As you know, there’s going to be a meeting – a discussion – a dialogue, I should say, happening tomorrow between France, Germany, Ukraine, and Russia in Paris.

QUESTION: But based on this agreement --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and the original Minsk agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So it’s not a lost cause, (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s go in the back.

QUESTION: Libya.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The foreign minister of Libya was here last week for the CVE summit and had talks with officials here. They’d asked for some arms and some backing and support. I mean, in your statement earlier today, you said that you support the efforts of the UN, but obviously the situation on the ground is not conducive to talks succeeding. Do you foresee the U.S. supporting them with some sort of arms? And what is the point that you would move to supporting them with some sort of military backing or just sending them arms like the government has asked for?

MS. PSAKI: Well, nothing has changed since I spoke about this a bit last week, which is that we continue to support the UN arms embargo approval process currently in place for Libya, which permits transfer, as necessary, to support the Libyan Government while allowing the Security Council to guard against risks that weapons may be diverted to non-state actors. So it’s not a ban on weapons. It is a – it has to go through a process, a process that we continue to support. We continue to believe, no question, it’s a difficult situation; it’s one of the most difficult out there. But we believe that the process that’s being led by Bernardino Leon is one that the international community support, and we believe that’s the right process forward.

QUESTION: The foreign minister said that he doesn’t feel or he hasn’t felt in the talks that Libya is part of the strategy of the war on ISIL or ISIS. Is there a possibility that it might become, considering what’s happening in Libya now with the rise of – with the --

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity a part of the strategy?

QUESTION: In airstrikes or in the military part of the strategy.

MS. PSAKI: Not from the United States, no. That decision has not been made.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Turkey? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Late Saturday, Turkish military crossed the borders of Syria in order to relocate the tomb of Suleyman Shah, and I was wondering your comments on that. And also, was there any information exchanged between Turkey and U.S. during the operation or before the operation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have all known for some time, often through reporting as well, but also through conversations, that the tomb of Suleyman Shah has been a priority for Turkey. Beyond that, I’m not going to get into operational details or discussions. The Secretary spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu over the weekend and discussed Turkey’s successful operation at the tomb. We express our condolences to Turkey and especially to the friends and family to the Turkish soldier who died in an accident in the course of that operation. We’re in close and ongoing coordination on developments on Syria, including intelligence and information sharing, and that will certainly continue.

QUESTION: Sorry, when was the call? What day?

MS. PSAKI: The 22nd, so yesterday.

QUESTION: Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Turkey?

QUESTION: Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Not Turkey, right? Okay. Let’s go to you, Lalit.

QUESTION: Okay, I have one – a few questions from South Asia, but first from Maldives.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: What is your view on the arrest of the former Maldivian President Mohamed Nasheed on terrorism charges?

MS. PSAKI: We are concerned by reports of the arrest of former President Nasheed this weekend on terrorism charges. Assistant Secretary Nisha Biswal spoke to the Maldivian foreign minister this weekend and expressed our concern this arrest – about this arrest, as well as events in recent weeks. She urged the government to take steps to restore confidence in their commitment to democracy, judicial independence, and rule of law, including respect for the right to peaceful protest and respect for due process.

QUESTION: Have you also seen images and videos that has come out from form Maldives about the former President Nasheed being dragged out, dragged to the court by the police?

MS. PSAKI: Have I seen videos of it?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I have not. I can certainly check with our team on that as well. Obviously, we’re concerned by reports of the arrest.

QUESTION: I have one question on Afghanistan.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Afghan CEO Abdullah Abdullah has said that the talks with the Taliban might start soon, and also Pakistan – he’s saying that Pakistan has asked the Taliban for – Pakistan is facilitating direct talks with the Taliban.

MS. PSAKI: We have seen his comments. We certainly remain supportive of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process whereby the Taliban and the Afghans engaged in talks toward a settlement to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan. We don’t have confirmation of the talks, and I think even the reporting makes that clear, if I remember correctly.

In terms of the role of Pakistan, we have long encouraged Pakistan to support President Ghani’s reconciliation efforts. We, of course, remain in support and in contact with President Ghani on these matters as well as certainly countries like Pakistan who have a stake in the outcome.

QUESTION: So you are encouraged by Pakistan’s role in this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve long encouraged them to support a reconciliation process. And President Ghani spoke about this, I believe, in his inauguration and has shown a commitment to try to move forward.

QUESTION: And there’s no update on U.S. direct talks with the Taliban?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed since last week and when I said there are no direct or indirect talks.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Pam.

QUESTION: Two questions on different topics. The first one is authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have refused to consider the release of two Azerbaijani nationals, Dilham Askerov and Shahbaz Quliyev, who were convicted last year on charges that include the murder of a teenager. But during her recent visit to Baku, Assistant Secretary Nuland urged relevant authorities to make a humanitarian gesture concerning their case. Can you elaborate on what the gesture would be that the U.S. is seeking, and what would justify the move?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve previously advocated through Ambassador Warlick and others the release of these two prisoners to the Government of Azerbaijan. We – she also urged relevant authorities to return the two prisoners to the Government of Azerbaijan. The sides have generally found a way in the past to return prisoners as a humanitarian gesture, and such humanitarian gestures have been shown to reduce tensions and build trust between the sides. So that’s what she was referring to.

QUESTION: And a second question on Bahrain. A prominent human rights activist, Hussain Jawad, is on trial. He faces charges of insulting the monarchy. He asked the U.S. Government to send an observer to his trial to verify whether the process meets international legal standards. Does the U.S. intend to do this?

MS. PSAKI: We are closely following the case of Hussain Jawad and continue to gather more information. We do plan to observe his trial, just as we often observe open hearings in Bahrain and other countries.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Can I go to Yemen, please?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There were a couple of events that happened over the weekend. President Hadi seems to have escaped from house arrest in Sana’a and is now in Aden. First, I wondered if you could speak to that and whether the United States – he remains the president of Yemen and what your position is on that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, technically speaking, it’s our understanding that until President Hadi’s resignation is accepted by the parliament, under the Yemeni constitution he remains the president and his cabinet remains the legitimate cabinet of the Yemeni Government. Now, we all are aware of how fluid and volatile the situation is on the ground, so that’s just the technical analysis.

QUESTION: He’s calling today from Aden for the talks – for any talks on the political crisis to be moved from Sana’a to Aden. Are you involved in any way, given that obviously your embassy has been shuttered for the time being? Are you involved in any way? Is this something that you would support?

MS. PSAKI: These are UN-led talks. He also reiterated this weekend in his public comments his commitment to the political transition process. And we also agree, as we’ve stated many times, that the parties must recommit themselves to the GCC Initiative, the National Dialogue Conference outcomes, and relevant UN Security Council resolutions. So I would refer you to the UN for any decision on that.

QUESTION: So if they agreed to move the talks, then you would be broadly supportive of that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll see what happens.

QUESTION: Jen, how come --

MS. PSAKI: On Yemen or --

QUESTION: On Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Frankly, I had another subject. On Yemen, how come if this president when he left his capital is still technically president in his country?

MS. PSAKI: That’s --

QUESTION: How come the Ukrainian president was not in the same position?

MS. PSAKI: That’s the Yemeni constitution and what the Yemeni constitution says, so I encourage you to take a look at the Yemeni constitution if you’re interested.

QUESTION: And the Ukrainian constitution said the same thing.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --

QUESTION: Until constitutional proceedings are followed, the president is the president.

MS. PSAKI: I know you like to revise history here in this case, but I’ll just reiterate that president – that Yanukovych left his own country. We all remember what happened here. I’m sure we can provide you with the specific details if you’d like.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Your government has supported the fighters in Kobani – YPG and others – and you also praised them for defeating ISIS in Kobani. And international coalitions, they – some of them, they have received, including France – president of France received one of the commanders there, Asya Abdullah. Is United States also trying to meet with the leaders, especially Asya Abdullah? She was in – commander-in-chief in that area in Kobani. Is there any plan that United States Government dealing with--

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any plans, no.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lalit.

QUESTION: I have one on India. Two Indian Christian aid workers were released by the Taliban over the weekend. They have reached home. Now did the U.S. play any role in their release or they coordinated – did the U.S. coordinate with the Indians on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t I take it, Lalit?

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t talked to our team about that specific question, but we can see if there was any involvement on our end.

QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to ask you about your own plans. That’s the reason for my coming today. Your – the news of your upcoming departure was greeted with a lot of interest and, I would say, some sadness in Russia. (Laughter.) So I guess my first question: Will – where will you be speaking? Will you continue to be speaking publicly on policy issues from now on? When you move --

MS. PSAKI: Does that make you nervous or your foreign minister nervous?

QUESTION: (Laughter.) No, no. We are looking forward from hearing from you.

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure you are.

QUESTION: You’re --

MS. PSAKI: You will continue to.

QUESTION: You will. And if I may, how will you define your new role at the White House? My understanding is you will be overseeing the overall information policies. What is the state of those policies? Do you think they need improvement, in what way? What are your plans for that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s a very big question. I will just simply say that I worked for the President before and I’m honored to be returning to his team. It’s bittersweet because I’ve really loved my time here at the State Department, and there’s a number of incredible people I get to work with and I learn from every single day. But in terms of their policies and the President’s policies, I’d certainly refer you to the White House for now.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I understand the Secretary’s going to be testifying later this week before --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- the House. Can you --

MS. PSAKI: He is testifying – and the Senate.

QUESTION: -- tell us a little bit about that, a schedule?

MS. PSAKI: We can certainly get you a schedule. He is testifying both tomorrow and Wednesday. And we’ll get you a schedule after the briefing. I don’t have it in front of me, but he’ll be testifying both tomorrow and Wednesday. We can get it for you right after the briefing.

QUESTION: I want to just ask a clarification --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- on Yemen, sorry. Has anybody from this Administration, or specifically this building, been in touch with President Hadi over the weekend since he arrived in Aden?

MS. PSAKI: No, we have not been.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Jen, did you about --

MS. PSAKI: I can just do a few more here. Why don’t we go to the back and see – go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Japanese --

QUESTION: You don’t want to take questions from me, but --

MS. PSAKI: I have taken about 10 from you. We’ll take more. I just want to make sure we get to plenty of people. Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Japanese Prime Minister Abe has said he wants to speak before Congress when he visits Washington later this year. Would you welcome him doing that?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a discussion I’m sure that will happen between officials in Congress and the Administration. We certainly welcome his visit to the United States, but beyond that, I’m sure we’ll talk about that at a later date.

Do we have – go ahead.

QUESTION: I have one more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: It’s about a report. I’m sure you won’t have anything --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- to say about it, but over the course of the last several years, there have been these persistent reports about the U.S. trying to have backchannel discussions or – having backchannel discussions or talks with Hamas. There’s another report of that today. These reports in the past have all been adamantly denied --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- by both your predecessor --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and your deputy --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- as well as others.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it still the case that no one from the U.S. Government has tried to or initiated backchannel contacts with members of Hamas?

MS. PSAKI: That is certainly my understanding, Matt.

QUESTION: I mean, you can comfortably speak for all agencies of the – all – the entire government or --

MS. PSAKI: I have never heard of a change in policy in that regard, Matt.

QUESTION: So it remains the case that you don’t have contacts with Hamas indirectly or directly, and there has not been such an effort?

MS. PSAKI: Our policy has not changed.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

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

 

2015-02-23


Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 20, 2015


Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 20, 2015


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TRANSCRIPT:

12:47 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: All right. I have two items for all of you at the top. The United States Government condemns today’s terrorist attacks in eastern Libya which took the lives of at least 40 innocent victims as well as the other violence and terrorist acts that have been inflicted on Libya, its people, and others living in Libya in recent months. We send our deepest condolences to the victims and their families and to the people of Libya as they continue to fight back against terrorism.

This latest terrorist attack underscores the need for all Libyan parties, including former general and national congress members to participate in the UN-led dialogue convened by Bernardino Leon, the special representative of the UN secretary-general to form a national unity government. Those who choose not to participate are excluding themselves from discussions which are critical to combatting terrorism as well as to the overall peace, stability, and security of Libya. The best way to counter the terrorists who are operating Libya is to have Libyans build the national consensus that they need to fight these groups, not each other.

Also on Ukraine, Russia’s continued support of ongoing separatist attacks in violation of the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine is undermining international diplomacy and multilateral institutions, the foundations of our modern global order. The Minsk agreements are the basis for a durable resolution in eastern Ukraine, and the OSCE-facilitated trilateral contact group is the appropriate body to facilitate discussion of the implementation of the commitments in Ukraine Russia and the separatists made signing – in signing the September and February Minsk agreements. Ukraine has made clear its intent to honor the ceasefire and has been doing so, responding only when attacked. As the evidence mounts in photos and videos of the enormous human toll Russia and the separatists have inflicted upon the Ukrainian people, we call upon Russia to honor its commitments immediately with decisive action before we see more cities decimated and more lives lost in eastern Ukraine.

I have a time constraint on the backend here, so let’s get to --

QUESTION: Well –

MS. PSAKI: -- as many topics as possible. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, well, I wasn’t going to start with Ukraine, but that was a pretty strong statement that you just – so basically you just said that Russia is undermining “the foundations of our modern global order?”

MS. PSAKI: Well, by not abiding by the agreement they signed, by continuing to support and intervene illegally in Ukraine, yes, they’re violating international norms, and they’re violating international law.

QUESTION: But you’re accusing them of undermining the entire world order, which seems to be a pretty --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think that’s just expressing how concerned we are about what we’re seeing on the ground in Ukraine.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine? Or --

QUESTION: Yeah, Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So then is your opinion, given in your statement now, that the ceasefire has collapsed or that – or are you still giving it another go?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we – the OSCE has also confirmed or continued to confirm – because I know we’ve talked about this quite a bit in here – that ceasefire violations in Ukraine’s east continue. We’re particularly concerned about new attacks near Mariupol, an area well beyond the agreed September 19th ceasefire line. There have been, as the OSCE has spoken to, some reduction in violence in some areas. There have been reports of some pullback of weapons. We remain focused on supporting the implementation of these agreements, but we are watching closely, we are talking not only internally, but also with our partners around the world. And if Russia and the separatists fail to implement the agreements, end the violence, and halt the flow of fighters, there will be additional costs.

QUESTION: I mean how much time does one give Russia to abide by this? Does – I mean it can’t be an ongoing process, a forever process.

MS. PSAKI: I can --

QUESTION: At what stage does one say this isn’t working?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can promise you that discussions about Ukraine, what we’re seeing on the ground are happening every day in the Administration. They’re happening every day with our partners around the world. We continue to believe that supporting the implementation of reminding people, including Russia and Russian-backed separatists, that there is an off-ramp, that there are steps that can be implemented, is the preferred choice here, the preferred option. We still have the same range of options we’ve long had. I’m not going to give a timeframe. I’ll just say there’s concurrent discussions ongoing about what we would do as it relates to consequences.

QUESTION: I wondered – I’m just – to find out, is Ukraine going to be part of the discussions with British Foreign Secretary --

MS. PSAKI: With Foreign Secretary Hammond?

QUESTION: -- Hammond as well as anything – what about – is Lavrov going to Geneva? (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Lesley. I know that some details of bilateral meetings and the P5+1 meetings are still being finalized, as often happens in the days leading up to these meetings. I’m not aware of a – his planned attendance. In terms of the meetings with Foreign Secretary Hammond, I expect as we always do we will preview the trip en route to the trip, but obviously with the United Kingdom, they often talk about a wide range of issues. I certainly expect Ukraine will be one on top of the agenda.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The secretary general of the OSCE is in town, and he says the Minsk agreement has given them the opportunity to use more technology, things like drones and satellite imagery. Is the U.S. planning on providing extra resources to the OSCE?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can tell you what we’ve done to date. The current mandate of the monitoring mission caps the number of international monitors at 500. The mandate runs through March 2015. So we’re working, of course, with the Serbian chair of the OSCE, the Ukrainian Government, our European partners, and others at the OSCE to determine the current and future needs of the special monitoring mission, of which we’ve been very supportive. Our goal is to ensure, of course, that they are well equipped to carry out their tasks, including monitoring implementation of the ceasefire and monitoring the international border between Ukraine and Russia. We have contributed to date about $6.5 million to the OSCE special monitoring mission. We also fund 50 monitors. As discussions continue and consultations continue, we’ll continue to consider what additional assistance and what kinds of assistance we can provide.

QUESTION: And the type of monitors, he said that it started out as a human rights monitoring team, but he said they need more people with military background. Is that something the U.S. is --

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re absolutely open to having a discussion with them. They’re going to have meetings, I think, while they’re here – the secretary-general is with Under Secretary Sewall and with some senior officials from the European bureau, and hear what their needs are. And we’ve been receptive to what their needs are. There’s no question they have a big challenge in that they haven’t been able to gain access to the areas where there is a great deal of fighting, which we’ve been talking about quite a bit in here. Obviously, there are a number of ways to deal with that. One would certainly be for the Russian-backed separatists to let them in, but we’ll continue to hear from them and what their needs are, and we haven’t yet made a decision on what kind of additional support we’ll provide.

QUESTION: I was just going to ask that, because they also – they haven’t been able to get into Debaltseve, for instance, to date.

MS. PSAKI: That’s right. And it’s a huge challenge because it’s – they’re – they are the independent monitoring mission. They are the mission that both Ukraine and Russia and the Russian-backed separatists have said or stated that they’re comfortable with monitoring, but yet they have not let them in to monitor. So it certainly is a challenge, and of course we’d all love more visibility into what’s happening on the ground.

Any more on Ukraine?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just coming back to the Colombian – Secretary Kerry announced a special envoy for the Colombian peace process.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do we have anything as far as how soon he could get involved and what his involvement is? Is he – are they – is he immediately traveling to the region? Are there talks scheduled with him? How is it going to pan out?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s just being – he was just sworn in this morning. Certainly I think everyone expects him to get – hit the ground running given his background, which I think we were sending some information out to all of you on that, but just a short recap: He was formerly the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, he worked on the peace talks in Nicaragua and El Salvador. He has a long relationship with government officials in Colombia. I don’t have anything at this point to predict in terms of travel and what he’ll be doing. As you know, the United States is not a party to the negotiations. That’s not changing. But we’ve certainly been supportive and a strong supporter of Colombian efforts to reach peace for more than a decade. And certainly this is a reflection of that.

QUESTION: But by naming a special envoy, the U.S. is now taking a deeper role in the process.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve indicated that – and we’ve shown not just through words, but the Secretary has been to Colombia, as you know, and has discussed these issues with the leaders there. This is – was – our engagement in this was part – came through a discussion with the Colombian Government. And they certainly support our engagement with somebody who’s designated to work with them on this issue. But we won’t – aren’t a party to the talks. That’s not going to change. Obviously, his travel will also be driven by the substance of the talks and our consultation with the Colombian Government and what the needs are.

QUESTION: Well --

QUESTION: So given that these talks have been taking place in Cuba, and it also happens that the U.S. has been – is trying to normalize relations with Cuba, is – has this – was this raised with the Cubans at all separately to today’s announcement?

MS. PSAKI: Separately in what way?

QUESTION: As in during the negotiations on normalizing relations with Cuba, was it also discussed about a U.S. involvement in the Colombian process?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check, Lesley. I don’t – I’m happy to check with our team on that.

QUESTION: I’m just a little confused. If his role has not yet been defined, what is the point of having this --

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say his role has not yet been defined. We are – have --

QUESTION: You’re just not going to tell us what it is.

MS. PSAKI: We’ve been a – playing a supporting role. We’re not a party to the negotiations, but the Colombian Government has supported our engagement and having somebody designated, so we’re doing that, and we’ll determine what is – how he can help moving forward as these talks continue.

QUESTION: But that sounds like his role has not been defined.

MS. PSAKI: That’s incorrect. I think, obviously, when talks move forward, Matt, there – the needs and what is needed from an envoy like this can change, and obviously somebody with a great deal of experience, and he’ll be supportive of these efforts.

QUESTION: But – so is he going to talk to the FARC?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more to share with you on his role, Matt.

QUESTION: But the – well, right. Which means that it’s not been defined, right?

MS. PSAKI: He was sworn in today.

QUESTION: I understand that.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll let him start his job --

QUESTION: So he’s going to --

MS. PSAKI: -- and I’m sure we’ll have more to brief on his role.

QUESTION: -- play it by ear as (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: I did not say that at all.

QUESTION: I mean, the only thing you --

MS. PSAKI: He has an – let me finish. He has an extensive background. The Colombian Government wanted us to have somebody who played this role. We support these efforts. This is certainly an example of that. We’ll let him get started and talk to the Colombians and all of the relevant officials who were involved, and then I’m sure we’ll have more to say about what his role will be moving forward.

QUESTION: He will speak – he will be directly involved with --

MS. PSAKI: We’ll, I’m sure, provide more information once he gets started, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Just – what you’ve been able to tell us about his role, so far, is only that the Colombian Government has expressed an interest in having someone designated in that position. But we don’t know whether the FARC has expressed that same interest, whether the Cubans who are hosting the talks have expressed that same interest, or whether the Norwegians – or whoever it is – yeah, the Norwegians – have expressed an interest in the U.S. I mean, can you assure us that you’re not just butting in here?

MS. PSAKI: I can assure that he’s supporting the efforts of the Colombian Government to achieve peace. He’s the appropriate person for the role. As he takes his role, we’ll have more to brief on what his role is.

QUESTION: I am not suggesting that he is not the appropriate person. I just want to know what he’s going to do.

MS. PSAKI: Well, he hasn’t started yet, so we’ll give him some time to start and then I’m sure we can provide you all in a briefing.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Perhaps you could tell us what his role was in El Salvador and Nicaragua during those talks.

MS. PSAKI: There is an extensive bio that I think should be in your inbox. If it’s not already, we’ll make sure it goes out right after the briefing.

