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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: April 14, 2014


Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 14, 2014


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • FIFA World Cup Trophy Presentation
  • UKRAINE/RUSSIA
    • U.S. Effort for a Diplomatic Solution
    • U.S. Prepared to Impose Further Sanctions
    • U.S. Concerned About Conflicts in Eastern Ukraine
    • $1 Billion Loan Guarantee Agreement / Other Forms of Assistance
    • Focus on Economic and Diplomatic Efforts to Resolve Crisis
    • Ukraine Exercising Restraint
    • President Obama's Executive Order on Sanctions
    • CIA Director Traveled to Kyiv
    • Crimea / Forum to Cover a Range of Issues
    • NATO / Factsheet Focuses on the Truth
  • SYRIA/RUSSIA
    • Reports of Chemical Weapons Use
  • ISRAEL/RUSSIA/UKRAINE
    • Israel / UN Vote on Ukraine
  • MEPP
    • Meetings Continue
    • Special Envoy Indyk in Washington
  • ISRAEL
    • Arrests of American Citizen
    • Reports of Journalist Arrest
  • MEPP
    • Parties Engaged in Negotiations
  • SYRIA
    • U.S. Engaged with the Opposition / Focus on Political Solution
  • NIGERIA
    • U.S. Condemns Violent Attacks in Abuja and Borno State
  • IRAN
    • U.S. Aware of Iran's Complaint to UN / UN Representative Nomination / Visa
  • TURKEY
    • Concerns about Due Process and Justice
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Chelsea Manning Conviction
  • GUINEA-BISSAU
    • Elections
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Election Results
  • IRAQ
    • Removing Travel Restrictions for Political Parties
  • CUBA
    • USAID Program
  • JAPAN
    • Internal Affairs Minister Visit to Yasukuni Shrine
  • IRAQ
    • Removing Travel Restrictions for Political Parties


TRANSCRIPT:

1:02 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Hope everyone had a nice weekend with the beautiful weather.

I just have one item at the top. Today, the State Department celebrates the arrival of the FIFA World Cup trophy. This is its first stop in the United States on the global trophy tour, presented by Coca-Cola preceding the FIFA World Cup tournament in Brazil, which begins on June 12th. Before the trophy presentation here at the Department, over 50 athletes from local youth soccer organizations will participate in a soccer clinic with DC United players and former U.S. national team members Cobi Jones and Julie Foudy. Beyond their participation today, Jones and Foudy are also sports envoys for the Department. And in that capacity, they hold sports clinics for young people and their coaches and participate in community outreach efforts. And the Secretary, I know, will be stopping by and we’ll see what soccer skills he brings to the table.

QUESTION: Who did you say it was presented by?

MS. PSAKI: Coca-Cola. What did I say?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Preceding – preceding – presented by Coca-Cola preceding the FIFA World Cup tournament.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. Just curious. Can we go to Ukraine, please?

MS. PSAKI: We can.

QUESTION: So while many of us were enjoying the very nice weekend, it seems that you and the Russians were engaged in yet another round of name-calling and bickering over what’s going on in Ukraine, and I’ve got a couple specifics, but more broadly, first, is there any common ground here? Is there a point to having this meeting that’s being planned for later in the week? Or is it now, given the recriminations, given what we’ve been learning about what happened in the Black Sea over the weekend, is it just a waste of time – much like the Security Council meeting last night appeared to be?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly do not see it as a waste of time. We feel there should always be an opportunity and an opening for diplomacy. And our belief remains that there’s no military solution to the conflict in Ukraine. We remain engaged both on the phone, as well as later this week in person. And over the course of the weekend, you’re right, we did put out quite a bit of information, and we have a responsibility to provide the facts. And the best antidote to false information are facts, and so we’re trying to communicate to Ukrainians, to people around the world, about what the facts are in this case.

QUESTION: Do you believe that you have any common ground with Russia right now on this issue of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we will see, Matt. We have seen the Russians say they respect the sovereignty of Ukraine. We’ll see. We’ve seen them say they don’t want to escalate, or they want to de-escalate. That was in one of their readouts last week. We’ll see. Obviously, actions are more important than words here, but we still think there is a value --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- to sitting down at the table and discussing.

QUESTION: Okay, fair enough. But “we’ll see” – aren’t you already seeing?

MS. PSAKI: We are seeing, but Matt, it doesn’t mean it’s over or we give up our efforts --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- at a diplomatic solution here.

QUESTION: Okay. The Ukrainian president has suggested the – floated the idea of UN peacekeepers for the East. Is that something that the United States would be prepared to take to the council to have vetoed by the Russians?

MS. PSAKI: I have seen those reports; they just came out naturally, as you know, right before I came down here, so I haven’t had the chance to talk to our team yet – or they were sort of exploring what our thoughts are on that.

QUESTION: Can I --

QUESTION: Can we go back to the meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: As you are well aware, the Russians appear to have been laying down conditions for the meeting, notably that these separatists in eastern Ukraine – in eastern Ukraine be included. Is that remotely acceptable to the United States Government?

MS. PSAKI: No. This is a meeting that will be taking place at the foreign – at the level of foreign minister. That is true for Ukraine. It’s true for Russia. It’s true for the EU. It’s true for the United States. And we feel that the Government of Ukraine represents all of Ukraine.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that by adopting that position, you may be giving the Russians a pretext for calling off the meeting? Because they could say, “Well, we think the eastern Ukrainian separatists should be represented, and since they’re not, we’re not going to come?”

MS. PSAKI: Well, we understand that’s their view, but they’ve indicated a desire to participate in a diplomatic conversation, so it is important that they deliver on that promise.

QUESTION: And Samantha – Ambassador Power yesterday was again beating the drum on potential additional sanctions. The sanctions that you imposed on Friday – if I’m not mistaken I think all of the individuals who were sanctioned are already on EU – analogous EU designations.

MS. PSAKI: There was an overlap. I’m not sure if it was exactly everyone, but yes, there was certainly an overlap.

QUESTION: And the sanctioning of the gas company was interesting in that it would seem to put it off-limits to Gazprom. But where are you in the debate on whether to impose additional sanctions on Russian individuals or entities, and on whether to impose the sectoral sanctions that the Secretary discussed in his testimony last week?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have the tools and the flexibility to move forward with those sanctions should we choose to. And the President has been clear that depending on Russian behavior we’re prepared to impose further sanctions, including on individuals and entities in certain sectors of the Russian economy, such as financial services, energy, metals, and mining, engineering and defense. I don’t have anything to announce or predict for you today, but certainly there is an ongoing discussion about next steps within the Administration.

QUESTION: There’s a big difference, though, between sanctions on individuals within various sectors and sanctions on those sectors themselves.

MS. PSAKI: I said: “And entities in certain sectors.” And --

QUESTION: Right. But individuals and entities is kind of – I think, is kind of one thing whereas something else that would affect the ability of the entirety of Russia’s mining industry, for example, or the entirety of its financial services industry, is a different thing, which is what I had thought sectoral sanctions was about. Maybe I misunderstood, but it sounds like --

MS. PSAKI: Well, companies within sectors, yes. That is something we have the capability to do with our executive – the executive order the President signed just a few weeks ago.

QUESTION: But you’re not looking at sectors as a whole?

MS. PSAKI: Those are the next steps that we’re looking at, Arshad, at this point – the ones I outlined.

QUESTION: Jen, can I go back?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You just said that you’d seen statements out of Moscow saying that they wanted to de-escalate the situation as of last week. But I wondered how you reacted to the Kremlin today saying that President Putin has had a lot of requests to help or intervene in some form in eastern Ukraine. Do you believe that’s threatening or helpful or --

MS. PSAKI: We have, of course, seen those comments. We are – as we’ve said over the weekend, but it’s worth repeating, we’re very concerned about evidence of Russian support for a concerted, orchestrated campaign of incitement and sabotage to undermine and destabilize the Ukrainian state.

As you saw over the weekend with a lot of the documents or information we put out, and what UN Ambassador Samantha Power said, we feel very strongly that the pattern of activities bears striking similarities to the situation in Crimea, ahead of the illegal Russian occupation and purported annexation of that part of Ukraine. And the question to us is: What exactly – who are they referring to, what are they referring to? Because all evidence points to the likelihood that these are individuals with strong ties to the Russian Government who are causing these conflicts in eastern Ukraine.

QUESTION: Do such comments increase your concern that there could be some kind of invasion planned by the troops that are massing on the borders?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make a prediction of that. I know you’re not necessarily asking me to, but we are watching it closely, Jo. We are conveying very clearly that those steps would be completely unacceptable. We’ve been consistently doing that.

QUESTION: And I believe there was an instant over the weekend with the U.S. warship Donald Cook where there was a fighter that did some --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- low-altitude passes over this. Your colleagues at the Pentagon have already spoken to this, but they advise that it’s actually up to the State Department as to whether you’re going to formally lodge some complaint against Russia for a provocative and unprofessional act.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’ve seen the comments that my Department of Defense colleagues have put out. They’ve put out some specific details on what exactly happened here. I’d have to check with our team and see if there’s any plans for that. Not that I’m aware of, but --

QUESTION: Okay. Just one more part on the money, is while there was also – this morning the United States signed the --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- one billion loan guarantee. And I just wondered if you’d found out any of the other pieces of the aid that I was asking about last week.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. And part of the challenge here is that things keep changing, and so hence we keep updating. But I can walk through some of that. And just to confirm what Jo mentioned, today Secretary Lew and the Ukrainian finance minister signed a $1 billion loan guarantee agreement for Ukraine. The $1 billion loan guarantee that USAID will implement will help Ukraine access capital at reasonable rates and manage the transition to a prosperous democracy. But let me go through some of the specific assistance questions that you all had asked about.

So just a couple of updates here. We are providing many forms of assistance to meet Ukraine’s most pressing needs and to help it enact the reforms needed to make its IMF program a success. This includes helping Ukraine carry out crucial economic reforms. We’ve sent Treasury Department and USAID technical advisors to work with Ukraine’s national bank, finance ministry, and deposit guarantee fund. We’re also helping – as Margaret noted, I believe, last week, we had announced our desire to help unfreeze stolen assets and reduce corruption. We’ve sent a team of experts from the Treasury Department, Justice Department, and FBI to advise the Ukrainian Government on how to investigate and collect evidence needed to recover stolen assets located abroad. The United States and the United Kingdom will co-host a multilateral meeting April 29th and 30th to bring together Ukrainian officials and their counterparts from key financial center countries to coordinate on tracing stolen assets.

In addition, USAID and the State Department have also provided over $11.4 million in assistance to promote free, fair, and peaceful elections on May 25th. This will include support for domestic and international election observers, transparent and effective election administration, and voter education campaigns, among other activities.

And finally, on the security side, as you all know, we have longstanding military-to-military cooperation with Ukraine. Our ongoing FMF and international military and education programs have focused on supporting defense reforms, military professionalization, increasing the interoperability of Ukrainian forces, and expanding Ukraine’s deployable peacekeeping capabilities. We announced this, or DOD announced this, but on March 29th the United States delivered approximately 300,000 MRE rations to Ukraine. And we will venture to get out if there are additional updates to that later this afternoon.

QUESTION: One more on aid. Counselor Shannon is quoted in Berlin as saying that the Administration is considering arming Ukrainians. He said I can’t tell you what the decision will be on that, but that it’s an option. Does the fact that he aired this publicly suggest this is under any greater consideration now than it has been in the past?

MS. PSAKI: No, it does not. Our focus remains on the economic and – on our economic and diplomatic efforts, as evidenced by the – some of – the signing today and our efforts later this week. We don’t see a military solution to this crisis, and that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: And you’re – so you’re not – even though you’re thinking about it, you’re not particularly disposed to arm the Ukrainians?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed about our view or our consideration. I have nothing, of course, to announce, but obviously, they’ve made a range of requests. We have provided them with MREs, as I mentioned, and we’ll continue to consider those. But again, our focus is not on military assistance or a military solution.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you believe that it would be a good thing for the Ukrainian authorities to order their military to try to regain control of municipal buildings, other parts of their territory, that have been seized by whoever they’ve been seized by?

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, I didn’t understand your question. Do we believe it would be --

QUESTION: Is it a good idea for the Ukrainian authorities to order their military or other law enforcement forces to try to regain control of some of these buildings – police stations, et cetera – that have been seized by separatists?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we all, of course, saw the Ukrainian Government make some announcements this weekend and set a deadline which obviously has passed. We – they have shown first and foremost that their goal is to find a peaceful way forward. Certainly, they have the right to try to control challenging situations on the ground. They have the right to maintain in a peaceful way, as much as is possible, order in Ukraine. But again, time and time again, they have exhibited a remarkable level of restraint, and we’re continuing to encourage them to lead with that moving forward.

QUESTION: Sorry – to lead with restraint?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And sorry, one last one for me on this, please.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The stated purpose, if I understand it, of the now three rounds of sanctions, if you count Friday’s as the third, that the United States has imposed, have been – has been sort of two-fold; one, to make Russia pay a price for its actions, and two, to try to deter them from going further. The Russian response, as you yourselves described it over the weekend, was to completely brush aside your sanctions and to continue to support actions in eastern Ukraine that erode the government’s control of its territory and so on.

Given that, how can you not plan additional sanctions? What more do you need to see to impose additional sanctions, when even as you talk about negotiating with them, they continue, in your telling, their undermining of the Ukrainian state?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one of the reasons that the executive order the President signed was so broad and so flexible was to provide us with the ability to impose additional sanctions. So there are certainly conversations ongoing. As we noted a few minutes ago, there are many more individuals, many more sectoral sanctions that can be put in place should we choose to do that.

QUESTION: But no decisions yet?

MS. PSAKI: No decisions yet.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Jen, on – a bit of a follow there. On the message to Ukraine’s Government and to the military to show some restraint, was that something that the Secretary delivered in a conversation at all over the past few days with Ukraine’s leaders?

MS. PSAKI: He had – he actually spoke with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk today. I wasn’t able to get a readout; it just happened. But over – and on Friday, he also spoke with him. It’s not a message of conveying what they need to do. They are already doing this. They are already exhibiting a remarkable level of restraint, so it’s applauding them for that level of restraint, encouraging them to continue that moving forward. And certainly, that’s part of the discussion that often occurs when the Secretary speaks with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk.

QUESTION: It seems like the level of provocation, though, is being escalated by these separatists or whoever’s paying them or otherwise. So at what point will the U.S. message be one of understanding that you can’t just hold back here; you need to --

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, as I conveyed a few minutes ago, we understand, well, one, they have the right to control the situation and they have the right to maintain order, but I think we all want to see a peaceful outcome here and for all sides to deescalate. So that’s a message we’re conveying to all sides.

QUESTION: But their actions thus far on the security front have all been appropriate, in the U.S. view?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that is something we’ve seen across the board, that they have been remarkably restrained, and we’re continuing to encourage them to do so moving forward.

QUESTION: I have one question on the sanctions front.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it fair to understand that there’s a fair amount of broadening and sharpening of the existing sort of level of sanctions we’re in that can be done before we move up to sectoral sanctions, that there’s more room to tinker here?

MS. PSAKI: There are certainly more individuals. But again, I’m not going to outline when a decision hasn’t yet been made that far about how we would do it or what we would do because there are many options that we could undertake. So --

QUESTION: So on --

QUESTION: So it’s wrong to assume that the next round of sanctions would automatically be in that sectoral space. It could be a number of things.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t make any assumptions, given that hasn’t been decided internally at this point.

QUESTION: So Jen, consistent with your message that there is no military solution to this thing, are you impressing upon the president of the Ukraine, Turchynov, not to use force to sort of force these people out of these buildings?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, Said, I think I’ve answered this a few times, but we do feel that exercising restraint and having a peaceful outcome is what’s in the best interests of the people of Ukraine.

QUESTION: I guess my question is: Did you make this directly to him? Did anyone, whether the President or the Secretary of State, make that statement clearly to the president?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’ve already been exercising a remarkable level of restraint, and when the Secretary speaks – has spoken with the prime minister, he has thanked him for that and encouraged him to continue that moving forward.

QUESTION: So today – I don’t know if you saw Mr. Lavrov’s press conference, but he called the West’s hypocrisy as knowing no bounds, that on the one hand you called – you praised what was happening in Maidan, but on the other hand you are calling these people that took over the building thugs and so on, and not protestors. So --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think it’s pretty clear all evidence points to the connection of these individuals to Russia, so I think that answers you question.

QUESTION: Exactly what I wanted to ask you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: What kind of evidence do you have to substantiate your claims?

MS. PSAKI: I could go on and on, Said. We have talked about this last week.

QUESTION: Could you share some of it?

MS. PSAKI: We put out a range of documents yesterday. I would point you to all of that. And Ambassador Power also spoke to it.

QUESTION: Okay. And lastly, he also said that there was absolutely no Russian intelligence personnel, no forces inside of the Ukraine, and so on. So do you believe that the Russians’ foreign minister is actually lying?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I would point you to the fact/fiction document we put out yesterday that outlines a number of the claims and what the facts are on the ground. That may be useful.

QUESTION: So what he is saying is basically fiction?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to that.

Do – Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Minister Lavrov has asked for clarifications from the U.S. regarding the CIA director visit to Kyiv.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have you provided him with clarifications?

MS. PSAKI: I believe that the CIA has answered this, but let me just reiterate what they’ve said. We know that the CIA does not normally comment on the director’s travel. Given the extraordinary circumstances in this case and the false claims being leveled by the Russians at the CIA, however, we can confirm the director was in Kyiv this weekend as part of a trip to Europe. As you all know, senior-level visits of intelligence officials are a standard means of fostering a mutually beneficial security cooperation. That’s something we do with Russia, and certainly it’s not out of the norm we would do it with Ukraine.

There were some claims that Director Brennan encouraged Ukrainian authorities to conduct tactical operations inside Ukraine. Those are completely false. I believe that all has been conveyed, but those are the facts of the matter.

QUESTION: May I ask – these are really quick, boom, boom, boom.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Okay.

QUESTION: One, are you able to repeat what Ambassador Shannon said in Berlin today that arming the rebels is an option, which came in – his reply came in response to a question about the Secretary’s formerly good friend, Senator McCain, who basically went on a rampage again this weekend against the Administration and the Secretary himself, saying that they need to arm – the U.S. should arm the rebels? So are you able to repeat what Ambassador Shannon --

MS. PSAKI: Our position is as I laid it out earlier.

QUESTION: Is it an option?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re of course considering their request. But again, our focus is on economic and diplomatic means.

QUESTION: I’m looking for you to say the words, arming – or “shipping arms or selling arms or giving arms to Ukraine is an option.”

MS. PSAKI: That’s --

QUESTION: That you’re – that the Administration is considering.

MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all what our focus is, Matt. I’m not going to eliminate in the future forever, but at this time --

QUESTION: Okay. So it is an option.

MS. PSAKI: At this time, our focus is on economic and diplomatic efforts --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- to de-escalate the situation. It’s not at all on military incursions.

QUESTION: All right. As it relates to Crimea itself, in answer --

QUESTION: Military incursion or military arming?

MS. PSAKI: Both, both. Neither.

QUESTION: As it relates to Crimea, your answer a while ago to Jo, you said the “purported annexation of Crimea.” President Putin has today appointed a head of Crimea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: At what point or ever will the Administration concede that Crimea has become part of Russia?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t predict a point, Matt.

QUESTION: So as far as you know, never?

MS. PSAKI: I --

QUESTION: Crimea will always be part of Ukraine; it will never be part of Russia to the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Crimea is a part of Ukraine. I don’t foresee that changing, no.

QUESTION: On --

QUESTION: But it – you don’t argue, though, that for all intents and purposes, it is part of Russia right now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s how Russia treats it, but we don’t recognize that and neither does the majority of the international community.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on the meeting on the 17th?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: What is really expected to come out of the meeting? What are the points that you want to discuss?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of issues that we want to discuss: De-escalation, demobilization, support for elections and constitutional reform. This is a forum when the Ukrainians and the Russians will be at a table together for the first time since the – Foreign Minister Lavrov’s meeting with the Ukrainian foreign minister. So it’s an opportunity for dialogue and that’s why we’re holding the meeting.

QUESTION: Will that meeting be the kind of forum where you can say, “Look, we’re going to give you a certain amount of time to rectify the situation, or we are going to do 1, 2, 3, 4?”

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make predictions of that, but to be clear, Said, we’ve already been conveying messages of what the consequences will be.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure. You are – the Russians are going? They’re going to Geneva?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, yes.

QUESTION: You’re sure of that? Because after the announcement on Friday by both you and by Catherine Ashton’s people, the Russians came out and said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, this is very premature. We haven’t agreed to anything yet.” You’re – as of today, they’re on board to get – as far as you know?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will – our announcement was fully coordinated. They were aware of our announcement as well as the EU’s, and all parties are planning to attend.

QUESTION: Okay. So as far as --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Just as far as you know, it’s still on?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine or --

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine, okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. You mentioned that you are focusing on the economic and diplomatic efforts --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- to de-escalate the situation. Regarding the economic, what you mentioned – you mentioned – most of the steps that you are mentioning is, like, somehow long term – it seems like it’s long-term project with – like, to take the frozen assets or whatever and related to the corrupted money.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re working on them as we speak. And just today --

QUESTION: I mean, I’m just trying to --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- ask two questions --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- regarding the economic measures to help the Ukrainians, is first: How the financial aid is reaching them as soon as possible?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The second is: How they – you are helping them regarding the energy problem, which is – like you mentioned in details last week. Are there any steps taken in these two fields?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I talked a bit last week about our coordination on the energy issues, and that’s why I didn’t mention it. And what I talked – the list I went through to Jo’s question. So that’s ongoing. We’re continuing to work with Ukraine, with the Europeans, to address their energy needs.

On the financial assistance, I mentioned a little bit earlier that just today, Secretary Lew and the Ukrainian finance minister signed a $1 billion loan guarantee agreement. Obviously, there’s a short implementation phase for that, but that’s something that should be moving pretty quickly.

QUESTION: At this point it will be reached as soon – I mean, possibly? I know it’s going to be approved by the Congress --

MS. PSAKI: Well, it helps – it’s a loan guarantee, so it helps the Ukrainians have access to capital at reasonable rates. But there is a range of assistance coming from the Europeans. They’re obviously working with the IMF. And I think every entity that has a stake in the future of Ukraine is working as quickly as possible to make sure they have the economic assistance they need.

QUESTION: Beside the 17 of April, I’m still puzzled and other people puzzled by your diplomatic effort insisting to go to UN, although it’s – the positions are really clear.

MS. PSAKI: The meeting yesterday?

QUESTION: Yes, for --

MS. PSAKI: That was called by the Russians.

QUESTION: By the Russians?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And – but you are ready – I mean, are you planning to attend more meeting like this, or it’s just useless?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our UN representative often attends the meetings, and there’s a range of diplomatic paths that we work through for every global issue. But that was a meeting called by the Russians.

QUESTION: Regarding the sanctions, recently, I mean, there are some observers who think – I mean, mentioning that the Europeans are not that much excited about these sanctions. Do you have any say to the – to say about that? I mean, I’m just trying to figure out what is your understanding of that. Is it exaggeration?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’ve continued to announce sanctions over the course of the last several weeks, just as we have. There’s no question there is strength in numbers, and we are working in close coordination and cooperation with the Europeans, but – and I’m sure that will be – continue to be a topic of discussion in the coming days.

QUESTION: The first week of this escalation of the tension in Ukraine and the Crimea, it was mentioned that one of the things that the U.S. is doing through NATO is to guarantee the neighbors of Ukraine --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that they are safe enough and nothing can be – even Poland and others --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are – these measures are still going on, or just like it was the first weekend, over?

MS. PSAKI: No, they certainly are. Vice President Biden announced a number of steps. A number of steps were taken by NATO, all in close cooperation and coordination to strengthen and bolster countries in Eastern Europe and neighbors, as you mentioned, and many are NATO allies, and we work closely to help make sure they have the resources they need.

QUESTION: The last question is regarding this Russian fiction/American facts game.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, I’m just trying to figure out is this a tool that you think it’s helpful, and what is the wisdom behind using this? And it’s done in English or other languages, too?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, it’s in English but we’ve translated different fact sheets or different materials in the past into other languages, so that may be the case here as well. And the purpose here is to communicate what the facts are, what the actual information is. And as I mentioned a little bit earlier, the best antidote to false information is the truth, and so that’s what our focus is on.

QUESTION: Which is related to this just follow-up because it was – for those who lived in ’60s or studied ’60s, it’s looking – it looks what was happening yesterday is kind of – the tools of the 19th century or 20th century, which is now we are in 21st century. You think that it’s exaggeration, this observation that the tools of using facts and propaganda machine which is like whatever is said, it’s this is the opposite version of it because it looks like those who – what those who are seeing the facts, they see it. Those who are seeing the fiction, they’re seeing it as fiction or facts for them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, if there wasn’t a great deal of propaganda happening on the ground, there wouldn’t be a need to lay out the facts. So that’s the reason we’re doing it.

QUESTION: Move to – move on?

MS. PSAKI: Do you have Ukraine or something else?

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Oh.

MS. PSAKI: I thought he had a Ukraine question in the back. Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, I just want to ask briefly – it is Russia-related but it’s also Israel-related. It has to do with Syria first. The reports of chemical weapons use that you were asked about last week, the Russians have now – Foreign Minister Lavrov in this same press conference, I guess, with whoever it was today in Moscow, talked about the Russians being concerned about this.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have anything more today?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: We’re not able to corroborate the claims, same as we were on Friday.

QUESTION: And then as it relates to Ukraine, I wanted to ask about Israel. There was a report in an Israeli newspaper over the weekend that the Administration is irate, infuriated with Israelis because of their lack of a position on – with Russia on – over Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that an accurate statement or is this just – I mean, does it matter to you how Israel comports itself?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that wouldn’t be how we would characterize it. As you know, we work closely with a range of countries, not just European countries, on Ukraine and we have been for months. And so we were surprised that Israel did not join the vast majority of countries that voted to support Ukraine’s territorial integrity in the United Nations. But that’s more our view, not the way you just characterized it.

QUESTION: Well, surprised. You recall that they were – the foreign ministry was on strike at the time --

MS. PSAKI: I do recall that.

QUESTION: Do you not regard that as a – do you think that they were shirking their responsibility by observing the strike and not showing up? I mean, it wasn’t that they voted no or even abstained. They just didn’t even show up.

MS. PSAKI: No, no, I understand that. I understand that.

QUESTION: I mean, how problematic is this to you, to the Administration? Or is it – is it a major concern here?

MS. PSAKI: I would not characterize it as a major concern. We work closely with Israel on a range of issues and we can move forward.

