1:11 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I know we’ve already had activity in here today, so I don’t have anything at the top.
MS. PSAKI: Let’s start with what’s on your minds.
QUESTION: Well, can we just start with a logistical question about today and tonight and tomorrow?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The schedule says that the Iftar dinner is at 8:30 --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- earlier meetings. What’s the – I mean, are they going straight into the dinner? Are there separate meetings beforehand? We understand that the Secretary’s going over to the White House later to talk to the President before they begin. So just logistical details like that --
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- and then what do you expect tomorrow?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Okay. So let me start chronologically. So the Secretary is heading over to the White House. He’ll be meeting with the President. This is part of his weekly meeting, but he’ll certainly be providing him an update or kind of a preview of the next two days of talks, and I expect that will be a big focus of the conversation. Later this evening, he will have some meetings – a short period of meetings prior to the dinner this evening, and then he’ll have the dinner this evening. This is all taking place at the State Department.
Tomorrow, you heard him say when he was out here making the announcement about Martin Indyk that he would have more to say at the conclusion, so that would be something he would do tomorrow afternoon.
QUESTION: Okay, but when you say this just specifically on the short period of meetings prior to the dinner --
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: -- is that all together? Is that separately? Does he meet separately with the Israelis and then separately the Palestinians? Or is he just bringing them all together?
MS. PSAKI: I’ll have to double check for you, Matt, on whether there’s any – his schedule’s pretty packed until right before the dinner. So I just meant to convey I don't think it’s more than an hour or so, but I’ll check and see what the exact breakdown is.
QUESTION: Okay. And then you expect – should we expect any kind of a readout from those meetings or from the dinner itself?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check with our team and see what they’re comfortable with providing. We all certainly understand the interest. I expect you’ll hear a more fulsome readout as this round concludes tomorrow from the Secretary himself.
QUESTION: Okay. And the talks tomorrow are when? When do they begin?
MS. PSAKI: Tomorrow morning.
QUESTION: And then in the afternoon, or do they end?
MS. PSAKI: I believe they end in the early afternoon, but I’ll have to get you – I’m sure that will be in our information we provide in our daily schedule this evening.
QUESTION: Okay. But you don’t expect there to be meetings going through tomorrow afternoon? You expect them to end --
MS. PSAKI: I do not.
QUESTION: -- and that the Secretary will come out sometime in the midafternoon and make his announcement?
MS. PSAKI: I believe that’s correct, and as we finalize the schedule we’ll send that out to all of you.
QUESTION: All right. Getting beyond logistics, if I could --
QUESTION: Could I ask a couple of --
QUESTION: Yeah. I have some logistical questions as well, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Is Kerry going to be solo during his announcement tomorrow, or is he going to have the parties with him, do you imagine?
MS. PSAKI: I expect they’ll all be together, but we’ll have more of an update for you as the day concludes and we put out our public schedule.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you know if the parties have arrived yet? He mentioned that they were en route during his remarks here.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I don’t have any kind of status updates on who has landed at this stage.
QUESTION: Jen, could you clarify: Israeli sources say that Minister Tzipi Livni is coming in at 6:30 for a meeting. So just to follow up on Matt’s question --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- there will be meetings together or just separate, like at 6:30 --
MS. PSAKI: I’ll have to just --
QUESTION: -- and then at 7:00.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I’ll have to just double-check the exact breakdown. I’m happy to – obviously there was planning going on through the weekend for this, so let me do that and see where our team is following the briefing. But I mentioned, his schedule’s pretty packed until late in the day so it would just be a short period right before the dinner this evening.
QUESTION: And logistically as well, so once the meetings are done tomorrow, do you expect, like, on Wednesday we will have meetings, or that will be over until, let’s say, the next round is announced?
MS. PSAKI: I expect they’ll have more to say about what’s next as they conclude the day tomorrow.
QUESTION: All right. So getting beyond logistics --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Sorry, one more.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, one more logistics.
QUESTION: What time is Kerry going to the White House to meet with the President?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an exact time in front of me, but early afternoon today.
QUESTION: And the dinner tonight is at State or at his house or --
MS. PSAKI: It’s at the State Department.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: It’s an Iftar dinner or a regular dinner?
MS. PSAKI: It is an Iftar dinner.
QUESTION: Isn’t an Iftar dinner – isn’t that a regular dinner?
MS. PSAKI: There will be food served at an Iftar dinner, yes.
QUESTION: Lovely. Now, beyond logistics, when he announced or appointed Ambassador Indyk to this post, the Secretary said that the Ambassador knows what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the past.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I’m wondering if you could elaborate a little bit. What has worked in the past?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I don’t – I’m not going to elaborate on that for you. I’m not a historian here.
QUESTION: Well, what did he mean, that the Ambassador knows what has worked and what hasn’t worked?
MS. PSAKI: I think we --
QUESTION: Because I think any – if you look at what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the past, everything hasn’t worked.
MS. PSAKI: So are you asking me why this is different?
