12:17 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I have two items for all of you at the top. The first, as we have been doing a bit of this week, is just an update on our assistance to the Philippines as they recover from the typhoon. A USAID flight carrying heavy-duty plastic sheeting and family hygiene kits arrived in Manila today. The supplies, which will help 10,000 families in need, are being transported to Tacloban and other hard-hit areas by DOD. This is the third airlift of USAID supplies to arrive in the Philippines.
The U.S. Government is providing more than $22 million in humanitarian assistance to help those affected by this crisis. Our assistance includes emergency shelter assistance and water sanitation and hygiene supplies, as well as support for humanitarian coordination, procurement, and distribution of relief supplies, and logistic support. We continue to explore what more we can do to help the people of the Philippines. But of course, as you heard the President say, as everybody did yesterday, this is not just a government effort; we continue to encourage Americans who want to help to visit whitehouse.gov/typhoon.
One other quick update for all of you from here: We welcome the Government of Burma’s release of another 69 political prisoners today, including two high-profile activists. The government has released over 1,100 political prisoners since it began reform efforts. We also commend the serious work of the political prisoner review committee and its efforts to meet President – the President’s commitment to release all political prisoners by year’s end.
And last thing is I have to go upstairs for a meeting at about 1 o’clock, so we’ll have to be a little shorter today than usual. Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, let’s try to make it shorter than yesterday, at least. You set a record.
MS. PSAKI: It’s up to all of you.
QUESTION: I believe you set --
QUESTION: No, no. Marie went for longer.
QUESTION: Oh, really? Oh, I must have missed that.
QUESTION: Marie went almost 90 minutes.
MS. PSAKI: Oh.
MS. PSAKI: Let’s make Monday --
QUESTION: Let’s make it (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: -- an hour and 55.
QUESTION: Short and sweet.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Matt.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Have you seen – I presume you have – Prime Minister Netanyahu’s tweet of this – what is basically an advertisement against your proposed or potential deal with Iran? I’m hard-pressed to remember a time when the national security interests of the United States and Israel appeared to be so divergent, and I’m just wondering if you have any reaction to this rather unprecedented public campaign that the Israelis are mounting in opposition to something that you think is vitally important for not only regional security and their security but for your security.
MS. PSAKI: I did see the tweet that went out, as I know many did. It’s worth keeping in mind – and this is a message that we’ll continue to repeat to our Israeli friends – that we do actually have the same goal of preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, and ours – through a comprehensive diplomatic solution that addresses all of our concerns. That’s our bottom line. The place where we diverge a bit is on the tactical level, where we believe we need a first step that halts Iran’s program to give us time to negotiate this long-term agreement, and they believe we should just keep upping the pressure on Iran to get them to capitulate all at once to a long-term agreement. We don’t, obviously, think that’s a path that is possible. That’s an ongoing discussion that we’re continuing to have with the Israelis, but beyond that, I don’t have any particular new response to the tweet that went out today.
QUESTION: Well, they clearly haven’t bought your argument thus far, and frankly, they’re not going to. And if you think that they are, I think you’re – whoever is in charge is deluding themselves. So are you prepared to continue to push ahead with this proposed deal, potential deal, in the face of Israel’s complete – or at least maybe Prime Minister Netanyahu’s complete rejection of it, and very strong opposition to it in Congress?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re looking at multiple tracks here, including our continued pursuit of seeing whether a diplomatic path is possible. As you know, and we’ve talked about a bit in here, the alternative, in our view, is a path to war – a path to diplomacy, a path to war. We think the path to diplomacy is the right path. We’re continuing to convey to those who are opponents and those who have claimed that this proposal is not a fair deal or not one that – one that makes too many concessions, that if that is actually the case, why didn’t the Iranians accept the deal a week ago?
Obviously, this dialogue will continue. The discussions will continue. I’m not predicting who we will or won’t convince, but we have a commitment to continuing to brief here concerns and address them as best we possibly can.
