Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – February 11, 2015

1:15 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
QUESTION: Hello.
QUESTION: From the top.
MS. PSAKI: All right.
QUESTION: The people of Singapore, Government of Singapore —
MS. PSAKI: To the people of Singapore, thank you for your patience. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk were in Singapore today, where they met with MFA Permanent Secretary Chee and senior intelligence officials to discuss coalition efforts to counter ISIL. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk also met with senior representatives from the Religious Council of Singapore and Religious Rehabilitation Group to discuss their well-regarded rehabilitation program. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk welcomed the important role Singapore is already playing in coalition efforts, noting Singapore’s experience in countering violent extremism and reintegrating radicalized individuals. Today’s meetings were an opportunity to brief on the full range of coalition efforts and discuss potential new areas of cooperation.
With that, Matt.
QUESTION: Got it. So you didn’t begin with the suspension of operations of the Embassy in Yemen because you figured it wasn’t that big a deal?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we put out a statement last night —
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: — to all of you, and I’m happy to certainly discuss in more detail.
QUESTION: Can you – okay. Can you? What can you tell us about it? Is everyone who is leaving gone? Where do they go? What’s the status of the Embassy and its property? And what is your understanding of the actual situation on the ground with the Houthis and – who is in charge?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me try to address all of your questions here. So let me just reiterate for all of you who may not have seen it or didn’t – were not clicking refresh on your email last evening. We put out a travel warning and a statement last night announcing our decision to suspend our Embassy operations and the fact that our Embassy staff have been temporarily relocated out of Sana’a. We remain strongly committed to supporting the Yemeni people and will explore options for a return to Sana’a as soon as the situation on the ground improves. We also are grateful for the role the Government of Oman played and the Sultan’s leadership in our efforts to secure a swift departure and safe passage for our U.S. Embassy personnel. We deeply appreciate His Majesty’s concern for the safety of our personnel and unwavering friendship. We also thank the UN Special Envoy for his diplomatic engagement and the Government of Qatar for their willingness to facilitate our safe departure from Yemen.
Recent – as this was noted in here, I’m just reiterating it for all of you – or noted in our statement, I should say – recent unilateral military and political actions taken by the Houthis disrupted the political transition in Yemen, as all of you know and have been watching closely, creating the risk that renewed violence would threaten Yemenis and the diplomatic community in Sana’a. As you know, the safety and security of our men and women serving is one of our top priorities, and we’ve been constantly evaluating.
In terms of how they departed, we worked – as you know, we’ve been working to reduce Embassy staff for some time now. Yesterday the remaining staff departed on an Omani private jet to Muscat. Our Embassy staff have since departed en route to Washington. In terms of where they will be – excuse me. That was a tongue-twister for some reason – where they will be based, that is – we’re still determining some of those details and I expect we’ll have more in the coming days on that.
QUESTION: All right. Is it possible that they could stay – much as what you did in Libya, where some of the people went to – I think it was Malta, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And I believe are still there, right?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Is there a thought about basing them somewhere close to Yemen?
MS. PSAKI: That is possible.
QUESTION: And the extent of the Qatari and Omani assistance was the flight, the plane?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the flight, obviously – I don’t have more specifics than this, but allowing through certain stops en route back to Washington, and I mentioned, obviously, the role of the UN engagement on this effort.
QUESTION: All right. And then you have seen reports that the rebels seized all of the vehicles, the Embassy vehicles that had gone to the airport along with some weapons. One, what’s the status of that? And two, are you confident that the people who left and the local staff completed whatever kind of document destruction, whatever kind of things you’re supposed to do before they – when you’re closing an embassy before they left?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, on the first piece, upon our departure, our vehicles and equipment were seized, reportedly by the Houthis. We are looking into this. Clearly, it is unacceptable and we would reiterate that in order to return to Sana’a, respect for property, respect for our facilities is an essential component of that. So we certainly are requesting they be returned.
QUESTION: So when you say “reportedly,” what do you mean?
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: Do you mean you don’t have any —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more —
QUESTION: I mean, I realize you don’t have anyone there on the ground anymore, but where – are you —
MS. PSAKI: They were seized —
QUESTION: They were seized.
MS. PSAKI: — by – reportedly by the Houthis, which is obviously unacceptable.
QUESTION: Okay. Is there a – do you have some kind of a protecting power arrangement?
MS. PSAKI: We’re still having discussions about that. I don’t have anything to announce for you at this point.
QUESTION: So right now the security of the Embassy compound itself and the property that’s affiliated with it is – who is responsible for that?
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: Is there anyone guarding – the local guards or —
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to discuss our security precautions we take. Obviously, we take them in any of these circumstances. We expect the Houthis to respect international conventions that apply to our facilities and to expect – and to be – and we expect to be able to return to the Embassy in the same condition. There were reports also, I think, that some had entered the compound. We don’t have anything to confirm those reports at this time.
QUESTION: When you say that you expect the Houthis to comply with the international – I mean, why would you expect them to do that, or you just hope that they would?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly hope they would. They’ve made public statements about how they are not – they have no desire to go after our interests, go after our materials. So we expect them to abide by their own statements.
QUESTION: But it sounds as though you’re basically – it’s an honor system because you don’t have anyone – any other country that still has an Embassy there lined up to be – to serve as a protecting power.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not suggesting that. Obviously, we just moved – we just made this announcement about the suspension yesterday. And we take every precaution – I’m not going to outline the security steps we take, but we’re also in discussions about the protecting power question.
QUESTION: Last one: You’re confident that everything that needed to be destroyed inside the Embassy – classified documents or stuff that couldn’t be taken with them – all that was done? The procedures were all followed?
MS. PSAKI: As you know, there’s a procedure that we follow through on. I have not heard any concerns that that was not completed or any issue.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: Jen, so there are no U.S. personnel on the ground at the moment in the capital?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I mentioned our Embassy personnel and our Embassy staff. Beyond that, I don’t have anything to confirm for you. I think DOD has spoken to some of their personnel.
