Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – April 9, 2015

12:42 p.m. EDT

MR RATHKE: I just have one thing to mention at the top. As many of you know, Secretary Kerry is traveling to Panama today to join President Obama at the Summit of the Americas, which will include participation by all 35 countries in the Western Hemisphere for the first time. Today he will meet with Colombian Foreign Minister Holguin, and throughout the trip Secretary Kerry will champion collective hemispheric efforts to advance our shared commitments to democracy, human rights, and inclusive economic development. The Secretary will also underscore the importance of engaging with civil society as well as highlighting the importance of increasing student and faculty exchanges, fostering innovation, and addressing climate change.

And with that, over to you, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, on that, there had been some discussion or some speculation that there might be a meeting with the Cuban – the Secretary might have a meeting with his Cuban counterpart. Is that not yet decided or —

MR RATHKE: I don’t have any other scheduling announcements to make.

QUESTION: All right. And then the President in Jamaica said just now that he has received the review or the recommendation of the Secretary on the state sponsor of terrorism designation for Cuba. Can you elaborate on what the recommendation is?

MR RATHKE: Well, I won’t get into the recommendation’s contents. But yes, the President did say just a few minutes ago that the White House has received the State Department’s recommendation. He’s spoken to that and to the process going forward, so I would say while that process remains underway we’re not going to comment on any of the particulars.

QUESTION: Back in December when the President announced the – his decision to move ahead with normalization, he said that he had instructed Secretary Kerry to review the designation with an eye towards removing Cuba from the list.

MR RATHKE: I don’t believe he used those words. I can go back and check exactly —

QUESTION: Oh, so you’re going to keep —

MR RATHKE: — how he put it.

QUESTION: So you’re going to keep —


QUESTION: You’re leaving open the option that the recommendation is to keep them on the list?

MR RATHKE: No, I’m simply saying that I don’t think the President put it that way, that —

QUESTION: Well, why would you do a review if you weren’t going to take them off?

MR RATHKE: Well, it’s clearly an important concern and an important issue, so the review was worth doing.


QUESTION: One historical question that I think you guys have given us the answer to, but I just don’t remember it: Can you remind us when was the last time that a U.S. Secretary of State met with – or indeed any U.S. official – but a U.S. Secretary of State met with the Cuban Foreign Minister?

MR RATHKE: Okay, we may have that date. I understand the reason of the interest. I’m not confirming any changes to his schedule, but we’ll look for that and get back to you.

QUESTION: Okay, that would be great.


QUESTION: And – no, that’s it for me on Cuba.

MR RATHKE: Anything on the same topic or move over?


MR RATHKE: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: You will have seen, undoubtedly, or at least heard of comments made today by both President Rouhani and the Supreme Leader about the nuclear deal. Do you have any general thoughts about what they said? And then I’ll get – ask you specifics.

MR RATHKE: Well, I think the first point I would make is we’re not negotiating in public. We’ve talked a lot over the last week about the parameters of the framework, and we’ve certainly gone into some detail about them. So we’re not going to negotiate on those terms in public. Of course, there are a number of details that remain to be negotiated. That’s why we have the process that will run until the end of June, and we will negotiate those details with our partners.

QUESTION: On any number of points, the president, but more specifically the Supreme Leader, appear to have just simply restated Iran’s opening position from two years ago. Is that your read on it?

MR RATHKE: Well, I don’t want to – from what I understand, I think each of these speeches was rather long and I haven’t read them in their entirety, so I don’t want to comment – I don’t want to characterize them.

QUESTION: Well, did you hear anything new?

MR RATHKE: Well, I think, again, the – we’re working toward the end of June and completing many of the details that remain to be elaborated.

QUESTION: Well, if it is in fact the case that the positions outlined today are pretty much the same as they were – as their positions were before the negotiation ever began, I’m just trying to figure out what exactly was agreed to at Lausanne, particularly on the issue of sanctions removal, where the Supreme Leader says that they have to be removed the day the agreement is signed, not the day that it is certified that they are complying with it; and also on the question of PMDs, which you guys say will have to be addressed if there is to be a final deal and the Supreme Leader says that there will be no access, no inspections of military or security sites. And I don’t understand how you can combine the two and get a deal – the two positions – your – unless your position has shifted somehow.

