The video is available with closed captioning on YouTube.
1:12 p.m. EDT
This is a statement on the 43rd OAS General Assembly meeting, which some of you attended. The United States welcomes the Declaration of Antigua, Guatemala, “For a Comprehensive Policy Against the World Drug Problem in the Americas,” adopted by consensus at the 43rd General Assembly of the Organization of American States. This declaration reaffirms the commitment of the nations of the hemisphere to work in partnership to strengthen the rule of law, stem the flow of illegal drugs, and engage in best practices with regard to prevention, rehabilitation, and treatment of our citizens affected by drug addiction and abuse.
In addition, the United States also welcomes the election of the U.S. candidate James Cavallaro, professor at Stanford Law School, who will make a significant contribution to the independent and respected Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a founding pillar of the Western Hemisphere’s human rights architecture. The election of Professor Cavallaro, Jose de Jesus Orozco of Mexico, and Pablo de Tarso Vanucchi of Brazil is an affirmation of the core values of the OAS to promote and defend human rights in the Americas.
Finally, the United States is committed to supporting the Organization of American States and advancing its essential role as the hemisphere’s premier multilateral organization. We congratulate the Government of Guatemala for its successful hosting of the General Assembly and the leadership of the OAS for its work in supporting democracy, advancing hemispheric security, fostering development, and promoting and protecting human rights throughout the Americas.
With that --
QUESTION: You don’t have anything else?
MS. PSAKI: That is what I have at the top. I can keep talking if you would like.
QUESTION: No. I’m just curious if there’s no travel, no nothing like that to announce on a Friday?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any travel to announce --
MS. PSAKI: -- at this moment. As anything becomes finalized, I’m sure we’ll share that with all of you first.
QUESTION: All right. Can I just briefly, before people go on to other things, follow up on a question that I asked yesterday and you put out a readout of it, which was welcome but not surprisingly lacking in – completely lacking in substance, essentially, about the meeting with Bahrain.
The question that I asked, as you may recall, was whether the Secretary was going to raise the issue of Bahrain refusing to allow the UN Special Rapporteur in and also their refusal to allow other human rights monitors into the country. And I don’t see that addressed in either the readout that you guys put out, and it certainly wasn’t mentioned in the readout the Whitems House put out about the Vice President’s meeting. So can you answer that question now, please?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have much more to add for you, Matt. Human rights was, of course, discussed as part of the meeting, which is inferred in our readout. But in terms of whether that specific issue was raised, I don’t have anything further to add on it.
QUESTION: Is it possible to find out? Because this is an issue that has been one of great concern not just for the United States but for the UN. So it would be --
MS. PSAKI: I’m --
QUESTION: -- good to know if this is something that is being raised, this specific issue is being raised.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. I’m happy to look into it for you.
QUESTION: Thank you. I have nothing – nothing else.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Moving on to Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Senator McCain gave a very thorough speech toward the Middle East, but basically focusing on Syria, that is really quite contrary the rhetoric that is coming out of this Department or Secretary Kerry. I have two questions: Do you see – do you agree with him on the things that he suggested, such as a no-fly zone, a safe haven, destroying the air defenses, and so on? And second, was Secretary Kerry – I mean, we’ll go back to the question asked last week – did he coordinate with Secretary Kerry his visit into Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe I said at the time that we knew in advance of the visit that the Senator was going. I don’t have anything more to add on that. In terms of his remarks yesterday, I’m not sure. I’ll leave it to all of you to judge whether there was anything new in what he suggested. You’re familiar with our positions on all of those issues, and nothing has changed in that regard.
QUESTION: So on the issue of the visit into Syria, did he coordinate the meetings or anything – was he – in advance, with the Secretary with this Department, or anyone else --
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) at the White House, but it’s not a very --
MS. PSAKI: -- have anything more to add on it. We, of course, were aware of the visit in advance.