QUESTION: Do you expect it to be a sort of similar role to whatever – I haven’t seen it yet. It hasn’t arrived yet --

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s an envoy not a negotiator. So the negotiations will continue to be between the Government of Colombia and the FARC. His activities will be uniquely and without exception at the request of and coordinated with the Colombian Government. So every situation is different. We certainly can get you more on his background.

QUESTION: So he’s more allied with the Colombian Government and less allied – just if that’s the right word; it probably isn’t – with the FARC?

MS. PSAKI: He is supporting the efforts of the Colombian Government, yes.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: So it sounds as though you’re coming in on the side of the Colombian Government, which is – and there’s nothing wrong with that, but you should say that he is not really going to be a good offices, neutral negotiator. He is going to be supporting the --

MS. PSAKI: I just said he’s not a negotiator.

QUESTION: I know. So – but he – or an envoy. He’s not like an impartial observer to the process; he is supporting the Colombian Government as it goes into these talks.

MS. PSAKI: He’s supporting their efforts. Yes.

QUESTION: But he also said himself he was going to prod, cajole, and whatever the sides to come. So that sounds like it is a role.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Colombian Government is obviously negotiating with the FARC. That will continue. So he will determine through consultations with the Colombian Government what role he can help play. But he’s not a negotiator. The negotiators – the negotiating continues to be between the Government of Colombia and the FARC. That’s not changing.

QUESTION: One of the issues that seems to have stalled the talks recently – and they just resumed – was the issue of disarmament. Now, is that an area in which perhaps the United States could have a role in trying to help disarm the rebels?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly can help support. You’re right; I mean, I think there are two – there a couple of major issues left: victims’ rights and disarmament, demobilization, reintegration. And certainly, we believe U.S. engagement will help build on the success and the efforts that have been happening between the ongoing negotiations.

QUESTION: So that’s a yes?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: I mean, disarmament is an area in which the United States has experience and could help.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I think our engagement can help in that aspect. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I have just a technical question.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I mean, FARC is still on the terrorism list. So does that limit Ambassador Aaronson’s ability to even talk to them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we haven’t yet determined – obviously, it’s – he’s supporting and engaging with the Colombian Government – what specific role that is most productive and useful to the talks. I can see if there’s a particular legal issue beyond that, but it’s not an issue at this point.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The UN envoy to Syria, Mr. de Mistura, met this morning with deputy secretary of state.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about his visit?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have one yet, but I asked his team for one and I’m sure we can get you one before the end of the day, Samir.

QUESTION: Are we staying in the region?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you. Yesterday, I asked about the latest IAEA report on Iran and its noncompliance with the PMD investigation.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you ready to talk about the report?

MS. PSAKI: Don’t have anything new to add, Matt.

QUESTION: You have seen Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments, or you may have seen today that the report – the conclusion of the report that Iran is still stalling and not complying with the IAEA on the PMD investigation means essentially, in his words, that Iran is not to be trusted when it comes to the nuclear – when it comes to the nuclear issue, including any negotiations that may or may not be happening in the past or this weekend in Geneva.

I’m assuming that you disagree with him, but can you say – do you – does this – does the conclusion of the last IAEA report that you have talked about, which is the same conclusion, and this current one that you won’t talk about, does that not give you pause?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, Matt, this has never been about trust, as we’ve said many times. And certainly, we have ongoing concerns about these exact issues. This is one of the issue that – issues that’s being worked through in the negotiations. And any agreement would have verification measures that would be an important component of what’s agreed to. We’re not quite there yet.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you saying that any agreement would have verification measures on the IAEA and the possible military dimensions – a previous possible military dimension?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m saying that the possible military dimensions is one of the issues being discussed. There’s no final agreement yet, so I can’t outline for you what will be in the final agreement.

QUESTION: Yesterday I asked you if it was correct – there have been people saying that what you would do is support – or what you might do is support an extension of the investigation into the PMDs as part of a deal, not necessarily demand that the Iranians comply as part of a deal. Is that --

MS. PSAKI: And I said yesterday that we’re not going to outline any discussions, any reports or specifics of negotiations.

Any more on Iran before we continue?

QUESTION: Can I do Somalia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You just voiced your condemnation of the attacks in Libya. I wondered if you could give your reaction to the attacks on a hotel in Mogadishu today, in which I believe around 25 people were killed.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. The United States strongly condemns al-Shabaab’s terrorist attack on the Central Hotel in Mogadishu today. We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed in the attack and wish the injured a speedy recovery. This murderous attack targeting government ministers and members of parliament once again highlights that al-Shabaab stands only for death and destruction, and is firmly opposed to the Somali people’s efforts to build a secure and prosperous future. We will continue to support the Somali people and their government as they rebuild their country. Those who stand in the way of Somalia’s progress will not succeed.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On Yemen --

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. PSAKI: Yemen, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the reports that the UN special envoy to Yemen says that the opposition parties have agreed to form a legislative body called the People’s Transitional Council. Can we have the U.S. reaction to that and maybe what you think is the way forward at this point?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We have seen these reports. We continue to support the special envoy’s efforts to work with the parties to find a solution to the political crisis, and we’re in regular contact with him and his team regarding the situation on the ground. We also continue to engage Yemenis and the international community to support Yemen’s political transition consistent with the GCC initiative, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, UN Security Council resolutions, and Yemeni law. But we are also clear-eyed about the negotiations and are aware that, while participating in the talks, the Houthis continue to take steps to implement their unilateral declaration of February 6 abrogating the constitution.

And so UN is playing an important role. We’ve seen these reports. We don’t have an analysis yet on what it means because we haven’t seen implementation quite yet on it. And we are certainly clear-eyed given the events of the last couple of weeks of how that will be implemented – or how it could be implemented, I should say.

QUESTION: Have you gotten any further with your search for a protecting power or somebody who would --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update on that today.

QUESTION: Nothing. Okay.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: But what is happening? I mean – yeah, I mean, it’s --

QUESTION: Is there a need for a protecting power, or are there still U.S. Government personnel perhaps from another – from other agencies who are at the embassy and so you don’t need to have --

MS. PSAKI: Well, DOD and others have spoken to that. I think we are still having conversations about a protecting power. As you all know, many, many countries have left Yemen, so that is obviously a factor.

QUESTION: Including Yemen, some might say. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Some might say.

QUESTION: I mean, just on the logistical question, what if people want visas or – if there are any Americans left in Yemen, if they need passports where do they go?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, our services had to be suspended when our embassy was suspended. So obviously, those aren’t services we’re able to provide at this point in time.

QUESTION: At all? There’s no --

MS. PSAKI: That’s my understanding. I can check if there’s an alternative that we’ll be able to put together.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Change of subject.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: We understand that Senator Feingold is stepping down as special envoy to DRC. Can you confirm this? Is there going to be another envoy named? Has he quit out of disgust, or is he just going somewhere else?

MS. PSAKI: Why does it always have to go there, Lesley?

QUESTION: I don’t know.

MS. PSAKI: Special --

QUESTION: If we find out from the United States (inaudible).

QUESTION: It wasn’t disgust. It was revulsion.

MS. PSAKI: Special Envoy Feingold is stepping down sometime next month. He will give his final speech as special envoy next Tuesday at the U.S. Institute for Peace. We will continue to devote sustained, high-level attention to the Great Lakes region. There is – while I don’t have any announcement now, there will be a successor named. And let me just take a moment, because obviously, Special Envoy Feingold has been – has played a very important role here. And last technical piece: He – the Secretary asked him to stay for a year when he started in June of 2013, so obviously we’re far past that point or about six to seven or eight months past that point at this point.

But amongst others, Special Envoy Feingold helped lead the international envoys’ participation in the Kampala Talks and their contribution to the resolution of the M23 rebellion. He helped drive the international community’s renewed focus and commitment to ending the threat of the FDLR, which has produced an international and regional consensus that now is the time for the DRC and the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC to neutralize the threat of this group. During his tenure, he also fostered, improved, and expanded U.S. relations with Angola, which, as you know, included a trip by the Secretary there last May. And he launched the Great Lakes to Great Lakes initiative, bringing together regional and international experts, academics, and government officials to discuss environmental concerns, ecoterrorism, and preservation of African Great Lakes. So obviously, he will be missed.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So the UK police have put out an alert for three teenage girls who they believe have left for Syria. They expressed a concern that there is a number recently of these cases of specifically young women and girls who seem to be attracted to this idea of becoming a participant in the ISIS fight. That includes a 19-year-old Colorado woman who was stopped in Denver last year. Does the U.S. share this concern, kind of apart from the foreign fighters going to Syria, that there’s this other ISIS bride phenomenon?

MS. PSAKI: I think we share a concern. Obviously, there are different reasons that individuals go, but many of them do go to join the effort, is how often it is described. And we have a – certainly an ongoing concern about foreign fighters, about the efforts by ISIL to appeal to individuals in the West. Certainly, as we’ve talked about a little bit here, the United States – obviously, we track these numbers, as do Western European countries. It’s something that we talk about in formats like the Countering Violent Extremism Summit that we’ve had the last three days; we talk about in ministerial meetings. And we have ongoing concerns about ISIL’s propaganda techniques and their outreach.

QUESTION: Could I just follow up very quickly – sorry for being late – on this very point --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- regarding foreign fighters? Is there, like, a program through which these fighters that have a change of heart once they get there – like a halfway house or a home, for the lack of better expression and so on, by you or by the Europeans, that they can actually go to, find refuge in, and be rehabilitated back into their societies?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, every country has their own laws. This is something that we work with a range of – let me finish my answer before you ask another question. (Laughter.) We have every – we work with a range of countries. As you know, there has been action at the UN. The Secretary hosted a meeting on foreign fighters just two days ago. This is an issue that we’re working to determine the best way to address.

Now, our view is that targeting these individuals and preventing them from going is obviously the most effective and important step, so I would – every country has different laws and different rules they work with.

QUESTION: Okay. Let’s say an American young man goes there and has a change of heart. What should they do? What should they do?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak about a hypothetical American man, Said.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: But there are. I mean, you – someone said, like, there are 150 --

MS. PSAKI: Understood. We have a range of laws we’ve – let me finish – we have a range of laws. We’ve put out a great deal of information I’m more than happy to get to you about what we’ve done, what other countries have done. This remains a primary focus of what we talk about in the anti-ISIL coalition.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’ve got one on Brazil. There are some plans for the President to come at some point this year. Do you have any details on when that might be, or --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details. I’ve seen the reports from there but don’t have any more details.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Latin America?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In Venezuela once again, another arrest of an official, a mayor was arrested for allegedly trying to – what is it – sow unrest. And the president has accused him as well of taking part in a coup. This is – and – it sparked more protest. It’s a story that seems to be completely repeating itself and sort of escalating, it seems – like, intensifying.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen continued accusations, no question, that are false and baseless. And our view continues to be that political transitions must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful, and legal. We do not support a political transition in Venezuela by non-constitutional means. We’re not promoting unrest in Venezuela, nor are we attempting to undermine Venezuela’s economy or its government. And this is a continued effort – ongoing, because I do feel like we talk about these incidents once a week at least – about – of the Venezuelan Government to try to distract attention from the country’s economic and political problems and focus and try to distract and make these false accusations. We see that for what it is, but these are baseless and obviously – well, also let me just speak to your report of the mayor.

We’ve also seen reports that the Venezuelan intelligence service detained the Caracas metropolitan mayor and searched his office. We’ve also seen reports that military intelligence officials plan to move opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez from his prison cell and transfer him to an unknown location. We are deeply concerned by what appears to be the Venezuelan Government’s efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents by rounding up these prominent leaders of the opposition. Venezuela’s problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent. But these are issues, obviously. We continue to work with partners – other partners who have a shared concern. And clearly, many of these accusations are being thrown against the United States, which is often why we have to speak to them.

QUESTION: Of course, Venezuela isn’t the only country that regularly accuses the United States of plotting coups.

MS. PSAKI: That --

QUESTION: It seems to be a widespread phenomenon whether it’s true or not.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to speak to it, Matt.

QUESTION: Anyway, I wanted to ask – you just said in your response to that question – you said “The United States does not support political transitions in Venezuela by non-constitutional means.” Does it just apply to Venezuela, or are there other countries where you do support non-constitutional --

MS. PSAKI: Is there a specific country you want to raise and have a discussion about?

QUESTION: No. Well, I’m just curious because your statement last night and again today, with the exception of the “in Venezuela” – “The United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means.” That’s what you said in the statement last night.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But last week, you said, “As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means,” which I asked about last week when you said it, “How longstanding is this?” It seems to be – have been removed. So is this an admission from the U.S. Government that at some – that this policy is not longstanding, and that in fact you have supported political transitions by non-constitutional means in the past?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I don’t know that we have time today to go through a long history of United States foreign policy, but I’m speaking to our policy as it relates to Venezuela and our policy as it relates to these accusations against us by the Maduro government.

QUESTION: Well, then let me put a sharper point on it. The statement from last – forgetting about just the “in Venezuela” part. The statement, “The United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means,” as compared to what you said a week ago, “As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means,” does that mean that you are acknowledging that this is not a longstanding policy?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just happy to hear that you read our statements so closely.

QUESTION: Very closely.

MS. PSAKI: It is.

QUESTION: I – a lot of people do, and I’m just curious, I mean, is – does the removal of “longstanding policy” mean that you are acknowledging that it was not longstanding policy, and that in fact in the past the United States has supported political transitions by --

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t over-read into our language here, Matt.

QUESTION: I’m just – I’m not over-reading. I’m just reading.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re speaking to and responding to – I think we’re ready to move on.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, I have one on the State Department actually.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: This morning in The Wall Street Journal, they reported that a cyber-intrusion that occurred three months ago was still plaguing the State Department. I wanted to see if you could provide us an update about what’s going on with the unclassified email system at the State Department.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I know we’ve put out a statement on it to those who have asked, but let me just reiterate some of those points. We have robust security to protect our computer systems and our information, which includes access to our unclassified OpenNet system. The recent uptick in news reports regarding cyber incidents demonstrates that the Department is among a growing list of public institutions and private industries facing an increasing number of sophisticated cyber threats. We deal successfully with thousands of attacks every day, and we deal with them in conjunction with other relevant government agencies.

Beyond that, I’m not going to have many additional details to share for clear reasons, but --

QUESTION: Many or any?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll see. What are your questions?

QUESTION: So there’s no information about any attribution for this attack that you can release?

MS. PSAKI: No details I’m going to get into from here, no.

QUESTION: But is what the report says correct, that you haven’t managed to evict some of these hackers from the network yet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the important point here, Jo, is that we continue to – there are thousands of attacks we deal with every day. These attacks are becoming more sophisticated. As a result, our protections are becoming more sophisticated. And we work every day to fight back on these attacks and take a number of steps.

Now certainly, we have talked a bit in here and outside of the briefing room about the steps we needed to take just a couple of months ago because they were so extensive. And from time to time, we have had to do that. But this is something we deal with on a daily basis.

QUESTION: But are the same people who attacked your system three months ago still managing or inside the system today?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into that level of detail. I think the fact is that there are thousands of attacks from many sources that we deal with every single day, and the reason why there’s been a focus, I think, on this particular incident is because of the extent and how broad it was. And obviously, we took steps to combat that, but it’s something that we work on every day.

QUESTION: Did those steps include taking some of your systems offline?

MS. PSAKI: We talked about that at the time, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m sorry. I wasn’t here when that happened.

MS. PSAKI: No, no. I know. And it was some time ago.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, it wasn’t that long ago.

QUESTION: It was about three months ago, wasn’t it? I don’t --

MS. PSAKI: A couple months.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: It’s all relative, I suppose.

QUESTION: Are these attacks done by governments or individuals?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into that level of detail.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On hacking --

QUESTION: Or any level of detail.

MS. PSAKI: Or any level of detail on the specific attribution question.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: A different kind of hacking?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The European company, Gemalto, allegedly was hacked by the NSA, and European officials are freaking out about it. Is the State Department doing anything to quell concerns?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we have – I don’t have any specific comment on those reports as it relates to any concern any of our partners have around the world. We certainly would have conversations with them, but those would happen through private, diplomatic channels.

QUESTION: India?

QUESTION: With regard to Russia and the summit yesterday, you had the FSB director come here and take part in it. You said in reports that they – we work with Russia to – against combatting ISIL.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you give us sort of a readout of who he met with yesterday and what kinds of things were discussed?

MS. PSAKI: There were, as you know, dozens of attendees at this conference, so I don’t have anything to really read out from his particular interactions. Maybe the Russians may be able to provide that. I can see if there are any senior officials who had any interaction with him.

QUESTION: I was going to ask the same question, but – and that answer is kind of what I expected, but more broadly, you opened this briefing by saying that Russia is undermining international diplomacy and by – as a consequence, undermining the foundations of “a modern global order.” Why on Earth would you have – facilitate the entry to and host the head of the Russian spy intelligence service, which presumably is involved in what you say is undermining modern world order --

MS. PSAKI: Should we also ask them not to be a part of the P5+1 Iran negotiations?

QUESTION: I don't know. It just seems to me odd that --

MS. PSAKI: Or not to work on --

QUESTION: -- you’re accusing them of basically shaking the foundations of the globe, and at the same time, you’re perfectly happy to talk to them in other formats, in other scenarios.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, modern-day diplomacy requires that we work with some countries on some issues, even when we have strong disagreements on others.

QUESTION: Yeah, but this is not just one issue. You accused them of undermining the modern global order, not just undermining peace in Ukraine or --

MS. PSAKI: As it relates to Ukraine, as it relates to Ukraine. It was a comment on Ukraine.

QUESTION: So the modern global order depends on what happens in Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I think the world is looking at what happens in Ukraine --

QUESTION: Well, right, but that --

MS. PSAKI: -- as a reflection of Russians’ actions.

QUESTION: But the problem is that the rhetoric doesn’t match the action. If you really think that the Russians are undermining the modern global order, which is a pretty big thing, then why – (laughter) – on Earth would you be talking to them in the way that you do on issues that you think that they’re trying to --

MS. PSAKI: Because we talk to a range of countries where we have disagreements, and there are still some issues --

QUESTION: But you don’t accuse --

MS. PSAKI: -- where we find agreements.

QUESTION: But you don’t accuse any other country of undermining the modern global order.

MS. PSAKI: There are certainly many countries we have issues with on a range of issues that we still engage with diplomatically, Matt.

QUESTION: But not to this extent. I mean, you basically painted a picture of them as being like, I don't know, Dr. Evil or something, trying to --

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we can get you comments we’ve made about other countries’ actions if you’d like that are critical, that we still work with.

QUESTION: I have been doing this for a long time. I’ve never heard anyone accuse any – this building accuse any other country of undermining the foundations of the modern global order ever. I mean --

MS. PSAKI: All right. Well, then you should file an AP story on it.

QUESTION: I think you’ll probably find one. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Said.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Syria just for one second?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Because today, a group of UN investigators said that they are going to publish the names of war criminals in Syria from all sides, including presumably elements of the regime. How could – will something like this change the game, so to speak, or the rules of the game?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don't know that it’s been fully determined yet. We’re still reviewing their proposal and what specifically they want to do. Obviously, we support the work of the commission of inquiry, but I don’t have any other further analysis for you on how that would work.

QUESTION: Just two quick clarifications.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s widely reported in the media that New York-based Ravi Batra, who’s the chair of the National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs, has written a letter to Secretary Kerry requesting a humanitarian visa to the wife of Sureshbhai Patel, who is lying in a hospital in Alabama. Now the question is – first is: Is the building in receipt of the letter? The second is: Understanding you don’t talk about the visa, but this being a very humanitarian issue, would you like to say something about the update on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, unfortunately, we don’t discuss any visa cases regardless, and certainly, as I’ve noted in here before, our hearts go out to the family and to all of those in the community who are, as we are, standing with this man who was attacked in Alabama. I can’t go into specifics. Obviously, case by – each visa is adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.

QUESTION: Now, being like – I fully agree, but still, I’m just asking because of the humanitarian nature of the --

MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand why you’re asking. I just can’t go into specifics because they’re confidential.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a quick one. The summit yesterday, was China invited? If not, why? If yes, did they just refuse to come or reject the invitation?

MS. PSAKI: I’m – we can check and see if there is a more extensive list of invites. I know we put out a list of who attended.

Go ahead, Abby.

QUESTION: Do you have any further information on the second round of Cuba talks next week?

MS. PSAKI: I hope we’ll have a media note out either later today or early next week which will have more specifics. They’re taking place here. They’ll be one day. So we’ll just have more logistical details.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I just ask – and I don't know if you’ve been watching these, but the – of course, the Greek Government put forward a new proposal to the EU on how to pay off or not pay off its debts, and that has not been accepted by some of the members of the EU and there is now cause for an emergency summit on Sunday. Do you have a position on what the Greek Government should be doing, how the EU should be handling this?

MS. PSAKI: I would say our role is that we are going to continue to encourage the Greek Government, its European partners and the IMF to work together to chart a way forward that builds on crucial structural reforms and returns Greece to sustainable, long-term growth. We certainly understand there have been many discussions, many reports, and we’re, of course, following it, but we support the ongoing efforts that are happening now.

QUESTION: The EU does – the U.S. does have an interest in the stability of the –

MS. PSAKI: Of course.

QUESTION: -- EU and the Eurozone, does it not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to support the efforts of the Greek Government, the international community to strengthen the foundation of Greek’s long-term prosperity, absolutely.

QUESTION: But is – does the U.S. have concerns about any impact – does the Administration have concerns about any impact that Greece leaving the Eurozone might have in the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, believe that – we’ve consistently favored the success of the Eurozone, which you referenced, of course. We’ve encouraged Greece to work cooperatively with its European partners and the IMF to address its structural issues. We believe that needed structural reform and a plan for a return to growth in Greece are best accomplished within the Eurozone, so that certainly is what we’re encouraging.

