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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 22, 2013


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • MEPP
    • Agreement to Resume Final Status Negotiations / Way Forward
    • Commitment to Keeping Process Confidential
    • Creation of Senior Negotiating Team at DOS
    • Secretary Kerry in Close Touch with White House
    • Role of Jordanians
  • SYRIA
    • Regular Contact with General Idris
  • SYRIA/LEBANON
    • Fighting Crossing into Lebanon from Syria
  • LEBANON/EUROPEAN UNION
    • EU Hezbollah Designation
  • SYRIA
    • Assad Regime / Ground Situation
    • Focus on Political Solution / Strengthening Opposition / Geneva 2
  • LEBANON/EUROPEAN UNION
    • EU Hezbollah Designation
  • SYRIA
    • Syrian Kurds
  • MEPP
    • Timing for Meetings
  • EGYPT
    • Violence in Tahrir Square / Attacks on Coptic Christians
    • Legal Review Ongoing
    • U.S. Embassy Security
    • Erroneous Reports / Ambassador Patterson
    • Morsy / EU
    • U.S. Assistance
    • Interim Government
  • IRAQ
    • Report of Insurgent Attack on Prisons / Prisoners Freed
    • Martin Kobler Comments
    • Strong Stance against Violence /Engagement with Senior Iraqi Leaders
  • JORDAN
    • Economic Aid
  • SNOWDEN/RUSSIA
    • Snowden Should be Returned to U.S.
  • BENGHAZI
    • Gen. Ham Comments
  • SNOWDEN
    • Comments by Snowden's Lawyer
  • PAKISTAN/AFGHANISTAN
    • Pakistan National Security and Foreign Affairs Advisor visit to Afghanistan
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Gen. Dempsey Meetings in Afghanistan / Bilateral Security Agreement
  • VENEZUELA
    • U.S.-Venezuela Relationship
  • INDIA
    • Vice President Biden Travel
  • ISRAEL
    • Jonathan Pollard
  • CONGO
    • Recent Violence
  • COLOMBIA
    • Reports of U.S. Citizen Kidnapped by FARC
  • SYRIA
    • Syrian Kurds
  • TUNISIA
    • Tamarod Movement


TRANSCRIPT:

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

1:08 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome back for those of you who were on the trip. Hope you got some sleep over the weekend. I don’t have anything at the top, so let’s start with --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- whatever’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Well, I presume that you’re late because you have answers for all of our questions.

MS. PSAKI: Always, Matt.

QUESTION: Excellent.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t come down until I do.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. So let’s start with the Middle East, if we could.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: What did you make of the comments made over the weekend by various Israeli and Palestinian officials both on the – both public comments and comments made in private about the possible resumption of the talks? And do you think that either side or both sides are adhering to the cone of silence edict that the Secretary has put in place?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, just because this is our first briefing after last week and the steps forward that the Secretary announced, that he announced a very important first step. This is the first time in years the official negotiators for both sides have publicly agreed to meet at this level. Representatives have decided that the difficult road ahead is worth traveling and that daunting challenges they face are worth tackling. Right now we are pursuing the way forward. There has been a great deal of work, compromise, and sacrifice leading to this point.

Now going to the point you made, we have promised both sides that we are going to protect them and their interests by keeping the process confidential. That’s a commitment we made. We’ve seen comments this weekend from Prime Minister Netanyahu. I know that President Abbas has not spoken to it. There are only a limited number of parties who are – who know the true details of the discussions and what was agreed to. The deal came together, as we all know, for those of us who lived through it, at the eleventh hour. There are elements that still need to be formalized, but to be clear, we have an agreement between parties to resume final status negotiations. Nothing has changed since Friday. We know that there are going to be some parties or some sources who don’t support the effort moving forward.

But what’s important is that we’re continuing to pursue it, the leaders of both parties are continuing to pursue it, and I’ll just end by saying that there are a lot conflicting reports. By the nature of the fact that they’re conflicting, they can’t all be true. But we’re going to abide by our commitment, and we hope that all sides will do the same.

QUESTION: Well, do you think that they have thus far?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know there were a number of comments on background and by different sources, and we can’t begin to determine where those were from, but, again, the parties who will be – who are at the highest level, who will be playing important roles in this process, we believe have, yes.

QUESTION: Well, President Abbas’s spokesman put out a statement last night that said that until and unless the Israelis agree to negotiate – that the one basis for negotiation is ’67 lines with agreed swaps, that they’re not going to be – that they’re not going to be at the table. So is that a violation of the silent code, code of – the cone of silence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to start getting into evaluating whether – that people have or haven’t. We’re abiding by the commitment that we made. I will say that we are not going to speak to private discussions, as I’ve kind of made clear. Both parties are continuing to plan. We’re continuing to plan to have them in Washington if everything goes to plan. There’s clearly, of course, still hard work to be done. There are decisions that need to be made, but we still feel that it’s in the best interests of this process that we don’t litigate it all in public.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t want to say whether or not you think that the parties are agreeing with the ground rules of the Secretary. Am I correct? Is that correct? You don’t --

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re going to continue to abide by the premise, and we hope others do the same.

QUESTION: All right. And I just have one more.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s logistical in nature, and that is: What is – “next week or so” was the language used by the Secretary on Friday. I’m just wondering if you’ve nailed down or even has there been dates proposed to the two sides or –

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have been in touch with both parties over the course of the last couple of days, but I don’t have an update on the logistics of the date yet.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Is it more likely next week, or is it more likely this week?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to – I don’t have an update right now for you. Of course, it is Monday. We have four days left of this week, so as soon as we do have an update on timing, I promise you we’ll make sure all of you know that.

QUESTION: Can you just come back to the issue of the ’67 borders agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, is there – is this a make-or-break, or is it not even in discussion? Because it seems to be the big issue for both sides.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I know you’re all familiar with what the U.S. position is, which the President outlined in his 2011 speech, but this is one of those – there are a number of issues that will continue to be discussed between all the parties, and as that process continues, we’re just not going to get into laying out the details from here.