QUESTION: Jen, we heard the President just a few minutes ago talking about the metadata issue. I know that this is kind of his issue, however, there is kind of an international component. Is the State Department getting any feedback from any diplomats from other countries, or any other form of feedback, questioning, comments from other countries about what’s going on? Because it apparently – as the President said – doesn’t target U.S. citizens, it targets others abroad.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates on that for you. I know that was asked yesterday. I would refer all of you – I know Jill has seen them, but – to the President’s remarks, which were pretty extensive on this issue, and as well as to the statement that ODNI issued last night that also addressed it, and would direct any questions to either of them.
QUESTION: Can I follow it up?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: The information gathered through those systems – do you share those information with other countries, in particularly related to counterterrorism issues?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into any intel-related matters from the podium.
More on this, or back to Syria?
QUESTION: No. I’m going back to Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: So there has been skirmishes in the city of Quneitra, which is very close in the Golan Heights. Do you believe that is going to be another destabilizing factor into the whole Syrian issue? And one more question about the Russians offering to replace the Austrian troops, that they said they going to leave. Do you believe this is a good idea?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me take the second question first, if that’s okay. We fully support, of course, the efforts of the UN Secretary General and UNDAF peacekeeping operations to work with troop-contributing countries to ensure that UNDAF can continue to fulfill its mandate, and encourage all offers of support to be coordinated with the UN. The UN would, of course, be the entity that would make any and all decisions in that regard. And as we expressed yesterday – and let me just reiterate – this force, of course, plays a very important role there, and we are hopeful that the Austrians will not only coordinate with their departure plans, but also that other countries will be in touch in offering plans to replace those who are leaving.
QUESTION: But yourself, would you welcome the Russians being there instead of any other nationality?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not for us to determine that. This is a UN peacekeeping operation, so I would direct you to them.
QUESTION: (Off mike.)
MS. PSAKI: And I think I didn’t answer your first question, which was about the violence around the --
QUESTION: In the Golan Heights.
MS. PSAKI: So we spoke about this a little bit yesterday as well, but we’ve been very clear about our concerns, of course, about the regional instability caused by the crisis in Syria, and we note reports of clashes in the Golan Heights on June 6th, when rebel forces briefly took the Syrian side of the disengagement zone, crossing over – crossing near Quneitra, as you just mentioned. We’re also aware of reports that Syrian forces fired four mortar shells on the opposition during their counterattack which struck on the Israeli side of the disengagement zone, and an additional mortar struck a UN engagement – disengagement observer force compound injuring two peacekeepers from India and the Philippines.
That’s just a summary of what, of course, has happened, but we continue to call on all parties to avoid any action that would jeopardize the long-held ceasefire between Israel and Syria, and urge all parties to abide by the 1974 Disengagement of Forces agreement, and we reiterate our continued ongoing support, of course, for the UNDOF forces there, as I just mentioned, and of course, are monitoring the events there very closely.
QUESTION: Jen, according to the UN spokesman now just on the wire, the Russians cannot be part of this deployment because it doesn’t allow for permanent Security Council members to contribute troops. So I guess that would be out of the question.
MS. PSAKI: That perhaps makes the question null, though it was a good question. But yes, that is their response, I suppose.
MS. PSAKI: Let me take this and then just go back to see if anyone has any others on Syria, but we don’t have anything to announce at this point on travel. There have been reports, we understand, of course, throughout the week. And as I said earlier this week, and let me just reiterate, that the Secretary, when he was last there, said that tough choices need to be made. He remains deeply committed to playing any productive role the U.S. can play, but this is ultimately a decision for both the Israelis and the Palestinians to make, that they want to move back to the negotiating table. So while plans aren’t finalized or firmed up at this stage, he would go back if he felt it would even help take one step forward.