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to – again, we’re not going to respond to every public statement made by Iranian officials or negotiate in public. Just as one example, though, under the agreed-upon parameters, sanctions will be suspended in a phased manner upon verification that Iran has met specific commitments under a finalized joint comprehensive plan of action.

QUESTION: And you’re saying that that —

MR RATHKE: And that process – and that was – those are among the agreed-upon parameters.

QUESTION: At – from the Lausanne —

MR RATHKE: From Lausanne. And so —

QUESTION: Well, it doesn’t appear that way, since the Supreme Leader says that they have to be taken off immediately on the signing of a deal.

MR RATHKE: The process will only begin after —

QUESTION: Is he just badly misinformed by his negotiators?

MR RATHKE: I’m not going to characterize their internal processes or respond to all those public statements, but again, I think on this point it’s worth mentioning that the process of sanctions suspension or relief will only begin after Iran has completed its major nuclear steps and the breakout time has been increased to at least a year. So that’s consistent with what we’ve said over the last week or so, and that was agreed upon by all the parties in Lausanne.

QUESTION: You’re pretty sure of that? Because it doesn’t sound like it was agreed at all.

MR RATHKE: I don’t have further comment on the Supreme Leader’s remarks.

QUESTION: Just to put a fine point on it —


QUESTION: — it is still entirely the U.S. Government’s position that, as laid out in the parameters described by you guys in your fact sheet, that sanctions relief will only occur as Iran meets its nuclear commitments, correct?

MR RATHKE: Right. That’s right.

QUESTION: So it is – so from your point of view, it is inconceivable that sanctions relief could occur on the date that an agreement is reached, or is it conceivable that they could take every step necessary on that one date and then everything could be released that day?

MR RATHKE: That would be up to them. I think that there would – that would be a technical question, whether it would be possible to carry out all those steps. I’m not in a position to comment on that technical feasibility, but again, suspension will be phased upon verification of Iran’s completion of specific commitments.

QUESTION: And if – President Rouhani also said something, at least the quote that I saw in English, that suggested that all the sanctions had to be eased on the date that an agreement is reached. Do you think that they have not taken on board what the negotiators and particularly what Foreign Minister Zarif negotiated with you?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to draw a conclusion about their internal processes. I don’t have a comment on that. But our understanding and the understanding that we reached in Lausanne remains as I described it and, of course, others have gone into much greater detail about the particulars, including what’s in the fact sheet.

QUESTION: And are you troubled by the Supreme Leader’s statement, since he’s ultimately the decision-maker, that he does not take a position on the parameters that were reached in Lausanne?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to put a value on it either way. I would just say that as the President and the Secretary have said, we have a political framework, an understanding, but over the next two to three months, we have a very tough series of negotiations ahead of us to try to reach a comprehensive plan of action. And so we’ve always acknowledged that we’ve got a lot of tough work ahead of us.

QUESTION: As I understood your answer to Arshad, when you – when he asked if it was “inconceivable” – great word, by the way, have to get Princess Bride script in here more often – (laughter) – on the sanctions issue, your answer was essentially yes. You are not going to agree to anything in the final deal that deviates from what you have just outlined is in the Lausanne parameters, which is phased on completion verification of Iran’s steps.

MR RATHKE: That’s the framework understanding that guides the work from here.

QUESTION: So it is inconceivable for you to agree to something that would immediately ease or suspend the sanctions upon signing, unless, of course, it’s possible for Iran to comply immediately on signing.

MR RATHKE: Well, again – and that’s – and the – I don’t want to parse the Supreme Leader’s words on that or get into analyzing that further, but certainly, we stick by the framework understanding.

QUESTION: All right. But would you – so how about on the PMDs? Is it also inconceivable for you to accept something that doesn’t fully address the question of PMDs, particularly in light of the Supreme Leader’s comments that no security or military installation will be allowed to be subject to monitoring?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, the particular details and modalities of the inspection and verification are to be worked out in the follow-on talks.


MR RATHKE: And I think with regard to PMD, we’ve also said that that is – that that – Iran’s program and the framework understanding, they have to undertake a process that will address the IAEA concerns about PMD.

