printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Patrick Ventrell
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 25, 2013


Share
Index for Today's Briefing
  • SNOWDEN
    • Russia / China / Extradition
    • Cyber Espionage / Visa Waiver
  • CHINA
    • S&ED / Secretary Kerry Meetings / ASEAN
  • INDIA
    • Secretary Kerry's Visit
    • Afghanistan
    • U.S.-India Cooperation
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Attack near Presidential Palace
    • Dobbins Meetings in Pakistan / Taliban Peace Talks
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Secretary Kerry's Upcoming Visit to Region
  • SYRIA
    • Geneva 2
  • RUSSIA
    • Potential Meeting with Lavrov / Brunei / ASEAN / Travel
  • D.P.R.K.
    • Denuclearization / 2005 Joint Statement
  • LIBYA
    • Benghazi / Cooperation with Congress / Chairman Issa Subpoena / FBI
  • SNOWDEN
    • China / Russia / Repercussions
  • SYRIA
    • Geneva 2 / Protection of Rights for All Syrians
    • Saudi Arabia / Foreign Fighters
  • SNOWDEN
    • Interagency Cooperation


TRANSCRIPT:


The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

1:09 p.m. EDT


MR. VENTRELL: Okay. Welcome to the State Department. I don’t have anything at the top, so over to all of you.

QUESTION: First off, can you just start out by updating us on the Administration’s attempts to force Snowden’s return, especially now that President Putin has said – confirmed that he’s at the Moscow Airport? And I’ll have a follow-up.

MR. VENTRELL: Thanks, Lara, for the question. We have seen the comments by Foreign Minister Lavrov and President Putin, and we understand the complicated issues raised by Mr. Snowden’s decision to travel to Russia. We do agree with President Putin that we do not want the issue to negatively affect the bilateral relationship. And so while we do not have an extradition treaty with Russia and do not expect that Mr. Snowden would be formally extradited, we do believe there is a basis for law enforcement cooperation to expel Mr. Snowden based on the charges against him and the status of his travel documents.

So we’ve asked the Russian Government to consider all potential options to expel him, to return him to the United States, and we’re going to continue those discussions in law enforcement and diplomatic channels in the hopes of building on the strong law enforcement cooperation that we’ve had for quite some time.

So I think you also heard that the Secretary spoke earlier today about – that we – calling for calm, that we don’t want to raise the level of confrontation, that we want to do this in routine law enforcement channels and have regular cooperation. So I don’t want to get into it further than that, other than to say that we do think that he should be expelled and deported and returned to the United States.

QUESTION: In the high-level talks that you spoke about yesterday, what has been the Russian Government’s reaction to the U.S. request? As you saw, President Putin indicated that Snowden would not be turned over, that he had no authority to do so.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, you’d have to ask the Russian Government for their perspective. I’m not going to read out their side of a diplomatic conversation. But we’ve been making our case clearly and we’ll continue to do so, that we’d like to see him expelled, and we do think there’s a legal basis to do so, and that we’ve cooperated on a number of these cases previously. You’ve heard the Secretary talk about a number of high-level criminals that were returned to Russia. Indeed, there’s – while he spoke of a handful of high-level ones, there’s been many hundreds of criminals over recent years that we’ve returned to Russia. So there’s a basis for this cooperation. Particularly since the Boston bombings, there’s been some excellent law enforcement cooperation. We’d like to see that continue.

QUESTION: Okay. And yesterday you said that the Administration was not buying the Chinese Government’s reasoning for not allowing Snowden to be extradited from Hong Kong. Is that the same kind of tact that you’re taking or the Administration is taking in regards to the Russian reasoning of not turning him over?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, I’m not sure I would compare them directly. I mean, we were talking about in the situation of Hong Kong, where we had and have a longstanding bilateral extradition treaty, and we’d appropriately done the paperwork to file the procedures there, and that wasn’t followed on the other side. Here’s a slightly different situation, but the point we’re making to the Russian authorities is exactly what I just told you all, that while we don’t have that formal extradition treaty, we do hope there are grounds for law enforcement cooperation and a way to return him to the United States based on his travel documents or other – based on the charges as well against him. These are serious criminal charges, as I said yesterday.

QUESTION: Patrick, can I follow up on that? It seems as if --

MR. VENTRELL: Let’s go one at a time. Can you tell me your name and --

QUESTION: Bill Jones from Executive Intelligence Review.

MR. VENTRELL: Okay.