QUESTION: Jeez, why didn’t I get an extended answer to the question when I asked it five minutes ago?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I like her better, clearly. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Apparently so. Yesterday, you told me to go to Turkey where they’re tear gassing. Now you’re not answering --
MS. PSAKI: I’m just joking. I want to – she asked a more specific question, so I wanted to provide an update on – or an answer to her question.
QUESTION: On Syria. On this issue.
MS. PSAKI: Do we have any on Syria, just before we move on?
QUESTION: Just to follow up on the issue of the Palestinians --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- and such and so on, yesterday, Senator McCain suggested that perhaps the United States should assign the peace file, the peace process, the negotiated peace between Palestinians and Israelis to former President Bill Clinton. Is that an idea that is looked upon favorably in this Department?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of that. Of course, President Clinton has played a prominent role on a number of national, international events throughout his career and post-presidency career, but not something I’m aware of or I’m aware of being under consideration.
Let me just reiterate the larger point here, which is that this is between – this is up to the Israelis and the Palestinians to make the decision to move back to the negotiating table. And the Secretary has had, as we all know from trips we’ve all been on and trips you all have covered, countless conversations and meetings and phone calls. But it is ultimately up to both sides, regardless of who else is involved on the outside.
QUESTION: Well, the point that Senator McCain was making is that President Clinton was involved very thoroughly. He knows both sides. Both sides work with him very well and he has a lot of prestige. Would that be – wouldn’t that be a tremendous asset for Secretary Kerry’s efforts?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t think I have anything else further to add for you on that.
QUESTION: And then finally, it is alleged that this upcoming trip, if it happens, seeks to hold – to bring the Palestinians and the Israelis together. If this trip or this – takes place, would that be the aim of the trip, to bring them together for a meeting face-to-face?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I would just point you back to what I said. On trip plans, we’re not at a point where I have anything to announce for all of you. As soon as we do, or if we do, we’ll of course provide that information. And in terms of specific meetings, I just don’t have anything for you on that.
QUESTION: Jen, just a follow-up on this: On --
QUESTION: I want to follow up on this.
MS. PSAKI: On Middle East peace?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: On – actually, it’s related. Since Secretary Kerry took the office, he went to Middle East at least four times. It left the doubts that outsider think he doesn’t have the same interest on the rebalance to Asia policy as his predecessor had. What do you say about that?
MS. PSAKI: I would absolutely refute that. The Secretary spent a great deal of time in Asia on his trip when he was there.
QUESTION: Just the one time.
MS. PSAKI: I was on that trip, many of you were on that trip. He gave an important speech while he was there in Tokyo talking about how committed he was to continuing our – not only our relationship, but to continuing to grow that. There are a number of components of that, as you know – economic, security, I could run down the list. But I certainly wouldn’t point to trip numbers as an indication of that.
MS. PSAKI: The Secretary is in California, very important point. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, what’s he doing in California?
MS. PSAKI: He is meeting with the Chinese in California. This is an assist. Thank you, Matt. He is meeting as part of, of course, the President’s delegation to meet with the Chinese President in California. So that is another point of reference on how important our relationship with Asia --
QUESTION: So (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the White House has previewed this quite a great deal, so let me just give you kind of a quick overview of what they have said. This is, of course, the President’s trip, and the Secretary is attending as a member of the delegation. But they will be meeting over the next couple of days. This is – the discussions, they expect, will cover political, security, and economic issues. This is an opportunity for all of them to also get to know each other and continue to work on many of the key issues that we can work together on and raise issues where we have concerns.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up?
QUESTION: Let’s go back on --
QUESTION: Did the Secretary meet with the President when he was in Beijing?
MS. PSAKI: He did.
QUESTION: He did?
MS. PSAKI: He did. So the Secretary has met previously with the President as well.
QUESTION: So they’ve already gotten to know each other?
MS. PSAKI: They have already begun their relationship in these – in the Secretary’s position.
