printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 13, 2013


Share
Index for Today's Briefing
  • NIGERIA
    • Designation of Boko Haram and Ansaru as Foreign Terrorist Organizations
  • MEPP
    • Resignation of Palestinian Negotiating Team
    • Commitment to Nine-Month Timeframe
    • Settlements
  • COLOMBIA/RUSSIA
    • Confrontation
  • EGYPT
    • State of Emergency
    • Egypt-Russia Relations
  • IRAN
    • Ongoing Discussion About Sanctions Relief / Israeli Intelligence Official Remarks
    • Secretary Kerry in Meetings on the Hill Today / Banking Committee / Senior Democratic Leadership
    • President Obama and President Hollande Call Today
    • Next Geneva Round
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Bilateral Security Agreement / Loya Jirga
  • NICARAGUA
    • Reports of Americans Being Held
  • SYRIA
    • Reports of Regime Gains on the Ground
    • Geneva II / Planning Continues
    • Kurds Announce Creation of Autonomous Region
  • TURKEY
    • Request to NATO for Extended Patriot Deployment
  • SYRIA
    • Private Donor Funding to Syrian Opposition
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Special Government Employees
  • TURKEY
    • Prime Minister's Comment on Cyprus
  • NSA
    • Reports of NSA Spying on IMF
  • PHILIPPINES
    • Update on U.S. Citizens
    • Update on Assistance
  • D.P.R.K.
    • DC Rappers Reportedly Planning Travel to Pyongyang for Video Shoot


TRANSCRIPT:

1:30 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I just have one item for all of you at the top.

You may have seen that we put out a statement on this already and we also held a briefing call, but today the State Department announced the designation of Boko Haram and Ansaru as separate Foreign Terrorist Organizations and as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. These designations are an important step in supporting the Government of Nigeria’s effort to counter violent extremism and address the security challenges in northern Nigeria. The consequences of these designations include a general prohibition against knowingly providing or attempting or conspiring to provide material support or resources to or engaging in transactions with Boko Haram or Ansaru, and the freezing of all property and interests in property of Boko Haram or Ansaru that are in the United States or come within the United States or the control of U.S. persons.

So with that, let’s get to your questions.

QUESTION: Why don’t we stay on Boko Haram then, since we’re on that?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, of course.

QUESTION: I’d asked this on the conference call, and I’m still not clear about the answer why – exactly why it’s taken so long to designate Boko Haram and Ansaru – but particularly Boko Haram as an FTO.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know there’ve been calls from a number of quarters over the past few months for you to do so, and I understand that it takes a long time, but has things happened – is there something different on the ground now that makes the United States fear that this insurgency is more entrenched and more militant and perhaps a bit more organized and more bloody than it was, say, a year ago?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me do my best to answer your question. I don’t know if I – I didn’t hear every part of the conference call, so let me try here. As you know, any designation or decision to designate is the result of an extensive and deliberative process, and interagency process. We, of course, listen to a range of people, and ultimately the Secretary of State makes the decision, but it’s in conjunction with a number of other agencies.

As you also probably know, we have designated over time several leaders of Boko Haram. And as the decision was being made here, we were looking at trying to understand how Boko Haram is organized in order to be able to effectively target the group and its assets. As you also know, Boko Haram is a decentralized and factionalized organization with a loose command and control structure. So we’ve worked over the years with our international partners, as well as with the Government of Nigeria, to deepen our understanding of the organization. And while we knew the leaders were taking actions that warranted, this was an interagency and deliberative and extensive process to make the decision about the actual organization.

QUESTION: And how extensive does the United States believe are the links with AQIM?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we do – while we continue to believe that Boko Haram remains primarily a Nigerian organization within its – in its principle – with its principle objectives in Nigeria, we do believe that it has links to AQIM. In terms of the level of that, I don’t have an evaluation.

QUESTION: And are these links deepening and growing?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an evaluation of that. I’m happy to touch base with our team and see with them if there’s anything more specific in terms of an increase or anything along those lines.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

QUESTION: Jen, no, can we do one more?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, let’s see – go ahead, Jill.

QUESTION: Sorry, I just want to make sure. In other words, after you analyzed how they function, you decided that naming them an FTO would actually make it more effective in terms of getting at them and damaging them in some fashion, as opposed to just getting to the leadership?

MS. PSAKI: Well, how effective is always a question, how effectively you can apply the designation. As you know, these types of designations – financial transitions is what it applies to. So it’s more – I should say financial sanctions, really. So that’s how it is applied.

We knew that the leadership, as is evidenced by their designation, warranted designation. There was an evaluation in part on how the Boko Haram was organized and how to best and most effectively target the group, as you referenced, but also an evaluation of whether the entire organization was following what the leadership was doing.

QUESTION: Can we change topics – could we --

QUESTION: I have one just --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead, Michelle.

QUESTION: -- a quick follow-up. Do you have a sense of whether or not U.S. – Americans were actually supporting this group or whether this group has any assets here to be frozen?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question, and obviously that is part of what is targeted in terms of how the sanctions would apply. In terms of the level or the amount, I don’t have any percentage of that or amount. I’m happy to check and see if there’s something more specific we can provide.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: Are we – do we have any more on Boko Haram? Okay.