QUESTION: With regard to president – to Secretary Kerry’s comments today, it seems like he was walking back his initial comments because this was made into almost something of a diplomatic incident by the comments that were made with regard to China when he was in Hong Kong, and then with regard to Russia afterwards. And it seems to me like it’s been something of a tempest in a teapot, but it was being ratcheted up into a major conflict between superpowers, nuclear powers, and now I think it’s an attempt to walk it back. Was there a mistake in trying to make this into something bigger than it actually is?

MR. VENTRELL: No. Look, I disagree with your characterization. Now, in the instance of China and Hong Kong, we very clearly disagree with their decision. We made that clear. But in terms of Russia, our points have been consistent all along. And so we’re clear that we have broad bilateral cooperation with Russia in number of areas we agree with. Law enforcement cooperation is one of those, and we’d like to see that continue.

QUESTION: In both of those cases – in the case of China, they have – they left the decision with Hong Kong. They kind of took themself out of it, out of play there, and the U.S. is insisting that that’s not the case. And in the case of the Russian situation, as far as I understand, he has not entered Russian territory but he is still in a holding position in the airport, and therefore he hasn’t officially gone into Russia so they have that reason for not intervening. But is it so strange that they would take this position with regard to --

MR. VENTRELL: That’s a characterization of those governments.

Luis, go ahead.

QUESTION: Patrick, you’re using the words “expelling” and “deporting” today.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: That seems to – and you said that there’s legal grounds on which to base this.

MR. VENTRELL: Right.

QUESTION: I’m following up on his question that the terminal itself is not apparently an area where – the Russians are claiming they don’t have jurisdiction. How are you making that claim to them?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, look, I’m not an expert on Russian law or their immigration standards or how this is done. But we’re certainly making the case to them that we do believe there are grounds to return him. We return criminals to Russia and there’s certainly a chance for somebody who’s wanted for very serious criminal charges to be returned here, despite the fact that we don’t have a formal extradition treaty. So there are other grounds, and clearly we’re making the case to the Russians that this is somebody who is charged with very serious crimes and should face justice here in the United States.

QUESTION: But the use of those words, I mean, signifies a stepping-up in your comments to them, in your request to the Russians?

MR. VENTRELL: No. I mean, I think I’m just clarifying for some of you all. There’s been some confusion about what his status might be. And of course, I refer you to the Russian authorities for that. But our point – and we’ve made this publicly and we’re making it privately – is that we do think that, based on law enforcement cooperation, there are ways that we can have him return, notwithstanding that we don’t have an extradition treaty.

QUESTION: Patrick, you said something about returning criminals to Russia.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is there a precedent where, actually, a similar situation, a Russian accused of espionage was returned back to Russia?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I don’t have the whole historical record, but there’s --

QUESTION: But do you believe there is a precedent in this particular instance?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I don’t have the whole historical record in front of me, but this is somebody who’s accused of very serious crimes here in the United States. He’ll receive a fair application of justice, and we’d like to see him returned.

QUESTION: Patrick, do you have a figure --

QUESTION: Do you have any idea --

MR. VENTRELL: One at a time. Lalit.

QUESTION: Do you have a figure for the number of criminals returned from U.S. to Russia in the last, maybe, two years or one year?

MR. VENTRELL: I’d really refer you to the Department of Homeland Security that actually takes that action when they send somebody out of the United States. So I’d refer you to them. But my understanding, that it’s many hundreds over the past years, and there have been some high-profile ones and others that are routine criminal cases.

QUESTION: And also, since Snowden is now in the Moscow Airport for last around 48 (inaudible) and has been – there be any effort by the U.S. Ambassador in Moscow to get in touch with him, go inside the airport and talk to him?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t think that we’ve been in direct contact with him, but we’re in contact with the Russian authorities.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea if he had given any information to the Chinese or Russians? And also, when was – how he got the visa for Russia? Because he required visa for Russia, that mean he got in Hong Kong.

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have any information about how he entered Russia or what travel documents he might have been on. And what was the first part of your question? Oh, the documents. Well, again, I can’t speak to that, what information he may have turned over to foreign governments.

QUESTION: Because of this, are you taking any further steps? Because of these things keeps happening, enemies of U.S. keep getting all these sophisticated information, and thereby one of those people like him.

MR. VENTRELL: Right. I think the White House has spoken to this and the intelligence community, about taking steps, certainly, to mitigate, and our concern about keeping our classified information properly protected. It’s something we take very seriously in this Department and in the other departments of the federal government.