QUESTION: May I just follow, California trip, please?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There have been so many talks in the think tanks and also CEOs meeting President in the White House and coming here and all. My question is that (1), how serious is this issue been going on for a long time as far as – I’ve been asking also for the last 10 years, maybe – as far as --
MS. PSAKI: Ten years of asking?
MS. PSAKI: That’s exhausting. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: The China – Chinese --
QUESTION: Never gotten an answer. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I know. This is a lot of pressure, Goyal.
QUESTION: There was a number of issues I’ve been asking for the last 10 years. Some came true and some still hanging around. One is now the Chinese – I mean, so-called, what they said – stealing their U.S. secrets. What my question is: How serious the Department is taking this? And second, since U.S. has Fortune 500 companies in China producing almost everything there, how do they protect their secrets there? Are they a problem there, or what is the problem going on there?
MS. PSAKI: Well, maybe I can address your question today. We’ll see. I’ll ask you afterwards.
Cyber security is one of the Administration’s top priorities. It will certainly be on the agenda for this trip as the White House has previewed. We have long said that we are concerned about cyber intrusions emanating from China, from the President on down. This is an issue that has repeatedly been raised, and we believe at this critical time, of course, that the United States will do all it must to protect our national networks, critical infrastructure, and our valuable public and private property.
So we’ll see. They’ll be discussing that over the next couple of days, and I’m sure that my colleagues at the White House will read that out for the folks covering.
QUESTION: So are you concerned – you say you’re concerned about cyber intrusions emanating from China. Are you concerned about cyber intrusions emanating from the United States?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, of --
QUESTION: Does the United States – is the United States Government concerned about its own intrusions into cyber space?
MS. PSAKI: Are you talking about our own – I’m not sure I’m totally following your question.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering if there’s any consistency in the Administration’s position here, whereas, as the President just acknowledged, there are intrusions or monitoring going on – emanating from the United States on non-U.S. people. And you just said that you are concerned about cyber intrusions coming from China.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe the President spoke to this.
QUESTION: So it’s okay for you guys to do it, but it’s not okay for the Chinese to do it. Is that right?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I believe the President spoke pretty extensively to this in his remarks.
QUESTION: Exactly. Yes, he did.
MS. PSAKI: He did. I would point you to that. I was answering Goyal’s specific question about cyber security from China, which is what I was addressing.
QUESTION: Right. Exactly. But I’m – but I just want to make sure I understand this.
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything --
QUESTION: It’s okay when you guys do it, but it’s not okay when the Chinese do it. Is that the Administration’s position?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I’m not going to mix apples and oranges here on this issue.
QUESTION: I’m not sure I understand why it’s apples and oranges, but okay.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Let me go back to my question as well. Two points also I have: One, a number of Chinese nationals were arrested for spying or stealing U.S. trade secrets and defense related other issues. And how seriously that going on in the – between U.S. and China as far as these intruders – intrusion going on by these individuals working for the U.S. Government or in private sectors?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more to add for you. Hopefully my first answer gave you a little something to bite into.
Go ahead, Jill.
QUESTION: And one more related quickly. An Indian national was arrested in New Jersey (inaudible) going on also stealing trade secrets, U.S. trade secrets. Anything on that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on that for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Jill.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you for the question. Consistent with our cooperative approach with Congress since September, we have been in the process of reviewing the relevant documents with the intention of having more to say on that later today. I’d remind everyone that a hundred pages of talking points related documents were already released weeks ago and also shared directly with the Congress. So from our perspective, the CIA led interagency process, through which these talking points were developed, has thoroughly been addressed publicly.
Nonetheless, through the course of the last two weeks since we received this request, we have invested countless additional man hours to review our records to see if there’s anything more to add and to address Mr. Issa’s latest subpoena directly. I don’t have any specifics on the timing or the volume at this time, but we’re in the process of processing and preparing the documents.