QUESTION: And are we talking about the counterintelligence people who do that?
MS. PSAKI: They’ve spoken to what those individuals are on the ground doing, so I’d point you to that.
QUESTION: And then how many people in total were evacuated?
MS. PSAKI: We just don’t get into specific numbers, just for the safety and security of those individuals.
QUESTION: They’re gone now. I mean —
MS. PSAKI: I understand, but as a policy, we don’t, Justin. I understand why you’re asking.
QUESTION: Can I just ask to follow up on Matt’s question: It is normal procedure that you would destroy documents and computers, anything that you felt held classified information?
MS. PSAKI: We take every precaution necessary. I’m not going to outline what those are, but obviously, we take those in any facility when needed.
QUESTION: And again just on the security issue, you – your staff left this Embassy locked or in what condition? I mean, how do you secure it?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into those details because there’s not a benefit to us in outlining security precautions we take on our own facilities. We take them even when we suspend our operations.
QUESTION: And can I just ask: Is this a suspension? You’re referring to it as a suspension?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, because we hope to return.
QUESTION: Right. So the hope is that at some point you will be able to go back.
MS. PSAKI: Yes, exactly.
QUESTION: And just following up on the issue of the contacts that you addressed yesterday (inaudible) —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: — have there been any contacts in the last 24 hours with the Houthi militia or with any other Yemeni officials who might be in a position to negotiate with you or talk to you?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have anything new to update for you in terms of timing. I don’t think that – our ambassador remains the ambassador to Yemen and we have a range of contacts and individuals who we still remain in contact with regardless of the fact that our facility – our operations there have been suspended.
QUESTION: And so – and just on the question of perhaps stationing somebody nearby, are you able to say which country might be prepared to host your ambassador until such time as you can go back to Sana’a?
MS. PSAKI: Well, at this point, my understanding – and he’s on his way back to Washington with the rest of the staff. I don’t want to outline that at this point until we have anything we can confirm.
QUESTION: Jen, the cars that were supposed to stay were supposed to stay at the airport, or who was supposed to take care of them?
MS. PSAKI: Correct, they were going to remain at the airport.
QUESTION: Okay. And who’s taking care of the American interests in Yemen at this time?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I’ve answered this a bit: Our ambassador remains our ambassador; we’re working through the question of a protecting power. Obviously, we decided – we suspended operations just yesterday. If we have more information later today, we can share that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.)
QUESTION: One more. Sorry, Matt. And how this move today will affect the war on terror in Yemen?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think my DOD colleagues have also spoken to this, but we continue to – we have long coordinated on counterterrorism operations there. We continue to do that. I have not outlined that publicly here in terms of the specifics of who and how and what for obvious reasons.
QUESTION: I’m a little mystified as – you have essentially evacuated the embassy. You drove all these cars to the airport and you expected in the middle of a war zone that no one was going to take these cars? You thought that they would be safe just sitting there?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to outline for you on the cars, Matt.
QUESTION: I mean —
QUESTION: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: Well, I just don’t understand. I mean, what – you didn’t – I mean, there are local embassy staffers who are still on the ground there. Was – could they not have driven them if not back to the embassy compound where they might – but we don’t know – be locked up and safe, at least to their own homes?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sure there were a range of options considered. I don’t have anything more to outline for you on the cars at this point.
QUESTION: Do you have —
QUESTION: But they just —
QUESTION: — a number of how many vehicles?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t.
QUESTION: So they were just left there with the expectation that if and when the security situation returns to normal they would still be there and —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details for you on the cars.
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Justin.
QUESTION: What about the weapons? There’s also reports that the Houthis seized the Marines’ weapons. Is that accurate? And were the weapons disabled before they were handed over?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details on that to outline for you. Obviously, we’re looking into all of these reports. I confirmed for you all that some vehicles were taken. I don’t have numbers. I don’t have specifics on what was in the vehicles at this point in time.
QUESTION: Well, what about the – or do you have anything at all on the weapons? Were weapons handed over?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details at this point in time.
QUESTION: Jen, one more thing.
MS. PSAKI: On Yemen? Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yeah. Have you left the local all the local staff inside Yemen, right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we wouldn’t move staff that are not American citizens working for the United States outside of Yemen, no.
QUESTION: So they might be in danger? I mean, they might be –like happened in Iraq and elsewhere.
MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly there’s an incredibly volatile situation on the ground in Yemen, and I think there’s no question about that.
QUESTION: Jen, more broadly on Yemen, this is the third embassy that you guys have had to uncharitably, perhaps, say, abandon in an Arab Spring country since the first one, which was Syria. Is there a broader concern that you’re being – the U.S. is being run out of town in the Arab world?
MS. PSAKI: We certainly don’t look at it in that way. I would remind you that we were not the only country that moved our staff out of Yemen last night, and we have to take precautions to protect the men and women who are serving on our behalf. There’s no question that in each of the countries you’ve mentioned there’s a great bit of volatility, but that’s – the fact is that that’s what’s happening on the ground. It’s not a reflection of the United States and our engagement. It’s a reflection of the trouble and challenges happening in these countries.
QUESTION: Okay. So the Administration would take issue with people who are suggesting that these – this latest evacuation, combined with the other two, you would take issue with the suggestion that that is reflective of some failure in the Administration’s policy to deal with the aftermath or even the – well, to deal with the aftermath of the Arab Spring and the revolutions throughout the region.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, as you know, the UK and France also moved their staff out of Yemen last night. Clearly, we’ve talked about and the President and others have talked about regrets as it relates to Libya. There’s a civil war happening in Syria. So what I would say is there are challenging circumstances in each of these countries. What the United States leadership is reflected in is the fact that we want to return. We want to be engaged. We want to play a role if we can play a role, as do these other countries. But these are difficult challenges that we need to determine how we can best play a role.
