2:33 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi everyone. This is the latest briefing I have done since I arrived, so I hope everybody --
QUESTION: Maybe in Washington.
MS. PSAKI: -- had lunch. Hmm?
QUESTION: I can think of several briefings that you have done that were well past any p.m.
MS. PSAKI: That is correct. I am fans of 1:00 and 2:00 a.m. briefings. I just have two items for all of you at the top. The first is the United States extends its deepest condolences to all of those who lost loved ones in yesterday’s plane crash in Kazan, Russia. Our thoughts are with the families of the victims.
The second piece is I hope all of you had the opportunity to see the Secretary’s speech this morning at OAS on the Western Hemisphere. If not, I encourage you to read it. It kind of lays out his agenda a bit. He presented our policy of partnership and engagement with the Western Hemisphere. He also highlighted not only the transformations that have taken place throughout the region, but also the transformation in our policy. As he said this morning, the era of the Monroe Doctrine is over. Today, the inter-American relationship is based on equal partnership and shared responsibilities. He also spoke about the crossroads we face throughout the Americas, and discussed the decisions the entire hemisphere must make when it comes to the deepening positive trajectory of democracy, spreading more widely the benefits of economic prosperity, and harnessing the promise of clean energy to address climate change.
He also seized the chance to talk about the importance of prosperity through even greater social inclusion, and educating – and the importance of educating young people who will drive the economies of the future. Anyway, I encourage you all to read it. I’m sure it will be up on our website if it is not already.
QUESTION: Yeah, I do have a question about that, about the speech, and particularly the stuff about the Monroe Doctrine, but I’ll ask it after we go through --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- what may be other more pressing things. Just now, the Secretary, with Foreign Minister Davutoglu, said that he didn’t think he would be able to make it to Israel as Prime Minister Netanyahu had said --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- he would yesterday.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering, is that definite – he is definitely not going to – his schedule will not allow him to do it, and so that’s a certainty that he won’t be going this Friday?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we always are – keep ourselves open to change around here, Matt. But as the Secretary stated, they’ve discussed the right – the best timing for him to visit. Obviously, there’s a lot going on right now, so he hopes to go in the coming weeks.
QUESTION: Well, do you then have any idea – now does the Secretary have any travel scheduled or possibly scheduled that might relate to subjects of interest to Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’re referring to, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, it could anything. It could be Syria, it could be Iran, it could be --
MS. PSAKI: We are obviously, as has been the case from the beginning, the Secretary is open to attending Geneva or going to Geneva if that makes sense. He made a decision during the last round of talks to go in consultation with the negotiating team, but I don’t expect we would make a decision either way until later this week.
QUESTION: Well, can you say exactly – what is it that would make it – would make sense for him to go? If a deal was to be achieved? In other words, if all of a sudden we see the Secretary hopping on a plane and going to Geneva, is that a sign – is that a pretty good sign that a deal is about to come together?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it in those terms. As was the case last time, he went to Geneva in order to help narrow the differences, and I expect if there is an opportunity for him to help narrow the differences, and it would be advantageous to the negotiations for him to go, then he would make a trip to Geneva.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: He just made a speech urging Palestinian Authority President Abbas to come before the Knesset and acknowledge Israel’s 4,000 year right as a Jewish state. Was that an idea that you would encourage?
MS. PSAKI: Said, I have to admit it’s been a busy day and I haven’t seen his remarks. I’m happy to take a closer look at them.
QUESTION: Do you have like a position on this position on the Prime Minister’s position that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as a Jewish state?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve been very clear about what our objectives are here, and the negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians. I’m happy to take a closer look at his remarks and if there’s anything to add, we’ll happy to share that with all of you.
QUESTION: But I’m sure you know the gist or the philosophy behind a statement like this. Would – do you think that’s something – a statement like this could help the process forward?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to entertain a back and forth on the remarks I just haven’t seen yet. So let me take a look at those and if there’s more to add, I’m happy to add them.
QUESTION: Okay. And I can see that also you are expanding the peace negotiating team by having Mr. David Makovsky to the team, a capable man. I’ve known him for a long time. Does that mean that there is progress?
MS. PSAKI: I actually don’t have any personnel announcements or statements to make at this time about any negotiating team. Obviously, you saw President Abbas’s comments – I believe they were yesterday or this morning – where he made clear that the negotiations are continuing and that’s something Prime Minister Netanyahu also said yesterday. So we’re encouraged by that and we’ll continue to move forward.
QUESTION: Would you consider some – a capable Palestinian American to join the negotiating team?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on whom may or may not join the team. Obviously, as we said from the beginning when Ambassador Indyk was announced, there would be additions to the team, given how important this issue and given how extensive the work is, but beyond that I don’t have any announcements or specifics for you.