QUESTION: When you --
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: When you say, “countless hours,” that seems to imply that this is a great burden. I mean, how much of a burden is it on the State Department to do this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s hard for me to classify that specifically. But just to keep in mind that this was a very extensive request over months and months of time encompassing – I don’t have a specific number for you – but countless documents about an issue that has already been litigated in public. So certainly it took man hours to review those documents.
QUESTION: My question was actually extremely similar. Once it’s done and you’ve compiled all this, can you find for us what the – because countless, in fact, unless it’s infinite, everything is countable.
MS. PSAKI: It is not infinite. I can --
QUESTION: Right. But everything is countable. So it would be interesting to know how many man hours it actually – how many --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- hours people were taken away from their normal task or whatever else they were doing to comply with this. And did I understand correctly that you are going to have something more to say about this later today?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. We’ll have an update on what we’ll be able to provide today.
QUESTION: Okay. And then just one more thing: Did – am I correct that Ambassador Pickering appeared at his – that was the private deposition the other day?
MS. PSAKI: He did on Monday. That’s right.
QUESTION: Did you guys have anything – I might have missed it, but was there any – did you all have anything to say about that at the time?
MS. PSAKI: We did not at the time. Let me just provide to you what I have available. He did complete his deposition earlier this week, I believe it was Monday. This was a closed door deposition. Unfortunately, we don’t have details because the committee did not allow State Department representatives to be present for this. And we had long called, of course, for an open hearing, something that Ambassador Pickering had been willing to do that wasn’t something that was agreed to. So unfortunately, I don’t have much of an update from here on what went down in that meeting.
QUESTION: Well, I thought it was agreed to. I thought just a date hadn’t been set for it. Do you know if – and I realize that Ambassador Pickering is a private individual now and he – representing the independent review board when he was there. But are you aware if there is still going to be, as we were led to believe, a public hearing at which he and perhaps Admiral Mullen might testify?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any date, as you know. They --
QUESTION: No, no. But is there an agreement to do so? Because I thought that was the deal.
MS. PSAKI: Well, they have both agreed to testify.
QUESTION: Right. No, but I thought that the committee had also said that they’d be --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific update on that side, nor do I have a date.
MS. PSAKI: Though we’re happy to check on that for you.
QUESTION: All right. And then the last thing on this is that FOIA request from the RNC. Did --
MS. PSAKI: As of yesterday, and unfortunately I didn’t get an update today, we had not physically received the request. But I can check if that has changed today.
QUESTION: Change topic?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Also yesterday Senator McCain suggested that all aid should be tied to the way Egypt behaves in conducting itself. And he said that we should not have a policy that is a Mubarak policy, as it was, or a Morsy policy; it ought to be Egypt policy to ensure that Egypt is moving along democratization.
Do you concur with that?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen the full context of the comments, so it’s hard for me to respond to that. Let me just reiterate what I said a couple of days ago, which is what our policy has been. There is – we have provided aid that we feel has been essential to our security to the Egyptian Government – to regional security, I should say. That is something that – a decision was made for that reason. I talked about this just a couple of days ago. That doesn’t mean we’re not concerned about the recent ruling in the NGO case. Of course we are, as we have expressed repeatedly this week. And that’s something we continue to press on in our conversations with the Egyptian Government.
QUESTION: But in principle, should things like this be tied to aid, as a matter of fact, to use as leverage for – in the case of the conviction of 43 individuals?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I’ve answered this the other day, in that there is aid that we have provided to Egypt on the basis of U.S. national security interests. That’s – that is something that we felt was important. That was carefully considered. One – let me give you one example. Of course, I mean, FMF financing, which may be what you’re referring to I believe, has helped – helps preserve important regional interests, such as maintaining access to the Suez Canal and the interdiction of weapons smuggling. And this is something that is, of course, carefully considered as we provide aid.
But let me reiterate another thing I’ve said this week, which is that actions like the ruling on the NGO law do make it difficult to make the case to members of Congress, as you’ve seen by many of their public statements, on the need to continue to approve this aid. That’s an issue that the Secretary has made the point of publicly and privately as well.