QUESTION: I’m asking you, one, why it’s different, but I’m also asking you, what does he mean when he says that Ambassador Indyk knows what has worked?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he knows that Ambassador Indyk has been involved and engaged in this process in the past. He has respect from both parties. That was a key priority for the Secretary in making this appointment – somebody who could run the process on a day-to-day basis. The Secretary knows he can’t do this on his own. So certainly – I’m certain there are many lessons that have been learned from the past, but I don't want to speak for how he will use those moving forward.
QUESTION: Okay. But you can’t specify then what has worked, what Ambassador Indyk knows has worked in the past?
MS. PSAKI: I think there’s lots of things, Matt, that --
QUESTION: Can you point to a single – just, I’m just curious; I’m really not trying to be a jerk about this. I just want to know what example can you point to as being something that has worked in the past?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to read out for you their discussions of what lessons they’ve learned from the past and how they’ll apply them moving forward.
QUESTION: All right. The lessons learned from past failures, is that what you mean?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, if it had worked in the past we wouldn’t be pursuing this process right now.
QUESTION: All right. And then just my last one on this is: Does the Secretary still believe, as he said up on the Hill a couple months ago, that time is running out for a peace agreement.
MS. PSAKI: He certainly does. He believes that time is not our ally, which is why we’re working so hard on this issue now. As time passes, the situation on the ground becomes more complicated, mistrust deepens and hardens and the conflict becomes even harder to resolve. It allows for vacuums to be filled by bad actors who want to undermine our efforts. That’s one of the reasons why they have all agreed to focus on having talks not just for the sake of talks, but this is the beginning of direct, final status negotiations on a nine month – at least a nine-month timetable. They’ve agreed to work together through the course of that time, and the Secretary absolutely feels that time is of the essence.
QUESTION: What, in your view, was the last thing that pushed --
QUESTION: I’m sorry. The nine-month --
MS. PSAKI: Sir, let’s let Jo – just let Jo. And we’ll go to you – we’ll go to you right next, Said.
QUESTION: Sorry, the nine-month timetable, when does that start from? That’s starts --
MS. PSAKI: Starts now.
QUESTION: -- from today?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And in --
MS. PSAKI: But it’s not a deadline.
MS. PSAKI: This is an agreement that they will work together for at least that time period on this effort.
QUESTION: What will determine when they’re no longer working together? Do you have to have a peace deal, or does it have – I mean, is nine months a timeline for which, by the end of which, you want to have a peace deal?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they have – it is not a deadline.
MS. PSAKI: It is an agreement by – to engage in direct, final status negotiations for at least nine months. So we’re going to make every effort to reach an agreement within that timeframe, but again, if we’re making progress and we’re continuing to make progress, this is not a deadline, it’s not a stop-end, it’s just an agreement to continue to work through that time period.
QUESTION: So it could be extended at the end of nine months if you feel you’re still making progress?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not a cutoff deadline, exactly.
QUESTION: So a child conceived today, if all goes well – (laughter) – should be born with a Palestinian state.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt --
QUESTION: Is that right?
MS. PSAKI: -- good luck with that. We hope you can report back to us on the status. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Let me ask you --
QUESTION: When he goes to – when they meet tomorrow, how can you – how do you foresee them moving forward, inch by inch, on this? Is it – is the discussion first on a framework? How do you envision this going?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary will have more to say on where things go from here tomorrow. But these meetings will serve as an opportunity to develop a procedural work plan for how the parties can proceed with negotiations in the coming months. And again, I expect they’ll have more to say tomorrow. But as they said – as the Secretary said just a week and a half ago, they’re eager to talk about the key issues at stake here, and I can’t predict for you if that’s hour one, if that’s hour seven, but obviously time is of the essence and this is the natural first step of the process.
QUESTION: Can we expect them to stay in Washington for the entire nine months, or do we see them going back and forth?
MS. PSAKI: No. I expect – and especially in naming Martin – Ambassador Martin Indyk as the Special Envoy, he’s going to be responsible for facilitating negotiations, of course. And in that role he’ll be spending a lot of time in the region. But again, I don’t want to predict what will be here and there, but certainly a lot will take place there.
QUESTION: And can I just get clarification on – sorry – on Ambassador Indyk?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not forgetting you, Said. Yes.
QUESTION: Exactly that. You said he’ll facilitate. So in other words, does he direct, set a schedule, or does he kind of set – stand back, sit back, watch how they do it, guide them, et cetera? Who’s kind of directing?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly we will play an active role, as has already been evidenced, in facilitating the dialogue and discussions. But ultimately it’s the responsibility of the parties to make the hard choices necessary. So he will be running kind of the day-to-day, playing – representing the U.S. on a day-to-day. But again, it’s up to both parties, and we won’t get too far ahead of where we are, which is the first day.
QUESTION: Jill asked the right question, but just to follow up a little bit.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: They are going to be working face-to-face, alone, so to speak, without any sort of American supervision or interference?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly we expect – the question here is what is the most productive role the U.S. can play? Obviously, the Secretary named Ambassador Indyk to this role so he could be there on a day-to-day basis. But again, I expect they’ll have more to say tomorrow after they conclude the first two days of procedural planning for this effort.