QUESTION: So extrapolating from your comment that the alternative to this, this proposal that is now being – that is almost complete, the only alternative to that is a path to war? That would seem to suggest that you are convinced, the Administration is convinced, that the Prime Minister of Israel wants you to go to war with Iran or wants to go to war with Iran himself.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not ascribing what his interests are, but I – what I am conveying is what our view is, is that either we pursue a diplomatic path, or the alternative is that the Iranians continue to enrich, they continue to take steps forward to developing, acquiring a nuclear weapon. That’s not a path that we think is one we would like to pursue, and that’s why we’re pursuing the diplomatic path.
QUESTION: But presumably – at least I hope no one is advocating war here, but you seem to suggest that if you don’t take this, if people don’t accept this, they want war. And that’s it. That’s kind of like the “you’re either with us or you’re against it” line, which I thought that this Administration was trying to get away from.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what I’m conveying here, Matt, is that we believe that we have a responsibility to pursue diplomacy and see if it can work.
QUESTION: And you believe that the alternative to your plan, to your proposal, or to the proposal that’s out there, is a path to war?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: So therefore, people who are opposed to your idea, to your proposed plan, want war.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not conveying that. I’m conveying that we have two options, so let’s see if we can pursue a diplomatic path.
QUESTION: War or diplomacy are the two options, but – and so anyone who is against this, against you now, anyone who’s criticizing it or rejecting it, then wants war.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we --
QUESTION: That seems --
MS. PSAKI: What I’m conveying is anyone who is an opponent should think about what the alternative is. Our view is the alternative is conflict, aggression. That’s not an alternative that we would like to pursue.
QUESTION: Okay. So then just lastly, and then I’ll let – I know Arshad wants to ask some so I will – lastly, – and I realize this is a hypothetical, but I want to put it out there anyway.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: If this fails because of actions that either Israel or its friends in Congress or Congress itself just on its own, without any outside pressure or pushing – if this collapses, is the Administration still prepared to say that all options are on the table? In other words, are you – if this collapses, is the use of force no --
MS. PSAKI: We’ve never not said --
QUESTION: -- no longer on the – well, you say that you don’t want war, you don’t want aggression, you don’t want hostility. So if you put it out there to the Israelis that – or whoever is opposing this that – support this or else, and the or else is path to war and possibly/we’re not going to do anything militarily against the Iranians --
MS. PSAKI: We’ve never --
QUESTION: -- if this – if it fails.
MS. PSAKI: We’ve never taken – the President has never taken that option off the table – not now, not in the future. I know you didn’t ask about this, but we also haven’t – we’re not talking about retiring sanctions either, as you well know but there’s been confusion about. So all options remain on the table, as they have. What we’re asking --
QUESTION: And they will even if this fails? Even if this deal does not happen, all options remain on the table? You’re not telling the Israelis that, look, if you don’t go – change your mind and agree with this, we’re no longer interested – we’re not going to – we’re not going to keep the military option on the table?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t --
QUESTION: You’re not telling them that?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to private diplomatic conversations. But given we’ve never taken it off the table, it’s on the table. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals of if this does or doesn’t happen.
QUESTION: I actually wanted to switch to Syria, so if we’ve got more Iran stuff --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Could I ask you very quickly on Iran?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, Arshad. So what is your point of contention with Israel? What is the difference?
MS. PSAKI: We have no point of contention with Israel. As you know, we have differences of opinion on the tactics, on how we should pursue the path forward. We’ve talked at length about why we think this is the right path, why we think we should give diplomacy a chance, diplomacy a chance to breathe. And I would point you to comments that the Israelis have made.
At the same time, you’ve heard the Secretary say that we have the same goal, which is to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. He has respect, a friendship of decades, with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We continue to have conversations, we continue to provide briefings, and those are ongoing. So I think your characterization I would disagree with.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, look at the kind of rhetoric that is coming from Israel and from the Prime Minister on the one hand. In fact, there are many prominent politicians in this town – Senator Menendez, Senator Kirk and others – are taking his position, basically. So there is – not only are they divergent, they’re like worlds apart, your positions. Do you agree?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think I need to do analysis for all of you. Obviously, we are continuing to make the case for why we think this is the best path forward.
