The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.
1:27 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. It seems there’s a lot going on today, or so you all tell me. First I wanted to start by welcoming the spokesperson from the Kosovar Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I don’t know if you’re in the back, if you want to wave and say hello. Welcome. Thanks for joining us today. I don’t have anything else at the top, so let’s get to what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: On Syria, please.
MS. PSAKI: We can, of course.
QUESTION: The Commission of Inquiry on Syria has sent a report to the UN Human Rights Council today in Geneva that they had reasonable grounds to believe both sides in the conflict in Syria have used chemical weapons and even listed where they believe these attacks might have taken place on four occasions. And similarly, just shortly a few minutes ago, Foreign Minister Fabius, the French Foreign Minister, has said that France is now certain that sarin gas has been used several times in the conflict in Syria. Could you please give us the U.S. reaction to those two bits of information?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me take the second question first. So we have seen, of course, those reports. We’re seeking more information. So for the time being, I would refer you all to the French Government. As we have said previously, we have been providing information we have to the UN investigation. We encourage others to, of course, do the same. We are still seeking further information, and we’re not going to, of course, evaluate other countries’ information in public.
In terms of the UN report, so Jo is referring to the UN Commission of Inquiry report. Just to clarify for everybody, that is different from the UN investigation that is looking into chemical weapons use. They regularly provide an update every couple of months or so on things like human rights abuses, et cetera. So let me just give you a quick overview of that, and then I’ll get to Jo’s question.
So as the U.S. delegation to the Human Rights Council announced today in a statement, we welcome this latest report from the UN Independent International Commission of Inquiry. We agree with its expressions of serious concern for the unacceptable levels of violence being perpetrated against the Syrian people.
Let us not forget that this is a sad chapter in Syria’s history, which began over 800 days ago with the Assad regime’s decision to meet peaceful protests with violence. Although the Assad regime has yet to grant the commission long overdue access to Syria, we applaud the commission’s tenacity in nonetheless continuing to document violations and abuses – excuse me – of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties.
On specifically the CW use and that question that you raised, Jo, we note the statement from the chair of the UN Commission of Inquiry who said, quote, “There are reasonable grounds to believe that limited quantities of toxic chemicals were used. It has not been possible on the evidence available to determine the precise chemical agents used, their delivery systems, or the perpetrator.” So we understand that the panel admitted that its findings remain inconclusive and note that as we have long said, a more comprehensive UN investigation is necessary in this case.
QUESTION: Jen, so just to make sure we’re all on the same page, how does that jive with what the United States has been saying so far?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me repeat what we’ve been saying so far – and we’re in the same place – which is that, as you know, a couple of weeks ago a letter was sent to Congress. In that letter – and I know you have all seen it and studied it closely – but it talked about varying degrees of the possibility of use. That’s not a direct quote; it’s a paraphrase, of course.
We are working with our allies, working with our international partners. We are encouraging to take a multilateral – we are continuing, I should say, to take a multilateral approach here, which means sharing information we have with the UN and their investigation, continuing to call for the regime to let UN investigators in, sharing information with our allies. As I mentioned, we’re, of course, not going to debate that or evaluate that in public, but these are all pieces that we continue to be focused on. There’s no update in terms of the U.S. and our conclusive decision in this process.
QUESTION: So as we, I think, remember then, basically the U.S. was saying – and you’re saying that that’s shared by most – that chemical weapons were used it appears, but you don’t know by whom?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the – I would send you to the direct quote from the letter, which unfortunately I don’t have in front of me. But it was varying degrees of certainty from intel assessments. And at the time – and let me just repeat this now – we said that we wanted to do due diligence to look into this more concretely to make sure we are certain about the facts. And that’s the phase that we are still in, of course, right now.
QUESTION: No final conclusions about --
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: -- who used them or under what circumstances?
MS. PSAKI: And the certainty of use. Exactly.
QUESTION: On this very point --
MS. PSAKI: I can’t give a timeline for you, unfortunately. This is something where we’re very focused on it, we’re doing everything we can to share facts, to acquire more information on the ground. There are some challenges, of course, including the fact that the regime says they have not used chemical weapons, but they continue to prevent the investigative body from going into the country. So there are those challenges, but we are sharing information with our allies and partners and we’re focused on confirming the facts.
QUESTION: Jen, how shocked were you by the statement from the commission which said that they believe that it was used by both parties? From this podium, yourself and your predecessor have said that it was a U.S. assessment that the opposition, the Free Syrian Army, did not have access to such weapons. This would seem to contradict that.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I’d point you to the fact that it was inconclusive overall, their entire assessment. We still continue – don’t believe that the opposition has the ability to, but this also isn’t the formal investigative body of the UN that is looking into these specific reports of use.
QUESTION: So just to – just one more to make sure that I’ve got it here. You’re saying “the certainty of use.” In other words, the U.S. even at this point is not certain that chemical weapons actually were used?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Jill, I would point you back to – we have a history, of course, on issues like this in the United States, and we all remember what happened around Iraq. This is an issue we take very seriously, the Secretary’s focused on, the President is focused on. We’re working closely with the UN and we want to make sure the facts are certain before we make a conclusion.
QUESTION: My impression was that actually the U.S. thought that it appeared that they had been used but it was not clear under what circumstances or by whom. So it’s not --
MS. PSAKI: Well, the language in the letter was very specific about basing this on intel assessments and varying degrees of certainly. I don’t think that – I don’t know if that’s an exact quote, but again, this is a case where we want to check every box and make sure we are doing everything possible to ascertain the facts before we make a conclusion.
QUESTION: But you’re ultimately dependent on other sources? You don’t have your own independent source on the use or the lack of use of chemical weapons as of yet?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are varying pieces of information that go into an assessment. I’m not going to go into that from here, but we don’t have anything new or any new update for you on our ascertain of use.
QUESTION: But it is assumed that the United States has a monitoring regime in place that can detect the use of chemical weapons in a sort of a massive way or in a way where hundreds of people are killed or wounded, doesn’t it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I will just reiterate the fact that we are working with our partners, we’re going through our own process. I’m not going to get into specifics of that, but I don’t have anything new for you today on our determination.
