1:38 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I just have two items for all of you at the top. The first is tomorrow – and there’ll be a note going out on this later – but Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns will present the 2012 Human Rights Defenders Award to Miss Hanadi Zahlout at 10:00 a.m. in the Treaty Room. That, of course, will have press access. Miss Zahlout has fought for freedom of expression and other fundamental human rights in Syria since before the revolution. She participated in one of the first large-scale demonstrations against the regime in 2011, and early on worked closely with the leadership of the local coordinating committees, an integral part of the Syrian opposition infrastructure. She also trains and mentors Syrian journalists, and she focuses her efforts on outreach to Syrian minorities and women. So look out for a notice of that.
QUESTION: What time is that?
MS. PSAKI: 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.
Also, I know the President just addressed the situation in the Philippines as well as other domestic issues. And so just to provide you all an update on that front, we of course continue to work to support the Government of the Philippines in its response to the typhoon. USAID and the Department of Defense are on the ground helping provide assistance to the people of the Philippines in some of the hardest hit areas.
As the President just announced, but just in case you didn’t have a chance to see it, the USS George Washington carrier strike group arrived in the Philippines today, which also – which will help expand search-and-rescue operations, provide medical care and logistical support, and deliver supplies to remote areas. The George Washington brings with it 21 helicopters, significantly enhancing airlift capability to transport emergency supplies. And I know I gave some details yesterday as well on other supplies that are on the ground.
QUESTION: So in addition to the Philippines --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: He did.
QUESTION: -- and the effort that you’re – the effort on the Hill. And what he said was essentially the same as what officials have been telling members of Congress for some time, but I just want to try and get some clarification on something. He said, “Let’s see if this short-term phase one deal can be completed to our satisfaction where we’re certain that while we’re talking with the Iranians, they’re not busy advancing their program.” And then he said, “We can buy some additional months in terms of their breakout capacity.”
Is it not true – is the converse not true? In other words, if the Iranians, who have shown no willingness or interest in following the rules in the past, cheat during this six-month interim period, you haven’t bought additional months in terms of their breakout capacity; you’ve lost additional months in terms of their breakout capacity? Is that not correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re jumping to a conclusion, obviously, we’re not going to entertain before we’ve even agreed to an agreement. We certainly go into this, as we’ve said all along, with eyes wide open. This is not about trust; this is about determining the best path forward. And I believe, if I recall from watching the President, he was also talking about sanctions and what the appropriate step was, and the importance of having our legislative and negotiating track run hand-in-hand.
QUESTION: Right, but you would agree that Iran’s track record on this kind of thing and of upholding its obligations and its commitments and its promises that it has made is not good, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think we’ve never implied or conveyed that --
MS. PSAKI: -- there isn’t a deep level of mistrust. There is.
QUESTION: Right. Okay.
MS. PSAKI: And that’s something that needs to be overcome over time.
QUESTION: But I don’t understand how the President can say, “We will have lost nothing if, at the end of the day, it turns out that they are not prepared to provide the international community with the hard proof and assurances necessary for us to know that they are not pursuing a nuclear weapon.”
That’s simply not the case, because if they cheat, you will have lost something. You will have lost, as he says in the – his comment immediately preceding that – “We can buy some additional months in terms of their breakout capacity.” So logically, if the Iranians cheat, you will have lost some additional months in terms of their breakout capability, and --
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: Is that not correct?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I’m not going to parse the President’s words. No surprise --
QUESTION: Well, I’m not asking you --
MS. PSAKI: -- and you can certainly talk to my colleagues about that. But it is consistent with our – the Administration position and with the Secretary’s position that why not – why shouldn’t Congress, as they’re thinking about whether they’re going to put new sanctions in place, consider giving the opportunity for diplomacy to work itself through. I think the broad point here is what’s the alternative? The alternative is that Iran continues to take steps forward toward developing a nuclear weapon. There’s nothing stopping them from doing that. So this is – that’s why we feel this is the best path forward, the diplomatic path.
QUESTION: Right, but it’s a gamble. And it’s – and the person you’re gambling against, or the country that you’re gambling against here, has repeatedly cheated in the past. And I think that’s where the concern from the Hill, at least some of it is coming from, that there is no guarantee – and I think you have to accept this – that the Iranians will go along with whatever agreement is reached for this first six months. And if they don’t go along, instead of buying additional months in terms of breakout capacity, you will have lost it. Is that not the case?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, the purpose of a negotiation is to determine benefits to both sides to abiding by the negotiation.
MS. PSAKI: That’s obviously what’s being discussed. I’m not going to entertain the possibility of whether they do or don’t agree to an agreement that’s not even agreed to. But obviously, as I’ve mentioned now a couple times, this is not about trust. This is about determining the way to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We feel diplomacy should always be the first path, and that’s what we’re pursuing now.
QUESTION: Okay. I’ll stop after this, but I just want to try and get a straight answer to the question. If, in fact, you can buy additional months in terms of their breakout capacity if the Iranians go along with this and are honest and forthright about it, is it – is the opposite not the case? Do you not lose additional months of their breakout capacity in the event that they don’t?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think you lose, because what’s the alternative? What is the alternative plan being proposed here?
QUESTION: Well, but you lose because they’re closer to having a nuclear weapon.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we lose if we don’t have a diplomatic path forward, we don’t have an agreement. There isn’t an alternative being presented that’s preventing them from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
QUESTION: So in other words, it is a gamble?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a --
QUESTION: You’re gambling that the Iranians will abide by this agreement if and when it is – the problem --
MS. PSAKI: We are determining --
QUESTION: -- which is fine, except that there are – the stakes here are higher than just dollars.
MS. PSAKI: The stakes are incredibly high. Nobody is questioning that. The point I’m making is that the world, including the President, including the Secretary, is committed to – or many countries in the world, I should say – preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The determination has been made with the P5+1 that this is the best path forward to do that.
QUESTION: The problem is I just don’t understand how the President can say we will have lost nothing, if at the end of the day the Iranians aren’t abiding by this agreement, because in fact, you will have lost something.
MS. PSAKI: Well, if there isn’t an agreement, then they would be continuing to take steps forward, and we would possibly be putting at risk the international --
MS. PSAKI: -- coalition on sanctions.
QUESTION: But surely, you can contemplate the idea that they agree to the agreement and then don’t abide by it, right? And they haven’t --
MS. PSAKI: I think that’s going down many, many paths that – we don’t even have an agreement yet.
QUESTION: Okay, fair enough.
MS. PSAKI: So let’s get to that step first.
QUESTION: In past agreements, have the Iranians – do they have – what’s their track record on past agreements? Is it good, bad, or indifferent?
MS. PSAKI: Again, Matt, the purpose of a negotiation is to have reasons for both sides to abide by the agreement.