QUESTION: So you would prefer – the United States as – the U.S. position is that you would prefer to see Greece remain a member of the Eurozone?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly think that their reforms, yes, can be accomplished structurally through the Eurozone, within the Eurozone.

QUESTION: Okay, and given the fact that economies – modern economies, whether or not they’re being – the modern world order is being shaken or not by anyone, but they’re – everything is interconnected. So what – a ripple in Europe is going to affect here somehow, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we saw that in 2009 and --

QUESTION: Exactly.

MS. PSAKI: -- 2010. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So with that in mind, I’m wondering if you, the Administration, shares the opinion of the Germans that the Greek proposal is, in fact, a Trojan horse.

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to comment on the ongoing negotiations between Greece and its – and the EU partners and the IMF specifically.

QUESTION: Well – yeah, but I mean do you think that – do you agree with the suggestion from the Germans that this is just a ruse and a delaying game that may ultimately end up as the – what happened with the Trojan horse, allegedly?

MS. PSAKI: We all know the story.

QUESTION: Exactly. I mean, are the Germans just being – I don’t know what – anti-Cassandra here or --

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to weigh in on their discussions.

QUESTION: Okay, so you don’t have a position on what the – how they actually come to an agreement; you just want to see them get there?

MS. PSAKI: There are ongoing negotiations. I’m sure once there is one, perhaps we’ll speak to it at that point in time.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Have a great weekend.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:29 p.m.)

DPB # 31

 

2015-02-20


Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 19, 2015


Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 19, 2015


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TRANSCRIPT:

1:54 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Thank you for your patience. I know we’ve tried to be on time lately and we didn’t succeed at that today. I have a couple of items for you at the top.

The United States condemns continuing attacks by Russia-backed separatists in and around Debaltseve, Mariupol, and other locations in eastern Ukraine which violate the ceasefire and flout the Minsk agreements. The Ukrainian Government reports that Russia-backed separatists have violated the ceasefire more than 250 times since the ceasefire took effect on February 15th, resulting in more than 10 killed and hundreds wounded. The OSCE confirms that ceasefire violations continue and that the Russia-backed separatists continue to deny OSCE monitors access to Debaltseve and other areas.

These actions are all contrary to what Russia and the separatists agreed to several times in Minsk. We call on Russia and the separatists it backs to stop their attacks immediately, withdraw heavy weapons, halt the flow of fighters and equipment from Russia into Ukraine, allow the OSCE monitors to do their job, and proceed with full implementation of their Minsk commitments. If Russia and the separatists it backs continue to flout the agreements they signed, it will result in more costs and further isolation.

One other item for the top: Secretary Kerry will travel to London to meet with UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond on February 21st to discuss bilateral and global issues. On February 22nd, the Secretary will then travel to Geneva, Switzerland to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif as part of the ongoing nuclear negotiations.

With that, go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: So on the – well, first of all, congratulations.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

QUESTION: I’m sure you’ll consider your promotion to be sitting in the calm of the White House instead of dealing with us every day.

MS. PSAKI: I would --

QUESTION: You will be missed by us and, I’m sure, your legion of fans around the world.

MS. PSAKI: Well – (laughter) --

QUESTION: And late night – that late night show.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Matt. I’m sure we can all rely on you to make the next six weeks really count.

QUESTION: Right, yes. (Laughter.) But since there are six weeks, you’re not rid of us yet. So let’s start with Iran and the Secretary’s meetings with Foreign Minister Zarif. Should we presume from this that you guys think that you’re close to getting a deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have always believed that direct bilateral meetings as well as P5+1 meetings with a larger group would be needed to continue to move the process forward. As you know, we have about six weeks here until we’re looking at the – our goal of achieving a political framework. So this is an opportunity to continue to make progress.

QUESTION: So is the six weeks coincidental?

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) No, it’s not.

QUESTION: You’re not timing your departure for the --

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: Okay. You have seen the IAEA report that came out today, yes?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the IAEA report – excuse me – has not been publicly released yet by the agency. We continue to call – I know this frustrates you, but we don’t comment on the reports before they’ve been publicly released. We continue to call on Iran to cooperate fully and without delay with the IAEA to resolve all outstanding issues, particularly those that give rise to concerns regarding the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. As we’ve discussed in here, that’s one of the issues that’s part of the negotiations.

QUESTION: Right, but – okay, so let’s not talk about this – today’s IAEA report. Let’s talk about the last one, which is public --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and which says exactly the same thing as the one that was put out today in terms of the PMDs.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So let’s just pretend that we’re talking about the previous report, even though we all really know that we’re talking about today’s report, which says that Iran is still stalling and not cooperating on the investigation into PMDs. Is it correct that the U.S. – you guys have told the Iranians that you’re willing to allow there to be an extension of the investigation into the PMDs – in other words, there doesn’t have to be a resolution to this – if you get your framework agreement at the end of March?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as has been the case for some time now, we’re not going to get into specifics of the negotiations. It is correct, of course, that discussing this issue is one we’re – is an issue that we’re, of course, working to resolve in the negotiations. But there’s nothing I am going to confirm from reports or discussions.

QUESTION: And then I don't know if you’ve seen this, but Prime Minister Netanyahu’s office just put out a statement – or he put out a statement; I’m not sure if it’s his office or him – saying that despite what you and Josh Earnest said yesterday that you’re withholding some classified, sensitive details of the negotiations from Israel, that they know, that he – the prime minister and Israel – knows exactly what’s in the deal and that it’s a bad deal and dangerous for Israel. Do they know exactly what’s in the deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there isn’t a deal, so it’s hard for anyone to know.

QUESTION: Or the – what – they know exactly what’s in the proposal that’s being discussed that the Secretary will be talking about with Foreign Minister Zarif?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything to add to what I said yesterday, but clearly, we take steps in order to ensure that classified information and information that we don’t want to be publicly discussed is not publicly discussed.

QUESTION: But does that mean that when Prime Minister Netanyahu says or his office says that he knows exactly what’s in the proposal that’s on the table right now, that he doesn’t – that that’s a lie or – maybe “lie” is too strong, but that they don’t know what – exactly what’s in it? Would you say that that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would stick with where I was yesterday in terms of the kind of information that we provide.

QUESTION: All right. And then my last one on this: Clearly, it doesn’t really matter what you guys say from here or the White House or what is briefed to the Israelis now. It doesn’t – at least it doesn’t appear that it will make any difference, that it will change Prime Minister Netanyahu’s calculus that this is a bad deal for Israel. Is it the Administration’s position that it is more important to have an agreement with Iran than it is to have a good relationship with Israel and its prime minister?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we would never put it in those terms, as I’m sure doesn’t surprise you. I would note one piece from the last year and a half. There was certainly a great deal of skepticism from Israel and elsewhere about the JPOA and what it would mean and what would be included and the likelihood or unlikelihood of Iran abiding by the requirements in there. They have. It has halted and reversed many parts of their program.

So we’ve seen this movie before. There’s no deal yet. Obviously, if there’s a deal, we’ll be explaining the deal and explaining why and how it prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. And if that’s the case and we come to a deal, it’s hard to see how anyone wouldn’t see that’s to the benefit of the international community.

QUESTION: Well, except for Prime Minister Netanyahu, who says that he knows what’s in the proposal that’s on the table right now, knows what is likely to be approved if it is approved – if it is approved – and he still doesn’t like it and still thinks it’s a bad – it’s bad for Israel and a threat to Israel. So again, the question is: Is it --

MS. PSAKI: Then it sounds like he knows more than the negotiators, since there’s no deal yet.

QUESTION: Is it more important to get – for the Administration to get a deal with Iran than it is to have good relations with Israel and the prime minister?

MS. PSAKI: We think it’s important to get a good deal with Iran and with the P5+1, and that will not only make the United States safer; it will make Israel safer.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I just ask, how does the Secretary’s meeting with Foreign Minister Zarif dovetail with the trip the day before or the talks the day before, which are going to be led by Wendy Sherman?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. So as you saw in the media note we released yesterday, Under Secretary Sherman and the negotiating team are on the way to Geneva today for bilateral meetings with the Iranian negotiators. They’ll be joined by Helga Schmid, deputy secretary-general for the EU’s External Action Service. As often happens with these negotiations, they’re – often the negotiating team and Under Secretary Sherman are there in advance or they’re there after or both, so this is certainly consistent with how we’ve done meetings in the past.

QUESTION: So the anticipation is that those talks at Wendy Sherman’s level will be on Friday?

MS. PSAKI: I believe we’ll be putting more – I think some of it’s still being set in terms of the specific meetings and when they’ll take place. They’re on the way – their way there now.

QUESTION: And will they stay on through the meeting on – I think it was the 22nd, you said – Sunday?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. I certainly anticipate Under Secretary Sherman and the negotiating team would stay, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. So what’s the – what is the purpose of having a high-level meeting with the Secretary? What is it that he hopes he will achieve which Wendy Sherman won’t necessarily achieve?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, this isn’t a new part of how we’ve approached these negotiations. And obviously, there are political decisions and discussions that need to be made. Secretary Kerry has spent a great deal of time with Foreign Minister Zarif over the course of time. They’re all cooperative and part of the same effort and process. A lot of these talks are technical, and so oftentimes the negotiating teams when they’re talking are talking about technical issues. But we’ve seen both components, just as we’ve seen bilateral meetings with the United States and Iran, bilateral meetings with other countries, or larger P5+1 meetings as all an important part of the process.

QUESTION: And there was a suggestion that possibly after the meeting between Foreign Minister Zarif and Secretary Kerry, there could be a broader P5+1 meeting with everybody involved. Could you talk to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there may be additional bilateral or multilateral meetings with other members of the P5+1. It’s – we’re still finalizing the schedule. I would anticipate you’d hear any announcements of that from the EU, as has been standard process.

QUESTION: Can we stay with Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There’s a report that Zarif shouts at his U.S. interlocutors in the Iran nuclear negotiations. Is there any truth to that? Does Foreign Minister Zarif shout at Secretary Kerry in these meetings?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, as I’m sure will come as no surprise, I’m certainly not going to confirm or speak to the tone of any other foreign minister in a meeting. I will convey that these are difficult issues, there have been tough conversations, and the Secretary has also made clear points when we have limitations when we can’t go farther. And we certainly expect as these continue that – as the issues get more difficult, that that part will be part of it as well.

QUESTION: Did he shout back?

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) To be a fly in the room, if only.

QUESTION: Staying on Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: First of all, I want to add my voice to Matt and my other colleagues. Congratulations. You will be missed.

MS. PSAKI: Very kind of you. Thank you, Said.

QUESTION: And on Iran, is there a likelihood that we actually can’t have a deal or could there be a deal before the 3rd of March, the date scheduled for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, obviously our goal here is to achieve a framework by the end of March, so that’s what we’re working toward.

QUESTION: But – yeah, true. But is there a likelihood that we might get to a deal before then, that the fact the machinations are in place where this could happen?

MS. PSAKI: I would say we’re not queuing our work to the visit of the prime minister.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, the prime minister of Israel – has he made what kind of a deal he would like to see public? Are you aware of the kind of deal that Israel or Prime Minister Netanyahu would like to see?

MS. PSAKI: The prime minister has spoken a great deal to his views. I’m sure he will do that when he comes here in a few weeks.

QUESTION: I mean, did he, at one point, say this is the kind of deal that I would sign to, as far as you’re concerned?

MS. PSAKI: He has spoken publicly about that. I would encourage you to ask the Government of Israel that question.

QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?

QUESTION: Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Any more on Iran before we continue?

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Jen, it seems out of Iran there’s a report that a lawyer who has been contacted by Jason Rezaian’s family and is trying to get in contact with him has not been able to get access to the judge, which apparently he needs to do to get access to Jason Rezaian and have him sign the papers so he can represent him. Do you have any more information on that? And are you aware – is there any way to put some pressure on the court or any way so that the lawyer can get in to see his client?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen the reports that a lawyer who was recently retained by the family of Jason Rezaian in Iran has not been able to meet with him yet and reports that there has been pressure on a number of lawyers to not take his case. If true, these reports are very disturbing. Mr. Rezaian should not be prevented from choosing his lawyer or coerced into selecting someone chosen by the Iranian Government. We continue to call for his immediate release and for Iran to respect its own laws governing its judicial process.

New topic. Ukraine.

QUESTION: So you began --

MS. PSAKI: Iran?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I just want to follow on that question yesterday asking about Saman Naseem. Do you have any update of that?

MS. PSAKI: We are deeply concerned by reports of the possible imminent execution of Saman Naseem, an Iran Kurdish man who was arrested when he was 17 and who alleges he was tortured into a confession. In his October report to the UN General Assembly, UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran Ahmed Shaheed said that Iran has executed at least eight juvenile offenders since July of 2013. We call on Iran to respect the fair trial guarantees afforded to its people under Iran’s own laws and its international obligations.

QUESTION: One more question on Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you aware of Qasem Soleimani’s, the commander of the Qods army’s activity in Kurdistan region of Iraq?

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

Go ahead.

QUESTION: You began with – you had another condemnation of the continued fighting in eastern Ukraine.

QUESTION: Arshad, can you speak up a bit?

QUESTION: Yeah. Sorry. You began your statement with – you began the briefing with a statement of – another statement of condemnation of the continued fighting in eastern Ukraine, and in particular, you cited the more than 200 instances of violating the ceasefire. Why is it not time to declare that the ceasefire has failed, since there have been so many violations of it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, one, I think as we’ve talked about from the beginning, our focus remains on supporting the implementation where we can see this implemented. And obviously, we continue to call, as our partners do, for Russia and Russian-backed separatists to implement the agreement, an agreement that they signed onto. We continue to believe that a diplomatic solution – that a solution that would include the implementation of everything from moving weapons back to moving separatists back to abiding by – to releasing prisoners is the right path forward. At the same time, we also, while we’re focused on supporting the implementation, we continue to have discussions internally and with our partners about additional costs. And more will be imposed unless Russia and the separatists implement the agreements.

QUESTION: How long are you going to give this? I mean, it’s been since Saturday night now, so a full five days – clearly hasn’t worked. Is this something that you’re going to let run for weeks?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a timeline for you. I can assure you that the situation in Ukraine, the violence that we see, the fact that we highlight each day what we’re seeing as violations speaks to how concerned we are about what we’re seeing on the ground, and discussions internally continue.

QUESTION: And are the – is the principal focus of the discussions internally at the moment additional costs in terms of economic sanctions? Or does it include the possibility of lethal assistance?

MS. PSAKI: The same options that were options a couple of weeks ago remain options today.

QUESTION: Jen, I’m trying to --

MS. PSAKI: On Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: You said that there 250 violations.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Were they by the separatists? Or that’s the total violations on both sides?

MS. PSAKI: Separatists. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: Did you have a --

QUESTION: Since September?

QUESTION: Sorry.

QUESTION: Since September?

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: Since February 15th.

QUESTION: Oh, so February 15th.

QUESTION: You said Saturday.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, since Saturday.

QUESTION: 250?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have – you have said – you have acknowledged before that there had been violations by the other side as well. Do you have a tally of how many times – is it zero? Or do you --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t not. I think one of the challenges we here – have here, Matt – and obviously I referenced the Ukrainian Government because they are the ones who have said 250 violations – is that the OSCE, while they’ve confirmed ceasefire violations by the Russian-backed separatists, they don’t have access to a number of these areas. They are the independent evaluator of these violations.

QUESTION: Well, the OSCE doesn’t have access to Ukrainian-held positions?

MS. PSAKI: To Debaltseve and some other areas where they can get a sense of what’s happening. I have not seen them speak to Ukrainian violations.

QUESTION: Right. But if they’re there to be impartial, and if there --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- have been violations, I mean, on – and you’ve said, perhaps understandable violations because they’re defending what – in your words –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: --they are defending – I mean, wouldn’t it make sense to also have a count of how many --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the OSCE would put out that sort of information. I have not seen them put out that information.

QUESTION: But the information on the 250 is from the OSCE?

MS. PSAKI: No. It’s from the Ukrainian Government.

QUESTION: Well, that’s not the same as the OSCE, right?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. But the Ukrainian --

QUESTION: Has the OSCE --

MS. PSAKI: If the OSCE would have access to a number of these areas they would be able to give their own evaluation. But they don’t, because the separatists are preventing them from having access.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

QUESTION: But – wait, I’m not sure I understand. Is it – it is the OSCE who is supposed to be monitoring the alleged ceasefire, not the Government of Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: So the OSCE you see as a neutral party in this, right?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, as does the international community.

QUESTION: Right. And you see Ukraine as being neutral on this?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t suggest that. Obviously, Ukraine --

QUESTION: But you’re --

MS. PSAKI: -- has a stake in the outcome here.

QUESTION: Right. Exactly. But you’re – but you accept their figure of 250 violations by the rebels --

MS. PSAKI: I cited their figure because I think it’s relevant information.

QUESTION: Okay. I am not suggesting that it’s wrong, I’m just wondering why you don’t have – why you’re accepting it from the Ukrainian Government, who obviously have a stake in this, and not --

MS. PSAKI: If there are violations being thrown out there by the Ukrainian Government then let’s – against them, then let’s talk about that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: What sort of examples of violations were the Ukrainian authorities citing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen a number of them, and we’ve cited a number of them here as well – I mean, around Debaltseve, around Donetsk and Luhansk. So there are a number we’ve talked about over the last couple of days.

QUESTION: But is it a specific shelling incident or a specific shooting incident?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Those are all part of it, absolutely.

QUESTION: Jen, I – are you saying – I mean, there have been occasions when rebel-held areas have been shelled, right?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Presumably, although we don’t have proof and you called for investigations in doing –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But they presumably were coming from the Ukrainian Government. Are you saying that if the OSCE had access, then they would be – to the rebel-held areas – then they would be able to --

MS. PSAKI: No. I was suggesting that the reason I cited the Ukrainian Government is because the OSCE doesn’t have access to these areas where the separatists are violating. If they had access, then perhaps they could evaluate whether or not these are all violations.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

QUESTION: Would you say that the ceasefire is largely holding? I know you mentioned 10 killing, 250 violations and so on, but by and large the ceasefire is holding, right?

MS. PSAKI: As I said yesterday, there are some areas where it is and there are some areas where it is not, and that is our concern.

QUESTION: Would you say that --

QUESTION: I had a new one on Ukraine, actually.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I don’t know if you’d seen the news out this morning from a Russian company, Gazprom, that they started supplying gas directly to the eastern Ukraine areas that are held by the rebels. I wondered what the U.S. reaction to that was.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would first say that the surest way to ease the suffering of the people of eastern Ukraine is to put an end to the aggression by Russia and the separatists it backs by implementing the Minsk agreements. We have seen reports as – of course, the reports you’re referencing. I don’t have any independent confirmation of those, but we certainly believe that the way to return normalcy here is to implement the Minsk agreements.

QUESTION: Are you opposed to them supplying gas to eastern Ukraine, given that I imagine some it for their supplies?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think part of the issue here is there are also reports that the ongoing attacks by Russia-backed separatists have forced Ukraine’s Naftogaz to halt the delivery of natural gas to the separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine due to a damaged gas trunk. So this is yet another example of the hardship inflicted on the people of eastern Ukraine by the intervention here.

QUESTION: Do you think – do you not think he’s a little cynical, given the fact that earlier this year, or probably late last year – sorry – there was a whole – there was a big threat from Gazprom to cut off supplies to Ukraine itself, and now they seem to be supplying an area which is passed in the hands of pro-Russian separatists?

MS. PSAKI: Well, and I think we have to see through what the issue at hand is here. There wouldn’t be an issue, it seems, that eastern Ukraine was dealing with in terms of a lack of access to natural gas if Russia hadn’t illegally intervened into that part of the country. So that’s why we are where we are.

QUESTION: But you’re not fundamentally opposed to them having the supplies as long as they get some supplies?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly want, on a humanitarian basis, of course, the people of eastern Ukraine and all across Ukraine, just like we do around the world, to have access to the supplies they need. But I think the context here is incredibly important before we applaud everything.

Ukraine or --

QUESTION: Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering if you’d seen the comments by the British defense secretary in which he said that Russia presented a real and present danger to the Baltic states. Is that something with which the United States agrees?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’ve seen as a NATO ally that we have taken steps to support a range of our partners in the region through visits, through supplies, through equipment. And that’s something we’ve done not just with words but with actions. I don’t think we’ve put it in exactly those terms, but certainly, we’ve taken steps to support our friends and neighbors in the region.

QUESTION: But do you feel that there – the threat to them is growing? Is there any evidence that you would want to say now that the danger to them is increasing --

MS. PSAKI: There’s no new evidence. I think, though, if you’re a country in the region and you’re seeing what’s happening, it’s understandable if you are concerned about what it means for you.

QUESTION: And one other question, again about Britain. Do you have a response to the increased Russian air activity around Britain? The RAF had to escort two more bombers out of near Russian – British airspace.

MS. PSAKI: We’ve certainly seen that. I don’t have anything new to add from here, though.

QUESTION: Why --

QUESTION: But could you say that increased NATO intercepts of Russian aircraft is worrying? I mean, do you see it as an escalation or just an annoyance?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t call it that. I think the UK has spoken to it. I don’t have anything to add from here.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Why isn’t Russia’s direct involvement in carving off pieces of Ukraine, including through the use of its military force as well as by supporting the separatists, additional evidence to suggest that Russia’s other neighbors, such as the Baltics, are under greater threat?

