The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.
1:33 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hello, everyone. Busy day, I know, for everyone. I have nothing at the top.
QUESTION: Can I just start very briefly with a comment – to try and clarify a comment that the Secretary made about Turkey this morning? After expressing his concern and all of that, which I don’t mean to detract from by saying “all of that,” he said that we’ve updated our travel advisories for American citizens in Turkey, reminding them of precautions to take in travel, but also that they should not participate in these kinds of events. At the beginning of what he said, he said that these kinds of events were essential to democracy and the freedom of – I’m just wondering how you square – why should the Secretary of State be telling Americans that they can’t exercise their freedom of speech or expression, even if it is in a different country?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that was at all what he was trying to convey. I think what he was conveying was protests should be peaceful, that people – that U.S. citizens should exercise caution, as it says in our travel advisory. But he certainly wasn’t --
QUESTION: Okay, exercise caution. But not that they shouldn’t participate in a peace protest, whether it’s about treaties being --
MS. PSAKI: No, I don’t believe that was what he was attempting to convey, Matt.
QUESTION: Can I clarify one other thing?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: In his comments about Syria, he said – he talked about the difficulty of achieving Geneva II, and he said – he then talked about this effort, which we come to late – which the United States – which we come to late. What did he mean by that, that the United States has come to this late?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s said that before, and the context of what he’s talked about is the fact that we have upped our aid, increased our assistance in recent months. Obviously, he – and he often speaks personally about how he has come into this role as Secretary of State relatively late in the process given how this conflict and what has been – the tragedies that have been happening in Syria have been ongoing for several years, as we know.
QUESTION: It sounds like an implicit criticism of the Obama Administration for not having worked on trying to find a diplomatic solution to this problem earlier.
QUESTION: Or it might have been the royal we, Arshad.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that was what – I know that was not what the Secretary was trying to convey. He has spoken before about the collective “we” coming to this late, and he often speaks about how he personally, having only been the Secretary of State for a couple of months, coming in at a time where obviously the tragedy has escalated – we’ve talked about that quite a bit in here over the past couple of weeks – and that’s simply what he’s referring to. It’s not an implied criticism of anyone. More just a recognition that more needs to be done and that’s what we’re focused on.
QUESTION: And should have been done earlier.
MS. PSAKI: Again, he’s not attempting to look in a rearview mirror. I don’t think that’s at all what he was conveying. He was saying that he himself, we the United States, he in his role as Secretary of State, has come in at a time where more needs to be done.
QUESTION: Can I change subject?
QUESTION: Can we stay with Syria, please?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, we can stay with Syria.
QUESTION: The German Foreign Minister and the French Foreign Minister both said in the – today and I believe over the last couple of days that the Syria conference that everyone’s hoping to put together is now going to slip into July. Can you confirm that’s what the U.S. is thinking? And does this pose a problem given that the fighting is still going on, and that means that the efforts towards any kind of resolution are just going to be put off for another few weeks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first point to what the Secretary said this morning, which – his extensive comments on Syria; talked a bit about how we need to look for a right moment here to move the transition forward. And I would point you to that. It’s never been about meeting a deadline. Obviously, time is of the essence given the challenges that the Syrian people continue to face, given the increased presence of foreign fighters in Syria, which we’ve expressed a great deal of alarm about. No one should doubt the Secretary’s commitment, the commitment of many of our allies around the world to resolving this through a political transition, of which we feel the conference in a process, so an important part.
I don’t want to get ahead on timing. As you know, Wendy Sherman – Under Secretary Wendy Sherman and Acting Assistant Secretary Beth Jones are headed tomorrow for meetings the following day with Russian and UN counterparts, and they’ll continue to work to make progress.
QUESTION: But obviously initially we were looking at around June 10th. That was the date I believe was given form the podium – June 10th to the 15th. Now that’s obviously not going to happen by the looks of it because we’re already at June 3rd. Isn’t July – early July deadline more realistic in your opinion?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I don’t know the timing yet. I don’t know that anyone does. But more important for us than a deadline or a timeline, even though we want to do this as soon as possible, is making sure the right ingredients are in place. That includes the opposition electing leadership, which they need to do; that’s the next step. That includes working with the Russians, working with the opposition, working with the UN to determine the agenda and what will happen during this conference, and all of those pieces take time. So obviously we want to do it sooner rather than later.