QUESTION: We don’t have any more?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely, Said. I know you’ve been waiting for it.

QUESTION: I wonder if you have any comment – I’ve been waiting for this – I wonder if you have any comments on the resignation of the Palestinian negotiating team, and then – and the manner in which it was announced on Egyptian television.

MS. PSAKI: Well, a couple of points I’d like to make on this. We would, of course, overall refer you to the Palestinians on the specifics, but I would point you to an interview that President Abbas also did today where he again made clear that he remains committed to the negotiations for the nine-months agreed upon timeframe. And we fully expect the negotiations to continue as they have.

He also made clear that there are a couple of options here. Either the delegation goes back on its resignation or they form a new delegation. Those are his words, of course, in terms of what the next steps are. So it’s important and it’s important to note that he reaffirmed the commitment of the Palestinian Authority to the negotiations on the nine-month timeframe and made clear that he wants them to proceed.

QUESTION: Okay, now you tell me if you understand why he would do such a thing on television when, in fact, he’s recommitted himself in the same interview, saying that we want to go back to negotiating, we want to – I’m willing to try to re-convince the team of going back to negotiate. So what kind of points is he trying to score? What kind of message is he trying to send?

MS. PSAKI: I think he’s trying to send the message that he remains committed to the negotiations, and that, as he said – again, in his words – either the delegation goes back on its resignation or we form a new delegation. So those are his words, not my words.

QUESTION: Jen, can we just --

QUESTION: Well – let me just quickly follow-up – as sponsors of both the Israelis and the Palestinians in many ways, did he discuss with you their intention to – his intention to accept this resignation? Because it was talked about last week before your visit, as a matter of fact.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into the specifics on that level of internal discussions. Obviously, there have been reports of this possibility for some time. We’ve seen those reports as well, and again last week in speaking with the Secretary, he reaffirmed his commitment to the nine-month timeframe, which was something he did again today.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to the beginning on this?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you saying that you have – that the United States has been informed that the Palestinian team has resigned, the negotiating team has resigned?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think not only has the negotiating team made a statement, but President Abbas has made statements. The Secretary has spoken with – he spoke with President Abbas yesterday. I’d have to check if they discussed this yesterday, but I think their public statements are what I’m pointing to.

QUESTION: And Jen, another clarification. There were reports yesterday about 20,000 units, but now there seems to be kind of a backtracking. What’s the latest that you understand in terms of whether or not these are actually going to go forward?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re right. We – there was news also this morning, which I believe is what you’re referring to, that President – Prime Minister – excuse me, I almost called him President Obama – that Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered the Housing Ministry to stop the planning tenders. We – our position on settlements is quite clear, which I, of course, reiterated yesterday. But that is the latest news in terms of what the next action is. I don’t think we have any additional information beyond that.

QUESTION: Can I ask about the U.S. opinion?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Forgive me if you addressed it. But your basic view on the reported resignation or intent to resign by the Palestinian negotiators is what: that this is good, this is bad, or this is indifferent because they can just name a new team?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t put it in those terms, no surprise. But I pointed to the fact that President Abbas has reaffirmed his commitment to the nine-month timeframe for the negotiations. He is, of course, the leader. He made clear in an interview today that either the delegation goes back on its resignation or we form – or they form a new delegation. Our focus overall is on having the negotiations proceed. He has reaffirmed his commitment to doing just that.

QUESTION: But surely you can’t view it as a good thing if the negotiators resign?

MS. PSAKI: I think what our focus is, Arshad – we’re not evaluating every day or not the ups and downs or giving them a grade. Our focus remains on the end goal, which is that the negotiations continue. And the President of the Palestinian Authority reaffirmed that just today.

QUESTION: But it doesn’t say something to you about their views about the course of the negotiations that the negotiators would say they are resigning?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we said last week and as I said a little bit yesterday, and perhaps this is an example of that, we never thought this would be easy. We always knew that there would be challenges along the way. We knew that coming in. The Secretary pursued this with that, certainly, awareness in mind. But again, with that – even with that reality, the stakes and the alternative is far worse than pursuing this even through bumps in the road.

QUESTION: Do you regard this as perhaps some theater or a negotiating tactic in and of itself, just like people getting up and walking out of the room?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any particular analysis along those lines for you. Of course, our interest is on continuing the negotiations and pursuing them through the nine-month timeframe, and that’s what the Secretary has conveyed.

QUESTION: Last thing. Just one last one for me.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: Doesn’t this make it harder to achieve, to meet the nine-month deadline? Because even if – I mean, if they come back, then they’ve lost a day or however much time. If they don’t come back and a new team is selected, then presumably they have to get fully up to speed, and it surely cannot be helpful to your cause here.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we have that evaluation at this point. Throughout this process, there have been weeks where they’ve met many times, there have been weeks where they haven’t met. There has been ups and downs throughout the process, not necessarily even related to the number of meetings. But this happened just in the last 24 hours. Obviously, the fact that President Abbas went out and reaffirmed his commitment today as – within that 24 hours is a good sign. And we’ll continue to pursue it on the same timeframe.