QUESTION: Well, he will be – correct me if I’m wrong – he will be sort of on call when they run into obstacles?
MS. PSAKI: I think he will be very engaged in day-to-day discussions with both parties. But again, I don’t want to get too ahead of what his day-to-day will entail.
QUESTION: Okay. And just a quick follow-up on what is different this time around. I mean, you, as a member of the team that has been involved in this process, what do you – in your judgment, what was the last thing that pushed the last hurdle sort of out of the way to restart the talks, to have both agree to the talks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary has spoken about this a bit himself in terms of what is different this time, or what he views as different. There’s no question, we know that the challenges we face – and he’s long said this – have required some tough choices. We’ve seen some evidence of that. But both parties also recognize – and this is his view – that there’s a new urgency in moving towards peace. And he felt that he had heard, through his meetings, deep concern both in the region and many other parts of the world in seeing a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
So there’s a feeling that the status quo is not sustainable, that there’s an urgency given events on the ground, given both sides’ seriousness, and that’s why we’re where we are today.
QUESTION: Okay. And lastly, this time around, the fact that it is low-key in the sense that Abbas and Netanyahu and – like, the last time there was Mubarak, who’s gone now, Abdullah of Jordan and so on, and the President, does that tell us, or should it tell us, that expectations are low this time around --
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: -- and not as high as they were the last time around?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our goal is certainly to reach a final status agreement. That has not changed. But I think what you’re talking about in terms of how it’s quiet is what we’ve talked about a little – a bit in here, and the Secretary has talked about, about giving the negotiations and the discussions the room to make progress. He feels that’s a priority, and that’s why we have been making every effort to give them the room to do just that.
QUESTION: So each time in the past that new talks have been announced, people from this podium and the White House and secretaries of state, presidents, have spoken about a new urgency --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and spoken about how the status quo is not sustainable. What exactly is it that’s different this time?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think we see both parties agreeing that time is of the essence and they want to move things forward.
QUESTION: Yeah, but --
MS. PSAKI: We’ll see --
QUESTION: But that’s exactly what has been said previous – in previous iterations of this.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we have to give time for the process to continue and to work its way through. But I think the Secretary and others involved feel that this is moving in a positive direction.
QUESTION: This is the Administration’s third try at getting talks going. Was there any thought at all given to putting someone in the – at the helm whose past history is not that of failure?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, the reason that he has the relationships --
QUESTION: I don’t – right.
MS. PSAKI: -- and I believe the confidence of both sides is because he has been through this before, and again, has – is eager to apply lessons learned from the past. And having somebody with that experience and the confidence of the President and the Secretary is vital in such an important role.
QUESTION: I’m not taking issue with the fact that he has experience. He clearly does, and I don’t think you can argue that experience is not of value here. But I just want to know, was there any thought given to getting some new blood into this process?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, he will be working with a team of people. You heard the Secretary announce that Frank Lowenstein will be involved in – heavily involved in this. We’re also working, of course, with Phil Gordon over at the White House, who’ll be in a lot of these discussions. So he is the person who the Secretary and the President felt was right to lead this effort given his experience, and he’ll be working with a broad team of senior officials.
QUESTION: And what is the role of Phil Gordon? Can you explain what role he will have?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he, as you know, was once here and now is over at the White House.
QUESTION: Right. The White House, right.
MS. PSAKI: And he oversees – this is part of his portfolio. So he’ll be participating in the discussions over the next two days. Beyond that, I don’t have a prediction from there.
QUESTION: So he will give it his fulltime effort, so to speak?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not suggesting that. I’m suggesting that we’re working closely with him and we’re very in lockstep with the White House on these efforts.
QUESTION: Excuse me if I didn’t follow quite closely there. I just want to go back to the logistics of these meetings --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- over the next nine months. Do you expect them to be on a weekly basis, on a monthly basis?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a prediction at – of that for you right now. Obviously, sending Ambassador Indyk to spend some significant time in the region is an indication that we feel there will be a portion there. But I don’t think the Secretary is getting ahead, before discussing over the next two days, what’s going to work and the procedural work plan for the coming months.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, did you say when Ambassador Indyk will head out to the region?
MS. PSAKI: I did not. I don’t have an update on that for you quite yet. It just started.
QUESTION: And how long is he expected to spend out there?
MS. PSAKI: He could come back and forth. I don’t have kind of a prediction of how long he’ll be on the ground each time.
QUESTION: So the talks will meander between Washington and Israel and --
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: -- or maybe even Jordan or (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t want to – I just don’t want to mislead anyone about kind of what the plan is. Obviously, there will be a significant amount of time that Ambassador Indyk will spend on the ground. They’re talking and working through now what the procedural work plan is, so I just don’t want to get too ahead of their own discussions and planning.
QUESTION: And could I just ask again, logistically for tonight --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- other than the main people you already mentioned, who else will be at the Iftar dinner?
MS. PSAKI: I will – I’m happy to venture to get you a list of attendees for that. I just don’t have it in front of me.
QUESTION: But the idea is to have an intimate dinner or are you planning to have a more broader participation with --
MS. PSAKI: No, it’s more of an intimate dinner. But again, we’ll see – we’ll get you the list of participants. I’ll check on that.