QUESTION: But this should give us an indication that there is progress, right?
MS. PSAKI: I think the indication of progress is the fact that both sides have reaffirmed their commitment to the nine-month timeline, and the Secretary has been in touch with both of them and they have reaffirmed that in the last couple of days.
QUESTION: And finally, I just – I will just ask a question that I asked last week.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you believe that by resigning again and having his resignation again, that top Palestinian negotiator Erekat has lost a great deal of his credibility as a negotiator?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to – and I referenced this a little bit – the comments that President Abbas made. I would point you to the transcript of that where he made clear that they remain committed, that talks are ongoing, and yeah, I think he even went so far as to say that they would continue to be the negotiating team for now.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: If you all want to add people to the negotiating team, why don’t you appoint Palestinian negotiators? That might – that might help, yes?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again Matt, I think --
QUESTION: Since they keep – they’re on the verge of quitting every single day.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure if you’ve had the opportunity --
QUESTION: Maybe it would --
MS. PSAKI: -- to read President Abbas’s comments, but it’s up to him, of course, to determine who the negotiating team is, and they are the acting team as of now.
QUESTION: No – yes, I understand that, but here’s the thing. Well, never mind. Since you can’t confirm that this is – this appointment is being made or has been made, then I guess we’ll wait until it is public.
MS. PSAKI: To Iran? Sure.
QUESTION: As you know, French President Hollande announced the full condition for agreement for next Iran talk, nuclear talk. What do you think of that? What is the U.S. position toward the full condition?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you mean exactly.
QUESTION: The French President Hollande announced the four: stop constructing heavy water reactor in Arak; and the second one is reducing enrichment of uranium; the third one is stop producing 20 percent of enrichment uranium; and fourth is surveillance of all nuclear facilities. They announced – I think they stated what --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, I would point you to --
QUESTION: But what the --
MS. PSAKI: -- the remarks or the comments I made last week about what the principles are. They’re principles we share with the P5+1. So there are different ways of saying it. I’m not going to get into more specifics or details, but I can assure you that Secretary Kerry, President Obama, President Hollande, Foreign Minister Fabius – any member of the P5 is not going to agree to a deal that doesn’t meet those principles. And so that’s what we are pursuing these negotiations with that goal in mind.
QUESTION: And on the Secretary’s plans, so he is not planning to join the talks in Geneva as of now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we’ll make a decision, but Under Secretary Sherman will be traveling there later today and she’ll be leading the negotiating team. And as was the case last time, if there is a reason for him to go to help narrow differences, we’re certainly – he certainly is open to that, but there isn’t any decision that’s been made.
QUESTION: Now, Mr. Rhodes made a statement on Friday, basically saying that a deal is at hand. Would you agree with that assessment?
MS. PSAKI: I think as the Secretary said when we were leaving Geneva last time, we were closer than we were when we arrived. Obviously, that’s the goal and we’ll continue to work toward it. But you heard him say just in the last 30 minutes when he was asked a question that that’s not the expectation. We’re just continuing to work through the process and engage in the negotiations.
QUESTION: But almost the common understanding from Mr. Rhodes’ statement that a deal is – in fact, is already arrived at.
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, it hasn’t been arrived at because we haven’t announced that.
QUESTION: Okay. And --
MS. PSAKI: So I think what he is referring to is that we’ve narrowed differences. There’s agreement among the P5+1 and negotiating teams are going to go back and meet over the coming days, and I’m not going to get ahead of the process otherwise.
QUESTION: Okay. And just to understand, the sanctions versus the deal, whatever Iran agrees to, there will be quid pro quo, correct?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it that way. Obviously, in any negotiation there’s an agreement on steps both sides would take. I’m happy to reiterate what our principles are, but I think we’ve done that a little bit in here.
MS. PSAKI: And as the Secretary has said many, many times, no deal is better than a bad deal, and that’s what we’re going into this with that in mind.
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to what the Secretary just said, which is that the Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu have known each other for decades, they’re good friends. Certainly, they have areas where they may have moments of disagreement, but the strength of a relationship and the strength of a partnership is being able to discuss issues where you disagree. So I would point to the accuracy of the – I would say that the accuracy of their relationship is more from what the Secretary said than a story in the news today.
