Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – January 30, 2015

12:24 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Friday.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. I have one item for all of you at the top. Secretary Kerry will travel to Kyiv, Ukraine on February 5th to meet with Ukrainian President Poroshenko, Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, and Foreign Minister Klimkin, and members of Ukraine’s parliament. The Secretary’s visit will highlight the United States steadfast support for Ukraine and its people. Secretary Kerry will then travel to Munich, Germany from February 6th through the 8th to participate in the 51st Munich Security Conference. The Secretary will give remarks with German Foreign Minister Steinmeier while there, and while in Munich, Secretary Kerry will also hold a series of bilateral and multilateral meetings, which we’ll have more details on I expect next week. One of those meetings will be with Foreign Minister Lavrov, I can confirm.
With that, let’s go to you, Matt.
QUESTION: Just on that, just logistically speaking, there was a lot of noise, chatter about the Secretary possibly going to Moscow. That’s not happening?
MS. PSAKI: Correct. There’s no additional travel to announce. We have a range – as many of you know, because I know many of you have traveled with us – we often have a range of contingency options. He is the Secretary of State and the nation’s chief diplomat that we always have ready. His role is to engage internationally, but it’s hard to cancel a trip that wasn’t fully planned.
QUESTION: Right. But you do – you did make a point of saying that he would meet with in Munich with Foreign Minister Lavrov.
QUESTION: There had been some discussion or some thought that he might also meet with Foreign Minister Zarif, if Foreign Minister Zarif was in Munich at the same time. Do you know if that’s a possibility?
MS. PSAKI: Not confirmed at this point. I’d said a couple of weeks ago, and this remains the case, that I expect they’ll meet again in the coming weeks. But the other bilats are still being finalized.
QUESTION: Okay. And then just on the Ukraine part of the trip, what exactly is he going there to do —
MS. PSAKI: Well, he was in —
QUESTION: — other than show the flag?
MS. PSAKI: He’ll show the flag, certainly. He was in Ukraine about a year ago. Obviously, we remain steadfast supporters of Ukraine. We’ve provided them a range of security assistance, a range of economic assistance. I expect he’ll talk with them about the progress they’ve made and needs to continue to make over the coming months. He’ll meet, as I mentioned, with a range of officials and also talk about how we can continue to work together to de-escalate the situation on the ground.
QUESTION: Okay. The situation on the ground appears to have gotten worse in the last 24 hours. Do you have anything to say about that?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, let me speak to a couple of the specific incidents on the ground. Well, we – I spoke yesterday about the intensifying attacks over the last week along – on Debaltseve, a town about 13 kilometers beyond the ceasefire line. Over the last 24 hours, there was also shelling – the shelling of a cultural center in Donetsk. We condemn that shelling that cost at least six lives, and we express our condolences to the families of the victims. It’s, again, too early to determine responsibility for the shelling, but we call for a full and transparent investigation. Clearly, our effort remains and continues to be – and I expect, certainly, Ukraine will be a topic of discussion with Foreign Minister Lavrov – taking steps to encourage Russia and Russian-backed separatists to de-escalate the situation, abide by the Minsk agreement.
QUESTION: Okay, but the situation in Donetsk, as far as you understand, is held by the rebels. Is that correct?
QUESTION: Okay. So are there people in the Administration who believe that it is plausible or even – that it’s possible or even plausible that the separatists are shelling themselves?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we know – I think, Matt, there’s a lot happening on the ground. We’re not – we don’t have that much visibility, so we just like to see investigations take place. And obviously, as you know, we encourage all sides to abide by the Minsk protocols. But again, this country remains Ukraine, all parts of it.
QUESTION: Right. But I’m just wondering – so you’re not prepared to say who you think is – you’re condemning the shelling, you’re just not going to – you don’t – you are not in a position to say who did it, who it is you’re condemning.
MS. PSAKI: Well, over the course of the last several months, Matt, there have also been a range of events that have happened that have targeted citizens and civilians.
QUESTION: Right. I understand that, but earlier this week you were asking – when you were asked, you said, “Well, what specific event are you referring to?” in the question – not just to me but to someone else. And so you’ve mentioned a specific event right here —
MS. PSAKI: That happened in the last 24 hours.
QUESTION: Exactly. So but what I’m asking is: You’re not prepared to assign blame or to condemn any specific party for this —
MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.
QUESTION: — you’re just condemning the act itself?
QUESTION: Okay. And do you know if – yesterday up on the Hill there were a number of former secretaries of state who testified before Senator McCain’s committee, and all of them, if I’m not mistaken, said that they believe that it – the United States should provide defensive military equipment to the Ukrainian Government. Does the Administration have a position on this? Isn’t it already providing some kind of assistance in – of that type?
MS. PSAKI: We are. I mean, we’re providing a range of material equipment to the Ukrainians. I think the bar is lethal assistance, which we obviously have not made the decision to provide, and our focus remains on nonlethal assistance. But there have been a range of provisions included in that category.
QUESTION: But you’re talking lethal – so you were – nonlethal military, correct? I just want to make sure.
MS. PSAKI: We have, yes.
QUESTION: Yeah, okay. And then my last one is – now I’ve forgotten what my last one is.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Well, we can come back.
QUESTION: On the Secretary’s trip —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — was he considering traveling to Moscow and he changed his plan, or —
MS. PSAKI: I think Matt just asked that question. Did you just come in?
QUESTION: Yeah – no, no. But he – because we read several stories about this today from Russia saying that he was going on —
MS. PSAKI: Sure, I’ve seen the stories. I think I answered it. I’m happy to reiterate that we always have a range of options, and many of you who have been on trips know that sometimes trips change and sometimes there are trips – components planned that don’t happen. There’s – it’s very fluid as we travel. And again, as I mentioned in my answer to Matt, it’s hard to cancel a trip that isn’t fully planned. So that’s where we are.
QUESTION: A follow up to that. My understanding is it was not spontaneous as all that, as you describe it; it was long in planning, it – the planning started several times, you have changed your plans several times. My understanding is that the request came from your side for him to travel to Moscow. So it was not like a contingency plan that suddenly changed. Do you understand that this constant changing of plans makes it easier to receive him at the right level in Moscow if and when it does happen?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t —
QUESTION: Maybe makes it harder, I’m sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. That’s not an accurate depiction of what happened, so I’ll leave it at what I just conveyed a couple of times.
QUESTION: I just remembered what I —
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you expect – and I – actually, I don’t expect to get a detailed answer on this, but I have to ask anyway.