QUESTION: Can I ask --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead. Oh, so cordial. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry this morning in his --
MS. PSAKI: It’s because you’re a woman. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That’s kind of a sexist comment.
MS. PSAKI: No, it’s not.
QUESTION: In his interview with MSNBC this morning, Secretary Kerry mentions that one of the things that’s possibly on the table from the U.S. side is freeing up what he called a tiny portion of $45 billion of Iranian assets or revenues from oil sales which are around the world. Could you perhaps give us a bit more detail about that? A tiny portion is how much? And are these oil revenues that are in bank accounts in the United States or are we also talking about revenues that are held in bank accounts in European nations, for instance?
MS. PSAKI: I wish I could give you more detail. I can’t. What he was talking about was the fact that there are very large inaccurate false numbers out there in terms of what’s on the table. They’re significantly lower than that, as we talked about yesterday, and so that’s what he was addressing. It has not changed that any agreement would not address the core sanctions, would not hit the core sanctions, and obviously, there needs to be significant steps on both sides, and we’re talking about a six-month interim and a longer final comprehensive deal.
QUESTION: But if he’s talking about money that’s around the world in different bank accounts, then he’s not just talking about the United States lifting a freeze or whatever monies might be here in the United States. He’s also talking about giving the U.S. allies and partners a green light to allow monies frozen in their accounts to be released.
MS. PSAKI: Well, without going into more detail, obviously, it’s – this is not an agreement between – or would not be an agreement between the United States and Iran. This is – would be a P5+1 agreement with Iran, right, with some very important, powerful countries who have big stakes here as well. So obviously, nothing’s agreed to until everything’s agreed to, but any aspect of this that’s agreed to would be applicable to all the members.
QUESTION: Right, okay.
QUESTION: Can I just make sure that I heard you correctly? I think – because you kind of – I think the “in” got swallowed in front of “inaccurate.” You meant to say there are large and inaccurate figures, not large and accurate?
MS. PSAKI: Inaccurate. I will articulate more clearly.
QUESTION: But the figure that the Secretary put out there today, the 45 billion, that’s an agreed figure, is it, between the United States and the P5+1 allies?
MS. PSAKI: I’ll have to look more closely at it. I think what he was referring to was the number they actually have, not the number that would be relieved.
QUESTION: No, no, he said a tiny portion of 45 billion. So the 45 billion, then – I wanted to ask if that’s the agreed figure that you and the P5+1 have said is being held in bank accounts around the world.
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that. I think he was referring to numbers that have been out there, but I don't know. I’d have to check on whether there’s an agreed number on that specifically.
QUESTION: Yeah, I was going to ask about that as well because, I mean, I thought the number was 50 billion, so it’d be great if you could clarify.
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to if there’s – obviously, there’s been a range of news reports that are in that frame, but if there’s more clarification we can offer, certainly happy to do that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) find it striking is because it was the Secretary saying this on the record, giving a figure. So that suggests that it’s a figure that he’s investigated and is comfortable with giving – giving out.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think he was intending to make the point that it is a small percentage, which is what a lot of the reporting has been about, but obviously, there have been a range of numbers out there. So I’m happy to go back and see if there’s more of a clarification on that specific number.
QUESTION: And I’m sorry that I’m – I mean, I missed the briefing yesterday, but was there a figure given to the Iranians during the discussions in Geneva?
MS. PSAKI: In terms of numbers?
QUESTION: Of sanctions relief, what the U.S. could offer them immediately.
MS. PSAKI: It’s fair to say that, obviously, numbers are being discussed, but I’m not going to get into the specifics of those numbers.
QUESTION: Discussed with the Iranians or discussed among – in the U.S., in Congress?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s fair to assume that if there’s a proposal on the table and the Iranians have looked at it, that those proposals include numbers.
QUESTION: Okay. And then I was trying to – is the Secretary going to Geneva for the next round of talks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you probably know, Under Secretary Sherman is leading the delegation. We certainly keep that option open, as we did last time, but at this point, he’s not planning to attend. And obviously, we’ll evaluate as we get closer.
QUESTION: At what stage would he actually think of going? Is that when it was – I mean, he said before that the deal was very – well, the French as well have said that the deal was very close. At what stage would he – could he intervene and think that this – is it just before, or at what stage would --
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s a determination that he would make, as he did last time, in coordination with the negotiating team and with the national security team about whether it would be helpful or useful for him to be there. So that, of course, will be a conversation that will be ongoing.
QUESTION: Is the meeting on the 20th or the 21st?
MS. PSAKI: It’s fair to say it’s next week. They’re still determining, I think, the exact start date. So if I were you, I’d buy a plane ticket and be there in advance of the 20th, and you can always enjoy Geneva.
QUESTION: With an open return. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Any more on Iran?
QUESTION: I have one more on this.
MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: Foreign Minister Lavrov said this morning that when he arrived in – or, sorry, when the negotiations began in Geneva last week, last Thursday, what was presented was a – basically a framework or a draft of a deal that had been agreed to between the U.S. and Iran, and it was not a P5+1 signed-off-on agreement. Is that correct? Obviously, it was amended, it was changed, but I just want to make – find out if he’s – is he telling the truth here? Is that what happened?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I saw the comments. I thought I had them here. I’d have to look more closely. But as a reminder, Cathy Ashton was leading and hosting the negotiations.
MS. PSAKI: Right. There had been discussions at the political directors level about the specifics of the text that was being looked at. Obviously, when foreign ministers get together, they’re going to take a closer look at bracketed text, as the Secretary has referred to, and make suggestions and changes as needed. But the P5 had discussed and negotiated going in, and as you know, coming out were in agreement.
QUESTION: Right. But when Under Secretary Sherman arrived in Geneva --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and began her discussions with Catherine Ashton --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- were – was what they were discussing essentially a U.S.-Iran draft?
MS. PSAKI: No, this – there had been discussions among the political directors. Obviously, the foreign ministers were brought in late, but this is a process that’s been led by EU High Representative Ashton throughout along the way.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. PSAKI: And obviously, the U.S. has stakes in it and has been engaged.
QUESTION: At least from Foreign Minister Lavrov’s point of view, and maybe the point of view of the Chinese, Catherine Ashton represents the European Union. Neither – the United States is not a member of the European Union --
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: -- nor are Russia and China. You’re suggesting that she in her role as host of this talk represents all of the P5+1?
MS. PSAKI: No, I’m not. I’m suggesting that there were discussions among the political directors from all of the P5+1 countries.
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, looking at the text and doing that together. That’s the first time the foreign ministers had been together to do that.