QUESTION: And that’s going to be at the State Department?
MS. PSAKI: It is, exactly.
QUESTION: Sorry, can I just make sure I understood the answer to my last question --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- about new blood? So the answer was no, there wasn’t any consideration of bringing people in, new people who haven’t been involved --
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I’m not going to get into the sausage making. But obviously, the decision was made by the Secretary, by the President, by the national security team that he was the right person for this job. He has the right experience for this job and he has the respect and confidence of both sides. Obviously, there’ll be a number of officials working on this process moving forward.
QUESTION: A few weeks ago, it was the term “silent diplomacy” was coined or used in – on this podium. It is still applicable, this approach and term?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. I think one of the Secretary’s priorities and the priorities of the team is to give the process the room and the privacy to make – allow progress to be made. So that is certainly a priority of the team working on this.
QUESTION: And the other question related: Are the other two partners in this process agreed about this silent diplomacy, or not?
MS. PSAKI: There was an agreement that we weren’t going to discuss all the details, we were going to allow many of those conversations to happen privately. Obviously, there are announcements or decisions that need to be made by both parties, and some of them have been – become public over the last couple of days, as we have seen. But this is a commitment the Secretary made and he feels it’s important to abide by.
QUESTION: So quite apart from Ambassador Indyk, the other two parties to this, the negotiating teams, Tzipi Livni and Molho, Ms. Livni was involved in the Annapolis peace process which resulted in no agreement, Mr. Molho was involved in both of the previous George Mitchell attempts which were not good, and on the Palestinian side Mr. Erekat and Mr. Shaath have been involved in unsuccessful negotiations with the Israelis since Madrid. Can you explain to me how exactly you see this time that this cast of characters, all of whom have been at this for decades and not achieved anything, is going to make – is going to be any different?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, it sounds like we’re lucky to have decades of experience ready to come back to the table and make an effort to push forward.
QUESTION: New subject?
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead in the red jacket.
QUESTION: And I’ll re-introduce myself. Jessica Stone from CCTV, yes.
MS. PSAKI: Oh yes, Jessica. I’m sorry. CCTVS.
QUESTION: No problem. Just wondering what the State Department reaction is to this idea that there needs to be a referendum on any outcomes in Israel. And I had another, second one as well.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, as you probably know because you asked the question, a referendum would be something that would happen at the end of the process. That certainly would be up to the Israeli and certainly the Palestinians to determine what steps they need to take. But our effort is to get there, so that’s where our focus is now, and we’d leave it to them to make a decision about what they need politically.
QUESTION: And just for the critics or the skeptics in the region and the everyday people that this will impact, what would you say to them about how hopeful the U.S. is about truly finding a solution here and what it’ll take to get there?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, we know it’s not going to be easy and we’re not naive about the challenge. But we wouldn’t be here and the Secretary wouldn’t be spending as much time as he has, he wouldn’t be discussing with the President, we wouldn’t be working closely with the White House on every step here, if we didn’t feel there was a real possibility. And I think both parties – I don’t want to speak for them, but they wouldn’t be coming back here. And so we’ve seen a commitment from all sides to really pursue this with a seriousness of purpose, and that’s why we’ll be meeting over the next two days.
QUESTION: Jen, just to clarify about the venue. They will start in Washington and there will be another venue in the region for the negotiations?
MS. PSAKI: Again, the next two days are in Washington at the State Department. So I know there’s been some confusion about that. I expect they’ll have more to say tomorrow about the next steps.
Middle East peace? In the back.
QUESTION: Yeah. Just today, one of the Palestinian President’s advisor, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, said that the president, Palestinian President, has received an invitation from the United States to participate in the – in those negotiations. Do we expect a summit very soon sponsored by the President Barack Obama that will host the president, the Palestinian President, and Benjamin Netanyahu?
And also concerning the hard and the difficult decisions that the U.S. officials keep talking about, can you share with us some details about what are those, like, difficult decisions taken by the Palestinians and the Israelis?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I think what you’re referring to is what we announced yesterday, which is that Secretary Kerry invited Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to send senior negotiating teams to resume direct final status negotiations. That’s what’s starting today and will continue tomorrow.
In terms of the second question, again, we have – as we have talked about a little bit here, we want to give the process the room to make progress. We certainly did see an example, of course, that has been public, so I feel comfortable referencing it, is the Israeli cabinet vote yesterday. We see that as a positive step forward in that – in this process. I would note and point you to Prime Minister Netanyahu’s public comments that he thinks it’s important to enter the diplomatic process and that there are moments like this where he needs to make tough decisions for the good of the country. So that’s one I would point you to.
On Middle East peace?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I’m with the Jerusalem Post.
MS. PSAKI: Hello. Welcome.
QUESTION: Thank you. Secretary Kerry said this morning that he got a direct – he was directly charged by the President after his March trip to Israel to renew negotiations. Was this a priority of his before the President’s March trip?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And was there something that occurred during the trip that inspired the President to directly charge the Secretary?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, of course, the President is fully supportive, and I would point you to my colleagues over at the White House to really expound on this more, but – of Secretary Kerry’s efforts. And he’s very engaged in the process. As I mentioned a little earlier, they’re meeting – they have their weekly meeting and this will be a big part of the discussion.