QUESTION: Staying on Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay, the Palestinian-Israeli peace process. There’s a meeting that took place, I guess on Sunday --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- between both the Israeli and the Palestinian negotiators without the presence of an American or the American envoy. Is that like a new trend? Is that the way it’s going to be, that they will meet independent of your presence?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make a prediction, Said. Obviously, throughout the last eight and a half months there have been meetings with a representative from the United States and there have been meetings without. And I’m not going to confirm, announce, or read out every meeting that takes places, just as we haven’t throughout the process.

QUESTION: So this is not a message to both sides that we’ve had it with you, we don’t want to be there during – while you exchange --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe either side has conveyed that as the message.

QUESTION: Could you tell us if there is going to be any kind of meetings in the next few days? We know that Ambassador Indyk is in town, so will there be ongoing meetings and will there be an American representative?

MS. PSAKI: In the region or --

QUESTION: Yeah, in the region over there.

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to read out or announce every meeting that may take place, just as we haven’t throughout the process.

QUESTION: But --

QUESTION: Ambassador Indyk is back in Washington or he has returned to the region?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. He got back Friday night.

QUESTION: And any idea when he’s going back?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a prediction of that yet. It’s – we’ll see if there’s something I can report to all of you later today.

QUESTION: And is it not a good thing that the two sides should be talking to one another?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, it certainly – as it has been throughout the process, there are times when they talk without an American representatives, there are times when they talk with an American representative.

QUESTION: You still do expect him to return sooner rather than later, right?

MS. PSAKI: I do. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up as far as do you have any information that would lead you to sort of believe that the talks will go past the 29th, there will be an announcement on the 29th, they will end on the 29th?

MS. PSAKI: I just --

QUESTION: Just give us like a feeling --

MS. PSAKI: -- don’t want to make a prediction --

QUESTION: -- I mean, we’re two weeks ago --

MS. PSAKI: -- for you, Said --

QUESTION: -- or two weeks away.

MS. PSAKI: -- of where we will be two weeks from now. Obviously, we’re taking this day by day. Discussions are day by day.

QUESTION: Jen, can we just go back on where we left it last week as well, which was --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- where the Israelis had, according to you, reportedly said that they were going to freeze the taxes --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and you weren’t sure what your reaction was because it was only reports.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new on that. I just talked to our team about it this morning. Don’t have anything new to report.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: I’ve got three really, really quick ones on this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: On Israel, two of them have to do with arrests made by Israeli authorities over the course of the past week or so. One involves an American woman, Mariam Barghouti. Do you know anything about that?

MS. PSAKI: Due to privacy considerations and no Privacy Act waiver --

QUESTION: Oh, great. This is going to be another – we’re going to go through the --

MS. PSAKI: -- we’re unable to provide further or additional information, Matt.

QUESTION: So, okay. So we’re just going to go through the Egypt airport experience all over again.

Then there’s a second one. This is not an American citizen, but it’s a journalist --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- Majd Kayyal. I don’t know if I’m pronouncing the name right. He was arrested over the weekend. Are you aware of this case?

MS. PSAKI: We have seen the reports, but – that he’s being held incommunicado detention, but we have not been able to confirm these reports. We’re continuing to seek more information.

QUESTION: Is this – recognizing that you don’t have an interest because he is not an American citizen, do you – is this the kind of thing that you – that causes you concern, these types of arrests, or is this something --

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, reports of journalists being arrested certainly cause concern, but we don’t have any confirmation of that specific case, so we’re just looking for more information.

QUESTION: Do you know if you have asked the Israelis about it?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that. I believe we were exploring through all avenues we have, but I don’t want to speak out of turn, so let me check back with our team.

QUESTION: Okay. And the PAW for Ms. Barghouti, that – you can’t say – because you don’t have a waiver, you can’t say whether you’ve raised her case with the Israelis? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t – there’s no more details I can discuss.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the last one, which is very briefly, is that it’s come up that apparently the Israeli defense ministry has done something that would allow the construction of more housing in Hebron. Are you familiar at all with this?

MS. PSAKI: I believe I’ve seen some news reports about it, but I’m not sure what the impact of it is. But go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t know – no, no, I’m just wondering if you had seen it, and if you had, if you had any reaction to it or – beyond what you usually say about settlements.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything new to report, but I will venture to follow up on that one as well.

QUESTION: Can you check --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- because this just seems to be a new, or relatively new, development?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Happy to.

QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) issue of the tax that you raised, I think. I didn’t hear you properly. Did you call the Israelis about that this is not helpful? Did you tell them to release the taxes --

MS. PSAKI: I said that on Friday. I don’t have anything new to report.

QUESTION: But nothing has transpired. I know. I mean, Friday was 72 hours ago. Has anything transpired?

MS. PSAKI: I understand that.

QUESTION: Yeah.

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

Syria?

QUESTION: So they did not – I’m sorry, but they did not – the Israelis did not tell you they will release these taxes and --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to tell you on it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry. Just what --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you know if the Secretary has had any contact with either Foreign – Justice Minister Livni or Prime Minister Netanyahu or the Palestinian side over the course of the – over the weekend, or since Friday, since we last --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe so. Let me see if there’s anything else that’s added today, but nothing over the course of the weekend.

QUESTION: Sorry, Jen. Lastly, the Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said today that he expects to have normal relations with Arab countries, suggesting that Kuwait or Saudi Arabia or many others. Do you know anything about this?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen his comments.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment?

MS. PSAKI: But certainly, we support strong relations between a range of countries, but I don’t think I have a – more of a comment to weigh on it than that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: To your knowledge, are there any kind of --

MS. PSAKI: Of course. I mean, if the Arab League – if there’s a peace agreement, the Arab League is prepared to move forward with some significant steps. But obviously, there’s a lot that would have to happen, and it’s between all those parties.

QUESTION: But you don’t have any information whether there are some behind the scene talks?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details for you.

QUESTION: Sorry. There’s one more. Are you aware if the Palestinians have done – if President Abbas or any of his top people have done anything in response to your concerns about unilateral actions involving signing up to the UN conventions? Or to the best of your knowledge, are they ignoring you pretty much the same way the Israelis do when you --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional updates beyond the one that we provided last week.

QUESTION: So, okay. And just to make clear, that was they had deposited whatever it was that --

MS. PSAKI: But again --

QUESTION: -- their thing with in Geneva?

MS. PSAKI: -- both parties remain engaged in the negotiations. Both parties are in touch with our negotiators. So that tells you something as well.

QUESTION: Well, but you also acknowledge that both parties are taking steps that are negative and unhelpful to the process, correct? Right?

MS. PSAKI: But both parties have – but also, even with that going on, both parties have indicated they want these discussions to continue. So that’s an incredibly important point.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Syria? Sure.

QUESTION: I’m sure you’ve seen over the weekend there were some comments by President Assad that he believes that he’s gaining the upper hand in the conflict, saying it’s a turning point of the crisis. And then I wondered if you also had any reaction to that as well as the fact that Syrian troops have retaken the town of Maaloula today from rebels.

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen all those. Our analysis remains what it has been, that this is a war of attrition, and neither side has been able to deliver or hold onto significant gains. I’m not going to give ground game updates. Certainly, our efforts to engage with the opposition continue. As you know, we have a new envoy who has already made a trip to the region, and we’ll continue down that path.

QUESTION: I understand you don’t want to give updates, but if the Syrian troops have retaken Maalula, that’s obviously another reversal for the opposition. I mean, what are you doing in terms of trying to actually bolster them on the ground physically?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we work closely with them. As you know, we work closely with our international allies. This is an important issue that comes up even while we’re discussing Ukraine and other crises that are on the front of newspapers around the world. We’re also discussing Syria. So those efforts are continuing. I don’t have any specific update to provide you all with today.

QUESTION: This is a war of attrition, obviously, but I mean, if President Assad feels he has the upper hand, he’s clearly getting arms and help. Isn’t it --

MS. PSAKI: Well, and naturally, President Assad is going to make that statement. I don’t think that’s a particularly surprising comment from him, that he’s winning.

QUESTION: But isn’t it going to just be a war of attrition that’s just going to – I don't know what the verb is – to attrite in his favor in the end?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t make that assumption. Obviously, there is broad concern and there has been for some time about his actions. The international community is focused on this, and I don’t think we’re going to make a prediction of the outcome here.

QUESTION: Have you used that phrase before, “war of attrition,” and I’ve just missed it?

MS. PSAKI: I believe so.

QUESTION: You have?

QUESTION: But you would welcome to see that Maaloula, one of the oldest Christian towns in the world, set free from the hands of extremists, wouldn’t you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think our focus here is on a political solution, not a military solution, so I’m not going to do an evaluation of each report from the ground.

QUESTION: I understand, but your – but your position – would like to see that Maaloula, a very old Christian town where people still speak Aramaic --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything more to add. Do we have more on Syria?

QUESTION: Yes. Any ground --

MS. PSAKI: Go.

QUESTION: Yeah, ground up – you said that you don’t have any ground upgrade about these – the clashes, but I know that you had issued a statement on Kessab, and there are some ongoing clashes in Kessab.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So do you have anything? Because --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates for you all today. If – I will check with our team and see if there’s more. Often, we, as you know, put out statements when there are broad reports of casualties and issues related to humanitarian issues. I will see if there’s more that we can report today.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Do you have Syria?

QUESTION: One question about Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I mean, you – I think you mentioned that the special envoy is going somewhere?

MS. PSAKI: He was. He did do a pretty extensive trip a couple of weeks ago. I don’t have any next updates. I know he plans to do a bit of traveling, but I’ll see if there’s anything to report.

QUESTION: Just in the last – a question – a request, actually, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Last week there was a briefing in Turkish foreign ministry conducted by a senior official to journalists. And this senior official said that there are, right now, four border gates who are under control of the ISIL in Turkish-Syrian border. So I’m wondering how you are providing the assistance – humanitarian or either nonlethal assistance to rebels right now, and in which ways? Would it be possible to get a --

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if that’s something we want to talk about publicly. But I will talk with our team about that.

Syria?

QUESTION: No, different topic. Nigeria. Do you have anything on the --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- explosion in the capital today?

MS. PSAKI: I do. We condemn today’s attack on Nyanya Motor Park south of Abuja which killed over 70 people. We are outraged by these senseless acts of violence against innocent civilians. We also condemn the attacks in three villages in Borno State that took the lives of nearly 100 people over the weekend. We encourage the Government of Nigeria to conduct a full investigation to identify and bring justice to the perpetrators of these attacks. We continue to stand with the Nigerian Government and people as they grapple with violent extremism.

QUESTION: The Nigerian president has blamed Boko Haram for the incident, the bombing in Abuja. Do you see any evidence supporting that claim?

MS. PSAKI: We have seen that, but to our knowledge, no group has claimed responsibility yet. We continue to work closely with the Nigerian Government and its neighbors to address the growing threat of Boko Haram in a comprehensive manner. But again, it’s, in our view, preliminary to make that judgment.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we go to Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. Are you aware if the Iranian – or have you been made aware through the Swiss or through anyone, through the UN, if the Iranians intend to somehow contest your decision or non-decision on granting a – or deciding not to decide on granting a visa to the --

MS. PSAKI: We are aware of reports that the Iranians have filed a complaint with the host country committee. I’m not sure if that’s what you’re referring to. I would refer you, of course, to the UN or the chair of the host country committee, which is Cyprus, for additional details on that.

QUESTION: Cyprus?

MS. PSAKI: They are. I thought that was interesting as well.

QUESTION: The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus or the regular part of Cyprus?

MS. PSAKI: Cyprus is the chair.

QUESTION: Has anything changed since your announcement that the Administration has decided not to grant Mr. Aboutalebi a visa. Have you, for example, actually denied the visa, stamped “no”?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed, Arshad. I don’t have any update for all of you.

QUESTION: Are you – sorry, on this committee, and I’ll check with our UN people --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- but is the U.S. a member of this committee?

MS. PSAKI: That is a good question. I’m not sure we are. Let me check back with our UN – our USUN counterparts.

QUESTION: My understanding is --

QUESTION: Do you know if it has any – what it’s --

QUESTION: As I understand it, but you should – it’d be good to put this out as a TQ, but I think this committee simply has the right to consider stuff and then make recommendations to the General Assembly these decisions are not binding.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Right. I mean, that’s just – so what kind of remedy is – could Iran be seeking, or what kind of remedy would the committee be able to offer it if it wasn’t – if the complaint was accepted or --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, that, I’d point you to them, but I would certainly find – take your question on whether the U.S. is a member --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and how the process works.

QUESTION: But in answer to Arshad, is it no, you’re not changing your mind? What you said Friday is --

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed since Friday. No.

QUESTION: So you’re – I’m trying to understand.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Okay. Only on the premise or on the basis of this individual or any individual being a security threat to the United States of America, that you will not allow them or her or him entry into the United States. Isn’t that the case?

MS. PSAKI: There are a range of reasons. I’m not going to outline them from here, Said. But what was announced on Friday was that we had made clear that we would not be granting him a visa.

QUESTION: Okay. But Hamid Aboutalebi acknowledged being at the embassy, but he said that he was a translator. So are you aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen a range of reports, Said. I don’t think I have much more to add to all of you on this.

QUESTION: And finally, the Iranians said that they will not replace him, that he will be their ambassador to the United Nations whether he works in New York or elsewhere. You would not have any comment on that, would you?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I do Turkey quickly?

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

QUESTION: Yes. Over the weekend, State Department Turkey official Amanda Sloat made a speech for a Turkish convention, and she talk about it – she said that U.S. deeply concerned over the allegations that the politics interfering into the judicial system in Turkey. Is there any way you can elaborate on this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we have made clear in the past, including in our annual Human Rights Report, we remain deeply concerned about due process and effective access to justice in Turkey. Independent investigations and independent judicial processes are essential for the rule of law. We look to Turkey to uphold the essential elements of a healthy democracy such as the rule of law, an independent judiciary, and the system of checks and balances between branches of government. And as I mentioned, this is an issue we’ve raised in the past when warranted, and it’s also included in our annual Human Rights Report. So I’d point you to that as well as the text of the speech for more details.

QUESTION: While Ms. Sloat was making that speech, she talk about that over the last recent months that there were disturbing events. So apparently this is not the last year’s annual report, but something happened over the last two months. There were several incidents over the months --

MS. PSAKI: And oftentimes over those months we raised concerns as those instances occurred.

QUESTION: But you – also many times, you stated that these were the internal affairs, for example, when I ask about the judges and prosecutors, counsels, legislation. So if you are now deeply concerned, that means that you change your --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think so. I’m still not weighing into internal political matters in Turkey. But certainly, as we’ve expressed in the past, over – around a variety of events, when there are concerns to express about the independence of the judiciary, we’ll express those.

QUESTION: So they – can I just follow up? Is this about the prime minister or the leaders in the government talking about the Constitution Court, or is this something about legislations? I’m just trying to get a sense of what exactly are --

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to detail it further. Our deputy assistant secretary did an entire speech just a few days ago.

Okay, a few more? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Quick question on WikiLeaks: I guess the Army announced today that commanding generals approve the conviction and 35-year sentence of Chelsea – formerly Bradley – Manning for leaking military and diplomatic data, as you well know the case. This announcement came today. Is there any comment or response to the --

MS. PSAKI: I hadn’t seen that. I will check and see if there’s anything we’d like to add from our end.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: I wanted to go to Guinea-Bissau.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: They had elections this weekend. It’s the first time since the coup in 2012. There was a large turnout, by all accounts. I just wondered if you had any reaction from the U.S. on it.

MS. PSAKI: I believe we put out a statement last week in advance of the elections. I don’t have anything new today. But let me touch base with our team and see if we can get you or anybody who’s interested a comment on that.

QUESTION: Anything on the preliminary results – and I realize it’s only on – based on, like, 10 percent of the vote – in Afghanistan --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure.

QUESTION: -- that suggests that Abdullah Abdullah is leading?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as you mentioned, it’s – it was a step in the process that they outlined they would do from the beginning. But just to give a little more detail, the electoral process is, of course, ongoing. We look forward to the Afghan electoral bodies continuing to do their work and processing the outcomes. We – the initial tranche of results is part of the IEC’s announced process for providing results information. We all, of course, need to have patience to allow the Afghan-owned process to play out. So we will allow that process to happen. As you mentioned, it’s only a percentage of the votes that is being counted. So obviously, there is more work that the election committee needs to do.

QUESTION: And then I had one quick one as well. On Friday, you were asked by Matt about the bill put forward by Senators McCain and Menendez on removing the Kurdish – Kurdistan Democratic Party and the PUK from the terrorism list.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have some reaction on that? Is that – is this something that you would actively consider?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. There has been – I have something on this. But we have – we would support legislation in this case. There are – there have been a range of reasons why it’s been difficult for individuals to travel. I have more in-depth lines, so let me venture to get that to all of you after the briefing.

QUESTION: And I suppose the logical connection would be, then: What about the PKK, which is, obviously, Turkish?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Let me get you something after the briefing. I have something on it. I just don’t have it in front me.

QUESTION: How goes the USAID review of these allegedly political text messages?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing new to report today. It is ongoing. The review is ongoing.

Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do two more here. Well, she hasn’t had one, so let’s let her have a question.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, but I’m just following up with that question.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: That’s why. Are there similar projects going on now in different countries, or not? Or that is by itself?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Absolutely we support programs around the world that provide people an opportunity to have their voices heard where that’s not possible. This is a particular program that USAID is doing a due diligence to make sure we have all of the accurate information and answers. And so that’s why they’re taking a review of the program.

QUESTION: The reason I’m asking the question is not the purpose. It’s the same company or similar companies are doing similar things, or not? Or you are reviewing --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on the particular company, but it – but we do support programs around the world that allow people to have their voices heard.

Last one. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Japan.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Japan’s Minister of Internal Affairs Shindo visited the Yasukuni Shrine last weekend. And considering Shindo’s visit is right ahead of President Obama’s visit to Asia, do you have any comments on this?

MS. PSAKI: To the – can you – sorry, can you repeat your question one more time?

QUESTION: Japan’s Minister of Internal Affairs Shindo visited the Yasukuni Shrine last weekend. And his visit is ahead of President Obama’s visit to Asia. Do you have any comments on this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we’ve indicated many times, we encourage Japan to work through its neighbors to resolve concerns over history in an amicable way through dialogue. We believe that strong and constructive relations between countries in the region to promote peace and stability are in interests – are in their interests and in the interests of the United States. So that is the message that we are conveying to all of them.

Let me – Jo, I found the answer to your question. I don’t think it answers all of your questions, but let me give you this in the meantime.

Let’s see. The PUK and the KDP have not been designated as Foreign Terrorist Organizations and have been among our closest partners in the region going back decades. However, expansive language in our immigration law complicates their travel to the United States. We support, as I mentioned, legislative action to remove those impediments, and we look forward to working with relevant committees in Congress to accomplish this goal.

We will venture to get you answer on the other question you had as well.

QUESTION: Isn’t it the case, though, that Congress itself created this problem?

MS. PSAKI: That may be the case, but we will work with them to fix it.

QUESTION: Right. But does that mean – but it’s not a – it’s not something that the Executive Branch did in the first place. It was in the Patriot Act, right?

MS. PSAKI: That may be true, Matt. But we’re working with them now --

QUESTION: I think it is.

MS. PSAKI: -- to address concerns that have arisen.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:57 p.m.)

DPB # 65

2014-04-14


Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: April 11, 2014


Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 11, 2014


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Welcome to Briefing Visitors
  • IRAN
    • Iranian Ambassadorial Nominee to the United Nations / Visa
    • P5+1 Negotiations
    • Iranian Crude Oil Exports
  • QATAR
    • Secretary's Meeting with Foreign Minister of Qatar
  • UKRAINE / RUSSIA
    • Letter Regarding Ukrainian Access to Oil
    • Meeting of U.S., Ukraine, Russia, EU
    • Coordination of Funds and Assistance to Ukraine
    • Russian Troop Buildup in Eastern Ukraine
  • RUSSIA
    • Block of VOA Broadcast / Media Freedom
    • Secretary Kerry's Conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov
    • Russian Space Program
  • RUSSIA / UKRAINE
    • Natural Gas Routing
  • CUBA
    • Visit of French Foreign Minister
    • Alan Gross
    • USAID Communications Platform / Text Messages
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Ambassador Indyk's Schedule
    • Tax Revenue Transfers to Palestinian Authority
  • DPRK
    • Special Representative Glyn Davies Schedule / Ongoing Consultations
    • Kenneth Bae
    • Consultations with Six-Party Partners
  • IRAN
    • Drafting of final Agreement
  • FRANCE
    • SNCF / Holocaust Compensation
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Tax Revenue Transfers to Palestinian Authority
  • UKRAINE
    • Ukrainian Neutrality
  • SYRIA
    • Reports of Chemical Weapons Use
  • UKRAINE
    • Representation at U.S., Russia, Ukraine, EU meeting
    • Inclusivity in Ukraine


TRANSCRIPT:

12:56 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Friday. I would first just like to welcome – we have several interns today in the back from DRL who are here today as observers, so welcome to all of you.

With that, let’s get to – and I should also mention there’s a bilateral meeting, as all of you know, with the Qataris at 2 o’clock, so let’s try to get through all the topics as quickly as we can.

Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Gotcha, all right. Well, I want to start with Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: But in fact, the White House has just changed my mind because they’ve just said that you’re not going to give a visa to the Iranian ambassadorial nominee, and I’m wondering if you can expand on that at all.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can also confirm, of course, that we have informed the United Nations and the Government of Iran that we will not issue a visa to Mr. Aboutalebi, and we – I don’t believe I can expand that much more, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, when did you tell them?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into details of that. Obviously, these discussions have been ongoing.

QUESTION: How is that – yeah, I’m sorry, how is that – why is that some kind of sensitive bit of information?

MS. PSAKI: In terms of what? Why, when?

QUESTION: When? When did you tell them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, these discussions with the Iranians and with the UN have been ongoing. I’m just not going to detail the timeline.

QUESTION: Well, you didn’t say that you wouldn’t do this yesterday, so can – should we assume that it happened either yesterday afternoon after – sometime after your briefing or prior to the White House briefing just now?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t make assumptions about the timing. I’m confirming the facts here and that’s where we stand.

QUESTION: All right. Did you give them a reason?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve been very clear that – with the Iranians that this nomination is not viable, so there’s been no secret of that. But I think they understand what the reasons are.

QUESTION: Why?

QUESTION: Well, did you give them a reason why his nomination is not viable?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly we’ve had discussions with them about the reasons for why it’s not a viable nomination.

QUESTION: What is the reason, for the record, now that you’ve denied him a visa? Or have you actually denied the visa or have you simply asserted to them that you would deny it or will deny it?

MS. PSAKI: We have made clear to them that we will not issue a visa.

QUESTION: So – but did you – this may sound like a distinction without a difference, but it’s not. Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: No, I understand your question. I’m not going to detail it; I’m not going to outline it further.

QUESTION: So you won’t say whether or not you actually denied it?

MS. PSAKI: I will not, no.

QUESTION: Why not?

MS. PSAKI: Because I’m not going to go.

QUESTION: And what – why – (laughter) – and, well --

QUESTION: Hey.

QUESTION: -- because – well, why – I know we’ve discussed this here a great deal --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- for the record, now that you have informed the Iranians that you will not issue a visa to Mr. Aboutalebi, why is his nomination unviable? What are the main issues that came up here?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to that from the podium, Arshad. Obviously, we have confirmed what we’ve conveyed, which is that we will not issue a visa. It doesn’t change the fact that details of visa cases, including the reasons, which gets to your past – your last question prior to this, are not issues that we can talk about publicly for legal reasons.

QUESTION: So here’s a question, then.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How can you announce that you won’t give him a visa if visa applications are entirely confidential? Isn’t it – to say, “We’re not going to do this,” doesn’t that impinge on the confidentiality of the process?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve conveyed – I’m conveying what we have communicated to the Iranians, and that’s what I’m communicating to all of you today.

QUESTION: So to capture it --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You said earlier this week, I believe, that there were a couple of categories where there was a limited exception to the general rule that, as a host nation, you should be granted visas. They were – they included security, terrorism-related matters, and foreign policy concerns.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Should we assume that this application fell within one of those three categories, at least?

MS. PSAKI: I – obviously, all of these issues are looked at by our legal teams, but I’m not going to give a specific reasoning.

QUESTION: All right. So understanding that you’re not going to give a specific reasoning --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- you can say, though, that the Iranians have been told why you believe his nomination is not viable. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, throughout --

QUESTION: They – this is not – it is not a secret to them why you’re saying, “No, we’re not going to issue a visa?”

MS. PSAKI: It should not be, no. But as a reminder, Matt --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- we’ve also communicated that it’s not viable as well --

QUESTION: Gotcha. Well --

MS. PSAKI: -- prior to the news I’m confirming today.

QUESTION: Right, but they aware of the – or they are aware of the reasons why you can – even if you’re not going to tell us, they know why.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think there should be any mystery to them about that.

QUESTION: All right. And then you said the details of – did this actually rise to the level of a visa case?

MS. PSAKI: Can you just expand on that question?

QUESTION: Well, you said details of visa cases are confidential, but if this didn’t actually rise to the level of there being an application that was actually considered, then how is it a visa case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve all seen the media reports, or many of us have seen the media reports, that the Government of Iran has stated that a visa application was submitted to the U.S. Government. As I’ve noted, U.S. law generally prohibits us from commenting on details of visa cases, but I would not dispute that statement.

QUESTION: Right, unless – okay, so they did submit the application --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- according to – and you said – and I guess the – I realize it’s a detail and it’s --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- but did you actually stamp “no” on the application or did you just say, “We’re not going to take any action on this?”

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into any greater level of detail.

QUESTION: Is it also not the case that usually if a visa – someone who is denied a visa speaks out about the reasons publicly and speaks out about a denial, that you will discuss or you can discuss, you are no longer bound by the – is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: That has happened in the past.

QUESTION: So we should ask the failed nominee to speak about this and then get back to you – and then come back to you and you should be able to enlighten us all, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m happy to keep continuing the discussion. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you believe that your decision to tell the Iranians that you will not give him a visa to enter the United States will harm – has harmed or will harm the P5+1 negotiations with Iran about their nuclear program?

MS. PSAKI: No, we do not. And obviously, our team was on the ground this week, as you know, negotiating through the P5+1 process, and our team did not find that this ongoing discussion in the public impacted those negotiations.

QUESTION: And why do you think it won’t harm them going forward? I mean, it’s a rejection of their choice.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Presumably that will upset them to some degree. Why won’t that – why do you think that won’t have an effect going forward?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t analyze what will or won’t impact their own views. But obviously, they’re engaged in these negotiations because they – and they have their own reasons for that, including the impact of sanctions and their desire to deliver on President Rouhani’s promise he ran on.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: I said, “has or will have,” and you said, “No.”

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did you mean no, it has had no effect, and no, it will have no effect? Or did you mean no, it has had no effect?

MS. PSAKI: It has not, and we don’t anticipate it.

QUESTION: Did you mean that you --

QUESTION: And can I ask – can I ask --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Sorry. Have you asked the Iranians to put forward another nomination? And presumably it’s not your intention that Iran should operate without a representative at the United Nations.