QUESTION: No, no, no. Okay, but let’s go to the political directors.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: When the political directors first met, were they looking at a draft that was – had basically been agreed – that had been agreed to between the United States and Iran without input from the rest of them? That’s not --
MS. PSAKI: That’s – my understanding is that’s not an accurate depiction of --
QUESTION: Okay. So --
MS. PSAKI: -- how everything happened.
QUESTION: Okay. So Foreign Minister Lavrov is wrong when he says that that was the case?
MS. PSAKI: I – that’s not my understanding of how everything proceeded in Geneva.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Can I ask for a reaction to comments from the Israeli Home Front Minister Gilad Erdan today in which he criticized Secretary Kerry for his criticism of Prime Minister Netanyahu during his press conference in Abu Dhabi when he said there’s nothing signed yet, so Prime Minister Netanyahu has to wait and see what the details of the deal – any deal with Iran was? I mean, he’s – the Minister Erdan is saying, “Are we being told that we shouldn’t cry out when they’re holding a knife to our throats?” What is your reaction to the very angry Israeli comments that are coming out?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one, let me convey, as I mentioned yesterday – and the Secretary and Prime Minister Lavrov have – Prime Minister Lavrov – sorry – Prime Minister Netanyahu – have different interlocutors on my mind – have spoken --
QUESTION: I’m sure Minister Lavrov would be love – would love the – (laughter).
MS. PSAKI: My apologies. They have spoken a number of times this week. What the Secretary also said in his – the context of his remarks was that he had great respect for – I know this isn’t an exact quote but I’m just recollecting the paraphrase – great respect for, that he’d been in touch with, that he was eager to continue to brief and have discussions about. So it was far from a criticism. This was actually more of a caution to everyone that there are a lot of reports out there, many of them are inaccurate, no deal is agreed to until all of it is agreed to, and that we would continue to have private discussions and briefings with the Israelis.
QUESTION: Do you intend to show the Israelis the formulation of the draft deal before it’s signed?
MS. PSAKI: In what --
QUESTION: Well, I guess their theory is that once it’s been signed it’s a done deal.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, that’s what you were hoping for with the P5+1, and that there’s no modification. I’m wondering if – whether you – the text – and there is a text already existing which came out of the Geneva talks at the weekend – whether you’re asking Israeli opinions on it, soliciting what they have to say about the actual deal.
MS. PSAKI: Well, just as with briefing of Congress, and as the Secretary – as you know, the Secretary has been doing and did an extensive briefing yesterday – certainly, there’s a detailed discussion of the contours of the potential agreement and the construct of our approach. And that’s how the discussion plays out.
Now, it wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate, given that – given that members of Congress and other countries who are not in the P5+1 are not negotiating – to be sharing every single piece of text or details at that level of specificity. But there is still a lot of detail and a lot of – that can provide an understanding about where this is going and why we think it’s the right approach.
QUESTION: And --
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: Sorry. And Secretary Kerry mentioned this morning on MSNBC that he had spoken just this morning --
MS. PSAKI: He did.
QUESTION: -- with the Prime Minister.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And they – so they spoke yesterday?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And they spoke this morning?
MS. PSAKI: They speak regularly.
QUESTION: On a daily basis, obviously?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not always on a daily basis, but they do speak regularly. And no, this morning is no --
QUESTION: What was the trigger for this morning’s conversation? What was the purpose of it?
MS. PSAKI: I honestly wouldn’t read into it as a trigger. They have regular conversations about everything from the Middle East peace process to global events like Iran, and certainly, that’s what they talk about when they connect on the phone.
I have a couple of other calls. Let me just make sure I provide those to you since I have them.
QUESTION: You don’t have a specific readout from this morning’s call, though, with Prime Minister Netanyahu?
MS. PSAKI: Let me see. I think I may. Let’s see. Give me a moment here. I just don’t want to miss any of the calls he’s done. Let’s see here.
So just to give you the full construct here, over the past two days, Secretary Kerry has spoken, as you mentioned, twice with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He also spoke with President Abbas and he also spoke with newly sworn-in Foreign Minister Lieberman. He did that yesterday. And the Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu discussed this morning and yesterday both a range of issues, including primarily Iran and the Israeli-Palestinian final status negotiations. On Iran, the Secretary provided an update on the P5+1 talks and underscored that we are committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And on the peace process, they discussed how to advance the negotiations from here, how the U.S. can continue to play a constructive facilitating role. As I mentioned, this is a part of their regular and ongoing discussions. And the issue of settlements – and I know Arshad asked this yesterday – was raised, of course, and Secretary reiterated our longstanding policy on that.
With President Abbas they also discussed final status negotiations, they discussed the issue of the Palestinian negotiators tendering their resignation. And as we – as I mentioned yesterday, President Abbas reaffirmed his commitment to the nine-month timeframe, agreed-upon timeframe.
And he also, as I mentioned at the top, spoke with Foreign Minister Lieberman. He congratulated him on being sworn in once again to the post of foreign minister and mentioned that he is looking forward to working with him as part of our extensive engagement with the Government of Israel across all levels.
QUESTION: You’re saying – I think you said, and trying to make clear, that the Israelis are essentially fully informed of what’s going on in the P5+1 talks, given that they’re the country that is most susceptible to potential Iranian aggression. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Under Secretary Sherman was there on Sunday, as you know.
QUESTION: Right. She went there. There’s this constant --
MS. PSAKI: The Secretary has spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu a number of times. I can’t get into the level of detail that was provided, but it’s fair to say that they’ve provided the construct of our discussions.
QUESTION: Right. Well, I mean, even going back to last week, the President called Prime Minister Netanyahu --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Secretary was there --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- met with him three times. He’s had these daily phone calls. And yet when the Israelis complain, you say hold on a – about this deal and say it’s potentially devastating for them, your message is hold on, the deal’s not done yet, there’s a lot of reports out there that are inaccurate. Well, surely the Israelis aren’t relying on inaccurate media reports to make their protests, are they? Or is that what you’re saying? Because they would seem to know a hell of a lot more about this proposed agreement than any of the reporters who have written these inaccurate stories that you’re talking about.
MS. PSAKI: Well, there was a lot in that question. What – the point I’m making is there have been a lot of numbers, a lot of details out there.
MS. PSAKI: Yesterday I mentioned – and we just talked about it now – how there was a 50 billion or 40 billion or whatever the number was number out there. That’s a number that they’ve used. That’s an inaccurate number, so --
QUESTION: No, no. That’s the total, I believe. The number that you’re – the number that you, I think, are saying that is inaccurate, is this roughly 20 billion, or 18 to 21 billion that there would have been --
MS. PSAKI: There have been higher numbers used as well. There --
QUESTION: Well, that they would get relief from in this first six months.
MS. PSAKI: And there have been higher numbers used as well by a range of people making public comments. Look, I think – we’re not going to – I can’t speak to the concerns the Israelis have. Obviously, we’re --
QUESTION: Well, that’s clear because they – they’re still complaining.