MS. PSAKI: All right.
QUESTION: Do you expect Secretary Kerry to be bringing with him any new kind of assistance or any new kind of – any – well, anything new? Are there going to be any deliverables from this visit to Ukraine that you can say —
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re always considering assistance. As you know, we’ve increased that over and continue to build on that over the last several months. I have nothing to predict for you, as I think you would expect for this particular trip.
Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: I just wondered if by any chance the Secretary may have plans to meet with representatives of the rebels from eastern Ukraine at all.
MS. PSAKI: We don’t have any plans for that, no.
QUESTION: Would it be helpful, do you think, in the situation should such talks occur?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this isn’t an issue – it’s not a negotiation between the United States and —
QUESTION: No, I understand.
MS. PSAKI: — the Russian-backed separatists.
MS. PSAKI: I think we have been supportive of, which the Ukrainians have embraced, having the Russian-backed separatists represented as part of a range of discussions. Now, they’re not in equal footing; it’s still Ukraine. But that is appropriate as a part of negotiations.
QUESTION: And can I just ask: There were some talks that were due to start in Minsk today and appear not to have started. It’s a little bit confusing. The rebels are saying that it’s because the Ukrainian Government didn’t send any representatives. I know these aren’t talks that – they’re trilateral talks; they have nothing to do with —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — you don’t involve – they don’t involve you, the Americans. But do you have any clarity on the situation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that the Ukrainians also claimed that the rebels didn’t – or the Russian-backed separatists didn’t show up. So you’re right; we support these talks and efforts to have these talks, but I would refer you to the Ukrainians and other parties involved on the details of what happened. I don’t have anything else to lay out for you. We certainly encourage and hope that these talks will continue.
QUESTION: Is there any way that the American – that the United States, that this Administration would think about becoming involved in a negotiation which would involve – well, I know you’ve done it before —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — but it seems that you’ve kind of left it to the European track for the time – over the last few months. Is it time for the Americans to sort of step up and try and bring American influence to these negotiations?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say that I think any party involved in any of the discussions – excuse me – would agree that the United States is one of the most prominent supporters and backers of a peace process here. And we remain engaged closely with the Ukrainians, as evidenced by the Secretary’s trip, with the Europeans – which, as you know, is often a topic of discussion whenever the Secretary meets with his counterparts or EU High Representative Mogherini; this is often what they’re talking about. Whether there will be a new format or a different format that includes the United States – there have in the past. I think many of the parties want to see a resolution here, so we’re open to continuing to discuss what the best format is.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: Can you repeat the – the dates are – the date for —
MS. PSAKI: Of the trip?
QUESTION: — Ukraine is February 5?
QUESTION: And then in Munich —
MS. PSAKI: Sixth through the 8th.
QUESTION: 6 to 8.
MS. PSAKI: Exactly.
QUESTION: Okay. And a follow-up to the previous question was today the Polish foreign minister said that they are willing to sell arms to Ukraine because it’s, quote/unquote, “business.” How do you view these plans?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have details on it. But as is true, I would say, in our views of similar issues, every country makes their own decisions. We’ve decided what kind of assistance we’ll provide and why it’s most productive to provide the kinds of assistance we’ve been providing. I’m sure we’re in touch with our counterparts in Poland, but I don’t have any other comment on it.
Do we have any more on Ukraine before we continue?
QUESTION: Yeah. In his meeting with Lavrov, he will be discussing Ukraine only or Syria too, especially that Moscow —
MS. PSAKI: I expect there’ll be a range of issues. It’s about eight days away, so I think we’ll have a little bit more to say about it as we get a little bit closer.
QUESTION: And have they spoken recently? Because I know the Secretary had asked for an update after the Syrian opposition talks – or sorry, the Syrian talks in Moscow, which are finished now.
MS. PSAKI: They haven’t spoken in the last couple of days. I expect they will soon. I think both of them have had pretty busy schedules as well.
QUESTION: And did you have any reaction to the meeting in Russia for the opposition and Syrian regime?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have any particular reaction. As we said in the beginning, we weren’t a party to the talks; we weren’t invited to be a part of them. Obviously, there are a range of different efforts that are ongoing. So I don’t have anything specific for you.
QUESTION: It doesn’t seem to have resulted in anything much, though. Does that surprise you?
MS. PSAKI: I think as we said going in, time will tell if anything comes out of it. And as we know, our belief is that the Geneva agreement needs to continue to be the model of any political transition and political process. I don’t think we’ve seen evidence that there was progress made on that. Beyond that, we don’t have additional details of what came out of it.
QUESTION: But you do expect that this meeting with Lavrov in Munich will cover more than just Ukraine and Syria, correct?
MS. PSAKI: I expect it will cover a range of issues. They often talk about Iran.
QUESTION: How to deal with winter weather, snow shoveling, for example? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I expect they are both excellent drivers in winter weather. I don’t – I can’t confirm that for Foreign Minister Lavrov, but I would bet that that’s the case.
QUESTION: How about snow shoveling? Do they both do that?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t confirm Foreign Minister Lavrov’s snow shoveling ability. I expect he’s done some in the past.
Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: Just on that —
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure.
QUESTION: Sorry, just – sorry, that’s my colleague at the back. The – you said that the meeting with Foreign Minister Zarif hadn’t been firmed up yet, but the Iranians, however, have already said it’s happening.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, our schedule often comes together, as I’ve said many times – we’re – I expect they’ll meet again in the coming weeks. Our schedule isn’t quite finalized, so that’s sort of where we stand. We’re certainly open to meeting with him, but we’re still putting together the different components of the schedule.
Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: One more about Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: As was previously announced, on the 1st of February all American companies have to quit all the business communications with Crimea. Could you please provide us more details about how it will work? For example, could the habitants of Crimea open the account on Facebook or YouTube?
MS. PSAKI: I really don’t have more details on that. I’m happy to – we can get you something after the briefing. As you know, we consider Crimea a part of Ukraine, so that’s how we view it.
QUESTION: Change the subject?
MS. PSAKI: Any more on Ukraine before we continue, or Russia? Russia or Ukraine?
QUESTION: Yeah. Lavrov – Secretary Kerry’s meeting with Lavrov.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I’m not sure if you know yet, but will he talk about Kim Jong-un’s meeting with Putin or Six-Party Talks?
MS. PSAKI: I expect they’ll talk about a range of issues. They often cover the – span the gamut during their meetings. So as we get a little bit closer, I’m happy to talk about that a little bit more.