QUESTION: Can I just ask on this issue – I mean, there seems – I think there seems to be a little bit of confusion about this. There was one report yesterday that referred to this as a secret gift to the Egyptians. Can you explain – or if you can’t, take the question – about how much, if any, assistance to Egypt is actually – you are actually obligated to give them under the Camp David agreements and how – and what exactly the law can – I mean, is all of this money that was approved more than a month ago or almost a month ago, is all of that subject to the Congressional restrictions, or is some of it – even if there are restrictions, does some of it have to go anyway to uphold your treaty obligations?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me touch on one part of this, and then I will answer as much as I can and will – also happy to get you kind of the more legal requirements answer. But – so the reference you were referring to I believe was the May 10th FMF funding that was about a month ago that we decided to move – exercise our waiver authority on. So on May 10th, just to give everybody a quick summary here, the Secretary, having determined it was in the U.S. national security interest, Secretary Kerry exercised his waiver authority requiring a certification on Egypt’s democratic transition prior to obligation of FY 2013 FMF for Egypt. I mentioned what FMF does, of course. But information was provided as part of a standard process of notifying Congress and notifying Capitol Hill, and that is how it was transferred, which is typically what happens.
In terms of whether there is legal requirements, let me just quickly see if I have anything helpful on that, and if not we’ll get that back to you. Let’s see. We may have to just look a little more closely into that for you, Matt. And we can get everybody around a summary of what’s legally required.
QUESTION: There was an allegation, perhaps in that report, that the Secretary hadn’t actually fulfilled his complete obligations by notifying everybody who had to be notified in Congress about this gift. Is that correct with – does that comply with what your understanding of the --
MS. PSAKI: It was processed through standard Congressional notification, something that we do, of course, on a regular basis from this building. And I’m not aware of anything that was out of the ordinary.
QUESTION: There was nothing secret about it then, as the report suggested?
MS. PSAKI: No. Well, it was provided – the information was provided as a standard process of notifying Congress. Things don’t always stay secret when that happens, but --
QUESTION: Jen, I’m following up what Matt was saying. Does that money also include the 250 million that the Secretary pledged in his trip to Cairo recently?
MS. PSAKI: I’ll just have to --
QUESTION: Or was that budget support? Because now it’s all getting fuzzy, right?
MS. PSAKI: It is getting a little fuzzy. We do have information and a breakdown on this to clarify any confusion. I’m happy to get that around to folks in terms of what we’ve announced and what we’ve provided.
QUESTION: Yes, I have a question – yeah, Egypt. I’m just follow up the questions were asked about Egypt. First, is this related to the Fiscal Year 13 or 14?
MS. PSAKI: I believe that was 2013. It was 2013 FMF funding.
QUESTION: Okay. And then when you say --
MS. PSAKI: FY 2013 I should say, to be specific.
QUESTION: -- yes – which is – and then mainly it’s focusing on the military aid, right?
MS. PSAKI: That is military aid. Yes, exactly.
QUESTION: Yeah. The question is it’s not a matter of it’s like waivered or it’s not like legal process, it’s the political impact, I mean, which is like it’s not to make a comment more than to try to figure out how, which is like Senator Patrick Leahy once he said why we are offering to Egypt blank checks to do whatever they want to, as long as our national interest is fitting whatever they are doing. Do you have any – not justification of this – explanation so a layman can understand why especially it’s coming now when this week is like for the NGOs and all these things are happening? Is this kind of a reward, rewarding what’s going on in Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: Not at all. First of all, the timing doesn’t confirm that. The timing of the NGO trial announcement, of course – which is unrelated to this – but was after this was notified to Congress. But I don't want to leave anyone with the impression that they’re related. Let me just reiterate again: This is funding that it was determined to be in the U.S. national security interest to provide. And our decision to issue the waiver and continue our military assistance to Egypt is one that was also critical to security of the region, in addition to our own security.