QUESTION: But the fact that it – the conclusion, as you – as – that was just talked about really does not point the finger to any particular party could conceivably allow for the accusation of this – the opposition or the regime, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been many accusations from all sides. We have – we remain firm in our belief that if there were use, that the use would be coming from the regime. We don’t have any reason to believe – there’s no new information on that that is coming from the opposition. But again, we’re still focused on seeing this process through, gathering facts, working with our allies, and I don’t have any new update for you on that.
QUESTION: On this point, lastly, does the U.S. really have any way of getting sort of physical, irrefutable evidence that it can analyze?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to go into that level of detail with you.
Jo, did you have a follow-up question?
QUESTION: Yes. The Administration – President Obama has said very clearly that he believes he use of chemical weapons would be a redline. I hear what you’re saying that you’re still making your own evaluation, but is it your assessment that we’re actually getting closer to some kind of redline here?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t want to grade where we are or where we are on any track or anything along those lines. It just goes farther than I’m comfortable going here. I will tell you that this is something the President, the Secretary, everybody who has a relevant role here, is focused on within the Administration.
QUESTION: One follow-up?
MS. PSAKI: Arshad.
QUESTION: And I apologize if I missed it, but in response to Said’s question about possible opposition use of chemical weapons, as suggested by the UN report, you began saying something, “I don’t believe we have any evidence.” Is it correct that you do not – that it is still the U.S. Government’s position that it does not believe that the opposition has used chemical weapons?
MS. PSAKI: Correct, yes.
MS. PSAKI: That position has not changed.
Syria or --
QUESTION: Yes, chemical weapons.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Does this change anything on the position of allowing the UN investigation committee to go to investigate only Khan al Assal or not?
MS. PSAKI: No, it does not. It doesn’t change anything regarding our position on that.
QUESTION: Have you been in touch with your contacts within the opposition about – specifically about this report that’s come out from Geneva?
MS. PSAKI: We’re in regular contact. I don’t have any updates on a new contact since this specific report this morning, but we are, of course, in regular contact about this and a number of other issues.
QUESTION: I mean, do you plan to actually put these allegations to them? It would seem if you’re trying to investigate, the one people you could go to – I mean, obviously it’s different from being on the ground and seeing the attack, but you would hope that your – the partners that you’re talking to within the opposition would be reliable and credible partners. That’s what you’re been trying to build.
MS. PSAKI: Of course, of course.
QUESTION: So have you --
MS. PSAKI: I am not aware of any discussions we’ve had about this specific report or any element of it, but we are in regular contact with them, of course, about a range of issues.
Jill. Oh, Syria?
QUESTION: Syria. Does it really matter for the U.S. Government whether the chemical weapon use large quantities or just small whether it killed hundreds of people or dozens of people?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I would point you back to the President and the Secretary’s statement about chemical weapons use. We’re not there yet, so I’m not going to speculate further on that.
More on Syria?
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MS. PSAKI: Syria? Okay.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry, he said yesterday, and I quote, “We come too late to this very difficult process”. Is he blaming anybody, anybody in the U.S. Government, the Administration, anyone? Is what he is saying implies some kind of blame?
MS. PSAKI: Well, thank you --
QUESTION: Why too late?
MS. PSAKI: Thank you for that question. He was certainly not attributing blame. I’ve spoken with him about this myself in the last 24 hours. His point was very simple: The regime has held a firm grip on Syria for 40 years and has used indiscriminate and disproportionate force against Syrian civilians and those who have taken up arms to demand their freedom, and however Russia and Iran’s tentacles into the country and their military support of the regime have complicated this path to a political solution.
Despite U.S. efforts, despite everything we’ve done – and I’ll just remind you that the President was one of the first, if not the first, to call for Assad to step down – the U.S. has been engaged and involved in helping the opposition in this conflict from the beginning. But there is a feeling, it’s challenging, it’s not easy. We’re dealing with a regime that is well-coordinated against an opposition that is still trying to coordinate and still trying to elect – expand their membership and elect leadership. And there is an aspect of it that is naturally feeling like catch-up, that you are trying to expedite a process that it may not be possible to expedite. And the Secretary was just reiterating the challenge that we all know this is with an opposition that has gone through lots of ups and downs over the past two-plus years.
QUESTION: But again --
QUESTION: Excuse me. But again, when he said “we,” “we come late,” it implies some blame, isn’t it?
MS. PSAKI: Again, he was referring to the fact that this has been challenging. It’s naturally been a difficult task to undertake given the fact that we are dealing with a group that is trying to confront and take down a regime that has been guilty of treacherous acts and treacherous activities. There have been many steps that have been taken in the past couple of months to help unite the opposition. We remain focused on that. A lot of those have happened just in the past couple of months and we’ve had a lot of fits and starts in this process. That’s not surprising; it’s a part of the process and something that we certainly understand.
QUESTION: Did you mean that he misspoke?
MS. PSAKI: No, not at all. I was just conveying to you what he was saying with his comment.
QUESTION: I still don’t understand what he – I mean, I’ve listened very carefully to your explanations and I still don’t get it. Yesterday, you suggested that he was using the royal we, by which I guess you would mean he was referring to himself alone; where most people would say I, he said we. That was your explanation yesterday. Today, you’ve given this very long statement that still doesn’t explain, I think, what he means by “We came to this to late,” t-o not t-o-o.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe – and I’ll look back at what I said – what I meant was the collective we, as in we, as the United States Government. And we’ve been going through this process, of course, with the opposition. There are a couple of components of this. It is true the Secretary himself has only been the Secretary for a couple of months. That’s something he has referred to a couple of times. There are a lot of actions that have been taking in the last couple of months, given where this process is.
What I was just reiterating today, after talking to him more about it, is the fact that over the last two years the U.S. has taken a number of steps. We were there from the beginning, but it’s been tough, it’s been challenging. And so we’re playing catch-up with an opposition. We’re playing catch-up in trying to get them united. The regime is united. Of course they are. They have been, given their regime. And that’s the challenge here.
QUESTION: Why did you talk to him about it?
QUESTION: What I still don’t get is --
QUESTION: Why did you talk to him about it?
MS. PSAKI: I just wanted to make sure I understood fully, as is my job, to communicate what he says.