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, I mean, one of the messages that the Secretary is conveying is we are pursuing this diplomatic path exactly because we are concerned about Israel’s security, committed to Israel’s security, that, in fact, the approach of putting more sanctions into place, as I talked about yesterday, we don’t feel would be the appropriate or effective approach, and so that’s why we’re determining whether this path is possible.
QUESTION: Right, but you’re – are you trying to say that the Israelis’ complaints are based on inaccurate reports in the media?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo was asking me about what comments that he made at a press conference this weekend. Obviously, there have been a number of briefings. Beyond that, we’re going to continue to have discussions and see if we can address the concerns and keep them informed of the negotiations.
QUESTION: Right. But so far – and you’ve been discussing with this – this with them at great length, as we just went through – the personal meetings, the President’s call, the phone calls that the Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu had, and the Israelis still think it’s a bad idea. Isn’t that correct?
MS. PSAKI: I will let you do your own analysis of their comments, yes, Matt.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, when – alright.
QUESTION: I ask you --
QUESTION: The point is that it’s not – they’re not criticizing the deal based on what they’re reading in the press. They’re criticizing the deal based on what you guys are telling them.
MS. PSAKI: And we’re continuing to have discussions with them about why this is the right path forward and why we’re pursuing it and how we can address their concerns.
QUESTION: But it doesn’t seem to be alleviating their concerns too much at the moment.
MS. PSAKI: Well, this is a discussion in progress.
QUESTION: Let me play the Devil a moment. I will tell you an example.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Eight months ago or one year ago, our minister of Argentina, Hector Timerman, made an agreement with the foreign minister of Iran to have a, like, a court in Iran to analyze the situation of the bombing in Argentina. This was a signed deal, and Iran said, now I have to take it to the congress of Iran, and this never happened. The deal is nowhere. We cannot find where the deal went on. So my question is: Which kind of powers this foreign minister of Iran has? If it’s not that he’s going to send it later to the congress of Iran, and this will take forever, like, for example, the agreement that Argentina had with Iran that is not going anywhere. That is – I think is a very interesting question.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what your question is.
QUESTION: Which kind of powers has the foreign minister when he’s signing this deal if it’s – he’s not going to send this deal to the congress of Iran, the parliament of Iran, later, and that will take months, like in the case of Argentina and Iran that never happened and it didn’t go anywhere?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to the Iranians to explain to you what their process would be. However, the larger point here is, if we dial back to this summer, President Rouhani was elected on the platform of reforming and boosting the economy in Iran. Obviously, the impact of crippling sanctions has been a huge hindrance to that. They have shown more of an openness to a possible diplomatic path forward. As the Secretary has said numerous times, no deal is better than a bad deal. We continue to go into this eyes wide open, but we have a responsibility and an obligation to pursue a diplomatic path, and that’s what we’re doing right now.
QUESTION: Okay. But is – the minister – foreign minister in this case, if they do a deal, this has to be approved by the congress or the parliament of Iran.
MS. PSAKI: I would point you them --
QUESTION: Okay. That’s a very – okay.
MS. PSAKI: -- and they can explain to you what their steps, if there are steps, that are needed.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Or, one more on Iran? Go ahead.
QUESTION: I just wondered, logistically --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- are there anymore hearings planned on the Hill for the Secretary?
MS. PSAKI: There --
QUESTION: On this subject, on Iran.
MS. PSAKI: Not at this moment, although he certainly is open to it, and open – and he’s having ongoing discussions with members in – of both parties, as is Under Secretary Sherman. Under Secretary Sherman is giving another update to committees and leadership in both chambers today. So those are ongoing, and as more are scheduled we are happy to inform you of those.
QUESTION: Just a follow up. Secretary Kerry testimony yesterday in Senate Banking Committee, but it is still reported still have a huge gap between the Administration and the Congress. So which point – what point could Secretary Kerry narrow the gap yesterday and what point the Congress understand this point?
MS. PSAKI: Are you asking me, did he narrow the gap?
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Or are you asking me what message he sent to them?
QUESTION: Did he narrow gap.
MS. PSAKI: Well, look. I’m not here to give you a whip count of where members of Congress stand, but as I mentioned a little bit earlier, the Secretary felt it was an important conversation he had with members yesterday, he laid out the full construct of our approach, and I talked with him about it this morning. He doesn’t feel that anybody could come out of there without a full understanding of what that approach would be. And the message he was conveying to members, as I talked a little bit about yesterday, is that he fully supports sanctions. We didn’t vote for sanctions simply for the sake of sanctions. They’ve worked. That’s why we’re at this point. But we have an obligation, a responsibility, to see if we can pursue a diplomatic path, and the question is: Why not wait a month? Why not wait six weeks and see if that will work? And always we can – sanctions are a tool that we have.
QUESTION: But it’s not a week or a month. It’s actually six months. Now this gets back to my opening question, because if you do wait that long and the Iranians don’t comply and go forge – steamroll right ahead with what they’re doing right now in violation of this agreement, you have lost something. You’ve lost those six months. And depending on whose scientific assessment or intel assessment you’re looking at, I mean that could be – that could be it. That could be – they could’ve gotten to breakout then.
MS. PSAKI: Well, two points, Matt. One is he’s making a case on why members of Congress shouldn’t put sanctions in – new sanctions in place right now, right, given we’re seeing if this will work. The question is whether or not we’ll be able to put together an agreement and a path forward. Obviously, I can’t get into the minds of members of Congress, but that would put us in a different position than we’re in now.
QUESTION: All right. Well, except that --
MS. PSAKI: And the question I would pose to you or to others is --
QUESTION: We’ve switched --
MS. PSAKI: -- what is the alternative? The alternative is that Iran continues to make steps forward; they continue to develop – take steps to developing a nuclear weapon. That’s not going to go away if there’s no deal.
QUESTION: Right. Well, but you just – you and everyone else in the Administration says no deal is better than a bad deal.
MS. PSAKI: Correct. We’re not going to accept a bad deal, but seeing if this possible is a better – is far better than the alternative. That’s the point.
QUESTION: Right. But you’re being told by people that it is a bad deal, that you’re giving up way too much too early, with no – and so I’d – do you accept that at all?
MS. PSAKI: We – the point – I understand what you’re asking me here, but the specific details of any deal have not been in the public. So they are not in the evaluation phase of this.
QUESTION: So it’s – but then we get back to the question: Are members of Congress and the Israeli – and Prime Minister Netanyahu, are they not being given more details than the public is given? Because if they are, and they’re still complaining about it, I don’t see how that argument makes any sense. It doesn’t hold water.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I wouldn’t put everybody in --
QUESTION: But – and if they’re not, then they have every – then they have even more reason to be concerned.