QUESTION: Can we move to the occupied West Bank?
MS. PSAKI: We can move to Israel and the —
QUESTION: Okay. Yeah. Today, Israel announced that they are building 430 new housing units. I wonder what is your position on this. I mean —
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, we have made clear our position on settlement activities many times. We believe that settlements are illegitimate and are counterproductive to achieving a two-state outcome. We have deep concerns about these highly contentious construction announcements. They will have detrimental effects on the ground, inflame already heightened tensions with the Palestinians, and further isolate Israel internationally.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Now let me ask you something. Considering now there is no engagement whatsoever, at least between now and the Israeli elections and then a couple months —
MS. PSAKI: No engagement whatsoever, meaning what?
QUESTION: Between the American and the Palestinians and the Israelis on these issues —
MS. PSAKI: That’s not accurate.
QUESTION: — or at least we’re not aware of any —
MS. PSAKI: That’s not accurate.
QUESTION: Okay. My point is the following.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Now over the interim of the next seven or eight weeks until the election, then thereafter – still forming the government and so on – what steps are you taking to sort of impress upon Israel that they ought to stop these activities, these provocations?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one, your statement’s inaccurate, so let’s just be clear about that. We remain very closely engaged with both officials from the Palestinian Authority as well as from Israel at many levels, and we – as you know, we have a large presence in our embassy and our consulate on the ground in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. So we discuss a range of issues. I think they’re certainly familiar with our views, and we reiterate those points privately just like we say them publicly.
QUESTION: But there is quite a bit of activity that has taken place in the last few weeks. I mean, land has been taken and so on, sometimes quietly, sometimes announced like today, and there seems to be no abating whatsoever in the process – no letting down.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, our view is that issuing these tenders does nothing to bolster Israel’s security, increase its prosperity, or further the cause of peace. That’s a point that we’re making clear to them on the ground privately as well.
QUESTION: And yesterday, former American envoy Dennis Ross and former member of the team David Makovsky – they gave a presentation at their think tank. And basically, Dennis Ross suggested that the time has come maybe for another exchange of letters of recognition. He cited the letters of recognition that were made on the 9th of September of 1993, and he said maybe the time has come. Is this an idea that you would support, whereby the Israelis say, “We will end the occupation,” and the Palestinians would recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re private citizens, and they’re certainly free to make their own comments, but I don’t have anything beyond that.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you – the premise of the first question you were asked was that these were new tenders, and my understanding is that, in fact, they are old.
MS. PSAKI: That’s —
QUESTION: They’re not new, but —
MS. PSAKI: Many of them are old, yes.
QUESTION: I suppose – or tell me, does that – I mean, it doesn’t change your position at all —
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: — but I mean, this does not seem to be something that is going to add to your existing concerns, because they were – you’ve already expressed your concern about these specific ones. Is that correct or am I wrong?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, that’s correct.
QUESTION: Okay. I’m wondering if you have seen the or are aware of the Hezbollah leader’s speech today and if you have any response to that.
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen it. We can take a look at it and offer a comment on it.
QUESTION: And then Senator Cruz has written a letter to the State Department, to Secretary Kerry, asking several questions about something that’s come up in this briefing room over the course of the past two days – that is, the funding for west – I mean for OneVoice.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: In the announcement that he was sending the letter, the opening – the headline of it is, “Has President Obama” – now I can’t read my writing again. I wrote it down. (Laughter.) “Has President Obama opened a political” – or “launched a political campaign against Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu?” Can you answer that question?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the short answer is no. I’m certain – and we all know the details because we’ve talked about them in here – I’m certain we will respond to Senator Cruz’s letter just like we do to any other letter we receive.
QUESTION: Another thing that’s come up is that apparently there was more than one grant.
MS. PSAKI: More than one grant over the last couple of years —
MS. PSAKI: — or you think the 233 was more than one grant?
QUESTION: I don’t know if that was – I don’t know.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: That’s why I’m asking. And this is mentioned in the letter; it’s one of the questions that he asks.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not certain that’s accurate, but we can certainly check if the 233 was a part of more than one grant or if there was a grant prior to it, obviously which wouldn’t be relevant to the current election, but —
QUESTION: Right, but I just want to make sure that we have the – that I understand whether this was – the 233 was two grants or one grant —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — and there was another one that was earlier. Anyway, regardless of that, you are certain that there was nothing post-November —
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: — 2014?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
Any more on Israel before we continue?
QUESTION: I just want to follow up on the Hassan Nasrallah —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — speech. He also said that this attack that took place yesterday or a couple days ago is in response to the assassination of or the killing of a number of their operatives. But you still term that as part of Israel’s self-defense, correct?
MS. PSAKI: I was asked a similar question yesterday.
QUESTION: I understand, but —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to add, Said.
Samir, go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have a reaction to the formation of the new government in Saudi Arabia?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re watching closely and will work closely with officials as they’re named and selected. But beyond that, we expect our working relationship that’s been a strong working relationship to continue with whomever is in government.
QUESTION: Sorry, I have one more about Israel – relating to Israel and the Palestinians.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: And that is that apparently – well, earlier – actually, it wasn’t earlier this year; it was last year.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Last year, you had expressed concern about Israeli authorities apparently targeting the Khdeir family.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You’ll recall what I’m talking about?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So it seems as though charges against one of them, at least, have been dropped. And I’m just wondering if you have followed up with the Israelis on this or if you have anything new to say on it.
MS. PSAKI: Why don’t I take it, and we can follow up with the team on the ground about that particular issue.
QUESTION: A follow-up on —
MS. PSAKI: I think – Said, I think I just want to give some more people a chance here.
QUESTION: On Saudi —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Very quickly on Saudi Arabia.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you expect that King Salman, now that he reshuffled the government and so on, appointed like 180 people, are you reading the messages as he’s following in the footsteps of King Abdullah, who you termed as a reformer?
MS. PSAKI: I think – the President of the United States was just there, the Secretary was with him. We expect to continue to work closely on all of the issues that we’ve worked closely on, whether that’s the Arab Peace Initiative, our efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. We expect that will continue.
QUESTION: And there was also – I’m sorry, Arshad. There was also – today was designated as the resumption of the flogging of the Saudi blogger Badawi. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: We have seen the reports, and to our knowledge, they are accurate that it’s been postponed, I think, is what the report said. As we said in our January 8th statement, we’re greatly concerned that human rights activist Raif Badawi started facing the punishment of a thousand lashes in addition to serving a 10-year sentence. Beyond that, we don’t have additional details on the delay.