MS. PSAKI: Didn’t I just say that we have taken action not just with words but with supplies, with support, with visits, in light of what’s happening in Ukraine, and that it’s understandable that Ukraine’s neighbors have a concern, given what they’re seeing happen in Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yeah, but the question was whether you concurred with the statement that they’re under greater threat. Is your point, “Yes we do, and that’s why we’ve taken these steps”?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think I need to put new terms on it, Arshad. We’ve taken actions to support them. I think that shows what we think.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Where does that leave the intent to supply Ukraine with arms or not supply them with arms? Where does that issue stand now?

MS. PSAKI: As I mentioned in response to one of Arshad’s questions, we have a range of options that have been on the table for some time. No decision has been made.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yeah, just a couple more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Was there – since the Minsk agreements were agreed to, was there ever a time that the United – in the view of the United States that it was fully implemented at any point?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are several components of it, as you know, including the release of political prisoners. Obviously, we haven’t seen that done. There have been moments where ceasefires have been abided to in certain parts of the country. So have every component been abided to? No, I think there hasn’t been moments that I recall, but there have been moments where components of it have been. Regardless, we still continue to believe that a diplomatic solution, abiding by these agreements that all of these countries and the separatists have signed is the right path forward.

QUESTION: But you’ve said and the OSCE has said that it’s – it has to be a full – basically an all-or-nothing deal, that it has to be fully --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve also said that a ceasefire needs to be the first step in the process.

QUESTION: Okay. So I mean – but I guess I’m still just wondering, following up on Arshad’s question, if you’ve never really seen the whole thing implemented, then what is it really going to take to see that this is not really viable anymore? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, as I’ve said, we’ve said a ceasefire needs to be the first step in the process. Obviously, that requires Russia and the Russian-backed separatists abiding by that ceasefire. And certainly, we’ve seen violations – many – over the past couple of days which are greatly concerning. There are some areas, according to the OSCE, where we’ve seen a reduction in violence. I think our view here continues to be that a political solution, a diplomatic solution is the right path forward. We’re not looking for an escalatory path. We want to find a way to reduce the violence, to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, and that’s why we continue to pursue these diplomatic options.

QUESTION: President Poroshenko said that he would prefer a UN peacekeeping force in the region. Is that something that you see as desirable or even viable?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have certainly seen his comments. We have not seen a formal request from the Ukrainian Government. Any formal request would have to be considered in close consultation with our partners, and obviously as part of a UN process.

QUESTION: Jen, just more broadly – and I don’t expect you to have an answer to this, but perhaps you can take it to your --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- legal people and ask them.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: As you know, the relations between Russia and the United States and its major European partners were supposed to be governed by the Budapest Memorandum. Does the Administration believe that that memorandum is basically gone and is no more? And if it does, or even if it doesn’t, is there any way to resurrect it, short of an end to the violence and the return of Crimea to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to take it and talk to our legal team about it, Matt.

QUESTION: One more on --

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine? Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you feel there’s a – perhaps a greater chance that the ceasefire might be observed now that the separatists have achieved their immediate goal of taking Debaltseve?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that’s assuming we know what their goals are. And I think --

QUESTION: That was their immediate goal.

MS. PSAKI: Well, fair enough. But I think what we’ve seen is continued aggression and an unwillingness to abide by even agreements that they’ve signed with countries from the international community. Certainly the door is open for them to abide by this agreement, but actions speak louder than words here.

QUESTION: Yes. I have one question, Jen. Yesterday I asked Marie Harf at the Foreign Press Center; she said she was going to check.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I just wonder whether you have an answer. Today we didn’t see any representative in the White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism, any representative of the Kurdish Government in Iraq. I wonder whether they were not invited by the U.S. Government or they didn’t attend. Because I haven’t seen any public complaint from the KRG.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check with you. I think, as we’ve talked about many, many times in here, we see the Government of Iraq as the representative of all of Iraq.

QUESTION: Does that mean they were not invited this time again?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details for you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: It’s going to be the same, with Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: In the result of the counterterrorism summit, there will be next steps for the countries who participated, including Iraq. What are the next steps for Iraq to take on, other than the war that going on there, and also for the Kurdish Government? Because we have a lot of youth from the Kurdish region of Iraq, they joined ISIS. So is there anything specifically for them, like to take --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as you saw, there have been representatives from all over the world who are participating in this summit. It’s not just about Iraq at all; it’s not just about ISIL. It’s about how we counter violent extremism and how we address that not only in the short term but over the long term. We’ve put out several fact sheets; I expect there’ll be more. As you know, the conference is continuing. So I don’t have anything to preview for you at this moment.

QUESTION: Can we talk about the digital hub --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- that the President announced this morning?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: What’s the genesis? Why is it based in the UAE? How quickly is it going to be up and running? What’s expected of Special Envoy Hussain to help get it off the ground and operating?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say first that – I know the President announced it today – some of the details we’re still working through and we’ll be discussing with our partners. Part of this, Roz, is, as you know, we have been part of the effort – the anti-ISIL coalition effort has been delegitimizing ISIL, and certainly having a hub in the region that can be responsible or play an important role in pushing back on messages with the right voices is something that we think is – could be hugely effective and is an important tool to have in the region. But obviously, talking to our partners about how this will work, which has – we’ve been talking about, but continuing those discussions is part of what will happen from here.

QUESTION: Is it only going to be focused on dealing with the messaging that has been put out by al-Qaida, by ISIL, by Boko Haram, by AQAP, by other affiliated groups? Or is it going to be broader and deal with other types of extremist behavior – for example, Neo Nazis in Western Europe, here in the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I think part of the reasoning, as you know, for the creation of this is to – is our effort to delegitimize ISIL and delegitimize the violent extremism that we’ve seen out there. But again, there are going to be conversations with our partners in the region. I’m sure we’ll have more to say about it as the details become finalized.

QUESTION: Would that be a State Department-run program?

MS. PSAKI: I think it will be – we will be a partner and we’ll work with many partners in the region.

QUESTION: So in other words, the idea isn’t really – it’s not fully formulated?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t say that, Matt. I would say that when we have more details to talk about publicly, we will do that.

QUESTION: Here’s something that is done --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- was done just before we came in here, and that is the train and equip deal with the Turks. I’m just wondering if you have anything that you can add to the announcement that was made by the Embassy.

MS. PSAKI: I would just say I know that it was just recently signed, I think, in the last 30 minutes, if not even more recently than that, and I had mentioned the other day that we certainly welcomed our partnership and work with Turkey on this and other issues as a part of the coalition. So certainly, we are looking forward to implementing this plan and we thank them for their efforts and their ongoing part in these discussions.

QUESTION: But do you know – and I have not seen the agreement that was signed or the statement from the Embassy that announced it – but how soon does it take – does it begin?

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t we – I’m sure there are details that can be released publicly. I just don’t have them in front of me right now.

QUESTION: Are you the right person to be asking, or should these be directed to the Pentagon?

MS. PSAKI: It likely is DOD. It likely is DOD, yes.

QUESTION: Can we come back to the digital hub --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- for one second? The U.S.’s own effort to try to deal or to try to confront ISIL and al-Qaida in the social media realm goes back to 2011. Why has it taken four years to actually reach out to countries in the region where people --

MS. PSAKI: It hasn’t taken four years to reach out to countries in the region, Roz; far from that. I think we’ve seen this growing and evolving threat and see the growth of the propaganda machine, and dealing with that and making sure we’re doing it in the most efficient way, and changing the way we deal with it is something that is what you do when you’re dealing with social media.

QUESTION: But let’s go back to the fact that Inspire Magazine predated this Administration, and certainly there were people who found themselves seduced or challenged to take up arms, as it were, because of core al-Qaida. And so it does kind of raise the question – we’ve been talking about these sorts of groups since 2001. We’re coming up on 14 years. What’s the (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: When was Twitter started, Roz?

QUESTION: I don’t know that, but --

MS. PSAKI: Not 2001.

QUESTION: No, but they were on the internet and you could go online and you could read things that they were publishing and you could see their videos that everyone would download and then put on TV.

MS. PSAKI: And as you know --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- there are a range of efforts that we’ve had underway as a government working with other governments; some we talk about, some we don’t. This is a part of an effort to communicate publicly with the population. That has been ongoing.

QUESTION: But I guess my basic question is this: There was a very militaristic response to al-Qaida after September 11th. And part of the argument that the Bush Administration put forward was that trying to respond to these sorts of groups in a legalistic fashion wasn’t working and the only thing that will get people’s attention is weapons. It appears as if the Obama Administration is moving to something that does not rely on military might. Is there a fundamental philosophical shift in the way that these countries --

MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with everything almost you just said. The fact is we believe there’s a military component, but there are also other components. We’ve done thousands of airstrikes; we are starting a train and equip program next month. We believe the military component is a very important component of taking fighters off the battlefield, and that’s something not only the United States but other partners around the world are playing a prominent role in.

But there are other pieces. We are not going to defeat ISIL if we don’t defeat their ideology, and that is the component that this is focused on.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just perplexed by your question about Twitter, because – “When was Twitter.” I mean, al-Qaida managed to fly airplanes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon without there being a Twitter. They managed to do attacks around the world.

MS. PSAKI: Well, but I’m referring to what a hub would do and the changing – how social media has changed over time, and how we’ve also had to change the tools we use and how we use them and what we do with them most effectively.

QUESTION: Can I ask --

QUESTION: So the – so it’s an evolution in the strategy that began post-9/11, but is Roz not – is her point not correct that it’s taken quite a long time to evolve for the (inaudible) strategy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would disagree with the premise in the sense that what we’re talking about here is a communications hub to try to deal with the ideology of ISIL. So that is a more recent challenge that we’ve seen in terms of the propaganda machine that we’ve seen out there.

QUESTION: But I think what the – but what the point is – and I – is that that ideology existed prior to Twitter and everything. I mean, that was – that is a vehicle to make it even more easily seen, but the ideology was there before, no?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Correct.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: But there’re also ways we addressed it then as well. This is a way we feel is an important component of how we address this threat moving forward.

QUESTION: On Turkey, on this equip and train deal – 400 American soldiers will be training and so on. Let me ask you the other side of this, that Turkey has been lax, to say the least – or some claim that it’s been lax, to say the least – in terms of controlling its border, has been quite porous, fighters go in and out. Is part of this deal for Turkey to control its border perhaps a bit tighter?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I think you and I have had this conversation several times, maybe a half dozen, in the last couple of weeks.

QUESTION: A half dozen times at least.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to reiterate what I’ve said in the past, which is that going – addressing the issue of foreign fighters, which is one that we feel is an incredibly important component of what we’re doing with our anti-ISIL coalition – the Secretary had a meeting just yesterday to talk about exactly that issue. There are steps that Turkey and other countries have taken and put in place to do more in order to address this threat. That’s an important component of what we’re talking about and what we’re doing. The train and equip program is certainly a part of the military component of what we’re doing. They all work together, and these are all part of the umbrella of our anti-ISIL coalition.

QUESTION: Is that really concerning, in fact – maybe terrifying to some people in the region – to see these groups actually move from Syria to Libya, and more than likely through Turkey? I mean, these are – this is happening now as we speak.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we know that’s exactly how anything that happened in the last couple of weeks has happened, Said, so --

Go ahead, Elliot.

QUESTION: Question about Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: So – go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. They – Egypt and Libya – have asked for the UN to lift an arms embargo so that people there can battle ISIL and other militant groups. What is the U.S. position on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: At this point it’s been – the U.S. has been opposed to it in the past.

MS. PSAKI: That is correct. And I think, just to give everybody – I think most of you are paying attention to this, but I think you’re referring to the draft Security Council resolution that was – has been proposed yesterday following the briefing on – briefing at the Security Council. We’re currently reviewing that resolution. It was only circulated yesterday.

The sanctions measures currently in place do not prohibit the Government of Libya from procuring arms. They merely require a sanctions committee approval for lethal items. Given the instability on the ground, this exemption request provides a measure of oversight to ensure arms are safely and securely delivered to their intended users in Libya.

We have supported, continue to support the UN approval process currently in place for Libya. It permits transfers necessary to support the Libyan Government while allowing the Security Council to seek guard against the high risk that weapons may be diverted to non-state actors. That continues to be our position. We will be engaged with our council colleagues and certainly will be discussing with them and with our partners around the world this Security Council proposal. But again, it was just proposed yesterday, so I don’t have anything conclusive to tell you today.

QUESTION: And how might this be different than providing opposition in Syria with some training and arms?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we see them as entirely different countries with different challenges. As you know, we have determined several months ago that we would train and equip the moderate opposition in order to fight against ISIL on the ground. We know there have been safe havens for ISIL in Syria. Also, it’s a country, as we know, that has been in the midst of a challenging civil war for years. And while we don’t see a military solution there, we do see that the group of moderate opposition members who we’re training and equipping will also play a role in fighting back against that.

We’ve seen in Libya – we continue to believe that in Libya a political solution, one that is non-intervention, is the right path forward. There are ongoing discussions. We support those discussions. And again, we understand that the events of last week have warranted the emergency meeting, a discussion about these resolutions, but we’ll take a look and we’ll review what the proposal is.

QUESTION: Does your list of concerns mean that if those concerns are addressed, you would support the proposed resolution?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I was stating what our position continues to be on the arms embargo, which is part of what the resolution is.

QUESTION: So in other words, you would oppose lifting the arms embargo.

MS. PSAKI: That’s what our position is now. We will look at the resolution.

QUESTION: Well, this – but that’s what the resolution says. I mean, I can tell you right now --

MS. PSAKI: There’s more to the --

QUESTION: I haven’t even seen the resolution and I can tell you that it calls for lifting the arms embargo.

MS. PSAKI: There’s more to the resolution, Matt.

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: We’ll take a look at the resolution. That’s our position. That’s why it’s our position and continues to be.

QUESTION: So as long as the resolution calls for a lifting of the arms embargo, you will not support it?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead of our consultations with our partners around the world.

QUESTION: Can I go back to ISIL and Syria for a minute?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. I know you spoke about the de Mistura proposal and so on, but I wonder if the past – in the past 24 hours and so, you have, let’s say, developed new positions on his proposal. Are you still in support of his effort to sort of implement ceasefires and so on, and that Assad is part of the solution, not part of the problem?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, as I mentioned to you last week, Said, he addressed his own comments on that, so I’ll point you to that.

QUESTION: Right. I saw.

MS. PSAKI: He announced that the Assad regime is willing to suspend aerial attacks and artillery shelling throughout the city of Aleppo – excuse me – for six weeks to allow for a freeze in a district within the city. He will be here tomorrow, and we’ll hear more about his initiative when he visits Washington. He has meetings with Deputy Secretary Blinken, with Daniel Rubinstein, our Special Envoy for Syria, and I – he may have other Administration meetings as well. So we’ll hear more about that tomorrow.

We certainly have long supported his efforts to find a solution that can reduce the suffering of the Syrian people, but we also look at this with our eyes wide open given how, as we’ve seen in Babila, Homs, Moadamiya, Yarmouk, many local truces achieved thus far have closely resembled surrender arrangements and haven’t been abided by by the regime.

QUESTION: But you still support his efforts, de Mistura’s efforts?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, we support his efforts, absolutely.

QUESTION: Okay. By the way, those meetings, you know what time they’ll take place in this building?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have specific times for you, Said.

Go ahead, Barbara.

QUESTION: Just back to Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I know you said that – you outlined how the United States has been supporting the Baltic States and would defend NATO countries. I just – General Dempsey has been quoted as saying that “Putin’s principal aim strategically is to fragment the NATO alliance, and if we allow this issue to fragment the alliance, it will have played into its grand strategy.” Is there a feeling in this building that the conflict is moving slowly more towards a confrontation between NATO and Russia, not just a confrontation over Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t see this as a conflict between NATO and Russia. We know that has been proposed or said by Russia. We believe this is a conflict that is between Russia and Russian-backed separatists and Ukraine. We don’t feel there has to be – and we also believe there is an off-ramp here. Russia has had a long history of a relationship with NATO, but again, I think their illegal intervention into Ukraine has raised not only red flags, but huge concerns among the international community, including many, many members of NATO who are in the surrounding neighborhood.

QUESTION: Can I go to a different topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There was a military court decision that vacated the conviction of David Hicks, who was a former Guantanamo detainee. He said in a – he said that he would like to see some kind of compensation or payment for what he says are bodily harm sustained while – during his time in U.S. custody. I was wondering if you have any response.

MS. PSAKI: Well, given this is a legal case and has been, I’m not going to have anything specific for you. I can reiterate for all of you that Mr. Hicks pled guilty to providing material supported to terrorism based on voluntary admissions; that he trained at al-Qaida camps, al-Qaida complexes in Afghanistan; met with Usama bin Ladin and joined al-Qaida and Taliban forces preparing to fight the United States. He successfully appealed his conviction, as Elliot mentioned, at the United States Court of Military Commission Review on the grounds that the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had previously ruled that material support for terrorism was not a viable charge in military commissions for pre-2006 conduct.

The government does not intend to appeal, but in terms of any other questions about legal cases, I would send you to the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Okay. I mean, but it’s not – it’s no longer a pending or ongoing legal case --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- since it’s finished, so --

MS. PSAKI: But you’re talking about seeking damages or seeking things through a legal process, so I don’t have any specific comment for you.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, I guess there’s still an open question of whether the U.S. Administration is open to any kind of outreach or apology or any kind of compensation or otherwise --

MS. PSAKI: I just outlined for you why his case was appealed. I don’t have anything more for you on it.

QUESTION: He also suggested --

MS. PSAKI: And why it was overturned, I should say. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, he also suggested that Australia should apologize for the treatment that he received, saying that they knew what condition he was being held in and they did not – and they didn’t do enough to try and get him released. What’s your position on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific comment. I’d point you to the Government of Australia. I would remind you that he voluntarily admitted he trained at al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan. His conviction was overturned on the grounds that material support for terrorism was not a viable charge in military commissions. But I would point you to the Government of Australia.

QUESTION: In the fight against Boko Haram, there’s some reports that the U.S. is providing some training in some of the nations in that region. I’m wondering if you can outline the different kinds of assistance that is being provided by the U.S., particularly to Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and possibly Nigeria. Is it involve military training or some other kind of aid as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me see what I have here. I know we have quite a bit of information on this, so let me give you what I have, and if I don’t outline it, we can get you something after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We have – let’s see. We have, as you know – this wasn’t exactly your question, but let me just outline it here a little bit. We have – since the beginning of this emergency, we have provided 24.7 million in support of essential humanitarian aid to refugees, internally displaced persons, and other populations of concern impacted by Boko Haram-engendered conflicts in Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria. These include support for protection, food, agriculture, and livelihoods; health, humanitarian coordination, and water sanitation; and hygiene assistance. We are committed – we continue to assess and are committed to doing more. There is, as you know, a multinational joint task force that we also continue to support. Why don’t I see if I can get you more a specific breakdown of our support just so you have all of the details with you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we go to Palestinians?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. Today the Israelis announced that they have taken over 250 dunams, which is roughly 75 acres or a little less. Do you have any comment on that – for waste dumping area – to dump waste --

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t I take a look at the report, Said, and I’m sure, if it’s accurate, we can get you a comment.

QUESTION: Okay. And last week I asked you about the – if you were aware that they continue to hold close to 150 minors in prison. I wonder if you’ve checked into that.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new on that for you, Said. I think someone from our office got back to you, but we can check and make sure that you have a comment on it.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: There has been some concern expressed – well, not some – a lot of concern expressed about the situation in the West Bank, particularly with the continued withholding of tax revenues by Israel. Some have gone so far as to suggest that the Palestinian Authority could collapse, the security services no longer functioning and that Israel would then have to move back in in a way that it had been before. Have you been talking to the Israelis about this tax – about this money, and if so, what are you telling them?

MS. PSAKI: We have been. We have been engaging with key stakeholders, including with Israelis, Palestinians, the EU, UN, Russians, Arab League, and others over the past few weeks. It’s true we’re very concerned about the continued viability of the Palestinian Authority if they do not receive funds soon, either in terms of the resumption of monthly Israeli transfers of Palestinian tax revenues or additional donor assistance. If the Palestinian Authority ceases security coordination or even decides to disband, as they have said they may do as early as the first week of March if they do not receive additional revenues, we could be faced with a crisis that could gravely impact both the Palestinians and the Israelis with potentially serious ripple effects either – elsewhere in the region. So we have certainly raised our concern about what could happen here with a range of partners in the region.

QUESTION: And what has been the response, one, from the Israelis, but two, presumably the other countries that you’re – that you listed – or the other countries and organizations that you listed, you’re asking them to step up assistance to the PA to make up for either the shortfall in what the Israelis are withholding. What’s the response and --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to characterize the specifics of the conversations other than to say we’re working with others to try to find a solution that will avoid a crisis that harms all of our interests.

QUESTION: Given the mood on Capitol Hill right now as it relates to the Palestinians since they announced that they were going to go to the ICC, is the United States really in a position to be able to tell or ask or urge other governments, including Israel, to give more money? Obviously, the Israeli – with Israel it’s different because that is Palestinian money that they just hold on to. I mean, do you think that the Administration has a leg to stand on here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say that I think it’s known, and we certainly make this information known, that we have provided, as you know, a great deal of assistance to the Palestinian Authority to address some of these challenges on the ground. You are right that it would not seem possible to get any further assistance to the Palestinian Authority through Congress in the near future, but it is a case that we are making to many of the partners I’ve referenced about the importance of stability in the region and the implications that go well beyond security. The fact that hundreds of thousands of students could be without teachers, hospitals could cease to function, food insecurity could grow, the cost to both Palestinians and Israelis could be immense in both financial and human terms. And that’s a case we’re making in our conversations as well.

QUESTION: Is it – is a restoration of the transfer of tax money post the Israeli election too late?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re concerned about them receiving the funds soon. As you know, that election is a month away.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So I’m not going to give a date on it, but we’re certainly encouraging – making people aware of the issue now.