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put everybody into the same category of what their concerns are. So we’re working to address those. It’s an ongoing discussion. We’re providing as much detail as is feasible to provide.
QUESTION: Have the Iranians told you that they will walk away and not accept anything if Congress goes ahead and passes – adopts new sanctions that may or may not be implemented – may or may not be signed by the President?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into details of that, but it is fair to say that the Secretary, the President, the negotiating team feel it would be unhelpful to put new sanctions in place now and that it could possibly end the deal – end the negotiations.
QUESTION: But do I understand that from what you are saying that Iran shouldn’t worry about the all options on the table? Are you saying --
MS. PSAKI: No. The President, I believe if I saw this aspect of his remarks, reiterated that. That hasn’t changed. The Secretary said that several times over the past week.
Any more on Iran? Okay. Lalit.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you know what he will be – can you give us some preview of the remarks and why he is giving it now? What’s the reason for this, the timing?
MS. PSAKI: I have not had an opportunity to read them yet, so I don’t want to speak out of turn. Obviously, broadly speaking, the role of women in Afghanistan, the importance of continuing to boost women in Afghanistan – whether it’s education, which as you know, has increased dramatically over the last several years, or just giving them opportunities – is something that’s a huge priority for the Administration, for the Secretary. And I think he’ll be talking about that, but we can get you more of a preview of the remarks and I appreciate you raising them. It’s an important set of – speech he’s making tomorrow.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Last few days you have given several statements on Maldives about saying that the government – this is continuing now, this is not a legitimate government. Do you think – is U.S. considering any kind of stopping of aid, pausing aid to Maldives in view of the developments there?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any update on that. I’m happy to check and see if there’s anything new to report. I know we’ve put out a number of statements on events going on there.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Samir.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Did you see reports about the rocket attacks from Syria on Lebanon (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: We did. We – the United States strongly condemns today’s rocket attacks on Lebanon and we do not have – while we don’t have any details, we’re seeking more information. The Government of Lebanon has also said that they will be conducting an investigation, so we will look to that. We of course call on all parties in the region to respect, as we always do, Lebanon’s sovereignty and its stated policy of disassociation.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: A recent poll says that 65 percent of Americans think that Congress should continue to investigate the Benghazi attacks. And I was wondering: Do you support the House Intel Committee holding closed-door hearings on the CIA survivors that were on the roof the night of the attacks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve talked about this extensively in here. What I will say, broadly, is that we have participated and cooperated in dozens of hearings. We’ve provided more than 25,000 documents. We’ve done open and closed hearings. I think I’ve expressed in the past concerns that have been raised about specific requests, which we’ll continue to address with members as they request them.
QUESTION: And did the State Department delay those CIA members from testifying in front of the House Intelligence Committee today? It’s taken 14 months.
MS. PSAKI: Again, I would point you to comments that I’ve made several times in the past about concerns raised, given its an ongoing investigation and given who the individuals are. But beyond that, I don’t think I have anything further for you.
QUESTION: And 49 percent of Americans believe that the perpetrators of the Benghazi attacks will never be caught and brought to justice. Do you – how do you react to that kind of cynicism?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, it’s an ongoing, FBI-led process and one that the President, the Secretary, are all committed to. We’d like nothing more than to track down the perpetrators. But beyond that I would point you to them.
QUESTION: Speaking of the FBI, which you just mentioned, the director of said agency was on the Hill this morning and told – testified before Congress that he would have no problem with the survivors testifying. Given the fact that you’ve talked about how it would be problematic because of an ongoing investigation, how do you respond to that since when you say that it’s an FBI-led investigation, the guy who leads the FBI-led investigation says he doesn’t have a problem with these guys showing up?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I talked about I think a week or two ago, I believe one of them has spoken to members of Congress, and we had confirmed that. Beyond that, I’d have to talk to our team about other --
QUESTION: All right. Can you – can you just check to see if your position that – ongoing investigation, there’s – it’s – there’s complicating factors here, if that’s still the case?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I don’t believe that was the only reason, but I’m happy to get around to you all the same guidance we’ve provided from here many times in the past.
QUESTION: I just have a few more, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: If there were repeated warnings from members of your team in Benghazi that there was a growing al-Qaida threat, there was a growing presence, was there any consideration in the building to hire private security to help buttress the support of the Ambassador’s protection?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there was an extensive review of what happened that night and a number of recommendations made which are being implemented. So beyond that, I’m not going to play backseat quarterback. Obviously, there are several circles of security that --
QUESTION: Wait a minute. Monday morning --
MS. PSAKI: He’s – I probably messed up the sports --
QUESTION: “Monday morning quarterback” is the expression.
MS. PSAKI: I probably messed up the sports analogy.
QUESTION: Monday morning quarterback.
QUESTION: “Backseat quarterback.” That sounds like something that happens in high school. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Backseat driver, backseat driver and Monday morning quarterback.
MS. PSAKI: Let’s get back on track.
QUESTION: Okay. Back on track.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lucas.
QUESTION: Will the State Department admit that you were caught flat-footed on September 11th, 2012?
MS. PSAKI: Lucas, as we’ve talked about countless times, there’s been an extensive review led by an independent body. We’re implementing those recommendations. We’re looking forward and determining what steps need to be taken to protect the men and women who serve around the world, and that’s what the Secretary is focused on.
QUESTION: And in terms of looking forward – I know yesterday you declared Boko Haram a terror group. I know it was brought up yesterday, but I didn’t know if there was some more time for some analysis in the building, but would you say the terror threat is growing in Africa?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I know we’ve talked about this before, but I’m not going to give you any analysis of that from here.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And you said that you was going to ask a little bit more. There is any answer or any comments on that?
MS. PSAKI: I think the question was regarding Russian investment in the Western Hemisphere, if I recall, or that was what it was around. Obviously there are a range of countries that invest in the Western Hemisphere, as does the United States. Our focus is on our investment and our relationships and I don’t think we’re going to do an analysis of others.
QUESTION: No. The question was regarding that there is a conflict between Nicaragua and Colombia --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and it seems that Russia said that in the case there is a – like a war or something, that Russia will support Nicaragua. Something like that came from one of the commanders of --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- some of the boats from Russia that are around now in the Americas.
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to Russia, Nicaragua, Colombia, all of the involved countries on that.
QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Russian President Vladimir Putin today spoke by telephone with Syria’s Bashar al-Assad for the first time in two years, I believe. And they are – the Syrian Government’s now apparently going to send a delegation to Moscow for talks on the preparations for the peace conference in Geneva. What is your reaction? Is that a – are these good signs? Are these good signals that there is some movement with the Russians and the Syrians?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously we are remaining committed, as do the Russians, to moving towards a Geneva conference. There are several steps that are being taken. The fact that the Russians are perhaps meeting with the regime to determine their attendance and participation, and if they can confirm that, that certainly would be a positive step. But we’re working with the opposition. They are running point with the regime, and we’re all working towards the same goal of a political solution.