QUESTION: A follow-on on Israel?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: As you may know, Peace Now says that Israel has submitted plans for the construction of 93 new homes in Gilo.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Your comment – as I understand it, that’s separate from the 450.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Your comment was meant to apply to the 450, most of which are retendered?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is it also —
MS. PSAKI: Not all, I think. Most, though.
QUESTION: Right, right.
QUESTION: Was it also meant to apply to the – what Peace Now says are the plans for the construction of the 93 new homes in Gilo? Or is that not – was that not the subject?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t talked to our team about that specifically. We can certainly follow up with them on that. I assume yes.
QUESTION: Can I ask one on Jordan?
QUESTION: I have one.
MS. PSAKI: Let’s go to Jo and then go ahead.
QUESTION: I just had one on Saudi Arabia.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, okay.
QUESTION: Did you have anything on the reports of the two Americans who came under fire in a part of Saudi Arabia today? I believe one of them may have been wounded.
MS. PSAKI: We have seen the reports that two U.S. citizens were fired upon while riding in a vehicle in the eastern province district of al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia. Our U.S. Embassy in Riyadh and consulate general in Dhahran are working to obtain more information. We don’t have a Privacy Act waiver in this case, so there’s not more I can discuss. We’d certainly refer you to local police authorities in Saudi Arabia for additional information.
QUESTION: No indication or you can’t talk about the circumstances under which this happened?
MS. PSAKI: There’s not more details. There’s – obviously, the local police authorities are looking into it. And again, I can’t discuss specifics at this point in time.
QUESTION: What about American diplomats or officials or any —
MS. PSAKI: I can’t discuss because we don’t have a Privacy Act waiver, but they’re two U.S. citizens. I would say if they were diplomats.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: So speaking to the media a couple days ago, the father of the Jordanian pilot being held by ISIL said that the safety of his son means the stability of Jordan and the death of his son means chaos in Jordan. So does the State Department have any concerns about the stability of Jordan in regards to the pilot being held by ISIL?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly understand the pain and suffering of any father who is waiting to see if his son will be brought home. And I think that’s something that any parent around the world can relate to. This is obviously a very sensitive situation, a fluid situation. We’re in close touch with a range of authorities, as I’ve said a couple of times in here. We’re not going to outline those more specifically out of respect for their efforts and the process.
No, I would not say we think that there’s an issue of the stability of Jordan, nor do I think the Government of Jordan would say that.
QUESTION: And I understand that the father is from a very prominent tribe in Jordan. But in the event that his son is killed, in the unfortunate event that he is killed, do you have any concerns that this might impact negatively Jordan’s resolve to remain part of the anti-ISIL coalition?
MS. PSAKI: We’re not going to speculate on that for obvious reasons. I think though, clearly, the United States, the Government of Jordan, and others have been clear many times in the past that we are not going to succumb to the threats of terrorists and terrorist organizations, and that remains the case.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: Can I change topics?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Oh, wait.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, on this particular issue?
QUESTION: Yeah. There was a report that Jordan says it was going to hang all of the ISIS captives if the pilot was killed. Do you have anything on that? And do you feel that that’s productive?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on that.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks. Ambassador Kim was just in Beijing and he made some – he was asked about a potential meeting – bilateral meeting with the North Koreans. And he said that the North Koreans were “aware that I would be in the region and I think they understood that this would be an opportunity for substantive dialogue, but unfortunately we were not – we are not having a meeting on this trip.” Was there – it sounds like there was a meeting on the table that fell through. Is that an accurate reading —
MS. PSAKI: No, it’s not. There was no plans for a meeting. Nothing has changed. North Korea has not taken steps to abide by their international obligations. They’ve not taken steps to abide by the 2005 joint statement. He was there consulting with a range of parties on the ground.
QUESTION: Okay. There was never any kind of discussion whatsoever about a meeting with the North Koreans?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I wouldn’t read his comments as you read them.
QUESTION: Follow up that. Also he said the U.S. remains open to talks with the North Korea any time, and also he – the U.S. will continue to impose sanctions against the North Korea. Do you have any preconditions to direct talks with the North Korea, if you have any? What kind of preconditions —
MS. PSAKI: I think I just stated those. I would just say, though, that Ambassador Kim, in his avail, also said the question is not what we are willing to do; I think the question is whether the North Koreans are ready for any serious and productive discussion on the nuclear issue. And that’s something we’re continuing to look for, which clearly indicates they have not taken steps in order to warrant a discussion.
QUESTION: Are you —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Same question. Are you willing to hold bilateral talks with North Korea, even before North Korea takes some steps?
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve outlined what our position is. They haven’t taken steps. We’ve seen no indication they will take steps. There’s no plans for a meeting.
QUESTION: Jen, just one more. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to press it, but I mean, Ambassador Kim did seem rather disappointed that a meeting didn’t materialize with the North Koreans. I mean, he used the word “unfortunately” that they’re not having a meeting on this trip.
MS. PSAKI: Well, he also outlined that we’re looking for them to take serious and productive steps, which they haven’t taken. So clearly we’re – we’ve been watching. They haven’t taken those steps.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: On Egypt, there is a huge criticism for the U.S. for receiving a Muslim Brotherhood delegation this week, and they consider the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and blaming them for supporting the terrorist attack that targeted the Egyptian army, especially yesterday, in Sinai. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you combined quite a few things there, so let’s just actually state what the facts are.
QUESTION: I’m not – what they are saying.
MS. PSAKI: The State Department officials met with a group of visiting Egyptian former parliamentarians whose visit to the United States was organized and funded by Georgetown University. These meetings are fairly routine. The group included some former members of the Freedom and Justice Party, among others.
In terms of the attack, well, let me just take the opportunity to convey we strongly condemn yesterday’s terrorist attacks in Egypt’s North Sinai Governorate, in which at least 29 Egyptian citizens were killed and dozens other wounded. We express our sincere condolences to the victims, their families, and the government and people of Egypt. A group calling themselves ISIL Sinai Province, which we believe is also the group ABM, which we designated last April, has claimed responsibility for these attacks.
QUESTION: But the Egyptians are upset because they say that the Muslim Brotherhood supports such attacks on the army, and at the same time the U.S. receives some of their delegations here.
MS. PSAKI: Do you consider former members of the Freedom and Justice Party and part of a delegation invited here by a university to be the same thing as what you just said?
QUESTION: That’s what they consider them, not me.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know, but I’m having a conversation about the actual facts here.