QUESTION: And you don’t know if they talked about this in yesterday’s call?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t get a readout of the call, but that’s something, obviously, that I can check on, and I’m not sure how much we’ll get into the detail of their discussion.

QUESTION: Jen, just a quick follow-up. I mean, considering the number of times, maybe a dozen times --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat resigned in the past, do you take his resignation seriously?

MS. PSAKI: It’s not for me to evaluate. He is negotiating on behalf of President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. He will evaluate whether they will come back or whether they – he will set a new negotiating team, and we’ll move forward from there.

QUESTION: I’m not trying to dismiss his frustration. He must be quite frustrated to negotiate with the Israelis. But to follow up on Arshad’s point --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that could this be theater or trying to jockey for some sort of political capital, perhaps, to gain something out of there? Could that be it?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to weigh in on that analysis. I will encourage all of you to do your own.

Good. Do you have anyone – more on Middle East peace?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just to follow up, it doesn’t take analysis to characterize a resignation as a setback, does it? I mean, it’s – that this was a --

MS. PSAKI: I think what I said was – to address that – is we always knew there’d be challenges along the way. But it’s important to note that within 24 hours of this announcement President Abbas went out and reaffirmed his commitment to the nine-month timeframe and conveyed that either the negotiators will come back or he will appoint a new team. That’s an important point to note.

QUESTION: New subject?

MS. PSAKI: Any more?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) another one.

MS. PSAKI: Middle East peace? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Back to the settlements.

MS. PSAKI: It’s Team AFP in the front here.

QUESTION: Yeah. Has – sorry. Has the Secretary spoken to the Prime Minister of Israel before his U-turn on the settlements issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s spoken with him and expressed his concern many times in the past. He did speak with him yesterday. But this is a concern – again, this is a decision that was made and a – an order, a call that was made by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Prime Minister Netanyahu alone. We haven’t made a secret about our belief that we consider the settlements to be illegitimate.

QUESTION: Did he voice that? Did the Secretary voice that to Prime Minister Netanyahu in yesterday’s call?

MS. PSAKI: He’s voiced it on a number of occasions.

QUESTION: I know that. That’s not my question. My question is: Did he voice it in yesterday’s call?

MS. PSAKI: I’m certain that was part of his message.

QUESTION: You – but you don’t know?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you, Arshad. I didn’t get a readout of the call.

QUESTION: If --

QUESTION: So wait – so you don’t actually know whether he said that? You’re just certain that he must have, but you don’t know it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, this is a point that he has made several times publicly and privately. I don’t think it’s a secret what our position is, as we’ve stated it a number of times publicly and the Secretary has stated it a number of times publicly. He spoke with him yesterday. Of course they talked about this issue. Whether he used that exact phrase, I can’t confirm that for you either way.

QUESTION: Very quickly, Jen. I just wanted to --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- follow up regarding these talks over the past so many months. Do you think that if the Palestinian negotiating team withdraws its resignation, their effectiveness as negotiators would be compromised?

MS. PSAKI: Can you say that one more time? Said, I’m not --

QUESTION: Do you consider that if they were to withdraw their resignation, will they be as effective negotiators as they were before they negotiated, or there will be so much bitterness created that they will not be effective?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have – we don’t know what the next step is yet. That’s something President Abbas will determine, so I don’t have any analysis of what it will mean depending on what – which direction it goes in.

QUESTION: So this is --

QUESTION: Would you advise the Palestinians to sort of perhaps appoint a new negotiating team?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s up to President Abbas to do that. He’s indicated that may be a direction he goes in.

QUESTION: So de facto, this means for the moment, the direct negotiations are on hold, then?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t qualify it in that way. Obviously, either the team needs to come back or there needs to be a new negotiating team. That’s a step that President Abbas made clear he would pursue. But again, I mean, I don’t – this is a nine-month timeframe, so it’s not as if this is – there is a deadline coming up in a week. And we’ll work to continue them as soon as possible.

QUESTION: Were there any plans for direct talks this week?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into the details of that. Obviously, as I said, there’s been some weeks where there have been multiple meetings, some weeks where there haven’t been any. So that is not uncommon in a lengthy process.

QUESTION: And what is Ambassador Indyk’s role in this? Is he trying to work with the Palestinians, or – I don’t know. What is his role?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s up to President Abbas to determine what the next step will be. Certainly, Ambassador Indyk remains a facilitator and is there to consult and discuss as needed, but this is a choice that they will have to make in terms of what the next step will be.

QUESTION: So no talks for the moment, though? No direct talks going on for the moment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, there needs to be negotiators on both sides. But clearly, the fact that the President – President Abbas came out and said that it’s going to go one way or the other and indicated next steps is a good sign.

QUESTION: Yeah, just one more on this. You mentioned it’s a nine-month timeframe and there’s plenty of time. We’re halfway through that at this point. There have been ups and downs. I assume halfway through it, you have made an evaluation of some kind of how things are going. Would you care to share that with us?