QUESTION: So the Syrian opposition agreed at the weekend that they would attend the talks.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have a makeup yet of their delegation?
MS. PSAKI: Not yet. That’s obviously the next step that’s being worked through, and we want it to be an inclusive and comprehensive group. And that’s something that they’re working towards, and we’re obviously engaging with them as appropriate on.
QUESTION: Is the hope to have a makeup of a Syrian regime delegation plus a Syrian opposition delegation in place in time for the talks on November the 25th?
MS. PSAKI: That’s not a deadline I’m aware of. Obviously, the purpose of those conversations is to talk about everything from the agenda to attendance and the path forward. But outside of that, both the regime and the opposition will of course be working on their delegations.
QUESTION: I mean, I’m just trying to get at the fact that there seems to be, after months of stalemate, there seems to be a slight movement on --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- both sides, and whether the hope was therefore when Wendy Sherman meets with her counterparts on November 25th in Geneva, whether there might actually be an agreement for a date for a peace conference.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to predict that. Obviously that’s the next step, and Joint Special Representative Brahimi has said he’d – we’d like to do it before the end of the year. That certainly is the target. There are a couple of issues that need to be agreed to, and the UN needs to make final decisions and announcements on, and that’s what they’ll be discussing.
QUESTION: What’s coming from those talks? Today, the date of December 12th is being pushed around. Now any – is – I mean, is it clearer that the meetings – and what’s clear is that the meetings will probably move into December given the November 25 discussions with the UN, the U.S., and Russia. Is – would December seem a more likely time for these meetings?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously November 25th is an opportunity to discuss a lot of these outstanding issues. Because Matt has requested it not be on Thanksgiving, that is being observed, and we are still targeting by the end of the year. No date is final or set until the UN announces – confirms it and announces it. And I’ve said this before about the past dates. As Jo has mentioned, there are a couple of issues that need to be worked through, and those discussions are ongoing.
QUESTION: But you’re saying you’re still targeting by the end of the year. The target was mid-November. That was the last one, at – from UNGA. But the target was March, and then June, and then July. So why --
MS. PSAKI: We’ve always said we weren’t going --
QUESTION: -- when you say we’re still targeting by the end of the year --
MS. PSAKI: -- what I’m referring to is --
QUESTION: -- that’s a little bit disingenuous.
MS. PSAKI: -- Joint Special Representative’s – Brahimi’s comments he made about a week or two ago about by the end of the year. So I’m referring to that. Obviously, there have been a number of events that have happened, and we’ve never wanted to hold a conference just to hold a conference. We wanted to do it to move the process forward.
QUESTION: Can we change subjects?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Egypt. There are reports – well, Egypt’s saying today that it’s going to launch an international tender in January to build its first nuclear power station. As you know, Egypt froze its nuclear program in ’86 --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- because of Chernobyl. Was this discussed during the Secretary’s visit, and what would be your reaction to something like this?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that. I don’t recall it being discussed, but let me check. There were obviously a range of meetings that were group and one-on-one meetings. We’ve, of course, seen the announcement. We don’t have details on it. As you mentioned, Egypt has previously sought to develop civilian nuclear energy capabilities. Those efforts have been delayed time and time again for a variety of reasons. So it’s preliminary at this stage, and of course, we’ll be looking into more details.
QUESTION: The other thing is also that – staying on Egypt – is that a high-level Russian defense --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- discussions with Egypt took place today. And a lot of people are saying that – and those ties have been basically nonexistent until now. Do you find that the timing of this is interesting, given the fact that Washington has suspended aid to Egypt and that this has kind of opened up new relationships with countries like Russia?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we were just there, as you’ve joined us on the trip, just about --
QUESTION: I’m still recovering.
MS. PSAKI: As am I. Just about 10 days ago. We’re focused on our bilateral relationship and where it goes moving from here. And obviously, Russia is focused on theirs. They, I know, also did a press conference where they talked about the purpose of the visit and just talked about reactivating their relationship. Those are Foreign Minister Fahmy’s words. And the Russians reiterated that they have had and have had a relationship with Egypt and the Egyptian people for decades. So I don’t have any further analysis other than to point you to the comments made by both sides about the purpose of their trip.
QUESTION: And on North Korea?
MS. PSAKI: Any more on Egypt? Okay.
QUESTION: Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies travel to South Korea, Japan, China next week.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what is the purpose of his visit?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you are right; he will travel to China, South Korea, and Japan November 19th through 25th for meetings with senior officials in each country to discuss North Korea policy. He’ll be in Beijing from the 19th through the 21st, Seoul from the 22nd through the 23rd, and Tokyo from the 24th to the 25th. As you know, he has ongoing discussions with these countries about coordinating on policy as it relates to North Korea, and that’s the purpose of his trip.
QUESTION: But last week U.S.-South Korea-Japan trilateral meeting held in State Department here.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Have they reached any agreement on the resumption of the Six-Party Talk?
MS. PSAKI: They have not. As I have mentioned before, the ball is in North Korea’s court. There are steps they need to take to abide by their international obligations, including the 2005 joint statement. Those are not steps they’ve taken, but obviously, we continue to coordinate with partners in the region.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update. Obviously, we remain concerned about his health. As you know, his mother was just there, I believe a couple of weeks ago, and we had been in touch with the family. But let me check and see if there’s any update I can provide about recent contact or anything along those lines.
QUESTION: Who is going to meet at the – in Beijing at – meet with Davies?
MS. PSAKI: Who is he going to meet with in Beijing?
QUESTION: Yeah, Ambassador Davies in Beijing.
MS. PSAKI: He’s going to meet with Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei.
QUESTION: And Wang Yi (inaudible) another higher official (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: That’s the meeting I’m aware of. If there’s other meetings, I’m sure we can provide that to all of you.
QUESTION: There is a difference of view between U.S. and China, but this time he visit in China, so you think very close views each other, or --
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary, as you know, has been to China and met with officials there and been in contact with them about our shared concern about North Korea. And this will be a continuation of those discussions.
QUESTION: And Wu Dawei – as you know, Wu Dawei visited North Korea last week and probably it is reported that Wu Dawei got some message from North Korea. So do you expect some progress in this next talk?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to make a prediction. Obviously, every discussion is an opportunity, but I don’t want to make a prediction of what will come out of it. And I’m sure there’ll be a readout when they have the meetings.