QUESTION: I’m reflecting their point of view.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. I think I just responded to it.
QUESTION: You’re saying that – regardless of who organized and paid for it, you’re saying that, one, this was not a Muslim Brotherhood delegation —
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: — and that, two, even the people who are being complained about who are in the delegation are not current members of either the Brotherhood or the Freedom and Justice Party. Is that also correct?
MS. PSAKI: Correct, and they’re former parliamentarians, which was what the category of the group is.
QUESTION: Okay. Did you – I asked yesterday when this came up if you know who else was in the – because these – I mean, how big was this delegation? It seems that these – how – there were how many, two members, former members of the Freedom and Justice Party?
MS. PSAKI: I didn’t get more details, but I’m happy to follow up on that.
QUESTION: I mean, this – these particular individuals seem to be getting a disproportionate amount of attention from – it appears, if it was in fact a delegation of 50 people or something like that.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have the numbers. We can certainly check and see if we have the details on that.
QUESTION: And exactly where and who was it, again, that they met with? Where – the State Department’s involvement in this was hosting —
MS. PSAKI: The deputy assistant secretary for democracy, human rights, and labor, and some other State Department —
QUESTION: And it was in this building? In other words, it was a State-Department-hosted meeting with the entire delegation, not just these individuals —
MS. PSAKI: Correct, yes.
QUESTION: — who were former —
QUESTION: And it – but it was here —
QUESTION: — in this building?
QUESTION: Jen, very quickly on —
QUESTION: Jen, there was a report that, following this meeting, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt was calling on its supporters to prepare for jihad or “a long, uncompromising jihad.” Do you have any reactions to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first of all, I would caution anyone from linking this meeting of former members of the – that included some former members of the Freedom and Justice Party – a group of former parliamentarians, again, sponsored by a prominent, well-respected university – and a video that we have seen attributed to the Revolutionary Punishment Group. We don’t have confirmation on the authenticity of that video or more details of it. But regardless, I’m not quite sure why you’d link the two, or anyone would.
QUESTION: Can I ask you very quickly, did they get their visas at the embassy in Cairo or elsewhere?
MS. PSAKI: Did they what? Say that one more time?
QUESTION: The – yeah. This delegation that came here —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: — where did they get their visas stamped? Was it in Cairo or elsewhere? Or —
MS. PSAKI: As you know, we don’t confirm those details.
QUESTION: You don’t. Okay.
MS. PSAKI: But we didn’t sponsor their trip, so that’s not a question posed to us.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Jen, one member of this delegation posted on social media a picture for him in the State Department with the State Department logo. Do you think that he breached any protocol or any rules here?
MS. PSAKI: I think we have thousands of visitors here every day, often people who take pictures. I’m not sure that there’s a breach or an issue there.
QUESTION: Because he used this picture to show that he is in the State Department and the State Department supports the Muslim Brothers.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we confirmed that we met with a delegation, a diverse delegation that included former members of the Freedom and Justice Party.
QUESTION: Just a technical question, really.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: You said that it’s believed that this group Sinai ISIL is – comes out of the ABM movement, which is designated —
MS. PSAKI: We believe it’s the same group as ABM, yes.
QUESTION: So does that mean that they are also then designated a terrorist organization?
MS. PSAKI: Well, ABM is designated.
QUESTION: Yeah. So if they’ve changed their name —
MS. PSAKI: It’s hard to exactly – they’re identifying by, it seems, maybe more than one name. I’m not 100 percent clear. I think, one, we’ve seen reports, as you know – and we’ve talked about this in other places – of some violent extremists who have praised ISIL, sought to associate themselves with them – with it. We continue to look for signs that these statements amount to something more than rhetorical support, so we don’t have details on the actual connections at this point in time. And the group, it seems, has used both names.
QUESTION: Right. So it would be – but it’s not – as Sinai ISIL it’s not designated, or it is?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think they just started referencing that name, so —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) go through a process to have —
MS. PSAKI: There’s a process. Arshad’s right. Exactly.
MS. PSAKI: But the group, if we know it as ABM, is designated, yes.
MS. PSAKI: Egypt? In – go ahead.
QUESTION: Regardless of the delegation, the Muslim Brotherhood – actually, you mentioned many times you’re encouraging the Egyptian Government, the new regime, to be inclusive and to work and cooperate with all the political players.
QUESTION: The Muslim Brotherhood declared jihad in its – regardless of this video from this TV channel, but there is official statement. They are calling on their members to be prepared for jihad and to be inspired by the old military wing that was established in the 40s to kill Jews.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’re referring to the video —
QUESTION: No, not the video.
MS. PSAKI: — of which there have been statements taken from. I haven’t seen an additional, separate statement.
QUESTION: No. There is actually a statement on the Muslim Brotherhood official website.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Well, we’ll take a look at that.
MS. PSAKI: I had not seen that before we came out.
QUESTION: And the second question, regarding to your statement about the massive terrorist attack in Egypt yesterday —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — you said that the United States is still committed to support the Egyptian Government to defeat terrorists. How are you going to cooperate with the Egyptians in the future, in the near future? Because it seems that Egypt has a massive problem. The terrorist attack, they are now almost on daily basis, not only in Sinai but also in Cairo, the capital.
MS. PSAKI: How are we going to do it in the future? Well —
QUESTION: How are you going to support them? How are you going to work with them?
MS. PSAKI: — as you know, we provide a great deal of security assistance for exactly this reason, for our counterterrorism partnership, because we have concerns specifically about violence and events in the Sinai. And as you know, we also recently released Apache helicopters and other equipment. So that’s ongoing. I don’t have anything to predict for you for the future, but we’ve provided a range of security assistance in the past.
Any more on Egypt before we continue?
QUESTION: Can I go back to Ukraine —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — for a second, and then to Russia? When you said that my picture of the events was not correct, did you mean that the Secretary had not offered more than once over the past year to travel to Moscow for a visit?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I would say we have a range – an ongoing dialogue with Russia, just like we have with a range of countries. There’s – often, part of that dialogue is discussions of how you can meet and where you can meet. That happens with dozens of countries around the world, not just Russia. What I was conveying is that reports that we were planning a visit, going to do a visit, were premature and inaccurate. I think I just described what the – actually happened.