QUESTION: Did you say this is one of them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a number of issues, of course, that are continuing to be discussed.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about --

QUESTION: Jen, may I ask on the reports over the weekend that the Secretary has decided to appoint Martin Indyk as his negotiator to do the day-to-day handling of –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- this process going forward?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, let me first say that, of course, the Secretary’s focus first was on getting the parties to come back to the table, and obviously the announcement last Friday was a significant step forward toward that. He’s now focused on putting together the right combination of players to work with the parties, and he’s determining what that will entail. And so we do expect, of course, to have a senior team in place, but no decision on a negotiator or envoy has been made.

And I’ll just finish by saying he knows, as we all know, it’s going to be a challenging process. He can’t carry it all on his own shoulders day in and day out, and that’s why he’s looking to put together a senior team.

QUESTION: Has anyone been approached yet? You say no decision has been made, but has the Secretary actually approached anybody yet to take on this role?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into the specifics of personnel processes.

QUESTION: And do you know when you might be able to have an announcement for us on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on it, but of course this is something he’s thinking about and talking about with his senior team as we speak.

QUESTION: So would you say the report over the weekend about Martin Indyk, it was inaccurate?

MS. PSAKI: Just that – I think what I said about how he wants to put together a senior team, but the decisions haven’t been made yet speaks to --

QUESTION: So he could be one of the --

MS. PSAKI: -- what the status is.

QUESTION: He could be one of the names in the pot, then?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to that. Obviously, he’s a very well-respected professional with a great deal of experience and background, but I don’t have any other updates on the personnel process.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary briefing the President on what’s going on? We haven’t seen a statement out of the White House acknowledging any --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can say that the Secretary has been in very close touch, or he was last week, with Susan Rice. He did speak with the President last Friday. So he has been in close touch with the White House, as we all have, on all levels throughout the last week or so, and long before that, of course. There’s been regular briefings on the status and progress and where we think we are.

QUESTION: So he’s not seeing the President today?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to read out specific scheduling of private meetings, but I can assure you that he has been in close contact with the White House and senior officials there.

QUESTION: Abbas told the --

QUESTION: (Laughter.) (Inaudible) even when it’s on the schedule?

MS. PSAKI: I believe it is, but I don’t have any details on the specifics of the meeting.

QUESTION: Has it been canceled or something?

MS. PSAKI: No, Matt, it has not been, but again, I’m not going to get into the specifics of topics for a private meeting.

QUESTION: Abbas told a Jordanian newspaper that whatever agreement they agreed to in any negotiations would be submitted to a public referendum. Do you support that notion?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to speak to, Said. I know there’s a number of steps each side may take, but we are focused on formalizing this agreement. We have been clear there is an agreement between parties to resume final status negotiations, and for specific questions about what the Palestinians or what the Government of Israel are planning to do, I would refer you to them.

QUESTION: Don’t you think that a public referendum by the Israelis or the Palestinians could sabotage whatever agreements they (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more for you. I would point you to them to ask that particular question.

QUESTION: Did you caution Abbas against such a statement or against doing something like a public referendum?

MS. PSAKI: I appreciate your perseverance, but I just – I’m not going to have anything further on that.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, the last thing I wanted to ask you about, the meetings that – this week, Palestinian sources that it could be Thursday and Friday. I know you’ve talked about this, but could you – do you have any idea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary said as soon as this week, or – this week or next. I don’t have any update on the timing for that. Obviously, we’ll be talking to both sides about what works best.

QUESTION: And this round of talks, once they take place, are they going to be just a launching and then they come back in August, or what – give us an idea how it will work out.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, I don’t want to get ahead of the meeting before it’s actually taken place. It would be natural that they would discuss everything from an agenda to the process moving forward, but both sides have made clear they want to have substantive discussions as early as possible. So I can’t tell you if that’s hour 1 or hour 4 or hour 7, but that’s what we – our anticipation is moving forward.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, lastly, I’m sorry, on the prisoner issue --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the Israelis are saying they are willing to release 83 prisoners. Is that something that you can talk about public?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen those reports, but I refer you to the Government of Israel for that.

QUESTION: Hold on. Are you saying that – I mean, the – it’s envisioned that when they come, that the Secretary’s going to be involved in those meetings, right?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Sorry, I didn’t mean to confuse that.

QUESTION: No, I’m confused because you’re not saying that – the question was about Thursday and Friday.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I just said we don’t have – there may – it may be possible that there are different sides suggesting different dates, but we just haven’t worked out a final date yet.

QUESTION: Would the Secretary be available on Thursday or Friday?

MS. PSAKI: He will be, Matt, at the UN on Thursday.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But he will be up there for a day trip, so – but regardless, there hasn’t been any decision about the date of the meetings yet – the meeting yet.

QUESTION: Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Syria?

QUESTION: Just one more.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s – there may be a few more on this one.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: He’s meeting – on the schedule this afternoon, he’s meeting with the Elders. Is part of the thing – part of what he’s going to outline to the Elders when he meets with them his progress in the Middle East peace?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure there will be a range of topics discussed. I know they’ll be here briefing him as well. So I’ll check if there’s going to be any readout of that, but I’m sure he’ll be happy to talk about a range of issues.

QUESTION: Sorry, Jen, but on the initial launching of the talks, will there be any involvement by the Jordanians?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’ve been very supportive, as you know, to date. And obviously, regional partners have had an important role they’ve played. We talked a bit last week – or, I should say, the Secretary talked a bit last week about the role of the Arab Peace Initiative, and obviously, the Jordanians are an important part of that. But in terms of a meeting here, the players that the Secretary announced would be the players who would be participating.

QUESTION: On the – your non-comment on the Indyk, the possibility, am I correct in assuming that you’re not ruling anybody out, including him, for this job?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m ruling in or out.