QUESTION: Do you thinking that sanction in terms of Iran, yet the United States said – you also saying sanctions is very effective to start discuss. But do you think it’s the same thing happens in North Korea? Do you think sanction is effective toward North Korea and pressure--
MS. PSAKI: Well, they – there has certainly been an impact, but obviously, there has to be a willingness to engage and take steps. And that’s not something we’ve seen by – from North Korea.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Can you tell us what the State Department is doing, what more you are doing to help free Dr. Afridi from prison?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any – I know we’ve talked about this before, Lucas. I don’t have any update on it. Obviously, we remain concerned. We are in touch through our protecting power. I’m happy to check on that if there’s anything new to report to you.
QUESTION: Not protecting power.
MS. PSAKI: Or --
QUESTION: This is Pakistan.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, Pakistan. Sorry. We’re --
QUESTION: Presumably, it’s the Embassy.
MS. PSAKI: Presumably. Yeah, I guess. Sorry. Yes, we remain concerned. I’ll see if there’s anything new to update in terms of contacts or anything along those lines.
QUESTION: Just staying on Pakistan --
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: There was a note came around yesterday that there are some talks between someone from this department on energy and the Pakistani Energy Minister down in Houston today with a press event that --
MS. PSAKI: I thought they were earlier this week, if I remember correctly.
QUESTION: It was earlier this week. I missed it, then.
MS. PSAKI: I think they were two days ago. Let me check with our team and see if there’s any readout.
MS. PSAKI: I think they may have put a readout out, but let me check and see where that stands.
QUESTION: They’re in Houston today. They are in Houston today.
QUESTION: It is today, okay.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, in Houston, okay.
QUESTION: And there’s a press avail tonight at 6 o’clock in Houston.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Well, unfortunately, AFP doesn’t have anybody in Houston, so I just – I would be interested in a readout, what it’s all about.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let me check and see what our team has on that.
QUESTION: Well, let’s just stay with Pakistan --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- for one second. I’m sure I’m not going to get a satisfactory answer, but maybe you’ll surprise me. So since we’ve been gone, how’s that review of the Amnesty drone report going? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: We have reviewed these reports. That review has concluded, Matt.
QUESTION: It has? Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have much to read out for you, other than to convey that we take extraordinary care to make sure that our counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable domestic and international law, and that they are consistent with U.S. values and policy.
To the extent that these reports claim that the U.S. has acted contrary to international law, we would strongly disagree. We remain – we have repeatedly emphasized the extraordinary care we take to make sure counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable law. And when there are indications that civilian deaths may have occurred, intelligence analysts draw on a large body of information, including human intelligence, signals intelligence, media reports, and surveillance footage to help us make informed determinations about whether civilians were, in fact, killed or injured. Substantial information concerning U.S. counterterrorism strikes is collected, obviously, through a variety of methods, as I just mentioned.
But beyond that, as you know, as we’ve talked about a bit, the President gave a speech, we continue to take every step possible, and we’ve completed our review of the report.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, that sounds like your – the initial review the day after it came out, you – there was quibbles with two – or more than quibbles; there were disagreements with two aspects. One is the one that you just mentioned, acting in violation of international law. The other one was that you said that the casualty counts were inflated – their casualty counts – and that you had better information than the eyewitnesses who were on the ground, so is --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I just outlined the steps that we take.
QUESTION: Are you – do you still hold the position that their casualty figures are too high?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we haven’t – that position hasn’t changed from the one we outlined earlier.
QUESTION: Okay. So in other words, the review that has now been concluded after almost, what, three weeks or so – well, two and a half, three weeks – the full review has come to the same conclusion as your cursory snap review that you did a day after the report. Is that right?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more about our review to read out to all of you.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Do you --
QUESTION: I have one more unrelated question.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you contend, though, that there were no civilians who were killed in these attacks?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to outline numbers or specifics on that front.
QUESTION: So you contend there were some civilians?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you on numbers. We never discuss those.
QUESTION: Alex Wortman with NHK. I just wanted to go back to --
MS. PSAKI: Hi, Alex.
QUESTION: -- North Korea quickly.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: How does Ambassador Davies plan to work with China to move forward on the Six-Party Talks? Do you have any comments on that?
MS. PSAKI: I think I addressed this. Again, just to reiterate that the ball is in North Korea’s court. There are certain steps they need to take, including abiding by their international obligations, including the 2005 joint statement, and that’s what we’re waiting for. So the ball’s in their court. We’re continuing to work with and talk with and coordinate with our partners in the region, which is what he’ll be doing on his trip.
QUESTION: If the North Korea not accept U.S. preconditions, like you have to – denuclearization Korean Peninsula, what happens? There never been a resumption of the Six-Party Talk?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that is the – it’s not a U.S. position. It’s an international position. There’s a joint statement, as you know, from 2005. Again, the ball remains in their court. I don’t have anything further to predict for you on the Six-Party Talks.
QUESTION: Does the United States have – has any intention to have a bilateral talk to North Korea before the Six-Party Talk?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t have anything new for you on this issue. I will point you to Glyn Davies’s upcoming trip later this month.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have or will you have a readout of the meeting this morning?
QUESTION: Huron or Erie?
MS. PSAKI: Hmm?
QUESTION: Sorry, I was – Huron, Erie, Superior, or Michigan? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Not those Great Lakes, Matt.
QUESTION: Not those.
MS. PSAKI: We’ll educate you after the briefing. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So do you have a readout of the meeting between the Secretary and the Special Envoy Feingold this morning? And as you know, the M23 and Kinshasa failed to strike a peace agreement last week in Kampala, so is the U.S. hopeful to convince Kinshasa to sign this peace deal?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary, of course, speaks with and meets with Special Envoy Feingold regularly given his important role, and he has been in the region extensively recently, so they discussed the ongoing negotiations there, his evaluation of what’s happening on the ground this morning in their meeting.
We of course regret that the Government of the DRC and the M23 rebel group failed to sign the final Kampala document earlier this week. We understand there are no substantive differences between the two parties, but rather that the refusal came down to the type of document to which they were agreeing. We continue to urge both parties to sign the final document as a conclusion to the 10-month dialogue, and to – for the purpose of ensuring accountability for those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and to also develop an agreed-upon process for the disarmament and demobilization of the M23.
QUESTION: What do you mean by “type of document”? Sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Type of document. I don’t have any other specifics for you to outline other than to convey that the content was not – there were not sizable, substantive differences.
QUESTION: Well, was it because somebody didn’t like pink writing paper and somebody else wanted yellow? I don’t understand what “type of document” means in this context.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more.
QUESTION: What about binding agreement?
QUESTION: Yeah. Was it --
QUESTION: I mean, I guess it’s not like it was something kind of ridiculous like the font. It was the – it was whether it was a binding accord or not a binding accord, or something along those lines? Is that what --
MS. PSAKI: I can’t detail it for you further. It was not pink paper. It was not substantive pieces. I will see if there’s more I can outline for you.