President Obama wanted to go to Israel to have meetings there. That did kick-start this effort when he visited the region in March. And he, since that point, and actually at – during that visit, as you know, he asked the Secretary – or he publicly announced that the Secretary would be playing the role in pursuing this – this effort, and seeing if we could move both sides back to the negotiating table. But the Secretary and the President have weekly meetings when they’re in town. They speak regularly. Even just two weeks ago when the Secretary made his announcement, he was on the phone with the President just minutes before, providing him an update on what the agreement was. And so we have been very engaged behind the scenes and we expect that will continue in the months ahead.
QUESTION: On Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly. Oh, Jill. Sorry, did you have --
QUESTION: On North Korea?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: There are reports that President Carter has been invited by North Korea to come to Pyongyang for discussions, and he’s considering it, the reports say, and he also discussed the trip, apparently, with Secretary Kerry and also with National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Can you confirm that he did discuss it with Secretary Kerry?
MS. PSAKI: Well, North Korea – and I believe – I think we said this at the time, but – one of the topics that was discussed. He actually – his – the Carter Center has come out and said he is not going and they have refuted the public reports. So I would refer you to them for any more specifics. But they discussed a range of issues during their meeting, and certainly he didn’t indicate he was going at the time because it sounds like he didn’t have plans to go.
QUESTION: This is a meeting that Secretary Kerry had with --
MS. PSAKI: He had last week – I believe it was last week – with the Elders and, of course, former President Carter is a part of that. And they also discussed Syria, Middle East peace, and a range of issues.
QUESTION: Okay, thanks.
QUESTION: Follow-up question?
QUESTION: Can I make a follow-up question?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: You already said that the safety of American citizens is a top priority for you --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- the United States Government. So what efforts are you making to win the release of Kenneth Bae?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, this is an issue that we’ve been very engaged with over the course of time through our protecting power. Let me see if I have any kind of update for you on the latest. We’ve been concerned, and let me just kind of express this again. We’ve seen recently, just a couple of weeks ago, interview footage of Mr. Bae. It was clear that his health was deteriorating, which, of course, is of grave concern. The Embassy of Sweden is our protecting power and they have requested consular access on a number of occasions. We remain in close contact with them, and we are – continue to urge North Korean authorities to grant Mr. Bae amnesty and immediate release.
QUESTION: So is there any possibility that the United States Government will send any special envoy to North Korea for negotiations on the issue?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any plans for that.
QUESTION: Well, would it be – I was going follow up and ask --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- would this be something that Secretary Kerry support if former President Carter decided to go?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s a private citizen, and he hasn’t decided to go. So I don’t think we have any more analysis on it.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I’m wondering, since Saturday’s phone calls the Secretary made, has there been more contact, that you’re aware of, between him and Egyptian officials? What do you make of the situation there today?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. There has been – and let me just make sure I get the full list here. So since Saturday, the Secretary also spoke today with Egyptian Interim Vice President ElBaradei. He spoke with EU High Representative Cathy Ashton this morning as well. And he’s been in close contact with his counterparts in the region, including the Emiratis and the Turks and the Qataris as well, given they all have a stake in the outcome in events.
QUESTION: Those were foreign ministers? Sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Exactly, yes. Sorry, that was – I was shorthanding it there for you.
QUESTION: UAE, Turks, and Qatar?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Exactly.
QUESTION: Okay. Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.
MS. PSAKI: No, no, no, no. Not at all.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: As you know, EU High Representative Ashton is in Egypt now. We fully support and appreciate her efforts to calm tensions, prevent further violence, bridge political divides, and help lay the basis for a peaceful, inclusive process. That was the discussion – the focus of the discussion this morning that the Secretary had with her. And we expect we’ll be – continue to be in close contact.
Go ahead. Sorry.
QUESTION: No, no.
MS. PSAKI: I was just continuing – and you saw the comment – the statement, I should say – that we put out from the Secretary this weekend that highlighted – that strongly condemned the violence and called for restraint by all parties. That, of course, remains our focus.
QUESTION: Do you still believe that Egypt is on the brink, as it suggested in the statement from Saturday, or has it receded from the brink?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen ongoing violence. I think what he said in his statement – and I’d have to pull it up in front of me – was he encouraged parties to pull back from the brink. So certainly --
QUESTION: Right. Which implies that they’re on the brink, right?
MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) Yes. This is quite an analogy on the brink.
QUESTION: You’re not suggesting that it doesn’t mean that, do you?
MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary – I mean his statement made clear that we were concerned about the level of violence. It’s something we’re continuing to monitor. He’s been in very close contact with his counterparts and with High Representative Ashton on these exact same issues. So we’re continuing to press on that.