QUESTION: And finally, one more: As far as Chinese getting into the sophisticated information from the U.S., are there – is there industry or nuclear or – they have people around in the U.S. working and then they work with them to supply those information. What protection are you doing? Because this was also questioned in India when Secretary was there --

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- about protecting the sophisticated information, because then other countries also affected.

MR. VENTRELL: In India, the Secretary and the Foreign Minister there spoke about that. But just to say, broadly speaking, we drew a very sharp distinction – I think you heard me draw that distinction yesterday – between our activities to keep Americans safe, to keep foreign citizens safe, and the activities of other countries, which I drew a sharp distinction.

Bingru.

QUESTION: Patrick, a couple question on China. Yesterday, Chinese --

QUESTION: Is that question on Snowden?

MR. VENTRELL: This is – I think – is it all --

QUESTION: Yeah, on Snowden.

MR. VENTRELL: It’s all related. Go ahead, Bingru.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Chinese Foreign Ministry, they rejected the U.S. accusation allowing Snowden to leave Hong Kong. What’s your response to that?

MR. VENTRELL: I mean, we made our characterization yesterday pretty clear, and we stand by that.

QUESTION: And you also talk about the negative impact on U.S.-China relationship. How would that affect the upcoming S&ED?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, as I said yesterday, I’m not going to speculate, other than to say that it clearly has ramifications, and --

QUESTION: And finally --

MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- don’t you think the U.S. owe an explanation on the cyber attacks leaks by Snowden – cyber attacks on China?

MR. VENTRELL: So you’re talking about the specific information that was in the --

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. VENTRELL: -- papers? I mean, again, I drew a very clear distinction yesterday, and our concern, first of all, that this information was leaked, but second of all, that we draw a distinction between our lawful activities and what we described as some of the cyber espionage and other activities of other governments.

QUESTION: Patrick.

MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: On this issue, you may have addressed it from the legal point of view, just a clarification. Now, what is the difference between charging someone under the Espionage Act and charging someone with spying? Does it --

MR. VENTRELL: I think those are really questions that are better directed at the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: But as far as you’re concerned, as far as the Department is concerned?

MR. VENTRELL: I mean, they’re serious – these are very serious charges, but --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. VENTRELL: -- the legal grounds and all that is really a Department of Justice question.

QUESTION: But that is short of accusing someone of spying when he’s charged under the Espionage Act?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I really refer you to the Department of Justice for any characterization, but these are serious crimes.

Guy.

QUESTION: Just one more (inaudible) on these ramifications that you mentioned today and yesterday. There was some discussion about consequences there will be for nations that facilitated Mr. Snowden’s flight. I just want to make sure we understand, are you saying you won’t talk about what the consequences are to, say, Hong Kong and Beijing or to Moscow?

MR. VENTRELL: I’m not going to --

QUESTION: Or the ramifications – is it because you don’t know what they are, or is it because they’re classified?

MR. VENTRELL: I’m not going to lay them out in detail, but let’s speak about China, for instance. You know that we’ve worked, broadly speaking, to build up our cooperation. We talk about the rule of law and norms-based international standards on dealing with key issues, whether it’s cyber security or other issues where we’ve worked together. And certainly, our ability to build up that trust is damaged when you have an incident of this nature. So I’m not going to get into the details of --

QUESTION: That’s a ramification. It’s not a consequence, though.

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m not going to get into the consequences, but --

QUESTION: Okay. Because they’re classified or because we don’t know what they are yet?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m just not going to get into it any further.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Next month --

MR. VENTRELL: Lalit.

QUESTION: -- the city is hosting – scheduled to host the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Do you think it’s on schedule or what, you’re putting it on hold?

MR. VENTRELL: I didn’t hear the second part.

QUESTION: It’s on schedule or – the next month’s U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue is going to be held, or do you think it’s --

MR. VENTRELL: Look, these are something that are long-planned, these are major – I don’t want to say summits, but they’re major key pieces of how we build on that cooperation, and so certainly, in a forum like that, we’ll make a lot of the key points on areas of concern that we have.

So, I mean, I don’t have anything to read out one way or another about timing or scheduling, but these are things that are planned long in advance, and what we’ve been pleased about with the Strategic and Economic Dialogue is it’s the type of forum where we can build these norms-based and rule-of-law-based cooperation, the – sort of the habits and norms of good practices between our countries to build up that level of trust so that we work well together.

QUESTION: India?