QUESTION: When members of Congress – the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee pushes for the tough sanctions that the world community has in place against Iran, is he not concerned about U.S. national interests? How would you describe what it is that he has been pushing? We’re talking about Senator Menendez.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not characterizing one way or the other. What we – the Secretary – Secretary Kerry and President Obama, for that matter, have been strong proponents of sanctions over the years. There’s no question we are at this point, which is at the negotiating table, because of the impact and the effectiveness of sanctions. But there has been a decision by the negotiating team, by those who have been negotiating through the P5+1 with the Iranians, that the best step now is to put a hold on sanctions because we’re trying to see if there’s an opportunity for diplomacy. It doesn’t mean if this doesn’t work out, as the Secretary has said, as the President has said, we of course are happy to put more sanctions in place. Even a discussion of a deal wouldn’t impact the core sanctions. But the question here is: Why not wait a month, why not wait six weeks, to see if diplomacy can work? And that’s the message that the Secretary and others are sending to members of Congress.
QUESTION: What’s the goodwill – and forgive me --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- I’m sure you’ve answered this many times. What’s the goodwill that the Iranians have shown to allow them to have those sanctions halted?
MS. PSAKI: I think the – I wouldn’t put it in the term of goodwill. I think we are closer – factually, we are closer than we have been in years to coming to an agreement with the Iranians with – through the P5+1 process. So no one wants to see this move to the alternative, which is a path to aggression, a path to potential conflict, even a path to war. And we want diplomacy to be given the chance to breathe, to be given the opportunity to succeed. So that’s what we’re looking at. It’s through that prism that we’re making a determination about what the right steps are, what’s the best conditions for a negotiation.
QUESTION: The question actually was about the relationship between the United States and Israel being strained, not about the personal friendship between the Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu. Are you saying that the strong bond of friendship that exists between the Secretary and the Prime Minister personally is the same thing as the relationship between two states?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not saying it’s the same thing, though I think it’s important, given where both fall on the food chains of their respective countries. But beyond that, Israel and the United States have a strong, decades-long partnership. We work together on a range of issues. It’s important to note that the reason we are so – one of the reasons we’re so committed to pursuing the diplomatic path is because we are committed to Israel’s security, and that’s the message that we’re conveying.
QUESTION: Well, what exactly do you call it when the Prime Minister of your biggest ally in the Middle East is actively campaigning – not just actively campaigning but leading a public campaign – against the very thing that you’re trying to do, saying it is bad for his country? And you say – your response is sorry, you’re wrong, it’s not bad for your country, we know what’s good for you and this is a good – this deal is good for Israel’s security. How exactly do you describe that if that’s not a strain?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would describe that as a disagreement in tactics, Matt, and we agree on the bottom-line goal, which is not allowing Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. As the Secretary noted, he has been in touch with him a number of times about this as well as the direct negotiations and will continue to be.
QUESTION: But at some point, the tactic defines the goal. And if the Israelis are going to oppose this by saying – and saying – and say that it’s a bad thing, it gives Iran too much, frankly, it doesn’t matter that they agree with the end result because you’re not at the end result yet.
MS. PSAKI: Correct. We’re not.
QUESTION: The way there – it’s like you have small little goals each time, right? And the way you get to the ultimate goal is by meeting these smaller objectives, and that’s where you disagree with the Israelis on, correct? You say that’s tactics, but in fact, it’s more than tactics. And I am not sure how you can say that everything is hunky-dory with the Israelis when they so fundamentally disagree not just with what you’re doing but disagree with the assertion that people in this Administration make, that this is going to make them safer.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know you’re talking about Israel versus the personal relationship, but the personal relationship, again, I think is important. And it is relevant, what the Secretary just said, which is that he absolutely has respect for the concerns expressed by Prime Minister Netanyahu.
QUESTION: Right. He just thinks they’re useless. He just thinks they’re --
MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all --
QUESTION: He just thinks they’re wrong.
MS. PSAKI: -- not at all what he conveyed.
QUESTION: “I have great respect for what he says, but I think he’s dead wrong.” That’s what --
MS. PSAKI: Not what he conveyed, Matt. There will be an ongoing discussion about these issues and we remain committed to briefing the Israelis and staying in close contact about this and many other issues that we work together on.
QUESTION: Okay. Is it still your position that the Israelis don’t know what the deal is or what – where – what the deal is right now that’s being – that people are going to Geneva to discuss?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been a range of details that have been publicly put out there, many of which are incorrect. I don’t think our position has been they don’t know what’s in it. I – it’s just been cautioning against public comments that are made until we see – until people see what the actual specifics in the deal are.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: So they are aware of what the specifics in the deal – in the proposed deal are? Or they are not?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve obviously been briefing them. I’m not going to get into specifics on what – how detailed it’s been.
QUESTION: I’m not asking for the specifics. I want to know if their criticisms of this deal, or the potential deal, are correct, or if they’re just talking out of their – out of left field and they don’t know what’s in this – what it is that they’re complaining about.
MS. PSAKI: There have been some comments that have been inaccurate in terms of the information that they have been speaking to. But we are briefing and in close contact with the Israelis, and will continue to be.