QUESTION: But do you think that – well, first of all, brink of what? And then – and second of all, do you think today that they have, in fact, pulled back from that brink, whatever it is?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t – this is one of the reasons why the Secretary is in close contact with High Representative Ashton. I don’t have an analysis of what’s happening on the ground. Obviously, we’re continuing to call on all parties to exercise restraint and to focus on moving towards an inclusive process.
QUESTION: But I just – do you still think they need to pull back from the brink, or have they pulled from the brink sufficiently to assuage or ease any of your concern?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary remains focused on it, so we haven’t – we were --
QUESTION: Right. Would you say the same thing today that you said, that – would he say the same thing today that he said Saturday?
MS. PSAKI: I believe he would. He’s continuing to --
QUESTION: All right. Okay. So you still --
MS. PSAKI: -- call for all parties to exercise maximum restraint and --
MS. PSAKI: -- focus on depolarization.
QUESTION: All right. Then just along those lines, is there any concern in this building or elsewhere in the Administration that you’re aware of that the – that your decision last Thursday to avoid making any determination on whether this – whether President Morsy’s ouster was a coup or not has essentially given the Egyptian military the green light to go ahead and do whatever it wants?
MS. PSAKI: No.
QUESTION: There’s no concern about that --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to – obviously there are a range of issues discussed, Matt, but that decision was made – and we talked about this quite a bit on Friday – with the goal in mind that our focus is encouraging Egyptians to take steps to enable the interim government to quickly and responsibly transition back to a stable, democratic, civilian, inclusive government.
MS. PSAKI: We do not want to take sides. We still feel aid is in our national security interests. Nothing has changed from our position from Friday.
QUESTION: Well, if the goal in mind of not making a decision was to encourage an inclusive process, do you think the immediate – what happened in the immediate aftermath of your non-decision advanced that goal?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I think we expressed pretty clearly our concerns about the violence that ensued this weekend.
QUESTION: Right. So instead of this non-decision promoting or advancing your goal, it in fact did not. Correct?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not making that --
QUESTION: It took it a step backwards.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not making that link between the two.
QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t see – there is no concern that there is a link between the two?
MS. PSAKI: I have not heard from our team that that’s something we’re focused on.
QUESTION: Okay. But since – I just want to make sure that I understand, so we’re starting from the same point here. Since Friday --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- would you say that Egypt has advanced toward that goal or receded from that goal?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, we know that this process is going to take time. Obviously they’re going through the process now.
QUESTION: Yes, but on Saturday the Secretary said they were at the brink.
MS. PSAKI: But I’m not going to give a day-by-day grade. Obviously, we’re focused on it. The Secretary’s --
QUESTION: Only on days that you feel like it?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have ever given a day-by-day grade.
QUESTION: Well, you did on Saturday.
MS. PSAKI: How did we give a day-by-day grade?
QUESTION: Well, he urged them to recede – to pull back from the brink.
MS. PSAKI: And we certainly continue to urge them to restrain violence --
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: -- to focus on the inclusive process moving forward.
QUESTION: Is Lady Ashton taking a plan with her, to the best of your knowledge? Has she taken, like, a real concrete plan that – to put Egypt back on the road that you want her to?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to her office. I don’t have anything to read out in terms of the specifics.
QUESTION: Yeah, but the Secretary spoke with her this morning. And he also --
MS. PSAKI: She – he did.
MS. PSAKI: But again, I don’t want to – I don’t have more to read out for you about her plans or their private conversations, just that they’re remaining in close contact, and we’re very supportive, of course, of her efforts.
QUESTION: Is it logical to assume that she does have a plan that may have been coordinated with the United States?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to jump to any conclusions. I would point you to her office to read out any specifics of her agenda there.
QUESTION: Jen, I’m a little confused because now there are reports that the White House is saying that Jimmy Carter is going to North Korea on a private trip. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: I’ve only seen, Jill, what the Carter Center put out, which was that he was not going on the trip. So we’ll have to check and see what the actual status is here, but it sounds like his office would have the most up-to-date information.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the High Commissioner visit Ashton to Egypt. Especially there are reports that she was going to meet, or at least as much as we know, that was planning to meet President Morsy --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and --
MS. PSAKI: I – go ahead.
QUESTION: -- and the possibility of asking some special treatment with him. Do you – what do you believe – how he is going to be – he has to be treated?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly, of course, believe that the High Representative should have access to Mr. Morsy. And I think we’ve stated a number of times in here about our concerns about making sure that his treatment is at a high standard.
QUESTION: Are you --
QUESTION: Another question related – I mean, just still on – I’m still on Egypt. In the last few days, beside the violence, of course, there are some news outlets, especially related to Islamist organization or Islamist movements, were badly treated. Do you have anything to say about that? Or are you raising this issue, or the only issue is the security measures or the freedom of Morsy?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure I totally understand your question. Can you --
QUESTION: I mean, the issue of freedom of expression --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- there are some concern by some journalist or news organization that they were treated badly in the last few days. Do you have anything to say about that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe I’ve spoken about this before. But if not, let me reiterate our belief that the media should have every right to have – we believe in the freedom of media, certainly, in Egypt, anywhere around the world, just like we believe in the freedom of expression, and we’re certainly concerned about any unequal or unfair treatment of media organizations. And that’s something that we speak out about often.