MS. PSAKI: I would just reiterate what the Secretary has said, which is that they’re sustained and they’re serious. We knew that there would be moments that aren’t easy. Certainly, we’ve seen that played out in public. But both sides remain committed. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment last week, so we will continue to proceed.

Middle East peace, or – okay.

QUESTION: New topic.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I wonder if there is some – any concern in the State Department about the new confrontation between Colombia and Russia since we are talking about one of the most important American allies in the region.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I don’t think I have any updates for you on that. I’m happy to check with our team and see if there’s any particular new concern coming from our end.

Jill.

QUESTION: Can you confirm – there is a flash that Egypt end the state of emergency.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen those same reports. As we came down, obviously, we’ve see a range of reports yesterday. They announced it and then there was a possibility in public of a delay. I don’t have any independent confirmation of it other than to tell you that I’ve seen the same reports.

QUESTION: Do you think you might have something later? If it is correct, could we get a response?

MS. PSAKI: I gave a comment yesterday.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to reiterate that. That remains the case. And I know there have been different reports over the last 24 hours, so – but we don’t have – we wouldn’t have any independent confirmation of what step has been taken. Obviously, we’d refer to the Egyptian Government to confirm that.

QUESTION: So the Egyptian Government in this case wouldn’t, let’s say, inform you that we are lifting the state of emergency?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this was discussed, as I mentioned yesterday, when the – that when --

QUESTION: I know. I was just following up on your comment.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. This was discussed when the Secretary was in Egypt just about a week and a half ago. It was certainly raised. We knew that the timing of the end of the deadline was coming up this week, so obviously, there was a point where they’d have to make a decision.

As I said yesterday, we certainly welcome the formal lifting of the state of emergency, including the curfew. There are still – there is still legislation regarding security that is of concern, and we’ve continued to urge the government to respect the rights of all Egyptians as that legislation is considered.

QUESTION: One more on Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I know there – I’m trying to look for this this thing, but earlier this morning, there was a story about the Russians, in fact, going in now – Defense Ministry officials – to sell weapons to Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have you seen those reports?

MS. PSAKI: I talked about this yesterday too.

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, no. It’s okay.

QUESTION: I must have missed that.

MS. PSAKI: No, no. Don’t worry. It’s okay. We talked about this a little bit yesterday. We knew, of course, at the time that they had announced a plan to have a bilateral visit, I believe it was. I haven’t seen the new reports this morning, and I’m not sure if they are quoting an official or if they’re just speculative on what the purpose of the visit is.

QUESTION: Speculating.

MS. PSAKI: But we’d of course refer to the Egyptians and the Russians. We have our own bilateral relationship with Egypt. As you know, the Secretary was just there last week, so that’s what our focus is on, and we would, of course, otherwise refer to the two governments on the purpose of their visit.

QUESTION: On Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Do we have any more on Egypt? Okay. Iran.

QUESTION: Great. Yuval Steinitz, who’s the Minister of Intelligence in Israel, says that from briefings by the Secretary of State, the sanctions relief offered to Iran in the P5+1 negotiations is valued between 20 and 40 – sorry – billion for the Iranians. I understand you’re not going to litigate the negotiations in public, but they are. So if you could speak to exactly what sort of sanctions relief you’re talking about, and keeping in mind that limited is a relative term, so if there’s any way we can specify that.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I did see, of course, those reports. Without going into specifics about what we’re considering, that number, I can assure you, is inaccurate, exaggerated, and not based in reality. So of course, there’s a discussion ongoing about sanctions and about steps that Iran would need to take. And we’re all familiar about what the steps would take, but in terms of those numbers, that’s my specific comment.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: -- put a value on these sanctions?

QUESTION: It’s easy to sort of shoot something down, but --

MS. PSAKI: I think you can safely assume they’re lower.

QUESTION: Can you put a value on that? I mean, there were – some figures were like $40 billion, others half of that. What is your value of these sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a number for you, Said. I’m sure as events progress, we may have more specifics for you, but not at this moment.

QUESTION: Okay. Will this be the kind of topic that the Secretary will discuss with the Banking Committee?

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary, as you all know, is probably on his way there now, and he’ll be meeting with both the Banking Committee as well as with senior Democratic leadership while he’s on the Hill. He will be addressing concerns they have and whatever concerns they want to discuss.

In terms of broadly what he’s talking about while he’s there, let me just give you a little overview of that. He will convey to the committee that we didn’t vote for sanctions simply for the sake of sanctions. We put crippling sanctions in not just to bring Iran to the table but to give us the strongest possible hand at the negotiating table with the greatest amount of leverage and international support. And the sanctions now have worked and they’ve put in place – they’ve provided us the best position to drive the best deal. We have an agreement and – agreement among the P5+1, an agreement to halt the progress of the Iranian nuclear program and roll it back. But as they consider next steps, this is not a vote for or against sanctions, which he has supported in the past; this is a vote for or against diplomacy. The American people justifiably and understandably prefer a peaceful solution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and this agreement, if it’s achieved, has the potential to do that.