QUESTION: But I think that there is people that would say that wanting to play a role and hoping that you can return is not exactly a leadership role. Is that – I mean —
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would —
QUESTION: Hoping that the situation in Yemen, without your – without U.S. diplomats on the ground to report back on and to have communications with all the people – with all the parties involved, doesn’t seem to be a leadership role.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have our own interests in Yemen and we are continuing to implement those.
QUESTION: Clearly, you have less interests in Yemen than you did yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: We are continuing to implement those. One of them is our counterterrorism work which is ongoing. So that is one that is continuing. We think having a diplomatic presence is in our interest and certainly in the interest of the region. But I don’t think that the facts bear out a notion that this is about the United States.
QUESTION: And what’s happening —
QUESTION: So it’s just about the West in general?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t say that. I think the situation on the ground has obviously been volatile and challenging politically for some time now, and there have been a history here that is not related to the United States or the West.
QUESTION: But does it hamper more generally, perhaps, international efforts to try and resolve the crises in these countries by not having a diplomatic presence? Everything is taking place in the countries, and if you’re going to try and meet have some kind of talks or negotiations, then it has to be almost by definition outside the country.
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s a different question, right?
QUESTION: Yeah.
MS. PSAKI: But the fact is that the UN has been leading these efforts, which we fully support and we’ve been engaged with in a supportive way. We’re actually in the process of entering into an interim licensing agreement with the United Nations to allow the United Nations to occupy and use the U.S. diplomatic transit facility in Sana’a, because we don’t have a current need for the property. The UN has expressed an interest in locating some of their personnel at our site, and we agreed to their proposal. But they have been leading the effort and leading these negotiations. It’s something that we and other countries have supported.
QUESTION: But not having eyes —
QUESTION: Which – which site is this? This is the —
MS. PSAKI: The embassy site.
QUESTION: Oh. So there is going to be – so you’re trying to get the UN to be kind of a protecting power?
MS. PSAKI: No. I wouldn’t put it in those terms.
QUESTION: Well, but they —
MS. PSAKI: It’s the use of this – it’s the – well, I’m sorry. It’s the diplomatic transit facility —
QUESTION: What is that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me check on the specifics of that —
QUESTION: So it’s not the embassy?
MS. PSAKI: — and where it’s located exactly. No, it’s not; a different facility. It’s – but I check on specifics.
QUESTION: But not having eyes or ears on the ground – neither yourself, the Brits, or the French – must mean that it’s very difficult to get a handle on the situation of what’s actually going on.
MS. PSAKI: Well, our – we still have some on the ground, as has been referenced and confirmed by other colleagues of mine in the United States Government. Obviously, our preference is to always have a diplomatic presence on the ground in these countries. That’s why we invest in not just the facilities, but the staff, and why men and women from the Foreign Service and from the Civil Service go into challenging countries like Yemen. So certainly, that’s our preference. But we do have to weigh the security risks, and certainly that’s what we did in this case. And we also would like to return when we can.
QUESTION: Jen? On this. What was the main fact or the main event that pushed the U.S. and others to evacuate all these embassies? What happened yesterday or before yesterday?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it wasn’t about yesterday. We evaluate – and I would encourage you to take a look at the travel warning, which has more details. Clearly, we evaluate our – we re-evaluated, or evaluated our security posture based on the uncertain security situation in Sana’a. That’s something that has been discussed for some time. As you know, we recently pulled down some staff, so this was a next step in that effort.
QUESTION: But the situation has been like this for more than two months now. Why —
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve taken steps progressively to do that. It’s not about one event yesterday; there wasn’t. It’s about evaluating what’s in the best interests of our staff and personnel.
QUESTION: Jen, in a follow-up to that question —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure.
QUESTION: — was there a specific threat that the U.S. received that would’ve affected the embassy that resulted in yesterday’s decision to suspend services?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the travel warning specifically addresses that question. It makes clear that we have remained highly concerned about possible attacks on U.S. citizens, U.S. facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests. This is something that we’ve been watching closely. Obviously, the security threat in Yemen is extremely high. But this was about evaluating what the security needs were and what was in the best interests of our personnel.
QUESTION: Jen —
QUESTION: And the threats are coming from al-Qaida or from the Houthis?
MS. PSAKI: Again, there’s a range of factors at play here. I would encourage you to take a look at the travel warning.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: Jen, the Secretary met with GCC countries —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: — in Munich, in which there was concern expressed and they called for a greater role for the international community. What is the next step to try to resolve this issue? I mean, if the U.S. is saying that the United States would like to get back there, what is the next step?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one of the steps that we’ve been focused on and the GCC has certainly been focused on is these UN-run talks. And that is something that clearly the UN is committed to, given we’ve been talking to them about the use of some of our facilities. That’s something many of the other countries in the region also support, parties talking to parties. In terms of returning, there are a range of factors we evaluate, as you know: the security and safety of our personnel, obviously; the protection of our facilities. So we look at all of those factors as we make decisions.
QUESTION: Is it your feeling that this could be an extended stay away from Yemen? I mean, how quickly can you think that this could be resolved?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to make a prediction of that. Obviously, I don’t think – I think we’re pretty clear-eyed about how challenging the circumstances are on the ground and the fact that there is a great deal of work that needs to be done to return to a more stable environment. But it is something we will constantly evaluate.
QUESTION: One of the issues that was raised at the GCC was Iran’s role, and as far as – the understanding is that nobody has reached out to Iran on what’s going on in Yemen?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on GCC countries reaching out. I would be surprised.
QUESTION: But —
MS. PSAKI: But that’s not —
QUESTION: Did the Secretary talk about it with Foreign Minister Zarif?
MS. PSAKI: I – not that I’m aware of, Lesley.