And I said last week, but let me reiterate: If it was possible to do this tomorrow, the Secretary would be on a plane. But we know there are several components that need to come together and it’s not an easy task.
QUESTION: Jen, I have one more on Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Let me just finish with Syria. Go ahead, Jill.
QUESTION: The Secretary also went out of his way to criticize the Russians again on the S-300s. And he continues to have this “on the one hand, on the other hand.” On the one hand, Sergey Lavrov is very supportive of this conference. And on the other hand, they’re willing to sell missiles to the Government of Syria. So how – it seems almost schizophrenic to have this approach. What do – how does the United States interpret what the Russians are trying to do.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would refute the notion of your suggestion there. It’s complicated, and that’s a short answer, but let me expound on that a little bit more.
We know that, and we have been very vocal about our disapproval – the Secretary has, we have from the podium – of Russian support for the Syrian regime, whether that’s through arms or through other financial means. But at the same time, the reason that they play an important role here is because of their connection to the regime. And the Secretary said this morning that his last conversation with the Foreign Minister, he reiterated his commitment and his belief that the conference is an important step, his commitment to moving forward with that. And so I would say there are places where we agree and places where we disagree. And what’s important is, if we don’t get back to the table, if we don’t move towards a political transition, then we’ll be stuck in this violent stalemate that we see is happening in Syria right now.
MS. PSAKI: Syria. Okay. Turkey.
QUESTION: Oh, wait, I do have one actually on Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Matt. I knew you would.
QUESTION: And that is, are you – you are aware of this – the report this morning that says that the Administration is withholding $65 million in aid to the opposition because your, quote, unquote, “fed up” with the opposition’s inability to get its act together. What’s the deal with that? Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: That is incorrect. Let me just take this opportunity to give you a little update on what has been delivered and what we’re still waiting on. So to date, we have provided 123 million to the opposition. We’re working closely with the SOC and SMC to determine how effectively we can spend an additional 127 million, recently announced in Istanbul by Secretary Kerry. Of that 123, there was approximately 50, a little over that, that was announced several months ago. As you know, there was 60 or a little over 60 that was announced in Rome.
The 63 million in funding that was recently approved by Congress will help the Syrian coalition build a transparent and accountable system to identify and provide funding, in-kind assistance, technical assistance, and capacity-building to local groups inside Syria. New assistance programs now being implemented include delivering food rations and medical supplies to the Syrian coalition and to the opposition’s Supreme Military Council, delivering basic community services according to coalition and local priorities, procuring equipment and provisions for the ACU to respond to urgent needs and liberated areas, supporting critical municipal service infrastructure repair, and helping with essential services and technical assistance.
There is obviously an additional amount of money if you add up to the 250. We’re still – we’re finalizing plans on that. We’re working that process through Congress. But there is not an ounce of truth to the notion that we are holding back funding. We are very committed to the opposition, working with them on implementing all of the programs that I just outlined, and working with Congress on the additional funding that has been announced.
QUESTION: Well, if there’s not an ounce of truth that you’re holding back funding, maybe you could address, is it correct that you’re frustrated or fed up or annoyed or, I don’t know, disappointed at the fractiousness of the opposition and its apparent inability to get its act together?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me try some different adjectives – no surprise. We have long encouraged the opposition to present a more united front, to expand their membership. They took steps to do that on Friday. We have long believed, and the Secretary has said this publicly on numerous occasions and in his – in broad agreement with his international partners as well, that if – in order to strengthen themselves they need to be more united. So it’s more that we want them to take steps that will help themselves to succeed, and that message has been conveyed publicly as well as privately to the SOC.