QUESTION: Right. But you said in response to questions about Iran – you said we’ve seen this movie before. Well, the movie of – or the preview of the potential collapse of the Palestinian Authority you have also seen before. It hasn’t happened in the past. What makes you so concerned that it’s actually going to happen this time?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen the severity of what is needed on the ground, and as I mentioned, a range of conditions that we’re looking at as it relates to both security and humanitarian issues, and given how dire those are this is why we’re having all these conversations.

QUESTION: And you said that it’s unlikely to get an additional – aid for the Palestinians through Congress in the near future. Why do you think that is?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re obviously engaged with key stakeholders, but I think that’s just an assessment of what’s likely to happen at this point in time.

QUESTION: But I mean, there’s a reason that it is unlikely you’re not going to be able to get any more money for the Palestinians through Congress in the near future.

MS. PSAKI: I think you are all smart assessors of those reasons, so I will let you do your analysis.

QUESTION: So – all right. And yesterday, you were asked – go ahead. Well, this is related but --

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask on Gaza because the situation is so desperate in Gaza. And the – apparently, the aid to reconstruct Gaza that was promised back in October, none of it has gotten through. But also, there is a desperate human situation where people are fleeing into Israel, getting shot and getting arrested and so on, and increasingly so with every passing day. I wonder if, perhaps at this conference, there would be emphasis on the need to infuse some funds into Gaza.

MS. PSAKI: Which conference?

QUESTION: Well, the conference – I mean, we talk about listening to the rhetoric of the Vice President and the President how socioeconomic issues can help stem the kind of violence and so on. Certainly, infusing funds and helping the socioeconomic --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I would say first that, as you know and as I’ve outlined from here, the United States provides quite a great deal of humanitarian assistance that has gone through. So your information on that is not accurate. There are other countries that certainly we continue to encourage to provide assistance given how dire the situation is on the ground. I think our actions show how committed we are to this particular issue.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: This is Israel-related. Yesterday, you mentioned that Secretary Kerry would not be able to speak to the AIPAC conference this year because he would be traveling to an as-yet unknown --

MS. PSAKI: Unannounced, I should say.

QUESTION: -- unannounced destination. So coincidentally, I noticed that it is the inauguration of the president of Atlantis as well as the Kyrzbekistan national day ceremony. (Laughter.) Are those options for his travel?

MS. PSAKI: I can assure you we are unlikely to appear at either of those events.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you say where the Secretary plans to be?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details to announce yet at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. But he’s definitely going to be unavailable in D.C. to speak to the AIPAC?

MS. PSAKI: It is looking highly likely we will be on a trip. That is still being planned.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: So have you decided on what level of representation the State Department might make at the conference?

MS. PSAKI: Don’t have anything to announce quite yet.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I go to Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So noting that the statement that you put out earlier that the – the reports that there are contacts going on between the U.S. and Taliban to try and have some talks was incorrect and that the White House has also said there are not meetings scheduled. Your statement referred to the fact that you – there are no direct talks between the U.S. and the Taliban. Are there indirect contacts going on given that the place they might meet is Qatar and --

MS. PSAKI: No. The United States has no meetings, ongoing or scheduled, indirect or direct, with the Taliban in Doha or elsewhere. We remain strongly supportive of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process whereby the Taliban and the Afghans engage in talks toward a settlement to resolve the conflict in Afghanistan. That remains the case. I would also note that President Ghani in his inauguration address called on the Taliban to enter political talks and has made reconciliation central to his foreign policy, and we certainly support that effort as well.

QUESTION: So does that mean that you’re privileging the idea of Afghan talks and that you are not actually interested anymore in pursuing any U.S.-Taliban talks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it has long been, even when we were talking about this issue a year and a half ago – I believe it was if my math is correct – the goal has always been Afghan-led, Afghans talking to Afghans. We remain committed to enabling or supporting that effort, and obviously President Ghani has spoken to his interest in that effort, but that is not an ongoing or scheduled process.

QUESTION: But there was an interest all those many months ago in trying to get some kind of U.S.-Taliban talks off the ground, which didn’t happen. So are you saying actually --

MS. PSAKI: Well, with the objective of Afghan-Afghan talks. So that’s what we want to achieve.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: So you’re not – sorry, Matt. So you’re not trying any kind of U.S.-Taliban talks at all? You’re just going to leave it to the Afghans?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re committed to enabling the process, but – the progress, and if progress can be made. But again, this is something that the president of Afghanistan has spoken to. We support that. There’s nothing ongoing at this point.

QUESTION: So there’s no way to tease any accuracy out of the reports that surfaced – the reports that had talked about a U.S. involvement, they’re just flat wrong?

MS. PSAKI: That seems correct.

QUESTION: And just – I just wanted – is it, though, not correct that – and I think you might have said this, but I – that you’re encouraging Afghan-Pakistan talks and that you encouraged the Pakistanis to encourage the Afghan-Afghan talks. That is correct, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve encouraged – we believe regional partners have an important role to play.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: And that certainly includes – we’ve encouraged Pakistan and China to support President Ghani’s reconciliation efforts.

QUESTION: And do – are you aware, have they actually now done – is there a move or a push from the Pakistanis to the Afghan, both sides, to get them together?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, I think they’ve been engaged in some dialogues about a range of issues. But I would point you to them. I don’t have anything to read out for you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have indirect talks or communications with the Taliban?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered that question when Jo asked it.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: I said no direct or indirect talks.

QUESTION: No direct or indirect. So how did you – how did the U.S. Government succeed in securing the release of Mr. Bergdahl?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Bergdahl – as you know, we talked about it at the time, that we worked indirectly through the Qataris. So we have not since then, and not since January of 2012 – or I guess it was March of 2012 when the Taliban cut off the other talks.

QUESTION: No, no. I’m sorry. So I didn’t understand that. So what you’re saying is there have been no indirect talks since the indirect talks via the Qataris to secure the release of Bowe Bergdahl in May of 2014?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Well, in fact, there was contact there. I mean, we all saw the video (inaudible). I mean, they --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. But in terms of the talks, as we talked about at the time --

QUESTION: They weren’t diplomats; they were special forces.

MS. PSAKI: -- the Qataris played a vital role there. Yes, fair enough.

QUESTION: Is there a Taliban office in Qatar still open? Is it – they had an office at one point established that you worked through.

MS. PSAKI: That was an office – I’m not sure how long that was open, Said, but that was about a year and a half ago. So --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Okay.

MS. PSAKI: All right.

QUESTION: No, I have one more brief one. I don’t know if you --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I was just wondering, my question about Bahrain yesterday --

MS. PSAKI: Oh. Let me see if I have anything on that.

QUESTION: And I don’t know if there’s a Privacy Act waiver or if that’s still an issue, but I was just wondering if you had any --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I – we don’t have anything new on that. We don’t have a Privacy Act waiver.

QUESTION: On that one – and on the other case, there – nothing new on that?

MS. PSAKI: Don’t have anything new on that case, no.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: And also just following up on Victoria Nuland’s trip to Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Romania. Anything on that you can offer?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have anything on here, and if not, I’m sure we can talk to our team who are traveling with her and see – were you looking for just a readout of her meetings --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- or something like that? I don’t believe I have that with you, so why don’t we venture to get that you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Good.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Thanks everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:53 p.m.)

# # #

2015-02-19


Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 18, 2015


Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 18, 2015


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TRANSCRIPT:

1:17 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I just have two items for all of you at the top. Secretary Kerry spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning. He pressed Foreign Minister Lavrov to stop Russian and separatist attacks on Ukrainian positions in Debaltseve and other violations of the ceasefire. The Secretary urged Russia to secure access to Debaltseve for OSCE monitors who have been blocked from performing their responsibilities according to Minsk agreements Russia signed in February and last September. They also briefly discussed Libya, Syria, and the Summit on Countering Violent Extremism that we are hosting here in Washington.

Deputy Secretary Blinken will host the 10 ASEAN chiefs of mission today at the Department to discuss an array of important issues from economic integration to regional maritime cooperation. The deputy secretary will underscore our commitment to a close relationship with ASEAN and reiterate the importance of ASEAN unity and centrality as ASEAN continues on a path toward economic integration and as its members face difficult regional and global security challenges. The deputy secretary will also discuss his recent trip to Japan, China, and the Republic of Korea, and reinforce the importance of Asia to U.S. foreign policy and our rebalance strategy.

Matt.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’m sure we’ll get back to Ukraine, but I want to start with something that your colleague at the White House was just asked about, and it came up over the weekend, about Israel and the Iran negotiations.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Is it correct that the Administration is now withholding certain details of the negotiations with Iran from Israel out of concern that members of the Israeli Government have or will leak selective parts of that information in an effort to destroy the deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well first let me say, but reiterate, that conversations continue with Israel on Iran nuclear negotiations. Under Secretary Sherman met with Israeli NSA Cohen and Minister for Intelligence Steinitz in Munich and will see NSA Cohen again this week, and Iran negotiations were obviously the main topic of discussion. Secretary Kerry, as all of you know, continues his conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu about this issue. And as our NSC colleagues have noted, National Security Advisor Rice maintains regular contact with her counterpart.

So we are continuing frequent and routine contact. We continue to consult, as I mentioned, with our Israeli colleagues and we continue to get into specific issues in these consultations, but we have long been mindful not to negotiate in public and we take steps to ensure that classified negotiating details stay behind closed doors in these negotiations. That has long been the case.

QUESTION: Okay. So it is correct, then, that you – that classified negotiating details are not being shared with the Israelis?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put that fine of a point on it. I think there are some details that obviously we have concern about being in public, to respect and protect the negotiations, and those are details that we take steps to ensure are not – don’t get into the public.

QUESTION: So is one of those steps not telling the Israelis about them?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think we share a great deal. Obviously, there are steps we take, including what we share and how we consult with our counterparts, including the Israelis.

QUESTION: I understand that you share a great deal, but you’re saying that you don’t share everything. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. So you are withholding some details.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. So can you say if this – is this a new thing? Has this been in place, this decision been around since the beginning?

MS. PSAKI: We have long taken steps to ensure that these negotiations remain private.

QUESTION: And that would include – so it’s – we’re talking about not just the secret backchannel talks that were in Muscat and other places, but even after the Israelis were informed of the backchannel talks and then of the beginning of the new P5+ round --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- since the very beginning you have been holding back some information from the Israelis about --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to put an exact date on it. Obviously, as time has progressed there are more details and more information, but it is not new.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you assure the Israelis that what is being withheld is not of critical interest to them and what they believe to be the existential threat that Iran poses to them?

MS. PSAKI: We can assure the Israelis that their security interests, that the security of Israel remains a top priority of the United States, and we take every step in order to ensure that, including working on a deal to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: Okay. Your colleague at the White House, when asked the same kind of questions that I’m asking right now, said that there was a – the Administration had a problem with people – he didn’t identify them – but cherry picking specific bits of information --

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.

QUESTION: -- and releasing them. Can you say --

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s safe to say that not everything you’re hearing from the Israeli Government is an accurate reflection of the details of the talks.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that the Israeli Government is lying about the talks. Is that correct? Or they’ve been misinformed because maybe you haven’t been telling them everything?

MS. PSAKI: I think there’s a selective sharing of information, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay, but can you be more specific about what bits of information you believe have been cherry picked and selectively released to --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into that level of detail. We obviously make decisions about how to protect the negotiations while also still balancing with how to be as cooperative and inclusive with our partners.

QUESTION: And last one: Is it correct to assume or presume that as the negotiations progressed and there became – and they got more detailed, more details were then being – are – were being withheld than say after the first meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as there are more details there’s more sensitive information.

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: So I wouldn’t put it exactly like that, but obviously we work to protect sensitive information in the negotiations.

QUESTION: But so as the negotiations have progressed and gotten to the point where Israel – what Israel believes to be an existential threat to it is getting closer – a deal on – with a country that it believes to be an existential threat, they’re getting less information about what’s going on rather than --

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it in those terms, Matt. We agree that Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon. We’re working hard on these negotiations. We’re not going to accept a bad deal. And we’re sharing information that we can share.

QUESTION: When did – can I follow up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When last did the Secretary speak to his Israeli counterpart or to Netanyahu?

MS. PSAKI: He speaks with him pretty regularly. I’m fairly certain he spoke with him last week. He did, last Wednesday.

QUESTION: And when – has he ever raised with Netanyahu exactly this issue of concern, of cherry picking?

MS. PSAKI: I think they regularly discuss the Iran negotiations and our efforts, but I’m not going to get into more specifics of their conversations.

QUESTION: During the last conversation was this raised?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into more details of their conversations.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, can I check – I was just looking through, because I was trying to be organized, the --

MS. PSAKI: I would just say one more thing. It’s not a new – this isn’t a new concern. It’s not a new issue, so I would just reiterate that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I was looking through the list of confirmed speakers at the APEC conference, which is actually next weekend --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- not this weekend coming but the one after.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Early March, yes.

QUESTION: March, the first – yeah. And I – so far I didn’t see any indication that the Secretary may be addressing the conference. Is there any plan to? I know in the past he has, or a Secretary has.

MS. PSAKI: He has in the past. I expect we certainly will have representation. I don’t think we’re at a point of announcing who that will be yet.

QUESTION: If the Secretary doesn’t actually take part, is this because of the circumstances surrounding Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to the United States, which, of course, have been really overtaken by the fact that he’s going to address Congress on March 3rd?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve already been clear that we don’t have to plan – we don’t have plans, I should say, to have a meeting. I think the more likely reason is that the Secretary is probably going to be out of town, which I don’t think surprises any of you, given his overseas travel schedule. We’re still working out the next couple of weeks.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Wait, the Secretary is probably going to be out of town when?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure --

QUESTION: For the entire APEC conference?

MS. PSAKI: It’s only a couple of days, Matt. We have a trip we’re working on for early-March, late-February. So --

QUESTION: That’s funny, because the Vice President also had some unspecified travel plans that would prevent him from being at Congress to hear the prime minister’s speech.

MS. PSAKI: Well, given I think --

QUESTION: Is everyone fleeing --

MS. PSAKI: -- we have all spent days if not months on a plane, I don’t think it should surprise anyone that the chief diplomat might be overseas.

QUESTION: Well, right, but – yeah. But it just seems to be a little unusual that both the Secretary of State and the Vice President are – have determined right now that they’re going to be out of town or out of the country. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t look at it in those terms. I believe the Vice President’s attending the inauguration for the new Government of Panama, I believe. I can’t remember the specifics, but it’s a set date. And again, we, as you know, always have a fluid schedule and as we have more information we’ll let you know. I expect we’ll be certainly represented there.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: So it wouldn’t be seen – it shouldn’t be seeing it as a snub because the prime minister will be addressing the same conference?

MS. PSAKI: I think, again, the Secretary of State never speaks at this every single year. We’ll – I expect we’ll have a representation there. I would leave it at that.

QUESTION: I just remember being with the Secretary at the inauguration of the Panamanian prime minister a few months ago.

MS. PSAKI: Perhaps that’s not the right information. I’m sure you can check the Vice President’s schedule on his website.

QUESTION: Might you invent a country that he could go to if there isn’t any – (laughter) --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think inaugurations for new leaders are invented, Matt.

Do we have more on Israel before we continue? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we go back to your opening statement on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Sure.

QUESTION: Very simple question: Do you consider that the ceasefire and the Minsk agreement are dead?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t consider it as dead, no. We remain gravely concerned by reports that Russia-backed separatists continue to take – to attack – continue to attack Debaltseve and are violating the ceasefire in numerous other locations in Donetsk and Luhansk. The Government of Ukraine also reports that some of its forces were fired upon even as they conducted an orderly withdrawal from Debaltseve. Reports indicate that separatists publicly declared that they refuse to observe the ceasefire in Debaltseve and had a, quote, “right to shell Debaltseve” because it was, quote, “their territory.” The OSCE reports that the Russia-backed separatists continue to deny monitors access to Debaltseve and warns of grave consequences of those in the city if the ceasefire is not implemented there. The OSCE also confirms that ceasefire violations in Ukraine’s east continue, as was the case yesterday, but the quantity and intensity of attacks has decreased, with the dramatic exception, of course, being Debaltseve, as I just outlined.

We’ve also seen reports of the withdrawal of certain types of heavy weapons in various parts of Donetsk and Luhansk by both separatists and Ukrainian Government forces. We can’t confirm these without access by OSCE monitors, some of whom have obviously been trying to gain access. But we remain focused on supporting the implementation of this agreement. Obviously, if the separatist violence continues – if Russia and the separatists do not implement the agreement, if fighters and equipment continue to flow into Ukraine from Russia – more costs will be imposed and there will certainly be a serious discussion within the international community.

QUESTION: Is the – does the taking of or the withdrawal of the Ukrainian army from Debaltseve and the taking of it by the separatists, is that cause in itself for new – for more sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it in those terms. Obviously, President Poroshenko made a statement that the Ukrainian Government forces are conducting an orderly withdrawal. The Ukrainian Government, as a sovereign government, has the right to make decisions about how to protect their people. The lines that both sides are required to withdraw to still remain part of the agreement, but obviously we look at events on the ground and determine how to proceed from there.

QUESTION: Right. But in and of itself, the fact that the ceasefire – you said the ceasefire was obviously being violated in and around Debaltseve and the Ukrainian military was forced out. You’re not saying that that is necessarily a trigger in itself for additional costs.

MS. PSAKI: I have no sanctions to announce or predict today, no.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Michael.

QUESTION: Just on Ukraine --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- to clarify: Last Friday, you – in a statement, you noted that Russian military forces, regular forces, were involved in the attack on Debaltseve. In your statement, you said you were pressing Russia and the separatists to stop the fighting. Are Russian military forces, and not merely the separatists, have they been involved in the fighting in recent – last 24 hours?

MS. PSAKI: Over the last few days? Michael, I don’t think our --

QUESTION: Since the ceasefire was supposed to have gone into effect.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I understand your question. I don’t believe our concern has changed. I’m happy to check that level of specificity. As you know, we’ve been concerned about their involvement throughout. Obviously, our statement on Friday was particularly fine-pointed on that, but I can check and see if that’s --

QUESTION: I think it’s important to know if Russian military per se --

MS. PSAKI: I understand.

QUESTION: -- since the ceasefire has been involved in the attacks --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- and not just the separatists. Also, you just said you – that you continue to have concerns about Russian military equipment flowing into Ukraine, and the other day you mentioned reports of a Russian – a convoy of Russian equipment heading toward Debaltseve. Is Russian military equipment – has that continued to flow since the ceasefire? And can you confirm now that there was such a convoy?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have new details to confirm today. It’s challenging, as you know, because the OSCE monitors are not able to see what’s happening on the ground. So we’ve seen reports but don’t have new details to confirm.

QUESTION: And lastly, in their readout of the call with Secretary Kerry, the Russian foreign ministry, which put out a version of this --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- earlier today, said that Lavrov had made the point that the Ukrainian Government should be in direct negotiation or dialogue with the separatist leaders. They seem to have in mind a process that would supplant the diplomatic arrangements that have taken place in Minsk that would involve direct negotiations between sort of two equal parties – the Ukrainian Government and the separatist leadership. Is – what is your response to that suggestion on behalf – by Minister Lavrov? Is that an approach the United States would welcome or does it think it’s not really the road you want to go down diplomatically at this juncture?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as you know, the separatists have been a part of, as have the Russians, these negotiations and they’ve also signed off on these agreements. So obviously, we continue to support dialogue. The Ukrainians remain open to and have consistently invited the separatists to be a part of dialogue. But right now, we believe the focus should be on implementing what they just signed a week ago that builds on the agreement they all signed in September.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) any in any area where the violence has subsided since the signing of the ceasefire?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the areas outside of Debaltseve, and obviously, we’ve seen some violence in Donetsk and Luhansk. But we have seen, though, according to the OSCE, other areas where there has been a reduction in violence.

Any more on Ukraine before we continue?

QUESTION: Yes, still on Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Speaking today from Hungary, President Putin, when asked if – about possible consequences if the U.S. provides lethal weapons to Ukraine, responded that, according to his information, that these weapons were already there. Does President Putin --

MS. PSAKI: That’s incorrect.

QUESTION: That’s incorrect?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So his accusation that the U.S. is supplying weapons to – lethal weapons to Ukraine is not correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. It is incorrect, yes.

More on Ukraine before we continue? Pam, go ahead.

QUESTION: In yesterday’s briefing when we were talking about ceasefire violations in Ukraine, you mentioned that the international community needed to give the diplomatic process a chance to play out. In light of today’s developments, where are we with that? Is the United States closer to saying perhaps that it’s time to set a deadline for this or a time to look at some other alternatives, considering that the Russian-backed offensive is continuing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we remain focused on supporting the implementation of this agreement. Obviously, we’re very concerned about the violence that we’ve seen in Debaltseve and some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. We have seen intensity of attacks decrease in some areas, as confirmed by the OSCE. We’ve also seen reports of heavy weapons in various parts of Donetsk and Luhansk be pulled back. So right now we believe we still need to continue to give time for the agreement to work itself through. It doesn’t change the fact that we have a range of options, as does the international community, and those options remain just as they were two weeks ago.

QUESTION: I’m not sure I understand. You want time to set – to allow the agreement to work its way through? But I mean, it seems that the agreement is already done with.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, again, I think there are some areas where we have seen some action, like a reduction in violence, pullback of weapons – we’ve seen some reports of that. We believe that we need to give it some time to continue to have the agreement implemented. Obviously, there are some violations. And is it perfect? No, but we don’t think the alternative or the right option is to take steps that would hurt the implementation of the agreement.

QUESTION: And those steps meaning the supply of lethal weapons, more sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we haven’t made a decision on lethal – on defensive weapons. We have a range of options on sanctions. That remains the case. I don’t have anything to predict on those. We watch day by day, and I certainly expect we’ll continue to discuss this day by day based on what the events on the ground are.