So as these – this legislation is being considered, members of Congress need to ask themselves: Do they believe diplomacy should be the first resort, or should they – should we open the door to confrontation? And what – why not wait and see if diplomacy can be successful in this case?

QUESTION: You said the sanctions have succeeded. But Iran has not halted, let alone rolled back, its nuclear program. Correct?

MS. PSAKI: What I’m saying – they have succeeded in getting Iran to the negotiating table. They have succeeded in putting the necessary pressure to get them there.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Can I follow up on the sanctions question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I understand he’s asking for a pause, but – what members of the Senate are suggesting are – is language that would – new sanctions would go into effect if the talks fail, that it takes a lot of time to get sanctions into place, and why not start now? It would be an added incentive. What kind of argument is Kerry making today on the Hill against that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s a good question, and I think one thing’s clear – of course, Iran is watching closely what is happening, and putting new – as well as the international community, and many countries that are impacted negatively by the sanctions they have in place and the sanctions they’re keeping. So putting new sanctions in place could not only end the negotiations, but it would send the absolutely wrong message to the international community, that we’re not serious about pursuing a diplomatic path. And our concern on that front is this could have the impact of opening the door to the opposite of what we want, which is an easing of sanctions by many in the international community who are already hurt economically, who are holding them in place to stay aligned with the international community while seeing if diplomacy is possible.

QUESTION: Is that his argument, that putting in place new sanctions could actually end the negotiation?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And is he going to repeat the things – I’m sure – I imagine he is, but I’d like to confirm --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that he plans, during this meeting today, to call for – to say that it would be a mistake to impose additional sanctions now and a call for a temporary pause?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I just --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Staying on Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s a call between French President Francois Hollande and --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- American President Obama this – today and – at which they urged Iran to accept the deal that’s on the table, which suggests to me that the P5+1 position is fixed and that they’re not open to any more negotiations, and what they came up with in Geneva a few days ago is essentially what they’re now offering to Iran. Is that – would that be correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that is what was offered to Iran on Saturday evening, right? And the P5+1 was united and it was a moment where Iran couldn’t accept the deal as offered. Clearly, we would like to move forward with this deal. Obviously, I can’t predict if there will be additional discussions between the negotiating teams when they go back to Geneva. And so I wouldn’t make a prediction of that since they’ll all be on the ground in about a week.

QUESTION: But essentially, the position now is that it’s – Iran is consulting – the Iranian leadership is consulting among themselves and they have to come back to you. There’s not any kind of flexibility or such on the P5+1 position?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the P5+1 is united on the deal that they agreed to, but I’m not closing the door to continuing discussions. I’d have to talk to our negotiating team about where they stand on that front, but obviously, continuing to narrow the differences is the of the next set of meetings, but I don’t think it is a circumstance where it is a take-it-or-leave-it. It’s a discussion. But we – clearly, it’s important and relevant, as you noted, that we already put a proposal down that the P5+1 is united on.

QUESTION: Jen, just a quick follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Let me – let’s --

QUESTION: I’m sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Can you let Jo finish and then we’ll go to you next?

QUESTION: And I just wondered why it was felt necessary for this talk to – this telephone conversation to happen between President Hollande and President Obama.

MS. PSAKI: I would certainly refer you to the White House on that, but obviously, the French are an important P5+1 partner, an important ally, and so I think it’s only natural that they would be talking. The Secretary talks with his counterparts frequently, as does the President. And certainly, given how important this issue is and how committed the President and the Secretary both are to it, I don’t think it’s a surprise that they would connect.

QUESTION: I guess what I’m really asking is: Was there a need to smooth or soothe some ruffled feathers after what happened in Geneva with the French?

MS. PSAKI: Well, given we were united by Saturday evening, and there’s, of course, a discussion – it’s no surprise the purpose of a negotiation is to hear many ideas – I think it was more about consulting on the path forward. And I know the White House has put out a readout. If they haven’t, I think it will be coming out soon.

QUESTION: So, Jen, if they meet a week from today --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- you said that it’s not going to be take-it-or-leave-it kind of situation, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I would refer to the negotiating team on the specifics here, Said. But what – the point I was making is that obviously, yes, there was an agreement among the P5+1 on the proposal, and the Iranians couldn’t accept it at the time. But there’ll be discussions between now and then, and obviously, discussions and negotiations when they get to Geneva.

QUESTION: So if there are some flexibilities on the part of the P5+1 offer, where would they be? What – where on the margin would that be?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to go too far in expressing flexibilities or inflexibilities, and I’m not – certainly not going to go into the details of those; just that they’re going back. They’ll continue their discussions with the Iranians, with the P5+1, and I don’t want to make a prediction of what the outcome will be.

QUESTION: Yes. Do you have any chance to see the tweets of the Foreign Minister of Iran and part of the tweet diplomacy? Because he is arguing about this P5+1 stand.

MS. PSAKI: The tweets from this weekend?

QUESTION: Yes. I mean, it was reported today in New York Times regarding – I mean, criticizing or some kind of criticizing the Secretary regarding his blame, blaming Iran.