QUESTION: Well, can that be done without having access to the military and security sites that —

MR RATHKE: I’d have to talk to our technical experts about that. But the point is that verification and transparency in order to assure that all of the four pathways are closed down is an essential part of the agreement, and that – and it was – and that’s the understanding that was reached.

QUESTION: Can I ask you one question —


QUESTION: — on the issue of signing? It’s my understanding – maybe I’m mistaken, but I thought that the JPOA from November of 2013 was not actually signed.

MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm. Right.

QUESTION: Is that not correct?

MR RATHKE: I’ll be honest. I don’t know the answer to that. We’ll verify.

QUESTION: Okay. So I guess then the next question is whether the comprehensive agreement, if there is one, would actually be signed by U.S., Iranian, members of the P5+1, and the European Union representatives or not. Because my – since it’s not a legally binding understanding, it’s just not clear to me whether there’s actually going to be a piece of paper that actually gets signed. So can you take that?

MR RATHKE: Yeah. Sure. Yeah.

QUESTION: Was the JPOA signed, and would you expect a comprehensive arrangement to also be signed?

MR RATHKE: Yeah. We’re happy to look at that.

Go ahead, Nicolas.

QUESTION: Related to that —


QUESTION: — Yemen and Iran.


QUESTION: Secretary Kerry had pretty strong words yesterday night on PBS against Iran, and at the same time, Iran had pretty strong words against Saudi Arabia. So I know that the two things are different, but there may be a connection. So do you think that it will be more difficult to reach a final agreement on the nuclear issue because of the situation in Yemen and because Iran and the U.S. are on different —

MR RATHKE: I don’t think we’re at a point where we’re going to draw that conclusion. We have been, of course, focused on the nuclear issue in the nuclear talks. But as the Secretary made clear, we have continued throughout to make our views known, publicly in many cases as well, about Iran’s behavior in the region that causes us great concern – support for terrorism, detention of American citizens, and so forth. Those remain concerns of ours and – but we’re not going to draw a conclusion about the impact it might have.

QUESTION: Any update —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR RATHKE: Just we’ll let Nicolas follow up, and then we’ll come to you.

QUESTION: Just an update on the U.S. citizens still trapped in Yemen. Do you have an assessment of the number of people who are still there and the efforts to try to evacuate them?

MR RATHKE: Yeah. So I don’t have a number to share about – but as it’s – the situation remains similar to what it’s been in recent days. We are aware of some American citizens who remain in Yemen. We remain in contact through a variety of means to advise American citizens in Yemen about the opportunities that present themselves for people to leave, if they choose to.

Just yesterday we put out two rather detailed but – messages to American citizens in Yemen about opportunities to depart. So that is, of course, something we remain focused on. And we are monitoring the situation in Yemen closely because, of course, protecting American citizens is a top priority for us.

Yes, Pam.

QUESTION: Going back to Secretary Kerry’s PBS interview last night, one specific thing that he said is that he’s very concerned about Iran’s support of the Houthi rebels. And this was in response to the reports of Iran moving ships closer to Yemen’s shore. What additional steps is the U.S. taking or looking at taking to address these concerns?

MR RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to spell out steps we might take or that we might contemplate taking in the future, but the Secretary was quite clear that we have concerns about support for the Houthis that comes from Iran. It is quite clear – and we’ve said for some time – that the blame for the conflict, as it currently exists in Yemen, lies squarely at the feet of the Houthis and also those who are supporting them. So that’s clearly a concern for us.

Same topic?

QUESTION: Yeah. Iran.

MR RATHKE: Iran. Yes. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we just go back – sorry, I know you don’t want to parse words and – but I want to look at this – the business about the fact sheet for a second, Jeff. You’ve said repeatedly here, as has the Secretary of State, that we don’t want to negotiate this deal in the press. And yet this department circulated a three-page document outlining the parameters of what was agreed to in Switzerland, and here now we have the Iranian Supreme Leader saying that it was inaccurate. Actually, what did he call it? Lying, most of it was against the agreement and wrong.

So was the fact sheet that was circulated translated into Farsi? I mean, there was also a Farsi fact sheet that came out from Tehran right afterwards that was different from the one that this department circulated. Why did you guys circulate that fact sheet – that’s my question – if you’re not trying to argue this in the public space?