QUESTION: Assuming that the Israelis are aware of the details of the deal, do you believe that statement by Naftali Bennett last Thursday, the Israeli Economic Minister, and the Prime Minister of Israel yesterday, Mr. Netanyahu, complicate your efforts on – to garner the kind of domestic support that you need on Capitol Hill?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, you’re well aware of our desire to continue to work with Congress and convey why it’s important to give this diplomacy an opportunity to breathe. I don’t want to do analysis on what’s motivating different members to act different ways.
QUESTION: I’m aware of all that. I’m aware of --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- what you’re trying to do on Capitol Hill, but I’m saying if you believe the statement that they said – I’m sure you are aware of their statements and so on – tend to complicate things, considering that Israel has a great deal of – great many friends and a great deal of support in Congress. Do you believe that this is sort of putting obstacles along the way in terms of convincing the American public representatives in Congress?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I would just say I’m not going to do analysis of that. We’re obviously communicating ourselves with members of Congress. As you know, the Secretary and Under Secretary Sherman did a range of briefings. They continue to be in touch with members of Congress and that will continue in the days ahead.
Any more on Iran?
QUESTION: It is reported Prime Minister Netanyahu is going to visit Moscow before coming to Iran talk. What kind of impact are there, inference are there, toward this talk?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t speak to what is on the agenda for that trip. I would refer you to him and to his office for that.
QUESTION: Just one more --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- for me on Iran.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, there was a joint news conference that occurred with Prime Minister Netanyahu --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and President Hollande. And during that news conference, Prime Minister Netanyahu said, quote, “Your support and your friendship is real. It’s sincere. You are one out of six.” Many analysts have taken those remarks to be sort of a dig at this Administration, a dig at President Obama. How would you interpret those remarks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, given the Secretary spoke with the Prime Minister I think just yesterday, we didn’t interpret it in that way that analyst did.
Any more on Iran? Okay.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on the election of the new president?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Mm-hmm.
Let’s see. As Embassy Colombo noted in its statement last night, the United States Embassy extends its – or, we extend, the United States extends its sincere congratulations to Abdulla Yameen for his election on November 16th as the next President of the – of Maldives. The U.S. and Maldives have a long history of cordial relations and we look forward to continuing this partnership with the new president and his administration. The extraordinarily high turnout on November 16th was a tribute to the Maldivian people’s commitment to the democratic process and democratic values. The United States Government reiterates its friendship with the Maldivian people as they work to build a peaceful and prosperous future.
QUESTION: But do you think this election was free and fair, given that the one who lost the elections was winning throughout these last several months on all those polls and even the runoff elections?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve spoken to past issues, but obviously, given a decision is made, there was an extraordinarily high turnout. We’re looking to move forward.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Egypt? Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any update about what’s going on in Egypt these days? Because there is a tension going on and there was also an assassination of a police officer yesterday. In addition to that, there is a warning from the Embassy to U.S. citizens to be cautious about moving in this – whether it’s – it’s a big section of whether it’s Cairo or Alexandria. Do you have anything about that?
MS. PSAKI: I know we put out regular updates to citizens. I’d have to check if this is something new. It sounds like it might be, so let me do that. Beyond that, we obviously continue to monitor events on the ground and we continue to call for the interim government to take steps forward. There have been some steps, but there’s obviously more that needs to be done. And beyond that, I am happy to check if there is something specific on the Travel Warning.
QUESTION: And there is another question regarding your contacts with the Congress --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- in the framework of what was called at the hearing on – in the House is called legislative flexibility. Do you have anything about that? I mean, is there anything done regarding helping economically the interim government in Egypt with – some money?
MS. PSAKI: Are you talking about a new initiative or existing money or --
QUESTION: No, I mean, I’m talking about when Jones – Elizabeth Jones was there and was to ask about different issues, one of the things were raised is the – to have some – the Administration to have some kind of legislative flexibility so they can provide money. Why the decision was made on 10th of --
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Okay. Sorry, thank you for your clarification. I don't have any specific update. Obviously, there have been ongoing discussions and briefings. As we said at the time, while we made a decision to hold on certain kinds of aid, there was still aid that we wanted to proceed, and we needed to work through a legislative process, as you mentioned, in order to be able to do that. So that’s ongoing. I don’t have any specific update today on that.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Libya in the last few days is – there is turmoil and an unsettled situation and the militias are going and killing people. Do you have anything? Are you monitoring this situation?
MS. PSAKI: We certainly are. I know that my colleagues at DOD spoke to this this morning, so I would point you to them and kind of steps they’re taking from there. But they talked about it extensively, so I would point you to them.