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say that was our intention. I’m not aware of that level of detail on – but again, we’ve been pretty clear even before today that this nomination wasn’t viable. And obviously, there could have been an alternative --

QUESTION: So you welcome – you would welcome an alternative name being put forward?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been, just historically, a range of individuals who have represented the Iranians in the UN. So I would point you to that.

QUESTION: And just as a matter of historical precedent, do you know if this is the first time that you’ve actually turned down a --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into historical precedent from the podium.

QUESTION: You won’t tell us from the podium?

MS. PSAKI: No, I’m not. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Did you mean that --

MS. PSAKI: Iran?

QUESTION: Yes. Did you mean that you conveyed the denial to the Iranians before the negotiations? That’s why it didn’t affect the negotiations from --

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t – no, I wasn’t indicating that at all. We’ve over the last couple of days, as you know – pardon me, sorry, microphone – we have stated that we have conveyed it’s not a viable nomination. Obviously that conversation has been happening publicly while the negotiations were happening. So our negotiators were clear on the ground, and I’ve spoken with them as well and they don’t feel there was an impact.

Go ahead. Iran? Or --

QUESTION: Yeah, the ambassador.

MS. PSAKI: Iran, okay.

QUESTION: Did your – or is – your decision was related to the unanimous vote in the Congress in a way that, “Hey, we are obliged to, because we don’t have another exit for it?” Was it connected to the vote in Congress to deny the visa for this ambassador?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the votes in Congress certainly underscore how troubling this potential nomination would be, and we share those concerns. But obviously there’s an ongoing process internally in the federal government as well.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Did Under Secretary Sherman raise this issue with the Iranians in Vienna?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to go into more detail about what channel it was raised through.

Do we have more on Iran?

QUESTION: No. Could I – if we don’t, can I go to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Sorry, I have one more on Iran --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- just to close out that topic.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The International Energy Agency today released its report on Iranian crude oil exports for the month of February.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Those figures show that it exported on average 1.65 million barrels per day during the month of February. As you’ll recall, the fact sheet that the White House put out said that your target was to keep Iran to 1 million barrels per day under the JPOA. How are you going to keep them under a million barrels per day if, in the first month after the JPOA took effect, right, on January 20th, they’re already at 1.65?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Arshad, but just for everybody, the current average amounts of crude oil refers to the average volume over a six-month period. It’s not referring to one specific month. So month-to-month variability is normal in oil markets, and we expect and we still expect and anticipate that the average over – that this will average out over a six-month period.

QUESTION: To 1 million?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, to meeting the bar that was set in the JPOA.

QUESTION: In the JPOA or in the White House fact sheet? I’m sorry to interrupt. The JPOA doesn’t actually specify a number, but the White House fact sheet does, which is 1 million barrels per day. So that is what I think is the marker.

MS. PSAKI: Well, what is specified in the JPOA --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- is that the United States will pause efforts to further reduce Iran’s crude oil sales, which allows current customers to purchase their current average amounts of crude oil. And those averages are looked at over a six-month period. Nothing – I don’t – we have nothing to dispute what was either in the White House fact sheet or the JPOA. We are still anticipating on meeting everything that was laid out specifically.

QUESTION: So in – and just so I’m clear, so your target – since it came from the White House, it’s clearly Administration policy.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So your target is that over the six-month period beginning when? Beginning November 24th, or beginning --

MS. PSAKI: Beginning January 20th, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that Iran’s oil exports must be held to an average over that 180-some-day period of one million per day.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. What was in the White House fact sheet still stands, yes. Let me just outline for you a couple of reasons why these monthly numbers have recently looked high. Iran’s contributions to Syria are part of what drives up numbers cited on exports. What’s important to keep in mind here is that Iran does not get revenue from this oil. So oftentimes, you see those numbers, but that’s not reflected in the revenue Iran is receiving. And that’s part of the numbers as well. Also, there are variations in month-to-month numbers because of seasonality, and of course, the numbers you’re referring to are February numbers. Winter is traditionally a peak period, so that is often reflected in how high the oil numbers are.

And finally, and this is more of a technical piece but still relevant for those close followers of these issues, export figures often mix condensates and crude oil, which often creates inconsistencies in the way numbers are reported. And what matters as it relates to implementation of the JPOA and the accompanying fact sheet is the crude oil numbers. So we look at all of these factors, as we look at what the average are over the six-month period.

QUESTION: How do you know that they don’t get any money for the stuff that they send to Syria?

MS. PSAKI: How do we know?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to go into greater detail.

QUESTION: Do – are – I mean, are you 100 percent confident that they’re not getting anything either in – revenue in cash or in kind?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t be saying it if we weren’t confident, but --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- I’m not going to put a percentage.

QUESTION: All right.

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

QUESTION: Just one more on this.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The OFAC guidance on the JPOA implementation makes very clear that – it’s in the sort of frequently asked questions – that any transactions that are now permitted that were not previously permitted must be initiated and completed within the six-month period.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In other words, you can’t agree to sell them something on July 13th and close the deal on July 21st.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there, therefore, a propensity for oil buyers to try to make their purchases and pay for them earlier in the cycle rather than later? In other words, is there any possibility that India, China --

MS. PSAKI: That individuals would be buying a lot in February --

QUESTION: Right, that they’re front --

MS. PSAKI: -- in anticipation of later months?

QUESTION: That they’re frontloading it, exactly. Do you think that’s a reason for this?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not one that I understand from our team. I will ask them if that’s something that we’re watching closely.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

Iran?

QUESTION: No, on the Secretary’s meeting with the foreign minister of Qatar.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What’s on the agenda for this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I expect they’ll talk about a range of issues that we work together on, including the ongoing crisis in Syria, including the ongoing negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, and I’m sure we can put a readout out after the meeting.

QUESTION: And the Secretary met the Amir of Qatar during his visit to Algeria. Was that a coincidence or pre-planned?

MS. PSAKI: He was – happened to be in Algeria and so there was a discussion about whether it made sense to have a meeting, and we agreed it did.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary trying to improve relations between Qatar and the Saudis?

MS. PSAKI: No. We work closely – look, of course discussions about the best ways to ease any tensions in the region can came come up in these discussions, but we work closely, as you know, with the Qataris on a range of global issues.

QUESTION: You work to ease tensions in the region. There’s a report today the ambassador of Iran in Beirut – he said Iran’s relation with the Saudis is getting – improving, and this will have an impact on the region. Is this – did the Secretary try to urge the Saudis to receive the foreign minister of Iran to visit Saudi Arabia or to improve --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the meeting that the Secretary most recently attended with the Saudis was one led by President Obama and King Abdullah, and they, of course, were the leaders of the discussion. I’m not aware that this came up, that issue came up at the meeting. And I’d point you to the White House for more clarification on that.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So there’s a lot of stuff coming out of the Kremlin and out of the Russian foreign ministry today, some of which is kind of, I don’t know, fluffy.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Fluffy?

QUESTION: Some of it is not.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Let’s start with the non – with the more jovial parts of it, perhaps. President Putin seems to have – not seems to, has accused you of peeping on his correspondence with the Europeans and making – and you specifically making comments --

MS. PSAKI: Me, personally?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, interesting.

QUESTION: Peeping Jen apparently is what – (laughter).

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I haven’t seen those reports.

QUESTION: Right. Well, and apparently in a meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, he made these comments. He said that it’s not unusual for the United States to eavesdrop; everyone knows they do it. But this letter that was sent to the Europeans wasn’t addressed to you – the United States – and therefore you shouldn’t have read it and/or commented on it. I’m wondering if you have any response to that.

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Pointing out that it was, of course, published online and in English.

MS. PSAKI: I was going to get to that next, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Naturally, this was a letter that pertained to access to oil for the Government of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine. And helping the people of Ukraine through this difficult period, helping them have the economic assistance they need, the resources they need, is – it’s no secret that’s a priority to the United States. So I certainly don’t think it’s out of any line for us to comment on concerns we have about efforts to thwart that.

QUESTION: Right. But you don’t regard this as some kind of rude invasion of the Russian president’s privacy?

MS. PSAKI: I think commenting on a public letter is hardly an invasion of privacy.

QUESTION: All right. Okay. So you’re aware of former Secretary of State Stimson’s comment about – “gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail?” This does not apply in that case?

MS. PSAKI: There are a range of public correspondence out there that individuals --

QUESTION: Got you.

MS. PSAKI: -- across the world comment on.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, apart from that, Foreign Minister Lavrov had a meeting with some NGOs, unclear to me whether they were Russian NGOs, because I don’t know if there are any NGOs left in Russia anymore, but in which he made a series of comments about how active Russian engagement in Europe has always resulted in stronger European economies and growth. Do you agree with that statement?

MS. PSAKI: Statistically, Matt, I don’t have any data to back that up or refute it in front of me, obviously. But I will say that Russia’s exports, if you look at oil, to Europe are much more beneficial to Russia and they’re much more dependent on them than most European countries. So I’m not sure what those comments are based on.

QUESTION: Another thing he said was that Russian participation or Russian cooperation with NGOs has been – is critical to understanding the – I can’t remember the exact words he used, but something like critical to understanding the – civil society is a very important part of understanding what things are going on politically and foreign policy-wise. Given Russia’s actions, the Russian Government’s actions against NGOs, do you – I mean, what do you make of a comment like that?

MS. PSAKI: I think there are more lessons and more studying that can be done about what civil society is trying to teach, if they’re saying they learned from them.

QUESTION: That they need more --

MS. PSAKI: Right.

QUESTION: Let me just ask --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- since we’re on Ukraine, whether you’d managed – whether everybody had managed to square up their schedules yet and whether you have anything to announce on the meeting?

MS. PSAKI: I hope to later this afternoon, and I will just convey to all of you that we’re coordinating between several governments on content and timing and specifics, and that is the delay, not anything else.

QUESTION: It’s not over the name?

MS. PSAKI: I think your name is maybe in consideration, Matt.

QUESTION: Really? It is?

QUESTION: That’s good.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Is there a prize? The tetrad?

MS. PSAKI: Quad.

QUESTION: No, the tetrad, the tetrad.

MS. PSAKI: There’s a range of --

QUESTION: Quad is shorter.

MS. PSAKI: Stay at your emails. We’ll see – you’ll see what the name will be.

QUESTION: I think (inaudible) should do a contest on this. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I think there should be a prize.

MS. PSAKI: A Friday afternoon contest, perhaps.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Oh, go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have something on Jo’s question yesterday on where you are in terms of a loan guarantee and the money which has been allocated for --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- 2013?

MS. PSAKI: It was a very good question, and we’ve been working through the interagency since yesterday, when I promised to get you something, to kind of do a comprehensive list of all of the coordination. It just took a little bit longer, but we hope to have something this afternoon.

QUESTION: So, and then on the more serious parts of the --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- of what was coming out of Moscow today --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- they continue to insist that the buildup of troops on the Ukrainian border is nothing unusual, and don’t worry about it and nothing to see here. Have you, you or NATO – NATO is presenting you satellite images that show the buildup.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have you now – and I asked this question yesterday. Have you now seen any diminution in either that buildup or the provocations that Toria and others have spoken about over the course of the past few days in the east of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Look, we have remaining concerns about the troop buildup. I’m not aware of a change in the troop buildup or the tens of thousands of troops that we’ve been speaking about over the past couple of weeks. So we don’t view that as a military exercise preparation or as one that is just business as usual, and we have the same concerns we’ve had.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Russia has cut off Voice of America radio transmissions in Moscow by refusing to renew any broadcasting license for VOA. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: I do. We condemn the Russian Government’s recent decision to block continued Voice of America broadcasting in Russia. In the last year the Russian Government has passed laws imposing unprecedented censorship and restrictions on media and online publications. In the past few months alone, it has blocked independent websites and blogs, turned wire services into a propaganda tool, denied visas and accreditation to foreign journalists, and forced leadership changes at several media outlets that dared to challenge Kremlin politics.

We support the rights of all people, including Russians, to exercise their right to free speech regardless of their political views. This right is enshrined in the Russian constitution as well as in international agreements to which Russia is a party. In recent months, Russia has spoken out to defend free speech in other countries. We call on them now to drop this obvious double standard and allow the same access to information for their people that it insists other nations provide.

QUESTION: Will there be any reciprocal action from your part? We know that Russia has media outlets working in the United States.

MS. PSAKI: No. Look, I think we as a country that respects freedom of speech, that respects the rights of media, I don’t think that would be a particularly effective tool.

QUESTION: And how will you react to this?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just reacted to it.

QUESTION: Only by condemning this action?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.

Russia?

QUESTION: Yes. Did Secretary Kerry speak with Foreign Minister Lavrov today?

MS. PSAKI: He did. It was just before I came down for the briefing. They spoke this morning. I don’t have any readout of that at this point, but we’ll venture to get you one after – this afternoon.

QUESTION: Okay. The Russian foreign ministry is saying that Lavrov was trying to convince Kerry to use his influence on the Ukrainian Government to not forcibly remove the protestors in the east.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen what’s been happening on the ground, and the Ukrainian Government has exercised remarkable restraint throughout the last several weeks. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk – and I should also mention that the Secretary also spoke with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk. But all of this happened sort of right before I came out here for the briefing. But Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and other Ukrainian Government officials visited Donetsk yesterday to speak to citizens of eastern Ukraine to address the current situation and constitutional reform. This is another sign that the interim Government of Ukraine is taking positive steps to be inclusive and receptive.

We have not seen evidence of what the foreign minister or others are referring to in terms of incursions or aggressive actions by the Ukrainian Government; quite the contrary.

QUESTION: I’ve got one more one more on Russia. It’s unrelated to Ukraine. Well, maybe it’s unrelated to Ukraine. I’m wondering if you’ve seen this column written in a Russian newspaper by your favorite deputy prime minister, Mr. Rogozin, which talks about Russia’s space program and the need to colonize the moon. And I’m wondering if you’re concerned at all that Russia may try to annex the moon.

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that column, though it does sound interesting, Matt. I will talk to our team and see if we have any views on it.

QUESTION: I just wondered if you managed to get – glean any more details about this suggestion to help yourself to gas, the idea that you would reverse the gas flows back into Ukraine. I understand once the gas is in the European part of the pipeline, it’s considered to be Europe’s gas.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But do you have any more details about the kind of – which pipeline we’re talking about because there are several?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. You’re right. There are.

QUESTION: Which company and --

MS. PSAKI: It’s all part of the discussion. It’s a little preliminary in terms of those details. You are right that once gas enters Germany then it’s Germany’s gas to give, and that’s obviously what the discussion is about.

QUESTION: But you haven’t got any more details about how, when, who would do this?

MS. PSAKI: Not at this point. Not at this point. This is just one of the pieces that is being discussed and considered in terms of ways to help the people of Ukraine.

QUESTION: Cuba?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, do we have any more on Ukraine? Or – okay, Cuba. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. The French foreign minister will be in Cuba tomorrow.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: This is the first time for more than 30 years. Is it a good thing according to the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I think I spoke to this a couple of weeks ago on the trip --

QUESTION: But it was not confirmed. It is --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, when the trip was announced. Obviously, every government makes their decisions about who they have relations with and where they visit, and we certainly respect that. We do ask countries around the world, including France, to raise issues that we share concerns about, whether it’s freedom of media and speech or human rights issues. And we’ll see if this is one of the issues that the Secretary discusses when he next sees the foreign minister.

QUESTION: Do you know if he’s going to raise the issue of Alan Gross at all? Is that something that you’ve asked him to do?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of a recent discussion about this particular issue, but broadly speaking we certainly do ask foreign counterparts, including the French, including a range of our allies, to raise that issue and the importance of returning Alan Gross to his family.

QUESTION: On Cuba more broadly, do you have – has there – is there an answer yet from either you or AID as to these apparently political texts/tweets?

MS. PSAKI: There’s nothing new. And what I was trying to convey yesterday was that Administrator Shah, what he was – what he – in answer to a question yesterday, he conveyed a desire to look broadly at the program, including the text messages, and so I suspect they’ll take the time to do that before further evaluation publicly.

QUESTION: Do you know that – then should we expect an answer from AID or from here, once there is one?

MS. PSAKI: I suspect AID, and we can certainly discuss it as well, but they’re taking a broader look beyond the text messages.

QUESTION: Peace process?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Any update on the negotiations between the two parties? Any agreement has been achieved or --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update. I mentioned yesterday that Ambassador Indyk is returning. He is returning today. I understand he’ll be back in the United States later this evening. I don’t have any travel updates for you, so we’ll continue that discussion next week.

QUESTION: How about the Israeli decision to suspend the transfer of tax revenue to the PA? Anything on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen these press reports, but we have not seen an official public announcement by the Government of Israel, so it’s – we’re not in a position to confirm either the specifics or the details that have been reported. That said, we would regard such a development as unfortunate. We believe that the regular transfer of the Palestinian Authority’s tax revenues and economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been beneficial and is important to the well-being of the Palestinian economy.

QUESTION: Do you regard the transfer of money as something that the Israelis are obligated to do under Oslo or post-Oslo, any post-Oslo agreements, or is this kind of a privilege that the Israelis can suspend or put back into place kind of at will?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. It’s a good technical question, Matt. I’m not sure what our team views it as, whether it’s obligation or just something we think is useful and unhelpful to stop. So let me talk to them and see if we can clarify that further.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, it’s more than just useful. They can’t – they can barely pay their salaries of their people as it is, so --

MS. PSAKI: Right. As I said, it would be unfortunate if that were – if those reports are true.

QUESTION: Do you think there’d be any – if this is the case, would there be any move, do you think, within the U.S., to fill in the gap or – even temporarily and then – financially, I mean.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of a discussion of that.

Do we have more on the peace process or another topic? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Another topic.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have a travel update for Ambassador Glyn Davies?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have anything on that. If not, I will see what we have in the pipeline in terms of travel announcements. Let’s see. Okay, I do. Let’s see.

Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies will host bilateral meetings in New York April 14th and 15th and Washington April 17th with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei – I think we just sent this out this morning – to exchange views on a wide range of issues related to the DPRK. Special Representative Wu’s visit is part of a series of high-level, in-depth U.S.-China discussions on how to achieve our shared goal of a denuclearized North Korea in a peaceful manner.

QUESTION: For these bilateral meetings, would you be able to tell us with whom he’ll be meeting with? Would they be UN officials or civilian leadership or --

MS. PSAKI: I will see if there’s any more detail we can spell out for all of you.

QUESTION: And does this meeting indicate that there’s now a picking up of momentum for re-executing Six-Party talks?

MS. PSAKI: This is just ongoing consultations with our partners on these important issues.

QUESTION: On North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Sorry.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on Kenneth Bae and his status, his well-being, and any – possibly any efforts to help get him out?

MS. PSAKI: I know we were venturing to get you an update on that, and my apologies on that. Obviously, we remain focused on securing his release. We have remaining concerns about his health. We are in close contact with his family on a very regular basis. I will check to see if we can send a quick update on last contacts out.

QUESTION: Great, thank you.

QUESTION: Jen – sorry – a follow-up on Taurean’s question.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why New York? Why are you meeting in New York? And I ask this because usually when you have a Washington-Pyongyang communication, direct communication, you do it through New York. So is this – are we laying the groundwork for a future diplomacy? Are the North Koreans being involved in any other talks?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details to lay out for you. We’ll see if there’s anything more we can share.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: A couple of days ago --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- the South Korean director for the North Korean issues noted they – Japan and United States and South Korea is going to pursue the variety method of dialogue in order to resume the Six-Party Talks, which means what – I don’t know exactly what the variety method of dialogue means. Is it kind of New York talk, this kind of --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure which announcement you’re referring to.

QUESTION: Not an announcement. Just --

MS. PSAKI: Reports?

QUESTION: Debate. They talked before.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I think regardless of those reports, our approach remains the same, which is that we are in close consultation with our partners, our Six-Party partners. Obviously, there are steps North Korea would need to take. The ball remains in their court. Nothing has changed in that regard.

QUESTION: Nothing has changed. The U.S. position is not – doesn’t change?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed.

Any other topics? All right, Jo, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry, I should have mentioned this back --

MS. PSAKI: No, no problem.

QUESTION: -- back when we were talking about Iran. But there was something that was said in Vienna – and I just wondered if this was your understanding of it – by Foreign Minister Zarif that he believes that the next talks to be held in May, mid-May, will get down to the drafting part of the actual agreement. And I wondered if that was your understanding as well on the U.S. side.

MS. PSAKI: That is something that we have conveyed from our end as well. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. So then you’re actually going to be putting things down on paper with the idea of working towards an agreement by July still?

MS. PSAKI: Well, yes, that remains the goal. Again, this doesn’t change the difficulty of the issues, the challenge of the issues. But yes, it has been confirmed from our side as well that that is the timeline.

QUESTION: So from mid-May?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In order – I mean, are your experts already working on it to present something in mid-May, or are you going to start from mid-May doing the actual writing down --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the way that it’s been communicated is that the drafting will begin in May.

QUESTION: I’ve got two very brief ones.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One, I believe that yesterday was the third round of talks between you and the French on the SNCF compensation for Holocaust deportations.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Yep.

QUESTION: How’s that going? Is there any progress?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any specific progress to report. I know we put out a statement the other evening about this. This is a process that we feel is the most effective way to address. There have been some legislation in a couple of states attempting to address, so we are recommending to everyone to --

QUESTION: But the meeting did happen as planned yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, that’s my understanding.

QUESTION: Do you know where that was? Was it here or in France or --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details of that. I can check and see if there’s more to report.

QUESTION: All right. And then my other one is that Senator --

QUESTION: Could you tell us one clarification on that?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it – with you directly negotiating with Paris on this, any agreement for compensation would be paid by who? The rail firm in question or by the governments in question?

MS. PSAKI: Well, my understanding – I’d have to check on that level of detail, Jo. I mean, my understanding is the issue here is there are U.S. subsidiaries of the French company. So in terms of who would pay it, I’d have to check with the teams working on it. I don’t have that level of detail.

Yeah.

QUESTION: I believe the statement that was released about that a couple days ago mentioned that the legislation that’s being considered in both Maryland and New York is unproductive for negotiations. Why would that be unproductive?

MS. PSAKI: Because we feel the best means of addressing this is through the negotiations that we’re having with the French.

QUESTION: And my last one was just on the – Senators McCain and Menendez have come out today with a proposed bill that would remove the terrorism designation under the Patriot Act for some several Kurdish groups. Are you familiar with this at all?

MS. PSAKI: I am not. I haven’t seen that.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you look into it and --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, happy to.

QUESTION: I would like to know what the Administration thinks of it.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have anything – any reaction to the Senate adaptation of the Armenian genocide bill yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional comment beyond what I stated yesterday.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just two quick things. I think you were asked about the media reports that the Israelis were going to start withholding some of the tax revenues.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did you say that because you hadn’t seen any of – anything official on that, you couldn’t comment? Are the media reports in and of themselves unhelpful?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, I think I said that as well.

QUESTION: Oh, did you?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. Great. And then last thing --

QUESTION: Wait, you said that the media reports were unhelpful?

MS. PSAKI: No, I said the content, obviously, of the media reports was unhelpful, if this is true. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And then second, on Ukraine, I don’t think you were asked, but forgive me if you were.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Lavrov is quoted as having said that Russia wants legal guarantees of Ukraine’s neutrality.

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen that, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. What do you think about that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our view is that sovereign countries make their own decisions about – in relation to what other countries and what organizations they may have relationships with or they may seek to join. Now, as we all know, the legitimate Government of Ukraine has been clear that they have no plans to pursue a NATO membership at this time. But regardless, all of these decisions are up to the Government of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine, and that’s where we think they should lie.

QUESTION: Right. So there’s no reason why anybody except the Government of Ukraine, if it chose to, should give anybody guarantees about its neutrality?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: On Syria, the opposition has said that the regime has used the chemical weapons in the last few days. Do you have any confirmation?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen those reports you’re referring to. We don’t have any information to corroborate those claims at this time. We certainly take all reports of alleged chemical weapons use seriously, which is why we’re working with the OPCW and UN to remove and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. But again, we have no information to corroborate those claims at this point.

QUESTION: And what does it mean if they are – if these reports are accurate?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that. Obviously, we don’t have information to corroborate them at this time.

QUESTION: Just back to the Ukraine tetrad conference.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Yesterday, I think you were asked or someone was asked about the Russians wanting representatives of the Russian – ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking minorities from the east to be involved in the delegation that goes to wherever this meeting is, whenever it is.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did you have a response to that? Or do you think that – I mean, are you amenable to that, or do you think that the representatives of the Ukraine delegation to the tetrad talks should be just the Ukrainian Government, as you see it now?

MS. PSAKI: We think that the Ukraine Government represents all of Ukraine.

QUESTION: So you see no need for people from – for people that the Russians might think – ethnic Russians and Russian speakers who have an interest now in what goes on in Ukraine, you don’t see the need for them to be there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, for this – no, because --

QUESTION: But at this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: At this meeting. The Government of Ukraine will represent all of Ukraine, and they’ve taken steps to be inclusive, to protect minorities, Russian speakers. That’s the most effective way we feel they can do that.

QUESTION: Are the representing Crimea also, from your point of view?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely.

QUESTION: What about like a separate discussion of all of the groups in Ukraine? That’s one thing that, from the foreign ministry, he’s said that Secretary Kerry has promised them, like a separate parallel thing where all – they would all have their input.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what that’s a reference to. Broadly speaking, we’ve continued to encourage the Government of Ukraine to be as inclusive as possible, to include all components from all communities. Even the prime minister’s trip to Donetsk is an example of reaching out to eastern Ukraine, and they have delivered on that – the government has. So we’ve seen them put that to action.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:36 p.m.)

DPB #64

2014-04-11


Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: April 10, 2014


Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 10, 2014


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Welcome to Interns and Journalism Fellows
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Parties Remain in Intensive Negotiations
    • Ambassador Indyk Travels
    • Range of Issues
    • Jonathon Pollard
    • Final Status Agreement
    • Move toward Joining UN Conventions / Technical Step
  • TURKEY/ARMENIA
    • U.S. Position on 1915 Atrocities
    • Turkey and Armenia Relations / Normalization
  • IRAN
    • UN Representative Nomination
    • U/S Sherman Meeting with Iranians / Nuclear Negotiation / American Citizens
    • JPOA / Payments / OFAC
    • P5+1 Meeting / Comprehensive Agreement / Next Meeting
  • UKRAINE/RUSSIA
    • Upcoming Meeting
    • G-7 / Range of Issues
    • Loan Guarantee Package
    • Energy Security
    • Russian Action in Eastern Ukraine / U.S. Concerns
    • Ambassador Pyatt's Twitter Account / Satellite Images
  • GREECE
    • Explosion in Athens
  • DEPARTMENT
    • U/S Gottemoeller Travel to Japan and China / Nonproliferation
  • SOUTH KOREA
    • Deputy Secretary Burns' Meeting with South Korea Deputy National Security Chief
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Immunity Granted to Blackwater Employees in Iraq in 2007 / DOJ
  • CUBA
    • "Cuba Twitter" / USAID / Administrator Shah


TRANSCRIPT:

1:21 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone, everyone in the back. I first want to welcome two groups we have visiting us today at the briefing. First we welcome several interns working in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. Hello. And second we also welcome three journalism fellows from the Prague Freedom Foundation, an initiative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic to promote and advance independent journalism and free media globally. Welcome to all of you as well.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: European and Eurasian Affairs?