MR RATHKE: Well, the distinction I would draw is we’ve – as we’ve said, we are not negotiating in public. The fact sheet represents understandings from – that were reached at Lausanne.

QUESTION: That the Iranians agreed to.

MR RATHKE: And we stand by that. And of course, as we’ve said all along, we consider it important as well to explain to the American public, including to Congress but to the public more broadly, what we’ve achieved in those talks. So I don’t see a contradiction between those two things.

As to the Iranians, their characterization of it, again, I’m not going to parse it.

QUESTION: But they agreed to the fact sheet that was circulated by this department?

MR RATHKE: No. It wasn’t a negotiated fact sheet that was released by the United States based on – we told them that we were going to talk about the agreement publicly, but it wasn’t a negotiated document.

QUESTION: So does it actually reflect what happened in the talks?

MR RATHKE: Yes. Yes, and we stand by it.

QUESTION: Because it was circulated like 10 minutes after the President announced that there was this historic development. It seemed like it was directly connected to what the focus of the talks were.

MR RATHKE: Well, yeah. And it reflects the understandings achieved there.

QUESTION: And so the Iranians agreed to what was in that document? Not —

MR RATHKE: Yeah. Not to the document itself. It isn’t like we had a process of negotiating that specific piece of paper. That’s the point I was making. But that fact sheet reflects the understandings achieved at Lausanne.

QUESTION: According to you.

MR RATHKE: Yeah. But – and we stand by it.

QUESTION: Right. But at some point somewhere down the line, presumably by the end of June, you’re going to have to produce – everyone at the table is going to have to produce one fact sheet that everybody agrees on. It doesn’t sound like you’re anywhere close to that.

MR RATHKE: Well, that’s the goal – is a joint comprehensive plan of action.

QUESTION: Right. Well, can you guarantee to us that if there is an agreement, it will be agreed to by everyone, and we won’t have the same kind of back and forth post agreement come July 2nd?

MR RATHKE: I’m not going to speak to the final shape and form of the agreement. And that’s also the nature of Arshad’s question —

QUESTION: The problem is that it just appears that – I know. It just appears because of the conflicting interpretations of what happened at Lausanne that, in fact, while you are saying that your version is correct and these things were agreed to, in fact, it’s not at all clear, at least to the Iranians, that they agreed to this. In fact, they say they didn’t, which is —

MR RATHKE: Well, again —

QUESTION: — problematic when you’re – which is a bit problematic if you’re negotiating with someone and you think you’ve agreed on something and they say no, we didn’t agree to this at all, right?

MR RATHKE: Well, again, we stand by that.


MR RATHKE: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Going back to what Khamenei said today about sanctions, and also the (inaudible) have been asking. So it seems like these – he has set these two redlines. Is this a deal-breaker? I mean, is it worth going for the next three months talking and not getting anywhere?

MR RATHKE: Again, no, we’re not negotiating those details in public, and so I’m not going to comment on his public statements. And we’re not – as this process goes forward, we’re not going to react to every public statement made by Iranian officials.

Arshad, you had a question.

QUESTION: Yeah. Even if the fact sheet that the U.S. Government provided was not a negotiated document with the Iranians, did U.S. negotiators make clear to the Iranian negotiators not merely that they were going to talk about the agreements that were reached, but that they were – did they make clear the basic substance of the things that they were going to describe in the fact sheet?

In other words – yeah, let’s put it that way. Did the U.S. negotiators tell the Iranian negotiators the basic substance of the items that they were going to disclose?

MR RATHKE: Right. I’ll go back and check. I believe Marie has spoken to this. I don’t have her remarks in front of me to characterize them precisely, so I’m happy to go back and look at that and come back to you.


MR RATHKE: Same topic?


MR RATHKE: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Did the Under Secretary Sherman talk to members of Congress today about the agreement?

MR RATHKE: So with regard to the discussions with – pardon me for a moment – right. So we have offered briefings by Under Secretary Sherman starting as early as this week, and of course, the Secretary and a number of members of his team have been keeping in touch with members by phone. But I don’t have anything further to read out right now —

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR RATHKE: — on meetings or contacts.