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. VENTRELL: Do we – Nike, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. Right. Kind of follow-up with Guy’s question, what – in specific, what would be the repercussion of U.S.-China relations or U.S.-Hong Kong relations in terms of Hong Kong is planning to obtain or to become a member of U.S. Visa Waiver Program?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, as I said, I’m just not going to get into it, but clearly, these issues have an impact when we have a breakdown on cooperation on such a key issue.

QUESTION: Has Secretary Kerry got in touch with the Chinese Foreign Minister or Chinese Presidency in any way?

MR. VENTRELL: I’m not sure that – I don’t have any calls to read out from his travel while he’s been in India and now Saudi Arabia. I believe they’re just touched down on Kuwait. But I don’t have any calls to read out. I do think that there will be a chance to see his counterpart on the following stop at the meetings on ASEAN. So I think there’s potentially a scheduled meeting there.

QUESTION: Do you expect that to be brought up before S&ED?

MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, we’re still a few days out from that. I don’t want to predict the bilateral agenda. But we will raise key issues, certainly.

QUESTION: Another China-related question.

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on this American executive being confined by the Chinese worker because those worker claim that they haven’t been paid for two months, and --

MR. VENTRELL: Nothing beyond what I said yesterday. So this came up yesterday, and I addressed that.

QUESTION: New subject, India?

MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead, Goyal.

QUESTION: Secretary of State, of course, he had a good time in India, I understand, because so many meetings --

MR. VENTRELL: He did. He had a very good visit.

QUESTION: -- and so many agreements signed between the two countries on education, on cyber security, on space, and also health. For the first time, I saw something that healthcare also was – agreement signed between two. My question is also --

MR. VENTRELL: You left out education. See, was it – (laughter) --

QUESTION: And education, of course, and awards – they are saying that now there will be Singh and Obama education awards for the university levels and all – among other things. As far as my question on – basically on health, it’s a big issue. India exports physicians, doctors, and all those, but India does not have a good health system. But they have best system here, all Indians when coming here doctors. What kind of help you think India – I mean, U.S. is going to offer to India as far as health-related issues? And second, Secretary also said in Delhi that India should play a key role in Afghanistan. What does he mean, really, playing key role for India? Because that’s what I’ve been asking always about what role the U.S. wants to play to India in Afghanistan.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, the Secretary thinks, and what we think more broadly in the U.S. Government, is that certainly, especially with economic cooperation with Afghanistan – India inside of Afghanistan, that it’s been very positive. So we’re certainly welcoming there and want there to be greater regional stability, for India to have a better relationship with Pakistan, for India to have a good relationship with Afghanistan. So we welcome all that.

In terms of health cooperation, I’d have to get an expert for you, and I’m sure we can do that, to talk about our cooperation in that sector. But that’s one of the broad areas that we work closely with India on, and as you mentioned, it was a very good visit. Climate change, clean energy, education – it was really a broad visit, and I know the Secretary really enjoyed his time in India and had a good visit, as you mentioned. But let’s see if we can get you an expert who can tell you a little bit more about cooperation in that sector and health care.

QUESTION: And one more, if I may.

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: When the Secretary was in Delhi, at the same time there was an attack in Kashmir. At least eight Indian soldiers were killed and the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi are – both are there now. Is that anything – any message sending – those terrorists sending any message to the U.S. and India cooperation?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have any information on that particular attack. Let me look into it and see if we can get back to you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we stay in the region?

MR. VENTRELL: Sure. Lalit, go ahead.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: The attack by the Taliban on the --

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- President’s palace in Kabul. One, on the attack itself; and secondly, how do the U.S. sees the response by the Afghan National Security Forces in handling those attacks?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, it was a good response. Let me just say that the United States strongly condemns the attack today near the Presidential palace. We extend our deepest condolences to all Afghans affected by these senseless acts, and we commend the security forces which defeated them. So all the attackers were killed, demonstrating the futility of the Taliban’s efforts to use violence and terror to achieve their aims. So – and even as we remain committed to supporting a peace process, we will not let our fight against international terrorism in Afghanistan or – let up, nor will we lessen our support to the Afghan forces. Our military and diplomatic efforts continue to be mutually reinforcing, and we reiterate our call on the Taliban to come to the table to talk to the Afghan Government about peace and reconciliation.

QUESTION: And has there been any further update on the peace talks between U.S. and the Taliban in Doha?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have an update at this time, no.

QUESTION: And do you have any readout on Ambassador Dobbins’s meetings in Pakistan?