QUESTION: So it’s like – now, Libya – it’s a military and security issue. It’s not a diplomatic issue.
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s always a diplomatic issue, but I know there have been different reports about U.S. training for the Libyan army and steps around that. And my colleagues at DOD, of course, are better to speak to that. But they spoke to it this morning, so I would just point you to that if you’re looking for more details on it.
QUESTION: Can you give us like a current status of your diplomatic presence or activities in Libya?
MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?
QUESTION: I mean, do you have – who’s running the diplomatic show in Libya and where?
MS. PSAKI: We have an ambassador on the ground.
QUESTION: Right. Is he on the ground?
MS. PSAKI: She, yes.
QUESTION: She, I’m sorry. Is she on the ground? I take it back.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Yeah. Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: So a delegation of Japanese businessmen have arrived in China to try and improve – or to encourage better cooperation between Japan and China for economic purposes. This is the first meeting in over a year, because previously it was postponed due to increasing tensions in the region over territory disputes. Is the State Department encouraged that these type of visits can help and ease tensions in the region?
MS. PSAKI: We always encourage continued dialogue, and that is the case across the board. I’m not familiar with the particular trip of private sector businessmen there. So if there’s more to say, we can let you know on that front.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Can the State Department provide documentation that the $10 million you have offered, dating back to September, exists?
MS. PSAKI: Documentation?
QUESTION: Documentation. On Friday afternoon there was a press release that said --
MS. PSAKI: I’m very familiar with it. I think we confirmed at the time that the Rewards for Justice program has had a reward offer of up to $10 million for information leading to the arrest or conviction of any individual. That is conveyed to the appropriate parties. We haven’t made the decision beyond confirming it to put on the website or publicize it further. So I’m not sure what you’d be looking for.
QUESTION: When you said “at the time,” do you mean last January?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I said that’s when we made the decision to put them on the list. Obviously, there have been an incredible level of interest. We – through consultations, we decided to confirm, but we have made the decision to publicize it by putting it officially on the website, et cetera. But beyond that, in terms of specific documentation, I’m not sure that’s something that we would have available for a program like that.
QUESTION: Understood. Can you describe how a secret reward system works?
MS. PSAKI: Probably not. What are you looking for specifically?
QUESTION: Just the process, like who made the decision? Was it Secretary Clinton, Susan Rice, the White House? Who made the decision to offer a reward and keep it a secret, and if --
MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, this is – Secretary Clinton made the decision to, in consultation with a range of parties, to put them on this list. In terms of the decision made about whether to publicize it or not, that’s discussion made through a range of parties. Sometimes we are especially cautious about publicizing the names of suspects or bringing any additional public attention to them if there’s a belief that it would be – that the investigation is sensitive and it would adversely affect the process. So that’s part of the decision-making, and obviously you reconsider that decision just like anything over the course of time.
QUESTION: But if you have a secret rewards program, if nobody knows about it, how can you expect to get any answers?
MS. PSAKI: I can assure you that although the reward was not posted, has not been posted on the website, our interagency partners have a range of ways of making this reward offer known as needed, and they’ve done that since January.
QUESTION: What – could you just be a little bit more specific about what that means? Does that mean they go up, walk up to some dude on the street in Benghazi and say, “Hey, buddy, we got some cash here if you can let us know who did this.” Is that what that means?
MS. PSAKI: I can confirm that is probably not an accurate depiction --
MS. PSAKI: -- but I don’t have – I can’t outline for you --
QUESTION: Okay, so exactly how is it – how is it?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I can’t outline for you more specifics. Obviously, there are a range of contacts, a range of steps that are taken. I’m not going to outline those more specifically.
QUESTION: The other thing, I – the one thing I don’t – perhaps you can explain it to me, I don’t really understand this. You said that one of the reasons for not publicizing it is because you don’t want the names to get out there, right? But as I understand it, there are no names on this list, that it’s an event-specific award. In other words, if you have information leading to the arrest of anyone who was involved in the attack – not Mr. X, Mr. Y, and Mr. Z. So if it’s an event-specific award, I just – the argument that publicizing the names is – would be bad or could compromise the investigation seems to vanish into vapor.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I will have to check on that for you in the specifics of what’s being publicized or not publicized. Obviously, anything that could impact an investigation is one of the bottom lines.
QUESTION: Right. But is it not correct that the reward is event-specific? In other words, it is for information leading to the arrest and conviction or capture or whatever of anyone who was involved in the attack on the Benghazi mission and not for Mr. X, specifically, who was involved in the attack? Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on whether individual names are a part of that process.