So for example, our military insistence includes programs – and maybe this will help answer your question – that help stop the movement of illicit goods across borders, counter terrorism, provide security transfit ships through the Suez and increase security in the Sinai, and FMS supports joint training that builds strong military-to-military ties and is something that, as I mentioned, we feel has a significant national security component of it.
QUESTION: So I mean, there is another thing which I was wondering if you had the chance, I mean, in this building to read the verdict of the NGO trial, which is simply saying in one of the words is that this NGO’s aims are to undermine Egypt national security and lay out a sectarian political map that serves U.S. and Israeli interests. And it is one of the sentences. It was like 10 sentences. I mean --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’re combining two things at once, because I just outlined the FMF funding and why we feel it’s important to provide it – a broad range of national security and regional security issues. We’ve been also very clear about our concerns about the NGO – the finding in the NGO or the conviction in the NGO trial and what message that sends. Those are broad concerns. I don’t know that I need to reiterate those today, but there are broad national security concerns and regional security concerns unrelated to the issues that you raise. And that’s the reason why we’ve provided that funding.
But again, there are decisions that are made on a very regular basis that Congress has a very powerful role in. And they have spoken about this, so I’d point you to their comments as well.
QUESTION: I’m trying to understand what’s going on more than – figure out, I mean, it’s --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I’m trying because when I’m trying to put these issues together, I’m not trying for my own interest. As a matter of fact, the Secretary, when he was on the Hill, he put these issues broadly together, and the congressmen or senators were asking question in a bigger picture, which is in the last six months – it’s not even related to this week – how it was – things were going on related to governance and whether related to inclusiveness, whether it’s democratic reform. So it’s – it is the whole issue. If these things are not going properly, is this rewarding process or awarding process, is it fitting or helping it, or hurting it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I would just refute the notion it’s a rewarding or awarding process when it’s in part about our own U.S. national security interests and regional security and stability over in that area as well. Of course, we review funding all the time, as does Congress, but I just don’t have anything new or any update on that for you. And I would point you to the fact that the Secretary has raised our concerns about the conviction in the NGO case as recently as just two days ago when he spoke with the Foreign Minister, and he raised it also with the President when he met with him about two weeks ago. So it’s something that we raise – I shouldn’t say – he didn’t raise the conviction. That was before it. But the issues with human rights, I should say.
MS. PSAKI: Also on Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Actually, one of the NGO staffers who was convicted is currently in the U.S. and he asked to meet with Secretary Kerry. Are you aware of that or do you know if he is going to meet with anyone --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of that request. I’m happy to look more closely into it for you.
QUESTION: Okay. Please.
MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Egypt? Oh, on Egypt? No? Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: There was a hearing yesterday in the Senate Labor Committee and they were talking about the safety of – in Bangladesh as far as U.S. companies doing business in Bangladesh, including Walmart. My question is that are you in touch with the Bangladesh Government? There were some delegations here also meeting U.S.-Bangladesh delegations. So what kind of help or how U.S. is going to help Bangladesh now in the future as far as their factories are concerned or losses took place like, of course, among those things?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the United States actively engages at the highest levels – with the highest levels of the Government of Bangladesh, exporters, and buyers on these issues. Just a few weeks ago, Under Secretary Sherman had extensive discussions in Bangladesh on these issues. Ambassador Mozena regularly engages with the Bangladeshi – Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association and has pressed them also on these issues. So it’s something we are in regular contact with, we are discussing and thinking about in the building, and we’ll continue to focus on.
QUESTION: Is there any special request or special instructions from the Congress or from the Senate committee as far as these hearings are concerned?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the committees on that.
Did you have another one?
QUESTION: I have a change of subject.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Just to Africa. I asked yesterday about Madagascar, and I was wondering if it had crossed your radar. And then I was also following up on behalf of colleagues here that had asked about the Lord’s Resistance Army --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- and elephant poaching.