QUESTION: But something – he felt or he said something was late, not this is difficult, not this is complicated, not this is horrible. He said something is late. And yesterday, I specifically asked you whether he was referring to the U.S. Government, and I believe you denied it. I mean, we can look at the transcript, but I believe I said – I asked you, well, does he mean that the United States is too – is late in this? And so I still don’t --
MS. PSAKI: I’m still not implying the U.S. is late to this. I’m implying it is --
QUESTION: You just said he was speaking as we, meaning the U.S. Government collectively. So the we now – yesterday, it was supposed to be the royal we. Today, it’s the collective U.S. Government we. But now it’s not anymore?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’re putting a lot – Arshad, I apologize. You’re putting a lot of words into my mouth. I’m conveying what the Secretary meant by his comments, which is, I believe, what the original question was. And I think you’re reading into something of it that it wasn’t meant to convey.
QUESTION: I’m just trying to understand what I think are not consistent explanations of what he was trying to convey, and I don’t think they have been consistent. It may be he misspoke, and one can accept that. But if he didn’t misspeak, then somebody ought to try to explain what the term “late” refers to.
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me try again and see if we can work through it together this time. I said yesterday that the Secretary has only been in office – has only been in his position for a couple of months. He’s said that several times when I’ve been with him in private meetings. He may have said it publicly as well. That’s something he speaks often about.
I discussed more in depth with him what he was implying. And what he was implying by this was the fact that this has been a challenging process. This is one where the opposition has been working through a lot of difficulties over the past couple of years – I won’t bore you with walking you through all of those unless anybody would like me to do that – and that there is an aspect of catch-up that happens here with working to get the opposition in a place where they can confront the regime. So we feel late to the game, late to the process. It’s something where we’re playing catch-up and we’re working closely with the opposition to try to get themselves in a place where they can confront the regime in an appropriate way.
QUESTION: So if we were to quantify --
QUESTION: Catch up on what (inaudible)?
QUESTION: If we were to quantify --
MS. PSAKI: Well, catch-up in meaning there’s been a regime that, of course, has been united from the beginning. They’ve had help from Iran, from Hezbollah, from Russia. The opposition, at the same time, has been working to even just expand and elect their leadership. We’re not surprised by the challenge and how hard this has been, but because of that, they don’t have the same infrastructure and unity that their opponents and the regime has. And this is an additional challenge to being the opposition and to working with the opposition as we are.
QUESTION: But I think we did talk about this some time ago when we were talking about the June 30th Geneva 1, which was signed nearly a year ago now --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. It was. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- given that we’re on the 4th of June now. So an 11-and-a-half-month-old agreement which hasn’t gone anywhere and we’re now trying to revive. And I asked you at the point, was there – at that point, was there a sense that we’d almost wasted a year because there’s been a year of fighting now, that we see Assad’s regime has actually managed to consolidate gains on the ground. So in some ways, although the opposition politically might be more cohesive and in a better place, on the ground, on the fighting, they’re probably not. So was that perhaps what the Secretary was referring to when he says we come to this late?
MS. PSAKI: I think he was referring – he was referring to the fact that this has been challenging. There are a lot of factors that lead into that, right? It’s not been an easy process. There aren’t black and white answers. And you’re right; Geneva was signed now almost exactly a year ago. It’s taken us nearly a year to come back to really restarting that and restarting that process, which is what we’re focused on now.
But you can’t look back at the history of what the U.S. has done here, including being the first to call on Assad to step aside in August of 2011, co-sponsoring multiple UN Security Council resolutions. I know many of them did not pass. Continuing supporting for a period of time, which was part of the process post-Geneva, the three Bs’ conversations and the various meetings they had, which we were very hopeful about at the time.
So because we’ve spent a lot of time working to get to a place where we can have a political transition, where we can have the right people in place with the opposition, and we’re working against a regime that’s continuing to get help from the outside, that’s continuing to get help from foreign fighters from Iran and from others. And that’s challenging. And that’s what he was conveying with his remarks. Perhaps he’ll give a longer answer next time so everybody feels comfortable on what he was saying.
Go ahead, Arshad.
QUESTION: Just one thing. I’m looking back at the transcript and I realize – and I was quite convinced that you had agreed with Nicole’s characterization of his using the royal we, but looking back at it, I don’t see that. So I take that back.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Thank you for that.
QUESTION: But I was convinced that you had said – that you had sort of agreed with her characterization of the royal we. You did, however, say we, collective we, meaning the – let me find the exact quote, but – yes, here it is. 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. So --
MS. PSAKI: That remains true.
QUESTION: Right. So I guess the question is: Is, ultimately, what he’s trying to say is that he, as Secretary of State, has come into this only recently? Was that what he was trying to convey?
MS. PSAKI: That’s part of it, yes.
QUESTION: And is the rest of it – because here you said we, the United States – but the United States existed prior to his becoming Secretary of State --
MS. PSAKI: That is true historically, yes.
QUESTION: -- and hopefully will continue beyond.
MS. PSAKI: I hope so too.
QUESTION: And you just said that the United States has been there since the beginning, and you pointed out that the President was among the, if not the first major world leader --
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- to call for Assad to go. So if the point that he’s come to it recently, what is the point about the United States? Because the United States has existed since the beginning of this violence, so I don’t understand what it means there, except for it to mean that the United States maybe should have done more earlier.
MS. PSAKI: I can just convey to you that I’ve spoken with him about this. I know there are lots of different beliefs on what he and others feel in the Administration, and what I’ve already conveyed is what he was trying to convey yesterday.
QUESTION: So there wasn’t an implied criticism of previous U.S. policy? Is that what you’re saying?
MS. PSAKI: No, there was not. We’ve obviously picked that up in the past couple of months, but we can’t forget the challenges and the reasons why we’ve made the choices throughout the process we have. If you remember Khatib, who I know is no longer the head of opposition but wasn’t elected until just over a year ago – I believe that’s correct – and al-Nusrah and the extremist elements that we’ve been very concerned about and that have raised concern both in the U.S. and among our allies, they were not even formed or officially announced until, I believe, about a year and a half ago.