MS. PSAKI: And welcome to the reporters as well. (Laughter.) I know. Well --

QUESTION: Why? Do they have free time what with Ukraine and Crimea and all this stuff? You should put them to work. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Just they give them a little break within their 23-hour day.

QUESTION: Let me start with the Middle East because there are reports just coming out within the last hour – erroneous reports, I understand, but I just want to check to make sure – that the Israelis and Palestinians have come to some kind of an agreement to extend the talks. If – can you say whether that’s true or not, and also tell us if there – is there any kind of a readout from this meeting that Ambassador Indyk apparently had today?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, let me give you a couple of updates. Our teams on the ground, the negotiating – our negotiating team and both parties remain in intensive negotiations. They had another meeting today. The gaps are narrowing, but any speculation about an agreement are premature at this time.

A couple of other just quick updates on this particular topic. Ambassador Indyk will be returning to Washington in the coming days for consultations. He plans to return to the region again next week. As all of you know, there are a range of holidays, whether it’s Passover or upcoming Easter, so this is a natural time for him to return. And those are the updates I have for all of you.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you what you mean by speculation would be premature? Can you just say that these reports are wrong?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, the reports are inaccurate, so speculation that’s been out there and reports that there is a deal is inaccurate.

QUESTION: All right. So – but that is what you’re trying to do, right?

MS. PSAKI: Of course it is. And our teams remain in intensive negotiation --

QUESTION: So that’s the goal --

MS. PSAKI: -- and the gaps are narrowing.

QUESTION: That’s the goal, but you’re not there yet. Is that it?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. That’s right.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: That’s right.

QUESTION: Just a quick – go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: What is it you’re actually trying to do? I mean, Matt said that is what you’re trying to do, but what is it you’re trying to do? When you say you’re narrowing the gaps, what gaps? What are you actually physically trying to do?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re working, Jo, as you know, to determine what the path forward is for these negotiations. And that is up to the parties. It’s always been up to the parties. It remains up to the parties to make that determination. There are issues that were, of course, raised last week, and we want to determine what the path forward is.

QUESTION: So do these include the prisoners, the prisoner issue?

MS. PSAKI: There are a range of issues that are being discussed. Certainly, that’s one of them. There are other topics I’m not going to go into greater detail on that have been out there.

QUESTION: And is the release of Jonathan Pollard among those other topics?

MS. PSAKI: There are a range of topics. I’m not going to detail it further.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Said.

QUESTION: -- their sources or their reports insist that the deal includes the swap of prisoners, the 30 prisoners that were supposed to be released on the 23rd of – on the 29th of March, another 400 prisoners, but also they insist that Jonathan Pollard is part of the deal. Could you say or could you tell us or could you deny flatly that he is not part of the deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, nothing has changed. No decision has been made about Jonathan Pollard. That’s the same as it was last week. And I just made very clear that these reports are premature.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, would the Palestinians have to, let’s say, resend their applications or cancel their applications or call them back with the UN agencies for the talks to continue, or no?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to go into that level of detail, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. But would you say that the Israelis now are either reconciled to this fact that this is done and there is no backtracking by the Palestinians or backpedaling in this case?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak on behalf of the Israelis of what they would or wouldn’t feel comfortable with. Obviously, there are a range of issues being discussed, including the Palestinians’ recent steps, including their desire for prisoners to be released, including a range of issues. But I’m not going to go into further detail.

QUESTION: Only if you would indulge me for a second. Now, what does that do to the framework agreement or the 29th of April deadline? I mean, if they decide to go on beyond, so we continue doing the same thing, or is there going to be some sort of an announcement on the 29th that we have covered this period now, the nine-month period and we’re going to another six months or another nine months?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t predict for you, Said. Obviously, if there’s a decision made because of steps by the parties that these talks will continue, then it would take longer than the next couple of weeks to come to a final status agreement. But we will cross that bridge when we come to it. We’re taking it one day at a time here.

QUESTION: Now, would any agreement that is brokered or – by the Americans, in this case by the American side, include also sort of the cessation of settlement activities, as we have seen the announcement? Just, in fact, yesterday they announced 300 dunams, which is about 100 acres of land is being confiscated from an agricultural --

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re familiar with our view on settlements. I’m not going to address that question further.

Do we have more on Middle East peace, or should we move on?

QUESTION: I’ve got one very briefly.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: What’s your understanding of the status of the Palestinians’ decisions to go ahead and move toward joining these UN conventions? I understand the Swiss have said that they received --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. So to be clear, this is simply a technical step that Matt is referring to, I would caution you against reading too much into the significance of what is essentially a ministerial step in the processing of the Palestinians’ letter. So the role – let me --

QUESTION: Yeah, but I just want to make sure – administerial?

MS. PSAKI: Administerial, administerial. The role of the depository, the UN or the Swiss, is simply to notify parties to the treaty what – which has – what has happened. And the depository does not determine the legal validity or effect of the communications. It actually remains in the hands of the treaty parties, states that are a party to each treaty, to decide for themselves questions of who they recognize and with whom they consider themselves in treaty relations. So this is a technical step in their process.

QUESTION: So you do not believe that that step which was taken --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- violates the terms of the agreement that they reached back last year?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Is that correct? Because it’s just an administrative thing and it --

MS. PSAKI: We strongly – continue to strongly oppose unilateral steps, which of course we consider this one, that seek to circumvent or prejudge outcomes that still need to be negotiated. So there’s no question this process of steps has been unhelpful. But again, we’re at a stage here --

QUESTION: Right. But nothing --

MS. PSAKI: -- where we’re determining what the path forward is. We’re not going to dwell on what was or was agreed to in previous months.

QUESTION: But in terms of the way the United States looks, this doesn’t change anything in terms of the Palestinians and their --

MS. PSAKI: Our funding or --

QUESTION: No, in terms of – not in terms of your funding. But you don’t think that this changes anything – this one step changes anything on the ground or something that needs to be negotiated, or does it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is a technical step that follows on the unhelpful step taken last week. So in that degree it’s a continuation, but again, it’s not a different step. So I don’t think it changes necessarily what we’re negotiating now, no.

QUESTION: And have you made that point to the Israelis, or do you know?

MS. PSAKI: Well, look, I mean, the focus we have that’s happening between the parties now is about what the path is forward. Yes, this is a technical step, but we’re determining what the path is forward.

QUESTION: But just because the Palestinians have – their whatever-it-is has been accepted by the Swiss does not mean that they are suddenly members of the Geneva Convention.

MS. PSAKI: That’s right. That’s right. It’s a technical step. It’s still – again, unilateral steps are still unhelpful, and we’ve made that clear to both parties.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, just to clarify, when you say that gaps are narrowing, are we now at the point where we’re just talking about the length of time for an extension, or are we still on the substance of the ins and outs of negotiation?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into that level of detail, but it’s fair to say that there need to be more negotiations. Those will continue. And Ambassador Indyk will be returning to the region next week for that.

QUESTION: One thing on that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, the Secretary said the other day in his congressional testimony that the bitter irony – the irony, the bitter irony was that you were really just talking about process and how to keep the process going, not about the fundamental issues of a final settlement. Has that changed? Has anything changed since Tuesday?

MS. PSAKI: No. But again, without going into too much detail, there are also discussion of conditions that would create the best environment for a peace process, and that’s part of the discussions as well.

QUESTION: Got it. But the fundamental point which hasn’t changed then since his testimony is what you’re really just trying to do is keep the talks going now, rather than actually working on – though I get that the two are not entirely divorced from one another, but that the focus is just keeping them going, not on negotiating the final status issues.

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re talking about, of course, the important difficult issues. I’m not going to go into further detail than I have.

QUESTION: Can I just have a follow-up very quickly? Does this narrowing of the gap --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- was it influenced by what the Secretary said on Capitol Hill, by the meeting in Cairo of the Arab ministerial meeting in Cairo, and by the meeting yesterday between the Israeli foreign minister and Secretary Kerry?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I would encourage you to pose those questions to the Israelis and the Palestinians. It’s their decisions and their choices that are being made, so I’m not going to do an analysis on that.

QUESTION: I promise, my last question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Are you hopeful that the talks will continue on past the 29th? Do you see that it is happening?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I don’t want to make a prediction, but certainly, our goal has always been to work with the parties in a role as a facilitator to achieve a final status agreement.

QUESTION: Just on Indyk’s travel, do you expect him to come back – are there any more meetings that you’re aware of that are going to happen before he returns? Do you know when exactly he’s going to return?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. I’ll check and see if there’s more specificity. As I understand it, it’s in the coming day or so.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Could you give dates for his return here and --

MS. PSAKI: Next week. He’ll be returning back to the region next week, and he’ll be returning in the next day or so to Washington.

QUESTION: Okay. But you said about dates that, naturally, holidays that are coming up, but those holidays aren’t until next week.

MS. PSAKI: Oh well, some of them start next week, as you know. So maybe – I don’t have anything specific. When we have anything specific to let you know, we’ll let you know.

QUESTION: Is this for him to – and I’m sorry, I may have missed a word or two at the start. I this for him to consult with the Secretary and give briefings, or is it at the White House or elsewhere, or is he just getting a break?

MS. PSAKI: Well, hopefully he’ll have a little bit of a break too. But certainly, it’s to have discussions and consult with the Secretary and the national security team here.

QUESTION: Jen, the holiday begins on the 14th and ends on the 22nd. Is it safe to assume that Ambassador Indyk will be here during that time?

MS. PSAKI: No. We’ll let you know as soon as we know when he’ll be returning, but it’s at some point next week.

QUESTION: Can I just --

MS. PSAKI: On Middle East peace or a different topic?

QUESTION: No, very quick on Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: About an hour, there will be a resolution at the Senate regarding Armenian genocide resolution. Do you have any position on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our position has long been that we acknowledge – clearly acknowledge as historical fact and mourn the loss of 1.5 million Armenians who were massacred or marched to their deaths in the final days of the Ottoman Empire. These horrific events resulted in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century, and the United States recognizes that they remain a great source of pain for the people of Armenia and of Armenian descent, as they do for all of us who share basic universal values. Beyond that, I don’t have any other comment for you.

QUESTION: Okay. So this resolution wants Administration to recognize or the President to recognize 24th of April as the commemoration for the 1915 events, genocide events. Would you – do you have any position regarding this?

MS. PSAKI: I just provided what our United States position is.

QUESTION: Jen, you can’t address --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) or when you were working for candidate Obama what his position was on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I know that candidate Obama has his own personal views about this issue, which he – was actually in his statement that the White House sent out last year. I’m sure there’ll be more statements to come at the end of this month.

QUESTION: But you cannot specifically address the question of whether the U.S. Government regards the events that you just described near the end of the Ottoman Empire as genocide?

MS. PSAKI: I just stated what our position is. Do we have more on this? Turkey?

QUESTION: Jen, one single question more. There is a protocols between the Armenia and Turkey that your Administration helped in 2011 or ’10, I believe. Do you have any update on that, how those normalization process is going on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to urge both countries to work together to achieve a full, frank and just acknowledgement of the facts. We believe that by working together to address their shared history, Armenia and Turkey can promote stability and prosperity in the entire Caucasus region, so we continue to work with them on that.

While the protocols may not be moving forward at this time, we note that both sides remain committed to the process of normalizing relations and neither side has withdrawn. Our greatest interest on this issue is to see Armenia and Turkey heal the wounds of the past and move forward together in a shared future of security and prosperity in the region, and our policy is, of course, naturally guided by that goal.

QUESTION: Do you know why this process is not moving forward? It has been five years almost that --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I understand that. I don’t have any more detailed analysis for you.

Shall we move on to a new topic?

QUESTION: Just to return to the issue of the Iranian nomination for representative at the UN, reports today, there are court papers that allege that he was implicated in the assassination of a dissident, an Iranian dissident in Italy in the 1990s. First of all, is the Administration aware of this?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen the reports. We’ve obviously expressed our concerns publicly to the Iranians and to the UN about the fact that this nomination is not viable, but I’m not going to detail the specifics of those concerns more.

QUESTION: But this new information, or at least new to us, does that factor into the discussion about whether or not to ban the visa at all?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to detail that further.

QUESTION: But you haven’t made a decision yet?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to update you all on on this specific issue.

QUESTION: I just want to know if you have any reaction to the passage in the House of the bill.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly share the concerns expressed by members of Congress and we have expressed those to the Iranians, but I don’t have anything particular on the congressional vote.

QUESTION: Okay. And then just – I just wonder if you can say – is it the case that by saying that his nomination is not viable and saying that publicly – not just you, but the White House and others as well – is that what you would like to do, what you would like to see, is for the Iranians to withdraw his nomination. Is that a fair assessment of the position that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, that would certainly be one option, but I’m not going to detail any further.

QUESTION: But is that not the preferred option for – would that not be a preferable option than to go – than having to deny a visa or having to approve the visa? Wouldn’t be easier if it just went away, if they just withdrew the nomination?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our preference certainly would have been that he wouldn’t have been nominated to begin with.

QUESTION: In the first place, right.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: But now that he has been, it’s fair to say that the Administration would like to see – that the easiest and quickest resolution to this problem is for his nomination to be withdrawn, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, as I’ve noted a few times, we’ve made our concerns clear and they’re going to make whatever choice they’ll make.

QUESTION: Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I asked if you could take the questions of whether there had been precedents for this. Are you able to – whether there are – not precedents to this – whether there are past instances of U.S. visa denials for foreign representatives to the United Nations, whether permrep or lower level. Can you address that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into historical precedents from the podium. Certainly, I know everybody has lots of access to information out there, but I don’t have anything I can detail for you from there.

QUESTION: And is there a legal reason for that, or is it a policy decision?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to detail it further.

Do we have more on this issue?

QUESTION: On Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday the American team in Vienna issued a statement that the Under Secretary Sherman had an hour and a half meeting, bilateral with the Iranians.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And she raised the issue of the Americans detained and disappeared in Iran, which means they are talking more than the nuclear issue. Do you know if they discussed any regional issues beside this?

MS. PSAKI: My understanding from talking to our team, Samir, is that, yes, they did meet for an hour and a half. They talked about two things during that bilateral meeting. That is, of course, the nuclear negotiation as one of them. The other is the issue of American citizens and our concern about Mr. Hekmati, Pastor Abedini, and Robert Levinson, all of whom deserve to be home with their families. So those were the two topics of discussion.

QUESTION: No other regional issues?

MS. PSAKI: Those were the two topics.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I think under the schedule that has been outlined for the payments under the JPOA to Iran, the fourth payment, which is for a total of $550 million, is supposed to happen today.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has that happened?

MS. PSAKI: So as you noted, we – at the beginning of this process, we made a schedule of installments public. This one was worth the equivalent of 550 million, as you noted. This is actually – the process and the step that happens here is that OFAC would of course notify banks of this step each time it comes due. I would point you to them to confirm whether that’s happened or not.

QUESTION: So you can’t, but OFAC can let us know what --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. OFAC would be --

QUESTION: -- that the payment has gone through or that --

MS. PSAKI: OFAC – they would let you know if the banks have been notified. I don’t think they can confirm whether a payment has gone through, but they can let you know if a bank – if the banks have been notified, which would be the step they take.

QUESTION: That they could make such a payment?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I thought Marie had confirmed from the podium in the – or I thought either you or Marie had confirmed from the podium that such payments have gone through.

MS. PSAKI: I can look back. Obviously, if it’s happened in the past, maybe that’s a different circumstance. Obviously, since this is a due date today I would point you to OFAC and they can let you know if the step on our end has been taken.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

Iran? Or any more on Iran?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I referred to Foreign Minister Zarif yesterday – 50 to 60 percent already been agreed upon with respect to the agreement. But on – yesterday on the background, the senior officer said nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. So it looks like – it is clear there is a disagreement on many thing. What are the major point that there is no full agreement with the Iranian about, or the remaining point to agree upon?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me walk you through a little bit about where we are. As you know, the last round of talks was completed yesterday. Our team continued our substantive discussions about all of the issues that will be – have to be part of a comprehensive agreement. These sessions have been in-depth and the conversations have given us important additional insights into the biggest and most challenging gaps that we’ll be required to address, we’ll all be required to address as we move forward.

At this point, as you know, we don’t know if we’ll be successful in bridging these gaps. And I think that was the point that was being made. We are certainly committed, as are all the parties, to doing so. And certainly from the beginning, Under Secretary Sherman and others who have been leading these negotiations have made clear that there are two principles that are important. One is that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and the other is that nothing is agreed until everyone agrees to it, because the unity between the P5+1 on these issues is hugely important.

The next step in this process is to begin actually drafting text, which we have said would happen after this next round. I would caution anyone from thinking that a final agreement is imminent or that it will be easy. That’s just the next step in this. And the P5+1 will meet back in Vienna at the political director level again on May 13th. As has been the case consistently throughout, our experts will also be working in the interim together to address some of the technical issues.

QUESTION: But isn’t that the same thing? Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, and nothing is agreed until everyone agrees to it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, not to --

QUESTION: Or is it – or is there a distinction?

MS. PSAKI: I actually – how I view that, Matt, is that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed refers to the content; nothing is agreed till everyone agrees to it means the partners. So that’s, I think, what is the meaning – not to put too fine of a point on it – of the saying.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: May 13th, that’s with the Iranians, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. It’s the next round of negotiations.

QUESTION: Yeah, right, right. Right, right, right. Good.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, yeah. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Move on?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just want to – logistically, on Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Who is going to – whenever this meeting is set for next week – and I have a suggested name for the group, by the way.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, let’s hear it.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: You don’t like Quad or Quartet?

QUESTION: No. I think that --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- Tetrad would be good. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: That doesn’t flow off the tongue.

QUESTION: Tetrad.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. We’ll come back tomorrow and see if you have a better option. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No. You mean you’re rejecting it out of hand? I’m going to try to get it to catch on.

Anyway, is there anything to announce on that? And even if you’re not in a position to say if there is, who is, like, in charge of this thing? Who would the announcement come from if not from you, on the meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, when we’re prepared to announce, we would announce in conjunction with the other participants. But we’re still in discussions with the Ukrainians, with the EU, with the Russians, and so I don’t have anything to announce for all of you today. We’re still, of course, planning on next week.

QUESTION: But what’s the holdup? I just know this has been in the works for a while now. Why is it so difficult to decide between a couple of European capitals and a couple of very close dates?

MS. PSAKI: Because you’re coordinating a lot of parties. I think everybody is working towards making a determination on the final details, and as soon as we do, we’ll make it available.

New topic? Okay.

QUESTION: Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine. Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. The G20 meeting has already started, and my understanding, at the same time G7 meeting is also be held. And --

MS. PSAKI: The G7 meeting --

QUESTION: G7.

MS. PSAKI: The one that will be in June?

QUESTION: Here. No, no, no, today. Today or tomorrow here in Washington, D.C.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And probably they are going to discuss IMF support or economic support to Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But do they also talk about the political issues, such as kind of the sanction – fresh sanction or something like this?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure which meeting you’re referring to, but broadly speaking, we have been discussing with our G7 partners and any partners in the international community a range of issues, including economic support for Ukraine, support for the IMF-backed package, individual packages that our countries may be supporting, as well as taking complementary steps, including sanctions. So I would expect that during any meeting where Ukraine is discussed with our international partners, these issues would be discussed.

QUESTION: The same time, the U.S. and Russia, in a bilateral meeting, is also – that it’s going to take place today or tomorrow?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

QUESTION: A ministry of finance.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, a meeting – is it of – a meeting with the Department of Treasury? Is it those officials?

QUESTION: Yes, yes, exactly. Yes, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay. I would point you to them on details for that. I don’t have any specifics on the content of their meeting.

QUESTION: Jen, can I just ask you, on the economic support, where exactly we are? This is a little bit on catch-up after being on the road last week. The 1 billion loan guarantee that was approved --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Yep.

QUESTION: -- has that actually been put forward? Is that – has a, like a button being pressed somewhere --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and you are now standing guarantor?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the --

QUESTION: And also bits of money that I believe Assistant Secretary Nuland was talking about in her testimony about – in the FY13 and FY14 --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- has that actually been spent --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- or is it still pending?

MS. PSAKI: It’s all a good question. The President signed into law, as you know, last week the loan guarantee package. In terms of where it sits right now, let me take that and just see if we can get an update for you and the other bits of money that Assistant Secretary Nuland referred to.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Jen, when the Secretary visited Kyiv, there were other things included in that package that was announced that day beyond money. It was also, like, technical advisors on things – not just to look at the books, but to claw back money that had been sort of looted.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Any update on where we are with that --

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t I check in the same round of questioning. Obviously, there are a lot of channels happening at the same time, including consultations on those issues, consultations on issues like natural gas and access to energy resources. We’ve been working closely with them, with the Ukrainians in recent days on that specifically. So I know there’s a lot of activities taking place; let me just see if we can get an update for you.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to President Putin’s letter this morning to the EU saying that they’re going to cut off supplies unless the EU stumps up the cash for the Ukrainian bills?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly seen that. Just to catch you all up, which you may all already be aware of, on a couple of actual steps they’ve taken. Also on April 1st, Russia raised the price of natural gas for Ukraine by more than 40 percent. Now they’ve raised the price – they also then after that raised the price again, and then we saw, of course, the letter you referred to this morning. And Russia reneged on an agreement signed with Ukraine that offered reduced gas prices in exchange for a 25-year lease of Black Sea Fleet facilities. We condemn Russia’s efforts to use energy as a tool of coercion against Ukraine. Ukraine is now paying $485, a price clearly not set by market forces and well above the average price paid by EU members.

As I just touched on, the U.S. is – the United States is taking immediate steps to assist Ukraine, including the provision of emergency finance and technical assistance in the areas of energy security, energy efficiency, and energy sector reform. In addition, we’re working with Ukraine and our allies on its western borders to encourage them to prepare to reverse natural gas flows in the pipeline so that Ukraine can access additional gas supplies if needed. And what that means is there are flows of gas, of natural gas I should say, that go through – from Western Europe through Ukraine to Russia, and we – or I’m sorry, the other way – from Russia through Ukraine to Western Europe. And we want some of that natural gas to be available to go back into Ukraine. It was a warmer winter, they have some excesses that makes that possible, so we’re working on that as well.

QUESTION: So who controls the pipeline, then? Do the Ukrainians control it?

MS. PSAKI: Depends on the pipeline. And we’re working with a range of partners in the region to see what’s possible.

QUESTION: Two things briefly, Jen. Why can’t – the gas that the Russians are selling is Russia’s to sell, is it not? Why can’t they charge whatever price they want for it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, there are also – they had an agreement that I referenced about what they would provide in response to the 25-year lease.

QUESTION: Right. But clearly that agreement was abrogated when the Russians just moved in and took over Crimea and have no longer any need to lease the – correct?

MS. PSAKI: That may be the case. It doesn’t mean we don’t still have strong views about the steps they’ve taken, which clearly we do.

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: And we’re taking steps to help Ukraine.

QUESTION: Fair enough. But you – so you think that the – you think that you should be able to tell the Russians what price to charge for the gas that it sells to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I said that, but again --

QUESTION: Well --

MS. PSAKI: -- I think they’ve had a long agreement. They’ve – obviously, it’s relevant to point out that they are selling the gas at far above the market rate.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: And obviously, we’re taking steps to work with our partners in the region to help Ukraine during this time.

QUESTION: But you think that it’s some kind of violation of something other than just not being a nice seller to – I mean, why can’t they charge whatever they want?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I’m just speaking to our views --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- on their steps they’ve taken.

QUESTION: Okay. And then, secondly, there was a lot of talk yesterday and the day before – or last several days about these actions going on in eastern Ukraine that you guys say are being fomented by the Russians.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have you seen anything since – anything in the past, say, 48 hours that would ease any of your concerns? Or have you seen anything that would make you increase – that would make your concerns grow on the agent provocateur front?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we still have the same concerns. Obviously, things have calmed a bit and there are still some buildings where there are remaining issues. We have seen reports that the separatists who seized a security building in Luhansk may have rigged the building with explosives. There are conflicting reports about some particular buildings. But it remains the case, as Assistant Secretary Nuland said yesterday, that these are not spontaneous – a spontaneous set of events. These incidents bear all the hallmarks of an orchestrated campaign of incitement, separatism, and sabotage of the Ukrainian state, and those concerns remain.

QUESTION: Right. But in his conversation yesterday with Foreign Minister Lavrov and in all these public statements, including Toria’s which you just said --

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- you’ve been telling the Russians to knock it off. Is there any sign that you’re aware of that they’re listening, that they’re actually doing that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously these events are from a couple of days ago. We’ll see what actions they take moving forward.

QUESTION: So the answer is no. You don’t know whether there has been any – I’d rather --

MS. PSAKI: Well, there haven’t been --

QUESTION: It’s not a trick question.

MS. PSAKI: -- there haven’t been new steps.

QUESTION: Okay, there hasn’t been anything yet.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re monitoring as closely as we can. But we still remain concerned about the steps that have been taken.

QUESTION: Just going back to your condemnation of what you described as “the Russians have used energy as a tool of coercion” – was that meant to apply to the letter, which is what Jo had asked you about, or to the totality of circumstances that you described, including --

MS. PSAKI: The totality of circumstances in response --

QUESTION: -- including the letter?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: And in response to Jo’s question, what I thought was relevant here was specific actions more than the letter; also, that they have taken to increase the prices.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to what you mentioned? If I understood this right, you’re trying to work with experts to reverse the gas flow --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- so that Ukrainians get it back?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Isn’t Russia going to take that as some kind of act of sabotage on – or Gazprom on their gas pipeline?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not an expert on this, obviously. I’ve learned quite a bit about it in the last couple of days, but I can see if there’s more specifics, technical specifics on how it would exactly work. I think it would be gas flow that would be coming from Europe, so it wouldn’t – I don’t know that it would be owned by Russia.

QUESTION: It just seems to me that there would be other situations in other countries where if nation states started to try and reserve gas flows, there would be an outcry by other nation states about that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a lot of circumstances happening on the ground and there are a lot of things under consideration to help the people of Ukraine.

QUESTION: But I mean, the Russians could take the position that you’re actually effectively pinching their gas. No?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure that that’s technically correct. It’s a good question, but I will see if there’s more our technical experts can tell.

QUESTION: More technical term than pinching – (laughter).

QUESTION: You don’t think that pinching – pinching is not a technical (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: It is not, but I understand what Jo’s getting at.