MS. PSAKI: I think I talked about this already yesterday, so I would point you to the comments I made yesterday about it, the tweets.

QUESTION: So there is no change in your understanding of that tweet diplomacy?

MS. PSAKI: No change in my understanding of it.

QUESTION: How close do you think you are to getting a deal in Geneva in the next round?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to make a prediction of that other than to convey that coming out of Geneva, we were closer than coming into Geneva; that obviously, they’re going back because we feel there is an opportunity to complete the deal, to move forward on a diplomatic path. That’s why they’re going back. But I certainly don’t want to make a prediction of what will come out of the next set of meetings or not.

QUESTION: Two things: One, you say that a vote in Congress is not a vote against – or rather, for sanctions; it’s a vote against diplomacy. What are the consequences of a vote against diplomacy in Geneva?

And second, what is – you say no deal is better than a bad deal.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is your standard for a bad deal? Is it lowest common denominator – that is, what Congress thinks is a bad deal and what the Israeli Government think is a bad deal, given the fact that if they think you have forged a bad deal, they will go forward with actions that theoretically undermine that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, the Secretary’s spoken a bit about this, but I think the consequences of not moving forward with the diplomatic path is potentially aggression, potentially conflict, potentially war. And obviously, Iran would continue to enrich, they’d continue to take steps forward toward developing a nuclear weapon. I don’t think anybody wants that. We also risk, as I mentioned earlier, losing our international coalition of partners on the sanctions regime, and that’s something no one wants either. So there is certainly an alternative that is not an enviable path to pursue, and that’s why the Secretary feels so strongly about pursuing the diplomatic path.

In terms of your second question, can you repeat it just one more time?

QUESTION: Yeah. Just in terms of your standard for --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- how you define a bad deal.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I talked about this a little bit yesterday, but it’s worth repeating – that there are areas – there are a couple of buckets of serious concern and focus that, as we look to a deal on what’s a good deal, we’re focused on. And they include the possibility – preventing the possibility of Iran producing a sufficient quantity of highly enriched uranium for one nuclear weapon, the possibility of Iran stockpiling centrifuges or increasing the efficiency of their centrifuges, Iran’s ability to produce plutonium using the Arak reactor, and bringing unprecedented transparency and monitoring of Iran’s program.

As we look to the initial step here and we think about the longer comprehensive agreement, those were the areas where we are most focused on, and certainly a good deal is one that addresses those areas.

QUESTION: Right. I guess what I’m trying to say is if you think you’ve got a good deal, right, with the Administration thinks they have finally settled on a good deal with the P5+1 and Iran agrees --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- what does that really matter if Congress doesn’t think that you have a good deal and they move forward with sanctions? What does that matter if the Israeli Government doesn’t think you have a good deal and they move forward alone?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think those – well, we don’t think that those conclusions are done at this point. Obviously, the Secretary, many members of the Administration are continuing to brief and consult with the Israelis, but as evidenced by the fact that he’s going up to the Hill today, along with Vice President Biden, along with Under Secretary Sherman, to brief to the Hill, we’re committed to conveying to them what the consequences are, why this is the right legislative strategy, why that needs to go hand-in-hand with our negotiated – negotiating strategy, and posing some of these questions that I’ve just posed. Why not wait and see if diplomacy can see its way through?

And so we have not – there – we’re committed to that process now and to communicating as much as we can to convey why this is the best chance we have had to have a diplomatic and peaceful – and to this process.

QUESTION: Jen, just a quick follow-up on the sanctions. Considering that Iran already suffers from severe sanctions --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- what kind of further sanctions could be added?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know a number have been proposed. And obviously there are – the core sanctions, many of them are in the financial, the banking, the oil sanctions. There are other more ancillary sanctions. I’m not familiar with all – I know there’s a range of bills, so I’m not going to go through those specifics. But it’s important to note here, since you’ve given me the opportunity, that if this does not result in a deal, then we have every ability to move forward with sanctions, and that’s something we’re certainly not just open to, we’d be supportive of.

QUESTION: Then if – big if – lift the sanctions against Iran, it would be a long – send a message to the North Korea. How do you handle the North Korean sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would certainly not venture to group them together. Obviously, there is more work to be done to see if we have a diplomatic path forward in Iran. There are a number of steps that they would need to take. That’s part of the negotiations.

On North Korea, our position has not changed. The ball is in their court. They need to abide by their international obligations, including the 2005 joint statement. They need to reassure the international community; those steps have not been taken. So I would look to them to take steps if they want to pursue a diplomatic path forward.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Iran? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Loya Jirga is meeting in the next couple of days to discuss BSA. What are your expectations, and also is the legal review by the Department on the text of the agreement is complete?

MS. PSAKI: Is there anything new on the text?

QUESTION: Yeah, is the legal review of the text complete?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check with them on that. Obviously, that was ongoing, as I’d mentioned in the past, and often they go word by word reviews. In terms of the Loya Jirga, as we stated some time ago, major negotiations on the BSA were concluded during the Secretary’s visit and the Loya Jirga was – date was set. As you know, that’s upcoming. Of course, we respect the process in Afghanistan and that process moving forward, and we’ll wait to see how things proceed.