QUESTION: Well, we understand your position. But you – can you agree that you don’t see eye-to-eye with the Israelis on this?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I need to characterize that for you.
QUESTION: Well, would you --
MS. PSAKI: I think you can make your own evaluation.
QUESTION: Would you agree with that --
MS. PSAKI: And I just made a statement about the difference in tactics. The important point here is what our goal is and that we’re continuing a dialogue.
QUESTION: Do you believe that what Mr. Netanyahu is saying undermines your efforts?
MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?
QUESTION: In the capacity that you’re trying to strike a deal or reach a deal with the Iranians.
MS. PSAKI: Again, I think the P5+1, as you know, is united. We are – they will be returning next week in Geneva. Obviously, we’re continuing to talk to those who have concerns, but I can’t make a prediction of what the outcome will be.
Iran or another topic?
MS. PSAKI: Iran? Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: If this deal succeeds, would your position on projects like Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline would change for the extension to India – meet energy needs?
MS. PSAKI: This is about the nuclear program or about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. It hasn’t expanded into larger diplomatic questions, so I don’t want to get ahead of any process or agreement that hasn’t yet been made.
QUESTION: Yeah. But your opposition to the gas pipeline is based because you have imposed sanctions on Iran because of difference --
MS. PSAKI: Well, to be clear, in this initial phase the core sanctions are still in place, so that wouldn’t change that. But beyond that, I’m not going to speculate.
Arshad. Oh --
QUESTION: This is related.
MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: It has to do with Iran tangentially.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: In that there are Israeli officials, or at least one, who has come out and said that the Secretary’s dogged endorsement of the deal with Iran means that he is no longer a viable or credible mediator in the peace process. I’m assuming that you would reject that characterization, but I’d like to hear what you have to say about it.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I haven’t seen those comments and I don’t know if they were from anyone who has anything to do with the peace process. But what I would convey is that the reason we’re so committed to pursuing a diplomatic path with Iran, and the reason we’re so committed to seeing through a final status agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians is because of our commitment to Israel’s security. The Secretary thinks those should be separate. Obviously, we’re having a discussion about both. But certainly, we would disagree with that notion.
QUESTION: Okay. So to put a final line on it, though, you believe that this Administration – that if what this Administration has proposed for both Iran and the peace process works out, Israel will be much safer and President Obama will go down in history as being the strongest supporter – strongest American President – strongest supporter of Israel of any American President?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d certainly welcome you writing that story – (laughter) – but obviously --
QUESTION: Well, you’ve got to get both deals done first.
MS. PSAKI: The – Israel’s security is an important component, and strengthening that is an important component of both. So clearly, if you get an agreement on both, that would be the goal.
QUESTION: It’s just odd because the view from Israel on this is completely opposite of what you – of what the Administration is saying. So are they just – they’re all, I don’t know, crazy? They don’t know what’s going on? They don’t – they’re not entitled to their own view of what is good for their security?
MS. PSAKI: I have never said any of those things. What is true is that security is, as evidenced by their comments, is of utmost concern of Israel, their own security. It’s of utmost concern of ours. That’s an important component of the discussions on the final status agreement and it’s one of the reasons why we think a diplomatic path is so important with Iran.
QUESTION: Right. So your argument is that you know better?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, that’s not my argument.
QUESTION: No? Okay.
MS. PSAKI: My argument is that – let’s let diplomacy work its way through, and obviously, we have their security at the top of our minds.
QUESTION: One more on Iran?
MS. PSAKI: On Iran? Sure.
QUESTION: Yeah, please. Do you have any concern in light of the Israeli hawkish position that they may resort to the military option so to scuttle the deal? Any concern?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to speculate on what Israel may or may not do. Obviously, we’re continuing to make the case for why we think this is the best path.
MS. PSAKI: You’re ready. Okay.
QUESTION: Has the Albanian Government agreed to accept the – to have a facility to deal with the Syrian chemical weapons?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I saw these comments just came out right before we came down here. It’s important to note that the international community continues to discuss the most effective and expeditious means for eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons program in the safest manner possible. As you know, this is a UN-OPCW international community commitment. They are taking the lead with it, as much as the U.S. has certainly a significant stake and interest.