QUESTION: Okay. And secondly, on Ukraine: Madam Lagarde, a couple days ago in her interview to Le Monde, said that there will be no new aid forthcoming from the IMF until there is a stabilization in Ukraine. And I see a difference in how this is presented by the U.S. Government and the IMF here. So obviously we all want a stabilization. We all want the conflict to stop. How do you view the prospects for new aid from the IMF to develop in view of what the director, the managing director has just suggested?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have her comments in front of me, though I don’t think that was the context of her comments. I think —
MS. PSAKI: — we’ve been in – I’m happy to check it out, but I’m not going to take your word for it; I apologize for that. But she has been and the IMF has been outspoken about wanting to support a stable Ukraine and provide economic support. So why don’t we take a look at what the accurate version of the comments are.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: On Libya, do you have any new information on the attacks earlier this week in the Tripoli hotel? I’ve seen reports that maybe Americans were involved in fighting off the attackers. Is that anything that you can confirm?
And then the Americans who survived the attack, to your knowledge are they still in Libya or have they returned?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details on the attack at all.
QUESTION: Can we move to Asia?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have anything – a interview by – well, a report sent – quoting a senior U.S. Navy officer, saying that the U.S. would support the air patrolling by Japan in the South China Sea area?
MS. PSAKI: I had seen those reports. I do think I have something on that. One moment.
I had seen the reports. We’re not aware of any plans or proposals for Japan to patrol the South China Sea. I believe they were comments made by a DOD official. We welcome and support a more active role for Japan in ensuring stability and security in East Asia and globally, including in addressing maritime security challenges. But we’re not aware of plans or proposals for new patrols.
QUESTION: So let’s hypothetical scenario. In the same time, would you consider hypothetically a ADIZ in the South China Sea by any countries who would do or who does or do not have claims over the disputed area?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to entertain that. It sounds like the reports aren’t accurate, and it’s really a DOD question in terms of monitoring and how we do that.
QUESTION: Now, can we stay in Asia?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, is coming next week to the national prayers breakfast where President Obama is expected to attend? And it might be the first time they meet in public.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on the President’s schedule or anything more. I’d refer you to the White House on that.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: Has the Chinese official raised any concerns or complaints to the State Department?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you on it.
QUESTION: How – I’m sorry, I don’t plan to —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: How do you respond to concerns or complaints from the Chinese side regarding a meeting between President and Dalai Lama?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of a meeting being scheduled, nor have I seen comments from the Chinese. So I’m not going to speak to that.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: I was actually —
QUESTION: Just on that – do you know, because you don’t speak for the President or the White House, just is there anything here with the Dalai Lama that you’re aware of?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. As you know, the Secretary is away next week – most of next week.
QUESTION: Yes. (Inaudible) Afghanistan. The Taliban is taking credit for murdering three American civilian contractors at the Kabul airport yesterday. Were those murders an act of terrorism?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I think the Department of Defense has spoken to this a bit, so I’d point you to their comments. There was a shooting at the North Kabul International Airport complex yesterday. We’ve seen reports that the Taliban have claimed responsibility. There’s an investigation going on into this incident. Obviously, any attack that kills contractors, that kills individuals who are working there in harm’s way, is horrific and a tragedy, but I’m not going to put new labels on it today.
QUESTION: Do you have any information on update of ISIS demands of prisoner exchange?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t. Again, this is an issue where it’s very sensitive. Obviously, there are lives at stake here. So I’m not going to speak to any private conversations or other issues related to this.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, do you know, will the State Department re-examine the deal with Qatar over the Taliban Five now that it has been confirmed that one of the members have been caught communicating with the Taliban?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just talk a few – about a few of the issues. I know there’s been a lot of reporting, and I know all of you have been trying to report accurately on this. So we, of course, take any indications of possible re-engagement very seriously. We work in close coordination through military intelligence, law enforcement, and diplomatic channels to mitigate re-engagement and to follow-on action when necessary. But none of the five individuals have returned to the battlefield. All five men are subject to a travel ban and none have left Qatar. None of the individuals have engaged in physical violence. Since their transfer, many actions have been taken to restrict the activities of these individuals, and they all have been – are being closely monitored by the United States and Qatar. The fact that our mitigation measures helped alert us to potential concerns about one of these individuals means that our mitigation measures are working and has allowed us to make appropriate adjustments in a timely manner to properly mitigate any potential threats.
So we are in frequent – to get to your question now, but I wanted to go through some of those details – and high-level contact with the Qatari Government, including about these reports and the implementations of measures to ensure our concerns about these individuals are being met. The Government of Qatar continues to cooperate with us and we feel confident about our ability to mitigate these threats.
QUESTION: Can I just – on that, no system is 100 percent guaranteed. So you can’t be sure that this is the only – that your mitigation factor is – that your mitigation process or whatever it is is actually working all the time, right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, what I was pointing out —
QUESTION: I mean, nothing —
MS. PSAKI: — Matt, is that our mitigation measures helped alert us to potential concerns.
MS. PSAKI: And obviously, we address those as they come.
QUESTION: Right, but you can’t guarantee that they’re going to work 100 percent of the time, right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we take every step possible, Matt.
QUESTION: And then —
MS. PSAKI: Obviously – and in order for any transfer to take place, that has to be approved by Secretary of Defense in coordination with the President’s national security team. There are a range of measures we take and we work very closely —
QUESTION: I understand.
MS. PSAKI: — with Qatar to mitigate.
QUESTION: I want to go back to the question slightly before then —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — about the Afghanistan – the attack at the airport. Do you have any reason to believe that it was not a terrorist attack? I mean, there are – when people are murdered or killed by other people, there’s different – I mean, there’s straightforward murder, a robbery or something like that, which I don’t believe you would consider to be a terrorist attack; and then there is an intentional targeting of people because they are of one particular group – in this case, Americans targeted.
MS. PSAKI: That’s right. And the Taliban has claimed credit. There’s an investigation.
QUESTION: Right. But do you have some reason – I mean, I’m just not sure why you wouldn’t just say: “Of course it’s a terrorist attack.”
MS. PSAKI: It’s an act of terror when American citizens or individuals are killed, like contractors, absolutely. But —
QUESTION: All right. But you have – I mean, you’re not – but you were asked earlier about this incident in Saudi Arabia where people were shot at, one hit.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You don’t know if that’s a terrorist attack or not, right? I mean, you wouldn’t come out —
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, what – when there are incidents that just happened, we let the investigations play themselves out.
QUESTION: Is there – I guess my question, then is: Is there anything that has been uncovered in this investigation into what happened at the Kabul airport to suggest that it was not, in fact, a terrorist attack?