QUESTION: And do you know who will be signing BSA after once it is done – Loya Jirga is at post-BSA – what’s the next --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know that, and I’m just going to knock on wood. I don’t know that at this point.

Go ahead, Chris.

QUESTION: I’ve got one on something else. Two Americans are reportedly being held in Nicaragua. I’m just wondering if there’s anything else you can say about that.

MS. PSAKI: We, of course, have seen those reports. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything I can relay on the status of details at this point.

QUESTION: Can you say if the Embassy has been in touch with authorities there?

MS. PSAKI: I cannot.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: On Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How do you view the gains that the regime is making on the ground in Aleppo and Damascus?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve always said, as you know, that there would be many ups and down in the events on the ground in Syria. One of the reasons we’re so aggressively pursuing a Geneva conference is because, as the Secretary has stated many times, there’s no military solution to this conflict. There have been a couple of developments in the last 24 to 48 hours that I talked about a little bit yesterday, including the SNC agreeing to come to a Geneva conference, including the fact that there will be another meeting, a trilateral meeting planning to move that forward next week, and so our focus is really on that effort.

QUESTION: And do you see that the regime is trying to change the calculations on the ground before going to Geneva 2, in case there is a conference?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m sure the regime is always focused on making gains on the ground. I don’t think that that should be a surprise to anyone. But again, we continue to believe there’s no military solution and that’s why we’re pursuing a political path.

QUESTION: And --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: One more please.

MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Some Kurds groups have announced autonomy in some parts of Syria. How do you view this announcement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our policy has always been that we support the unity and territorial integrity of Syria, a unified Syria. And it was a positive sign yesterday, as I mentioned, that the Kurdish National Coalition joined with the Syrian coalition, which was positive. We certainly remain concerned by reports of efforts to declare an independent Kurdish region in Syria, and establishing a special Kurdish region would involve many communities in that region of Syria, and thus needs to be part of a larger decision.

But our view is that Syria should be unified, it must be unified moving forward. That has consistently been our view. And again, the fact that the Kurdish National Coalition joined the SNC and they’re committed to coming to Geneva was a positive sign of the last 24 hours.

QUESTION: Can I ask, what are the next steps now? Now that the opposition has said that they’ll come, what’s actually happening on the side of Special Envoy Brahimi or when are we going to see some movement forward and a possible date?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, they’re meeting again on the 25th next week. So Under Secretary Sherman and the Russians, in all likelihood, I would assume Bogdanov, are meeting with Brahimi to continue to plan for the conference. I can’t predict for you whether there will be a date announced then or before or after. Obviously, that’s one of the next steps and something we’re pressing forward on.

QUESTION: And what about the problem of the guest list?

MS. PSAKI: The problem of the guest list. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: How are you guys progressing on whether or not other countries should be invited to join the talks?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Our position hasn’t changed on Iran’s attendance, but obviously this will be a decision ultimately made by the UN, and I’m certain that will be a big topic of discussion next – on the 25th.

QUESTION: And can I just ask one more question? It’s that Turkey’s asked NATO to extend the deployment of the Patriot missiles for another year.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is the U.S. position on that?

MS. PSAKI: I do have something on this. One moment. Let’s see. One moment, Jo.

Well, we, of course, respect and value Turkey as a longstanding NATO and U.S. ally. We’re committed to maintaining regional security and support efforts with Turkey and other allies and partners to ensure regional stability and deterrence against common threats. As you noted, Turkey has asked NATO to continue to augment its air defense capabilities to aid in the defense of its population and territory. We look forward to working through NATO to address the request.

QUESTION: That’s not a yes or a no, though.

MS. PSAKI: It’s a NATO decision, and certainly, we will work with them as they pursue it moving forward.

QUESTION: But they’re your missiles and they’re your – and largely they’ve been staffed by and manned by American teams on the ground. And it’s not just yours; I know there’s other commitments from Germany and Denmark --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I believe as well. But I mean, do you – would you support the request from Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: We’re working with NATO, and of course, we value them as an ally and we value the – and recognize the needs they have and the request.

QUESTION: So put it the other way maybe: Do you think they are still valuable and still needed in this area --

MS. PSAKI: I think we --

QUESTION: -- the missiles?

MS. PSAKI: The – yes, we recognize the request they made. We recognize the needs they have. And of course, they’re important NATO allies, so we’ll work with NATO as we address their request.

QUESTION: Jen, there is a report in the New York Times about the flow of arms and funds to Syria coming from private donors --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in the Gulf, and it is undermining your efforts to solidify the opposition that you recognize as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. Are you trying to talk to these governments to sort of curb their citizens from collecting huge sums of money?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to have – of course, I think you’re referring to the story about private aid from Kuwait.