QUESTION: I counted only two adjectives in all those words.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, should I add another one, Arshad? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: “United” and “broad.” But to go to Matt’s question, I mean, Matt asked are you frustrated, annoyed. Surely you cannot be fed up; surely you cannot be overjoyed. So what is the appropriate adjective to describe how you feel about the pace at which the opposition has been able or unable to get organized and coalesce?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are not naive about the challenges that they have faced and how difficult it is to do what they’re trying to do, which is to expand their membership with several different components, to elect leadership. Of course, we would have liked to have seen it happen more quickly, but we also are not unaware of the challenges. So at this stage, we are hopeful that they will move forward in electing leadership, which is the next natural step, and the step following that would be their decision about attending the conference, which, again, we feel is an important step towards a political transition.
QUESTION: And one last one on this. I mean, if there is not an ounce of truth to that report, would the U.S. Government consider withholding assistance to the opposition if it refuses to attend a peace conference that the U.S. Government and the Russian Government have put their full efforts behind.
MS. PSAKI: Well, you’ve heard the Secretary say he’s confident they will attend and participate, and so we will work toward that goal. Otherwise, I’m not going to speculate on what would come after.
QUESTION: Can I just – I want to try and clear something up about the numbers. You said 123 has already gone to the opposition. There’s 127 million more that you need to figure out exactly where it’s going to go in consultation with the opposition.
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Then you said something about 50 million that was announced that it was delivered months ago. How much – so can you – if you take the total amount that has been – either gone or promised --
QUESTION: Two-fifty, right?
MS. PSAKI: Two-fifty have been promised.
QUESTION: So but only 123 has actually been delivered so far?
MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.
QUESTION: Okay. So if you’re not withholding assistance, why – what’s taking so long on the --
MS. PSAKI: Well, you’ve been in Washington long enough to know that the process takes time, and we’re working with Congress to continue to push forward on the other components.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, if you’re – so is there a problem on the Hill?
MS. PSAKI: Not at all.
QUESTION: So what’s taking so long? Just the bureaucratic --
MS. PSAKI: This is a process that takes a long time, and we’re aware of that, and the Secretary continues to press on it, as do many people in the building up and down the chain.
QUESTION: And Jen, can you explain to us what the remaining 127 million is for? I mean, is it segmented into different chunks for different purposes? Or --
MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, at this stage, that amount we are working to determine the best uses for. You heard the Secretary talk, when he announced the doubling of nonlethal assistance in Istanbul, about the importance of working with the opposition, with the SMC to determine the best uses. There were a number of components that were possibilities that it could be used for, but that determination has not been made yet.
QUESTION: And does the Administration have sole discretion to determine what that money will be spent on? Or does it require the assent of the appropriators or anybody else on the Hill to divvy – in how they divvy up that money?
MS. PSAKI: In terms of how the 127 is divided?
QUESTION: Correct, correct.
MS. PSAKI: That goes beyond my depth of specifically where it is in the legislative process. I’m happy to look more closely into it for you.
QUESTION: Could you take that as a TQ? That would be helpful.
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. Happy to.
QUESTION: Since you’re checking the numbers, this is nonlethal aid. On humanitarian aid, we’re at – just still over 500 million?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Jen, I just want to follow up on Matt’s question. You said it’s not at all an issue with Congress, the delay in getting this 127 out. So what is it? Is it that it’s difficult to coordinate with the opposition? I mean --
MS. PSAKI: Well, it is more an issue of the natural process of getting appropriations through, of getting funding through.
QUESTION: Some might argue with that as a natural process. I think it’s more of an unnatural process.
MS. PSAKI: Well, natural to Washington.
QUESTION: So it is Congress?
MS. PSAKI: But again, it is not an unexpected delay in the timeline was what I was conveying.
QUESTION: And what is the delay now? Where are we between this 127 being announced? When was that again?
MS. PSAKI: That was April 20th.
QUESTION: So do you have a sense of when it might actually come through?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you on that. Obviously, we would like it to move quickly, and that’s something the Secretary is very focused on.