QUESTION: How about just theft? Let’s call it theft.

MS. PSAKI: I’m understanding her nuance of meaning --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: -- they could think we’re taking their gas supply. So I don’t think that is what the actual technical – technically what would happen, but I will check with our team on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: It’s called larceny, actually.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Any more on Ukraine?

QUESTION: Ukraine?

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine, okay.

QUESTION: Yes. Did you know (inaudible) Ukraine Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And he showed three satellite images on his Twitter yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, he did what?

QUESTION: On his Twitter.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, satellite images. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. So I want to know – so what is the purpose of his – this – he shows these three satellite images?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one – let me be clear. These are publicly available images. These weren’t private images or images taken from a government stock, so to speak. (Laughter.) But --

QUESTION: They’re not spy satellite images. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: But he was – as we’ve been making the point clearly that we’ve been concerned about not just the troop presence gathering on the border but the fact that they’re staying, and this clearly illustrates that point.

QUESTION: Jennifer, there is an explosion today in Athens, Greece, outside of the Bank of Greece. First I wanted to know if you have a reaction to this, and second, do you help or participate in the investigation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we strongly condemn those who use violence to seek to achieve their goals. The United States and Greece are partners in combating terrorism in all its forms. For information about this particular incident, we would refer you to the Greek Government. We are certainly partners. I’m not aware of a United States role in this. I think it would be led by the Government of Greece.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. Nonproliferation.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So earlier this morning, the State Department announced the travel plans of Under Secretary Gottemoeller to Japan and China. Can you outline her travel details for us?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I’m happy to. Under Secretary Gottemoeller will travel to Japan and China from April 10th, today, to April 15th. From the 10th through the 11th she will meet with Japanese counterparts from the cabinet secretariat and the ministry of foreign affairs in Tokyo. She will discuss regional security issues, arms control, and nonproliferation policy, and missile defense cooperation. She will travel on the 12th to Hiroshima to attend the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative ministerial. She will also lead the U.S. delegation to the Japan-U.S. Commission on Disarmament and Nonproliferation, a bilateral dialogue covering weapons of mass destruction, nuclear energy, and conventional arms issues.

On the 14th and 15th, she will take part in the fifth P5 conference in Beijing, China. The conference is the latest in a series of meetings between the United States, China, France, the Russian Federation, and the United Kingdom, aimed at furthering the disarmament goals laid out in the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference action plan. And finally, on the 15th, she and her counterparts will participate in the P5 conference public event titled “Comprehensive Enhancement of the NPT.”

QUESTION: So as part of her trip, she’ll attend the annual NPDI ministerial meeting in Hiroshima.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What’ll be the main agenda of her participation in this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the organizers of the event. She’s participating, but the event is not organized by the United States.

QUESTION: And this is the first time that the U.S. is going to be participating in this particular meeting. What is the impetus for U.S. participation this round?

MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly nonproliferation and the importance of working with our partners and allies around the world. To further that agenda is important to the President, important to the Secretary. Obviously, Under Secretary Gottemoeller is an expert on these issues and I think all agreed it would be important to send a message about how important we think this issue is.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Follow-up question?

QUESTION: The reason that you’re being asked these questions is not – is the symbolism of the venue itself. Do you not have anything --

MS. PSAKI: I understand that, Matt. Thank you for --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Well, do – but do you have anything to say about that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. Obviously, it’s not our event. We’re participating in the event.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, I have a follow-up question on that. Is her participation in the NDPI meeting somehow related to the negotiation for preparatory talks of NPT review conference in Beijing next week, which I’m assuming she’s also --

MS. PSAKI: She’s also attending that. I mentioned that in the list I just gave.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Deputy Secretary Burns met with South Korea Deputy National Security Chief Kim Kyou-hyun today. Can you tell us more detail about the purpose of this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure I have more details. I believe it was part of kind of ongoing discussions and – with our important partners, and a follow-up to the range of meetings that the President had over the course of the last couple of weeks. I’ll check with Deputy Secretary Burns’s office and see if there’s more to share.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: Yeah, I wanted to return to the question of the immunity granted by the State Department to Blackwater employees in Iraq in 2007. Were you able to establish, one, whether you felt that the Department had the right to grant immunity at that time absent the authorization of the Justice Department or the concurrence of the Justice Department?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to comment on what people in 2007 thought about a right to grant immunity in Iraq. I will say to kind of expand a little bit on one of your questions yesterday about what we specifically did to address, we have worked to address immunity concerns that arose soon after Nisour Square, including by creating in conjunction with DOJ new warning forms for voluntary interviews and compelled interviews, and emphasizing procedures to follow when using the forms through improved training and notices to overseas posts. So certainly that was part of, among other, issues that we work to address in conjunction with the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: What does that mean? Does that mean – what do the forms actually do? Do they warn people that anything they say can and will be used against them? Do the forms say to the DS or other investigators you have no authority to grant immunity without checking with the Justice Department? I mean, I – it still doesn’t to me address --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I’m not sure if these forms are publicly available forms. If they are, I will talk to our team and see if we can make one available, and perhaps we can get you a briefing with them on the specifics.

QUESTION: And why are you not able to address that question of --

MS. PSAKI: About 2007?

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, it’s not like you haven’t had enough time to think about it or figure out what happened. So why not address – get somebody who worked on this to address that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, thank you for your advice, Arshad, but I’m not going to speak to what happened seven years ago in a different administration, and clearly we’ve taken steps to address this since then, and I think that’s the important point we should all focus on.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: I had a question.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: I’ve got more. Sorry –

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- but it’ll be brief I’m sure. Just to follow up to my --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- questions yesterday on that whole Cuba Twitter thing.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Have you – I know that Administrator Shah was on the Hill this morning and that he was asked some questions about this, and I know that Senate – the Foreign Relations Committee has asked for some kind of a – I guess not an investigation, but some kind of a look into all of AID’s internet – not just this one, but anything they might be doing. But I’m wondering if you were able to get an answer to the question about those texts that I was referring to yesterday --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- that did appear to have political content.

MS. PSAKI: Well, USAID is continuing to gather background information. I would point you to specifically what Administrator Shah said this morning I believe in response to a question. He’s asked his team to review all of the information related to the program, and certainly these reported texts will be a part of that process.

QUESTION: Okay. Bu you do not – yeah, that review is not finished; it just started, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Correct.

QUESTION: All right. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:01 p.m.)

DPB #63

2014-04-10


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


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


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • UKRAINE
    • Secretary Kerry's conversations with Foreign Minister Lavrov and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk / Tensions in Eastern Ukraine
    • Possibility of a meeting of the EU, the United States, Russia, and Ukraine
  • MEPP
    • Secretary Kerry's Meeting with Foreign Minister Lieberman
    • Cancellation of Ministerial-Level Meetings between Israelis and Palestinians
    • Reports of Additional Meeting with Ambassador Indyk
    • Comments made during the Secretary's SFRC Testimony/ Unhelpful Steps by both Parties
    • Next Steps in the Process / U.S. Goal Remains Final Status Agreement
    • Secretary's Meeting with the President / Update on Peace Process
    • Arab League Support, Role in Peace Process
    • Status of Ambassador Indyk
  • SYRIA
    • State Department Engagement with Members of Congress
    • Transfer of Chemical Weapons / Sigrid Kaag's Briefing to UNSC
    • Continue to Press Russia to Work with U.S. on Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons
    • Syrian Refugees
  • BAHRAIN
    • Human Rights Practices / Legal Action Against Medical Personnel
  • RUSSIA/UKRAINE
    • Secretary's Conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov
    • Remain Concerned About Russian Military Intervention
    • Russia Behind Actions in Ukraine
    • Sanctions / Range of Escalatory Steps Available
    • U.S. Working in Lockstep with Europeans
    • No Date, Location, Agenda for Meeting of EU, U.S., Russia and Ukraine Finalized / Purpose of Meeting
    • U.S. Cooperation with Ukraine / Intelligence
    • Range of Issues for Multi-party Discussion
    • Sanctions / Extensive Flexibility to Sanctions
  • EGYPT
    • Terrorist designation of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis
    • Foreign Military Sales to Egypt
  • IRAN
    • Iranian Nominee to United Nations
    • Host Nation Admission of Chosen Representatives of UN Member States
    • Visas for Proposed Ambassadors to the United Nations
    • P5+1 Talks in Vienna
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Blackwater Judicial Recommendation / Steps Taken Since Nisour Square Incident
  • IRAN
    • Iranian Nominee to the United Nations
  • CHINA/JAPAN
    • Good Relations Benefit the Region
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Host Nation Admission of Chosen Representatives of UN Member States
  • CHINA
    • Taiwan's Interest in Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • SOUTH SUDAN
    • Secretary to meet with Awan Riak
    • No Decisions yet on Sanctions
    • Ongoing Crisis
  • MONTENEGRO
    • Prime Minister's Meetings in Washington
  • SUDAN
    • Reports of Expulsion of UN Employee
  • CUBA
    • ZunZuneo Communications Platform


TRANSCRIPT:

1:21 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Thank you for your patience. Turns out there’s quite a bit going on in the world today, as all of you know. I have a couple of items at the top.

The Secretary spoke this morning with Foreign Minister Lavrov. He also spoke with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk separately. When he spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov, he reiterated our concerns – his concerns about escalating tensions in the east. They discussed the possibility of a quad meeting next week that you all saw EU High Representative Ashton refer to yesterday. He spoke with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, thanked him for his leadership, encouraged him to continue efforts at inclusiveness across Ukraine. They discussed the ongoing efforts by the Ukrainian Government to continue to address the situation in eastern Ukraine peacefully, and they also discussed the possibility of a quad meeting next week.

One other item: With us at today’s briefing, we have eight students from the U.S. Defense Information School sitting in the back. Hello, everyone. They’re here today as part of a public affairs course for international students, a DOD initiative to build effective media relations in partner nations. They represent six different countries and upon graduation will serve as public affairs officers within their respective defense ministries.

Hello, Matt. Welcome back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Same to you, although, I guess you were back on Monday.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: So just on the – (laughter) – Ukraine thing. Just on --

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Jo. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Exactly. Just on the Ukraine thing for a second. Has it been settled that this thing, whatever this group is going to be called – the quad?

MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t intending to give it any arbitrary name, just it’s been called that in the press. But it would be a meeting of the EU --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- the United States --

QUESTION: Because if it was --

MS. PSAKI: -- the Russians and the Ukrainians. Yes.

QUESTION: So that would be four, right?

MS. PSAKI: That is. That’s four.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So that is quad.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. So was Quartet.

MS. PSAKI: I know none of us are math majors. Quartet, too.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: How successful has the Quartet been? And based on that, just – the troika. There was a quad before. Does that mean that this new quad will supersede the old quad?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, you’ll have to stay tuned for when the meeting is finalized to just see what the name will be.

QUESTION: All right. I’m sure there are other questions on Ukraine, but I’ve got to start with the Middle East --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- because of the Secretary’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lieberman, which I assume is going ahead later this afternoon, yes?

MS. PSAKI: It is.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to curtail ministerial level meetings with the Palestinians, with I guess the exception of Livni --

MS. PSAKI: The negotiators?

QUESTION: Right. And then also about some comments the Secretary made yesterday on the Hill.

So starting, one, with the first – the meeting with Foreign Minister Lieberman, the foreign minister has said that he – said in the past that he would vote against – had there ever been a cabinet meeting, vote against the prisoner release. What’s the purpose of this meeting this afternoon? Is the Secretary hoping to get him on board with the peace process?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I am certain they will discuss the ongoing negotiations between the parties. But he is his counterpart in the Israeli Government. They have met many times before, as you know. And we’ll do a readout after the meeting. But it’s been a scheduled meeting, and I think he’s in town for other meetings as well.

QUESTION: All right. Secondly, do you have any reaction to the prime minister’s decision to suspend or to cancel ministerial level meetings with the Palestinians?

MS. PSAKI: I do. We are certainly aware of the announcement. We regard it as unfortunate. We believe that cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has provided benefits to both sides. We continue to urge both sides to take steps that contribute to a conducive environment for peace. We note that the contact in meetings between the negotiators are continuing, and note that they are engaging in serious and intensive efforts to find a way out of the current impasse. We do consider it very important that security-related cooperation is not affected.

QUESTION: Okay. And then you said that the meetings are continuing. There’s reports in Israel today that Ambassador Indyk will be having another meeting – the third since Sunday, I guess – tomorrow. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: I have nothing to confirm for you at this point. Let me talk to him and the negotiators after the briefing and see what we may have for you.

QUESTION: All right. And then the last one on this is the Secretary on the Hill yesterday managed to get the Israelis, in particular, upset about him when he described, what he called a “poof” moment when things went, for lack of a better word, to hell. Given the fact that you guys have made clear for some time now, for at least two weeks now, that both sides have taken negative steps: one, would it have been perhaps more appropriate for the Secretary not to use his “poof” moment comment; or, if it was appropriate, do you think that it was – that he put it in the context of the timeline at the wrong place?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I spoke with the Secretary about this this morning, and he was, frankly, surprised by the coverage of his comments because he doesn’t believe, as you noted and has said repeatedly, that one side deserves blame over another media note because they’ve both taken unhelpful steps – that’s something you’ve heard him say frequently. And at no point, including yesterday, has he intended to engage in a blame game.

The truth is even yesterday, if you look at the full context of his comments, he went out of his way to credit Prime Minister Netanyahu for making tough choices. And you’ll remember, as you also noted, that he began his comments by very matter-of-factly referring to the unhelpful and provocative steps the Palestinians took by going on television and, of course, announcing their intention to join UN treaties.

So what he followed yesterday or what he did yesterday was simply restate the chronology of events of last week that took place, which ended, of course, with the step by the Palestinians to announce plans to join international conventions. So that was the intention of his comments, and he certainly stands by them and was surprised that there was there a view that he was one-sided.

QUESTION: Well, he was surprised by the fact that people took him at his word, because that’s what he said? If we look at the chronology going back this week – and I don’t want to belabor this, but on Saturday – Saturday was when the prisoners were supposed to be released.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: They weren’t. Saturday, Sunday – after they weren’t released, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, nothing really major happened. The Palestinians didn’t take any action.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On Tuesday, the new Gilo announcement – settlement – or construction announcement was made.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: That is when the Secretary said the “poof” moment was. It wasn’t until the next day, Wednesday, when we were in Brussels, that President Abbas came out and said that he was going to sign onto these UN conventions.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And it wasn’t until the next day after that, Thursday, that Justice Minister Livni came out and said that the prisoner release was now officially canceled. So in retrospect, wouldn’t it have been more accurate, given the fact that you blame both sides, for the Secretary to have identified the “poof” moment not as the housing announcement but rather either the Palestinian announcement or Justice Minister Livni’s announcement that the prisoner release had been canceled entirely?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would caution you against over-emphasizing the meaning of “poof,” which we’ve now talked about a lot here. But he was – his view is that there were unhelpful steps by both sides. That’s what he was conveying yesterday. Again – again, as we look forward to the coming days, it’s clearly counterproductive when either side takes steps that aren’t conducive to an environment moving forward. So we’re not going to spend our time recounting every single step as it relates to the events of last week. We’re going to see if there’s the will and the desire to move things forward.

QUESTION: Right. But that’s what he did yesterday. In recounting the chronology, he did exactly what you say you don’t want to do.

MS. PSAKI: No --

QUESTION: And he – and because he used the “poof” comment where he did, some in Israel – many if not all in Israel – took that to be an indication that you regard them as more to blame than the other side. You’re saying that that’s wrong. So if it’s – correct? You’re saying that that is wrong?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I --

QUESTION: He wasn’t meaning to single out Israel for more blame than anyone else?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to his own comments he’s made many times over the past week about the unhelpful steps by both sides, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. And you say that he doesn’t want to get into the blame game. But is he – aren’t you, in fact, blaming both sides? Isn’t that the blame game?

MS. PSAKI: Well, often the blame game means blaming one side over the other, and that’s what I’m using it as a reference to.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, can I ask – you’ve mentioned that there’s hopefully going to be or there’s possibly going to be another round of negotiations on the ground involving Ambassador Indyk. What is --

MS. PSAKI: I think Matt mentioned that. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay, okay. There’s going to be – but there is another round planned, in fact?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I said I’m happy to talk to Ambassador Indyk and our team on the ground to see what the next steps are here. As you know, they’ve had two rounds of discussions, and I’m happy to discuss with them what’s up next.

QUESTION: But you said the idea was to try and get things back on track, yeah?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly that’s been our effort that’s been underway for the last several days and the purpose of those meetings, absolutely.

QUESTION: So how do you do that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think it is going to be up to the parties to determine whether they have the will and the intention to take the steps necessary for things to be back on track. So we’re having discussions with them about what’s possible.

QUESTION: But are you all looking at putting the things back on track fully so you have also another planned prisoner release and then another planned step towards – April 29th is the deadline – so another plan for an extension of the talks beyond April 29th or --

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of steps that are being discussed. Obviously, both sides have indicated what’s important to them, so it’s safe to assume that all of those issues you mentioned and more are being discussed. And naturally, our goal here remains a final status agreement, and certainly that will take more than a couple of weeks to accomplish.

QUESTION: And at what point do you determine that it’s not possible to put the talks back on track?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s going to be determined by the conversations the Secretary and our negotiating team has with the parties on the ground and their willingness to engage in a constructive process moving forward. So I can’t put a specific checklist out there for you.

QUESTION: But you don’t actually know at this point that they are willing to go forward?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t know yet. That is the proposition we’re testing now.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: More on Middle East peace? Go ahead Samir.

QUESTION: Yes. Did the Secretary discuss the peace process with the President yesterday, and what is the conclusion of that?

MS. PSAKI: He did, but I would remind all of you that he has a weekly meeting with the President whenever he’s in town and that was what this meeting was, and certainly they discussed the peace process and they discussed the peace process when they were on the trip traveling together over the – two weeks ago as well. So the Secretary updated him on his conversations with the negotiating team and with the parties on the ground, and we’re all going to work together to continue to test the proposition of what’s possible.

QUESTION: Will you change the approach now toward the peace process?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think it’s just as I’ve laid out to all of you. We remain engaged with the parties. As you know, the parties have met twice over the last several days. Our negotiators remain on the ground and we’re going to see what’s possible.

QUESTION: Did they make the review or not, regarding the negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Did they review the negotiations when they started to --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s an overemphasis on what that means. Just in any policy process you make decisions day by day on what’s productive and what the right steps are, and certainly the Secretary has been working in lockstep with the President and the national security team throughout this process, and so they did discuss, of course, yesterday, and those discussions will continue.

Middle East peace or another topic?

QUESTION: Please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Palestinians have been asking for the release of Marwan Barghouti quite regularly in this process. Has that become more of a key bargaining factor in this whole process of getting things back on track? Has it taken on extra importance or can you give us an idea of where that is?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into any specifics of what each side is pressing for. We certainly understand they’ll make their own public comments about what’s important to them, but I’m not going to get into any more detail on that.

QUESTION: One more. The Arab League decided today to – or refused today to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and asked the United States to continue its efforts in the negotiations. Any reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we’ve said all along, support of the Arab League and their support for a final status agreement between the parties is incredibly important and has been an important aspect of this process. It’s up to the parties to determine what their negotiating agreement would be. We know that recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is important to the Israelis. We’ve seen the public comments of the Palestinians. You know where the United States stands. It’s up to them to determine that moving forward, not the United States, not the Arab League, not outside parties.

QUESTION: Can I just ask – Ambassador Indyk remains in the region?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are there any plans as yet to pull him back?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think we evaluate day by day. Obviously, at some point it may make sense to have discussions with him in person. He’s been there for some time, but I’m not aware of any plans for that at this moment.

New topic?

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, let – okay. Go ahead. Syria?

QUESTION: Thank you. So yesterday was a press conference on the Hill about Syria and about the recent attack against town of Kessab. And several representatives from the Congress who were present, Brad Sherman, Jim Costa from Fresno and others, and I am quoting Brad Sherman saying, quote, “I want to join with several of my colleagues in urging that the intelligence community and the State Department provide a classified briefing on what was Turkey’s role in assisting and providing shelter to al-Qaida-linked terrorists who carried the ethnic cleansing in Kessab.” So do you have any comment on this? Are you planning to initiate any investigation about this attack?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I would say that, as the Secretary himself said yesterday, we engage with classified and unclassified briefings with the Hill on a regular basis. It’s something he feels is vitally important. I don’t have any updates on that for you or any particular reaction to the congressman’s comments.

QUESTION: You haven’t replied to Congressman Sherman and others?

MS. PSAKI: I believe they made comments in a press conference. But our Hill team is engaged closely with the Hill team and I’m sure that will continue.

Do you have any more on Syria?

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: In follow-up with the same question, I mean, two weeks ago, I mean, it was almost 10 days, there was a statement came out of this podium about the same issue about the Kessab and Armenians in there. And it was said that it was – we are deeply troubled. And it was mentioned – Marie mentioned that it was ongoing and we are following. Is there any update about following or ongoing process of watching what’s going on there? Because it’s, like, lack of information is there, it’s like. Maybe he is – my colleague is asking about the political side, I am asking about the reality side.

MS. PSAKI: I understand what you’re asking. I don’t have any particular updates. I will check with our team and see if there is anything we can offer to all of you.

QUESTION: About Syria again?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, yesterday Secretary Kerry mentioned that almost 54 percent of the chemical weapons --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- are shipped outside Syria. Is there any, like, let’s just say always we said, optimistic view that this going to be continued, knowing that what’s going on now with the relation with Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And is there any kind of, like, step forward and 10 steps backward in this regard?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we have continued to press the Syrian regime and continue to ask the Russians to press the Syrian regime to ensure a successful handoff by transferring all of the declared chemicals to Latakia by April 27th in accordance with its own proposed timeline. We know they have the ability to do so. You may have seen that the – Sigrid Kaag’s briefing to the Security Council. She made clear that the Syrian Government has the resources it needs to safely remove all chemical weapons materials by June 30th, and she also urged that large volume based movement must occur right away in order for the Syrian Government to meet the approaching deadlines. So we continue to encourage that.

Yes, there has been progress made in recent weeks, but there is more that needs to be done. This is an issue that Secretary Kerry discussed with Foreign Minister Lavrov when he met with him about a week and a half ago in Paris, I believe it was, and it’s one that we’ll continue to press the Russians to work with us on.

QUESTION: There is the issue of refugees too, because it’s becoming like – I know it’s everybody is – I mean, it’s not the headlines, it’s always forgotten. I mean, it was the latest thing which was mentioned it was like 1 million people were the number of the Syrian refugees in Lebanon or entered Lebanon, recorded – I mean, according registration. Might be maybe more even. Is there anything going on regarding this location? Especially we know it’s like, okay, now we are talking about polio, too. It’s like the possibility of polio is, like, spreading among the refugees’ camps and all these things. How you are following these issues, whether with United States or with regional powers or international entities?

MS. PSAKI: Well, sure. The United States and the UN and international entities are all following this very important issue every single day, and we have very senior-level officials in the State Department who work on the issue of refugees every single day, whether it’s in the region or in our building here in Washington. And as you know, but it’s worth repeating, the United States remains the largest donor of humanitarian assistance, and that includes assistance to neighboring countries like Lebanon, like Jordan, who have taken in a countless number of refugees and continue to. So this is an issue that we remain concerned about, we remain focused on, and one that – you’re right – does deserve more attention than it receives on a daily basis.

Scott.

QUESTION: In Bahrain?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s more trouble for medics who helped those injured in the Arab Spring uprising, one questioned for allegedly insulting the ministry of the interior in an interview that she had on France 24 about teargas, another sentenced to a year in jail for allegedly insulting the king during remarks at a funeral. Is this in keeping with the understanding that you were given about the reforms that the government there would undertake?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Scott, we are certainly following these cases closely, and you’re referring to the cases of two doctors, just to be clear to everyone – one that was previously sentenced and one that’s a newer case. We have a regular and ongoing conversation with the Bahraini Government on human rights practices. We make our concerns known when warranted, and this is certainly an example of that. We’ve repeatedly voiced concerns about legal action against medical professionals, including in these cases, both publicly and privately, at the highest levels. And we continue to urge the Government of Bahrain to protect the universal rights of freedom of expression, just as we urge all elements of Bahraini society to engage in peaceful expressions of public opinion.

And to your point and to your question, we continue to convey that in order to have a climate conducive for reconciliation, for meaningful dialogue and reform, they need to take these necessary steps to create that climate, and that includes reforms and observations of human rights practices.

QUESTION: And so just, I think, to make sure I understand --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- you said that you’re aware of these cases and you’ve expressed concerns, and this is an example of that. So these two cases that Scott mentioned --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- have been raised with the Bahrainis?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, yes. And there have been some conflicting reports about the exact situation, and I talked to our team about this before I came down, so I’ll see if there’s any update but –about the charges and what has or hasn’t been filed.

QUESTION: Can I go to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In the Secretary’s conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov, was the foreign minister able to answer or give any kind of assurances to the Secretary about what is going on? And presumably, the Secretary talked about what’s happening in the east and the U.S. concerns about – that have been expressed in public on the Hill --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- yesterday and today about Russia’s involvement or – in fomenting unrest in the east. Was the foreign minister able to speak to these things?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary, as I mentioned, certainly expressed his concerns, and the foreign minister expressed a willingness to take those back. It wasn’t a long phone call, and I’m not going to speak on their behalf, but certainly, we remain concerned about Russian military intervention and we remain concerned about all of the issues the Secretary talked about yesterday. And as he made clear in his testimony, we have no doubt that Russia’s hand and money are behind these actions we’ve seen in recent days.

QUESTION: Right. But previously to this – and specifically with – in relationship to Ukraine, the Secretary and you and other members of the Administration have not had a problem by – in saying – in describing the Russian response or in saying that the Russians have assured you, whether it’s Lavrov or anyone else, that they will respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Those assurances were broken, I guess, when they went in and annexed Crimea.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So is that – does that mean that the foreign minister was unable to offer any kind of assurance to the Secretary on (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not – I don’t want to characterize it further, Matt. You can certainly reach out to the Russians or they may have put out their own readout of their comments.

QUESTION: And then in line with the – your allegations that the Russians are – there is a Russian hand involved in what’s going on in eastern Ukraine --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- are these types of activities that could draw additional sanctions? Or does there have to be an actual move – a military – a formal military incursion for the sanctions – for additional sanctions to be considered?

MS. PSAKI: Well, no sanctions to announce today. Certainly, we look at a range of steps, including escalatory steps. And obviously, their involvement through financial means and through other means in the actions over the last couple of days have raised concerns and --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- they’re all factors that we look at.

QUESTION: But do you regard those as being escalatory steps?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly.

QUESTION: You do?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So in other words, they could, in themselves, draw additional sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to make a prediction of that.

QUESTION: Well, I’m not looking for a prediction.