In recent weeks, there have been extensive discussions with several countries, of course, including Albania, related to finding a location for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. Several countries have seriously – are seriously considering and have seriously considered hosting the destruction efforts.
We remain committed to the process. We anticipate the timelines will hold. So that is where we stand on that. And we certainly appreciate the countries like Albania and others who have spoken publicly considering this option.
QUESTION: But you can’t say whether or not the Albanians are willing to host it?
MS. PSAKI: I’ll let them speak for themselves. I think they just had a press conference this morning. So --
QUESTION: Okay. I didn’t – I actually haven’t seen what they have actually --
QUESTION: They said no.
QUESTION: Did they say no?
QUESTION: In fact, I would like to ask a question exactly on the topic at hand.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: While the U.S. was hoping for a positive answer, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama just announced that – he said, quote, that “Albania cannot be part of the destruction of Syrian chemical weapons process.” What is your reaction to that? And also, considering what has usually been referred to as excellent relations between the U.S. and Albania, do you think this will have an impact on the relations between the two countries?
MS. PSAKI: The answer to the last question is no. We appreciate Albania considering, looking seriously at hosting the chemical weapon – the destruction of chemical weapons. I will reiterate a little bit of what I’ve already said, which is just that the international community continues to discuss the most effective and expeditious manner for eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons. There are obviously a range of countries that the international community, led by the UN and the OPCW, are talking to. We think every country should make the decision about how they can best help and assist. I spoke with Tom Countryman’s team before I came down here. They feel confident that the timelines will hold. So we’ll continue to support the efforts that are led by the UN and the OPCW.
QUESTION: The U.S. Ambassador in Tirana said that the U.S. might be somewhat disappointed if Albania didn’t accept to be part of this process. What do you have to say about that?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered what our view is. We certainly appreciate their willingness to look seriously at this, and we remain committed to meeting the timelines or assisting in any way that is appropriate.
QUESTION: When you talk about the timelines, that’s for the destruction of the stockpiles?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So you are still optimistic or maybe even more than optimistic – convinced – that you will be able to convince some country out there to accept what amounts basically to a toxic waste dump being put into --
MS. PSAKI: It’s not the U.S. I know you know this, but it’s important to note: It’s not the U.S. convincing.
QUESTION: Well, when I say “you” it’s the royal you.
MS. PSAKI: The international community – the royal. Okay. We anticipate that the timelines will hold.
QUESTION: That means that you --
MS. PSAKI: That we will meet the deadlines.
QUESTION: -- fully expect that some country out there is going to accept this --
MS. PSAKI: That is obviously what the UN OPCW --
QUESTION: -- the toxic waste?
MS. PSAKI: -- are continuing to work toward.
QUESTION: And do you know that in that effort is the Administration offering any kind of an incentive to – for countries to take this very hazardous material?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not – I don’t have any specific details on that. I don’t think we’ve note – it may have been out there, but I don’t think I’ve stated from here that the United States has contributed $6 million to the effort, including direct financial assistance.
QUESTION: No, no, no. I’m talking about separately to get a country to agree to take this stuff.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, it’s not a discussion between the U.S. and any of these countries.
QUESTION: Well, I’m not asking if it’s a discuss – I’m asking if the Administration is prepared, as part of those discussions, to offer any country out there some kind of an incentive to accept this stuff that’s just incredibly hazardous.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on that for you.
QUESTION: So you can’t say whether or not the United States offered the Albanians anything?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t. I don’t have any details on it for you.
QUESTION: But do you know whether the United States offered anything, regardless of whether you have details on it?
MS. PSAKI: I will check and see if there’s anything more we can share with you about any discussions we had with them.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) opinion that the United States is willing to sort of put out to accommodate these needs? I mean money --
MS. PSAKI: In what way? Well --
QUESTION: In what way? To – I mean, you said $5 million. They’d like maybe $100 million, $200 million? What is the figure? What is the top --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to predict what we may or may not provide in the future. What we’ve given to date is $6 million, including direct financial assistance to the UN and OPCW trust funds set up to support this project. But they have received over $14 million in funding commitments.