QUESTION: Okay. The Secretary said – and others have said – in fact, the President as well has said that in order for this to work, all sides have to be courageous and be creative, and I’m just wondering --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, courageous and creative?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Right?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know. I didn’t hear what – exactly what you said.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Is that right? I mean, they --

MS. PSAKI: Yes, go ahead. Sorry, go ahead and --

QUESTION: -- have to show – they have to demonstrate courage and --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- creativity.

MS. PSAKI: That’s true.

QUESTION: So can I ask what would be – what is so courageous, or what would be so courageous or creative about appointing a recycled – more recycled Clinton Administration officials to shepherd these talks? It would seem to a lot of people, I think, that people like George Mitchell and Dennis Ross, they’ve had – they’ve done this before and not been successful. Martin Indyk was involved in that. What – it seems to me that there’s very little courageous or creative about an appointment like this. Can you address that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, given a decision hasn’t been made and we haven’t announced any personnel decisions, I can just broadly say that obviously, there are a number of factors that go into a decision, and that includes individuals who will abide by the agreement that we’ve discussed here today, but also having a background and having the credibility on these issues are also important factors. But beyond that, we can discuss more when we have an actual --

QUESTION: Okay. And --

MS. PSAKI: -- announcement of who will be a part of this exciting process going forward.

QUESTION: Okay. And when we do, you’ll be able to talk about the credibility that this person or these people will bring to this, including their past experience? Yes?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m happy to speak about any personnel that has been announced. We have not announced --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- them or anyone.

QUESTION: Is it likely that this senior team that the Secretary is putting together, is it likely to be announced, like, today or this week?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have an update on that for you. We will – obviously, this is something the Secretary is thinking about. As you know, he just got back from the trip the same time the rest of us did and was in Boston this weekend, but it is something that’s on his mind that he’s focused on.

QUESTION: Well --

QUESTION: It’s something that would keep the momentum going, correct?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Something that would keep the momentum going if it’s announced today or tomorrow?

MS. PSAKI: That could be your evaluation, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Was he actually in Boston all weekend, or did he not attend a wedding in New York?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he – when he – I was not getting into the specifics of his personal weekend --

QUESTION: Well, you – but you brought it up, so --

MS. PSAKI: -- and don’t think I will.

QUESTION: Well, you brought it up.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I --

QUESTION: There’s reports out there that he was in the Adirondacks for a wedding of some friends, and if you hadn’t brought it – if you hadn’t said he was in Boston, I wouldn’t have raised it to begin --

MS. PSAKI: I was not trying to make a point about his personal plans or to confuse about his personal plans, but he returned from Boston this morning.

QUESTION: Can you say what attributes and what kind of professional experience you’d be looking for in the person who you do decide to nominate as the negotiator in these talks?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t want to go any farther than where I’ve gone, as the Secretary is going to make a decision. Obviously, he’s looking for somebody who can lead the day-to-day process here. He knows he can’t do this all on his own. There are a number of factors that go into that, but beyond that, I don’t have much more for you on it today.

QUESTION: Is it going to be somebody from within the State Department who’s already been working on it in the last few months since the Secretary came into office, or does appointing somebody from outside to – bring a different kind of vision and perhaps a little impartiality to it?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t want to parse out his decision-making process, because I know he’s considering a number of factors, and he’ll make a decision, I’m sure, soon.

QUESTION: Can we switch topics?

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The general commander of the Syrian Supreme Council, Salim Idris, he’s visiting New York, and there are some information that he might be in Washington, D.C. So can you give us a little bit of details about who he’s going to meet here and --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we’ve talked about this a little bit. As you know, we’re in regular contact with General Idris as well as this Opposition Coalition and the SMC to discuss what we can do to help their needs. I would refer you to them. I don’t have any updates on any plans for him to visit Washington or scheduled meetings here.

QUESTION: What is the purpose of the visit? Like, he’s coming here to convince people in the Department or in the States --

MS. PSAKI: I’m actually not – I’m not aware of any confirmed plans on his part to visit Washington.

QUESTION: So you don’t know what is the purpose of this – of his plan?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I would refer you to him, and whether he is visiting, and what the purpose of his visit is. We are in very regular contact with him, as you know and I’ve talked about before. The Secretary has – and many others in the Administration – have a great deal of respect for him. But I don’t have any confirmation of his plans to visit Washington, so I’d send you to him for that.

QUESTION: Okay. Jabhat al-Nusrah decided to – today or yesterday, to have a branch in Lebanon and to fight Hezbollah. So do you have any details, and how this will destabilize the situation in Lebanon?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those reports. I’m happy to look into them. We’ve been very concerned, as you know, all along, in any efforts to violate the sovereignty of Lebanon, including sectarian fighting that has been trickling over into Lebanon. So certainly that would be concerning. But I would have to look into them more closely for you.

QUESTION: What about listing the military wing of Hezbollah by the EU on the terrorist list --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and not the whole party, but only the military wing of Hezbollah?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary – if it hasn’t gone out, it will be going out shortly.

QUESTION: It’s out.

MS. PSAKI: It’s out? Okay – put out a statement specifically on this. So I can just reiterate for you we applaud the EU for the important step it has taken today in agreeing to designate Hezbollah’s military wing as a terrorist organization. This sends a strong message to Hezbollah that it cannot operate with impunity, and that there are consequences for its actions. This designation will have a significant impact on Hezbollah’s ability to operate freely in Europe by enabling European law enforcement agencies to crack down on Hezbollah’s fundraising, logistical activity and terrorist plot on European soil.

So we certainly think the announcement today is a positive step forward, and we applaud them for taking it.

QUESTION: How do you see --

QUESTION: On Syria --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- last week, General Dempsey told the Congress that in his estimation, President Assad would probably be in power about a year from now, and given the support the regime’s received from Russia and from Iran, his forces appear to have the upper hand. Does the State Department still take the view that Assad’s days are numbered? And is it your expectation that Assad will leave office before President Obama’s term expires?

MS. PSAKI: Before President Obama’s term expires? Well, it is true, Michael, of course, that the regime may have made some gains on the ground. It does remain to be seen whether it can hold them. Our view is this is a grinding war, and the best way to end this conflict is a political solution, which is what we are very focused on in this building – what the Secretary is focused on – that involves a genuine transition government.