MS. PSAKI: But I will say that we look at all of these. We don’t have a question – as was clear by the Secretary’s – the strength of the Secretary’s testimony yesterday --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- of their involvement here. So we certainly look at that as we make decisions moving forward.

QUESTION: And do you understand that the Europeans have similar concerns to you about the activities going on in the eastern part of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I believe some have expressed similar concerns, but I’ll let them speak for themselves.

QUESTION: And as you review your sanctions and these escalatory steps with respect to possible additional sanctions, would you been encouraging the Europeans to look the same way?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have been working in lockstep with them all along. Certainly we’ve made every effort to be coordinated and take complementary steps, and I’m sure that will continue.

QUESTION: You’ve been working with them in lockstep all – this is presumably post the – Toria’s phone call with Ambassador Pyatt? This is since then?

MS. PSAKI: You always love an opportunity to bring up the phone call, Matt. I think Toria has moved long beyond that, as have the Europeans.

QUESTION: I don’t know about the Russians, though.

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) More on Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yeah, more on Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Could you confirm that this quad or quartet or four-way meeting will take place in Vienna on the 17th of April? It’s what EU diplomats said in Brussels.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And what the point of joining, organizing this meeting when Assistant Secretary Nuland has just said on the Hill that the U.S. doesn’t have high expectations for it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of reports out there, I understand. But the date and the location and the agenda and the details haven’t been finalized yet, so when they are, I’m certain there’ll be a more formal announcement from all parties.

In terms of the purpose of this, we’ve always seen diplomacy and the opportunity to sit at a table and have discussions as being an important component of our efforts here. At the same time, as you’ve seen, we’ve also taken steps, including sanctions, in response to the unacceptable and illegal steps that the Russians have taken. But the process of discussion and diplomacy, the process of having the Ukrainians and the Russians at the same table, we think would still be a positive step.

QUESTION: Well, maybe instead of confirming the 17th, confirm the 16th.

MS. PSAKI: We’re still working through the final details and I hope we have more of a formal announcement soon.

More on Ukraine? Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There was a report that American officials, at least, are citing concern that the Ukrainians aren’t getting the full measure of U.S. intelligence on Russian troops massing at the border. So I’m wondering if you’ve – if the State Department, if the Secretary has received any of those qualms from the Ukrainians. And if so, how do you respond to the concerns that they’re not getting adequate U.S. intelligence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’ve seen those comments, but I would just – I just read out at the beginning of this briefing a call the Secretary had with the prime minister just this morning where they talked about ongoing efforts, and this wasn’t an issue that was raised. I will say we’ve of course been --

QUESTION: I’m sorry, it wasn’t an issue that was raised?

MS. PSAKI: Was not, no.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: On the call this morning. We’ve been working closely – we’ve demonstrated our strong support for Ukraine throughout this crisis, including diplomatically, including economically with the package the President signed into law last week. I’m not going to comment on intel matters or intel cooperation or any issues as it relates to that.

QUESTION: Jen, can I just ask, going back to Nicolas’ question, but – I understand that you think it’s important to have the Russians and the Ukrainians talking together in the same room --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and that having EU and U.S. is – perhaps helpful as a mediator. But what would you actually concretely be hoping to see out of the meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: What would you hope would happen from it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously there are a number of days between now and any meeting next week. And as you know, this is a very fluid situation. So I don’t want to make a prediction of that. Let me just add that beyond efforts to engage the parties discussing at the same table, the Ukrainians and the Russians, and beyond sanctions, there’s also an ongoing process that the legitimate Government of Ukraine has going on the ground which we’re supporting them in, and that is leading up to an election that is the effort at constitutional reforms. So it is not as if we are all holding our breath waiting for this meeting. This meeting is a part of many steps that we are taking in working closely with the Government of Ukraine in their efforts to go through this transition period.

QUESTION: But I mean, some of the list of things that have been talked about in the past few days, such as pulling back troops, OSCE monitors, that sort of stuff – is that the sort of thing that you hope will be --

MS. PSAKI: Those have consistently been on the agenda, in terms of the need for OSCE monitors to be led into a broad swath of Ukraine, in terms of support for the constitutional reform effort already underway, in terms of de-escalating, and de-escalation is certainly a big part of our effort here. And at the end of the day, a primary focus here is also making sure that decisions about Ukraine are made only with the Government of Ukraine. They are the key deciding force here and they should be at the table.

QUESTION: But I’m interested in that you’re also giving Russia a say in decisions about the future of Ukraine. If you talk about constitutional reform, why do the Russians get a say in what – on the reform of the constitution of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not – we’re not suggesting they do, but certainly that process has already been underway. We’ve been supporting them in that effort. There have been concerns expressed by the Russians, as you know, about issues like support for ethnic minorities in Ukraine. Well, one way to do that is to let OSCE monitors in to a broad swath of the country. So what I mean is there are a range of issues that have been part of the discussion and on the table for discussion, and certainly the Government of Ukraine needs to be the deciding force in those efforts.

More on Ukraine? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is there discussion about adding officials – Russian officials to the sanctions list in response to the provocative actions, as you define them, in eastern Ukraine? And is – because – is that something that could happen very quickly?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to make a prediction, but I will remind all of you that when the President signed the executive order just a couple of weeks ago, we gave ourself extensive flexibility to not only put in place sanctions for additional individuals, whether they’re Ukrainian or Russian officials, but also sectors, so all of those remain an option. We look at escalatory steps, whether that’s military steps or steps including the events over the last couple of days in eastern Ukraine, but I don’t have any announcements or predictions to make for all of you in terms of a next round of sanctions.

QUESTION: But can you say whether that is under discussion in response to those escalatory steps, not --

MS. PSAKI: I think I answered this a little bit before with Matt. I mean, look, I think we look at a range of steps that are taken. Certainly, what we want them, the Russians, to do is de-escalate. And when they take escalatory steps, which includes, of course, their clear involvement in the events over the last couple of days, those are all factors we look at as it relates to making decisions about putting additional sanctions in place.

QUESTION: And does it remain a State Department goal for the Russians to pull out of Crimea?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t recognize, as you know, Lucas, their illegal intervention into Crimea, and certainly that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: So you would like to see the Russians pull out their forces?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. If they could do that tomorrow, that would be great.

More on Ukraine? Ukraine or --

QUESTION: Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Egypt. Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Today you – State Department released media note regarding the terrorist designation of Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The simple thing: What is the significance or the importance or the meaning or the wisdom, if I can use this word, to use this now – I mean – or to release this now? Do you have any explanation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we provide – our team does regular reviews of designations and they announce them typically when a decision is made. I know we put out an extensive media note on this. I’m not sure I have very much to add. I would point you to that. And if you have any specific questions, I can certainly connect you with our team who handles that.

QUESTION: So you want me not to ask now or --

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Go ahead? Okay. Because the reason I’m asking is that – the question I want to ask about this media note was: Do you think that this designation of this Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis help the – better understanding or the understanding or your cooperation with the Egyptian Government to combat terrorism in that region, in Sinai? One of these question is this or --

MS. PSAKI: Is it going to help with our cooperation?

QUESTION: Or help – I mean, helping more or --

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?

QUESTION: Because it’s like – it was – this issue was raised almost – like, almost a year now, and more than a year – the presence of these terrorist entities or militias or whatever, jihadists, whatever you can call it. And the Egyptian Government was raising the issue and necessity to combat it and terrorism and even sometimes use means that it was criticized or, let’s say, by – not just by (inaudible), by international community regarding how they handle these issues and violate some of the human rights.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. And as you know and as is noted in the media note, there are a number of reasons including a recent July 2012 attack against a Sinai pipeline that have led to this designation. In terms of what it will mean, I don’t have any prediction of that. Obviously, these decisions are made for a range of reasons and based on what our team feels is necessary, and there are a range of consequences, as you know, as well.

QUESTION: The third one, maybe you have announced (inaudible) not just it’s fine that I can ask: It’s the – this issue was raised when the Secretary was on the Hill, like, three weeks ago on the House --

MS. PSAKI: During his hearings?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And it was mentioned by the members of the House Foreign Affairs Committees that in particular, the Egyptian Government – or Egyptian army, in particular, using the Apache helicopters to follow this or to combat this kind of terrorism. And it was because these Apache helicopters for a while, it’s like if they’re suspended or whatever you can call it.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How is this issue going to be reviewed on base of this media note or recognition of, designation of Ansar Bayt as a terrorist group, or --

MS. PSAKI: Apache helicopters or which piece?

QUESTION: Apache helicopters.

MS. PSAKI: They’re separate issues, and obviously, the materiels and – that we provide and sell Egypt are a separate issue. This is an issue – I think it’s pretty clearly outlined, the reasons for the designation in the media note.

QUESTION: Yeah. The reason that I’m asking, because Egyptian Government, as they said, they are using these Apache helicopters to combat this terrorist group.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Now, you are recognizing this terrorist group as a dangerous entity.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So somehow, somebody has to combat these terrorists using Apache helicopters.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any change on our position on that issue.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s fine. Thank you.

QUESTION: To Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: This has to do with Iran, but I – and it has to do with their nominee or their proposed ambassador to the UN.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, yes.

QUESTION: And I recognize that you can’t talk about individual visa cases, so I don’t want to – but – I don’t want to ask specifically about this gentleman, but I do want to ask in general, in terms of the host country agreement --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is it the Administration’s position that a person who – is it the Administration’s position that a person who you – who was once perhaps a threat to U.S. national security but is no more can be denied a visa under the host country agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to get into that level of specificity, but I will tell you what our position is in terms of our host country obligations.

QUESTION: Well, let me refine my question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Does a person have to be a current threat to the United States to be denied a visa under the national security exemptions that are in the host country?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of exemptions, so let me just outline those a little more broadly. As you know – but worth repeating – as the host nation of the United Nations, except for limited exceptions, the United States is generally obligated under Section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement not to impede the transit to and from the UN Headquarters. And that, of course, means admitting the chosen representatives of member-states into the United Nations – into the United States, excuse me – for the purposes of representing their country at the UN.

As you also know, all visas are of course evaluated in accordance with all applicable U.S. law and procedure. But broadly speaking, among other grounds, there are – they are not exempt from inadmissibility provisions in the Immigration and Nationality Act, Sections – to be specific – 212(a)(3)(A), (B), and (C) for security and related grounds. And that includes security, terrorism, and foreign policy concerns. So there are a broad range of, broadly speaking, reasons that a visa could be deemed ineligible.

QUESTION: Foreign policy concerns?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What, so if they disagreed with you on something, you could deny them a visa?

MS. PSAKI: I am not – it is not --

QUESTION: On that basis, former UN Ambassador Lavrov might not have been granted a visa to come to the United States.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I know you know that’s not the case.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just --

MS. PSAKI: I’m just outlining for you, broadly speaking, what the exemptions are.

QUESTION: I understand, but – and – but do they get more specific? I’m just back, so I haven’t looked at the law. Do they get more – the foreign policy --

MS. PSAKI: I would encourage you to look up those specific sections. I don’t have any other details to outline.

QUESTION: Okay. But does the person have to currently be a threat or be considered a national security concern or a foreign policy concern for them to be denied a visa? Or do past actions come into play?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into any greater level of specificity on it.

QUESTION: All right. Just one more on this?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, Lucas – one, has the U.S. Government ever denied a visa for a country’s proposed ambassador to the United Nations?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a good question, Arshad. I know we were looking into it, and I believe we have an answer, so let me get back to you as soon as the briefing ends on this.

QUESTION: Okay. That would be great.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Second, is there an actual visa application that has been submitted by Mr. Aboutalebi?

MS. PSAKI: As in any case with visas, I’m not going to get into that level of specificity.

QUESTION: Okay. If it were to be – if such an application were to be turned down – in other words, the process would subsequently then be completed – would you be able to disclose the outcome of the process, or do you believe that the confidentiality of visa records prevents you from doing so?

MS. PSAKI: I believe it’s the latter, but let me check with our team and get a more concrete answer on that question.

QUESTION: And while you’re looking at the question of whether the U.S. Government has ever refused a visa, or simply not acted on a visa request by a proposed UN ambassador – by a proposed foreign government’s UN ambassador – can you also check whether the U.S. Government has ever refused a visa for a foreign head of state? I’m aware of the – I think it was in 1988 that then-PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat was denied a visa, but he was not a head of state or not treated as a head of state at the time. So I’m interested in knowing whether you’ve ever actually refused to issue such a visa for a head of state.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We will check on the available historical information on that front.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I have another one on Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: All right. The Secretary, in his testimony yesterday, was talking about – or was asked about and was talking about, the P5+1 talks in Vienna. And he talked about, at one point, Iran’s breakout capability. And this has raised some concerns among people because – the concerns are – is not the point, the whole point of the P5+1 process, to dismantle any part of Iran’s nuclear program that could be used – that could have a military application?

MS. PSAKI: There’s a range of purposes of the discussions, yes, Matt.

QUESTION: Is that – that is correct, right? I mean, what you’re going for here is the dismantlement of anything that Iran can do and it --

MS. PSAKI: Steps that would prevent them from acquiring a nuclear weapon, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. That remains the goal?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It doesn’t remain to keep them at some point where they’re only six months away from having the ability to make a weapon?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m just not going to parse it further. Obviously, these negotiations are ongoing, but --

QUESTION: It’s just – right. But I just want to make sure the goal is for them never to be able to have the capability to develop a nuclear weapon.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The goal is not just to keep them six months away from developing that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just – I don’t have anything more for you on this particular question. I will check and see if there’s more.

QUESTION: A question on Blackwater? Blackwater?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There was an exceptionally harsh memorandum opinion issued yesterday by a judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in which the judge said – it essentially raised questions about the State Department’s decision to grant immunity to Blackwater contractors in the 2007 killings in Iraq.

And the judge, in addition to sort of excoriating the State Department for this decision, questioned whether the State Department had asked the Justice Department for an advisory opinion on whether it could issue – or it could grant immunity; whether the State Department, absent the permission of the attorney general, could in fact grant such immunity from criminal prosecution; and it specifically asked the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to ask the State Department’s inspector general to investigate and report on this issue.

What is your response to the judge’s questions about the propriety of the State Department having granted immunity from criminal prosecution in the immediate aftermath of that incident to the Blackwater employees?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first I would say soon after the incident in Nisour Square, we – the Department, the State Department, moved to address concerns about the investigation into the incident immediately, including developing improved policies and procedures to investigate use of force incidents by security contractors.

Regarding the judge’s recommendation that the State Department IG should look into why the contractors were granted immunity, this issue was looked at extensively in the aftermath of the incident and addressed any improved investigative policies and procedures. And let me be a little more specific here. There has been since that time increased interagency cooperation. There’s been a standard procedure, operating procedure put in place, including forms developed in conjunction with the Department of Justice, and training on how to use these forms as it relates to contractors. These steps, as I’ve said, were taken immediately. They continue to be implemented.

As you know, this is a matter still currently in litigation, and so we’d refer you, of course, to the Department of Justice for most comments.

QUESTION: So one thing --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: First, you said “soon after” the State Department evolved new procedures, and then later you said “immediately.” Which is it? Was it --

MS. PSAKI: They seem to be synonyms, but --

QUESTION: “Soon after” and “immediately” I don’t think are necessarily synonyms. Soon after the barn door – soon after the horse ran out of the barn, I closed the barn door, right? So which was it? Was it soon after or was it immediately?

MS. PSAKI: Immediately.

QUESTION: Okay. If it was immediately, were those new procedures and the new forms designed to address the question of whether the State Department had the authority to offer immunity from criminal prosecution absent the authorization of the U.S. Justice Department which engages in such prosecutions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, given the efforts that were undertaken were to be more closely coordinated with the Department of Justice, these forms were created in cooperation with the Department of Justice, it was to address some of these concerns you express.

QUESTION: But was it to address that specific concern that the State Department should not make or purport to make grants of immunity absent the concurrence and explicit authorization of the Justice Department? I mean, I’m glad you have new forms, but if you don’t tell us what the forms say, and you don’t say what their purpose is, and if you don’t explain to us whether you’re actually addressing the specific concern that the judge raised, then you’re not explaining whether you’ve actually done anything to address this specific point.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I pretty clearly said, Arshad, that obviously, when we’re putting in place new forms that can be used with the contracting process in conjunction with the Department of Justice, that we’re addressing the concerns that have been expressed. I don’t have any other details for it – on this issue for you.

QUESTION: Can you say that that includes the immunity concerns?

MS. PSAKI: I will --

QUESTION: Because if you can’t say that, then it’s hard to say the State Department said it had addressed the immunity concerns.

MS. PSAKI: I will check with our team and the Department of Justice and see if there’s more we can specify out for you.

QUESTION: And one --

QUESTION: And can you also check --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- or you can tell us now, maybe, if you’re aware, if Judge Lamberth was aware of this – of what you did immediately/soon after – I mean, did he know, or do you disagree with his rule – with his finding here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – I’m not going to parse it further. Obviously, I would refer you to the Department of Justice for that. It’s a legal case.

QUESTION: All right. But then can you just find out, though, if the judge was aware – if you made – if either you or DOJ made Judge Lamberth aware of the changes and that – because if you have, he either thinks that they didn’t address the concerns or something else, which I don’t know, and I guess we have to ask the judge about that. But if you didn’t tell him this, then maybe he would take it back (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I would suspect that would happen through the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Right, but --

MS. PSAKI: So I would point you to them. But I will see if there’s more we can convey.

QUESTION: One other thing on this. Regardless of whether the judge knew or didn’t know --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- if – and we don’t know if, from your comments, if the new State Department forms and procedures were indeed designed to address whether or not the State Department had the ability without reference to the Justice Department to grant immunity, then it would appear that the judge was right and you didn’t have the right to do this without Justice Department approval in the first place.

MS. PSAKI: Noted. New topic?

QUESTION: So the – well, let me ask the question in a very simple way.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. State Department believe that in 2007, it had the legal right to grant immunity to Blackwater employees in Iraq in conjunction with this incident? Do you believe you had that right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, this is an ongoing legal case. I’ve said all I can say at this point. We will circle back and see if there’s more we can add to address your question.

QUESTION: Okay. If you can try to take that one, because I think that’s the nub of the issue. You say you’ve changed your procedures. We don’t know if they address this issue, although you’re suggesting but not explicitly stating that they did. If you – if they did address the issue, the antecedent or the logical question is: Well, did you have the right to do what you did back in 2007, however wondrous your new procedures may be?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, it’s a legal case, and as you know, because you’ve been a longtime reporter, we typically don’t wax poetic on legal cases, so I’ll see if there’s more to add.

New topic?

QUESTION: But if somebody’s saying you did something wrong back in 2007, you would think you would want to say, “No, we didn’t, and here’s why.”

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to see if there’s more to add than what I’ve just conveyed.

QUESTION: Back to – thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Back to Iran’s envoy to the United Nations.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Will the State Department block his visa?

MS. PSAKI: I have nothing more to add for you, Lucas. We don’t speak to individual visa cases as a matter of policy, and so I’m not going to speculate on that.

QUESTION: Understood. And yesterday, Jay Carney said that Ambassador Aboutalebi’s nomination to be the new UN envoy is not viable. And I was wondering what exact method – if that was transmitted back to the Government of Iran.

MS. PSAKI: It certainly was. I’m not going to get into more specificity on how, though.

QUESTION: Is that just through the press?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into any greater specificity.

QUESTION: And one more?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: Your counterpart in the Iranian foreign ministry --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- the spokeswoman, said that Ambassador Aboutalebi is highly qualified for this position. And I was wondering what about Ambassador Aboutalebi’s past bothers you.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into any other detail in a public forum. We’ve obviously conveyed pretty clearly that this wouldn’t be a viable nomination, and I will leave it at that.

QUESTION: Would you like to see his nomination go forward?

MS. PSAKI: I think saying it’s not viable makes clear our view on that.

Go ahead, Ali.

QUESTION: Also following up on the nonviable comment, can we – is it your understanding that that is a comment that is – should be taken completely separately from the issue of a visa application or the denial of a visa application?

MS. PSAKI: Completely separately in which capacity?

QUESTION: In the sense that the – saying he’s not viable, should we take that to be an indication of what way the government would go, assuming he has submitted an application?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t take it as an indication. We obviously don’t speak to the specifics of visa cases, applications, whether we will or won’t, et cetera, but the point here is that we have sent the message very clearly that this is not a viable choice for this position.

QUESTION: And one more. Are there concrete manifestations of the belief that he’s not viable that the United States could express to the Iranians short of anything to do with a visa? Are there any other --

MS. PSAKI: You mean are there other – I’m not sure I understand your question.

QUESTION: Are there other consequences? Are there any other – what else can you do to express that you believe that he is not viable?

MS. PSAKI: I think conveying it makes it pretty clear, and our view is they understand the message we’re sending.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Iran? No more on Iran? Go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, I have one on China.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So yesterday, Secretary Hagel wrapped up a trip in China, and he had a joint press conference with his Chinese counterpart in which his Chinese counterpart said that relations between Japan and China are confronted with severe difficulties and that Japan is to blame for this. He then goes on to say that he hopes the U.S. can stay vigilant against Japan and keep it within bounds and not be permissive and supportive.

Does the State Department agree with the assessment from the Chinese defense minister that the U.S. has been permissive and supportive of Japan’s actions?

MS. PSAKI: I am certainly not going to engage that deeply in your question, other than to say that we believe good relations among China and Japan and all of their neighbors benefit everyone in the region. That’s something we’ve consistently conveyed to all parties, whether that’s the Chinese, whether that’s the Japanese. And that’s something the Secretary has done and Secretary Hagel has done as well. We regularly discuss with China and Japan and others ways to reduce tensions and build trust in the region. That will continue, and I’m certain that was a part of Secretary Hagel’s visit as well.

QUESTION: And on that note, what more could the State Department do to aid or to ease tensions between Japan and China?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we are going to continue to convey our belief that that is – that reducing the tensions is to the benefit of all parties in the region, and we’ll continue to have conversations with all countries.

QUESTION: Jen, can we come back to Iran for a moment?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you explain under the treaty obligations that the U.S. has for admitting diplomats who work at the UN – what are those treaty obligations? Can you spell out what the requirements are for the U.S. as a signatory?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just did, but I can repeat it again if it’s helpful.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you mind?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: One moment. So as host nation of the United Nations, except for limited exceptions, the United Nations – the United States is generally obligated under Section 11 of the United Nations Headquarters Agreement not to impede the transit to and from the UN Headquarters District, the UN Headquarters among – and – sorry, this is written in a weird way – District of, among others, representatives of UN member states, meaning that we generally obligated to admit the chosen representatives of member states into the United States for the purposes of representing their country at the UN. I mentioned some specific exemptions for that matter broadly speaking.

QUESTION: Now, obviously, this treaty was reached long before the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the TSA, the background checks, the secret lists, no-fly lists, and that sort of thing.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there anything that precludes these U.S. agencies from putting someone on a no-fly list, a no-admit list, absent the fact that the U.S. may or may not have issued a visa to this person?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that would be under the purview of DHS. I would point you to them. I don’t have any other further details on that.

QUESTION: Is that perhaps one way that the U.S. would be able to indicate its displeasure with having this gentleman to go there?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that. I’m not going to speculate on that.

QUESTION: In addition to saying he’s not viable, don’t you have anything more from that podium to suggest why you don’t want him to be the new envoy? What troubles you about his past?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m just – I’m not going to go into further details from here.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. ever objected before to any state’s potential representative to the United Nations? And if so, when?

MS. PSAKI: Arshad asked the same question, and I will see what historical information we have available for all of you.

QUESTION: Do you think that this is an outlier?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that. We’ll see if there’s specific information historically we can provide.

Iran, or another topic?

QUESTION: No, a different topic.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: On Taiwan, President Ma this morning said that the U.S. should include Taiwan in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. What’s the Administration’s position on that request?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we welcome Taiwan’s interest in TPP, noting its ongoing domestic work to assess its readiness to take on TPP’s ambitious commitments. TPP is open to regional economies that can demonstrate this readiness and win consensus support of the current TPP members for them to join. Right now, the 12 TPP members are focused on concluding the negotiations to create the TPP. In the near term, the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement provides an opportunity for Taiwan to resolve existing U.S. trade and investment concerns, demonstrate its preparations to take on new trade commitments, and set itself on a path of new liberalization of its economic regime.

Scott.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the South Sudan question --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Yes, we can.

QUESTION: -- that I had on Monday and the Secretary’s meetings tomorrow?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely.

QUESTION: And the sanctions issue there?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly can. So as you noted yesterday, tomorrow, Secretary Kerry will meet with Awan Riak, the minister in the office of the president of the Republic of South Sudan, to discuss the urgent need to end the conflict in South Sudan. Secretary Kerry will emphasize the importance of ending the fighting, implementing the cessation of hostilities agreement, resolving outstanding issues through an inclusive national dialogue, ensuring humanitarian and UN access, and putting a stop to human rights abuses during this meeting. And we will venture to also have a readout, of course, following the meeting.

To answer your other question, no individuals or entities have yet been sanctioned under the new authority signed by President Obama last week. As you know, that provides us the framework in order to make those decisions, and we now have the tools to do so. But no decisions have been made yet.

QUESTION: So is there currently some review about who might be eligible for those sanctions? Or is that simply an authority that you’re holding in reserve?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t, of course, speculate or comment on that, but obviously we will look to use this broad and flexible authority as appropriate. And as was noted in the announcement last week, this is applicable to those that obstruct the peace and reconciliation process in South Sudan, as well as against those responsible for violence against civilians, human rights abuses, and the obstruction of humanitarian operations. So, as is applicable and necessary, those discussions will certainly happen internally.

QUESTION: Both Mr. Riak, who was at a think tank this morning, as well as another government minister have objected quite strongly to the President’s decision to issue this executive order. And Mr. Riak said, and I’m paraphrasing: Essentially what we in South Sudan need it not punishment but more U.S. help. Is the U.S. taking seriously the South Sudanese objections? Or is the fact that this executive order was issued a sign of deep displeasure with a government which the U.S. put a lot of time and lot of money and a lot of prestige, frankly, into trying to stand up back in 2011?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, as you know and as was noted last week, this was prompted by certainly the ongoing crisis and the failure to abide by the cessation of hostilities. And they have the power to abide by that cessation, and we certainly do have concerns, deep concerns about what’s happening on the ground. And this was an expression of that.

QUESTION: Is it too much to suggest that the South Sudanese Government of President Kiir is perhaps being self-serving by saying that the U.S. has crossed a line by taking this action?

MS. PSAKI: I am not going to speculate on that. Obviously, this was a step that the President of the United States, the Secretary, a broad scope of officials in the government felt was necessary, and that’s why it was taken.

QUESTION: But you do take the point that given that there is the ongoing IGAD process to try to resolve the civil war – let’s call it what it is – that to invoke the threat of sanctions is a pretty serious step for this government to put on the table and to do so in such a public and legal fashion?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, it provides us the tools and the framework to take those steps. Obviously, we haven’t taken that step at this point. What’s going on on the ground is very serious. It was – it’s a response to what’s happening. Obviously, the Secretary himself will have a meeting tomorrow where he’ll convey these points as well.