MS. PSAKI: Well, to clarify, the Patriot missile launchers and F-16s were approved for deployment to Jordan as part of Exercise Eager Lion, which is an annual exercise. DOD would have more specifics on it for you. And this is, again, something that – these were sent to Jordan in support of this annual exercise. Given our strong alliance with Jordan, and in light of circumstances in the region and escalating violence along Jordan’s borders, if requested, some may remain beyond the conclusion of the exercise to assist the Jordanian armed forces. But no decision has been made yet on that.
QUESTION: When’s that?
MS. PSAKI: The exercises? I believe they’re going on right now.
QUESTION: And they end, though, when?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t know. I’d have to get you the date on that.
QUESTION: And the warship will be leaving after the exercises, too, or --
MS. PSAKI: Well, typically, these would be there for the exercises. In terms of whether any additional materials or any of these additional deployed missile launchers would stay, that decision just hasn’t been made yet.
QUESTION: I guess we could go to the Pentagon for this, but this is in the Red Sea?
MS. PSAKI: In terms of where the Exercise Eager Lion is taking place, you might have to check with my friends over at the Pentagon for that level of specificity.
On Syria, or did you want --
MS. PSAKI: Turkey, okay.
QUESTION: So, it has been, I believe, the sixth day of protest. What seems to be happening in Turkey --
MS. PSAKI: Well, the --
QUESTION: -- within last six days?
MS. PSAKI: The Secretary spoke to this pretty extensively this morning, so I would point you to that. Our assessment is that the vast majority of the protesters have been peaceful, law abiding, ordinary citizens exercising their rights. We are concerned about – which you heard the Secretary say this morning – the excessive use of force by police in several instances, and endorse calls for a full investigation. And we condemn attempts by any party to provoke violence. This is something we are following very closely. The Ambassador and our other Embassy officials have been engaged with senior officials on the Turkish side, and we’ll continue to monitor it very closely in the days ahead.
QUESTION: So today, Prime Minister Erdogan, before taking his flight out of the country, he said that, quote, the U.S. should look at – they should look at themselves, when he was asked about this criticism or comment coming from Europe and you. So how do you see this response if the Prime Minister says these protests are undermining democracy and you are saying that majority of these protesters are peaceful, law abiding people, and this is based on their democratic rights?
MS. PSAKI: So you’re – I’m sure – I’m sorry, I’m not sure quite what your question is.
QUESTION: My question is the U.S. and Turkey are allies, and how do you think such a fundamental issue, these two countries see completely different angles?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can speak to our position and our view of this, which is, of course, that we broadly support full freedom of expression and assembly in this case and any other. We’re monitoring it closely. And again, I’d point you to what the Secretary said this morning, which is that we continue to work with Turkey – you’re right, a close NATO ally – on a number of issues, including Syria. It is not up to us to judge here; we’re simply looking at the events happening and encouraging freedom of expression, which is something we do around the world.
QUESTION: Would --
QUESTION: Can I just put a fine point on my earlier question. So the Secretary, in his comment – the advice that you’ve given to Americans actually does not say that Americans should not participate in these kinds of events, right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they have – the language, the information we did put out, says that Americans should avoid those areas where disturbances have occurred.
QUESTION: And avoid demonstrations and large gatherings, but presumably that’s if one is not interested in being part of the demonstration.
MS. PSAKI: Well, these --
QUESTION: So it’s like people --
MS. PSAKI: The information that’s provided, as you know, Matt, by our embassies is simply to provide guidance to U.S. – American citizens, to U.S. officials who are traveling overseas.
QUESTION: I understand that, but if an American citizen has a particular interest in what people are protesting about and wants to be part of it, the Secretary’s – what the Secretary said seems to be saying you shouldn’t do that, you shouldn’t participate.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary is certainly not barring anyone or --
QUESTION: Well, no, he can’t, but --
MS. PSAKI: -- preventing anyone. He simply is advising on or reiterating our travel guidance on how to keep people safe.
MS. PSAKI: And that is what the purpose of those announcements are.
QUESTION: At the time, though, you said that the U.S. was going to look into its – for – into – investigate itself, whether there was excessive force used --
MS. PSAKI: Not that we were going to do our own investigation.
QUESTION: You were going to investigate the incident.