QUESTION: But, so you think that both sides should continue to implement the details of the agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Even though there never was a ceasefire, even in Debaltseve?

MS. PSAKI: There have certainly been violations, Matt. But we continue to be – remain focused on the implementation of the agreement.

QUESTION: All right. I have a Russia-related question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: This came up at the Foreign Press Center earlier.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I’m just trying to get a specific answer on it. Is the head of the FSB here for the CVE conference, or is he coming?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s see. I do have some details on this. We have been working closely, obviously, with a range of countries on their delegations they’d like to attend. I believe – and just first some details. The Russians asked for assistance with visas and flight clearance last night because they decided to change some of the attendees in their delegation, and I believe that he is one of the attendees.

QUESTION: He is?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So – and so he will be here, he is coming, he has gotten a visa. Does this strike you at all – you’re accusing the Russians on one hand of being behind this whole situation in the east of Ukraine. One would presume that if they were, the FSB would be playing a role in that, and then you’re having this guy, the head of the FSB, come to the CVE conference. Does that strike you as being at all unusual?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, violent extremism and terrorism are serious problems that affect communities around the world, including Russia. As you know, there are a range of issues that we work together on. We certainly have strong disagreements as it relates to Ukraine. As I noted, the Russian Government told us yesterday that they intended to increase the number of participants in their delegation, and we have worked with them on a range of issues, including countering terrorism, in the past.

QUESTION: And your – in the Administration’s opinion, this is a good thing?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: That they’re increasing – that they’re sending the head of their --

MS. PSAKI: That’s just a factual detail. But certainly, we welcome their participation in the Countering Violent Extremism summit.

QUESTION: Okay. On the summit itself, do you – can you provide any more details on other – who else is coming of the – 65 is the number that’s being talked about.

MS. PSAKI: We will have a fact sheet out later today on the attendees for the foreign fighters meeting the Secretary will be having later this afternoon. I expect tomorrow morning we will have a full list of attendees for the summit. We just wanted to give everybody an opportunity to have final confirmations.

QUESTION: Is the conference the Secretary going to speak at closed session, or can we cover it?

MS. PSAKI: There is a – he’s speaking – he’s holding a meeting on foreign fighters this afternoon. I think there’s going to be a camera spray that there’ll be a pool for. This is logistical details. And there’s a reception later today which I think we’re working to open, and there are some remarks that a range of officials will be doing tomorrow. So we’ll have that out in the advisory we put out later this evening.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Are you still going to be – are the Russians going to attend the foreign fighters section, given that many of the --

MS. PSAKI: Let me see, Jo, if I have the list – I may have it here – of the attendees. And again, as I noted, if you don’t have it in this moment, you will have it later this afternoon. But let’s see. Albania, Algeria, Australia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, EU, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Jordan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Malaysia, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Tunisia, Turkey, UAE, UK, and the UN.

QUESTION: And you can tell us how many Russian delegates there are? When you said they expanded the size --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of specificity.

QUESTION: Is that – that was just for the foreign fighters --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- or that’s for tomorrow as well?

MS. PSAKI: That is for the foreign fighters.

QUESTION: And more --

MS. PSAKI: I would certainly anticipate that these will also be represented tomorrow, and we’ll have the more expansive list tomorrow morning.

QUESTION: But there are more than just what you read that are coming tomorrow?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, correct. This is just for the foreign fighters meeting today.

QUESTION: All right. On this topic just more generally, and I wasn’t aware – quite aware of how much furor there had been over your colleague’s comments on television on Monday night when you did the telephone briefing yesterday. She’s getting a lot of flak from people for saying what she said, and I’m just wondering if you can say whether the Administration believes that getting jobs for violent extremists is going to fix the problem, or if that’s just --

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, that’s not at all what she said.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS. PSAKI: So let me reiterate what was said, and I would also encourage everybody to not only read what the President’s op-ed said today, what the Secretary’s op-eds have said, which are all consistent. No one should doubt the resolve of the United States to go after ISIL and go after terrorists around the world. We’ve done thousands of airstrikes. ISIL – members of ISIL on the battlefield – we’re going after them and they’ll be killed.

I think what she was addressing, which we’ve all addressed and was in the op-ed today as well, is the fact that we also, in addition to the military component of this, which is very important, need to go after the root causes. And that includes – why are – is ISIL having success recruiting young men in some of these countries? What are the vulnerabilities? Why are young men choosing to join a group like ISIL?

Also, separate from that, there are issues like foreign fighters. Why are individuals from Western countries going over and finding an appeal here? This is obviously a broader conversation, but the CVE summit is not just about ISIL. It’s not just about the military component. It’s about how to address these threats of extremists around the world, and that was what the conversation was about.

QUESTION: So – but that’s a generational kind of thing. You don’t expect that you could rehabilitate a guy who is out there beheading Egyptian Copts or American journalists or Japanese? That’s not for them.

MS. PSAKI: No one is suggesting that. We’re not going – we are not – we’re going after those individuals to take them off the battlefield. What we are suggesting is how do we address this threat over the long term in addition to what we’re doing militarily now.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. When you say “take them off the battlefield,” you mean kill them?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: So you would say that what Marie said was taken out of context, was only – I’m not sure that I see --

MS. PSAKI: I would say that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: And I would also say that I think there’s no question if you talk to a range of the officials who are here and the different focuses of the different breakout groups and – that are happening even at this summit, that there are many focuses about how to take on extremism. Militarily, that’s an important component. Obviously, that’s focused on individuals who are on the battlefield now. But we also have a group tomorrow that’s going to be talking about messaging and the ideology. We’re talking about foreign fighters this afternoon. So there are several components about how we address this over the long term.

QUESTION: Jen, can I just clarify something you said?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Sure.

QUESTION: I thought I heard you say the head of the FSB is en route to the United Sates. He’s not here yet?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I meant to say that. Maybe that was a little outdated. He may or may not be here. I think they were planning to be here for the start of the summit.

QUESTION: And that you learned of this recently when they changed – they filed different plans --

MS. PSAKI: They updated their --

QUESTION: -- and updated their visas, but prior to that you were not aware that he was coming?

MS. PSAKI: There was a different group that was planning on attending. It was expanded or changed a little bit.

QUESTION: And when did that happen?

MS. PSAKI: Last night.

QUESTION: So last night, the Russian Federation informed the American Government that it was expanding its group and that – to include the head of the FSB?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: And prior to that, he was not expected to attend?

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

QUESTION: And what led – that’s an interesting change. What does that signify? Was he previously invited? What was – what’s the significance of that?

MS. PSAKI: Russia was invited to participate. I believe that we left it to each country to determine their delegations.

QUESTION: Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: About North Korea?

QUESTION: Could I just – sorry, I have one more on the summit.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Sure.

QUESTION: Sorry. There was a conference call on Monday and then again, I think, just now at the Foreign Press Center, your deputy, Marie, also mentioned again this idea that out of this meeting you want to see an action agenda. Is this something – is this going to come in the form of a written document? Is it something that you’re going to be making publicly available? Or is it going to be more of an informal kind of series of notes that you’re going to keep among yourselves?

MS. PSAKI: I certainly think we will talk at the end of this in coordination with our colleagues at the White House about where we go from here.

QUESTION: So you expect to come up with like a roadmap or an action plan?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a format for you in terms of what format it will take, but I certainly – this is – we hope to be a catalyst for future action and a point of discussion to talk about where we go from here. I mentioned there’ll be a fact sheet out later this afternoon, and I certainly expect there’ll be more paper in the coming days.

QUESTION: Can I just – I just want to make sure --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- I completely understand. It is the Administration’s position that the fighters who are – the violent extremists or however you want to describe them, those who are on the battlefield now --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- committing these atrocities --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- are going to be killed. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: That is our objective, yes.

QUESTION: It is not – the objective is not to go find them a job or get them a better education or do something like that?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Correct, Matt. But we also need to look at the root causes --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- that leads the 12-, 13-, 14-year-olds today to be possible candidates in five years.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: You’re not intending to capture them, then, and bring them to justice in front of any kind of courts?

MS. PSAKI: I think you’ve seen what our action has entailed, and I expect that would continue.

QUESTION: Jen, about North Korean human rights issues.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: UN resolution on the North Korean human rights will discussing next month – early next month, yes. What is the United States final destination of North Korean human rights issues? Do you --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we – North Korea has one of the most abysmal records on human rights in the world. There is a commission of inquiry that, as you know, looks into this. The report reflects the international community’s consensus view that the human rights situation in North Korea is among the world’s worst. We urge North Korea to take concrete steps, as recommended by the commission of inquiry, to improve the human rights situation. We will continue to work with the international community to sustain international attention on – on the deplorable human rights situation in North Korea. And that is something that we remain committed to.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Honduras?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, go ahead?

QUESTION: Honduras.

MS. PSAKI: Honduras.

QUESTION: The Honduran Government has suspended and is investigating 21 police officers from a special unit that was assigned to the U.S. embassy. Your reaction to that? And do these officers have access to the embassy itself?

MS. PSAKI: Let me take the question. I haven’t talked to our team about that particular issue, but we’ll get you an answer back later today.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Iraq? Sure.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Yesterday, President Barzani went to Kirkuk and he had a message for the militias around Kirkuk, especially the Shia-Iranian-backed militias. He said no forces will be allowed to enter Kirkuk except Peshmerga. Would you support this, that only Peshmerga can control Kirkuk, not any militias, especially the Shia militias? Because there is a tension between the two are escalating. So what is your position --

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen his remarks, so I don’t have anything particular to say about them. I’m happy to talk to our team about it.

QUESTION: What about the human rights violation and other increase of the Shia militias?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken pretty extensively to this over the last couple of weeks, and I’d certainly refer you to that. But I would reiterate the fact that we have raised both in Washington and in Baghdad our concerns about these reports, about these violations by the militia; that Prime Minister Abadi has also spoken about them and has taken steps to be more inclusive and also go after the unregulated militias. We recognize that this is a challenge that needs to continue to be addressed.

QUESTION: How about the situation in Kirkuk that – is that you prefer Peshmerga control the city of Kirkuk for now and --

MS. PSAKI: I will talk to our team about that.

QUESTION: I have one more question.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Regarding the Erbil and Baghdad deal, State Department in the past made a big deal out of it, that the deal was a step forward.

MS. PSAKI: Oil? Oil revenues?

QUESTION: Both. Like oil revenue and also the security that they will give the money to KRG the share that they have, 70 percent. But the deal is not working and that couple days ago, prime minister of Kurdistan was in Baghdad, and he said there’s no money in Baghdad to send it to Kurdistan. And the minister of planning also – of Kurdistan region, of course – he said before Abadi start assuming the position of the prime minister, there were like $60 billion in the Iraq bank account in New York, and then after he came, the money is gone. Do you have any information – like your government has any information what happened to that?

MS. PSAKI: I have no confirmation of the accuracy of what you’re saying, but I can certainly check with our team on it.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Iraq?

QUESTION: Iraq, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry if you were asked about this previously.

MS. PSAKI: No problem. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The head of Hizballah, Hassan Nasrallah, on Monday revealed that there is a limited Hizballah presence in Iraq fighting against IS. I wondered if – what your reaction would be to that and whether, if Hizballah is fighting the Islamic State, does that make you almost allies?

MS. PSAKI: No is the answer to the second. We have seen, certainly, the comments you’re referencing. We don’t have confirmation about what role they may or may not be playing. We have been clear about our concern regarding Hizballah’s destructive role in Syria and of the same concerns about reports of its involvement in Iraq. And this is involvement – their involvement if – their reported involvement also endangers Lebanon. We continue to believe that Iraq’s sovereignty must be respected and the Government of Iraq must focus now on strengthening its internal political and security institutions in an inclusive way. So our concerns about Hizballah and their destructive role have certainly not changed.

QUESTION: Are you in touch with the Iraqi authorities about these reports? Have you tried to seek confirmation via them?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we are in touch with the Iraqi authorities. I can check and see if there’s more we can convey about these specific reports and our conversations on them.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Iraq or --

QUESTION: Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Iraq? Okay. Go ahead, Yemen.

QUESTION: Thank you. Pardon me for reading off the questions off the phone here.

MS. PSAKI: No problem.

QUESTION: So I have some more questions about the evacuation from Yemen after our chief intelligence correspondent, Catherine Herridge of Fox News, reviewed some State Department emails. One of her first questions was, “Why was the OpenNet communications link left up and not shut down in the embassy when the staff evacuated, and how is that consistent with safeguarding of sensitive information?”

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we take every precaution necessary to – when we move staff out of an embassy, including addressing classified materials, ensuring that all of our information is secure. I don’t have any confirmation of that particular report. I don’t know what emails you’re referring to. I’m happy to check into it.

QUESTION: And then she also had that, “When the staff evacuated, why didn’t the charter go to a U.S.-controlled airfield that would’ve allowed the Marines to keep their weapons? The Marines destroyed their weapons, but can you explain what happened to all of the ammunition? There were over 100 Marines there.”

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, the Marines – and I would point you and her to this – have put out an extensive statement about what they did and the protocol they followed. Every protocol was followed in this case. We made a decision from a range of options about what the best way was to move our staff out of Yemen, and I’m going to leave it at that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up? (Inaudible) a similar question last week.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are you sure that all the classified information that you needed to destroy was destroyed or dealt with in your evacuation of the embassy in Sana’a?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. I have not heard any concern to contradict that.

QUESTION: And you – but you have no confirmation about whether this link, this secure link, was apparently left up?

MS. PSAKI: An OpenNet link he’s referring to.

QUESTION: An OpenNet link, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of that report or the email. I am happy to talk to our team about it.

QUESTION: Is an OpenNet link unclassified or classified?

MS. PSAKI: Typically unclassified, but I can check and see what the specific report is.

QUESTION: So that would be what – how they connect to Google or whatever?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know what the details of this particular report are.

QUESTION: Remind me again: The evacuation was successful or unsuccessful? How many people were wounded, injured, killed?

MS. PSAKI: Successful. Not a single person was. Our team was successfully moved out of the country and is back in Washington. And obviously, we’re determining where they’ll be based.

QUESTION: Okay. So people-wise it may have been successful, but you still did – they did take the vehicles, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Which have been returned.

QUESTION: They have been returned?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: To whom?

MS. PSAKI: To our – I believe our embassy or our local staff. I can check on the specifics of that. Let’s see if I have that specific level of detail. They have been – let’s see – have been secured under the safekeeping of UN personnel at the diplomatic transit facility.

QUESTION: UN personnel?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. And is that – that’s the same facility that you were – we were talking about, I think, last week right after?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Yes.

QUESTION: And so has that been turned over now to the UN?

MS. PSAKI: We were in the process of that. I believe it’s likely been completed. I can check on that level of specificity.

QUESTION: All right. And presumably, this is a big enough facility so that all the cars that were in the convoy – all the vehicles are there and they’re safe.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: And the UN has confirmed that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the last thing on Yemen. Have you decided or found a protecting power yet?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update on that. I will talk to our team and see if there is one.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Yemen?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So did the State Department ask for military air clearance into Yemen, and was it denied? Did the State Department ask for seaport clearance, and was it denied?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into specifics of our planning or the movement of our personnel, for obviously reasons. This is something we’ve had to do in places around the world, unfortunately. We often have a range of options and we go with what we think the best option is. Obviously, we had the help of several governments in this case. And as has already been noted, we successfully moved our personnel out, and I think that’s what everybody should be focused on.

QUESTION: And the last one was --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- you said the plan was in place for weeks, but the emails show only days before the evacuation the plan was to use commercial air.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think to be clear, I don’t think it should come as any surprise that only a handful of people on likely a classified network and in classified conversations would be discussing something as sensitive as the movement of personnel. We also had been reducing our personnel there for several weeks. So I will leave it at that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s go to Abby in the back. Go ahead.

QUESTION: This is – sorry. The University of Massachusetts said that they are reversing their original decision to not allow Iranian nationals studying engineering and science into their program, citing discussions with the State Department. Can you talk a little bit about what was discussed or what was conveyed to them regarding the policy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we had a conversation with UMass-Amherst about their decision and also conveyed that U.S. law does not prohibit qualified Iranian nationals coming to the United States for education in science and engineering. We also would offer to provide the necessary guidance for any school that has questions about this or wants to have discussions about the implementation of relevant laws.

QUESTION: As a follow-up, one of the things that they cite is that the Department of Homeland Security was denying re-entry back in to the United States, and that was one of the reason for some of these Iranian nationals – that was one of the reasons why they were implementing this policy. Is that anything that was discussed on your end or --

MS. PSAKI: I would certainly refer you to the Department of Homeland Security. I can just speak to what is required by law or by the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action.

QUESTION: Jen, a follow-up on this issue. Are you saying that the school’s original interpretation of this law was incorrect and this is what led to the reversal?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to UMass-Amherst for them to speak to their decision to reverse it.

QUESTION: Can I move to Libya, please?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Well, the UN, actually, and Libya. There’s a lot of activity in the United Nations today and the Security Council around a resolution being put forward by Egypt. I believe they’ve now submitted a resolution, which doesn’t make any mention of any kind of international military intervention but does ask for a lifting of the arms – of the UN embargo and on arms sales to Libya. Could you give us the Administration’s position on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have not yet reviewed the proposal. I expect once we do we’ll have more to say about it. As you know, there’s going to be a UN Security Council briefing on Libya this afternoon – I think around 3 o’clock. We continue to strongly support the efforts of the United Nations and Special Representative Bernardino to facilitate the formation of a national unity government. Obviously, we will look forward to participating and hearing from attendees at this hearing.

QUESTION: Would you have opposed – if they had gone ahead with the idea of asking for military intervention, would the United States have opposed that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that. Obviously, we would have looked at and we will look at whatever the proposals are and hear from the attendees speaking this afternoon.

QUESTION: Is it still the Administration’s position that outside interference in the form of airstrikes or any kind of military action in Libya is unnecessary – is a bad thing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you may have seen the P3+3 statement that was put out yesterday as well. Certainly, that remains our belief. We also, though, believe – and that has been our belief and our consistent position, and I spoke about this pretty extensively yesterday as it relates to the internal fighting that’s happening in Libya. We do believe a political solution, one that’s led by the UN, is the best path forward. We also believe that this horrific attack that happened against the Egyptian Copts over the course of the last several days is something that we understand the outcry from the Egyptians. And while we’re not going to confirm their military action, going after ISIL is a different entity than internal divisions or internal battles within Libya.

QUESTION: Okay. So going after ISIL is one thing, but an internal division, a revolt, is different?

MS. PSAKI: I think I spoke to this yesterday, Matt. I don’t have anything else to add.

QUESTION: I know. It’s just that, when you think back – so NATO is the only organization – is the only outside force that’s allowed to conduct military operations in Libya, and everyone else is – shouldn’t?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been a range of countries, as you know, who have signed off on – repeatedly, many times – on what they think the best path forward is given the internal divisions in Libya. That remains our belief. Obviously, the events of this weekend is something we’re also dealing with.

QUESTION: Right. I just – it just seems to be an area of inconsistency that you – that taking a military action in response to or because of an internal spat or internal divisions and fighting in Libya is wrong, and yet you yourselves did exactly that several years ago in Libya.

MS. PSAKI: This is our view on the best path forward, and not just the view of the United States but many other countries in the international community.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the video itself?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has the Administration reached any conclusions as far as analysis of the video? There are some linguists out there who are saying that the man speaking in the video speaks with a dialect that indicates he’s either from North America or has spent significant time here.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new analysis of the video to discuss.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Libya before we continue? Libya?

QUESTION: There was a letter or an article, I guess, obtained showing a ISIL propagandist citing that Libya would become the new ground in which they would attack Europe. So have you seen that? Is there any response to that?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen the letter. Obviously, we’re not – we’re familiar with threats from ISIL and terrorist organizations. I would say that we certainly take threats seriously. We have not done any – I talked about this a little bit yesterday in terms of the difference between the rhetoric and whether there’s an operational connection. I don’t have any new analysis on that today.

Go ahead. Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah. There are reports that United States finally approved the government and Congress to arm the Syrian moderate rebels starting in March.

MS. PSAKI: That whom? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: The Syrian rebels. The moderate --

MS. PSAKI: It’s long been approved.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay. So the training is going to start and the vetting and all of that stuff in March?

MS. PSAKI: And DOD has long said it would start in March, yes.

QUESTION: I mean, the question is, though, when they will start in March in – like in Jordan, will that include PYD fighters too?

MS. PSAKI: I would talk to DOD about the specifics of their train and equip program.

QUESTION: You don’t have any information available?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a DOD program, so they’re the appropriate entity.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Syria? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Turkey, sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Turkey’s ruling party is pushing through a legislation that will severely restrict freedom to protest and assembly, a so-called security bill. Do you have any comment about that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific comment on internal legislation. I think we’ve spoken in the past about our view and support for freedom of speech and freedom of assembly and freedom of the media, and that continues to be a value we have around the world, including in Turkey.

QUESTION: And one more question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: In Mexico on Friday, President Erdogan called 80 congressmen, U.S. congressmen, rental people.

MS. PSAKI: He called them, I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Eighty U.S. congressmen rental people.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Who sent a letter to Secretary Kerry early this month – earlier this month urging him to support press freedom in Turkey. Erdogan said, I quote, “Mr. Obama, why are you silent? Biden, why are you silent? Kerry, why are you silent? But you are waging an anti-Turkey campaign as they find 80 rental people and sending you a letter about Turkey.”

MS. PSAKI: I am not familiar with this letter. It sounds like it was sent to the White House, so I would refer you to them. I also don’t – look for more clarification on what exactly you just outlined.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Tunisia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the verdict against the perpetrator of the attack against your Embassy in December 2012? And do you have a clear picture of what happened that day?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I, unfortunately, have anything more on this, but it is something that I think we would definitely like to comment on. So let me work to get you something – and others as well – later this afternoon.