QUESTION: It was reported a few days ago that Ambassador Patterson met two of the leaders of Muslim Brothers, who are mainly now – even they – last week even they met High Commissioner Ashton.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And it seems that even they are – kind of I don’t want to jump to conclusion, but there is like they are – they have their own reservations to be part of the political. Do you have a readout of that meeting or something?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not familiar – I can’t even confirm that independently for you. I don’t have any details on her recent meetings, but --
QUESTION: So the other question is related to the security or the issues of the instability of the Sinai. Generally, it was mentioned before that you are concerned about the security and stability of Sinai.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But as a matter of fact, in the last two days or three days, more and more issues are coming out and as it was reported in today’s Washington Post front page --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- there is a big issue. Do you have anything to say about that?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely, and we certainly saw those reports and have been following closely events on the ground. We remain concerned about the security situation in the Sinai, and more broadly we continue to believe that securing the Sinai is vital to Egypt’s future and for the region. As we have said before, we condemn any violence in Egypt and any incitement to violence. Violence has not and will not achieve the Egyptian people’s aspirations for dignity, democratic governments, and economic equality.
MS. PSAKI: Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up. Is the United States planning to submit requests similar to the EU on access to Morsy?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you on that. Again, we, of course, support and we believe she – that High Representative Ashton should have access to Mohamed Morsy while she’s in Egypt.
QUESTION: Okay. But wouldn’t that facilitate – help facilitate, bring about the things that you are seeking in Egypt by being able to see Mr. Morsy and that he’s actually in good health and so on?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve been pretty clear that allowing the full range of political parties as well as civil society organizations to take part is vital to a successful democratic process, and that’s our focus, is an inclusive process moving forward and the interim government delivering on that in the months ahead. So that’s, of course, very applicable to the arrests and the continued detainment of many members of the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s hard to have an inclusive process if they’re not able to participate.
QUESTION: Have you cautioned the military not to hold Mr. Morsy indefinitely under administration detention --
MS. PSAKI: I think --
QUESTION: -- under all kinds of charges?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been very clear that there should be a process put in place for his release that takes into account security and a range of other issues.
QUESTION: I’m just curious, on what grounds do you think Catherine Ashton should be allowed to have access to Mr. Morsy?
MS. PSAKI: How do you mean, “on what grounds?”
QUESTION: Well, I mean, what, because he was a former president? Why exactly should the Egyptian authorities allow her to visit him?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve been very clear that we believe an inclusive process means the participation of all parties, and --
QUESTION: Right --
MS. PSAKI: -- certainly the detainment of many members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including Mr. Morsy, makes it difficult to move forward with that.
QUESTION: Right, but why – you’re not calling for her to have access to any – I mean, he’s been accused of crimes by the --
MS. PSAKI: Well, she has a – she has a range of meetings --
MS. PSAKI: -- there. That, of course, was the question that was asked, so I wanted to provide an answer.
QUESTION: Right. But I – but you believe that the Egyptians should allow her access to him because why?
MS. PSAKI: Well, she’s going to be meeting with a range of officials. Obviously, as we all --
QUESTION: So he is still relevant? You believe that he is still relevant to the process?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we think the Muslim Brotherhood and all parties should have a role in the process moving forward.
QUESTION: All right. If you’re getting called, I’ve got another subject real quickly.
QUESTION: I just wonder if it’s more because you fear that his conditions of detention might not be up to standard.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, that’s obviously – we want to make sure that he is treated well, and that certainly is something that we’re focused on and we’ve conveyed. But again, I really don’t have any more to read out of her specific plans while she’s there.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So back in the ‘90s, Ms. Ryan worked on the staff of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton. Ms. Ryan was forced to testify about her dealings with California businessman Johnny Chung, who pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from his fundraising efforts on behalf of the Clinton, Gore, and Kerry reelection campaigns of 1996. And forgive me giving you the context here. Mr. Chung testified at the time that Ms. Ryan solicited a $50,000 gift from him to help Ms. Clinton pay off a debt to the DNC.
So the question is, as part of this selection process, how much was her past vetted? Did this implication and this scandal come up in her vetting process now? And do you expect there will be a congressional hearing on her confirmation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that I have had the honor and pleasure of working with Evan Ryan when she was serving as an advisor to the Vice President. She is a incredible professional with an amazing level of experience, and she’s served in a range of positions. I don’t have anything for you on any process of vetting or any process of internal decisions, just that clearly, we’re fortunate to have somebody with such a high level of credentials serving – or nominated to serve in this role.
QUESTION: There is a confirmation hearing though, is there? Or is this a post that doesn’t require --
MS. PSAKI: No, I said nominated to, nominated.
QUESTION: Right. I know. But one of his question was whether there’s a confirmation hearing. Is this – I know that some assistant secretaries are no longer confirmable.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: This one is though, correct?
MS. PSAKI: I would have to double check on that for you.
QUESTION: Because there are some reports that senior leaders have stepped in to encourage that there not be a hearing. That’s why I ask.
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any update for this – on this for you.