MR. VENTRELL: Let me see if I have – I think the Embassy just put out a statement upon his arrival that details who he’ll be meeting with. I know it was with a wide range of Pakistani leaders. And let me see if I had any additional information for you.

QUESTION: But do you think these --

MR. VENTRELL: No, I don’t have any update other than he is in Islamabad, has had a wide range of discussions, principally reconciliation, but also, indeed, of course, economic and other areas in our broad bilateral relationship.

QUESTION: But does the U.S. believes that launching such attacks, Taliban show that it’s not serious in these peace talks, and is basically delaying the peace process?

MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, we haven’t seen yet that they’re ready to have these talks. The onus is on them, and we’re ready to have them. President Karzai has said that he recognizes the need for political reconciliation, but there is enormous mistrust. And so most insurgencies end with a political reconciliation, and we’re continuing to have that – willing to have that dialogue, as are the Afghans. So we’ll see what happens here.

QUESTION: Change topics?

MR. VENTRELL: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Palestinian and Israeli sources claim that the return of Palestinians to the negotiating table has become all but imminent. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. VENTRELL: The return of Palestinian what?

QUESTION: To direct negotiations with the Israelis is all but imminent.

MR. VENTRELL: Right.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on that?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have any update. We want – we would of course welcome --

QUESTION: Yeah, obviously.

MR. VENTRELL: -- that happening.

QUESTION: Right.

MR. VENTRELL: But you know the Secretary is headed to the region very shortly, but I don’t have anything to read out or any announcements at this point.

QUESTION: So it is expected that the Secretary would host a meeting or would actually shepherd a meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas. You have nothing to share with us on this issue?

MR. VENTRELL: I have nothing to share about his upcoming travel on those stops.

QUESTION: On the Palestinian issue, the Israeli Government sort of nullified a Palestinian children festival in Jerusalem. Do you have any comment on that?

MR. VENTRELL: I hadn’t seen that. I’ll have to look into that.

Okay. Nicolas.

QUESTION: Can we move on Syria?

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: Are you still convinced to be able to organize Geneva 2 conference next month? Mr. Brahimi this morning in Geneva seems to be rather skeptical on that prospect. And could you confirm that Secretary Kerry will be meeting with Mr. Lavrov in Brunei next week?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, I think that’s one of the meetings that’s likely on his agenda. I don’t have a confirmation 100 percent, but I think they’ll both be there and hopefully have a chance to have a bilateral meeting.

Just to say that in Geneva, Under Secretary Sherman and Ambassador Ford are meeting with their UN and Russian counterparts to assess where we are as we continue to prepare for the Geneva 2 conference. We don’t agree on every issue, but both the U.S. and Russia do agree that the only way out of this conflict is through a political solution. You heard me talk a little bit about – yesterday about we’re not putting a timeline on this. The Secretary will continue his efforts, as will Under Secretary Sherman, Ambassador Ford and others. But we said the conference would be convened as soon as is practical, and that means as soon as it is determined, in partnership with the UN and with our international partners, that we have done the necessary preparations to bring the parties together for meaningful negotiations and move forward toward a political solution.

And so part of what is critical here is that the regime itself recognize that it – the regime has not understood that it has to represent all Syrians, and continues to have – both the regime and the opposition have support from wide, different groupings of Syrians. And if we’re going to have this conference, they need to come together so that there can be a transitional executive authority that can represent the rights of all Syrians. And that’s really the key here.

QUESTION: What about --

QUESTION: So could you – as far as the meeting that is going on today, is it still going on? Is it not?

MR. VENTRELL: My understanding is it’s still going on. I hadn’t had a readout as of a few minutes ago, so my understanding is they’re --

QUESTION: Okay. So do you expect it to go on for more than one day?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have a readout one way or another if they’re going to a second day.

QUESTION: Patrick?

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: You said Secretary Kerry will meet Lavrov at some time. Where was it? I missed it.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, at the next stop is – after he’s in the Middle East will be in Brunei for the ASEAN summit.

QUESTION: Oh, in Brunei.

MR. VENTRELL: So my understanding is that both sides will be there and there’s a lot of potential for a meeting.

Yeah.

QUESTION: (Off-mike) when is he going to be in Israel and the Palestinian territories, or Amman?

MR. VENTRELL: It’s in the travel note. I don’t have – now they’re in Kuwait --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. VENTRELL: -- and then they go to Amman, as well as to Jerusalem. So that’s the next stop after Kuwait.