MS. PSAKI: I was not suggesting that. But I think we have a responsibility as the U.S. Government to let processes see themselves out.
MS. PSAKI: And that’s what we’re doing.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, but do you have some reason to believe that it wasn’t a terrorist attack?
MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t suggesting that, Matt. I just – we let the processes see themselves through.
QUESTION: Considering that it was a policeman, an Afghan policeman that did this, obviously working for the Taliban, are you concerned that this may happen time and time again?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to address your question.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you know if the Afghan Taliban was ever listed as a foreign terrorist organization?
MS. PSAKI: If the Afghan Taliban was?
MS. PSAKI: So I know there’s been a lot of confusion about this particular question. I think there was – so in 2002, the Department of State designated the Afghan Taliban as a specially designated global terrorist entity. That’s different. I know that there has been – I’m just being specific here in terms of what has been said or what has been determined and what hasn’t. I know the White House has also addressed this pretty extensively as well. Also, back when we made our decision about our combat role in Afghanistan, the President talked about how U.S. forces will continue to target the remnants of al-Qaida in Afghanistan, but the U.S. military forces will no longer target belligerents solely because they are members of the Taliban.
So clearly there have been – we see a difference between Taliban and ISIL, for example. But obviously, there are still horrific acts that have happened that remain concerning to us, and we remain focused on targeting the remnants of al-Qaida. And that’s something that’s part of our ongoing presence.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Josh said the Taliban is an armed insurgence.
MS. PSAKI: That – I’m sorry?
QUESTION: The Taliban is an armed insurgence.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Is that what (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, I was just saying – I know the White House has addressed this —
QUESTION: He specifically made a distinction.
MS. PSAKI: And I just made a distinction as well, and I was more trying to clarify that I know there’s been some confusion and there’s a particular State Department piece, but the White House has addressed this pretty extensively, as you pointed out —
QUESTION: Then it’s not a terrorist organization?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered it.
Do we have any more on Afghanistan?
MS. PSAKI: Turkey? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. Just yesterday, President Erdogan gave an interview and he talked about U.S. relations as well. He said that Mr. Fethullah Gulen, leader of the Gulen movement – this is quote – “If U.S. is strategic partner of Turkey, it has duty to at least deport Fethullah Gulen,” and he also added, “because it is important for – this is important for U.S.-Turkish relations.” What’s your take on this?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry. I’m not understanding what your question is. Can you repeat the beginning part?
QUESTION: The question is: Do you think that, as President Erdogan said, if the U.S. is Turkey’s strategic partner, it has duty to deport, at least, Fethullah Gulen?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken about this issue many, many times in the past. Turkey is an important strategic partner. We work with Turkey on a range of issues. I don’t have any other particular comment beyond that.
Any more on Turkey before we continue?
QUESTION: Yes, I have one.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: President Erdogan said today that – if it’s proven that a massacre took place of the Armenians, that Turkey will pay whatever price if it’s proven. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I haven’t seen his comments. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I wondered if this building had had a chance yet to review the Human Rights Watch report from yesterday that I asked about, whether you had a comment on it.
MS. PSAKI: We haven’t reviewed it, but I can speak to it a little bit more. As you know, it just came out yesterday. So to your question, as I mentioned yesterday, the President has made and the Secretary has made abundantly clear our commitment to the protection and promotion of human rights both at home and abroad. And we’ve obviously taken a number of steps to address past mistakes that the United States has made. We prioritized the closure of Gitmo, we have obviously spoken to the events at Abu Ghraib, and we believe that those events certainly damaged American credibility and broke the trust with many Iraqis we hope to support.
But ISIL did not come from a vacuum, which I think the human rights report addresses, and – but our view is that the failure of governments to serve all of its citizens, protect them from security threats, respect their basic human rights, provides openings for violent, predatory groups like ISIL to terrorize communities and destabilize regions.
In the case of ISIL, as we’ve talked about quite a bit in here, the Assad regime, their role and their horrific acts that they have done against their people have certainly, in our view, made them a magnet for terrorism. These – and they’ve allowed many of these terrorist networks to grow and prosper in their homes. So we haven’t reviewed the entire report, but I think it’s important to note, as I mentioned yesterday, that we continue to take steps to address issues we – as we can in the past that we think we need to do better on and improve our own. And we expect other countries to do the same.
But as it relates to ISIL, there’s no question that the range of reasons why ISIL has grown are focused on individuals like Bashar al-Assad and others who have become magnets for terrorism in the region.
QUESTION: Those are all points that they make in the report, but they also made the point that part of the reason why there was the growth of ISIL was because of what happened in the past. Does the United States accept some of that blame?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered it. Obviously, we believe that Abu Ghraib damaged our credibility. But again, our belief is that the – ISIL has been driven and grown from all the events that I just outlined.
QUESTION: Assad, in the interview with Foreign Affairs, makes a very good case that he’s your natural ally in the fight against terror. He is fighting ISIL, he’s fighting al-Nusrah, he’s fighting – or al-Qaida element —
MS. PSAKI: Do you have a question, Said?
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, wouldn’t it be natural that you, at least for the time being, have some sort of an alliance – coordinated alliance in striking against ISIS in Syria?
MS. PSAKI: We have no plans to coordinate or partner with a brutal dictator who’s killed tens of thousands of his own people. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On Iraq, do you have any information or confirmation regarding the alleged massacre that occurred in Diyala two days ago?
MS. PSAKI: We don’t have any confirmation. I mean, we’ve seen the reports. Obviously, as – and I spoke to this a bit yesterday, so I’d point you to that – the government is looking into these reports. Obviously, if proven true, they are – those who are responsible must be held accountable, but I’d point you to what I said yesterday on it. There’s also a statement that the UN put out on this as well which I’d point you to.
Go ahead in the back. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Right. A couple of senior officials are traveling to China on the 2nd for U.S.-China Security Dialogue, including under secretary and assistant secretary. Is that part of the inter-sessional meetings under the S&ED Dialogue?
MS. PSAKI: I think – well, have we put out a media note on this?
MS. PSAKI: I apologize. I should know that answer. But is there – is that where your information is from?
QUESTION: I’m asking: Is that part of – is that part of ongoing inter-sessional meetings on the —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details on their trip. I’m sure there’s a media note being prepared that will have more details on what their plans are while they’re there.
QUESTION: The media note is just saying that he will be there for – they will be there for the meeting —
MS. PSAKI: That Assistant Secretary Danny Russel will be there?