QUESTION: And you can’t say if the – her implication in that fundraising scandal was part of the vetting process?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not – I don’t have anything more to add, although to commend her great work in the past.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure. Well, let me first say that the United States commends the Cambodian people for their active and peaceful participation during the Cambodian national election. We urge all parties and their supporters to continue to act in an orderly and peaceful manner in the post-election period.
We are concerned by numerous reported irregularities in the electoral process. We have consistently called on the Royal Government of Cambodia to addresses systematic flaws – systemic flaws, such as problems in the voter registry and unequal access to the media. We call for a transparent and full investigation of all credible reports of irregularities.
QUESTION: Okay. Does that mean that you do – that you support the opposition’s call for some kind of a special inquiry?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we will be closely monitoring, of course, the information released – let me just say this, because I wanted to add it – by the National Election Committee. We have seen – and in light of the reported irregularities, we call for a full and transparent investigation that will be reviewed as credible by the Cambodian people. It’s not about supporting one call, it’s about the fact that we did have concerns about reported irregularities, and we believe that, of course, the Cambodian people should have confidence in the outcome of the election.
QUESTION: Okay. And sorry, I think you slightly just misspoke. You meant that will be viewed by the Cambodian people and not reviewed, right?
MS. PSAKI: Viewed. Sorry. I added an r-e there. My apologies.
QUESTION: Viewed by the Cambodian people as transparent.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Yes. Could you comment on the report today that the Syrian Government forces have overtaken much parts of Homs and other places?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I can. While it is true that regime forces backed by Hezbollah and Iran may have made some gains on the ground and taken control of some areas within Homs and the surrounding area, it remains to be seen whether it can hold them. This is – obviously we’re watching it closely and we’re in close contact with our – with the SMC and with officials on the ground, and we’ll continue to monitor in the days and weeks ahead.
QUESTION: So do you believe that the opposition losing grounds constantly puts it a better position for negotiations or a disadvantageous position for --
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say --
QUESTION: -- the negotiations.
MS. PSAKI: -- that despite the onslaught, the opposition continues to retain control of the provincial capital and a number of provinces and parts of Aleppo city and the province surrounding. We are – as you may – as we kind of read out, I should say, from the meeting that the Secretary had last week with the newly elected president of the opposition, there was an agreement that moving towards a political solution is the best path forward and that they – and out of – coming out of that meeting, we’re going to continue planning for a Geneva conference in the near term. And as the Secretary has said many times, his belief if that there isn’t a military solution. This is a scenario, a crisis, where we need to move towards a political solution, and the sooner we can do that and get both sides to the table to have that discussion, the better.
QUESTION: Are you worried that more and more of the areas under control of the opposition is actually under the control of Jabhat al-Nusrah and the Caliphate soldiers and so on, that recently have committed a massacre, 150 people, mainly civilians? Are you worried that you are losing sort of grip or influence on the opposition forces?
MS. PSAKI: Well, always we have been focused on making sure any assistance from the United States, but also from our partners around the world, goes the moderate components of the opposition. We’re in close touch on a daily basis, as we’ve talked about before, with General Idris, who’s heading the SMC. And I know there have been reports, of course – I think you’re referring to the recent execution of the regime troops, and I would note to you as well that the SOC issued a statement yesterday condemning these acts, noting that the alleged perpetrators are not affiliated with the Supreme Military Council.
So certainly we remain concerned about the extremist elements. We are in close contact with the moderate components of the opposition, and we’re focused on making sure they receive the aid they need to continue to hold ground in Syria.
QUESTION: And finally, the Iranians are saying that they are about to conclude a deal involving Iraq and Syria to transfer natural gas through Iraq to Syria. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to take a closer look, Said, at that report and get something back to you.
QUESTION: Do you have any update about the clashes in northern Syria, but – I mean, you had said that you are monitoring the situation closely. Do you have anything to --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more update than what I just provided on the ground game, but we’ll venture to get you something for tomorrow on what we’re seeing on the ground there.
QUESTION: And the last one. Al-Qaida affiliated groups attacked a Turkish mission in Somalia and their one security official was killed during the attack. Do you have a comment on that, any statement?
MS. PSAKI: Well, of course, we condemn all violence and certainly a circumstance like that as well. I will talk with our team and see if there’s more I can provide you with an update.
QUESTION: Are you coordinating the efforts with the Turkish side? Because you are very involved in Somalia in terms of the fight against al-Qaida in the region.
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, as you know, the Secretary speaks with Foreign Minister Davutoglu, including this past weekend, on a very regular basis. I’ll let you know if there’s any update in terms of coordination to provide to all of you.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) I thought he spoke today with him.
MS. PSAKI: He spoke – sorry. Let me be clear. And I was talking about calls since Sunday, but I – or since Saturday.
MS. PSAKI: This morning he spoke with High Representative Ashton and with interim Vice President ElBaradei.
MS. PSAKI: The other calls happened over the course of Saturday and Sunday.
QUESTION: UAE, Turkey, and Qatar?
MS. PSAKI: Exactly. He’s – those all three happened yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:01 p.m.)