QUESTION: Now, if Secretary Clinton approved the decision to keep this reward a secret, who made the decision within the building to make it a secret?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Lucas, I’m not going to outline decision – internal decision-making, but there is a process in place that discusses what is the appropriate way to handle. That was a decision made. Obviously, it continues to be reviewed, and we decided to confirm it.
QUESTION: So the State Department’s position is you had a secret negotiations about a secret rewards program – how do you expect to capture --
MS. PSAKI: It’s hardly a secret rewards program. Our desire to catch these suspects is hardly secret. It’s a top priority for the Administration. The decision was made for a range of reasons that we were not going to publicize the fact that they are a part of this list. Obviously, we’ve made a decision to confirm it, but I don’t think anybody should question our desire to catch these suspects.
QUESTION: And why was that decision made after repeated questions about these suspects?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s obviously an ongoing review of any of these cases on whether to keep public or private. There was a great deal of interest. In response to an inquiry from Congress, we confirmed that and we’ve confirmed it for all of you since then.
QUESTION: Geneva II?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. Now that the United Nations has advanced --
QUESTION: Hold on, Said. Just one second.
QUESTION: Can I – so you are well aware, as is everyone, probably, in this room, that this topic was a matter of question for some time. So why was it – the decision was made to give the answer to members of Congress and – I mean, after it had been raised numerous times by my colleague over here, why --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that is evidence that it’s not just in response to that. You obviously have to make the decision through consultation with the appropriate parties that this is the appropriate step to make. And that takes some time, and so we came to that conclusion and confirmed it following that.
QUESTION: Okay. So just to make – put a fine point on this, members of Congress who inquired about this were told at – roughly at about the same time as we were?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s been – I believe there was a letter that was sent.
QUESTION: Right, right. But they didn’t know from months and months ago?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s – there was a – there were questions raised, there was an internal discussion, a decision was made --
QUESTION: No, no. I understand that. But did --
MS. PSAKI: -- we informed members of Congress.
QUESTION: -- members of – were members of Congress aware that this reward existed back in January or February or March or April or May or June or July or August or September, October?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what they were or weren’t aware of in January, February, March. Some may have been.
QUESTION: How do you prove that this decision was made last January?
MS. PSAKI: How do I prove it?
QUESTION: How can we prove – how can you prove that this decision was made last January?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re just going to have to take the word of the United States Government on that, Lucas.
MS. PSAKI: Said.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. An update on it?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, the – I think the United Nation announced that it is likely to happen in mid-December.
MS. PSAKI: I think you’re referring to Brahimi’s comments about --
MS. PSAKI: -- still targeting December.
MS. PSAKI: As you know, Under Secretary Sherman, following the Geneva Iran negotiations with the P5+1, will be having a trilateral meeting next week on the 25th --
MS. PSAKI: -- where they will continue to discuss the path forward. We’re still in a place where we’re not going to hold a conference unless it makes sense timing-wise to hold a conference. And we remain in touch with the opposition. Obviously, the Russians are working with the regime, and we’re continuing to work through the agenda and other details.
QUESTION: Okay. Since you worked with the opposition so closely, do you feel that they can attend – they’re competent enough to attend or represent the Syrian people in the conference if it happens in mid-December?
MS. PSAKI: We’re working with them. We certainly feel that they have taken steps forward, including committing to attend. We’re – obviously, they’re working through having a representative delegation, but we certainly feel positive about their steps, and we continue to consult with them on the path forward.
QUESTION: And finally, is part of your preparation – or are you training them on how to negotiate, negotiating techniques, or anything like this? It’s a serious question --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not --
QUESTION: -- because we’ve heard --
MS. PSAKI: I understand it’s a serious question.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into all the discussions that we have with the opposition. Obviously, we’re working with them as the next step, as they determine the representative body for a conference.
QUESTION: Yes, Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Where we are now regarding the chemical weapons? I mean regarding the – what was collected and how to get rid of it or --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- destroy it. Is there any explanation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, just to dial – just to walk back a few days, on November 15th, which was last Friday, the OPCW executive committee adopted by consensus the milestones for destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons program. That was the next step in the process as laid out in the September 27th OPCW Executive Council decision. They – this process lays out a number of key target dates for destruction. The details, of course, are not yet publicly available. I would – OPCW certainly would be the point to share any of them, but what’s important is they laid out milestones moving forward.
In terms of where are we, we continue to engage with the OPCW, with the UN, with international partners regarding necessary modalities for destruction, alternative means for doing that. And we’ll continue discussing that. We still feel good about where we are on the timeline and meeting the deadlines, or the – I should say the milestones. So that’s where we are as of now.
QUESTION: Is it clear or it’s – is it decided that – what we are going to do with this chemical weapon, where it’s going to be dumped, whatever?