QUESTION: No. Frank Rose and —
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Why don’t we look into that and see if there’s more details to share?
QUESTION: And specific agenda to be discussed.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, great.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: Pakistan- India?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: The tensions between the two countries continue unabated, and even today there was fighting across the Working Boundary near Kashmir, disputed Kashmir region. What is the U.S. doing to encourage the two countries to resume their peace dialogue, and was this issue discussed during President Obama’s visit to New Delhi?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d point you to the President for that. As you know, the Secretary wasn’t even on the trip with him. As you know, we consistently encourage dialogue between India and Pakistan. And obviously, the scope and scale of the process there is up to those countries to determine.
QUESTION: And also, Pakistani officials, they have expressed concern that operationalization of the nuclear deal – civil nuclear deal will upset the strategic balance in the region. And given U.S. role in maintaining that strategic balance over the last many decades, and given its role on conflict management in that region, what – have you assured Pakistan that this deal – this will not affect the strategic stability drastically?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what we’ve assured both countries is that the United States relationship with India and the United States – sorry – relationship with Pakistan – that was a mouthful for some reason – those relationships are strong, they’re vital to our strategic interests, and they stand on their own. And we work with Pakistan on a range of issues. We work with India on a range of issues. This particular issue is one that’s been ongoing with India for some time, but we certainly have reiterated our strong commitment to our strategic relationship with Pakistan. As you know, the Secretary was just there a couple of weeks ago visiting with them and reiterating our commitment.
QUESTION: But have you made the details of the new success – because this was stalled for a long time, the nuclear – civilian nuclear deal between U.S. and India? Have —
MS. PSAKI: Well, the – it’s an understanding on an administrative arrangement for implementing the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. So I don’t have more details to discuss publicly with you, no.
QUESTION: I mean, because the concern is that it will free up the nuclear material, which could be used to – for weapon aggradations and it will – it can kick up a new arms race in the region.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there are a range of requirements in these type of deals, and certainly, we factor in a range of factors as we make them. So I will leave it at that.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: Jen, briefly on Northeast Asia, do you have any readouts from Under Secretary Sherman’s visits in Seoul or Tokyo?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I think she was last in Japan – correct – if I’m remembering – okay.
So Under Secretary Sherman held a series of productive discussions on January 30th with the Japanese foreign minister, the deputy foreign minister, and the national security advisor on a wide range of issues. These discussions were an important opportunity to highlight our strong partnership with Japan, our regional – and our regional and global cooperation. They discussed a broad range of bilateral and regional issues in her meetings, and certainly, this just reiterates our strong commitment to Asia and our important partnership with Japan.
QUESTION: Was the hostage crisis discussed as well?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details to read out for you. As has been true with phone conversations, we’re just not going to discuss those, given the sensitivity of the situation.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: From Venezuela, we had a dissident retired brigadier general show up after almost a year in New York yesterday, asking the UN’s Working Committee on Arbitrary Detentions to work on his behalf to try to stop the warrant, essentially, for his arrest in Venezuela. He says President Maduro called for the arrest after he spoke out against the government’s crackdown on protestors and against Cuba’s influence in the military. Any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, while we don’t have any comment on the specifics of this case, I will say that we routinely condemn – and I’ll – happy to do it again today – the Venezuelan Government’s use of the judiciary to intimidate and selectively prosecute political, civil society, union, and business leaders who are critical of government policies or actions.
In our view, the criminalization of political dissent is not an accepted norm in democratic societies, and we again urge the Venezuelan Government to desist from this practice.
All right.
QUESTION: Wait, wait.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.
QUESTION: I have a couple brief ones.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I promise they’ll be very brief.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I’m wondering —
MS. PSAKI: Even Said’s ready to get up here. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I know, it’s Friday. I want to get out of here, too.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The African Union has chosen as its new chairman President Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Do you have any thoughts on the appropriateness of this choice? Is President Mugabe a good person to lead the African Union?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you well know, we’re not a member of the African Union. The United States respects the essential role played by the African Union on the continent, as well as the issues of – as well as on issues of global concern. Decisions on AU leadership are decisions for the African members. We have a diplomatic mission accredited to the African Union and an ambassador who coordinates regularly with them, and our ambassador will also coordinate with Zimbabwe’s envoy to the AU on issues of mutual interests. Our commitment to the people of Zimbabwe remains strong and certainly as does as our commitment to the AU and our partnership.
QUESTION: As you are probably aware of, the United States has a variety of sanctions against President Mugabe’s government —
MS. PSAKI: I am well aware.
QUESTION: So you don’t have any – you don’t have any thoughts about whether it’s appropriate for him to be leading the African Union?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, those sanctions remain in place. But beyond that, it’s a decision made by the members of the African Union.
QUESTION: Well, I understand that. But the U.S. opines on the decisions of various bodies and countries all the time. You don’t have any specific comment on this one?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to opine today. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. Has it – has the situation with the Greek Government reached your – reached the radar screens of people here in the Administration in terms of the stability of – any concerns about the stability of the European Union, or of NATO for that matter?
MS. PSAKI: We I expect will continue to have a dialogue with the European Union as well as Greece. I don’t have any other concerns to discuss.
QUESTION: All right. And then the last one is the – across Europe but particularly in France in recent days, the attempt to combat extremism seems to be going to extremes with the interrogations, arrests of children, teachers. Does the U.S. have any concerns that the crackdown that’s going on in France but also in other European countries is going too far?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, obviously, we always hope and expect that the respect for human rights and freedom of speech will be abided by in all cases – judiciary cases. Obviously, there is – France and other countries in the region have dealt with challenging issues related to threats, related to the recent attacks from just a couple of weeks ago. And we know they’re taking steps to try to mitigate those. I don’t have any concerns to express at this point.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you look into it? Because I mean, it does seem to be that – it does seem as though some of the steps that these governments are taking – and not just France, but France is routinely named because that’s where the attacks were that you’re referring to – go beyond what the United States would either do itself or would condone in an ally – in an ally’s government? So —
MS. PSAKI: We will let you know if we have concerns to express.
QUESTION: On the same subject?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: President Obama in a press conference a few weeks back, he said that you – EU countries have to do a better job of integrating the immigrant populations. So on that question – Matt’s – or do you think the – I mean, France and other countries – are moving in the direction providing economic and opportunity and hope to the immigrants?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s something we’re continuing to encourage. And obviously, the President spoke about it because it’s something we think is important in order to have a thriving society. I don’t have any evaluation beyond that.
Thanks, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:25 p.m.)

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