QUESTION: So there was – I mean, Marie said yesterday there was a meeting, that she would begin these meetings today with the leadership and the (inaudible).

MR RATHKE: Well, we’ve offered some – I don’t have any meetings to confirm that have (inaudible).

QUESTION: Are there members of Congress who are turning down these meetings? I mean, recognizing that Congress is out right now.

MR RATHKE: Well, yes, many members are not here. As I said, the Secretary has also had discussions, as have others, by phone.


MR RATHKE: But Under Secretary Sherman has offered to meet in person as well.

QUESTION: Well, can you —

MR RATHKE: But I don’t have any of those to confirm.

QUESTION: Can you find out if a meeting is happening today or has happened today —


QUESTION: — or if members were just not available or they said thanks but no thanks?

MR RATHKE: Yeah, yeah. We’ll look and see if there’s any specific meeting to confirm.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: On the Iran-Yemen subject, is there any communications of what – any level regarding the subject, the Iranian – I mean, the U.S. is talking about Iranian involvement; Iran is talking back, accusing the U.S. of different things. Are there any exchanges on the – how to resolve this issue between the U.S. and Iran?

MR RATHKE: No. I think we mentioned some time ago when the discussions were happening in Geneva – or, no, at that point, I think it was already in Lausanne —

QUESTION: Lausanne.

MR RATHKE: — that the Secretary raised the matter in a discussion with Foreign Minister Zarif. He brought it up. It wasn’t the subject of a long discussion. But as we’ve always said, our focus is – in our discussions with Iran is on the nuclear issues, with the addition of the American citizens detained in Iran, which we raise whenever we have the opportunity.

QUESTION: Well, nothing besides that? I mean —


QUESTION: — this week, since the talks —

MR RATHKE: No, no.

Same topic?

QUESTION: Yemen, yes.

MR RATHKE: Yemen, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. Given that we’re now into the 15th day of airstrikes in Yemen and given the growing humanitarian crisis that the Red Cross has expressed concern about, has there been any contact between the U.S. and the Saudi coalition to ask them to do something to reduce the humanitarian suffering, to get humanitarian aid in, and to do something about the humanitarian and civilian casualties that are being suffered, particularly when we’re hearing reports of severe fighting in places like Aden?

MR RATHKE: Well, you’ve mentioned the humanitarian situation. I think it’s worth pointing out that yesterday, we understand that the International Committee of the Red Cross, along with staff from Doctors Without Borders, successfully docked a ship in Aden to deliver medical supplies and surgical teams. ICRC would have more detail on that, but we also understand that they continue to work with Saudi officials in order to bring humanitarian supplies into Yemen.

Now on humanitarian issues more generally, we remain in close coordination with Saudi authorities. Deputy Secretary Blinken, of course, was there just this week. And we continue to call on all sides to comply with international humanitarian law, and the obligation to take all feasible precautions to minimize harm to civilians.


QUESTION: Regarding Yemen and the possibility of some sort of peaceful solution to this war that is happening there. The Oman Government – the Omani Government – the Omani Foreign Minister has offered to try and kick-start some sort of talks, mediation. The Iranian Foreign Minister was actually in Muscat yesterday on his way to Pakistan, stopped there, and Iranian media reported that he was there specifically to have this discussion about the possibility of Oman playing intermediary. Does this department have a position on whether or not Oman could play that role between Tehran and Riyadh? And would we get behind that? Would the United States get behind that?

MR RATHKE: Right. Well, we continue to call on all parties in Yemen to return in good faith to political dialogue. And we also call for a renewed commitment to a peaceful, political transition which is consistent with the GCC initiative, the National Dialogue Conference, and all the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions and the Yemeni constitution. As to a particular proposal, I’m not familiar with that one. But we don’t have a specific comment on those particulars. But certainly we see a need to return to political dialogue, and that’s something that the Houthis have to signal their readiness to do. There is – there are ample means to do it. There’s the UN-led process, and we certainly think that’s the way to achieve a political resolution.

Same topic, or —

QUESTION: Yeah. Still on Yemen.

MR RATHKE: Okay. This, and then I think we need to move on. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. Government doing anything to help with the humanitarian situation, or are you quite content to leave it to ICRC and Doctors Without Borders?