QUESTION: Patrick --

MR. VENTRELL: Actually, let me clarify that. I believe they’re actually going to go to the – and we put out a statement from Jen earlier that he’s going to go to the U.A.E. as well. So I’ll have to clarify for you afterward.

QUESTION: Right. So I think it says he’s scheduled to go on the 27th, which is Thursday.

MR. VENTRELL: I’m getting my days confused. Let me double-check after the briefing --

QUESTION: Oh, please. Yes. Thank you.

MR. VENTRELL: -- and we’ll clarify.

QUESTION: Patrick, on North Korea?

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: North Korean Ambassador to United Nations Sin Son-ho made a statement last Friday that North Korea wanted to peace treaty talk with the United States and North Korea will never give up their nuclear program. What is your comment on this?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, our comment is the same, that the onus is on North Korea to take meaningful actions toward denuclearization and refrain from provocations. They’ve committed on numerous occasions to abandoning nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs, including in the September 2005 joint statement. So we continue to hold the D.P.R.K. to those commitments and its international obligations.

QUESTION: Do you think North Korea still come back to the Six-Party Talks without any preconditions?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, the D.P.R.K. knows what’s required of it and knows the seriousness of purpose they have to show.

QUESTION: Change topic?

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Benghazi?

MR. VENTRELL: Sure.

QUESTION: Patrick, today Chairman Issa’s issued subpoenas to four State Department officials. Will the State Department be cooperating with the subpoenas?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, as we’ve consistently said, we’ve been cooperating with Congress on this matter going back many months. We’ve made available to Congress several department witnesses and briefers, as well as over 25,000 pages of documents. We understand that Chairman Issa has issued subpoenas for four Department employees. These four employees were already preparing to do voluntary interviews with the committee, and since the committee sent their initial interview requests, we’ve been discussing with them in good faith both the terms for the interview and the scheduling logistics. In fact, we had offered employees to be interviewed in early July. So this had been something that they were voluntarily willing to do.

QUESTION: But in that letter Chairman Issa claimed that State Department Chief of Staff David Wade has not been cooperating, that since mid-May they’ve been asking for these people. What exactly is the holdup then?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, we absolutely reject that. We’ve been cooperating all along, and the Department has shown unprecedented cooperation. We’ve spent thousands and thousands of man-hours complying with dozens of requests from Congress. We’ll continue to cooperate while reiterating our request that the Congress and the media shift from focusing on long-debunked myths to the real need to protect America’s diplomats and development experts serving their country overseas.

So on this particular case, ever since we received the interview requests, we’ve been in regular contact with the committee negotiating in good faith and it’s unfortunate that Chairman Issa, without warning, disregarded those discussions and issued subpoenas for witnesses who were willing to testify. This is a pattern that we saw with Mr. Pickering as well, something that – this is a tactic he’s used before. I can’t speculate on his motivations but it’s something that he’s done before.

QUESTION: And to date, how many witnesses have you provided for testimony?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, we’ve been in discussion with the committee about providing the witnesses prior to receiving the subpoena. So we were working on the dates, working on the list of names, when this subpoena sort of suddenly arrived yesterday.

QUESTION: It’s been months, why hasn’t it happened?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, I don’t know if I’d characterize it as months. I mean, this is something that – I don’t have the date of the original request from Mr. Issa here in front of me, but ever since we received the – let me see if I have this here – I don’t have the date right in front of me, but ever since we received it --

QUESTION: Mid May.

MR. VENTRELL: -- we’ve been in consistent and continual contact with the committee staff, and we’ve done so in good faith.

QUESTION: And lastly, do you think that this perceived stalling from Issa that it could be perceived that these witnesses are being coached or they’re getting – taking time to get their testimony or words right?

MR. VENTRELL: No, that’s absurd. We reject that. It’s certainly understandable that people need time to prepare for congressional testimony; witnesses take that very seriously, need time to review and prep, and that’s standard practice and normal. So we just reject that.

QUESTION: So it’s not the four people stalling, it’s perhaps the State Department or it’s Issa not being organized?

MR. VENTRELL: This is about getting them the best possible information, making sure the witnesses have time to be prepared to provide the best possible information. And we’re working with them in good faith and scheduling dates, so this sort of arrived out of the blue yesterday.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that you told Chairman Issa that you’ve given them everything that you have, and you have nothing else to give them? Is that --

MR. VENTRELL: Well, that’s not exactly --

QUESTION: In layman’s terms.