QUESTION: Okay.
QUESTION: Jen, can I take one more stab at this car thing?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: You said that you were confident that all the procedures, the normal procedures that you do when you’re going to suspend operations at an embassy, were done, that they did everything that they were required to do under your guidelines. Does that include these vehicles? And the reason I ask is it just seems to me to be very odd, and naive at worst, if you – I mean, if I drove my car into a war zone and just parked it, and not knowing when I would return, I don’t think that I would that it would be still sitting there in perfectly good shape by the time I got back, particularly if it was an expensive armored Chevy Suburban or something like that. I mean, was the procedure followed as it related to the moveable property of the Embassy?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on the procedure as it relates to cars. You asked me originally about materials.
QUESTION: Right. No, no, I know. That’s why —
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, our priority here was about moving our personnel safely out of Yemen. I don’t have more details other than to note for you that clearly the cars would not be able to come on the plane. So I’m sure they considered a range of options. I’m happy to check if there’s more specifics about the process.
QUESTION: Well, I’m not – I’m just wondering if the – I mean, no, no one’s saying that they should have gone on the plane. But I mean, some – there could have been some arrangement made for the local staff to drive them back to some protected place instead of just leaving them at the airport. I mean, that just seems like – I don’t know what it seems like. It just seems odd. Anyway, it would be interesting to know if there is some kind of policy on the disposition of vehicles and other moveable property that you – when an embassy is evacuated.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: And find out if you’re satisfied that it was followed in this case.
MS. PSAKI: I will check with our team.
QUESTION: Thanks.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up on that.
MS. PSAKI: Yemen? Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Actually, you can put cars on a plane in military transport, and there was, as we know, a plan to put – to do a military evacuation. Can you say why you chose not to in this case?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there was never a plan to do a military evacuation. There were ships positioned several weeks ago, but there was a decision made to use these private planes to move our personnel out.
QUESTION: What do you mean there was never a plan to do a military evacuation?
MS. PSAKI: We didn’t make the decision to do that.
QUESTION: Yeah, but there was a plan.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: What is your question?
QUESTION: Well, my question was why did – what – but the question is: Why did you decide not to execute the military evacuation over a chartered plane when this whole issue was about —
MS. PSAKI: When we could have put cars on a military ship?
QUESTION: No, I’m not asking why – I’m saying why you didn’t go with the military evacuation over the chartered planes when this was all about a bad security situation.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would certainly point you to my colleagues at DOD and elsewhere. We typically don’t get into specifics about why we take certain security steps. But obviously, putting individuals onto a plane and transporting them to the airport was something we felt was possible in this case. It was clearly executed. We take every precaution – you’re right; we plan, we take precautions. It doesn’t make – mean we make decisions to do things. So that’s what I was referring to. So I don’t think I’m going to be able to outline for you why we did one means of moving staff out over another.
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: You mentioned the British and the French. Did you make your decision in close coordination with the UK and France, and did you cooperate for the evacuation of your personnel and their personnel?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we were certainly aware of what each other was doing, and we’re in touch – close touch with our counterparts from the UK and France as well. In terms of whether there was cooperation, do you mean whether we provided assistance or vice versa?
QUESTION: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. I’m happy to check and see if that was part of our cooperation.
QUESTION: And what would you respond to Iran, who criticized your decision to leave, saying that it was too quickly?
MS. PSAKI: I would just say simply that – without responding to them directly – but we make decisions about what is in the interests of the men and women serving our country overseas, and that was the case here as well. But we certainly hope to return to Sana’a and we recognize the importance of our strategic relationship.
QUESTION: And can I just clarify —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: You said earlier it was carried out on an Omani plane, and then you just spoke about planes.
MS. PSAKI: An Omani private jet. I did not mean to be less specific.
QUESTION: So it was just one flight?
MS. PSAKI: That is my understanding.
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: As you know, there were personnel who were moving on commercial flights prior to —
QUESTION: Yeah.
MS. PSAKI: — over the course of last week.
QUESTION: That plane did not have representatives from the other embassies that left, right?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, but I’ll check that question.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: That private plane – did it also take the Marine detachment out of the country? Because our understanding was from the Pentagon that they were required to hand over their weapons because they were getting onto a commercial plane.
MS. PSAKI: I would check with the Pentagon on the specifics of the Marine detachment. I don’t have that information in front of me.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: I know you aren’t always able to answer this —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — because people have to register with State, but is there a sense of how many Americans are still there in country?
MS. PSAKI: Well, people don’t – American citizens are not required to register, as you noted, and you obviously have done your homework. So I don’t have any assessment of that for you. And in our travel warning also we certainly encouraged American citizens to depart Yemen and noted that there wasn’t any plan for an evacuation. We encouraged them to take commercial air travel.
QUESTION: Jen, who’s in charge of the Sana’a airport, the Yemeni security forces or the Houthis?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information on that.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: There was like a warning tone in your statements. You said, “We will also continue to protect the American people, and we will not hesitate to act in Yemen to do so.” Is that like —
MS. PSAKI: That’s a reference to ongoing counterterrorism cooperation. So as we know, there’s been an al-Qaida presence. We’ve had concerns about terrorist threats, and it’s a reference to that.
QUESTION: So it’s not about the Houthis in specific?
MS. PSAKI: It was a reference to our counterterrorism cooperation.
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Pam.
QUESTION: Going back to the logistics of the evacuation —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — those staffers who went on the Omani plane and went to Muscat, are some of them staying there temporarily, or is everyone going on to Washington?
MS. PSAKI: They’re en route – I think most of them are en route back to Washington, if not all.
QUESTION: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Any more on Yemen before we go on to a new topic?
QUESTION: This all happened yesterday during the day, or was it at night as well?
MS. PSAKI: We – it happened kind of in the evening.
QUESTION: In the evening.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Wednesday or Tuesday?