Go ahead, Scott.

QUESTION: Could I go to Montenegro?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Prime Minister was here this week. I believe he met with Toria and Bill Burns, and – as well as the Vice President. Do you have a readout on any of those meetings?

MS. PSAKI: The Vice President’s office put out an extensive readout I’m happy to send over to you. We didn’t have anything in addition to add. If I remember, consecutively, I think our meetings here were before that meeting. So --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: A very short one on Sudan.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have a reaction to the decision of Khartoum to expel an American country chief of a UN agency? They have accused her of interfering into domestic affairs. Do you have the reasons of this incident?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen those reports, and I believe it was an AFP report. When I came down here, we didn’t have any independent confirmation of that from the ground. So let me circle back with our team and see if there’s anything new, if there’s any confirmation from our end. I suspect we may have a comment on it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: New topic. It’s about international conference – NPDI, Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative. It’s going to be held in Hiroshima in this weekend.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And you said that the under secretary is going to attend --

MS. PSAKI: Under Secretary --

QUESTION: Under Secretary Gottemoeller.

MS. PSAKI: -- Gottemoeller? Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Gottemoeller. Do you have some readout or could you tell me why --

MS. PSAKI: An announcement?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen a media note come across. It may have. So let me talk to her team and see if they’re going to – I’m sure they will put out more detailed plans for her travel.

QUESTION: Is it a first time to attend for the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check on that question too, as well.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Great. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’ve got one more on Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You mentioned that the United States is biggest donor in terms of helping the Syrian refugees, and we are aware of funds that have been allocated to Turkey, Jordan, and other countries for helping the refugees. However, as far as I’m informed, there has been no assistance, government assistance, from Washington to Armenia. And the number of Syrian Christian refugees in Armenia has close to 12,000 I believe one month ago. So could you please comment on this, why there is no official support – financial material support from Washington to Armenia?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check on the details of that. I don’t have that in front of me, but I’m happy to talk to our Syria team about that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I need to get – Cuba --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and this whole Cuba Twitter thing, which was been discussed on the Hill over the course of the past couple days. Last week, I believe it was on Friday, Marie said that the messages that were sent on this – that none of the messages that were sent via this – I don’t know what even you call it – scheme --

MS. PSAKI: ZunZuneo?

QUESTION: Yes. No, I know that’s the name of it. I’m trying to figure out – this initiative – none of the messages that were sent by – text messages that were sent on these cell phones were political in nature, at least overtly political in nature. Over the course of the past couple days, there have been – some of my colleagues have found messages that were in fact political in nature, or at least involved political satire, and have discovered that a political satirist, a Cuban expat, was in fact hired maybe by the contractors, but as paid for by this. Are you able to say again that there was no political content involved here? Or are you now, on further review, toning that denial down?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as Marie noted last week, the intention of the ZunZuneo program was to create a platform for Cubans to speak freely among themselves. If the intent went beyond this, that would certainly be troubling to us, and USAID is looking into that as we speak. But it is worth noting that we’re talking about reported text messages from five years ago. We – for – about a program that ended in 2012, and there are some – there’s some uncertainty about whether the timing of these text messages – whether they were drafts or actually released, whether they were linked to the program or not. So those are all questions that USAID is looking into as we speak.

QUESTION: Okay. And we will get – presumably when they discover – when they find out those answers, the answers will be made public, they’re not going to be kept secret?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, certainly.

QUESTION: Okay. And I think that the understanding that the idea was to get Cubans to talk amongst themselves here. The question is whether these messages that were political had something to do with politics or were political satire. Not – the question is not whether – if they originated from within – amongst Cubans using the system, but if they originated with the people who were --

MS. PSAKI: I understand --

QUESTION: -- contracted by USAID.

MS. PSAKI: I understand your question. I understand your --

QUESTION: I mean, one Cuban saying to another that Fidel looks like he died 10 years ago is a lot different than if the U.S. Government was paying someone who then inserted this into the system.

MS. PSAKI: I understand your question. What is unclear is whether they were drafts, what the timing was, whether they were linked to the program or not, and so that’s what they’re looking into now.

QUESTION: Well, I – but the bottom line is that last week, when Marie said definitively that there were no political messages, no overtly political messages sent out on this thing, you’re not sure that that’s correct now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that was --

QUESTION: You’re saying that if there were --

MS. PSAKI: That would be troubling.

QUESTION: -- that would be troubling.

MS. PSAKI: That was the information that was available at the time, and again --

QUESTION: I’m not saying --

MS. PSAKI: No, no, I’m just conveying that was the information that was available. This is a program that, again – and we’re talking about text messages that were from five years ago – it’s challenging to get to the bottom of the details.

QUESTION: Right. No, I understand that. So if they were in fact – and I realize this is a hypothetical, but if in fact it is discovered that there were political messages, that would be troubling you because that would be – would have been inappropriate? Why would it be troubling?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, there were specific purposes of this specific program, and that was to provide a platform for Cubans to speak freely among themselves. Obviously, we’ve conveyed what the program was and wasn’t, but we’re looking into the facts and we’ll make them available as we know them.

QUESTION: Well, I guess I’m just – what I’m wondering is why it would be troubling if in fact there were – there had been – what is the reason that it would be troubling? Because that was not the point of the program, or because – because why?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that wasn’t the purpose of this particular program, and it was to provide a platform for the Cubans themselves. And obviously, we’re looking into the details and we’ll make those available.

QUESTION: Well, so if contractors for USAID inserted messages or sent messages on this system that were political and would be troubling to you, they were acting on their own, they were rogue elements here?

MS. PSAKI: I think we have to look into what the specific details were. These were obviously – the reported text messages were from contractors, I believe. We don’t have the details at this point on the timing, so let us venture to get more and we’ll be able to better answer those questions.

QUESTION: Jen, can you please restate why it was appropriate for an agency that is known for food, water, emergency health care, emergency shelter should be in the business of providing communication platforms? Isn’t that something that’s more appropriate for the private sector?

MS. PSAKI: There are a range of programs around the world that enable people to freely communicate when that’s not an option, and that’s a tool the United States certainly supports. So I don’t think it’s out of the norm at all.

QUESTION: So just to clarify, I mean, it’s – so there is some kind of reviewing going on now to evaluate what was done?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t overstate it. Again, I think there are – these are reported text messages, a handful of them from five years ago, and there’s a question of timing and whether they were linked to the program or not, and we’re just venturing to get --

QUESTION: Because a few days --

MS. PSAKI: -- to the bottom of the facts.

QUESTION: The reason I’m asking: Few days ago, after this question was raised, some officials at AID program was saying that – I’m – I don’t know, if I’m wrong, correct me – it said that we are proud of what we did.

MS. PSAKI: That hasn’t changed. But obviously, we’re talking about a handful of reported text messages, and we just want to get to the bottom of the facts, and we’ll make those available as we know it.

QUESTION: I’m not going to belabor the (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Why is the timing – I don’t understand why --

MS. PSAKI: As to whether it was linked to this program or not or whether it was related to something else.

QUESTION: Well, how would they be – I don’t know how it could’ve been related to something else if the --

MS. PSAKI: There’s a question of the timing, if the program had even started or not. So we’re looking into all of that.

QUESTION: So – well, how could they be sent – I don’t get it. If you’re talking about – you say – as you said, they’re talking about text messages from five years ago.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You’re saying that the program didn’t exist five years ago?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t want to speculate too much because we’re looking to get to the bottom of the facts here, Matt, but --

QUESTION: Or that the program had ended before --

MS. PSAKI: The program ended in 2012.

QUESTION: Right, which is not five years ago, right?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. But these text messages, I believe, are from about five years ago, these reported text messages.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But you’re not – you’re saying you’re not certain that they were sent or they were drafted for this program?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Great. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:33 p.m.)

DPB # 62

2014-04-09


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


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


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • EGYPT
    • Court Ruling on Three Activists
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry's Conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov
  • RUSSIA/UKRAINE
    • U.S. Concerned about Russia's Escalatory Steps / U.S. Monitoring Situation Closely
    • Agenda for Meetings between Russia, Ukraine, European Union, and U.S.
  • RUSSIA/SYRIA
    • Secretary Kerry's Conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov on Syria's Chemical Weapons
  • RUSSIA/UKRAINE
    • Constitutional Reform in Ukraine Underway
    • Substantive Impact of Sanctions on Russia's Economy
  • SYRIA
    • Geneva Conference on Hiatus
    • U.S. Concerned about Extremists
    • Syrian Opposition Coalition General Assembly to Convene in Turkey
    • U.S. Aware of Reports of Chemical Weapon Use
    • U.S. Condemns Violent Attacks on Christian Communities
  • MEPP
    • Continuation of Discussions between the Parties
    • Special Envoy/ Ambassador Indyk Plans to Stay in the Region
    • U.S. Focused on Moving the Process Forward
    • No Travel Announcements for Secretary Kerry in the Region
  • TURKEY
    • Local Elections
    • Twitter Unblocked
  • IRAN
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TRANSCRIPT:

1:43 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Welcome.

MS. PSAKI: I feel like I’ve been gone for ages. (Laughter.) I’m sure your colleagues who were on the trip feel that way as well.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Oh, how nice of you, Arshad. Two things for all of you at the top. The United States is deeply troubled by the decision today of an Egyptian court to uphold an on-appeal three-year prison sentences and substantial fines for Mohamed Adel, Ahmed Douma, and Ahmed Maher – three peaceful, pro-democracy activists. Their continued imprisonment under a law that severely restricts the universal right to peaceful assembly and expression runs counter the Egyptian Government’s commitment to fostering an open electoral environment and a transition process that protects the universal rights of all Egyptians. We urge the Egyptian Government to exercise its constitutional authority to commute these excessive sentences, which are not in line with the rights guaranteed in Egypt’s new constitution, Egypt’s international obligations, or the government’s own commitment not to return to Mubarak-era practices.

Also this morning the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov. This was in part the reason for my delay; I wanted to make sure I had the details for all of you. He conveyed to Foreign Minister Lavrov that the United States is watching events over the last 24 hours in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Mariupol with great concern, and noted that these do not appear to be a spontaneous set of events. Rather, the Secretary noted the Ukrainian Government’s assertion that this appeared to be a carefully orchestrated campaign with Russian support. He noted in particular the recent arrests of Russian intelligence operatives working in Ukraine. He noted that Ukrainian Government leaders are en route to all these cities today to try to negotiate evacuation of government buildings and a de-escalation of tensions. He called on Russia to publicly disavow the activities of separatists, saboteurs, and provocateurs, calling for de-escalation and dialogue, and called on all parties to refrain from agitation in Ukraine.

He made clear that any further Russian efforts to destabilize Ukraine will incur further costs for Russia, and the ministers all discussed convening direct talks within the next 10 days between Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the EU to try to de-escalate the tensions. Discussion about the right timing and agenda for that meeting will, of course, continue.

QUESTION: He called for that, or he actually announced that that’s going to happen within the next 10 days?

MS. PSAKI: They discussed that on the call, so the details and agenda will be discussed in --

QUESTION: So it’s going to happen or are they just talking about it?

QUESTION: So can we talk about the further efforts --

QUESTION: Just so we can be clear: It’s going to happen, or they just talked about the possibility that it might happen?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, it’s going to happen in the next 10 days.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: The details and the agenda will be worked out in the coming days.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lara.

QUESTION: Okay. So he warned Lavrov that any further efforts to destabilize would incur further costs. Could you break down how you are defining destabilize these days? I believe that President Obama a couple of weeks ago said specifically that incursion into Ukraine by Russian troops is what would trigger further costs. But now we’re talking about these coordinated efforts in eastern Ukraine, troops on the border. So are these the type of things that would incur further costs, including sanctions? Or are we still sticking to it would require troops coming in?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s never been as black and white as you laid it out. Obviously, the Administration – including the President, Secretary Kerry, and senior officials – are evaluating day by day what steps – escalatory steps is really the broad definition – would prompt responsive actions. So you’re right, yes, there are some steps taken to date in response to the illegal actions Russia’s taken in Crimea. Obviously, the steps over the last 24-48 hours are incredibly concerning to the United States, and we’ll be looking closely at those as well.

QUESTION: But you’re at this point – if some of these riots in eastern Ukraine continue, are these the type of things that would incur further sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any sanctions to announce, but I can convey to you that these are certainly escalatory steps. So we look at these steps and we take a look at these steps and discuss what steps we need to take.

QUESTION: Just to put a finer point on it, you said that the Secretary noted the comments of the Ukrainian Government about what Russia was doing to destabilize. Are you saying that because you – these do not appear to be spontaneous events, that Russia is, in fact, taking steps to foment this type of separatist activity?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there are – these groups – these individuals who went into these different areas were, of course, pro-Russia separatists. There’s strong evidence suggesting that some of them were paid and were not local residents. So all of that is – has raised significant concerns for us as well. But certainly, given this is in Ukraine, that’s why he noted the comments made by the Government of Ukraine.

QUESTION: What about reports that Russian troops are now moving into kind of – we thought maybe they had been repositioning, but now they do seem to be lining up against part of the eastern Ukraine border, and that this kind of fits into Putin’s playbook in terms of you see all this activity by pro-Russian separatists that are claiming persecution by Ukraine, that this would be an instance where he would go in to protect them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously we’re watching this very closely. And the Government of Ukraine has made comments to your point, which you may be referring to, about how this follows a similar pattern that we’ve seen in the past. And clearly, Russian forces – if Russian forces move into eastern Ukraine either overtly or covertly, this would be a very serious escalation. I don’t have anything to confirm for all of you in terms of movements or numbers. We still are in the same place of tens of thousands. But this is something, of course, we’re watching closely, and additional intervention would result in additional costs.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, overt or covert movement would be escalatory is what you said?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So what we’re seeing now is, in the view of the Administration, already in that phase of escalatory steps, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly the fact that we see pro-Russian separatists taking these actions in a range of cities over the weekend – that is, of course, concerning. In terms of the connection to troops and troop movements, I don’t have anything – any independent confirmation of what that will mean. But certainly we’re concerned about these steps.

QUESTION: When you say that the – some of these pro-Russian separatists indications that they were paid and not local – are you insinuating that they crossed the border from Russia? Are they in fact Russian, or have they been paid by Russia? I mean, can you put a finer --

MS. PSAKI: Look, I don’t have that level of detail, but let me share with you one anecdote that I think has been in Ukrainian media but is still relevant. Some of these officials, separatists, armed separatists went and claimed they were taking over the mayor’s building, and it was actually the opera house. So clearly when you don’t know which one the mayor’s building is, you’re probably not a local. But obviously, this is something we’re watching closely, and we’ve seen patterns in the past.

QUESTION: Leaving aside insinuations, do you have any evidence to suggest that the events that you say do not appear to be spontaneous have been brought about by Russian citizens?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details than what I’ve shared with you, Arshad. Obviously, this has just happened over the course of the last 24 hours. But clearly, we’ve seen a pattern over the last couple of months. These were pro-Russian separatists. We’ve expressed our concern directly, the Secretary has, and we’ll continue to monitor it closely.

QUESTION: And so we’re clear: The reference to additional consequences – is that meant to refer to all kinds of consequences, or solely or predominantly economic consequences?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know – and our position hasn’t changed, so thank you for your question on – our approach is focused on political and economic approaches, whether that’s boosting the Government of Ukraine or putting in place strong economic sanctions. So that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: It’s not meant to suggest military consequences?

MS. PSAKI: It’s not meant to, no.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I had a quick --

MS. PSAKI: Said.

QUESTION: -- follow-up. So you are relying on the Ukrainian Government in terms of what is going on, or do you have any independent sources?

MS. PSAKI: Well, of course we remain very closely in touch with the Ukrainian Government, and that’s who we work closely with, and of course, they are on the ground, so their information is often very relevant and current.

QUESTION: Okay, so when the Secretary talks to Mr. Lavrov --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- does he tell him one, two, three, four, or does Mr. Lavrov in return say, look, the situation is not like this; this is what we have, this is not true, these are Russian – Ukrainian citizens and so on?

MS. PSAKI: Said, he told him exactly what I just conveyed to all of you, and you can certainly reach out to the Russians for any readout from their end.

Margaret?

QUESTION: I have a question about the talks you referenced happening in the next 10 days. Is that just going to be a bilateral U.S.-Russian meeting? Will the Ukrainians participate in that at all? Do you know?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, they would. They would be a part of it as well.

QUESTION: So it’s U.S.-Russia-Ukraine in that?

MS. PSAKI: And EU.

QUESTION: And EU.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And what is the purpose or the intent? I mean, obviously de-escalation more broadly, but there had been the feeling that there was some diplomatic momentum. I mean, they just met face to face, Lavrov and Kerry, a few days ago. These kinds of actions on the ground seem to contradict that. This window of diplomacy is still wide open?

MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with that premise. I think clearly, when we have concerns about actions we express them. And we’ve taken very strong steps in response, as you’ve seen in the range of sanctions that we’ve taken in coordination with the international community. At the same time, we’ve consistently said that there’s always an off ramp, that we’re looking for a diplomatic approach, that Russia and Ukraine need to sit at the same table and discuss all of the myriad of issues that they’ve all raised. And so that would be the purpose of this, and we have a responsibility to continue to pursue that diplomatic path even when there are concerning steps that have been taken.

QUESTION: But the agreement to talk is not in and of itself an off ramp? The hope is that in the course of these meetings the Russians will change course?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. An off ramp requires specific actions by the Russians. It’s not just talking. But certainly talking with the Ukrainians as a part of mechanism of doing that would be a step that we think could be useful.

QUESTION: So if the Ukrainians are going to be there, can we assume that constitutional reform is going to be a large part of that conversation?

MS. PSAKI: They’re still working through, obviously, the agenda. I mean, it’s important to note that constitutional reform has been underway. It’s been something that the Ukrainians have strongly supported and they’ve been moving forward on. So – but I don’t to get too ahead of the process in terms of what will specifically be on the agenda, and we can keep talking about it day by day leading up to the meeting.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm?

QUESTION: Last week there were reports that the Russians pulled back a division. This information turned out to be wrong in terms of deescalation?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, we saw those reports, too. I don’t have any update on you for that – on that for you. Sorry, that was a tongue-twister. Do we have more on Ukraine? Ukraine?

QUESTION: No. Secretary Kerry – did Secretary Kerry talk to Minister Lavrov about Syria, about Geneva III this time?

MS. PSAKI: This meeting – this phone call, I should say, was really focused on Ukraine. But he – when he met with him last Monday – that was only a week ago – they did talk about Syria and did talk about the need to continue to move forward with the removal of chemical weapons, and the Secretary expressed his ongoing concerns about the brutality of the Assad regime. So they talked about that just a week ago.

QUESTION: And --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Sorry. The opposition is – the Syrian opposition is --

MS. PSAKI: Can we just finish Ukraine and then we can go to you on Syria next? Do we have any Ukraine? Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wanted to clarify one last thing.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I’m sure you said this, but just all four parties to this four-way talk have agreed to do this? This – correct?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check on that for you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, it’s something that the Secretary has spoken with Foreign Minister Lavrov about it. I’m fairly certain he’s spoken with the Ukrainians about it. We’ve been communicating with them constantly. But in terms of whether all are confirmed, let me check on that and just make sure.

QUESTION: And Lavrov – the Russians will be there for sure?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you feel that the Russians --

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more --

QUESTION: It’s on Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: One moment, Said.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine, in the back? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. First of all, my name is Barbara Plett Usher. I’m just introducing myself because I haven’t been here before.

MS. PSAKI: Hi Barbara.

QUESTION: And I’m filling in for Kim Ghattas.

MS. PSAKI: Welcome. I like the red blazer.

QUESTION: Oh, thank you. There have been some reported comments from the Russian foreign ministry in response to the activity of the past 24 hours, quoting Lavrov that the need is for federalization and that Ukraine needs international assistance to help carry out such constitutional reform. Does that reinforce your concerns about this being a harbinger of Russian intervention?

MS. PSAKI: Well, federalization is an issue that Foreign Minister Lavrov has consistently raised, whether it’s publicly or privately, so it’s not a new issue.

QUESTION: No, the international assistance for carrying out constitutional – that’s – I mean, that’s what he said just a few hours ago that to carry out this constitutional reform Ukraine would need international assistance, which then makes one wonder what sort of assistance the Russians have in mind.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, I’m not sure actually what that means. The constitutional reform process has been underway and the Ukrainian Government has been very supportive of it and they’ve been implementing it. So I’m not sure. I’d probably need a little more clarification on what they were referring to. In terms of their claims or their calls for federalization, this is an issue where we feel the Ukrainian Government, the legitimate Government of Ukraine needs to be at the table to discuss any issues, whether it’s autonomy or any way – any ways that the country would be governed moving forward. But I don’t have any clarity on what they mean by international assistance, so I can check with our team and see if they’ve heard that as well.

QUESTION: Do you feel that Mr. Lavrov seems to be receptive to all the meetings, but on the other hand Russia seems to be consolidating its position? Do you see like a duplicity there in their actions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, look – obviously, there are steps that Russia has taken that have raised significant concerns, which is why we have taken our own responsive steps to their actions. So that hasn’t changed on our part either. But you can have processes happening at the same time, and that’s what we’re talking about here.

QUESTION: Just my point is the following: He goes to all of these meetings, he will go to this four-party meeting and so on, and in the meantime, the Russians seem to be consolidating their position. What is hoped to achieve through these meetings?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I mean, obviously, we’d like to see an end to this conflict, and we’ve put in place a range of sanctions. At the same time, while we’ve been having these conversations, those have had a significant impact, the World Bank has warned that Russia’s economy could shrink by 1.8 percent this year even without additional economic sanctions. The Russian currency has experienced sharp volatility between March 3rd and April 7th. The Central Bank of Russia spent $25.8 billion to prop up the ruble. All of these are specific impacts that we’re seeing in the Russian economy. And whether – regardless of what they say, there’s no question that that’s having a substantive impact.

Do we have more on Ukraine or --

QUESTION: Yeah. Can I just follow up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: We also saw reports over the weekend that some in key sectors of the Russian economy have taken steps to insulate themselves from transactions in foreign currencies like dollars and euros. But are you taking that as a sign that they’re somehow, like, hunkering down for a further round of sanctions that could be triggered by military action?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure why they’ve taken those specific steps and I don’t even have any confirmation of that. Obviously, we’ve been very clear that if they continue to take escalatory steps, then we are open to taking additional sanctions steps. And the executive order the President signed gives us broad authority and flexibility to sanction industries. And so again, I can’t calculate for you why they’re taking certain steps, but we haven’t made a secret about our willingness to take additional steps if they do.

More on Ukraine or Syria? You want to go to Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Syrian opposition has received confirmations that Geneva III will be convening soon. Do you have anything on this?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what that would be referring to. Obviously, we’re in – remain in close touch with the opposition. Our new envoy, of course, was meeting with them over the course of the last two weeks. I think he’s back in Washington. We’re in close touch with the opposition. We’re in close touch with Joint Special Representative Brahimi, and of course, our European and international counterparts. But again, the Geneva conference has been on hiatus. I’ve not heard anything to indicate that that has changed.

QUESTION: And how do you think Geneva III will be different than Geneva II if it would be held soon?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, the purpose of this process, I should say, has been to convene the opposition and the regime to have a discussion about creating a transitional governing body. But again, I haven’t heard reports or details of what you’re referring to.

QUESTION: What are you doing in terms of certain opposition groups that you may be working with to counterbalance, apparently, the spread of extremism and so on, to the point where Russian President Putin said today that those who are trained in Syria can find their way to Russia? And he is expressing concerns that many of your allies are --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- taking arms and --

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen his specific comments, Said, but I will say that we’ve expressed the same concerns about the growth of extremism. We’ve – that’s why we’ve taken several steps to make sure assistance is provided through the moderate opposition. So we also have concerns about the growth of extremists, and that’s something that the Secretary speaks about regularly with his allies around the world.

I will note – and I can’t imagine this is what you’re referring to, but just to be clear, the SOC General Assembly is going to be taking place in Turkey soon. I’m not sure if that’s --

QUESTION: It will be done today at the meeting.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, okay. So I don’t know if that would be confused with that, but again, as Joint Special Representative Brahimi has said, they had to go on hiatus because of a lack of progress, a lack of opening to moving things forward on the decided agenda. So there’s no news that I’ve heard to reconvene at this moment.

QUESTION: So Jen, would you say that Mr. Jarba remains your primary interlocutor?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of officials, Said, that we rely on as interlocutors, and obviously, when our new special envoy was there, he met with a range of officials as well, so --

QUESTION: Okay. Because there are reports that what they call the internal opposition, like Abdul Azim and others and so on, in the capital city of Damascus, that they are completely – you are not in touch with them in any capacity. Could you confirm or – that you are or you’re not?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think the fact that our new special envoy was just on the ground in Turkey meeting with a range of officials from the opposition speaks to that.

Do we have more on Syria?

QUESTION: Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Today in Israeli press, there were reports that there were two chemical weapon attacks in – around Damascus, in Harasta and eastern Ghouta. That happened two weeks ago. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve certainly seen those reports. We’re not in a position to confirm or corroborate those reports, and we take every allegation or report seriously, and we’ll certainly look into it.

QUESTION: I’m just curious, if these allegations were to be true, was the redline or is the redline still there? I mean, would this trigger any kind of military --

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I’m not going to speculate on that, because we don’t have any information to corroborate the reports.

QUESTION: Today, or yesterday, there was an article written by Seymour Hersh, and one of the main allegations in the piece that Turkey – Turkish intelligence was behind of the 21st August of chemical attacks in Damascus. Do you have any comment on that? White House already denied that.

MS. PSAKI: I know they did, and I would just echo what they said. We stand by our own reports, our own intel gathering, the view of the international community that was widespread that this is – there’s no question that this was – these attacks last August 21st were done by the Syrian regime.

QUESTION: Israeli-Palestinian?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: One more on Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Any reaction to the assassination of Father Francis Van Der Lugt in Homs today?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I do have that. One moment. We are saddened by the news that Father Francis Van Der Lugt has been killed by a gunman in Homs. We condemn this violent attack and all attacks against innocent civilians and minority communities. As we have said throughout this conflict, we deplore continued threats against Christians in Syria, and we reiterate that we stand on the side of the Syrian people, who are fighting for a Syria that is inclusive and pluralistic and respects all faiths. We commend Father Van Der Lugt for his support of the Syrian people and the Christian community throughout his life, and especially in the past three years of conflict. And for example, he repeatedly advocated for the people of Homs when they were being starved by the regime, and worked to mitigate the immense suffering in the city.

Middle East peace?