MS. PSAKI: We were going to look into more details. Obviously, things have continued over the past couple of days. That’s why I said that we have been concerned about the excessive use of force by police in several instances and endorse calls for a full investigation. That wouldn’t be a U.S. investigation; that would be an investigation in country.
QUESTION: So it’s your feeling that there has been excessive force?
MS. PSAKI: We have seen, yes.
QUESTION: What kind of communication have you had – this building had with the Turkish counterparts?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our Ambassador is on the ground, of course – he actually changed planned travel to leave the country in order to stay there – as well as senior Embassy officials, and they’re in close contact with Turkish authorities on the ground.
QUESTION: So the Secretary did not try to get in contact with the Turkish Foreign Minister or anybody else?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of a recent call. They do speak regularly, of course, about Syria, on a number of issues, but I’m not aware of a recent call over the past couple of days. I’m happy to check on that for you.
QUESTION: Do you see these protests in any way related to wider region and what has been going on with the last two, three years?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I don’t want to ascribe motivations for the people who are protesting freely in the country right now, and I would suggest you speak to them or listen to what they have to say about their reasons.
QUESTION: Would you see Prime Minister Erdogan as – or the government as majoritarian government in Turkey, or authoritarian government, or do you think that democracy, healthy democracy? How do you see that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, this – Turkey has a democratically elected government. It’s not us – for us to support or not support an individual who’s been elected, simply to support the process. That’s exactly what we’re doing here. And again, I would just reiterate that we encourage people, and we encourage to support the full freedom of expression and assembly in this case, which is what they appear to be doing.
QUESTION: And finally, do you have any concerns, or what kind of concerns if you have, regarding the stability of the country?
MS. PSAKI: The stability of the country?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point to, again, what Matt and I have talked a little bit about here in terms of what we – the message we’ve conveyed to U.S. citizens over the past couple of days. But beyond that, these protests are continuing. We’re going to monitor it closely, and if we need to update that, we certainly will, but I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to the investigation for a second? You said that – the question was about what kind of – you were talking about the local Turkish authorities investigating it.
MS. PSAKI: Correct. I just was clarifying not a U.S.-involved --
QUESTION: Right. I’m just wondering, do you have full confidence in the Turkish authorities to conduct an investigation like this? Several years ago, you had some serious problems with an investigation the Turkish authorities did into the flotilla incident.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we do --
QUESTION: In fact, you said that you completely rejected it and accepted the Israeli explanation for it. So I’m just wondering if you have confidence in the Turkish authorities in this case to conduct a full, transparent investigation?
MS. PSAKI: We encourage them to conduct a full and transparent investigation. And if it needs to be evaluated, I’m sure we will certainly do that.
MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Turkey?
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: The demonstrators or the protesters started just to protest against something cultural, which is not to demolish this site, the garden. Do you think the opposition took these protests just to raise the voice against Erdogan’s government and cabinet and its policy, like politically, and assuming that this government is starting to be very Islamic?
MS. PSAKI: I know there have been a lot of comments from people who are participating in the protests across the board in Turkey. I don’t want to ascribe for them what their motivations are. I would point you to them and to their public comments on the reasons why they’re protesting.
QUESTION: Not the reasons of the protest, but the opposition itself in the country – do you think they took this incident, these protests, as a reason to raise their voice against the policy of Erdogan’s cabinet?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I would point you to the opposition, and they can speak to their motivations and their reasons as well.
QUESTION: Jen, the Syrian regime has asked the Syrian people to refrain from going to Turkey for security reasons and asked or called the Prime Minister Erdogan to answer the Turkish people call and resign. How do you view this call?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would far rather be in Istanbul than Damascus. So we – they make their own recommendations, we make ours, but I’ll leave it at that.
QUESTION: Jen are you taking any security measures to secure the Embassy and U.S. consulates in Turkey?
MS. PSAKI: We’re always monitoring to make sure our Embassy personnel and American citizens are safe. That’s why we issued the information we did this weekend. And as needed, we will, of course, update it, like we do everywhere else.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you for that. On June 1st, I note that – many of you saw this I’m sure, but – a prison break occurred at the central prison in Niamey. Over 40 prisoners reportedly escaped, including individuals with suspected ties to terrorist groups, including al-Qaida in the Lands of the Islamic Maghreb. Two prison officials were killed during the breakout, just to give you a little background. We extend our condolences to the families of prison officials who were killed.