MS. PSAKI: I guess Tuesday our time.
QUESTION: Tuesday our time. Okay.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: On Egypt, an Egyptian court’s ordered the retrial of 36 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood who had been sentenced to death in a mass trial. The 36 were among 183 that had been sentenced to death. Do you think this is a positive development or shows some progress?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we’ve unfortunately been in a position of speaking to our concerns about mass trials over the course of the last couple of weeks, and mass sentences, and that concern remains. We understand the Egyptian law affords an automatic retrial in this case, and so we welcome efforts to ensure the Egyptian Government upholds due process rights for all Egyptians and continue to call on the Egyptian Government to, as I noted, discontinue practices of mass trials and sentences.
Egypt, or a new topic?
QUESTION: Egypt, yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: So I know you talked yesterday about Russia and Egypt —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: — but I’m just trying to get some sense of – into this. So Russia offered no-strings-attached deal with Egypt. You still —
MS. PSAKI: Are you talking about the MOU on nuclear?
QUESTION: Not only in nuclear. There is like cooperation on military weapons and stuff like that with Egypt beside the nuclear MOU. So they’ve been moving a lot into Egypt, and you have, like, security cooperation with Egypt. And you are holding, like, part of the assistance to Egypt. I mean, does not that alarm that Russia is trying to take over, like, your position with Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a couple things that I would say, in our view, are unrelated in what you just said. One is our assistance that we are holding that we haven’t provided – about 650 million, I believe, is the number. That requires evaluation of whether Egypt has met certain requirements and whether it’s in our national security interests. So let’s put that in one category. I don’t have anything – there’s nothing new on that, or a decision that’s been made. We have provided, as I mentioned yesterday, a great deal of security assistance to Egypt. We are concerned about the threats they face in the Sinai; we’re concerned about threats that they face in general from – and that’s one of the reasons we have delivered Apaches and given more assistance.
The only details I have at this point that are confirmed are this MOU, which I spoke to yesterday. I’m sure we can look into more details and see if there are other agreements announced that we have concern about, but not that I have heard of from our team.
QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, I’m not arguing here, but I just want to know, because, like, if Russia – if Egypt find that Russia is giving them everything they want with no string attached, nothing – no conditions, you have to do this and that, don’t you think that Egypt will – I mean, they did that before.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know that that is accurate or additional details of any deals, and they haven’t made that statement, so I think a lot of that would have to be confirmed in order for us to speak to it.
QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Well, actually, not Ukraine, Belarus.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: So the meetings – today’s meetings, much-anticipated meetings have begun.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I know that you’re not there, you’re not participating – the U.S. isn’t participating in them, but I’m just wondering, what is the – what is your hope that comes out – what exactly is it that you – would you like to see come out of this meeting?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to set an expectation about this specific meeting. As you know, they’ve had meetings over the past week. They had a call on Sunday. So I wouldn’t predict for you that there will be some conclusive outcome out of this. We don’t know yet. We’ll be consulting, of course, with all of the parties to determine what comes out of it and what it means and where we go from here. We certainly welcome the talks today. We support these efforts. We’ve had some principles that we believe need to be a part of any discussion, which the Secretary outlined last weekend, based on the Minsk protocol. So we continue to believe that that should be a part of this ongoing discussion.
QUESTION: Does the Administration feel like it’s being left out because it is not part of this Normandy format? In retrospect, maybe do – does anyone – does the Administration believe that it should have maybe fought a little bit harder to become part of the Normandy group since the President was there at the time that this whole thing was founded?
MS. PSAKI: We don’t. There have been a range of trilateral talks that we haven’t been a part of, and we’ve been in close touch and working in lockstep with our European partners, and we expect that will continue.
Any more on Ukraine before we continue?
QUESTION: On the EU foreign policy chief —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — Federica Mogherini said today that it would be a turning point, the Minsk summit, for good or for bad. Do you think that’s perhaps going a little too far? Do you anticipate maybe that there just could be further talks along the line and that —
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we don’t know yet. I think you saw the President of the United States say two days ago, I think it was, that obviously, we’re waiting to see what happens with this diplomatic effort, and we certainly support a diplomatic process. But if Russia not only refuses to abide by implementation of the Minsk protocols but doesn’t engage in a diplomatic effort here, then certainly, I think the world will take a look at what we do next.
QUESTION: And is the United States open to a – not a renegotiation, exactly, but a buffer zone that goes beyond the ceasefire line that was agreed in September?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we believe the basis should be December. Obviously, the borders is part of the discussion, so I can’t – I’m not in a position to outline for you more specifics about what’s being discussed beyond that at this point.
QUESTION: December or September?
MS. PSAKI: September, sorry. September, yes.
QUESTION: So can you just say that again so that it’s clear for everyone? You believe the basis should be September? What was agreed to —
MS. PSAKI: Well, the principles that were outlined and included in the Minsk protocols, as the Secretary repeated last weekend, are the basis of what they’re discussing. Obviously, the borders and how that will work is part of the negotiation, and there are strong feelings on all sides. So let’s see where this ends up and we’ll speak to it at that point in time.
QUESTION: Jen, what do you make of the – some of the worst fighting going on at the moment in the war? What is your assessment that it appears that the Russians want to make as much headwind as they can or take as much ground as they can before the peace process? What do you make of those accusations?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we spoke to this – I spoke to this a bit yesterday and expressed concern about the continued Russia-backed separatist assaults in and around Debaltseve which have killed 19 Ukrainian soldiers; in the past 24 hours rocket attacks on the Ukrainian-controlled town of Kramatorsk which have reportedly killed 16 people and injured more than 66, including five children. These attacks are not conducive to a peaceful resolution of this conflict. Clearly, when there is increasing violence and an unwillingness to implement the Minsk protocols, that makes, I would say, the international community question the seriousness of implementing what has – these peace agreements.