So there’s been a lot of stages in this process. No question it’s been challenging. Yes, he feels we need to do more, we need to continue to do more, and he’s been talking with our international allies about that.
QUESTION: Okay. One question. I just wanted to follow up --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- to earlier question that the Syrian regime is more powerful on the ground comparing last year. This is not correct. As we all know, the Syrian opposition got most of the part starting last July. So I think we need to clarify that.
My second question is that the Hezbollah – it looks like, according to news reports, now reaching out to Aleppo. It’s 4,000 fighters. My question is: What’s your response?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me say something about your first comment. Obviously, there have been recent gains that we’ve seen. The opposition, you’re right, has made gains over the course of the last year-plus. It’s hard to define that by timelines, but I think that’s a fair point.
In the second question you raised, there’s been a lot of focus, of course, on Qusayr and the tragic actions that are happening there. That remains of great concern. We didn’t talk about this yesterday, but I would point you also, on that note, just to the ongoing humanitarian issues that are happening there, the – Ban Ki-moon and others have called for the regime to allow for humanitarian workers in and for individuals to be let out, and that has not happened.
In terms of other places where Hezbollah had been active, I’ve seen reports, of course. The reason I raised Qusayr is that it’s not the only place where they have been active. That’s one of the reasons it’s so concerning and one of the reasons we remain focused on watching it.
QUESTION: And are you calling on Hezbollah to leave the country?
MS. PSAKI: Of course, as we have before.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) matter whether you are calling or not, or can you tell me one instance that U.S. Government said and called on Syrian regime or Hezbollah or Iran to do something or not to do something and we have seen that they heeded your call?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not equipped to give you a history of Hezbollah and Iran from here, but --
QUESTION: In the last two years. I am not talking about the --
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just reiterate why we made the strong call we did. We wanted to send a message that this is of great concern – the addition and the growth of foreign fighters, including, of course, Hezbollah as the most prominent example. We’re sending a message to our allies, we’re sending a message to the opposition, we’re sending a message to other countries and foreign fighters in the region. So it has multiple reasons and purposes. It wasn’t – the anticipation was not an immediate cost – I mean, immediate call-and-response scenario.
QUESTION: The question is a little broader.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: In the last two years, I am just trying to recall, if you can help me, tell me one instance that the U.S. Government called on Syrian regime or Hezbollah or Iran to do something and they did.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I know we did a call about Hezbollah last Friday. I’m happy to get you the transcript of that and steps we’ve taken. I’m not going to get into a history lesson from up here.
QUESTION: Just a very quick clarification. You’re also calling on the other foreign fighters that are on the side of the opposition to pull out?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. Go ahead.
QUESTION: The Free Syrian Army just a few minutes ago announced that they are planning to shift or transfer the fights and the crisis into Lebanon because of the intervention of Hezbollah. What do you have on this?
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen those reports since I came down here. Obviously, we remain concerned about all sides – of the overflow from any side going into other countries.
QUESTION: A few weeks, they already announced the same statement.
MS. PSAKI: And I believe we said at the time that we respect the sovereignty of Lebanon and we believe that the fighting – we wish that the fighting would not overflow into other neighboring countries.
QUESTION: What if this happened?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to speculate on a report I haven’t yet seen, but I’m happy to look into it and we can talk later today or again tomorrow about it.
MS. PSAKI: More on Syria? Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask if you were aware of the comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin today who said that Moscow has so far held back on delivering the S-300 missiles to the Syrian regime. There’s been some back and forth as to whether they arrived or whether they haven’t arrived. The Russian President now seems to be saying that they haven’t delivered it and then going to hold back on it. What is your understanding of the situation?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new update on that. I know there have been, to your point, a lot of back-and-forth comments on whether they have or haven’t been, but I just don’t have any new information on the accuracy from here.
QUESTION: So the Russians – what was the outcome of the talks between Secretary Kerry and Secretary – Foreign Minister Lavrov in Paris? Was there a promise made at that point from Minister Lavrov that Russia would not be delivering these on schedule?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into that level of specificity, but I would point you to the fact that the Secretary said yesterday that he had recently, I believe over the weekend, spoken with the Foreign Minister again about this issue and expressed his concern and his concern that this was potentially poking a prod in the eye of progress here – those aren’t his words, those are mine. But – and the concern we share with the London 11 and number of our allies about the impact the delivery would have on moving the process forward.
QUESTION: But you can’t verify one way or the other if they have been delayed or not?
MS. PSAKI: I cannot. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Could you --
QUESTION: Are you pleased by what Lavrov is reported to have said – that what Putin is reported to have said, that they will hold off on the deliveries?
MS. PSAKI: Well, if it’s true and it’s confirmed – the reports are confirmed, certainly we would be pleased if the missiles were not delivered, but I don’t have any confirmation on that.
QUESTION: Jen, can you share with us the status of the preparations for Geneva? Where do we stand now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as we speak, Under Secretary Sherman and Acting Assistant Secretary Beth Jones are on their way to Geneva to meet with Russian counterparts as well as representatives from the UN. I expect they’ll discuss the agenda, participants, all of those issues. I don’t know that it will be conclusive. I wouldn’t anticipate that. But that is the next step in the process.
QUESTION: Do you have a preliminary, at least, list? A preliminary list of who should or might or might not attend?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t. But that’s a new way of asking that question. So I do have --
QUESTION: Who might be or not invited?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I don’t have any update on that for you. I know there is great, great interest in this – to be expected. But it’s a part of the agenda and part of the discussion tomorrow and in ongoing conversations.
QUESTION: Quickly follow up.
QUESTION: Sorry to have missed this, who’s attending on the Russian side in these talks with Wendy Sherman?
MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have that, Jo. If not, I’m happy to get it to you right after the briefing. I believe we may have put a media note out about it. If not, I’ll get you the name of the Russian counterpart.
QUESTION: Is it really reasonable to assume that the Geneva conference could actually take place before the President of the United States Barack Obama and the President of Russia Putin meet in Ireland on the 17th and 18th of this month?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we will see. The – one of the steps that needs to happen, of course, is for the opposition to elect leadership so that we know who we will be working with and who we will be discussing the participation and the agenda and every other important aspect of this conference with. That hasn’t happened yet. They’re working on it, but I don’t have a prediction of when.