QUESTION: Because apparently, the cost to sort of destroy, dismantle, whatever chemical weapons is something around the neighborhood of a billion dollars.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to encourage countries to provide support, including personnel, technical assistance, information, equipment, financial support, to enable the UN and the OPCW to continue their mission.
QUESTION: Okay. A follow-up question on Geneva.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: If there is anything has transpired since your last briefing? There was a flurry of announcements and so on by the Russians, by the UN, and so on. Could you update us on what is going on? What is the likelihood of having it in mid-December?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we talked about this a little bit yesterday. I’m not sure if there’s been anything new overnight, including – but let me just repeat what’s happening simultaneously. One is that on the 25th there’ll be a meeting, a trilateral meeting to continue discussion about moving towards a Geneva conference. There have been a range of dates thrown out there over the last couple of weeks. No date is confirmed or final until the UN announces that date. I know there were also reports of a delegation going to Moscow. We’ve of course, as you’ve noted, had ongoing discussions with relevant parties about Geneva II. We continue to fully expect the regime to live up to its past commitments to participate in Geneva II. And we hope that those who support the regime, including the Russians, will encourage them to attend. And of course, the next step for the opposition is to determine who their representative delegation would be to a Geneva conference.
QUESTION: So by the 25th of this month when the three – the Deputy Secretary and Deputy Foreign Minister and Brahimi meet in Geneva – will they know by then that we will have a date set?
MS. PSAKI: Said, I don’t know yet.
QUESTION: Is that what is hoped from that meeting?
MS. PSAKI: That meeting will be to discuss a lot of the outstanding issues that have been ongoing, including the agenda, including attendance. And I can’t predict for you when there will or won’t be a date – when there will be a date.
QUESTION: Is it, in fact, the Deputy Secretary who’s going?
MS. PSAKI: No, it’s Under Secretary Sherman.
QUESTION: On the 25th?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: So has she signed a mortgage deal yet for an apartment in Geneva? Or is --
MS. PSAKI: She should.
QUESTION: I mean, she’s going to stay there, presumably. She’s not going to come back in between the two meetings, is she?
MS. PSAKI: I assume that she stays there. But --
QUESTION: It might be a good investment for the government. That hotel is a little expensive.
MS. PSAKI: It’s a lovely hotel, a lovely city. We enjoy it.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- for consultations with his counterparts --
MS. PSAKI: Not to North Korea. He’s going to the region.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. To China.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: To China for consultations with Wu Dawei.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: I have two questions regarding that.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: First question is: What does Davies hope to convey to the Chinese following a trilateral here in Washington, DC?
My second question is: What does he hope to accomplish while he is China?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s important just to note that he’s going – in addition to China, he’s also going to Seoul and Tokyo. As you know, his role is to, of course, consult with our partners in the region and to continue to discuss North Korea policy and coordinate on that. So I’m certain that he will be doing readouts. I know his schedule is still coming together, so we have some list of the meetings we’ve put out, but there will certainly be more to add. But I would refer you to his readouts of his trip once he’s in the region.
QUESTION: Can I follow-up on that?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Your former colleague, Ambassador Bosworth, contributed an op-ed in the New York Times calling the Administration to jump into talks with the North Koreans.
MS. PSAKI: A couple of weeks ago, right?
QUESTION: Yes, almost two weeks, maybe.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Okay.
QUESTION: Do you agree with that? Do you think you should start talk with the D.P.R.K.?
MS. PSAKI: I stated our position yesterday. It hasn’t changed since yesterday. But it is important to note that former Ambassador Bosworth is somebody, obviously, who’s in touch with the Administration. He is a close friend of Assistant Secretary Danny Russel’s and certainly we’re always welcome to hear outside views. Our position as an Administration hasn’t changed, which is, as I stated yesterday, that the ball is in North Korea’s court. There’s – they need to take steps to abide by their international obligations, including the 2005 joint statement.