We certainly have seen, and we’ve spoken about, the influence of Hezbollah and Iran and outside sources, and how that has bolstered the regime. But again, we believe that we can move towards a political solution. We’re focused on strengthening the opposition on the ground, and that’s why we’re continuing to consider all options.

QUESTION: Right. But do you still believe his days are numbered?

MS. PSAKI: We do.

QUESTION: It’s a very large number, though, yes? (Laughter.) I mean, did you envision it when the President said that, and when your predecessor said it, that the date – the number would number in the hundreds?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, let me say that this is obviously a very complex situation on the ground. There are a lot of events that have happened in the past year and a half or so, including the fact that the opposition has formed, they have elected leadership, they have strengthened themselves; they have more to do – we have more we want to do to help strengthen them. But we continue to remain focused on the end goal here, which is a political solution and a political transition for Syria.

QUESTION: So did the Administration believe that when it said the day – that Assad’s days were numbered, that it was going to amount to over 365?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, all we can do is remain focused on how we can strengthen the opposition on the ground and move to a political solution.

QUESTION: Jen, what about Geneva 2?

QUESTION: You said that you’re focused --

MS. PSAKI: I’ll come to you.

QUESTION: -- on negotiation, you’re focused on a political solution.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yet, one gets the impression that Geneva 2 is way on the back burner. Nobody talks about it. Could you update us on what is happening on this front?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is – as you know, we’ve had meetings between high-level officials here and UN and Russian counterparts to continue to plan the agenda and discuss how we can move forward to Geneva. We know there are a lot of factors that go into the timing of when we would do a conference, including making sure the opposition is strengthened, making sure they have leadership elected, which they did undertake, as we know, in the last couple of weeks. But we’re continuing to discuss. We’re not going to have a conference just to have a conference, but we do think it could be an important forum and opportunity to move towards a political transition.

QUESTION: I understand. But what have you done to sort of get the opposition together to have a representation at whatever conference that may come in the future?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said --

QUESTION: They seem to be fragmented.

MS. PSAKI: -- they just elected leadership, just in the past couple of weeks. We remain in close touch with General Idris and discuss with him ways we continue to – can continue to strengthen the opposition on the ground. So – and we continue to consider all options. That’s something the President has said, the Secretary has said, and continues to be discussed in the Administration.

QUESTION: So just to understand it clearly, the suggestion here is that the leadership that was elected two, three weeks ago is the one that will represent the opposition at whatever conference that would be coming?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it hasn’t been determined who will represent them. That’s part of the discussion. But of course, the leadership, and electing the leadership, was an important step forward and we knew that needed to take place before we took additional steps forward.

Syria?

QUESTION: On the – yeah. On the designation of Hezbollah --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- do you share the European point of view that there is a political wing and a military wing? How would you define them?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I think many of you are familiar with our position. We don’t differentiate between Hezbollah’s different wings. The branches share common funding, personnel, and leadership. But we still feel this is a positive step forward, applaud them for taking this important step, and think it will have an impact on the ground.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Since the Secretary is going to New York, and General Idris will be there too. Is there any, maybe, plan for the Secretary to meet with him in New York?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates on his meetings, aside from the UN meeting that you all know that he will be chairing on Thursday. And again, I would refer you to General Idris and the SMC on what his exact travel and visit plans are.

QUESTION: Jen, are you following the clashes in northern Syria, the clashes between the Kurds and the al-Qaida with the troops --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and do you have any update for us?

MS. PSAKI: Do I have any update for you?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: On what’s happening on the ground, or what specifically?

QUESTION: What’s happening on the ground and your reaction. What is the main concern for the Administration? Because it’s kind of different clash other than the clashes between – within the factions – I mean, the opposition groups --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- or the clashes between Assad’s regime forces and the opposition. It’s totally different at this stage.

MS. PSAKI: Right. And so can you repeat – sorry, I couldn’t hear you in the beginning.

QUESTION: So do you have any confirmation about what is the – what’s going on on the ground first of all?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to follow reports that Syrian Kurds are fighting ISIS in the Raqqah province. We’ve been very clear about our concerns over the regional instability calls by the crisis in Syria and the propensity for spillover violence. We’re obviously watching events on the ground all across Syria very closely. I don’t know if you have any specific questions about any other parts or what else (inaudible).

QUESTION: Are you considering to designate ISIS as a terrorist organization, as al-Nusrah?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates on that for you.

QUESTION: So what is the main concern here in this clash? Because the Kurds – it’s not a sectarian clash actually. The Turkish Government is also concern about the interaction of the clashes because maybe there will be an autonomous region conducted by the Kurds there, and is there any concern of the Administration in terms of the unity of --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I mean, we are very concerned about the spillover violence, as we’ve talked about, as it relates to a number of countries in the region, I guess I should say. We’re also very concerned by press reports indicating that the Kurdish Democratic Union might declare an independent Kurdish region in Syria. Such a declaration is highly provocative, as it will certainly exasperate tensions between Arabs and Kurds and give excuse for extremists to exploit the situation. So we’re also watching that and we’re concerned about that as well.

QUESTION: Do you have any contact with PYD and the Kurdish groups in the region?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that for you.

Syria? Oh, hello Jill. Welcome back.

QUESTION: Yes. Thank you very much. Could I ask you a Middle East question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Sorry. How long can this go on without progress? Is there a time limit – the Administration in general, as you look at this kind of never ending cycle of talks that have been going on, or non-talks, for years? Does the Administration, right now with this potential opening, see a timeframe? Do you need progress by any date certain?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to set an arbitrary deadline. I will say, and I said this at the beginning, but it’s worth repeating – no, no, no, it’s okay – that what the Secretary announced last Friday was an important first step, and this is the first time in years that official negotiators at this level have publicly agreed to meet. So that’s important. We’re obviously – this happened – this deal happened on Friday at the eleventh hour and we’re still working to formalize that. But if all goes as planned, these negotiators will be in Washington in the next week or so, and that’s an important step.