But there’s a discussion going on now, a diplomatic discussion. We want to see what comes out of that. Clearly, we’re concerned about violence. A ceasefire would be a natural early part of any agreement, so that’s our hope.
QUESTION: Jen, can we go back to Yemen?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Why did you chose Oman and Qatar to help in the evacuation of the American staff from Sana’a?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we have strong relationships with both countries. They agreed to play a role in helping us move our diplomats out. I don’t think I have more specifics for you.
QUESTION: Do you think that because of these two states to have good relations with Iran, that’s why they were able to help in this evacuation or not?
MS. PSAKI: No. I think I would leave it at what I already said.
Do we have any more on Yemen before we continue? Okay. A new topic?
QUESTION: A new topic, Somalia.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Several lawmakers have called on this Administration to convene an emergency meeting on the issue of blocked Somali remittances. Is it your intention to be part of the convening of that meeting? Do you have anything on the table at the moment?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as we talked about a little bit yesterday, obviously we recognize the important role that remittances play in meeting the humanitarian and development needs of Somalis. We, in an effort to promote transparent channels through which legitimate remittances can flow to those in need, the U.S. Government has engaged in ongoing communication with the Somali community in the United States and financial institutions serving that community; will continue our work with the Government of Somalia and remittance companies to build an effective regulatory framework for remittances and to develop safeguards against abuse by money launderers and terrorist financers. This is an issue that we work on already and I’m not aware of the call for an emergency meeting. It’s something the United States Government remains committed to.
QUESTION: The reason that aid groups and also these lawmakers have asked for an emergency meeting is because they firmly believe that if something isn’t done urgently, that there will be a humanitarian crisis in Somalia, because something like 45 percent of Somalis are entirely reliant on remittances, some of which comes from the United States. And the – most of the avenues for that money to go through, which is often $200 here, $50 there, is completely blocked. And so people haven’t got the ability to feed their own families back in Somalia.
MS. PSAKI: I think we certainly understand how dire these challenges are, and that’s why we’re in touch with the community in the United States and why the United States Government continues to work on this issue. Because it’s a remittances issue with banks, the U.S. Treasury Department actually would have the lead on it, so I would refer you to them for more specifics on how we work with financial institutions.
QUESTION: Are you – this is the last question I want to ask on this.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about this situation becoming also a major security risk, because of the fact that a lot of this money can’t get through legitimate means now, that some of that money’s going to go underground; and secondly, that individuals in Somalia who’ve run out of money are going to find that al-Shabaab is – particularly young men – is going to be a more attractive option for them going forward, and that essentially what’s now happening is the opposite of what the whole law was intended to do, which was to block terrorists from getting financing and being empowered?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’ve made quite a few conclusions there that haven’t been concluded policy-wise, so I would say —
QUESTION: I’m sort of paraphrasing what institutions like Oxfam and Adeso and Somali Americans themselves have told me.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say first: If this wasn’t a serious issue, then the U.S. Government wouldn’t be engaged in it, and we wouldn’t be engaged with financial institutions and the community. I think the issue of economic opportunity – which I think it’s a bit of a stretch to draw that directly to remittances, but obviously this is an issue we are concerned about – economic opportunity in places like Somalia, places like across Northern Africa, places in the Middle East, and the lack of that is an issue that the Secretary has spoken to extensively, and concerns about how that leads to the appeal of terrorist organizations or terrorist recruiting to young men, as you referenced. And that’s a global problem that I think we all deal with.
So it’s more remittances is certainly an issue that we take seriously, we want to deal with; it’s larger than that, I think we can agree, in terms of the challenges that we’re facing. But again, I would refer you to the Treasury Department for more specifics on the financial institutions and what we’re doing in that regard.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Pam?
QUESTION: South —
MS. PSAKI: Oh. I’m sorry, go ahead.
QUESTION: South Sudan.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Yesterday, State announced that the U.S. was providing an additional 273 million in humanitarian assistance. Can you provide details on how that money is going to be distributed? In particular, will it go directly to the government? Will it be split between the government and NGOs? Does USAID have a role in it?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. USAID – the vast majority is USAID funding; 193.7 million is through Food for Peace, WFP, UNICEF, and NGO partners; approximately 39.8 million is from USAID who is – let’s see – as – and is also funding International Organization for Migration, WHO, WFP, and UNICEF. The remaining 39.4 million is from PRM going to the UN refugee agency in South Sudan. So there is a great deal of funding that comes from USAID; there’s no direct USAID distribution role in this on the ground.
QUESTION: And some will go directly to the government?
MS. PSAKI: No, this – I believe this will go through the UN and these international organizations.
QUESTION: Jen, on Sudan, do you have any update on Ibrahim Ghandour’s meeting – meetings in Washington? I’ve asked you about it yesterday. I didn’t get anything.
MS. PSAKI: I do believe we had a short readout on that. Let me venture to get that to you after the briefing.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Myanmar?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: The president has approved – the Myanmar president has approved a law allowing a referendum on changes to the constitution.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you think this is a positive step, and do you believe that it would allow Aung San Suu Kyi to vie for the presidency?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of efforts by the Government of Burma to hold a constitutional referendum. We believe constitutional reform should reflect the will of the people of Burma while respecting the right of all people living in Burma to participate in the country’s democratic process. We certainly hope the reforms under consideration would facilitate credible, transparent, and inclusive elections that allow the people of Burma to pick the national and local leaders of their choice, address the rights of ethnic minorities and relations between the national government and ethnic majority regions, and increase civilian control of the military, including by removing the military’s veto power over constitutional amendments.
But we don’t want to get ahead of political developments. It’s unclear at this stage whether a referendum will occur and what topics it would cover. And so the specifics we have are really just that there is an intention to do this, but we don’t have more details than that.