QUESTION: Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Iran? Sure.

QUESTION: Since you have a deal with Iran on negotiations going on, on the Iranian side there are more political activists, including the Kurdish activist, being executed and being imprisoned. The most recent one, Saman, and the Amnesty International was publishing something about his case, that he – the young guy, he was being prosecuted. Do you have anything on that, and specifically about Saman, that he’s been held in a prison in Iran for political activist activities?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything specific. I would say that, certainly, we have continued to raise issues related to human rights. They’re a state sponsor of terrorism. We have remaining concerns about Iran despite the fact that we are continuing our conversations with them through the P5+1 about how to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon because we think that’s in the best interests of the international community.

QUESTION: But with the most recent, like, concerns, like, you had about the Iranian – about the human rights violations in Iran, especially about the Kurdish activist who’s been held in the prison for political reasons. The most recent statement by State Department – anything?

MS. PSAKI: We have consistently voiced our concern about their human rights record, our ongoing and consistent concerns about violations of international human rights protocols, and I don’t think we have strayed from that.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Do you have – regarding Charles – Assistant Secretary Charles Rivkin’s trip to Miami this week, do you have any further information beyond what went out in the advisory earlier? Specifically, do you know if he’ll be talking about Cuba policy while he’s there?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t, but I’m sure we can connect you with our team and see if we can get you some more details on his trip.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Cuba?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The next round of negotiations are going to be here in the States. Are they going to be in the State Department itself?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, mm-hmm, on February 27th. And I expect we’ll have more specifics, like a media note, in the coming days if not sometime next week.

QUESTION: Is that – those are anticipated just to last just one day?

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

QUESTION: I have a couple --

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- very brief ones. One of the primary foreign policy objectives for the United States for several years now has been energy independence or diversification of energy supplies for Eastern and Central Europe, particularly weaning countries off of an – what you believe to be an overdependence on Russia. That was a prime goal of Secretary Kerry’s visit to Bulgaria, and not a secret either.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that was one issue discussed.

QUESTION: Well, it was a main goal. And I’m just wondering, given that and the fact that this is a region-wide push rather than just specific countries, if you have any comment about President Putin’s visit to Hungary which resulted in the completion of a pretty significant natural gas deal and a nuclear deal as well.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we, one, appreciate the strong and continuing cooperation of our European partners in implementing sanctions against Russia for its unacceptable violation of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity. Hungary, of course, has been an important member – part of the EU consensus on sanctions, including the EU formal announcement this week of new individuals and entities sanctioned for their role in violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We do expect – continue to encourage countries to diversify sources of supply as part of – as you referenced, as part of a robust energy security strategy, and we continue to work with a range of countries, including in Europe, about energy diversification. That remains a priority. But again, this is not a violation of any sanctions; this is something that they have worked out through a bilateral channel.

QUESTION: Right. No, I don’t think anyone suggested that it was a violation of sanctions, but it would seem to be that you could put Hungary in the “lost” column here since they have increased their dependence on Russian energy rather than reduced it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, while they have also supported ongoing sanctions, including ones that were announced this week.

QUESTION: But wait, I’m trying to divorce this – I’m trying to – it’s a separate issue completely from Ukraine and the situation in Ukraine and the sanctions. Are you --

MS. PSAKI: We continue to work with countries to --

QUESTION: But are you --

MS. PSAKI: -- diversify their energy resources.

QUESTION: Are you disappointed that despite your attempts to push energy diversification in Central and Eastern Europe, the Hungarians have actually gone the other route and not only not reduced their dependency on Russian energy, but increased it with these deals?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it in those terms. It’s an effort and commitment that we are going to continue working on.

QUESTION: All right. And my last one is just – in Bahrain, there was an American teenager who was sentenced to several years in prison yesterday. I’m wondering if you have any comment about that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Tagi al-Maidan, right?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe last September --

QUESTION: Oh, no, this is someone different.

MS. PSAKI: Different?

QUESTION: This is Jafar, I believe his name --

MS. PSAKI: We are aware of reports that a U.S. citizen was detained in Bahrain. One of the most important functions of our embassies abroad is to protect and assist U.S. citizens traveling or residing abroad. Due to privacy considerations, there aren’t more details we can share at this point in time.

QUESTION: But his family says that there was no one from the embassy present in the court for this hearing or trial or sentencing or whatever it was. Can you at least – do you know if that’s true?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t speak to the case because we don’t have a Privacy Act waiver.

QUESTION: So you can’t say? Were there anyone – was there anyone from the embassy in Manama who happened to be strolling around a courthouse in the city or another city --

MS. PSAKI: I appreciate your efforts, but I --

QUESTION: -- yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: -- can’t go into more details.

QUESTION: Well, his family says that they’re disappointed that no one from the embassy went. Are they – do they have --

MS. PSAKI: I understand, and if we have a Privacy Act waiver --

QUESTION: Do they have reason --

MS. PSAKI: -- we can speak to it.

QUESTION: Do they have reason to be disappointed?

MS. PSAKI: I think --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- I have nothing more to offer here.

QUESTION: On the other case, did you have something to say about the other case?

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: I believe this is – he’s awaiting --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe there’s any new information. I just wanted to – it was another case.

Okay. Thank you, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:10 p.m.)

# # #

2015-02-18


Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - February 17, 2015


Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 17, 2015


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TRANSCRIPT:

1:11 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Thanks for joining us on this snow day, and we thought, as we’ve done in the past, we would do a phone briefing so we can try to address as many questions as possible, and tomorrow we’ll be back at the podium. I don’t have anything at the top, so why don’t we go to our first question?

OPERATOR: Thank you. And ladies and gentlemen, if you do wish to ask a question, you may queue up at this time by pressing * 1. Again, for any questions, please queue up by pressing * 1. Please allow just a few moments as questioners queue up.

This question will come from Nicole Gaouette with Bloomberg News. Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Nicole.

QUESTION: Hi, Jen. Apologies for kid sounds in the background and thank you for doing the call.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask if you guys had any comment or reaction to the beheadings in Libya of Coptic Christians.

MS. PSAKI: Well, you may have seen, Nicole, we put out a statement, as did the White House, over the weekend. So I would certainly point you to that. Clearly, there are a number of foreign ministers and officials coming here later this week for the CVE summit, and certainly we expect, given these recent events, that this will be one of many issues discussed while we’re there. But I would point you to the statements we put out this weekend.

QUESTION: All right. Can I follow up with another question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: This is about a report put out by a cyber security firm saying that – it implies that the NSC has been embedding surveillance tools in computers that it sends to other countries, most specifically Iran, Russia, Pakistan, China, Afghanistan. I know policy on commenting about these issues, but I’d like to see if you have anything to say.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of the recently released report that you’re referring to. We’re not going to comment publicly on any allegations that the report raises, nor discuss any details. I believe the NSA has put out a few comments, so I would certainly point you to comments from the intel community that they put out over the weekend.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Nicole.

OPERATOR: Thank you. And our next question will come from Matthew Lee with the Associated Press. Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Hello, Matthew.

QUESTION: Hello, Jen. How are you?

MS. PSAKI: Good.

QUESTION: Good. I’ve got a couple here.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) do them all – do you want me to do them all at once, or --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- one by one? On Egypt, have you seen President Sisi’s comments about wanting a UN intervention in Libya, and if you have, what do you think of them?

MS. PSAKI: We have seen his comments about wanting an intervention, I believe is how he referred to it. We don’t have anything specific. As you may have heard, the UN, I believe, is meeting in the next couple of days to discuss some of these issues. So we’ll certainly be in touch with our counterparts on that, but we don’t have anything specific at this point in time.

QUESTION: Okay. You don’t – in general, you don’t have a position on whether this is a good idea or a bad idea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re going to let the discussion play out. Obviously, we all have a concern about the threat of ISIL. I think that there’s no secret about that. There’ll be a discussion and, I’m sure, a range of proposals put out there, but I don’t think we’re going to get ahead of any process.

QUESTION: All right. On the CVE event, do you guys have a list of who’s coming yet?

MS. PSAKI: I believe we’re planning to put that out, Matt. I’m happy to take that and make sure that you guys all get a list. I know there was an extensive background briefing yesterday, but I don’t believe it listed the --

QUESTION: No, it didn’t.

MS. PSAKI: So why don’t we follow up on that and see if we can get you guys a more extensive list? It also may, of course, come from the White House, given it’s – the first two days are there. So we’ll check with them and see what we can get out and around to everyone.

QUESTION: Okay. Then on Ukraine, I know there’s a Security Council meeting later today, so I am not sure you are going to want to – or have anything new to say about the situation there, particularly in Debaltseve. But if you do have something that Ambassador Power isn’t going to say, could you slide it to us?

MS. PSAKI: On Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: About – well, I mean, I can reiterate – as you may have seen over the weekend, we put out a statement about our grave concern about the deteriorating situation in and around Debaltseve and eastern Ukraine. We’ve seen the OSCE special monitoring mission confirm that attacks continue in this area, as well as other locations, including around Luhansk and Donetsk. We also understand that the OSCE special monitoring mission has been refused access to Debaltseve by the Russia-backed separatists while they have ratchet up the intensity of their attacks on the city. And we’ve also seen reports, as I’m sure you have as well, that the leaders of Russia, Germany, and Ukraine agreed on measures to allow the OSCE to monitor the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, including in the city of Debaltseve, but that has not, of course, yet affected the separatists’ willingness to abide by that. And I’m sure Ambassador Power, as you mentioned, will have more to say, but that’s the picture of where things stand.

QUESTION: Okay. Have you seen (inaudible) literally just come out within the last 20 minutes, the statement from Senators McCain and Graham on Ukraine, which opens with the sentence: “The Chancellor of Germany and the President of France, with the support of the President of the United States, are legitimizing the dismemberment of a sovereign nation in Europe for the first time in seven decades. It is inexcusable.” And then it goes on. Is that what’s going on here? Is the United States, along with Germany and France, legitimizing the dismemberment of a sovereign nation in Europe?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen their statement, and I’m happy to take a look at that, Matt, but I can absolutely assure you that the Secretary, the President, every member of our national security team remains committed to the exact opposite, which is respecting – helping Ukraine and ensuring that their sovereignty, their territorial integrity are respected. We certainly believe that a diplomatic approach and a political approach is the right approach here, but the same options that were on the table a week ago or two weeks ago remain on the table. And so we’ll continue to have internal discussions as we’ve been having about the appropriate assistance.

QUESTION: Interestingly, the second paragraph of their statement says that – says what you just said, that “Western leaders say there is no military solution to the conflict in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin clearly doesn’t think so.” Is that – do you believe that President Putin – is it the Administration’s assessment that President Putin agrees that there is no military solution to the Ukraine conflict and that he wants a diplomatic solution?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I certainly am not in the business of explaining what President Putin thinks or means. I think our belief here in the Administration – and I would be surprised if others disagree – is that getting into a proxy war with Russia is not anything that’s in the interest of Ukraine or the interest – in the interest of the international community. And certainly, as we weigh options, we weigh that as one of the factors.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, can I tell you one more thing, because I didn’t – I was not as specific as I meant to be? The UN Security Council announced there will be a meeting on Libya tomorrow, so we expect, certainly, they’ll discuss a range of options then.

QUESTION: I mean, my – okay, thanks. But in terms of – the Administration, though, believes – since you continue to say that there’s no military solution, you continue to believe that the Russians believe that too?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they signed off, as you know, Matt, on not one but the Minsk agreement and then the implementation of the Minsk agreement, which would --

QUESTION: Right, but you’re accusing them of violating not just this latest Minsk agreement but also the September Minsk agreement (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Correct. And in our view, they’re all connected – that this agreement is the implementation of the September agreement.

QUESTION: All right. So you’re still hopeful that it will work. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly continue to believe that a diplomatic approach and an approach that has Russia and the Russian-backed separatists abiding by the commitments they’ve made is the best approach forward.

QUESTION: All right. Two more real brief ones.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: This delegation in Havana today, Senator Warner said that talks will resume – the normalization talks are – will resume next week. Do you have dates for that? Is that – first of all, is that correct? And second of all, do you have the dates?

MS. PSAKI: I do. We’ll have a more extensive media note, I expect, in the coming days, but I can confirm that the talks will be held on the 27th here at the State Department, the 27th of February.

QUESTION: Okay. And last one real quick: Do you have any reaction or thoughts about the Israeli supreme court’s ruling in the Corrie case, the Rachel Corrie case – they’re throwing out the lawsuit?

MS. PSAKI: Let me – I don’t believe I have anything new on that, Matt, though I know – did that happen just today?

QUESTION: I believe it happened yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Yesterday. Let me check with our team on that and I’m sure we can get something around on it. We’ve obviously spoken to that case a number of times, so we’ll get you something updated.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, Matt.

Okay, we’re ready for the next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you very much. Our next question will come from Arshad Mohammed with Reuters. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, just to follow up on two things.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: One, on Ukraine: Is the – given that – well, do you take a position on whether the ceasefire has been respected or has not been respected, given the continuing fighting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, we’ve seen reports – and many reports, I should say – that fighting in Ukraine’s east continues but the quantity and intensity of attacks has decreased, with the dramatic exception being Debaltseve. So we’ve also seen some reports of some fighting outside the strategic coastal city of Mariupol. So our view continues to be that Russian separatists, in fact, cannot pick and choose in which areas they want to respect the ceasefire, and the February 12th implementation package agreed to in Minsk calls for a general ceasefire in all areas. The separatists’ offensive underway in Debaltseve is a flagrant breach of the ceasefire, but there remains an opportunity to abide by the ceasefire, to respect it in all areas of Ukraine, and that’s certainly what was agreed to last week as well as in September.

QUESTION: So notwithstanding what you yourself describe as the flagrant breach of the ceasefire around Debaltseve, you feel that you still need to give this diplomatic process time to play out, even though there’s still fighting?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. That – yes, that’s correct.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you – given the continued fighting, are you any closer to imposing additional sanctions on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I have nothing to announce right now, but the United States and our EU partners and allies continue to coordinate closely on sanctions. We welcome the EU’s formal announcement of new individuals and entities sanctioned for their role in violating Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. And again, we’ll continue to coordinate closely, but I have nothing to predict or outline for you today.

QUESTION: Okay, and on Egypt and Libya --

MS. PSAKI: Yep.

QUESTION: -- was it a good idea for the Egyptian Government to unilaterally carry out airstrikes following the killing of the 21 Egyptian Christians?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, as you know, but I have to note it, we certainly don’t confirm military action on behalf of other countries. I will say, broadly speaking, obviously ISIL’s – obviously, we’ve seen the reports from the weekend. We put out extensive comments on them. We certainly respect the right of countries to make their own decisions about their own self-defense and defense of their own country. As we noted in a readout this weekend, the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Shoukry and offered his condolences, and he indicated in the call that he would be discussing a response with his military, and that was the call from over this weekend.

QUESTION: When you say “he indicated,” you mean Foreign Minister Shoukry?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, that’s right, yes.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) President Sisi would be discussing it with his military?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that Egypt, the Egyptian Government would be, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. So we should take from that that you really don’t fundamentally object to another country bombing a third country after an incident like this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, to be clear – and since you gave me the opportunity, as you know, we continue to believe that in Libya the best path forward is a political process, one that’s being led by the UN. And as you know, that is the process that’s trying to work through the disagreements between different parties and entities on the ground. But I think, broadly speaking, without confirming any action, obviously threats from ISIL or countries’ desires to defend themselves is different than that.

QUESTION: And then one more on Argentina.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: As I believe you know, the Argentine foreign minister has written to Secretary Kerry. The letter seems to have two components to it. One is what they say is a reiteration of their request that the United States take up the issue of the 1994 bombing in bilateral talks with Iran. The second part of the letter seems to suggest that it’s somebody else’s responsibility to figure out what happened in that bombing, which remains unsolved all these years later.

What is your response to the letter? Do you have any intention of bringing up that bombing in your bilateral nuclear talks with the Iranians? And do you concur with what seems to be the implication of the letter, that it’s the United States or somebody else’s responsibility to discover what happened in Argentina all those years ago?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that for over 20 years the United States and the international community have worked with the Government of Argentina as well as victims of the bombing and their families in search for justice. And the special prosecutor staff must not stop the pursuit of those responsible for this brutal terrorist attack. This is an ongoing investigation, naturally, as you know, led by the government on the ground, so we’re not going to comment on other specifics. But clearly, we have in the past contributed where we can information and that will continue.

As it relates to the Iran negotiations, the Iran negotiations remain focused on the nuclear issue. That will continue.

QUESTION: So with – but “focused” does not mean that you would exclude the possibility of raising other issues, as you have done in the case of ISIL and Iraq last summer. So the – what I’m trying to get at is not where the focus is. Obviously, the focus of the nuclear negotiations is the nuclear issue. The question is whether you will accept, reject, or consider the possibility of taking up Argentina’s request that you raise the bombing with the Iranians in those talks. Will --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any plans to do that, Arshad.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you. Let’s move on to the next question.

OPERATOR: Thank you. That will come from Margaret Brennan with CBS News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you. Jen, two topics. The first on Ukraine. I’m wondering how confident the U.S. is now that we are, indeed, seeing the new column of Russian military equipment move towards Debaltseve. In the statement that your office put out yesterday, it said that the U.S. is monitoring reports. Do you have any more confidence in what’s happening on the ground, or conviction, I should say? And has Secretary Kerry spoken to his counterpart or anyone in the Ukrainian Government in the last 24 hours?

Same question in terms of conversations with the Libyans. Has Secretary Kerry spoken to anyone in the Libyan Government?

MS. PSAKI: He – I don't have any Libyan calls to read out for you. As you know, the Secretary spoke over the weekend with Foreign Minister Lavrov. He also spoke with Ukrainian President Poroshenko on Monday about the ongoing efforts to encourage Russia and the Russian-backed separatists to abide by the ceasefire and the agreements of both Minsk and last week. I don't have new information. We are certainly closely monitoring reports of a new column of Russian military equipment moving towards Debaltseve but don’t have any new information beyond what we put out this weekend.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I think – unless Margaret has another, I think we’re ready to move on. Margaret, are you good? Or you want to – are you --

QUESTION: Yeah, no. Any plans to release any more images of what you are seeing on the ground, like you did over the weekend?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are always constantly looking at ways to share more information. I don't have anything to predict at this moment. If we have it, we’ll certainly release it.

QUESTION: Okay.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question in queue will come from Laura Koran with CNN. Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Hey, Laura.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. Hi. Thanks for doing this.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I also have a few different topics I wanted to get to --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- but I’ll go through them quickly. If I could just go back to these executions in Libya.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: This seems to be another indication that ISIS is extending outside of Iraq and Syria. This is something we’ve seen for a while. I just wanted to press again: Is this something that the Administration is concerned about in terms of whether you would advocate for expanded coalition efforts outside of Iraq and Syria? Obviously, the new AUMF proposed language doesn’t limit geographically where those operations could be, so does this kind of prompt more discussions on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, one, it’s clear that there are ISIL-affiliated terrorists in Libya. That’s not new. But that’s something, obviously, the tragic events of the last several days over the – and what happened to the Egyptian Copts – it certainly brings to light and brings to the surface that fact. We’re still assessing the extent of operational and tactical linkages to ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and that is not something we have any new assessment on.

In terms of military action, the President has authorized U.S. military action against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. As you noted, AUMF – the proposed AUMF does not include a geographic limitation, because we believe it would be a mistake to advertise to ISIL that there are safe havens for them outside of Iraq and Syria by limiting the proposed AUMF to specific countries. However, there hasn’t been a decision made to expand it, and that is not something that I anticipate at this moment.

Obviously – and as you also note, so let me just expand it to coalition military activity – that is also focused solely in Iraq and Syria. Obviously, military action is taken by individual countries, and certainly, we’d refer you to them, as I mentioned earlier. But the United States has not made a decision to expand beyond Iraq and Syria.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. And if I could switch gears rather dramatically, North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The DPRK has asked, according to reports, the State Department to cancel a private conference at CSIS on human rights issues in North Korea, saying that they are not able to attend and yadda, yadda, yadda. That went forward today. Can you confirm that they, in fact, made this request to the State Department? And do you have any reaction to that request?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this was a privately organized event by the – by CSIS. It wasn’t something that the State Department organized, so certainly, they would be the ones to speak to it. I think, broadly speaking, the only request that would be made to us would be – as it relates to a private event would be related to the need for diplomats to travel outside of New York. That would require permission from Washington. We don’t speak to those, as a matter of policy. But obviously, this was a private event, so decisions about who they would invite, how they would go about the event, is really their decision.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. And then one last one.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I’m sure you saw the reports over the weekend that the Administration is frustrated with the Israeli Government over concern that there are leaks about the Iran talks coming from there. Can you extend – is that a concern that you’re hearing in the State Department, and is this something that’s causing you to consider – reconsider how you approach conversations with your Israeli counterparts?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first I think it’s important for everyone to know that conversations continue with Israel on the Iran nuclear negotiations. And just a couple of examples: Under Secretary Sherman met with Israeli NSA Cohen and the Minister for Intelligence and Strategic Planning Steinitz in Munich, and she’ll also see NSA Cohen again this week. And the Iran negotiations were obviously the main topic of negotiations. As you know, Secretary Kerry regularly speaks to the prime minister about this issue, as well as many others. And as our NSC colleagues have noted, NSA – National Security Advisor Rice maintains regular contact with her Israeli counterpart, National Security Advisor Cohen, on the full range of issues, including, of course, this issue – so we’re – with this issue.