We certainly know that we have been through this process before and there have been attempts to move on this process before, but both parties have shown and a willingness and an eagerness to engage at a high level and make tough choices, and obviously there are circumstances on the ground that warrant that from both sides. So the Secretary feels, and he’s said this before, that the risk of not attempting to do this, of not trying to take on such a big challenge is worse than not. But we fully know it’s going to be a bumpy process.

QUESTION: Sorry. I thought we were done with this issue, but since Jill brought it up and since he used the word --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: What’s your definition of “eagerness”? I don’t see how either side has shown a great eagerness to get back to talks. If they were eager to get back to talks, they would’ve gotten back to talk years ago. The Secretary had to go there and drag them kicking and screaming to get – to agree to this. Where’s the eagerness there?

MS. PSAKI: I think what I’m referring to, Matt, is the willingness to come back to Washington and have talks at a high level with high level negotiators.

QUESTION: Okay. But you still think they’re eager to do that.

MS. PSAKI: I do.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Egypt?

QUESTION: New topic on Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, Egypt. Okay. Go ahead. So polite. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: There’s been some reports of renewed violence in Tahrir Square. Is there any fear from the State Department that this could spill over into – along more sectarian lines? There’s been some attack against Coptic Christians of late. Do you have a comment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know there reports were out just this morning. We of course continue to condemn all violence and encourage all sides to refrain from violence, and that is a message that we’re conveying both publicly and privately. Beyond that its – they’re relatively new reports, so I just don’t have anything – any new analysis for you.

QUESTION: Anything on the attacks against Coptic Christians?

MS. PSAKI: We spoke about this as it related, unfortunately, to a separate instance just last week or the week before, and obviously we’re concerned about any instances of violence or targeted violence.

QUESTION: And is there any change in the status of the designation, whether it’s a coup or not a coup?

MS. PSAKI: There has not been.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We continue to – we clearly have serious concerns about what took place, but the situation is very complex, and we are continuing to take a close look at this at every level here.

QUESTION: Okay, just a quick follow-up on my question that we asked Marie last week --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- on what the Secretary had said about Egypt was on the verge of a civil war. Could you clarify that a bit further? (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: I know Marie spoke about this on Friday, and so I would point you to that. This what – if we go back, the President obviously expressed deep concerns about the actions the Egyptian military took place on July 3rd with his statement. This hasn’t changed. We’re not – in no way saying the military’s actions were justified; it’s also true that we were very concerned about the level of violence on the ground in the days leading up to the military’s actions. And there were millions of Egyptians, as we’ve talked about quite a bit in here, who have legitimate concerns, who had legitimate concerns with the way the Morsy government was governing. So that’s what he was referring to. We’re focused now on continuing to encourage an inclusive process moving forward and for the interim government to take steps to move toward that.

QUESTION: Jen, Essam el-Erian, a Muslim Brotherhood leader, has called today on Egyptians to lay siege the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to protest what he said was American support for the ouster of President Morsy. Are you aware of this call? Have you – did you take any measurements or measures in the Embassy? Have you --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I haven’t seen that specific report, but let me just say that there have been a lot of reports out there, including many about Ambassador Patterson that are incredibly erroneous. And we have taken every step we can to refute them and provide the facts. And she is somebody who has a long history as a foreign – a member of the Foreign Service. She’s proudly and bravely served around the world, so we will continue to refute that as we hear it.

In terms of the safety of our officials serving, this is something we always continue to evaluate. And we have taken steps and would take steps as needed if the situation warrants.

QUESTION: But they are still insisting that the U.S. has supported the ouster of President Morsy.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve spoken about this quite a bit in here. I have, and my colleagues Marie and Patrick have. We remain adamant and truthful that we have not taken any position on – or taken any side, I should say, actually, is more accurate. And we’ll continue to convey what our accurate position is both in Egypt and here in Washington as well.

QUESTION: If I understood your answer to a couple questions back --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the legal review about the determination is still ongoing? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.

QUESTION: That’s correct. You’re aware that – you’ll recall that President Morsy was ousted on July 3rd?

MS. PSAKI: I am aware.

QUESTION: That was almost three weeks ago. So is this delay in making the determination –would you say that the delay is due more to a lack of legal competence or the lack of a coherent policy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would, no surprise, refute both of those notions and say this is a very complex situation on the ground.

QUESTION: Yes, but surely --

MS. PSAKI: These things take time --

QUESTION: Yes, I understand that.

MS. PSAKI: -- historically, Matt, and we’re continuing to evaluate and discuss interagency process.

QUESTION: Would you not agree that three weeks is an awfully long time to figure out what exactly happened?

MS. PSAKI: I would not agree.

QUESTION: No?

MS. PSAKI: This was a very complex situation, continues to be, and we’re evaluating it every day.

QUESTION: All right. Well, would you say that the days are numbered for the review? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I’m not even sure what that means, so – (laughter) --

QUESTION: Well, I mean, is it ever going to be finished, or is it only going to be finished once it’s no longer relevant?

MS. PSAKI: We’re continuing to focus on the review, Matt. I don’t have any update for you on the time of conclusion.

QUESTION: Jen, do you have any reason to believe that the interim government is doing any kind of progress right now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen an announcement about a constitutional process. We’ve seen the appointment of interim leaders. I’m not here to evaluate or give a grade, but we continue to encourage the interim government to move forward on an inclusive process and to move forward on elections of a civilian government and one that includes all sectors of society as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary been in contact with the interim foreign minister in Cairo?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to get you – I believe he has, but let me get you an update on that past the – after the briefing on the exact timing of when that was.

QUESTION: Jen, today --

QUESTION: Sorry, just --

QUESTION: -- Morsy’s daughter appealed to the government to release her father. She’s suggesting that his life may be in peril and she’s also appealing to everybody if they can locate where he is. Nobody seems to know --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- where he is. Do you have any idea where – about his whereabouts and under what conditions he’s being held?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you on that.