MS. PSAKI: It’s still being discussed, and in terms of the alternative means or the range of modalities, that of course would be determined – the lead for that is the OPCW and the UN, and we will participate as a member of the OPCW.
QUESTION: And the recent --
QUESTION: You said there were two options. Can you be more specific?
MS. PSAKI: I cannot.
QUESTION: Was he supposed to say that or was that something that he should not have let slip?
MS. PSAKI: The Secretary can say whatever he likes, Matt. I think what he was conveying is that there are a range of options. We still feel confident that we can meet the milestones --
QUESTION: Well, I guess --
MS. PSAKI: -- given that there are a range of options under discussion.
QUESTION: Well, I guess – I mean, was he intending to suggest that there are two options in terms of other countries that haven’t – that have been – other countries who are considering, like the Albanians had, like whoever it was in northern Europe – that – is that what he meant by options? Or was he talking more about, like, options in terms of how you could technically disable this stuff?
MS. PSAKI: I think it was more the latter in terms of the modalities for moving forward. But of course, in that umbrella are the capabilities of different countries, so he was just making the point that we have – there are a range of options and modalities, which the OPCW and the UN are looking into and discussing.
QUESTION: The word “modalities” is a really bad word to use, just so you know. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Okay, noted.
QUESTION: The other question regarding the humanitarian – or whatever you can call it – aid --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- what is – is it going – is it flowing now normally or whatever – let’s say United States and other nations want to be, or there are some obstacles?
MS. PSAKI: That’s a great question. I don’t have an update on that today. Obviously, as you know, and I’m sure it’s why you asked, we’ve had concerns about the ability for humanitarian assistance to get through, especially as we’re coming along to the colder months. So let me check and see. I’m happy to take it and see if there’s something to send over.
QUESTION: And (inaudible), I have another question: What are different steps you are taking regarding the coming weeks and months, which is going to be really cold season?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of steps that we’ve been focused on – obviously, working through the UN, working through NGOs and outside organizations. Clearly, a big part of that is encouraging the regime to allow for access to the innocent men, women, and children who are literally starving in Syria. That’s one of the focuses. There have been statements that have come out of the UN. But we continue to consult with international partners and try to raise attention to the importance of this issue.
QUESTION: Okay. UN and question I have regarding UN.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Which is – officially, you -- now Saudi Arabia said it’s rejecting or withdrawing her candidacy to --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- UN Security Council. And it seems that it’s already said that Jordan is. Do you have anything to say about that?
MS. PSAKI: We of course have seen those reports. We’re not going to get ahead of a UN process, which as you know would be the next step.
Go ahead, Lucas.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the plans to transfer 90-odd Guantanamo Bay suspects back to their home country of Yemen?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t believe I have a specific update today. Obviously, this is something that the Administration is committed to. As you know, we have Cliff Sloan working on this full-time here, and there have been recent developments in the past couple of months with some detainees who were – went to Algeria, I believe it was, if I am remembering it correctly. It’s something we remain committed to, but I don’t have any update in terms of new numbers or anything.
QUESTION: Does Yemen possess the facilities that you require to harbor terrorists, or at least keep them locked up?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re familiar, I’m sure, with the steps – the step the President took on Yemen. Obviously, there isn’t an update. I’m sure that’s part of the discussion, but I don’t have any other further analysis today on it or announcements of transfers.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- just going back to your answer about having to take the Government of the United States at its word. There is documentation to prove that someone actually did sign off on January 7th or 13th or whatever day it was --
MS. PSAKI: I am certain there is, Matt. But as you know --
QUESTION: And would that be --
MS. PSAKI: -- often, decisions are made --
QUESTION: Right, right. But would that be --
MS. PSAKI: -- where we don’t share public documentation.
QUESTION: No, I understand that. But would that be – is that something, if a member of Congress had concerns along the same lines as my colleague has, would such documentation be made available to them?
MS. PSAKI: We always try to work with members of Congress. I’d have to check on the specifics of that.
QUESTION: All right. And then I wanted to ask you a question about the speech this morning.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: So was the Secretary – I mean, the Monroe Doctrine is dead, RIP after 200 years? Is that something that has just been decided today?
MS. PSAKI: He’s said that before, Matt. I’m happy to find you past references.
QUESTION: Okay. He has?
MS. PSAKI: I believe so.
QUESTION: Okay, all right. What was wrong with the Monroe Doctrine?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I would point you to the discussion of his speech, and in his speech --
QUESTION: Well, one of the things he didn’t talk about --
MS. PSAKI: -- and our relationship with the Western Hemisphere --
MS. PSAKI: -- and where we want to go moving forward.
QUESTION: I just --
MS. PSAKI: -- which is what he was conveying.