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me do Madagascar first since that was your question. The United States continues to support the Southern African Development Community’s efforts to mediate a solution to the political crisis in Madagascar. We call on the country’s political leaders to work toward free, fair, and internationally recognized elections that restore democratic rule, and for free, fair, and independent elections to be held. Both political and technical issues need to be addressed, including full implementation of the September 2011 Southern African Development Community’s roadmap.
And on poaching, the United States continues to provide cross-cutting support for regional efforts to end the threat posed by the LRA and address the consequences of the LRA’s atrocities. We are aware of credible reports that the LRA is involved in wildlife trafficking and ivory smuggling, although the extent of that involvement remains unclear.
Last month, the UN Security Council encouraged the UN and AU to work together to investigate the LRA’s logistical networks and possible sources of military support and illicit financing, including alleged involvement in elephant poaching and related smuggling.
QUESTION: I have – I’ve just got one more other one on Zimbabwe.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: And Mugabe has said he’s going to hold elections by July. And as you know, given the history of violence and regional instability that has happened around elections in Zimbabwe, I was wondering if you believe that this is the time to go forward on those elections given also the complaints by the opposition that reforms to ensure a fair vote aren’t in place.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. The United States sincerely hopes Zimbabwe will hold peaceful, credible presidential and parliamentary elections this year. We believe the credibility of these elections would be enhanced if a broad range of international monitors led by the Southern African Development Community, SADC as it is known, were accredited to observe. This would help to verify that the elections are truly representative of the will of the Zimbabwean people.
QUESTION: You can say “SADC.”
MS. PSAKI: SADC? All right, SADC it is.
QUESTION: Can I ask you one question about if there’s any update on Venezuela and the dialogue that was announced?
MS. PSAKI: There’s not an update on a scheduled meeting, which is, I believe, the question you asked yesterday.
QUESTION: Well, it’s more than a meeting. It’s a plan. They were going to come together with a plan to sketch out a series of --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update on that, either. Matt was asking about a specific meeting yesterday --
QUESTION: Hold on.
MS. PSAKI: -- which is why I said that, but --
QUESTION: No, I mean, the beginning of this – I mean, I presume the beginning of the dialogue was the Secretary’s meeting with the Foreign Minister.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But I mean, but he did mention that there was going to be an ongoing and continuous, or continual --
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- dialogue with the aim of restoring or at least improving relations. So we’re just – I think the question is --
MS. PSAKI: Is, “What is the update?”
QUESTION: -- can you update us when --
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy --
QUESTION: -- or is there any update, and can you when there is?
MS. PSAKI: I am happy to update all of you when there is an update to provide. And of course, he just got back from his trip two days ago.
QUESTION: Jen, could I go back to Syria for a minute?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: On the issue of chemical weapons?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on that, or has that --
MS. PSAKI: I do not.
QUESTION: -- or has that been relegated, sort of, to never-never land, like all the other allegations before it?
MS. PSAKI: Wow. You’re very feisty today.
QUESTION: No, I’m not, frankly. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: It is an issue that --
QUESTION: It’s Friday.
MS. PSAKI: -- the President, the Secretary, the Administration remains focused on. We are, of course, doing due diligence on working with our allies, determining the facts, and I don’t have anything new for you today. And I’m just teasing you and giving you a hard time.
QUESTION: That’s all right.
MS. PSAKI: I think we’re going to wrap this up here with the lovely lady in the back.
QUESTION: Thank you. Getting back to China and cyber security.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, these meetings this upcoming weekend will be – this will be at the top of the agenda, one of the important agenda items, as the White House has discussed in advance of the meetings. The Secretary announced in April that we’ll also be continuing to talk about this at July at the S&ED – during the S&ED conversations. So I expect that will be part of the next step in the process. But the plan is to continue to discuss and coordinate, and that is a positive step forward.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:50 p.m.)