QUESTION: So the --

QUESTION: I’m sorry, just a follow-up to Matt’s question --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I just – just for clarification --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- when you say that making this determination takes time historically, is there a legal precedent that you’re using as part of your analysis?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to discuss the internal interagency process. Obviously, this is a complex situation on the ground. They’re reviewing it. They’re taking into account events on the ground as well as, of course, our legal obligations. But beyond that I just don’t have an update for you all on the timing of completion.

QUESTION: But if you’re saying the timing is – historically, to do this designation, it takes time, that means that you are comparing it to other situations.

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we can look into any historical comparisons for all of you, but I’m not a historian and I was just making a broad point.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on where Mr. Snowden is and any progress --

QUESTION: Oh, wait. Can I do one more on Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Sorry. Just that the European – EU foreign ministers have come out with an explicit call – and this is more than just Germany – for former President Morsy – by the way, is that what you refer to him as, former President Morsy? Is that what the U.S. believes his position is?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we have been in touch and are recognizing the interim government --

QUESTION: Okay. So that would be accurate.

MS. PSAKI: -- or, we’re working with them, I should say, not recognizing.

QUESTION: Okay, that would – so that would be – all right. So anyway, the EU foreign ministers have all come out with a statement calling for his release. Is that – does the United States support that position now that it’s more than just the Germans?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve stated our position on this and I don’t have anything more on it new for you today.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I just ask again my question from, what, 10 days ago?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why is it taboo for you to say from the podium that you would like to see President – former President Morsy released?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more for you on it, Matt.

QUESTION: So how do you define him? Is he deposed, is he former?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s – I think Lesley was jumping in here.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll go right to you next.

QUESTION: I was just wondering for logical reasons – logical, logistical – is – does the U.S. disperse aid to Egypt while you’re busy with this review, or --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- when would be the next time that you would disburse the aid?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s kind of a complicated question because obviously there’s several different buckets of aid. We’re continuing to pay our bills and abide by our obligations here. The President has asked, or asked for, I should say, when he made his initial statement, for the government and all agencies to conduct a review. That’s ongoing. But in the interim, we’re still providing aid.

QUESTION: When the President asks his staff to do a review, does – do they really – does he expect that it’s going to take three weeks?

MS. PSAKI: I think there’s a recognition on how complex this situation is, Matt.

QUESTION: I wondered if you could – do you define him as former or deposed or any of these terms?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I need to define him.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We’re working with the interim government. We’ve been in touch with them, as you know, on several levels, and we’re eager to see a democratic-inclusive process moving forward.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you about the – one more time – about the current status of President Morsy.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you know his whereabouts? I mean, I know I ask this, but if his life is in peril and if it’s compromised, then it’s going to be like a powder keg that blows Egypt into some sort of a confrontation. Shouldn’t you be sort of concerned about his whereabouts? Shouldn’t you be assured that he is actually fine and well and so on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, we have talked a bit about how we have been encouraging the – all sides to abide by rule of law, and of course to treat all individuals who have been arbitrarily detained at the highest level. But beyond that, I just don’t have an update for you on status or location.

QUESTION: Well, but you called for his release. Did they respond to you? Did they answer you? Did they --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you, Said.

QUESTION: Jen. More on Egypt, please.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You once said that you respect the Egyptian people’s will or decisions; right?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So right now, officially, for them, the former President Morsy is a former president. He’s no longer president. So do you consider him as a former president, respecting the will or the decision of the Egyptian people? Yes or no?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I need to name him or define his name. Our focus is on --

QUESTION: I mean, how do you --

MS. PSAKI: -- moving forward and our focus is on working with the interim government to have inclusive civilian – democratically elected – or democratic process to elect a civilian government.

QUESTION: But are you --

MS. PSAKI: So that’s where our focus is.

QUESTION: This way, Jen, are you trying to avoid the situation and how you’re going to deal with the --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think at all. I think I’m --

QUESTION: -- Muslim Brotherhood and the former president?

MS. PSAKI: -- conveying what our focus is.

QUESTION: Iraq?

QUESTION: You don’t think that you’re trying to avoid anything here?

MS. PSAKI: I think this has become a game, so I’m moving on to the next question.

QUESTION: Yeah. Insurgents in Iraq attacked two prisons during the weekend and freed more than 1,000 prisoners, most of them from al-Qaida. Are you aware of that? And to what extent you are concerned?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not – I haven’t seen this report that you’re referring to, but I’m happy to look into it.

QUESTION: Well, still on Iraq.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah. Okay. This morning, I saw Mr. Martin Kobler, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General in Iraq. It’s his last day. He paints a very bad picture of what’s going on in Iraq. And the feeling – not from him, but from others – I’m getting that the United States actually is not involved. It’s looking sort of neutrally at all this violence that’s going on.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, I would refute that, Said. We are deeply concerned by the levels of violence. We’re encouraged that many political and religious leaders have taken a strong stance against this violence, which is very important, and that they’ve continued to explore ways to address ongoing political and security issues. We welcome recent political developments, including the reciprocal visits in Erbil and Baghdad between Prime Minister Maliki and Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Barzani, discussions by Iraqi leaders to address issues arising from recent protests in western Iraq, and legislative initiatives in the Iraqi parliament.

In terms of our involvement, U.S. officials in Baghdad and Washington remain intensely engaged with senior Iraqi leaders to support their efforts to resolve differences through direct dialogue and the political process. The level of our engagement is reflected even recently by calls placed last week by Vice President Biden to Iraqi leaders, and we’ll continue to work with leaders to overcome the threat of terrorism and their efforts to bring justice to those who continue to perpetrate* such despicable crimes.

QUESTION: South Asia?

MS. PSAKI: South Asia?