MR RATHKE: Well, of course, we’re the biggest humanitarian donor in the world. I don’t have figures in front of me particular to Yemen, but we can consult with our team and then come back to you.

Yes. New topic?


MR RATHKE: China. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Did you see the comments made by the Chinese Government regarding their land reclamation efforts? And if so, do you have any comment on their claim that these land reclamation efforts are beyond reproach, entirely within their sort of national prerogative, and are designed both for a military and some civilian purposes to help other countries?

MR RATHKE: Well, in our view, China’s land reclamation and construction activities are fueling greater anxiety within the region about China’s intentions amid concerns that they might militarize outposts on disputed land features in the South China Sea. So we’re watching these developments closely and we continue to raise our concerns with China, as well as with others in the region, to urge all parties to avoid destabilizing activities. And we encourage all claimants, as we have for a long time, to pursue peaceful and diplomatic approaches to maritime and territorial disputes in the South China Sea. We don’t take a position on the underlying sovereignty question in these territorial disputes, but it is certainly important for all claimants to pursue their claims peacefully.

QUESTION: And do you regard the – I just want to make sure – I mean, I heard that you said that you felt they were feeling greater anxiety about the land disputes or territory —

MR RATHKE: No. What I said was “fueling greater anxiety… about China’s intentions amid concerns” – yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you – okay, got it, about its intentions. Do you regard the land reclamation in and of itself as destabilizing?

MR RATHKE: Well, I think our Assistant Secretary for East Asia Danny Russel may have spoken to this as well. We’ve – we see it as destabilizing, and we’ve said it from this podium as well. And if you look at the commitments that countries in the region, including China, have made; and if you look at the size of the reclamation work over the past two or three years; and if you look at the Declaration of Conduct between China and ASEAN, which dates back over a decade, where the – where all parties committed to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes, it’s certainly our – we very much hope that China would recalibrate in the interest of stability and good relations in the region.


QUESTION: Hi. My name is Toru Takei of Kyodo News, Japanese wire service.


QUESTION: There is a report that says Deputy Secretary Blinken will be meeting his counterparts from Japan and South Korea next week here in Washington.

MR RATHKE: That’s correct.

QUESTION: Do you have anything? Do you know which day —

MR RATHKE: I don’t have a formal announcement to make, so I think that as we get closer to that meeting we will have – we will put out more details about the particulars of the meeting. I don’t have a formal announcement to make.

QUESTION: So you don’t know which day next week?

MR RATHKE: I’m happy to check on that and we can come back to you —

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MR RATHKE: — with the date.

Yes, Pam.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MR RATHKE: Ukraine, yes.

QUESTION: Amnesty International has a new report that’s focused on human rights issues in Ukraine. It details atrocities that include abuse of detainees and also killings by pro-Russian separatists. Have you seen the report, first of all? And secondly, some of these are things we’ve talked about before, but if you have seen it, what is your reaction to the findings in this report?

MR RATHKE: Well, we are deeply troubled by reports of summary executions of captured Ukrainian security forces by Russia-backed separatists. These serious accusations must be thoroughly and transparently investigated, and any perpetrators must be held to account. So yes, we are familiar with the report.

Additional topics? All right, thank you.

QUESTION: No, sorry, just one brief – on Bahrain?

MR RATHKE: Bahrain.

QUESTION: Yeah. The continued – wondering if you have anything to say about Nabeel Rajab’s case.

MR RATHKE: Is there something in the last day or so that you’re referring to?

QUESTION: I believe it was back – what’s today? The 2nd – no, today’s the 9th. It may be a few days old now.


QUESTION: I think he was rearrested.

MR RATHKE: So we certainly are deeply concerned about the arrest on April 2nd of Nabeel Rajab on new charges related to posting information on social media. And so we’re actively monitoring this case. We also understand there had been an April 5th court date for his appeal but that that has been postponed again. We urge the Government of Bahrain to drop these charges against Mr. Rajab and to release him immediately. As we consistently say around the world, the United States does not agree with prosecution of individuals for crimes of peaceful expression. We believe that societies are strengthened and not threatened by peaceful expressions of opinion and dissent.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:15 p.m.)

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