So – and I would just point you to, I talked about this a little bit yesterday, but just the fact that, of course, we want this to happen soon. And if we could have this meeting tomorrow, the Secretary would be sitting right next to Under Secretary Sherman on the plane. But we know there are components that need to be in place to make sure the conversation is ripe to happen.
MS. PSAKI: On Syria?
QUESTION: Yes. On the same --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: If you want to use another term than late that the Secretary has used, what word do you use?
MS. PSAKI: Challenging.
QUESTION: On --
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
MS. PSAKI: Challenging time. Challenging process.
QUESTION: Another topic?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. Syria or another topic?
MS. PSAKI: Syria one – okay.
QUESTION: Is Ambassador Ford still in Istanbul working with opposition, or is he back?
MS. PSAKI: He is back. I don’t know what his next travel schedule is, but I believe he’s hitting the road again soon to continue to work on this.
QUESTION: He’s not going to Geneva with Under Secretary Sherman?
MS. PSAKI: No. They’ll be going and meeting with their Russian and UN counterparts.
MS. PSAKI: Egypt.
QUESTION: Yesterday during a meeting the President, a group of political leaders, they suggested – the meeting was about the crisis with Ethiopia – and they suggested that they could – Egypt could strike – air strike the new project – the dam project in Ethiopia. And they suggested some other ideas of – military intervening with Ethiopia and this kind of stuff. So I would like to know your comment about it.
MS. PSAKI: I believe we’ve spoken about this recently – not this specific issue. I just – I haven’t seen those reports, so I don’t have anything new for you on it. I know there’s probably other questions related to Egypt I would bet today.
QUESTION: In fact, there’s one right here.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Jill.
QUESTION: NGOs? Now that the guilty verdicts and sentences – some of them were suspended – but they have been handed down against the NGOs. And we had the reaction from Secretary Kerry. I’d like still for you to give us a little more detail.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: But at the bottom he says, I urge the Government of Egypt to work with civic groups as they – as appropriate checks on the government, et cetera. But what is the U.S., if anything, going to do, because this is deeply concerning as the Secretary himself said it. It deals with Americans; it deals with organizations that are funded by the United States. So what is the U.S. response going to be?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just start by reiterating, there should be a statement from the Secretary in all of your inboxes, but let me just reiterate that the United States is deeply concerned by the guilty verdicts and sentences, including the suspended sentences handed down by an Egyptian court today against 43 NGO representatives in what was a politically motivated trial. The decision runs contrary to the universal principle of freedom of association. The decision to close these organizations offices and seize their assets contradicts the Government of Egypt’s own commitments to support the role of civil society as a fundamental actor in a democracy and contributor to development, especially at this critical stage in Egypt’s transition to democracy.
We’ve spoken quite a bit about NGOs. This is one component of it. Bear with me for 30 seconds where I just give a little bit of history to folks here on kind of what happened here.
So in July of 2011, the Government of Egypt cracked down on civil society groups, in part those with foreign funding, of course which the U.S. had a number of representatives. In December 2011, Egyptian prosecutors raided the premises of seven international and Egyptian civil society organizations. And in February of 2012, charters were filed against 43 NGO employees, including 16 Americans. Today was, of course, the verdict that came out in that case. We are raising this issue with the Government of Egypt at senior levels in Washington and in Cairo. We have long said that the Government of Egypt should resolve outstanding issues with the United States on a government to government basis.
Separately – separate issue but related – is of course the NGO law, and we’ve spoken about this a bit recently, but let me just reiterate the fact that we didn’t find the recent draft to be acceptable either in that regard. Beyond that, Jill, you may have other – I’m sure others have follow-up questions.
QUESTION: Well, the thing that we went through this last time all of this happened, I think back at the end of the year, was there was money from Congress pending. What’s the status of that? Is there any movement to hold back funds from Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: There’s nothing to update on at this point, and I wouldn’t want to speculate on that. Congress, of course, has a great deal of power in that regard, so I’m sure they all have quite a bit to say.
But let me just reiterate why we do provide funding in various forms to Egypt. We recognize that much work needs to be done on their democratic transition. This is something that the Secretary raised with the President just last week, so as recently as last week. And we will continue to press the government on specific aspects of that at all levels. But our assistance to Egypt reflects mutual interests in addressing regional security concerns that have helped maintain peace and security in the region for 30 years. And we believe that the Egyptian people deserve the benefit of a lot of these programs and a lot of these aid efforts that we have provided to date.
QUESTION: Can I just check – sorry – you said the Secretary raised this issue with the President just last week – President Obama?
MS. PSAKI: I didn’t – he – sorry, President Morsy.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: So he spoke with Morsy last week?
MS. PSAKI: He met with him last week when he was in Ethiopia. I guess it was about a week and a half ago. Sorry, a week and a half ago. And I didn’t mean the specific issue of this case. I meant, broadly, their need to continue to do more to improve their democratic transition.
QUESTION: Can I ask you for some kind of specific, concrete details? So we’ve got 43 Egyptian and foreign NGO workers who were given various jail terms.
MS. PSAKI: Sixteen Americans.
QUESTION: Sixteen Americans. And the one – there was one American who was in the country who was present at the trial. And can you confirm their identities? Is this Nancy Okail from the Freedom House?
MS. PSAKI: We can’t because of privacy concerns. As you know and has been reported, the vast majority of Americans have left the country and long ago left the country.
QUESTION: And so what is going to be the follow-up now for the one American who is facing a five-year jail term in Egypt and also those who’ve been given suspended sentences who are out of the country, and fines as well?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this obviously remains an issue we’re very focused on, both here in Washington as well as in Cairo. And naturally in Cairo, we will continue to raise it, as we already have today, with the Government of Egypt at senior levels.
QUESTION: Is there an intention for – sorry. Is there an intention for those – so 15, I guess, Americans who have been given fines for them to pay the money?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have that level of specificity. Obviously, we’re opposed to the verdict and did not find it to be-- we’re deeply concerned by it.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Arshad. Go ahead.