QUESTION: Can we stay in Southeast Asia?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I just want to go back to Malaysia from yesterday —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — to see if there’s any – there were some arrests made —
MS. PSAKI: I do have a – oh, go ahead. I have a little bit more on our contact, too, if that’s useful.
QUESTION: Sure. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: But why don’t you ask your question.
QUESTION: Well, I’m just wondering if your concern – if any of your concerns have been alleviated since yesterday. It would appear that they have gone ahead and arrested more people under this new law, so I’m just wondering what the status is of your concerns.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen reports that Malaysia had – has arrested cartoonist Zunar for sedition over a Twitter post that criticized Anwar’s conviction. We are also concerned with the November 27th remarks by prime minister – we were also – remain concerned, I should say, by the prime minister stating that his administration would not only retain the Sedition Act but also strengthen the act and expand its scope. The Malaysian Government’s recent investigations and charges of sedition against critics raise serious concerns about freedom of expression, rule of law, and the independence of the judicial system in Malaysia, and certainly, these recent arrests over the last 24 hours speak to that.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you know if this has been brought up with —
MS. PSAKI: So a little update from yesterday, and this is – we should have – I should have had this, but we – there was quite a bit going on, so —
QUESTION: Yes, there was.
MS. PSAKI: Secretary Kerry did call the prime minister Sunday evening to discuss a wide range of issues, including the upcoming verdict for Anwar. Washington and our embassy in Kuala Lumpur have raised our concerns at senior levels multiple times, both before and after the verdict, with the Malaysian Government.
QUESTION: Okay. I’ve got one more question —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — but I’d like to preface it. It is the position of the Administration – of the State Department and your Human Rights Report – that the Malaysian judiciary is not independent. In other words, it is – there are politically motivated verdicts, trials, et cetera.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken to concerns about political motivation in this case in the past, and I believe others as well. I don’t have the Human Rights Report in front of me.
QUESTION: So what does it say, then, that not only did the prime minister play golf with the President over the holidays in Hawaii, but that the Secretary of State called the foreign minister on Sunday, just two days before this verdict came out, and neither of them were willing or – I presume that you think they’re able, but neither of them were willing to exercise their influence with the court that you don’t – or with a judiciary that you don’t believe is independent to change the way this case ended up?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, that we have strongly expressed our concerns about this case and the handling of this case in statements that we’ve issued over the last 24 to 48 hours. Clearly, we continue to raise our concerns here, because we believe that it’s in Malaysia’s best interests and the interests of its people to address some of these concerns that we have. I don’t think I have more than that, though, for you.
QUESTION: But you’re not concerned at all about having a lack of influence there —
MS. PSAKI: I think —
QUESTION: — since the personal entreaty by the Secretary and also, presumably, by the President over – in between holes on a golf course.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any details on the President’s conversations.
QUESTION: But —
MS. PSAKI: The Secretary, obviously, in part called to express our concern about the upcoming verdict in this case, and that’s what he expressed.
QUESTION: Is it the assessment, then, of this building, at least, that the Malaysians just do not agree with you that doing what you think that they – what you think they should do is in the best interests of their own people? Is that —
MS. PSAKI: I would pose that question to the Malaysians, Matt.
Michele?
QUESTION: Yeah. I have a couple questions about travel.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Sorry, I’m hearing myself back. When the Secretary adds a stop for personal – for his personal life at the end of a trip, who pays for that, and do you have any estimate of how much, for instance, the layover in Boston cost on Sunday?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first I would say that, as you all know, the Secretary works in Washington and overseas but his home is in Boston, as it was for the 30 years before when he represented Massachusetts in the Senate. At times, for example, when returning from a trip abroad on the weekend, he’ll stop over in Boston before resuming work in Washington on Monday. This is – he’s followed the same precedent set by his predecessors, many of whom also didn’t live in Washington and had homes elsewhere.
As it relates to this weekend, his – as you all know and we’ve discussed from here, his wife has been recovering from her medical emergency in the summer of 2013. She lives in Boston, and it was in Boston where his newest grandchild was born last Friday night. As you also may know from his personal history, he is the last surviving parent of this – of his daughter, and so it was only appropriate that he went to visit his daughter.
There are certainly a number of reasons why a plane stops. To refuel is often one of them, but it’s certainly not uncommon and far from without precedent for secretaries of state or other cabinet officials to return to their hometowns when they’ve been traveling or working overseas for some time.
In terms of specific – there’s a policy and a process. I’m sure we could get you the details on those that there’s long been precedent for —
QUESTION: That’s what I was going to ask, because there is obviously precedent. I know that. But are there any guidelines, like limits on how much a stopover like that can cost, or is it sort of up to the Secretary to make that kind of call?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, there’s standard precedent and process that’s been the case for decades. I’m sure we can get you the details on those.
QUESTION: Jen, if I’m not mistaken, up on the Hill the legislation, Keystone legislation, is about to take another step towards being vetoed by the President at the White House. And in light of that, I’m just wondering if there are any updates on the review.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates. I believe unless something has happened since I’ve been up there that there was reports of an expected vote later this afternoon and the White House has spoken to that.
QUESTION: Right, yeah. That was just the context for the question —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — which is you’ve got those reports in from the different agencies last Monday, the 2nd, right?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And I’m just wondering where that is. Are they still being reviewed? What’s the —
MS. PSAKI: There’s no update. It’s an ongoing process that doesn’t have a deadline.
QUESTION: All right. At some point, though, they are – the review of those – of the interagency responses is going to be complete, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: And even —
MS. PSAKI: And that is factored into the final national interest determination.
QUESTION: Okay. Even after that would – the digestion of the interagency reports is done, then there still is not a deadline or a timeline for completion of the interest statement?
MS. PSAKI: Well, those – those agency – the agency input will be weighed into the national interest determination. That’s part of it, but it’s not the entire process.