MR. VENTRELL: No, no, no. That’s not exactly what’s going on here. This was a specific request, Said, for witnesses. This was a --

QUESTION: Right. I understand what’s going. I’m just saying, what is your position? What do you tell them, that we have already submitted all these – we answered all these questions --

MR. VENTRELL: No. The point is that the cooperation has been ongoing, and in this case we were cooperating on providing witnesses. So we received a subpoena out of the blue.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Speaking of congressional testimony, I think it’s been about 90 days since the attorney general testified that the FBI would soon reveal the findings of its investigation into who actually carried out the attacks.

MR. VENTRELL: Right.

QUESTION: I was wondering, is there frustration in this Department about – that those findings haven’t been released or that we don’t have an official narrative at this point of who’s believed to have carried out the attacks?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, what we want in this Department is what all Americans want, which is justice to be served. The FBI is pursuing that diligently. I refer you to them for any update or status update. But there’s nobody more than here in the Department who wants to see justice served. And we have full confidence that our FBI colleagues are doing everything they can to do exactly that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. VENTRELL: Okay. Lara, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to return to Snowden just very, very briefly.

MR. VENTRELL: Okay.

QUESTION: I just want to make clear: You have said that China – the fact that China didn’t hand over Snowden and – or allow him to be extradited will reap consequences unfavorably in the Chinese-American relationship. Is it your position that there – if Russia also refuses to hand over Snowden that there will be negative consequences for that relationship as well?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, we’re at a point where we’re having the discussion still with the Russians. I don’t want to get into hypotheticals; we’re not there yet.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Patrick, again on the issue if – in the way of a hypothetical, if there were a Chinese dissident coming here who had information about Chinese surveillance on Chinese citizens and wanted asylum so as not to go back to China and receive very tough punishment, perhaps a death sentence, would the United States turn it back if the Chinese Government asked for that?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, again, I’m just not going to engage in hypotheticals. But as we said yesterday, somebody like Mr. Snowden certainly doesn’t – isn’t worried about protecting human rights defenders in China or the free flow of information, as he so claims to be.

QUESTION: Patrick, I just wanted to be clear: When you’re talking about the negative impact, can you understand it as the decision China made has negative consequence and impact on the summit Obama and Xi Jinping just had in Sunnylands?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, the point is that we have habits and patterns of cooperation and things – that sort of cooperation builds on itself. And so when you have a setback it has a negative impact on the relationship. I’m not going to define what that may mean, but for us, certainly, we’d seen some good cooperation and had a good summit meeting and many other good encounters where we’re building those habits of cooperation, and this is a setback to those efforts to build that sort of type of cooperation.

QUESTION: Is U.S. and China still going to have the cyber security dialogue, or it’s been called off?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, no, again, we’ll continue to try to build on that cooperation, but that doesn’t mean that there won’t be negative repercussions for the relationship.

QUESTION: But that’s specific to China?

MR. VENTRELL: Right. Okay?

QUESTION: Are you being tougher on China than you are on Russia?

MR. VENTRELL: Look, in China we have the instance where he already departed and we had a valid extradition request in, and so it’s a different situation.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I wanted to be clear on something also. On the Geneva meetings, you said that you’re not putting timelines anymore?

MR. VENTRELL: No, we’re not.

QUESTION: But, I mean --

MR. VENTRELL: It’s not about timelines.

QUESTION: -- a month ago you were. You were --

MR. VENTRELL: We want to have this as soon as possible. We’ve been clear about that. Clearly the situation on the ground, clearly the regime’s continued avoidance of this real discussion are serious impediments. But we’re going to continue because it is, as the Secretary said today with his Saudi counterpart, it’s the most – it’s the surest way and the best way to end this conflict and provide the best future forward for the Syrian people.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that --

MR. VENTRELL: The best way to bring peace to Syria.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that when you were optimistic Geneva 2 was going to meet, you were putting dates and times, but now it’s not, so you’re not very optimistic, so now be held --

MR. VENTRELL: Look, we want it as soon as it’s practical, as soon as it’s possible. We think that this political negotiated solution is going to be part of the way that this conflict ends, and we think it’s an important and the best way to do it. But clearly you’ve got a regime, on one hand, that continues to slaughter its people, has invited in Iran and Hezbollah to be foreign outside actors to slaughter their own people, in contrast to the moderate opposition that we’re trying to build up and support, who are really wanting to protect the rights of all Syrians.