QUESTION: Yes. Absolutely, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Kuwait and the other GCC countries, not only Kuwait.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, we continue to have robust dialogue with the Kuwaitis and others about how best to meet our common interests in helping the opposition. And our position has not changed and we continue to stress that aid should be directed through the SOC and the SMC, as agreed to by London 11 partners. We continue to stress the need to – for Kuwait to have a robust anti-money laundering/counter terrorism financing regime, and that’s something – a conversation that we’ve had with them and we’ll continue to have.

QUESTION: Can I ask you a question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: And I apologize if you’re not aware of this because it just crossed my device. ProPublica has a story saying that it has asked the State Department to release the names of the so-called special government employees at the State Department. These are people who have State Department jobs --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- but can also receive income from outside sources.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And it says that the State Department has declined to provide the list of the government employees even as eight other federal agencies have disclosed their lists of special government employees.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it correct that you’ve been asked for the list? Is it correct that you’ve declined to provide the list, and if so, why?

MS. PSAKI: I hadn’t seen that report. I’m happy to look into it. As you know, there are dozens, if not more, special government employees throughout the government. Typically, we don’t release the lists of employees and kind of what their status is, so it may be part of that procedure. But I’m happy to check for you.

QUESTION: I think the reason they may be interested – I mean – is that if somebody is working here but also getting paid by somebody else, there’s always the possibility of a conflict of interest. And I --

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, that’s part of a vetting process for anyone becoming a special government employee, so it’s not actually applicable to what the concerns should be. But I understand. I can check if --

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. PSAKI: -- what the request has been and where we stand on it.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) on Turkey. The Prime Minister of Turkey, said the other day, and I quote, that there is no country named Cyprus. I know it’s a joke, but do you have anything to say on this – on his --

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those comments. I’m happy to look into them. Of course, I don’t think we would agree with that, but I’ll – let me look into them and see the full context.

QUESTION: Another topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: NSA?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction after Brazil accused the United States of spying on the IMF in Washington?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything specific. And as has been – as has been the case, we’re not going to comment on every specific report. I would just reiterate for you that, obviously, there’s a review ongoing that will look at our activities around the world with a special emphasis on our appropriate posture as it comes to heads of state and how we coordinate with our closest allies and partners. And that review will be complete by the end of the year. And of course, as part of that effort, we are consulting with countries around the world, including Brazil. And our goal is, of course, to not only alleviate their concerns but to strengthen our intel-gathering relationship moving forward.

Catherine. Last one.

QUESTION: Yes. I know we’re going to have a briefing shortly, but it’s on the telephone --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and not in front of the camera. Do you have an update on the U.S. assistance in the Philippines and an update on any Americans there?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, let me give you an update on that. And you’re right; if you haven’t seen, we’re going to be doing a briefing on the Philippines at – just in a little bit. Actually, one moment.

So I believe yesterday I confirmed that two U.S. citizens had died in the Philippines, and this number – and this remains the case today. As much as it hasn’t changed since yesterday, it can certainly change from here. The U.S. Embassy in Manila is continuing to provide consular assistance to the families of the deceased. Approximately – I think Chris asked yesterday about the number of individuals who have been evacuated – 23 U.S. citizens have been transported to Manila via military aircraft that have been ferrying relief supplies to the airport there on the ground. And Embassy officials are going into the area to assist in processing the U.S. citizens that wish to board these flights back to Manila. But no evacuation out of the Philippines is planned.

In terms of other assistance we’re providing, I mentioned yesterday, of course, you all know there is a coordinated interagency effort along these fronts. This is just a few updates on what we’re doing. The first airlift of USAID heavy-duty plastic sheeting and hygiene kits arrived in manila just yesterday, and our disaster response experts working with the U.S. military dispatched these much-needed supplies today. After arrival, USAID’s emergency relief commodities, including hygiene kits and plastic sheeting to help 10,000 families, were flown from the airport directly out to storm-affected communities – and – storm-affected communities. Additional airlifts of U.S. supplies and food aid will arrive also in the coming days, and we’ll have a more extensive update from the different interagency partners on the call this afternoon.

QUESTION: Can I have just one more on this?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to think that the Government of Philippines was slow in reaching out for assistance from the United States or others to grapple with the storm?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the ask for assistance was made the day after the storm hit, so – and obviously, we responded quickly to that request. So I would not make that assumption.

Oh, Nicolas.

QUESTION: Sorry – very last one.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Or if – I don’t know if I heard Michelle in the back.

QUESTION: I just wanted to make a request to – if they could put the call on the record since it is about U.S. money, U.S. aid to the Philippines.

MS. PSAKI: I will talk to them and see if there’s anything we can do, and we can continue to talk about it tomorrow, of course, too.

Go ahead, Nicolas.

QUESTION: An offbeat question on North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Washington Post reported last week that two musicians from Washington, two rappers are planning to go to Pyongyang to shoot a video clip there. Are you aware of that? And if so --

MS. PSAKI: That is an offbeat question.

QUESTION: Yeah. If so, it is a good thing, is it a bad thing?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I had not seen those reports. I will blame the negotiations in Geneva. But let me check on those and see if there’s an update, and we can get you all something on that.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:19 p.m.)

DPB # 186



Back to Top
Sign-in

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

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