QUESTION: Right. Well, I’m just trying to figure out if – I mean, there are some statutory timelines, right? This appears to be not covered by any of those timelines, and I just want to know if there is an idea of how long it will be once the interagency reports are all assessed, then how long after that would it be reasonable to expect the final decision from the Secretary?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of the timeline for you.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Foreign fighters in Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen gave fresh figures this morning or yesterday, saying that 20,000 foreign fighters are joining the Islamic State and other extremist organization. At the same time, Secretary Kerry and your ambassador in Iraq said a few days ago that thousands of fighters have been killed in Syria and in Iraq, including many foreign fighters.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So does it mean that foreign fighter keep flocking to Syria and that the stock, I would say, is never-ending?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any more details. I saw the announcement, obviously. And as you noted, it was announced yesterday that more than 20,000 – we believe more than 20,000 foreign terrorist fighters, at least 3,400 of whom are Westerners, have traveled to Syria from over 90 countries. In terms of the statistics of what that includes, I know for our numbers, which are there are more than 150 U.S. citizens who have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria and Iraq potentially to fight or otherwise support the conflict, that includes those who are there now or those who have been stopped from traveling and those who have returned. So the 20,000 number I’d have to check in terms of what that specifically includes in terms of the categories.
As you know, the – our concern about foreign fighters is one that we have made a top priority of our anti-ISIL efforts, and we have had some success in working with countries to put in place precautions and steps to crack down more. Foreign terrorist fighter networks have been broken up in Austria and Malaysia and foreign terrorist fighters have been prosecuted in Germany, Australia and the UK. Saudi Arabia has now issued formal decrees criminalizing ISIL and broken up ISIL cells with links to Syria. Kosovo authorities have made a significant number of arrests and are prosecuting persons suspected of facilitating foreign fighter traffic. But obviously, this is an ongoing concern. As you know, there’s also a conference, a summit we’re hosting at the White House and the State Department next week on countering violent extremism, and this will include a ministerial portion hosted at the State Department where we certainly anticipate this being a part of the discussion.
So the challenge is far from solved. We’ve put in place a number of steps that were not in place prior that we hope will help address, but obviously, this continues to be a challenge.
Go ahead, in the back.
QUESTION: Hi, I’m Tina (inaudible) from Al Jazeera America. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Hi.
QUESTION: So can you tell us how much money was appropriated in the fight to contain Ebola in West Africa for fiscal years ’14 and ’15, and how much of that went to USAID and its agencies? And I have a follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have this. If I don’t, I’m sure it’s something we can send to you fairly quickly after the briefing because we’ve put out a range of fact sheets and the White House has as well. So let me just see if I have this handy here.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe I do, but we’re happy to get that to you and anyone else who would like it. But go ahead.
QUESTION: And then I was just going to add to that if, once we get the numbers, how much of that is left and has any of it been reallocated?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I know that there were some reports today – and I would certainly point you to the White House on them – on plans for our resources on Ebola. But we can get you the fact sheet and the details and see if there’s a breakdown of what money has been spent, if that’s what you’re looking for.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, just back to Somalia.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I think the thing that hasn’t been addressed by our back and forth so far is this: That this isn’t money that goes for convenience for families and Somalis —
MS. PSAKI: Certainly wasn’t suggesting it does.
QUESTION: No, no, no, I’m not suggesting you think that as well, but it’s a hand-to-mouth thing.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So the agencies are saying, and the Somalis are saying, look, something needs to be done urgently now in the interim before a structural change takes place, which you’ve been talking about – the interagency cooperation to get something done that functions. But what they’re saying is they need an interim step, something urgently done now to literally transfer money over to Somalia. Is there thought about any kind of interim step that could be put in place so that this money can get into the hands of Somalis?
MS. PSAKI: So remittances from Somali Americans can make it to the hands of their family members in Somalia?
QUESTION: So some kind of alternative to the current situation where none of the banks will touch it so that that money can get there in a legitimate manner, and it’s not driven underground, and it gets to family members.
MS. PSAKI: I am happy to follow up on your question. I suspect that this is something that lives in the hands of the Treasury Department given we’re talking about financial – finances. But we will talk to our team and see if there’s more to offer you on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: On ISIS, there have been reports in recent days that Anonymous has taken down some 800 Twitter and other related sites to – that have been related to ISIS accounts, that is. Would these – would you view this as a positive step in spite of —
MS. PSAKI: That – I’m sorry, who took them —
QUESTION: That Anonymous has taken down some 800 —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — ISIS-related accounts. In spite of their somewhat notorious reputation, would you view this as a positive step in the fight against ISIS?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details on it, so I’d have to look more specifically into it. Obviously, we’re all aware of the challenge of combatting the propaganda machine of ISIL, but we can talk to our team on that.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Is there a date for the new Cuba-U.S. talks, please?
MS. PSAKI: Not yet. We still anticipate those being in the coming weeks, but I don’t have a date yet.
QUESTION: Speaking of dates – P5+1?
MS. PSAKI: Don’t have any details yet on that either.
Yes.
QUESTION: Speaking of dates —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — the elections in Nigeria.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I’d like to know if Secretary Kerry has been in contact with President Goodluck Jonathan since his disappointment statement on Saturday. And does the U.S. believe that in delaying the election, it could play in favor of President Goodluck Jonathan?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any calls from the Secretary to read out. I can check if you’d like on more contacts from the ground, which I suspect have happened. So why don’t I do that? We are deeply disappointed by the decision to postpone the February 14th presidential elections. As you saw in our statement over the weekend, it is important to ensure there are no further delays. The international community will be watching closely and the United States will continue to support the work of the Independent National Electoral Commission as it prepares for elections on the newly-scheduled dates. I don’t have any analysis on what this would mean. It is obviously a concern when we see potential political interference with the independent – the work of the Independent National Electoral Commission.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:14 p.m.)

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