QUESTION: Yeah. So this morning in your statement you said that last night’s three-way meeting was serious and constructive.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How so?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to outline it further, but that was the evaluation of the parties and by our facilitators who participated in the meeting. They also agreed to reconvene today. So they’ll be reconvening today to continue this effort and these discussions.

QUESTION: Has that happened yet, the reconvening?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check with our team. Obviously, there’s a time change issue, so I would suspect it’s happening soon, if not already.

QUESTION: And that will be Ambassador Indyk, plus the lead negotiator Tzipi Livni and Erekat?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are there now any plans for Ambassador Indyk to return to the United States for consultations or to do briefings?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we have discussions. The Secretary has discussions with Ambassador Indyk and with the parties every single day and evaluates what is most useful and productive. At this point, he’ll still be in the region and we’ll make a decision day by day.

QUESTION: And are you giving any thought – this is something that came up last week – to mitigating the potential negative consequences of a collapse in the talks? When you’re reevaluating, as the Secretary said on Friday --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- are you looking at what you could, would, should perhaps do if your reevaluation comes to the conclusion that this is not a fruitful course to pursue?

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity do you mean?

QUESTION: Well, there are a lot of potential negative costs from a collapse in the negotiations, right? I mean, 2014 is real different from 2000, but there was a significant eruption of violence. The main negotiating partner is the Palestinian Authority, which really only controls to some degree the West Bank, but not Gaza. So there are potential negative consequences if Hamas decides to up its rocket attacks or other things. There – it would strike me that if you’re reevaluating, you’re probably thinking about what you can do to try to tamp down the effects of a collapse. But perhaps you’re not, which is why I’m asking the question.

MS. PSAKI: Well, our focus at this point, Arshad, is really on evaluating where we are and where we might go and what’s possible in that capacity. So of course, as we’ve said many times, it’s up to the parties and they need to determine whether they’re going to take steps that will allow this process to continue, so that’s really the focus of our discussions.

QUESTION: So you’re not at a point where looking at negative consequences to their collapse is something that’s high on your agenda?

MS. PSAKI: We’re focused on determining whether these – the process can move forward.

QUESTION: Are you convinced that the parties are not just kind of running out the clock and allowing – committing to talking through the end of the month, through the deadline, but not really engaging meaningfully to make progress? I mean, there have been some comments by officials on both sides saying, well, we’ve committed to the end of the month, but after that we’re free to do whatever we want.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So I mean, is – are you still at the point where you think you might be able to get some kind of extension or some kind of, if not framework agreement, then some agreement which can keep this going, or are they just kind of humoring you at this point?

MS. PSAKI: Look, the talks are ongoing. The parties have indicated themselves – the negotiators, I should say, have indicated themselves that they want them to continue. Obviously, that needs to be an agreement that the parties make, and we can’t make those decisions for them. So – because I would point you to the public statements of a number of the actual negotiators. There are certainly people on both sides who don’t support a peace effort and have never supported a peace effort. But those who have been closely engaged have not indicated to us that they want to end this process or end the negotiation, and they’ve spent several hours together over the past several days, so that’s an indication of their seriousness.

QUESTION: Jen, those who are negotiating with one another are basically at each other’s throats. I mean, Livni and Saeb Erekat are calling each other names and so on and threatening each other. So – and in fact, in response to your statement today, the Palestinians denied that it was constructive and – or serious, as you said, because it seemed that everybody was sort of entrenched in their own position.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, these are tough issues and there are tough decisions that need to be made. And again, it’s up to the parties to decide whether they want to make them. So obviously, our view is that there are many positive benefits of moving forward, continuing to move forward on a peace process, and we’re pursuing that now. But it’s going to be up to the parties to take the steps that are necessary.

QUESTION: So would you say that we are getting to a point where you’re going to say we are – we cannot want it more than the parties do. Are we at that point yet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I would point you to what the Secretary said on Friday. We have a big agenda, whether that’s addressing the events in Ukraine, or the ongoing process with Iran and the P5+1, or the crisis in Syria, and I could go on and on. And certainly, we see incredible benefits of a positive outcome of a peace process, but the parties have to want to pursue that. They have to want to take the necessary steps and that’s what we’re discussing with them now.

QUESTION: And my last question: Tomorrow, the Israel foreign minister Mr. Lieberman will be in town visiting. Do you expect, like, a Palestinian counterpart to come also and meet with you anytime soon?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Foreign Minister Lieberman is the Secretary’s counterpart, as you know. So he’ll be here tomorrow, as you mentioned. I don’t have any meetings with the Palestinians to announce for you at this point.

Any – oh. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary discussed the peace process with the President since he came back?

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary is still in Boston, so he has been certainly in touch with the White House over the weekend and has been working closely, as we have at every point in this process. But he’s been in Boston since we ended the trip on Friday.

QUESTION: Is he planning to go back to the region, or he’s done?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any plans to announce for you at this point. We’ll certainly evaluate day by day.

QUESTION: Can we go back to that question? You said he’s been in touch with the White House, but has he talked to the President about this?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to confirm details of who he’s talked to. I can just convey that he’s communicated with the national security team, and there’s a range of officials involved in that, and I expect that will continue and has been the case for months through the course of this process.

QUESTION: Someone --

QUESTION: We’re still looking at an April 29th deadline for this process, correct?

MS. PSAKI: That hasn’t changed. Obviously, we’re discussing with the parties what’s possible at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. And you saw --

QUESTION: Possible about – sorry. Possible about an extension, you mean?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s been part of the discussion, but obviously there are a range of issues that are being discussed now, so --

QUESTION: And you saw the news out of Ramallah today, I’m sure, with one of the negotiators saying that he was preparing more steps – signing more treaties toward statehood?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How does the U.S. square those actions against the negotiator saying that they want to continue these talks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, both parties have taken unhelpful steps. There’s no question about that. And there are a range of politics that are at play here as well. But both parties have also indicated that they want to see if there’s a path forward, so that’s what we’re discussing. Certainly, things have been challenging over the past several days, but we’re going to continue to discuss with the parties as long as we feel that they are interested in pursuing a path forward.

QUESTION: But how can they – how can they be – either side really – be taken credibly in saying they want to continue the talks or they’re interested in a path forward when both sides have taken these unhelpful steps?

MS. PSAKI: Well, both sides have taken unhelpful steps, yes. And both sides have indicated they don’t want to end the conversation. So all of these issues are being discussed in the meetings.

QUESTION: But I mean – but just to follow up on Lara’s point --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- it’s one thing to sit in a room and say you want to continue talking.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s another totally different thing, as you’ve said all along --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- that actions speak louder than words, and their actions are certainly not creating a climate that’s inducive to either (a) these talks to continue and (b) making progress on the talks.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think both parties – it’s been them. They need to determine whether they both want to pursue a longer-term path forward. So yes, there were actions that were announced last week that were unhelpful. Some of them are being implemented now. But again, both parties are meeting again this evening, and we’ll see where we land.

QUESTION: The Secretary said last week we’re not going to sit here indefinitely, like he’s not gonna continue to put all his effort in if the parties are going to continue to take steps that are antithetical to wanting to produce an agreement. So what – at what point do you take them not at their word or the fact that they’re sitting in a room with you, and you take them on their actions, which are clearly, as you say, unhelpful?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And at what point does that end? Do you just say you can’t do both, it’s either one or the other?

MS. PSAKI: Well, those are conversations we’re having with the parties, so I have nothing more to lay out for you in terms of what the details of that is. But we’re continuing to convey with them – to communicate with them about the process moving forward. And as the Secretary said, we’re not in this forever, but we certainly see a positive benefit of continuing the process if we think we have viable partners.

QUESTION: But the bottom line is they won’t be able to do both forever, right? I mean, they’re going to have to decide one avenue of action or the other. They can’t --

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, the parties would need to determine how – what the conditions would be for moving the process forward.

QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to get you to comment on an idea that is being floated around town. It’s called 431 and it’s the 30 prisoners that were supposed to be released on the 29th plus an additional 400 Palestinian prisoners that is recent, plus Jonathan Pollard. Could you comment on this idea?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to that, Said, no.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Are there immediate or measurable consequences for the expiration of the talks on the 29th? Like in other words, is there any tie to aid, any tie of sweeteners, things that change the climate beyond, of course, not having peace?

MS. PSAKI: From the United States standpoint?

QUESTION: From the United States.

MS. PSAKI: No, not that I’m aware of. No.

QUESTION: So none of the incentives or anything that was laid out at the start of the talks will fall away?

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?

QUESTION: There were a number of goals beyond peace, things that were --

MS. PSAKI: Working with the Palestinian economy?

QUESTION: -- supposed to helpful to economic development – exactly – other things that --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, a lot of those steps were tied to a final status agreement in terms of their ability to be successful. So I can’t do an evaluation case by case. Obviously, we still want the Palestinian economy to be successful. I’m not going to get ahead of where we are because we’re working to see what the path forward is. But a lot of – some of those steps would be contingent upon a successful peace agreement where two parties are living side by side.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: But some of those – I’m using the term “sweeteners” because I don’t really know what else to call them – incentives.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Weren’t they tied to the fourth stage of prisoner release and things like that? I mean, there were actions met by incentives --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’re referring to specifically.

QUESTION: It wasn’t just final status, as in like peace for all eternity. It was sort of like if we get this far, there’s a reason to keep continuing to go forward, and that there might or might not be something on the table before April 29th that would keep people in the room and negotiating?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that was always going to be some steps that the parties were going to take that would create a condition and a climate for moving the peace process forward, whether that was a framework or whether that was an extension with certain conditions. But beyond that, I’m not sure what you’re referring to in terms of U.S. sweeteners.

QUESTION: So there’s no aid that no longer becomes accessible for the Israelis and the Palestinians on – by April 29th?

MS. PSAKI: No, we provide – obviously, Israel – having a secure Israel is hugely important to the United States strategically. We provide, of course, aid to the Palestinian Authority as well. Beyond that, I’m not going to speculate on what may or may not happen given our focus is on seeing if there’s a process forward.

QUESTION: Jen, during his hearing tomorrow, I guess – it is tomorrow?

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary’s hearing?

QUESTION: The Secretary’s on the Hill?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. And he will be meeting with Congresswoman Kay Granger, the chairman – chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee. Will he advise --

MS. PSAKI: She’ll be in the hearing, I suspect.

QUESTION: Huh?

MS. PSAKI: She’ll be in the hearing, you mean? She’ll be attending the hearing?

QUESTION: I guess he’s – isn’t he meeting with them? I mean – okay, let me ask you the question: Will he raise or will he advise against cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve never advised to, so I’m – again, I’ll leave it to what the steps – what questions are raised tomorrow, and I’m not going to get ahead of that process.

Do we have more on the peace process?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: What would the U.S. role be in the upcoming days till the end of April?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Ambassador Indyk is on the ground. The parties have agreed to reconvene today, so that will be happening shortly if it’s not already happening, and we’ll continue to be in close touch with both the parties, the leaders, as well as the negotiators on the ground, and we’ll evaluate what the appropriate role is to play.

QUESTION: And one more: How does the Secretary feel about the process after months of meetings and travels, and negotiations are collapsing now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, the negotiations, the talks are ongoing. Certainly, there have been unhelpful steps taken over the past week, but we remain engaged with the parties. The Secretary is clear-eyed and focused on the path ahead and he remains in close touch with the parties, with the negotiators, with our interagency here, and we’ll make a determination about what can happen moving forward.

QUESTION: Does he consider what happened last week a personal setback?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly not. It’s never been about the Secretary. It’s been about the future of the Israeli and Palestinian people, and that’s what he’s always felt and why he remains committed to seeing if there’s a path forward.

QUESTION: Does he need to see a certain amount of progress or any – are there any benchmarks that would prompt his return, or is there something he wants to see before he wants to go back yet again?

MS. PSAKI: I mean, nothing that I’m going to outline here. Obviously, part of it is discussing with Ambassador Indyk, with the negotiators, with the parties, and seeing what would be most useful moving forward.

QUESTION: Do you think – because the Secretary has traveled there so much – that perhaps, like, the parties have gotten so used to him going that it doesn’t give them – because they know that he’ll keep returning and stuff, it doesn’t kind of give them the incentive to work hard enough to try and reach a deal, that they know that he’ll always be back? I mean, is there --

MS. PSAKI: Well, it has --

QUESTION: -- a strategy now to kind of hold back his --

MS. PSAKI: He’s only been there – he’s only --

QUESTION: -- the prestige of – he’s been there, what, like about 14 times since (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Once in the last three months, though, and --

QUESTION: Is that a conscious choice to kind of not --

MS. PSAKI: Well, it was the stage in the process we were in, and he’s been very engaged over phone, over videoconference with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, and he’ll make an evaluation, we’ll all make an evaluation together with the negotiating team on whether it makes sense for him to return to the region.

QUESTION: Did he receive an apology from the Israeli defense minister?

MS. PSAKI: Did he?

QUESTION: Yeah, receive any apology?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that. That seems like it’s very old at this point, but --

QUESTION: One last question --

QUESTION: You forgot about it? That means you forgot about --

MS. PSAKI: No, I don’t have any update for you on that.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you whether you feel that perhaps, like Lara was – or Elise was saying, that both sides, in essence, take it for granted and they’re just running out the clock? I mean, they don’t want to get on your bad side, so they keep meeting with each other, and then when the time comes, it’s over.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, look, I think there are a lot of discussions that happen behind the scenes that we’re not going to talk about publicly, and that will continue. We’ll make an evaluation as to what our level of engagement should be moving forward, but I don’t have anything to lay out for you today.

QUESTION: Will you take them to the woodshed at one point?

MS. PSAKI: To the what?

QUESTION: I mean, will you sort of chastise --

MS. PSAKI: To the orchard?

QUESTION: Woodshed, I said.

MS. PSAKI: Woodshed. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Woodshed, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I thought he said the orchard. I don't know. That would be odd. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I mean, it’s an old term. I mean, would you chastise them or – publicly at one point?

MS. PSAKI: Look, this is not about blame. This has been about what’s in the best interests of the Israeli and Palestinian people, and that’s why we’ve been hopeful about both parties making tough choices. So we’ll keep working on it day to day.

Any more on this topic, or – Middle East peace?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: As the 29 approaching, do you or – do you intend to convey a message to the party like, hey guys, we’re here now, we did our best, if you need us you know our number – as Jim Baker said one time, you can call us? Are you going this way?

MS. PSAKI: I’m familiar with that anecdote, but look, I would point you to what the Secretary said on Friday. I think he was pretty clear. We remain engaged with the parties every single day. Our negotiators are on the ground. But beyond that, I don’t have any predictions for you.

QUESTION: After 29, even after 29?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t have any predictions for you.

QUESTION: If I – can we move on?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Or do we have any more on Middle East peace? No? Okay, go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I want to ask you, on Secretary Kerry’s upcoming visit to Azerbaijan and Georgia, what can you tell us? When is it happening?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any trip or schedule to announce for you, so I’m not aware that that trip has been planned in any capacity.

QUESTION: It’s been announced in Azerbaijan by U.S. Ambassador Morningstar that Secretary Kerry will be traveling to Azerbaijan and Georgia. (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m sure he would like to go, but I don’t have any details for you on when or if that trip will happen.

QUESTION: But it will – he will be traveling just to Azerbaijan and Georgia, but not Armenia?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details about any trip to Azerbaijan or Georgia to outline for you.

QUESTION: All right, but is it happening – is it something that’s been planned, or is it happening because of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. Again, there’s many places that he would like to visit, including Azerbaijan and Georgia, but I don’t have any details or trip plans to announce for all of you.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Turkey, okay.

QUESTION: It has been over a week that local elections conducted in Turkey. Is there any way you can tell us that – whether you find the elections done in a transparent and fair and free conditions, circumstances?

MS. PSAKI: I’m certainly aware, we are certainly aware, of the elections that have taken place. I don’t have any particular analysis for you about the outcome of the elections.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Afghanistan election?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary provided – put out a statement over the weekend, so I’d point you to that.

QUESTION: I have just one more question on Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the Twitter ban was lifted by the Constitutional Court, and today a deputy prime minister said that the decision was wrong by the Constitutional Court and it was supposed to respect other local Turkish courts’ decisions about the privacy and individual rights. I was wondering whether you think the Constitutional Court didn’t respect the privacy and --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to engage in Turkish politics, but I will say we welcome, of course, the recent Constitutional Court decision in support of freedom of expression in Turkey. We note the Turkish Government implemented the ruling to unblock Twitter yesterday. We are also following the Ankara court’s decision that the government should unblock access to YouTube, and we continue to urge the Turkish Government to ensure all open access to all social media.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Licenses to Boeing and GE to sell engines and things to Iran – are those the types of deals that you envisioned when the agreement went into effect in January?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

QUESTION: The – on Friday, I guess, it was announced by Treasury that they had granted these licenses to GE and to Boeing. Is that the – are those the types of economic things that the State Department would consider a good thing? Boeing makes a sale; Iranian plane travelers are safer. Is that the type of thing that you envisioned?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any particular comment on this. Obviously, we work closely with the Treasury Department, but I would point you to them for any analysis.

QUESTION: It was specifically contemplated in the Joint Plan of Action --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the sale of spare parts and other aircraft materials. So --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- it was there from the beginning.

MS. PSAKI: So there you go.

QUESTION: Isn’t it something that State should crow about, though? It’s a deal for American companies. It’s safer train – or plane travelers and --

MS. PSAKI: I’ll see if there’s anything else we’d like to provide.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Okay? Scott.

QUESTION: Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Okay, Iran. Go ahead. And then we’ll go to Scott.

QUESTION: Any update on Vienna negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that an extensive background briefing was done in advance of the trip, so I would point you to that, which I believe we sent out. Broadly, let me just give you a few logistical updates.

There is an internal P5+1 meeting tonight. Foreign Minister Zarif and EU High Representative Ashton have their typical dinner that they do around every set of meetings. There will be plenary sessions tomorrow. As was stated in the briefing but let me reiterate, we are certainly clear-eyed about the challenges ahead and determined to keep making progress on different issues. As you all know, the experts have been meeting over recent weeks in Vienna, and we know we’re starting – we know where we can see points of agreement and we know where gaps have to be bridged. So our team will be on the ground for the next couple of days, and I expect they’ll do another briefing as it concludes.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied so far?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve spoken to – and not just us but others have spoken to the fact that Iran has abided by the JPOA. Obviously, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Our technical experts and our negotiating team are on the ground doing that.


Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: On Cyprus.

MS. PSAKI: Cyprus. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Greek Cypriot negotiator was in town last week. Do you have a readout of his meetings at the State Department?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I believe I do. Deputy Secretary Burns met with Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis on April 3rd to discuss Cyprus settlement efforts. The meeting is part of periodic consultations the Department conducts with all parties involved in the Cyprus talks. We reaffirm our full support for the Cypriot-led process under the auspices of the United Nations Good Offices Mission to reach a comprehensive statement. We continue to urge both sides to make real and substantial progress toward reunifying the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation.

QUESTION: Do you believe both sides are showing the flexibility that’s necessary to move the process forward?

MS. PSAKI: We do. We’ve met with both parties. We’re continuing to urge both parties to seize the timely opportunity to make real and substantial progress. And this is, again, an ongoing process.

QUESTION: Just --

QUESTION: On the same issue?

MS. PSAKI: Same issue. Okay.

QUESTION: The last week the Secretary met with the foreign minister of Turkey, as you know.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You were there. They discussed Cyprus, according to the Turkish foreign minister. Can you give us a readout of this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: I really don’t have any additional readout. Obviously, it’s an issue that’s on the Secretary’s mind and on the foreign minister’s mind, and certainly they discussed ongoing efforts.

QUESTION: And I think also Eric Rubin, assistant secretary, is going to go to the region next week. Do you have any readout on --

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check on that. He’s going to where? He’s going to Cyprus?

QUESTION: I believe so, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, let me check on that. I’m seeing a nod behind you, so I’ll take that as a likely yes. But we can get that around. There’s a lot of phone-a-friends going on here today. It’s good.

Go ahead, Scott.

QUESTION: The Secretary meets with the South Sudanese foreign minister this week. While you were traveling, there was an announcement of sanctions in South Sudan. Have there been any individuals associated with those sanctions, and is the message – that part of the message to the South Sudanese foreign minister this week?

MS. PSAKI: I’m certain that will be part of the discussion. I’m not aware of individuals tied to it but – yet. But let me talk to our team and see if there’s an update. I know that was last week, if I remember correctly.


Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: And I apologize if you were asked this while I was not around.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have you been asked about the BJP’s political platform?

MS. PSAKI: I have not been.

QUESTION: Okay. So as you I’m sure know, the BJP Party in India in its political platform says that they’re going to study, revise, and update their nuclear policy. I realize that’s an internal political document by one party in an election, but it’s a comment that also raises questions about whether they may abandon their no-first-use policy on nuclear weapons should they come to power. Does the U.S. Government believe that it is better for the Government of India to maintain its current no-first-use pledge on nuclear weapons?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our position on this hasn’t changed. We, of course, as you laid out there for us, are not going to comment on a platform of a party running for office on ongoing elections. But nothing has changed about our view.

QUESTION: And – but is it indeed your view that you think it’s better for the Indian Government to have a no-first-use policy?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more specific for you, Arshad. I can check with our team and see if there’s more we want to lay out on this.

QUESTION: Can you tell us one more time what’s your view on this?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to outline it further. Obviously, these are discussions we have with the Indian Government. I will check and see if there’s more our team would like to say.

QUESTION: Also on India?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I understand that Representative Peter King and Chuck Schumer both reached out to the Secretary about the arrest of a New York police – off-duty police officer who had some stray bullets. And I know you last week have acknowledged the arrest, but now the NYPD says it’s working with the State Department. And if you can bring us up to date on --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have much more to offer you. We don’t have a Privacy Act waiver. We are aware, of course, of reports of the citizen you mentioned who has been arrested in New Delhi, India. We take our obligations, of course, to assist U.S. citizens overseas very seriously, but we don’t have any other additional update at this point.

QUESTION: When – but you confirmed the arrest of a citizen last week and now you’re saying – are you saying that that citizen is one and the same of the citizen that was arrested? And can you confirm that Representative King, who has published the letter, that you’ve received the letter?

MS. PSAKI: I can check on the letter. I didn’t receive an update on that internally. I know we were looking into it. But beyond that, I just don’t have any more updates for all of you since last week.

QUESTION: Do you agree with the assessment of Congressman King that arrest of this particular New York police official was in retaliation of the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to speculate on it, given I can’t even speak to the identity of the individual.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) telling you the same thing.

MS. PSAKI: Understood. I can’t speak to the identity of the individual, so I’m not going to speculate on that.

Lara.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On Cuba, the USAID program to create a Twitter feed for Cubans, it was said last week that the program was not covert or classified.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you know if any parts of it were classified that would require members of Congress to be briefed in a SCIF about it?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of it being classified in any capacity, but I’m happy to check with our team and see. Obviously, there were briefings, as Marie mentioned, with Congress that were offered.

QUESTION: Okay. And on those briefings – I would appreciate if you could take it.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: But on those briefings, I think the White House said that this was – the program was fully debated by Congress. It was said last week that briefings were offered to members of Congress --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- two different things. I think it was said last week at this podium that if members of Congress didn’t take advantage of the briefing, then hey, that’s not anything you all can do about it.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But the White House indicated that everybody was briefed on it. So do you know which it is?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure there’s a difference. I mean, it’s rare that any briefing everybody participates in, right? So I’m not sure. I would ask, of course, my former colleagues if they meant every person attended and they checked the box on attendance. I think they meant the same thing we did over here, which was that briefings were offered to a broad array of members, and obviously, all of them rarely participate in every briefing offered.

QUESTION: Or debated? I mean, I think the words Carney used were “fully debated in Congress.” I mean, what does that mean to you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I know this was discussed. I don’t have any other detail, really, for you. I would also point you to USAID posted a blog post that just went up, I think, right before we came out here, so – that goes through point by point. That may be useful to some of you who are following this story.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can we go back to India for a minute?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, and then we’ll go to Scott.

QUESTION: I know several State Department officials have met senior BJP leaders in the last six months. Was this issue of nuclear policy that BJP is putting up in its platform right now was discussed with them? Ambassador met – Deputy Secretary Burns met with BJP president --

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more details about those meetings. Obviously, we meet with a range of officials. That should come as no surprise. That’s part of the job of any diplomat. But I don’t have any more details about --

QUESTION: But you always discuss issues with them. Was this an issue when you discussed --

MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t have any more details for you.

QUESTION: Can you check out?

MS. PSAKI: I will, but I will probably have nothing to offer you, so I will leave you with that expectation.

Let’s go to the back to Scott. Go ahead, Scott.

QUESTION: In Nigeria, there are members of the military who have come forward with evidence that the Nigerian military itself is coordinating attacks with Boko Haram.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is the United States aware of these reports? Does the United States have any independent analysis of collusion between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram? How does that affect your helping the Nigerian military with what you thought was a fight against Boko Haram?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me check, Scott, with our team. I haven’t had a chance to talk with them about this issue this morning – or this afternoon.

QUESTION: I have a quick one on Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: You started at the very top. How did you make your displeasure known about – to the Egyptians about Mohammed Adel and Ahmed Maher? Did you – did anyone speak with anyone there, or just that they --

MS. PSAKI: We have an expansive team on the ground --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- so they certainly make their – our concerns known when that is relevant.

QUESTION: Same topic, sort of?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Today is 100 days since the Al Jazeera English journalists --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- have been in captivity. I’m just wondering if you guys are --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- in touch at all with the Egyptians on that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are, of course, watching closely the trial and continue to convey our deep concerns directly to the Government of Egypt. We urge the government to drop these charges and release these journalists who have been detained. We remain deeply concerned about the restrictions of freedom of expression in Egypt, including the targeting of Egyptian and foreign journalists simply for expressing their views. Journalists, regardless of affiliation, should be protected and permitted to do their jobs free from intimidation or fear of retribution. Egypt’s constitution upholds these basic rights and freedoms, and Egypt’s interim government has a responsibility to ensure that they are protected.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

QUESTION: One more on the Egypt thing.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Had you – I know you had previously urged the Egyptian authorities to reconsider the sentences on those three.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Had you previously urged them to commute them?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that, Arshad, and see what language we’d used previously.

QUESTION: Because the – I mean, I can check too, but the reason I ask is I think there’s one more legal appeal that is still possible.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

QUESTION: And if you didn’t ask them to commute it before, it suggests you’ve just given up on the legal process entirely, or on the court process.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Let me check with our team and see on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Oh, actually, can I ask about North Korea --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There was a trilat.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, there was.

QUESTION: So I was just wondering if, during this meeting, the issue of a UN inquiry that concluded that North Korea had committed crimes against humanity, did that come up?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the trilat was happening this afternoon, and there were going to be follow-up meetings with Glyn Davies immediately following it, so we’re planning to release a readout later this afternoon that will have more details. But it didn’t start until after I was coming down here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:38 p.m.)

DPB # 61

 
 

2014-04-07