At least three prisoners have been rearrested. Nigerian authorities continue to search for the remainders. And the U.S. Embassy issued an emergency message to U.S. citizens on June 1st notifying them of the prison break. On June 2nd, the Embassy issued an updated emergency message, advising that several convicts are still at large and strongly urging all U.S. citizens to shelter in place. We’re continuing to monitor this closely, of course, and will update as needed.
QUESTION: Is there any concerns about the broader spread of that fundamentalist militia across Nigeria, Niger, Mali?
MS. PSAKI: We’re always concerned. We’re watching it closely. This is an issue that the Secretary spoke about when he was traveling and when he was in Ethiopia, meeting with African leaders during his time there. In terms of this specific incident, we’re just following it closely, and as needed, we’ll update on our additional plans.
I’m getting the hook here shortly to go up to a bilateral meeting.
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that the White House and my old colleagues there have read – have previewed this quite extensively, so I would point you to their comments to lay out the specific agenda. The Secretary, of course, will be participating with the President. He’ll be traveling out to California with him. There are a number of topics that they have talked about as being on the agenda, not limited to but of course cyber security, human rights, a continued economic dialogue, and I’m sure those and many others will be part of the discussion.
QUESTION: With regard to the cyber-attacks, how do you make it clear that there will be real consequences to China in the future for --
MS. PSAKI: Sorry, there’s a dog barking on a phone over here.
QUESTION: I hear that. Yeah. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I’m sure I wasn’t the only one alarmed.
QUESTION: Is that the hook? That might be the hook. I don’t know. Does that mean it’s over? I guess, again, with regard to the cyber attacks --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Start again.
QUESTION: How do you make it clear there will be real consequences for China’s actions?
MS. PSAKI: Well, cyber security is one of the Administration’s top priorities. The Pentagon report reiterates what has long been said, that we’re concerned about cyber intrusions emanating from China. The Secretary, the President, the Secretary – Secretary Hagel have made no secret about their concerns. Neither has NSA Director Tom Donilon, who recently said that from the President on down, this has become a key point of concern and discussion with China at all levels of our government and it will continue to be. The United States will do all it must to protect our national networks, critical infrastructure, and our valuable public and private sector property.
And last thing I would say is I know there are reports this weekend about a dialogue between China and the U.S. on this. This is something that the Secretary actually talked about back during trip in April. They’ll continue that discussion, as the White House has previewed, later this week. And I expect it to be a big topic of conversation at the S&ED in July.
QUESTION: Jen, can I --
QUESTION: Any reaction real quick to Chairman Rogers’ statement that he put out last night, saying China needs to see real consequences to their actions?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would just reiterate our broad concern from the President on down about cyber security and the fact that it will be at the top of an extensive agenda next – this week and later this summer.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The first has to do with drugs. Given the fact that so many U.S. – or at least several U. S. states have legalized marijuana now and the fact that the federal government – the Administration remains opposed to such legalization, how big an issue do you think this is going to be when the Secretary and the drug czar Mr. Kerlikowske go down to Guatemala?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we’ll be discussing this as we get closer on a trip that you will be on.
QUESTION: It can’t get any closer.
MS. PSAKI: It is close, but --
QUESTION: That’s why I’m asking now.
MS. PSAKI: Yes. And we will be previewing more details on the trip. Of course counter-narcotics is going to be part of the discussion. I don’t want to --
QUESTION: But is this problematic for the Administration as a federal government when --
MS. PSAKI: Is it problematic for the Administration? I don’t know what other countries --
QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, what do you tell other countries – you obviously do not want to see countries in the hemisphere legalize marijuana, and yet states --
MS. PSAKI: Well, it has not --
QUESTION: -- in the U.S. are doing so.
MS. PSAKI: That is true. It has not been legalized on a federal level.