QUESTION: Because a binding accord would be a substantive piece. It just – it doesn’t really – yeah, if you could try and get some clarification of what --
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to.
QUESTION: -- on the language and the type of document. That doesn’t make --
MS. PSAKI: Well, the type of document – what I mean is the difference between what they’re agreeing to, obviously, there weren’t substantive differences on that front. So the type of document – I will see if there’s more I can convey to you all from here.
QUESTION: Is the – is Mr. Feingold going to – going back to the region soon?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of his travel. He’s been back and forth. I’m happy to check if there’s more to report on that and his upcoming travel.
QUESTION: I mean, yeah, one of his points that he’s always made is that you keep pressure by international involvement in this --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- and put pressure on --
MS. PSAKI: And that’s something the Secretary absolutely agrees with and he’s spent a significant amount of time in the region, as you know. So that certainly complies with that.
QUESTION: And can I ask you about Kenya?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I asked several weeks ago and since we’ve been traveling I haven’t asked again – is – what is the U.S.’s position regarding the ICC – the Security Council in which they’ve asked for the deferral of – or a delay in the prosecution of Kenyatta and his deputy president? What has the U.S.’s stance been on that towards – in the Security Council?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we --
QUESTION: Do you support it (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: We are mindful, of course, of the importance of this issue to the government and the people of Kenya, as well as the African Union. Our view is that concerns Kenya has – there’s a mechanism for addressing those within the framework of the ASP. I’m not going to get ahead of – I understand there’s a UN process. I’m not going to get ahead of that or speak on behalf of our UN colleagues other than to just reiterate that there’s an existing process that exists to kind of address these issues generally.
QUESTION: So you’re not prepared to say whether you would support a postponement of that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything.
QUESTION: Or which way you’re going to go in the Security Council?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead of the process.
MS. PSAKI: He is. He will be meeting with him next week.
QUESTION: Okay. Also I asked you yesterday about the statement by the Prime Minister of Turkey, if you have anything.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the United States recognizes the Republic of Cyprus. We also continue to support the negotiation process conducted under the auspices of the UN to reunify the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. Beyond that, I would point you to Turkey on Prime Minister Erdogan’s comments.
MS. PSAKI: I remember it fondly.
QUESTION: Yes. So recently – like within the last week – there appears to be some change in that language, and let me give you an example. Secretary Kerry in his interview with Israeli – joint interview last week with the Israeli and Palestinian television said: “We do not believe the settlements are legitimate. We think they’re illegitimate.” Yet, months or up until that point, you and Marie had each said that our position has not changed. We don’t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. And yesterday you said when asked about --
MS. PSAKI: There’s a lot of research being done.
QUESTION: Yes, exactly. You said: “We haven’t made a secret about our belief that we consider the settlements to be illegitimate.” Has – my question is: Has the word “continued” been dropped from the lexicon here?
MS. PSAKI: I think you’re overanalyzing the word. It’s an issue of semantics.
QUESTION: No, I haven’t analyzed it at all. I’m just asking: Has the word “continued” been removed --
MS. PSAKI: I think you’ve done a lot of work analyzing it.
QUESTION: No, no. I’m just repeating what people have said. I want to know if the word – is the word “continued” no longer being placed in front of “settlements.”
MS. PSAKI: Well, you saw my comments. You saw the Secretary’s comments. I would reiterate the fact that every administration in recent memory has said that the settlements are illegitimate. So it’s been a pretty consistent position for quite some time now. You may know how many years it’s been, but beyond that I don’t have anything further.
QUESTION: Well, so you’re saying that the words has changed, but the policy hasn’t. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: The policy has not changed, no.
QUESTION: But the wording has changed.
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s an issue of semantics whether it’s included or not.
QUESTION: Well, it’s not because, as I pointed out before when we had this exchange, whenever it was months ago, if you talk about the illegitimacy only of continued settlements, that means that you take no position on existing settlements. That is a matter for the two parties --
MS. PSAKI: The point I’m making is that both – is that this has been the Administration’s policy for decades. So – the fact that we have not recognized the legitimacy of settlements. So you can get into semantics about continued, not continued, but if it’s been the case for decades then we haven’t recognized the legitimacy of settlements for decades.
QUESTION: Well no, because you used to say that once – it used to be that once a settlement was actually built, announced or built, you didn’t have a position because then it was – their legitimacy or illegitimacy was up to the parties to determine in final status talks.
If you have in fact dropped the word continued from in front of settlement activity, whether you say it’s a policy change or not, it has very broad implications. It would appear as though you are toughening your stance and saying that all Israeli settlement – settlements are illegitimate right now --
MS. PSAKI: I’ll let you --
QUESTION: -- which is different than what you were saying before when you would only say that ones that have yet to be announced are – or coming in the future are illegitimate. If you now take the position that the settlements are all – settlements are illegitimate, are you not then taking a position on prejudging final status talks?
MS. PSAKI: It is not prejudging final status talks. It’s exactly why we’re in them. Obviously, borders is a huge component of that.
MS. PSAKI: So I would – you’re going to do your own analysis, Matt, but --
QUESTION: Well, I – I just – I mean, your position is now that all of them are illegitimate, but that some might regain legitimacy if the Palestinians and Israelis can come to an agreement on them. Is that it?
MS. PSAKI: Again, Matt, as you know, a discussion of borders is a big part of the negotiations. The reason why we’re – one of the reasons we’re so focused on it is to address this issue as well as many others that have been ongoing issues for some time. So I’m not going to prejudge those. I don’t think the comment is prejudging those. And I’ll let you do your own analysis beyond that.
QUESTION: I had one more --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I don’t know if Secretary Kerry has had opportunity this morning to see the comments made by his friend, John McCain, yesterday in an interview, in which he describes Secretary Kerry as a human wrecking ball? And said – criticized U.S. diplomacy as responding to a fire drill. Do you have comments on that? Would he – would the Secretary like to respond to that?
MS. PSAKI: I have not spoken with him about those comments.
QUESTION: Do you think you could ask him if he’d like to respond to that?
MS. PSAKI: I will let you know if we have anything to contribute.
QUESTION: I mean, it’s pretty brutal language. Even in the give-and-take of the Senate floor, it seems to be pretty brutal language to be criticizing the U.S. top diplomat in such outspoken terms.
MS. PSAKI: And they’ve known each other and been friends for decades.
MS. PSAKI: So I would put it in that context.
MS. PSAKI: Last on Syria? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. There have been some reports that North Korean pilots are participating in Assad’s forces and conducting air strike in that country. Do you have any comment on the development?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those reports. I’m happy to check on that for you, if there’s anything to say.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:43 p.m.)