QUESTION: So one more point to that --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- by Ambassador Bosworth?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The impasse that the Administration is take following now only give time for the D.P.R.K. to develop their nuclear program. So do you share this concern – his concern – or you don’t care about, you don’t have to worry about it; let them keep the ball and let them decide to throw it back?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly, we’re concerned. Obviously, that’s why we have Glyn Davies going to the region and continuing to consult with our partners in the region.
QUESTION: What – actually, this is a kind of a stupid question, but when you say the ball is in their court, is that a basketball or a tennis analogy? (Laughter.) Because I might suggest that with North Korea, since basketball seems to be a big thing, it might – that might be the --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that I brutally butchered the quarterback reference yesterday, which now I’ve embarrassed my husband, who doesn’t want to see – be seen publicly with me, but I – we can make it a basketball. That’s fine.
QUESTION: What’s the tactics to make them decide to throw it back to the United States or other countries?
MS. PSAKI: Again, they know what they need to do. Our position hasn’t changed. I don’t have any new update for you on it today.
MS. PSAKI: I know there have been a range of announcements that have come out over the past couple of days. Obviously, we’re looking closely at those. I don’t have anything particular for you to convey about each of those announcements at this point.
QUESTION: But obviously, if it’s true, it’s encouraging for your discussions on human rights with China?
MS. PSAKI: Of course human rights and – is of great concern, and one we raise every time we speak with the Chinese, but I don’t want to get too ahead of our team looking at the various proposals and announcements that have come out over the past couple of days about a range of issues.
QUESTION: Can you take that question?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, I’m happy to. I’m happy to.
QUESTION: But I’m – surely it’s a good thing.
MS. PSAKI: Of course. Of course. But I don’t – we haven’t looked at all of the details yet, so I don’t want to give too much commentary in analyzing it.
QUESTION: Is that the same for the end to the one-child policy as well, which was announced?
MS. PSAKI: Again, that’s one that I know that they have announced in the past. Obviously, we’ll be looking at that, but I don’t have anything specific on it at this point.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up. These reforms announcements are generally opaque and take weeks to sort of digest, but it seems that there’s quite a few very quick policies coming out that the U.S. would find encouraging at face value, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we – for specifics on them, I would certainly refer you to the Chinese. We’ll take a look at them. We’re in close touch. And if there’s more we have to say in reaction, I’m sure we’ll do that.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- the President of KRG, Mr. Barzani, is going to visit Turkey tomorrow. First of all, do you have any reaction to that? And I have couple other questions.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the U.S., as you know, has a strong and positive relationship with both Iraq and Turkey. We’re encouraged by recent efforts on both sides to improve relations, including recent reciprocal visits. Improvement in Iraq-Turkey relations is critical for regional stability and cooperation, so we continue to encourage that.
QUESTION: There is – an oil pipeline is about to – according to news reports, is going to start pumping oil very soon – maybe weeks, maybe months – from KRG to Turkey. What’s your view on that matter?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our consistent position hasn’t changed, which is that we don’t support oil exports from any part of Iraq without approval of the Iraqi Federal Government. So we continue to urge the Federal Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to reach a constitutional solution.
QUESTION: There was a phone call between the Vice President Biden and the KRG President Barzani --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and some statements came from Ankara today that Turkey can help KRG and Baghdad to distribute this income from this KRG sale. And there are other reports that the U.S. can do this. Do you have any view on that subject?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the White House, the Vice President’s office, on the specifics of that call. I don’t have any details on it and what may or may not have come out of it, what’s accurate.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. The Palestinian Authority is saying they need about a week to resume the talks. Have you heard anything about that?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen that specifically. Obviously, that’s – it’s up to President Abbas about what the appropriate next step will be on the negotiating side.
QUESTION: Okay. In this cycle of on again, off again, what is the role of Envoy Indyk in this process?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he continues to play a facilitator role, and he’s been back and forth to the region, as you know.
QUESTION: Is he there now? Can you say?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on his whereabouts, but he’s in the region quite frequently.