QUESTION: So to go back to Jill’s question, nothing in the Secretary’s statement which you read refers to any possible consequence to Egypt for what the Secretary described as a politically motivated trial with a result that is incompatible with the transition to democracy. Will there be any consequences, in terms of U.S. policy or funding or any other stance the U.S. Government takes for Egypt, for what the Secretary regards as a very flawed outcome here?
MS. PSAKI: You’re right. He does feel that it’s very flawed and has great concerns about it. The reason I wanted to talk a little bit about our funding and what we’ve provided is that it has a number of purposes, including being critical to our national security interests and the security in the region. So there’s nothing further to report or tell you on future funding. I don’t want to speculate on that from here.
QUESTION: It sounds like what you’re trying to do, though, is to imply that the funding won’t be cut off because it is for other purposes. Is that what you’re trying to suggest?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to get ahead of where we are. These – obviously this is a new verdict. There’s nothing new to report to you on plans at this stage.
QUESTION: And then of the funding – I mean, there are – Egypt, as you well know, is a very large recipient of U.S. assistance and has been since the Camp David Accords. And the biggest chunk is the 1.3 million, which is for military purposes. Then I think there’s another 255 million each year, which is primarily economic assistance. And then outside of that, as I recall, there is $455 million, I think, that was appropriated after the Arab Spring as a way to try to help Egypt. And as I recall when we were in Cairo, the Secretary announced the release of 190 of that, but suggested that the release of the rest would depend on Egypt reaching an agreement with the IMF and possibly other things.
To ask the question this way, I think the Secretary himself has suggested in public that it makes it harder to make the case with his colleagues, his former colleagues on the Hill, that U.S. taxpayers should be giving Egypt money when the Egyptian Government is not doing the things the U.S. Government would like to see it do on economic reform or, frankly, on civil society. Would you – is that the case here, that this is likely to make it harder for you to get Congress to agree to give the Egyptians more of – not of the security money and not even of the 255 annual, but of the money that was specially set aside after the Arab Spring?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to speculate on the motivations or views of Congress. I would venture to assume many of them are as displeased with this verdict as the Secretary as we all are. And you’re right. He has made that point in the past and does very much believe that, that Egypt can help itself by taking steps to put in place economic reforms, to be able to get that IMF money and get that IMF loan, and that there is more they need to do on their democratic transition. He’s not the only individual who feels that way in the U.S. Government, and I’m sure many members will have lots to say.
QUESTION: Is it – and one last one, if I may. Is it fair to say that Egypt is simply too strategically important to the U.S. Government for the U.S. Government to cut back any of its assistance to the Egyptian Government?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to speculate on decisions that will or won’t be made, whether they’re by Congress or by people in this building, because that’s a broad amount of speculation. But it is true that there is a strategic interest here, that there is a national security interest here in supporting and keeping the region stable. That’s part of the funding that has been provided.
MS. PSAKI: Egypt? Oh, did you have one on Egypt?
QUESTION: Egypt. Yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just – sorry. Just to go back to the technicalities of the legal process, were – was the person who was – the American who was present in the court, was he or she represented by anyone from the U.S. Embassy? Did they have consular assistance?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of specificity. That is something we regularly make available, but I don’t have anything – any update on that for you.
QUESTION: Do you know whether they will be in a position to be able to – whether that person and any of the others, actually, will be in a position to appeal? I mean, is there an appellate court from this or is it just a – is that it?
MS. PSAKI: That’s just something I’ll have to look into for you, kind of the next legal step. I’m happy to do that. These verdicts, as you know, are still fresh, so I’ll look into that and we’ll see if we can get a note --
QUESTION: And have you had contact since the verdicts were handed down with the government, with your counterparts in Cairo?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. Yes, at a high level, with officials – with the Government of Egypt, both from Cairo and from Washington.
QUESTION: Any calls by the Secretary on it.
MS. PSAKI: Nothing to report on that.
QUESTION: Does that mean no? Or that means maybe, but you can’t say.
MS. PSAKI: None that I’m aware of by the Secretary.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: I can’t get into any other level of specificity about the other calls.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Yes, go ahead.
QUESTION: More than one time, you stressed the word strategic and national interest, and I understand that, but is it means that to ignore the other side, which is when you are mentioning the principles of human rights and principle of civil society and participation and NGOs. I’m just trying to figure out this.
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not. Our statement and the Secretary’s statement were very strong in expressing deep concern about these verdicts, and the Secretary raised those issues with President Morsy just 10 days ago – not last week – so a week and a half ago, when he spoke with him. They’re issues that we remain concerned about. A lot of the funding does go, as Arshad mentioned, to – for national security purposes, but we, of course, are – remain concerned about human rights issues and, of course, the treatment of NGOs in Egypt.
QUESTION: The other question: The word “deeply concerned” is used many times today and in other related issues, when the NGO laws or whatever. The expression came out of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Germany was they are outraged. What is the difference between – from your perspective, between outraged and deeply concerned?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to get to parsing adjectives.
QUESTION: Well, about Germany anyway. I just read the English version.
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, when you have a statement from the Secretary expressing great concern about this, you have officials from the government here, both in Cairo and Washington, expressing concern to the government. We also have, of course, Americans who were a part of this verdict. This is something we’re very focused on. I wouldn’t parse or rank who’s more concerned than the other. Many governments, actually, have expressed great concern using different adjectives and different words. But I can assure you this is something we’re focused on.
QUESTION: Something related, because when you talk about NGOs and the main principles of the NGOs mentioned today in the Secretary’s statement – when you say it last week, a few days later, the Foreign Ministry of Egypt released almost like a counterpoint, which is simply repeating what you are saying and saying we are already taking care of all these things, and the only thing that they add, that it’s none their business. I mean, it’s like internal affairs and interfering. We don’t understand interference.
MS. PSAKI: Are you referring to the comments about the NGO laws and the new draft of the NGO --
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. The statement that you came out with on Friday, saying these are the main principles of NGO laws and how you read it and how you evaluate it and --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’ll just – I would point you to what I said, which is that we have remaining concerns about the recent draft and the limitations it would place. Those are our concerns. They’re pretty specific. And we, of course, want to make sure that American citizens who are working for NGOs, but also Egyptians who are benefiting from the work of international NGOs, whether they’re American or not, are able to benefit and they’re not held to kind of undue requirements and restrictions.