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Just staying in the Middle East --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I have a quick question.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s a report by the Jordanian news agency Petra – and I’m sorry if I missed some announcement over the weekend from this --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- that the United States has agreed to increase its economic aid to Jordan by another $340 million, which would raise annual aid to a billion dollars. I wondered if you could confirm anything along those lines.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I have seen those reports. I’ll have to look into them for you. I meant to have something on that when I came down --

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: -- but I will do that following the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: New topic, Benghazi?

QUESTION: I actually had a new topic a while ago.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Jill.

QUESTION: Do you have an update on Snowden’s whereabouts? And also, the Russian Interior Ministry is saying look, you want extradition, we want extradition, we’ve got two guys, terrorists, who are living in the United States and we want them back. And the U.S. doesn’t do anything, therefore this is double standards. Do you have anything on those? I can give you their names if you want.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I’m happy to look into that. I mean, I think our policy on this has been that Mr. Snowden has been convict – or has been accused I should say, sorry – of three felonies. We believe he should be returned to the United States. We – the – my last understanding of this, and I believe this is up to date, is that he remains in the transit lounge of the airport there and that Russia still has the opportunity to do the right thing and return him to the United States, where he can face justice.

QUESTION: Are there continuing talks, or is it just kind of the status quo?

MS. PSAKI: They’re continuing. We remain in contact. I don't have any update for you on the last conversation. But this is obviously an issue that’s a priority and we remain in contact with – at the appropriate level.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Just can I --

QUESTION: -- that’s was a very interesting Freudian slip you just made there. Is it the Administration’s position that Mr. Snowden is, in fact, guilty because he admitted to leaking this material?

MS. PSAKI: I think I corrected myself and said he was accused, which still warrants his return to the United States --

QUESTION: Yeah. But you started out by saying “convicted.”

MS. PSAKI: -- so he can face justice.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I corrected myself midstream.

QUESTION: So it’s not the Administration’s view that he is – right now that he is guilty of any crime?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re familiar with how our justice system works. I don’t think we need to do an education on that here.

QUESTION: No. I just want to make sure --

MS. PSAKI: The status is that he has been accused --

QUESTION: You --

MS. PSAKI: -- of three felonies --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- and we believe he should be returned to the United States.

QUESTION: And tried for that?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: But you do not assume or you do not believe right now that he is necessarily guilty.

MS. PSAKI: You are familiar with how our justice system works, Matt.

QUESTION: Jen, retired General Carter Ham, former head of AFRICOM, over the weekend was in Aspen speaking at the Aspen Institute, and he said that he knew within hours of the attack on Benghazi that he knew it was a terrorist attack. If that is the case, and a view shared by many, why was the State Department so out of touch?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we’ve had a good time talking about this quite a bit in here, but I will tell you that this has all been reviewed and evaluated by the ARB. There’s an unclassified version of that that’s out there. We’re continuing to look into the process. The Secretary’s focusing on implementing those recommendations, but beyond that, I don’t think we’re going to speak to every comment that’s out there.

QUESTION: Was General Ham interviewed for the ARB?

MS. PSAKI: I would have to check on that for you.

QUESTION: And also --

MS. PSAKI: And let me just say though that they had access to every individual they wanted to have access to and the information that they wanted to have access to. It was a very thorough review of the events that happened.

QUESTION: And can I just ask for your comment? This was posted. Secretary Clinton spoke on September 12th. She said: Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protests that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the internet.

If this is true and Secretary Clinton felt this way on September 12th, why now are General Ham and so many others saying that they knew right away it was a terrorist attack?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I’m not going to litigate what’s already been evaluated through an extensive process by independent investigators here into what happened and the events around it. So beyond that, I will just point you to the ARB.

QUESTION: Do you know who the source was for the video, who first said that it was because of the video?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more for you on this topic.

QUESTION: On South Asia.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Snowden?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Because I didn’t realize we were changing topics. Mr. Snowden’s lawyer said today that he would be released, that he hoped to be granted papers by Wednesday allowing him to go. Is that your information? And could you arrest him when he leaves the airport?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think this – I don’t have any independent confirmation here of what the Government of Russia may or may not do in this case, and we continue to encourage the Government of Russia to do the right thing and return Mr. Snowden to the United States. But beyond that, I don’t have any new information or confirmation of the reports that you mentioned.

QUESTION: Well, I think her question was though could – would the Administration consider – if he does leave the airport but is still in – and is in – on Russian territory, would the Administration think about mounting some operation to snatch him?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything for you on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, Pakistani National Security Advisor was in Kabul and --

MS. PSAKI: Mm–hmm.

QUESTION: -- where he found* Islamabad support for reconciliation. How do you see this step on part of the new government?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Just give me one moment here. We’re aware, of course, that Pakistan’s Advisor to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Aziz visited Afghanistan this past weekend. Pakistan is an important partner in supporting a secure and stable Afghanistan, which is vital to the security of the region. Pakistan’s own security and stability is tied to a successful outcome in Afghanistan and any steps that continue to build the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan, in our view, are very important.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- can we stay in the region?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Over in Afghanistan actually.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: President Karzai has apparently told General Dempsey that he’s ready, in principle, to let American troops stay in the country beyond 2014 and that they will go ahead and start signing a U.S. security pact. Do you have any confirmation on your side?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I will say that, as you noted, General Dempsey was in Afghanistan, having meetings there. I know there was a readout that was provided from those meetings. We are continuing discussions with the Afghans on a bilateral security agreement. The BSA will be focused on the nature and scope of the future presence, but not numbers and how U.S. forces would operate in Afghanistan.

As you all know, this decision is up to the President to make in terms of what the presence will be. And we have been clear that our presence will have two goals: Number one, to train, assist, and advise Afghan forces so they can maintain their own security; and number two, making sure that we can continue to go after the remnants of al-Qaida or other affiliates that might threaten our homeland. That’s a very limited mission. But beyond that, I don’t have any updates on --

QUESTION: So the talks are back on track then, are they, after having been suspended by Karzai?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they – we continue informal discussions with the Afghans on a bilateral security agreement while the formal negotiations have been suspended.

QUESTION: So they remain suspended, right?