QUESTION: Okay. But one of the things that you seem to be implicitly criticizing about the Monroe Doctrine was that the United States would act unilaterally to prevent any kind of interference in the hemisphere, which is portrayed, I think at least the implication of it was that this is somehow kind of arrogant and that the United States has to treat all the countries of the hemisphere as a partner and with respect. And I’m just – I don’t see how you can do that when every single country in this hemisphere opposes your policy towards Cuba. Every single country in the world, with one exception, Israel, your new best friend over the Iran nuclear deal, is opposed to this policy. If the Monroe Doctrine was arrogant, what is the policy towards Cuba?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a lot in that question, Matt. I don’t have anything new. Obviously, if there was anything new to convey vis-a-vis our policy toward Cuba, the Secretary would have conveyed it today in his speech. He was making the point that we need to work closely with the Western Hemisphere, our partnership is important, we want to work in coordination and conjunction. And that was the point he was making in his speech.
QUESTION: All right. But does the abandonment of the Monroe Doctrine after 200 years imply that the United States is going to be more willing to listen to its partners in the hemisphere? And if it does, why do you refuse to listen to them on this issue?
MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, Matt – and I hate to go down this pole here – but broadly speaking, we’re always happy to listen, and we hope other countries are happy to listen when we have thoughts as well. It doesn’t mean we agree with every country on every issue. By the nature of that, you wouldn’t be able to because many countries disagree having nothing to do with the United States. So the point is we’re going to continue to work with the Western Hemisphere. The relationship is important. He’s looking forward to traveling back to the region soon. Beyond that, I would caution anyone from making a larger analysis of what it meant.
QUESTION: So we are not likely to see a change towards Cuba anytime soon, are we?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of that, Said. Obviously, if there’s any change to announce, we’ll make that announcement.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lalit.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The former Pakistani president is now being charged with treason case in his country. Do you have any – what’s the U.S. thought on this?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t. We’ve, of course, seen the reports. I don’t have any specific comment on it, though.
QUESTION: Do you see a trend in the – all former Pakistani rulers have been treated so badly when they were out of power? Is it a worrying trend for you, or do you see isolated incidents?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any analysis on it for you. If we have more, we’re happy to share that.
QUESTION: Next-door in Afghanistan, is there any update on the bilateral service agreement? I know tomorrow --
MS. PSAKI: Security agreement?
QUESTION: Security agreement. Excuse me. I know tomorrow the Loya Jirga is supposed to begin gathering and taking place.
MS. PSAKI: You’re right. And as has been the case, as you know, we reached general agreement on the BSA when Secretary Kerry was in Kabul just last month. This week, the Loya Jirga will meet to consider the BSA. We, of course, respect the Afghan process and continue to work for a positive outcome. We believe that would be to the benefit of both countries. So that’s the message we’re conveying on the ground, and we’ll respect the process moving forward.
QUESTION: And it just came to my attention that there’s a closed-door meeting on Capitol Hill with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Afghanistan. Do you have anything new to announce?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new – I’m not sure, and I’m happy to check if there’s a State Department official attending or not. If not, I’m not sure I would have too many details for you.
QUESTION: It is still the case, is it not, that – what Secretary Kerry said when we were in Kabul when this deal was being done, that without the jurisdiction issue being resolved to your satisfaction, there is no – there cannot be a deal. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: I think he was very clear at the time that that’s an issue --
QUESTION: And that hasn’t changed?
MS. PSAKI: That has not changed. Correct.
QUESTION: And is anyone from the State attending the Loya Jirga as an observer?
MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question. If it’s anyone, it would be somebody on the ground, but let me check and see if there’s any plans for someone to attend.
MS. PSAKI: He did.
QUESTION: -- talked Cyprus, and if you have any readout of their conversation?
MS. PSAKI: They did talk about a range of issues. You heard the Secretary and the Foreign Minister give an extensive press avail. But they did discuss Cyprus, and their – both of their commitment to that issue. There’s no change to our policy to announce, but it was one of the issues discussed.
Oh, go ahead. One in the back.
QUESTION: On Syrian fighters, there was a recent arrest in Kosovo of six people who have apparently fought in Syria in an Islamic brigade, and when they returned to Kosovo they have apparently attacked a couple of American missionaries, Mormon missionaries working there. So are you following these developments? How worried should we be of this pipeline which is recruiting people from one of the most fragile parts of Europe and sending them to Syria and then back?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, we certainly are aware of the incident. In terms of the specific details, I have no confirmation of everything you just said. But given there were U.S. citizens involved, we, of course, provided appropriate consular assistance. As is often the case, we just don’t have further details given privacy considerations for the specific incident.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:19 p.m.)
DPB # 189