QUESTION: And just one point, just – excuse me – I mean, I’m trying to figure out: Do you consider what is said here as Egyptians are describing it, as an interference in their internal affairs?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly not. This is a case where, again, we have had a number of Americans who have worked for NGOs serving in Egypt, helping the Egyptian people. We feel there’s a universal benefit to that and there is no reason for the law to be as it stands.
More on Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: So during the meeting between Secretary Kerry and President Morsy, how did the President react to those concerns?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to the Government of Egypt for that. I can only speak to what we raised and expressed from our end.
QUESTION: I mean he – I mean, it was a positive reaction? I mean, he was – he take it in – he got it in concern that the United States having those – expressing this concern about the --
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t want to characterize on their behalf. I will tell you that a portion of their meeting, just so you know for your own reporting, was one on one as well. So I wasn’t there for the entire portion of the meeting to even see that, even if I could share it with you.
QUESTION: Okay. Another question. Yesterday, an Egyptian court – there is one of the young leaders of the opposition, he was sentenced to six months in prison for insulting the President. So do you have any comment about that?
MS. PSAKI: I do. We are deeply concerned by the growing trend of efforts to punish and deter political expression in Egypt. Numerous individuals, including journalists, bloggers, and activists, have been detained and some are being charged and put on trial for allegedly defaming government figures. We believe that charges and convictions such as these are inconsistent with Egypt’s international obligations, do not reflect international standards regarding freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, particularly in a democratic society, and they represent a step backward in Egypt’s democratic transition.
MS. PSAKI: More on Egypt? Egypt? One more on Egypt.
MS. PSAKI: No. Okay. New topic.
QUESTION: Another one.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead. You’ve been very patient.
QUESTION: I have a question about Iran. Reuters is reporting that Secretary Kerry is expected to announce an extension of exemptions on several countries buying oil from Iran. Can you tell us if this round, they’ve been – they have cut more or if it’s at the same level, and how satisfied the U.S. is with those countries cutting this trade with Iran?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything for you on that. There hasn’t been a final decision, a signature done here, so I don’t want to get ahead of where we are in the process.
QUESTION: Change topic --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Secretary Kerry made a speech before the American Jewish Committee making a case for the need to speed up the peace process. Has he had any talks afterwards with the Prime Minister of Israel or the leaders of the Palestinians?
MS. PSAKI: Following the speech last night, I don’t believe he’s had any calls with them. Just to reiterate the speech that he gave yesterday at the AJC, he spoke yesterday, he gave – delivered a message he’s been delivering while he’s been in the Middle East. He talked about how what happens now will dictate what happens in the coming decade – decades, I should say – and if we do not make tough decisions now, we may not get another chance. And he actually, near the end of the speech – remarks yesterday, he did a call to action for the American Jewish community to engage very directly in this effort and reiterated the importance of the role that they play.
But there are no updates on calls following the speech.
QUESTION: I want to ask you about what you just said.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: He said that we may not get another chance. Could you elaborate on this point?
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: What does he mean by that?
MS. PSAKI: He’s talked about how this is a – we’re at a pivotal time, both in this process and in the need to move forward in bringing both sides back to the table and back to the path – to move toward a path to peace. That’s something you know he’s very focused on. When he says we may not get another chance, he’s talking about the fact that there are issues regarding regional stability, there are issues regarding what is possible on both sides. And that’s why he feels time is of the essence and this is something we need to focus on now.
QUESTION: Has he held any meetings, official meetings, with Tzipi Livni, the Minister of Justice who was assigned to the peace negotiation talks?
MS. PSAKI: I believe he saw her yesterday. I don’t have anything more formal on how long they were able to speak, though.
QUESTION: And lastly, are there any plans to sort of host the Palestinian-Israeli negotiators in this building anytime soon?
MS. PSAKI: No plans that I’m aware of.
QUESTION: Can I just ask --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: You also mentioned that he would be going back to the region in the coming days. Do you have anything to announce on scheduling or travel?
MS. PSAKI: Not at this time. He hasn’t firmed up plans. A trip to the Middle East next week is possible, but at this point, I don’t have anything formal to announce for you.
QUESTION: And by the Middle East, you mean Israel and the Palestinian territories?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, it’s – again, something that isn’t planned yet, so it’s speculating, but --
QUESTION: But it’s possible?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What’s your assessment as of today? I think protests are still going on in some cities.
MS. PSAKI: They are. We continue, of course, to follow the events in Turkey closely and with great concern. I would also point you to the fact that there have been broad concerns expressed by our allies and many leaders in the region about what is happening there. We talked about this a little bit yesterday, but let me just reiterate that we’re very concerned about the excessive use of force by police in several instances and endorse calls for a full investigation. And we also welcome the efforts by President Gul and others to calm the situation. We’re hopeful that that will have an impact on the country and think that’s a positive step.
And finally – and I know you’ve asked about this, Arshad, and others have as well – the Secretary – I’m not sure if the call has happened yet, but he was scheduled to speak with Foreign Minister Davutoglu this afternoon. I expect they’ll talk about a range of issues including Syria, where they work very closely together on, but also – the Secretary will also express his concerns about police actions in Turkey and some of the reports we’ve seen from on the ground.
QUESTION: It’s going to be the first phone conversation between the highest levels between two countries?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been – our Ambassador, of course, in Turkey has been in close touch at the – at high levels with Turkish authorities, so it depends on how you define that. For the Secretary, yes, this is the first call – he’ll be expressing this with the Foreign Minister.
QUESTION: It’s the first call since the riots, in other words?
MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. I’d have to check if they spoke over the past couple of days, but this is one of the topics he wanted to discuss with him today.
QUESTION: Can you make sure that either we here get a readout or that the travelers on the road --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- get a readout when that has happened?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Do you believe that – looking back over the past four days, do you believe that the Turkish Government has been very heavy-handed in quelling the demonstrations?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to make an evaluation of that. There’s going to be, of course, an investigation. We have expressed great concern about what we’ve seen as excessive use of force by police on the ground. They’ll be looking into that. We encourage all parties to encourage calm in the country, but I don’t want to make an evaluation like that from here.