QUESTION: Okay. And there is the Minister of Economy, the Israeli Minister of Economy Naftali Bennett is in town. Is he meeting with anyone in this building?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check on that, Said, for you. I’m not aware of his schedule while he’s here, but I can check if there’s anything.
QUESTION: Okay. And finally, I know there was a call from the Secretary to Avigdor Lieberman.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does that mean that the ice that was between this particular minister and this building in the past has melted?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I did a little readout of this yesterday. And just to reiterate, he mentioned he’s looking forward to working with him as part of our extensive engagement with the Governemnt of Israel. Beyond that, I don’t have any predictions of next meetings or next calls or anything along those lines. But as you know, he was just reinstated, so only appropriate.
QUESTION: But he’s not expected to take place – to take Tzipi Livni’s place, for instance, in the negotiations, is he?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m awere of, no.
QUESTION: Do you know if there is a specific reference on what issues he looks forward to working with Foreign Minister Lieberman on, considering Foreign Minister Lieberman’s position on many items of U.S. interest is in the opposite direction of what the Administration’s is?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think it was an extensive call, Matt. If there’s more to share with all of you about the details, I’m happy to share that, if it’s available.
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that. We can check and see if there’s a reaction from this end as well.
Let’s just do a few more here. Anyone in the back?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Your new Ambassador to Japan, Ms. Kennedy, has just arrived to Japan.
MS. PSAKI: Yes, very exciting.
QUESTION: And she has been treated like a rock star or something, even in the airport. (Laughter.) Do you think we are reacting too much, or do you think we are too much raising the expectation to an ambassador who’s still trying to catch up with what’s going on – the East China Sea or what kind of tension we have – the Korean Peninsula or trade issues?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would just say that, certainly, such a warm welcome is a wonderful display of the strong relationship between the United States and Japan. And obviously, the President and the Secretary are both thrilled that she was confirmed, that she is now going to be on the ground, and looking forward to working closely with her in the months and years ahead.
QUESTION: What’s your say to some of the skeptics who say of course Ms. Kennedy is a famous person, she will do a great contribution to the bilateral relationship, but at the same time, she’s never related in diplomacy, she has never worked with the complicated Asian issues?
MS. PSAKI: I think she’s displayed her commitment to working closely with Japan and working through all of the issues that we work together on, and she comes from a long line of public service, and we have no doubt she’ll do an incredible job on the ground there.
QUESTION: Apropo of that, do you remember what the diplomatic qualifications were for the last U.S. Ambassador to Japan?
MS. PSAKI: Who was – well, who was very well liked and well received and --
QUESTION: He was, but what were his – had he any prior experience in diplomacy or government?
MS. PSAKI: I believe he had a long and impressive career in the private sector prior to his role as the ambassador of Japan.
QUESTION: Right, but he had about as much experience in diplomacy as Caroline Kennedy, correct?
MS. PSAKI: A fair point.
MS. PSAKI: All right. Thanks, everyone.
QUESTION: Can I have just one more on --
MS. PSAKI: One more? Sure.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure. Let me --
QUESTION: -- (inaudible) on that. I know there have been meetings between the U.S. and Turkish officials. Do you have any update on that?
MS. PSAKI: We continue to convey our serious concerns about the Turkish Government’s contract discussions with a Chinese company, which is currently sanctioned by the United States, for an air and missile defense system that will not be interoperable with NATO systems or collective defense capabilities. I think you’re well aware of this. But of course, Secretary Kerry spoke with Foreign Minister Davutoglu in New York regarding his concerns about six weeks ago, and Assistant Secretary of State – who you all know well – for European Affairs also discussed this issue with senior Turkish officials.
QUESTION: By – when was that?
MS. PSAKI: I believe it was a couple of weeks ago, but we’re in, of course, close touch with the Turkish – the Turks on the ground.
QUESTION: But isn’t there a Turkish official coming here soon?
MS. PSAKI: They are coming on Monday.
QUESTION: And you would expect this to be raised again?
MS. PSAKI: It certainly could be part of the discussion, but obviously, there are a range of issues we work with Turkey on.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 12:51 p.m.)
DPB # 188