MS. PSAKI: But we’re continuing informal discussions.

QUESTION: Can we – can I ask a question about Venezuela?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: They’re saying now that they – that they’re ending talks that barely began. And we just wanted to know what your reaction was on that.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you for the question. Well, first, let me say that the United States remains open. There was – as you know, we had a high-level dialogue with Assistant Secretary Jacobson and Charge Ortega. We continue to believe – and that is the case today, too – that a more functional and operational relationship to deal with matters of mutual interest is in the interest of both countries. And so we remain open to that moving forward. We initiated a process to achieve that relationship, and we are continuing to hope that we can resume that.

QUESTION: What kind of steps are you taking? Or is it in their court?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I don’t have any specific updates on calls or anything along those lines. But this is obviously a new public statement this weekend, and so we’ll see if there’s any updates for you on other points of communication.

QUESTION: So after Guatemala, how many meetings were there?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any outline of that for you, just that there were discussions at a high level between Assistant Secretary Jacobson and Charge Ortega.

QUESTION: Well, there was at least one.

MS. PSAKI: There was, yes.

QUESTION: You read it out at the time, or the next day.

MS. PSAKI: That’s true, but I’m not going to outline how many there were.

QUESTION: The reason that the Venezuelans say they’re not going to go ahead with this is because of some comments that Samantha Power made in her confirmation hearing. Is that your understanding? Have they – I guess what I’m really getting at is, have the Venezuelans communicated to you, outside of this public comment over the weekend, that they’re no longer interested in the dialogue?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I’ve seen the public comments. I’m not aware of other private conversations beyond that.

QUESTION: Okay. So you can’t say, then, whether they have told you that it was because – that they’re doing this because of Samantha Power’s comments in the hearing?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve just seen the public comments, as you have, that they’ve made.

QUESTION: On – can we go back to South Asia for a moment?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: President – Vice President Biden is traveling to India.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know White House has released a statement, but can you tell us what regional subjects will he be discussing with the Indian leaders?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you are right that he is traveling to India. I believe he’s arrived in India for a couple days he’ll be spending there. I know he’s going to be spending some time in New Delhi and he’ll also be spending some time in Mumbai. And he’ll be covering a range of topics, including our – the importance of our economic relationship, our strategic relationship. Obviously energy issues are often discussed, and I know he has an extensive schedule while he is in India over the next couple of days.

QUESTION: Will India-Pakistan relations be discussed during the trip?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Vice President’s office for any more specifics on the agenda for his trip.

QUESTION: Don’t have to clarify – just since we’re on Pakistan --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- is there any update yet on the Secretary’s plan to visit?

MS. PSAKI: There is not. He’s still eager to go, but we’ll let you know as soon as we have an update.

Jill.

QUESTION: Jen, this is one more on the Mideast. Apparently, there’s some report in Israel that Netanyahu has asked the United States to free Jonathan Pollard again, and this would be part of the sweetening the pot to release Palestinians from Israeli prisons. Do you know anything about that request? They say that it was turned down.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have actually anything on that request. Our position remains that same on that, but I’d have to look into it more.

QUESTION: On Pollard?

MS. PSASKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did that – is that kind of thing the kind of thing – comments like that related to this process the kind of thing that would go against the being completely silent?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t even seen those comments, Matt. All I can convey is the importance of giving this process the room and the space to move forward.

QUESTION: Okay, but --

MS. PSAKI: And that’s how we’re going to be abiding that.

QUESTION: But tangential issues such as that, they can be talked about just as a --

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t even seen the comments that Jill was referencing.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do a couple more.

Scott.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thursday’s meeting in New York is about the Great Lakes.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the violence in Congo that has led to this new wave of refugees?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Let me see, Scott, if I have anything new for you on this. I don’t, unfortunately, think I do. So we’ll have to get back to you with something immediately following the briefing. I apologize for that.

Let’s just do a few more here. Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: Colombia. Did you have any statement or update about the U.S. military kidnapped by FARC in Colombia?

MS. PSAKI: I believe that this has been talked about, so let me tell you what I have. I don’t know how much of an update it will be. But we are aware, of course, of reports that a U.S. citizen has been taken by the FARC. We remain concerned about the individual’s safety and wellbeing. We are working with Colombian authorities to get more information, and unfortunately we don’t have any further information at this time.

QUESTION: Jen, a quick follow-up on Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You didn’t mention on Jabhat al-Nusrah when you commented on these clashes in northern Syria. Do you have anything about the involvement of Jabhat al-Nusrah in the clashes?

MS. PSAKI: I think I said I’ll just have to just look into that and talk with our team more about it after the briefing.

QUESTION: Just ISIS? I mean, do you – you believe that this is just ISIS who are – I mean, the – involved with the clashes?

MS. PSAKI: We’re still looking into the reports. I just don’t have any more than what I offered to you when you asked the question.

QUESTION: But you contacted with the – did you contact with the Turkish Government about the spillover? A Turkish citizen was killed last week because of the spillover.

MS. PSAKI: We’re in regular contact, as you know, with the Turkish Government, and the Secretary is in regular contact with the Foreign Minister. I’m not aware of a call related to that particular issue in the last couple of days, but we’re happy to look into that for you.

QUESTION: And a last one.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: If – I mean, you designated Jabhat al-Nusrah as a terrorist organization.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But if the members from the Jabhat al-Nusrah leave the organization and find another one, like ISIS, will you pursue this decision?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t want to speculate. We’re still looking into the events that happened on the ground.

QUESTION: But this is how they are working in the region.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have more for you.

QUESTION: Jen, on Tunisia, a movement called Tamarod has launched a petition to have Tunisia’s national assembly dissolve, in a campaign similar to the one in Egypt that toppled President Morsy. And the Prime Minister – the Tunisian Prime Minister has considered that this movement poses a threat to the democratic process in Tunisia. How do you view this movement?

MS. PSAKI: I just have not seen that. I’m still catching up from the trip here, so we’ll get back to you on a comment on that as well.

Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:03 p.m.)

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