QUESTION: So you have consistently called for people’s right to demonstrate and so on --
MS. PSAKI: Of course.
QUESTION: -- peaceably and so on, but in fact, the Turkish Government is accusing those who are demonstrating of being traitors or being foreign agents and so on.
MS. PSAKI: Yes, I’ve seen those reports, and we would encourage all Turkish authorities to focus on calling for calm, and an effort – focus their efforts on bringing about that in the country.
QUESTION: And today, Deputy Prime Minister, who is acting as a Prime Minister since the Prime Minister’s out of country, criticized Mr. Kerry and U.S. stance, and especially he said that the – making parallel between Arab Spring and what’s going on in Turkey is wrong and --
MS. PSAKI: I would have to look more closely at his exact comments, but I would stick firmly with where we are, which is a belief that people have the right to peacefully protest, a concern about what we’ve seen in terms of some cases of excessive use of force, a call for an investigation and encouragement of all leaders there to call for calm.
QUESTION: Can I ask one more on this?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Other than the calls by Ambassador Ricciardone, have there been any other calls, for example, by the relevant Assistant Secretary or Under Secretary Sherman or Deputy Secretary Burns to Turkish officials about this? Or to your knowledge, it has all been the Ambassador to Turkish authorities, and then now, prospectively, the Secretary’s call?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the information I have available is the Secretary’s call, which I mentioned, and the – I mentioned the Ambassador and other Embassy officials. I don’t have reports of other calls. I don’t want to tell you they definitively haven’t happened at this stage. I’m happy to look into that more closely for you.
QUESTION: Would you mind?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: And another subject, over the past few days there have been several cases of Americans in difficulty – serious difficulty abroad. One of them was the – in Mexico where the Marine was, and his family – his father and his uncle – were kidnapped. And then there is also this case of an American, David Barnes, Wisconsin businessman, murdered in Jamaica this past weekend. And specifically on that, can you tell us what the State Department is doing in terms of helping with any investigation, assisting the family, et cetera? And on the Mexico thing, is there increasing concern about the danger that some Americans might be facing in Mexico?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me take the first question about Jamaica that you posed first. We can confirm the death of U.S. citizen David Barnes in Jamaica on June 1st. The Embassy is in contact with his family and is providing consular assistance. Although the Embassy is monitoring the progress of the investigation, local authorities have the lead on investigating this incident. And out of the respect for the family, we just don’t have further details on the status of that at this time.
QUESTION: Can I – one small thing on that?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Was the David Barnes in question a Wisconsin businessman?
QUESTION: Yes. Oh, sorry. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Jill is ready to hop up here.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have his bio in front of me. That was the report of a U.S. citizen, so –
Oh, and Jill, sorry. Your second question was about Mexico and – I’m sorry, was it about the –
QUESTION: Just in general whether the U.S. – whether the State Department is increasingly concerned about the welfare of Americans who go to Mexico. And this man apparently was kidnapped. What’s the level of concern?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just confirm for you as well that the FBI is investigating Mr. Torres’s kidnapping, and the U.S. Consulate General is working with the Mexican authorities to obtain more information. In terms of the investigation, I would refer you, of course, to the FBI.
We do put out regular travel warnings – in Mexico, they’re actually state-specific – which provide information and recommendations to U.S. citizens. I would encourage you to take a look at that. They’re available on our website. Beyond that, I don’t want to lead to any conclusion about what this means. This is a case that the FBI is, of course, looking into more deeply to determine the details.
QUESTION: Jen, in that vein, there are reports in India that an American woman was raped.
MS. PSAKI: In that specific report, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi is in contact with local authorities. But due to privacy considerations, we also don’t have any further comment or confirmation of any of the details.
QUESTION: So there – so an Embassy official hasn’t been able to meet with –
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any – given privacy considerations at this time, I don’t have any further details for you.
QUESTION: Jordan. Could you tell us anything about the deployment of Patriot missile batteries in Jordan?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we talked about this a bit yesterday, and I believe I supplied you with all of the information I probably have on it. But did you have a further question about it?
QUESTION: Well, I do because the Russian Foreign Minister today criticized the American move quite – very, very strongly. Do you have any reaction to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Jordan is a close ally. This is a regular exercise that’s being led by DOD. I would just reiterate what I said yesterday, that there hasn’t been any decision made about whether any equipment will stay there. That remains the case as far as I’m aware today.
MS. PSAKI: North Korea?
QUESTION: Yes. After North Korea sent envoy to Beijing, you said you were going to talk with Chinese officials about the visit. And Reuters reported that China tried to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear tests, but North Korea obviously didn’t agree with it. During your conversation with China, have they ever indicated they would send this signal to North Korea?
MS. PSAKI: Can you just repeat – I’m sorry – the beginning of your conversation with – or your question? Sorry.
QUESTION: China tried – during the North Korea envoy visit to Beijing, China tried to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear tests. Do you have any comment on it?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t. Obviously, we remain – the United States and China share the view that denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula is essential if we are to move forward in any diplomatic process with North Korea. That’s an issue that we work closely with them on. I’m sure it will be an issue discussed this weekend and moving forward. But beyond that, I don’t have anything further.
I saw one more in the back, and then we’ll wrap this up.
QUESTION: One more follow-up on that.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: If China failed to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons, how confident are you about denuclearizing North Korea?
MS. PSAKI: Well, China is working with the U.S. and other members in continuing to press North Korea to abide by their international obligations, including the September 2005 joint statement of the Six-Party Talks. We remain focused on pressing North Korea, as do, of course, the Chinese, and we have a shared goal of a denuclearized peninsula.
Okay. We’ll do one more in the back. And in the white, I think you were patient in the back. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I’ll be quick. I promise. Regarding – I wonder if you have more details regarding acting Under Secretary Countryman’s travel to Asia and if this has something to do with the fact-finding efforts of nonproliferation regarding all your import reduction from Iran since Japan, Korea, and China are three out of the four largest Iranian buyers in Asia. And it seems that NDAA – under NDAA, the 180 days exemption is going to expire soon.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you on that. If there was a media note on travel or anything along those lines, we will venture to get that to you.
Thank you very much, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:31 p.m.)
DPB # 91