And so we need to get into a discussion with both elements of the regime and elements of the opposition who share the future – who share the vision that they want to protect the rights of all Syrians. And so there’s an effort to cast this as a purely sectarian conflict, and we don’t see it that way. We see that this has primarily been about the regime slaughtering and going after its opposition and its opponents. And so there are certainly still some elements who are willing to see a way forward, who can see the possibility for a Syria where the institutions are preserved and we can continue to work toward a Syria that respects the rights of all citizens.

QUESTION: But the regime said they were going to attend.

MR. VENTRELL: Well, again --

QUESTION: So where’s the --

MR. VENTRELL: Then you see the Foreign Minister yesterday waffling on the notion of a transitional authority, and that’s something that’s always been – that we, the Russians, the UN, everyone has agreed upon. So that’s what the Geneva communique is about.

QUESTION: I mean, as long as Geneva 2 is not meeting him, he can say whatever he wants. Why don’t you take him to the --

MR. VENTRELL: I mean, again, as soon as this is practical to get both sides to the table and to do this, to do the necessary political solution, we’ll do that.

QUESTION: But you are not targeting July anymore, are you?

MR. VENTRELL: Again, I’m just not going to put a timeline on it, but we think that it’s an important process and we’ll continue to pursue it.

QUESTION: On something that the Secretary said, he said that there are no Saudi fighters in Syria. Do you have complete evidence that there are no Saudi fighters in Syria?

MR. VENTRELL: Well, the Secretary’s point is you have the regime bringing in the active foreign involvement of Iran and Hezbollah as parties to the conflict. I can’t comment on any foreign fighter who may have entered on either side of the conflict of their own volition.

QUESTION: Right. So you’re saying --

MR. VENTRELL: But certainly --

QUESTION: Right.

MR. VENTRELL: -- the moderate opposition that we support stands in stark contrast --

QUESTION: No, I’m just trying to understand something --

MR. VENTRELL: -- to the regime’s efforts to bring in these outside actors. So that was the Secretary’s point.

QUESTION: -- something that the Secretary said, that there were no Saudi fighters. But you really have no evidence --

MR. VENTRELL: Again, the --

QUESTION: -- that there are – there are no Saudi fighters that have been sent by the Government of Saudi Arabia.

MR. VENTRELL: That’s the Secretary’s point.

QUESTION: But Saudi that – has volunteers cross the border all the time and they go to --

MR. VENTRELL: The Secretary’s point was about, in an official way, people becoming parties to the conflict.

QUESTION: Okay. Right.

MR. VENTRELL: And so this isn’t about – this is about the Syrians. Remember, this is about the Syrian opposition wanting to protect the rights of all Syrians, not the Syrian regime bringing in foreign fighters to kill their own people.

QUESTION: Right. Yeah, but the – I’m sure you’re probably aware, or you may not be aware, that clerics from all kinds of mosques within Saudi Arabia or indeed Egypt are calling for jihad, they’re sending – they’re encouraging people to go, and so on. And these are your allies. Do you press them not to do that?

MR. VENTRELL: Look, we are against all extremists. The President was clear about that. We’ve been clear going back a long time how much we are concerned about extremism and how we very much are working to support the moderate opposition.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. VENTRELL: In the back.

QUESTION: Hi, Patrick. It’s John Hudson with Foreign Policy Magazine.

MR. VENTRELL: Welcome to the briefing room. I think this is the first time we’ve had you, so welcome.

QUESTION: Yeah. I was just wondering, just a quick question on Snowden.

MR. VENTRELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Who’s taking the lead on trying to convince the Russians to hand over Snowden? Is this at the White House, State Department? What levels? You mentioned law enforcement channels.

MR. VENTRELL: I mean, we work in the interagency through diplomatic and law enforcement channels. I don’t think I’m going to define it more than that. Obviously the White House has followed it, we’ve followed it, as have Justice and others. So these are all the normal agencies who deal with these kind of issues. We all have a stake in it.

Go ahead, Luis.

QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday you said Secretary Burns had called. Did he call again? And has the Secretary – Secretary Kerry called Foreign Minister Lavrov on this issue?

MR. VENTRELL: I don’t have any calls at that level to read out from the building today, or from the Secretary.

QUESTION: So does that mean that Burns didn’t call today?

MR. VENTRELL: Right. I’m saying that I don’t have anything at that level to read out. I mean, I can’t – certainly our cooperation at the embassy level and at the working level continues, but I don’t have a call at that level to read out.

Okay? Thank you, all.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:44 p.m.)

DPB #106



Back to Top
Sign-in

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.