So of course, we’re continuing our frequent and routine contact at various professional levels within the intelligence, military, and diplomatic spheres. And reports that that has been cut off or we are no longer consulting are simply inaccurate. I think if anyone knew who leaked information around – that appeared publicly, I think we’d all – that would be great, but that’s a never-ending question that nobody has an answer to as it relates to many topics. But as it relates to our relationship with Israel, our consultations on Iran are ongoing at many levels and many, many high levels, and reports over the weekend are just inaccurate.

QUESTION: Great. Thanks so much.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. The next question in queue will come from Justin Fishel with ABC News.

MS. PSAKI: Hey, Justin.

QUESTION: Hey, Jen. Laura got to my first question, which was just sort of assessing the presence of ISIS in Libya. It sounds like that doesn’t – that’s not a region you’re willing to expand to at this point in terms of airstrikes. Is – are you able to provide any battle damage assessment based on the Egypt strikes, considering it is in your interest to defeat and destroy ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: I am not and I’m still not in a position to confirm the actions of another government.

QUESTION: So if a tree falls in the woods and you’re not there to hear it, does it make a sound?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know if that’s the right analogy, but okay. (Laughter.) Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, so can you tell us anything about this – and forgive me if you already previewed this --

MS. PSAKI: That’s okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- the State Department effort to combat the ISIS propaganda machine – what should we expect to come out of these conferences this week?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there was a pretty extensive backgrounder over – that just happened yesterday, and so I’d certainly point anyone to that. But I would touch – and let me touch on a couple of components.

As many of you know and the White House has already previewed, the first two days are focused on the domestic agenda. The agenda on Wednesday is domestic efforts at the White House. So each of – and cities that are participating – there’s been long been a partner program – will have an opportunity to do a presentation on what they’ve learned to date. But it’s going to be broader than that. It’s not just countries. It’s NGOs. It’s a range of entities that have a role in this important effort.

So the focus of these discussions over the next couple of days will be to explore ways to counter violent extremism by identifying and addressing the conditions that can lead individuals to commit violent actions, as well as ways to prevent and intervene where appropriate. As you know, the final day, the 19th, will take place at the State Department, and the Secretary will be participating, and the President will also be delivering remarks that day. And there’ll also be a meeting to talk about the threat of foreign fighters – that will happen tomorrow – that the Secretary will also be participating in.

So we have a range of different activities that are happening. I think this is – our view on this summit is that this is an opportunity to talk about the path forward and it’s really, hopefully a catalyst for that. We all agree that this is one of the biggest challenges we’re facing – countering violent extremism around the world. That’s probably one of the reasons we have such a strong response from countries and entities who are participating. And this is an opportunity to not just share best practices but talk about where we go from here. So there’s, as I mentioned, partly a domestic focus but also an international focus that we’ll host here on Thursday.

QUESTION: What about making videos?

MS. PSAKI: Ah, okay. Sorry, I --

QUESTION: ISIS is basically making videos.

MS. PSAKI: -- so much to talk about, Justin. Well --

QUESTION: But – and you may have seen – and you probably saw the French video, which was sort of the most – people see that as the most counterweight to the ISIS videos, because it did depict violence, but on the other side of things, like what happens when you join ISIS, this is – this could be your fate. Do you see sort of stepping up the rhetoric in that way?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s not just about stepping up the rhetoric. The challenge we’re up against, which I think many of you are familiar with, is that there are 90,000 pro-ISIL tweets or other social media responses every day. So we’re definitely beaten by volume, but we don’t believe that ISIL is an invincible force on social media. So what we’re working on now is aggregating and curating and amplifying existing content, so that means utilizing the 300-plus State Department social media accounts run by embassies, consulates, and individuals. It means also coordinating that with the social media accounts of other government agencies. It means expanding and giving more tools to the CSCC. It means determining what the best way to address this is moving forward.

We have a new head of CSCC who will be leading this effort to continue to improve our coordination and make sure we’re approaching this in the smartest, most strategic way. And as you mentioned, there are obviously best practices that we can learn from other countries. And part of this is not only sharing that but also determining who the right voices are. And we certainly are not under the illusion that the United States is the best voice in many of these cases.

There’ll also be – as it relates to the CVE summit, there’ll also be a session that the Secretary will be participating on that focuses on weakening the legitimacy and the resonance of the brand of violent extremism, so that’s going to include a panel on strategic communications and social media; it will include a discussion of how nonviolent religious issues and education can be elevated as a matter of international and local-level concern. And as I mentioned, it will look at best practices.

So this is an issue that we obviously take quite seriously and we work with many countries around the world to address – and entities – and we’re working to make sure that the federal government is as coordinated and efficient and strategic as possible.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, Justin.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question in queue will come from Barbara Usher with the BBC. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. I have two questions just clarifying your answers on Libya, Jen. First of all, previously when you’ve been asked about reported airstrikes in Libya carried out by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, you said clearly that outside intervention is not helpful, which is not something you said on this reported Egyptian strike now. So has the position changed?

MS. PSAKI: I think I answered that earlier, Barbara, that question.

QUESTION: So can you just clarify again, please?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. What I said was: While I’m not going to confirm the outside military action of another country, we’ve long said that the best path forward for Libya is for a political process led by the UN. As you know, there’s a great deal of internal political and strife among parties in Libya, and that is why we think that effort and no intervention is the right approach there. But I don’t think anyone would put that in the same category as threats the government is feeling or a country is feeling against their own security interests, so – as it relates to ISIL. We see that as a different entity.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. And then just with regard to – you said that you were still assessing the extent of operational and tactical linkages between ISIS and its affiliates – the stated affiliate in Libya.

MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: The analysis of the video put out about the Christian killings was that it was the most clearest sign or evidence of ISIS HQ involvement so far, given the content of it and the sophistication of the style. Is that being something – is that something that’s being looked at in terms of a clear linkage between ISIS in Syria and Iraq and ISIS in Libya?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Barbara, as I mentioned a little bit earlier, it’s clear and it has been clear, even before this horrific incident, that there are ISIL-affiliated terrorists in Libya. But that is different from whether there are operational and tactical linkages as it --

QUESTION: Yeah, but this would be an example of a tactical and operational linkage, wouldn’t it, if ISIS in Syria and Iraq is putting out a video on behalf of something happening in Libya.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Barbara, obviously there are a range of officials and entities in the United States Government that does assessments. We’re not talking about propaganda; we’re talking about operational linkages, which is different. So my – our assessment is as I outlined it before.

QUESTION: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Rosalind Jordan with Al Jazeera English. Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Roz.

OPERATOR: Okay, Ms. Jordan, your line is open. Please proceed with your question. Okay, we’re getting no response. We’ll move along to the next question. That will be from Felicia Schwartz with The Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Felicia.

QUESTION: Quick question for you. Federica Mogherini tweeted that she would meet with Kerry and Choukry and others on Thursday about Libya. Is that a sideline meeting? Do you have any more information about it?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen that tweet, and we’re looking into it. Obviously, the schedule is still coming together for later this week, but I don’t have any details or plans for a Libya side meeting at this point to announce.

QUESTION: Okay, thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

OPERATOR: Thank you. The next question will be from Lalit Jah with PTI. Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Lalit.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you for doing this. Two questions on south Asia.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: What’s your take on the agreement which has been signed between India and Sri Lanka on (inaudible) nuclear deal?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. One second, Lalit. Well, we are aware of the announcement. We welcome regional cooperation on nuclear energy that is consistent with IAEA safeguards and other international standards and practices. Beyond that, I don’t have additional details to readout. I’d certainly refer you to those countries for additional information on the agreement.

QUESTION: I have also one question on the business of – visit by the new Pakistani army chief – ISI chief to Kabul today.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: How do you see that development there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve long said that we welcome the prospect that we bring deepening cooperation (inaudible) Afghanistan, Pakistan. We know that obviously there’s a one-day meeting, as you referenced today, to discuss security cooperation, so certainly we think that falls into the category of efforts to deepen cooperation, which we would support.

QUESTION: I have one more.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Since you haven’t spoken to this in the past about (inaudible), have you seen the speech given by the Prime Minister Modi in Delhi today on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen the speech; we can take a look at it. But did you have a specific question about it or anything that you wanted to ask about?

QUESTION: No. He spoke about the latest spate of intolerance in general. But what’s the U.S. view on that – on this speech?

MS. PSAKI: Say that one more time? He spoke about which piece?

QUESTION: He spoke about religious freedom and religious intolerance in India and how the government is committed to it. Since U.S. – you haven’t spoken from the podium about it, (inaudible) about minorities in India. So how do you see his speech?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I haven’t taken a look at the speech. I can say broadly that, certainly, religious tolerance and freedom is something that we support around the world, including in India. And as you know, human rights issues are always a topic of conversation when we meet with counterparts and leaders around the world.

QUESTION: If you can have a look at it and if you have anything to say (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Sure, we’re happy to do that, Lalit.

QUESTION: Thank you so much.

MS. PSAKI: Sure thing.

OPERATOR: Thank you. We do have a follow-up in queue from Matthew Lee.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

OPERATOR: Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jen. Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just wanted to – can you hear me?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: I just wanted to – in response to these repeated questions about the Egyptian – alleged Egyptian bombings in Libya, you said you’re not going to confirm outside military action by a foreign country. Is this is a Libya-specific rule? Because it seems like for the past almost year you’ve been almost daily talking about Russian Government attacks in Ukraine – or at least connections to. I can remember specific examples when you have confirmed foreign military action in third countries. Is this just a Libya thing?

MS. PSAKI: I know you are a stickler for these sorts of things, Matt. I’m not going to confirm reports of actions of the government of Egypt in Libya.

QUESTION: Okay. But the Pentagon has been talking about the actions of foreign governments like the UAE air force and the Jordanians, and that kind of thing, in Syria and (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Correct, which are coordinated with the United States as part of a coalition.

QUESTION: Okay. So if it’s not coordinated then you don’t talk about it?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to give you a hard and fast rule here. I think the Government of Egypt and others have spoken to this, so I don’t think you need confirmation from us.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. We do have a follow-up as well from Rosalind Jordan. Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Roz.

QUESTION: Hey, Jen, can you hear me?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Yep, I can hear you.

QUESTION: Hi. Okay. Let’s talk about ISIL and Syrian rebels. Turkish media is reporting that apparently the U.S. and Turkey have reached an agreement on training Syrian rebels, upwards of 2,000 members in the province of Kirsehir. I’m not sure if I’m saying that right. That the training will start in March, and that the formal deal will start – will be signed in Turkey in the next two or three days. Can you confirm these reports?

MS. PSAKI: I can confirm that we have reached an agreement in principle with Turkey on training and equipping the Syrian opposition groups. As we have announced before, Turkey has agreed to be one of the regional hosts for the train and equip program for moderate Syrian opposition forces. We expect to conclude and sign the agreement with Turkey soon. In terms of the reported details, I expect the Department of Defense will have more specifics on those.

QUESTION: Are you able to say, Jen, whether this means that the vetting process for the Syrian rebels has been completed in order to start this training?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would – as the Department of Defense has mentioned, they certainly expect that to start in March, which is very soon, as you know. But I wouldn’t look at them as being a requirement for the other. We’ve long been in a discussion with Turkey about being a – playing a role in the train and equip program, as some other countries are doing. But when you follow up with the Department of Defense, I would ask them that question as well.

QUESTION: What about the longstanding concerns by Turkey that by focusing the training simply on trying to defeat ISIL fighters inside Syria that this is not dealing with what Turkey considers the bigger problem, which is the continued rule of Bashar al-Assad? Is the U.S. still engaging with Prime Minister Davutoglu and President Erdogan on that question?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, and we believe, as you know, and we’ve long believed, that there’s no place for Assad in a future Syria. But we continue to believe that the best way to resolve the challenges there is through a political solution. We also fully expect, as we’ve said in the past, that the moderate – members of the moderate opposition who are being trained by the train and equip program, who will be trained by the train and equip program. Obviously, it’s focused on ISIL, but we certainly expect them to use their training and their equipment also to continue the fight against the regime.

QUESTION: Given that the Turkish Government is prepared to have U.S. forces on their soil working with the Turkish military in the training, what does this say about the role of Turkey in the fight against ISIL? Does the U.S. feel that Turkey is finally picking up its share of the load in the fight against ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, we’ve long believed that Turkey is and has been an important partner in the anti-ISIL coalition. They have been a partner not just in – as it relates to military components, like the train and equip program, but also in the other components of the coalition, whether it’s delegitimizing ISIL or going after foreign fighters, going after their financing. So they’ve long been an important partner, and certainly this is a component we’ve been in a discussion with the Government of Turkey about for some time now.

QUESTION: Is there – and this is my final question – is there any sort of compensation or assistance that the U.S. is providing to Turkey in exchange for finally agreeing to help with the training program of the rebels?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of that being part of a discussion. As you know, we provide assistance on refugees and a range of needs that Turkey has. But I would certainly point you to the Department of Defense for more specifics of – about this program and the agreement that, as I said, we expect to sign soon.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks so much.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, Roz.

OPERATOR: Thank you. The next question is from Lisa Janssen with Fox News. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hey there. Actually, Jen, it’s Ed Henry. I work with Lisa. How are you?

MS. PSAKI: Oh. I was like, this doesn’t sound like a Lisa.

QUESTION: I know. How are you?

MS. PSAKI: Good. How are you?

QUESTION: Good. A couple quick questions.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: One, have you seen this BBC report suggesting – they’re quoting a local police chief saying that ISIS has now burned to death 45 people in western Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: I have seen the report. The last I talked to our team, Ed, we did not have confirmation of that independently from here.

QUESTION: Got it. Second, the Pope has said that the 21 – that you’ve been talking about the 21 Christians who were killed in Libya, the 21 Christian Egyptians – died as martyrs because of their faith. Does the Administration agree with that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think certainly – I’m not going to put new labels or certainly argue with comments of the Pope, Ed, but I would say that we have spoken in the past about our concerns about the targeting of religious groups. And we’ve seen, unfortunately, this happen in Iraq and other places. ISIL has gone after not just individuals for religious affiliation, but for being a woman, for being – for even people with disabilities. And so we’ve seen the barbarity of their tactics. But beyond that, obviously, this is simply a horrific attack of terrorism and one that we came out this weekend and joined many countries in the world in condemning.

QUESTION: Great. Last one: Marie Harf, your colleague, last night I think it was, was on MSNBC saying that we can’t win this war by killing them – when she was talking about ISIS – we cannot kill our way out of this war; we need a longer-term, medium-long-term get after the root causes. She talked about finding jobs for people in these countries where they see no hope. What was she trying to say there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Ed, she – Marie, my colleague, was saying what we’ve said many times, which is this is not only a military solution. A military solution will not bring an end to ISIL. That’s why there are several components of our coalition. Yes, the military component is important, and we’ve done thousands of strikes in Iraq and Syria. That’s continuing to pick up, as you know, and you’ve covered quite a bit. But we also need to delegitimize ISIL. If the ideology is out there and growing, we – ISIL will continue to grow and thrive. We need to cut off their financing, we need to prevent foreign fighters from moving.

And I – she was also talking about, in her interview, not just ISIL but the CVE summit – and the CVE summit that we’ll be hosting – and I know is happening at the White House over where you are right now – is broad; it’s not just about ISIL – that certainly is a part of it, but it’s about countering violent extremism and how to take on this threat over the long term. And obviously there are several components of that as – and the evidence of that is also all of the different breakout groups that are happening throughout the summit. But again, I think this is something we’ve talked about quite a bit, and the need to make sure we’re working with countries to address some of the root causes that have led to the ability to recruit.

QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. Appreciate your time.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Ed.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Our next question will come from Philip Ling with CTV Canadian. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Hi there.

QUESTION: From very cold Ottawa. And I know you guys had a lot of snow in Washington, too, so --

MS. PSAKI: We can compare.

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you so much for taking this, taking my call.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So the Kurdish Regional Government told us that images showing Kurdish offensive beheading captured ISIS militants are authentic. The instance took place in Kirkuk on January 30th, and the government have launched its own investigation on Kurdish forces beheading ISIS militants. Does the U.S. have any response to that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of that. Certainly, we’ll took a look at your report. Obviously, there’s a barbarity that ISIL has shown in their tactics around the world, and certainly we expect that our coalition forces or people who are supporting the anti-ISIL effort will not abide by those same tactics. But I don’t have any confirmation of that specific report.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. But on the – on that point with the anti-ISIS, anti-ISIL coalition, if this is true, that they are allegedly committing the same atrocities that are mirroring ISIS’s own tactics, does this point U.S. and Western allies in an uncomfortable position with the ISIS war continuing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we don’t have confirmation of it, so I’m not going to speculate on that. I think we do – obviously, we have a certain kind of standard of abiding by certain international protocols. We know that we’ve seen ISIL not just behead individuals, including American citizens, but go after groups targeting them for their gender, for their religious affiliations, for a range of tactics. And so the barbarity of that group certainly stands head and shoulders above what we’ve seen in some time.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Are you going to be helping the Kurdish Regional Government with their investigation or trying to confirm this yourself? Are you going to be working with that government?

MS. PSAKI: Typically these types of investigations are led by local authorities. I’m happy to check and see – I don’t – I wouldn’t anticipate a U.S. role.

QUESTION: Okay. And what measures are or can the U.S. and other allies be doing to prevent such killings? Human Rights Watch on Sunday issued its own report saying that Shia militias are – have conducted kidnappings, torching of homes, mass execution of Sunni residents. So what measures can or are the U.S. doing to prevent such atrocities?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as it relates to Shia militias, we’re certainly deeply concerned by reports of human rights abuses by some of these volunteer militia forces. Before the human rights report, I mean, these – there were reports on the ground, and something that – it’s something that the Government of Iraq is investigating to determine the facts behind these claims. Officials in Washington and Baghdad have raised our concerns with senior officials from the Government of Iraq before regarding these abusive tactics. Such tactics promote fear and division to the detriment of Iraqi security and undermine the hard work by the prime minister to unify the Iraqi people. The prime minister has also stressed – Prime Minister Abadi has also repeatedly stressed that any abuses be investigated and that perpetrators be held accountable. Obviously, part of the objective and what part of his focus in his first year here – or it’s less than that, but we’re in the first year – has been on uniting forces under the Iraqi Security Forces and going – making sure that unregulated militias are kind of pulled back in. And so that’s something that there’s an ongoing effort. It obviously takes some time, but they’re investigating this and it’s something that we raise regularly.

QUESTION: Well, thank you, Jen. Really appreciate your help.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. Next in queue is Nike Ching with Voice of America. Please go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Hi there.

QUESTION: Yes. Hi (inaudible) Jen. Thanks so much for doing this.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I’m hoping – we are hoping the Chinese New Year of Goat will bring the – a new chapter to combating the violent extremism.

First question --

MS. PSAKI: We all hope.

QUESTION: Yes. (Laughter.) First question for you is: Deputy Secretary Blinken just traveled to Japan, China, and Korea. Could you please give us an update on his discussion with those countries on anti-terrorism?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you mentioned, he was there last week and he’s back now in the United States. I have not had an opportunity to discuss with him more about his trip. Obviously, he was there to discuss a range of regional issues, whether it’s our security and economic cooperation or our ongoing commitment to Asia and the future – and the relationship between the United States and Asia. It certainly speaks to how important we think that relationship is, given this was his first international trip as deputy secretary of state. And our Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman was also just in Asia. But we’ve put out, I think, a couple of readouts about his trip while he was on the ground. I don’t have anything new to offer other than what we put out last week.

QUESTION: I did try to read those statements. I don’t recall much information about anti-terrorism. Could there be a readout on that?

MS. PSAKI: I am certainly happy to see if there’s any additional information we’re going to read out from his trip.

QUESTION: Right, now a follow-up. Do you know, on CVE tomorrow and Thursday, is there any delegations from China or from Asia Pacific region?

MS. PSAKI: I know that one of your journalist colleagues asked also about a list of attendees, so we will certainly follow up on that and see when we can make that available.

QUESTION: Now, on foreign fighters from Asia Pacific area, do you have a breakdown on those Asia Pacific foreign fighters, ethnicities and countries of origin?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a breakdown. I would point you to any individual country. Obviously, we have our own breakdowns of U.S., but I would expect any individual country would have their own breakdowns.

QUESTION: And what – so final question on CVE: So specifically, what is your goal to bring countries from Asia Pacific, including China, to contribute to combat the violent extremism? Are they all on the same page with the U.S.?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the goal of the entire summit is to explore ways to counter violent extremism by identifying and addressing the conditions that can lead individuals to commit violent actions, as well as look for ways to prevent and intervene where appropriate. This is a three-day summit. The first two days are domestically focused. The day at the State Department on Thursday is internationally focused. So there’ll be a range of issues discussed while we’re there, but that’s the overall focus of the summit.

QUESTION: Should we expect a joint communique after the Thursday ministerial --

MS. PSAKI: Don’t have anything to predict for you. I expect that this – their hope is that this is a catalyst for where we go from here and then the path forward.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

OPERATOR: Thank you. We do have a follow-up in queue from Laura Koran.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

OPERATOR: Please go ahead.

QUESTION: I just have one quick one. There were reports this morning that ISIS militants have kidnapped about 120 Iraqi youths from near the city of Tikrit. I was just wondering if you had anything on that, any concerns that that raises or if you’ve been able to confirm those reports?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of that, Laura, but we’re happy to look into that and take that and talk to our Iraq team about that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, let’s just do a couple more here. Go ahead.

OPERATOR: Thank you. The next question is from Bingru Wang with Hong Kong Phoenix TV. Please go ahead.

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you, Jen, but my question has been addressed, it’s on the summit.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, great. We’ll get around a list of attendees as well.

QUESTION: Yes, thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Sure thing.

OPERATOR: Thank you. At this time, there’s no additional questions in queue. Please continue.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Well, thank you, everybody, for joining us for this snow day phone briefing, and we’ll look forward to seeing you all in the briefing room tomorrow.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:05 p.m.)

DPB # 29

 

2015-02-17