MS. PSAKI: There are remaining concerns, as you know, about drug trafficking and about the impact of that, which I’m sure will be a big part of the conversation.
QUESTION: All right. And then the second one is, as I’m sure you know, three years ago then Senator Kerry and Senator Menendez wrote a piece in the Miami Herald, which was very critical of the OAS. They said – they wrote: Sadly its culture – its meaning the OAS – culture of consensus has been – has often been the breeding ground of the ideas that reflect the lowest common denominator rather than the highest ambitions of diplomacy and cooperation. Too often, it is seen as a pliable tool of inconsistent political agendas, and some critics even call it a grazing pasture for third-string diplomats.
Leaving aside that last clause for a second where they’re talking – where they quote critics, the next paragraph says: This needs to change. My question to you, one, is: Does the Secretary now believe that the OAS has, in fact, changed? Is it a relevant and important institution? He is going to the meeting tomorrow. So that’s number one.
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me just quote from the same op-ed where it says our task is to make the OAS better, not irrelevant.
QUESTION: Exactly. So has it – so that was three years ago.
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: So in the three years, does the Secretary still believe the things that he wrote to Senator Menendez? Does he still think that these are problems with the organization?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the fact that he is going to the OAS and he’s spending two days there participating sends a clear signal that he thinks this is – remains the premiere multilateral organization in the hemisphere. It is the only forum where all democratically elected governments in the hemisphere can meet at the political level to address our most pressing problems. In order to assure that the OAS retains that status, it must refocus on its core principles, which is what he’ll be talking about over the coming days, which is democracy, human rights, development, and regional security. And we encourage a serious and respectful discussion of our challenges. Strengthening it is, of course, part of his agenda and part of what he’ll be focused on in the next couple of days.
QUESTION: So I missed the answer to my question there. Does he think that it’s gotten better over the past three years or do these problems still – are these still operative problems that --
MS. PSAKI: He thinks we need to continue to work together to strengthen the OAS. That’s one of the reasons why he’s going there. There are a number of broad agenda items that will be discussed, and it’s a proper forum to do that.
QUESTION: Okay. And then just with respect to that last clause, “some critics even call it a grazing pasture for third-string diplomats,” is this a – does he – did he or does he still believe that this is true?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would hardly call the Secretary of State a third-string diplomat, so the fact that he is going there, he’s spending two days there, he believes that it’s an incredibly important premiere multilateral organization to discuss the issues I just outlined, speaks to that. And even in the same op-ed, he said that it is in the interests of the United States to have a strong and capable multilateral forum to help resolve disputes and build consensus. This is that forum. That’s why he’s going there tomorrow.
QUESTION: Okay. So he does not believe that it is a grazing pasture for third-string diplomats, but yet he once felt at least strongly enough about it that even though he doesn’t – it’s attributed to critics, that they – he actually included it in an article. Why not just leave it out if he didn’t believe anything to --
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, you’re speaking about an op-ed that was more than three years ago.
MS. PSAKI: I think it speaks --
QUESTION: So I’m asking if it’s changed.
MS. PSAKI: -- quite significantly that he’s going there tomorrow and that he’s spending two days there and that he’s looking forward to discussing a broad agenda. And in that op-ed, his larger point was this is an important multilateral organization; we need to continue to strengthen it because it has a key role in the hemisphere, so we should work together to do just that.
MS. PSAKI: Sorry. I have to run. I’m so sorry. I can’t let the Armenians, I believe, wait.
QUESTION: I was going to ask about that.
MS. PSAKI: About – I’m sorry?
QUESTION: Today the Azeri Foreign Minister and tomorrow the Armenian Foreign Minister are meeting. What is there – is there a coincidence? Is this a coincidence?
MS. PSAKI: Is it a coincidence?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think so. I mean, there are two – I don't know what their schedules were about, but it’s natural he would be meeting with both of them, I would suggest.
QUESTION: Is there any new initiative or (inaudible)?
STAFF: We’ve got to go.
MS. PSAKI: There’s not a new one to tell you about. Our position has been the same.
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you so much.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:08 p.m.)