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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 8, 2014


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry's Upcoming Travel Paris and Kuwait City
  • IRAQ
    • Readout of Secretary Kerry's Phone Call with Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
    • Arab Peace Initiative
    • Final Status Negotiations / Agreed Framework
    • Minority Rights / Right of Return
    • European Union
  • SYRIA
    • London 11 Meeting / Crisis in Syria / Preparations for Geneva II
    • Syrian Opposition / Participation in Geneva II / Election of Leadership
    • Extremist Elements / Moderate Opposition
    • Humanitarian and Military Assistance
  • LIBYA
    • Al-Qaeda / Ansar al-Sharia
    • Attack Against Special Mission and Annex / Ongoing Investigation
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Bilateral Security Agreement / Drawdown / Elections
  • IRAQ
    • Violence in Iraq
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' Book / Secretary Kerry's Relationship with White House
  • IRAN
    • Undersecretary Sherman's Travel to Geneva
    • First Stage of Nuclear Agreement / Implementation
    • New Sanctions Legislation / Congress
  • GREECE
    • Convicted Terrorist Christodoulos Xiros Missing / 17 November Terrorist Organization
  • DPRK
    • Kenneth Bae
    • Sports Diplomacy
    • Cancellation of Ambassador King's Trip to DPRK
  • SOUTH KOREA
    • Readout of Secretary Kerry's Meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister
    • Denuclearization of DPRK / Developments in Northeast Asia
  • INDIA
    • U.S.-India Energy Dialogue
    • Indian Delegation Participating in Space Exploration Forum
    • Indian Diplomatic Notes / Requests for Action
    • Legal Piece / Southern District of New York
  • EGYPT
    • Carter Center Statement / Polarization in Egypt / Referendum
    • Relationship with Egypt / Human Rights / Campaign Process
    • Muslim Brotherhood
  • SOUTH SUDAN
    • Release of Political Detainees
    • Talks / Draft Proposal
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE PROCESS
    • Interim Agreement / Framework for Negotiations / Final Status Agreement
    • Discussion of Core Issues / Path Forward
  • ROMANIA
    • Assistant Secretary's Nuland Trip to Europe


TRANSCRIPT:

1:51 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS. PSAKI: We have a patriotic scarf happening in the room today.

QUESTION: No, no, it’s not – well, it is patriotic.

MS. PSAKI: It’s red, white, and blue. I’m just stating the facts.

QUESTION: Well, yes. It’s a Buffalo Bills scarf.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, a Buffalo Bills scarf. All right.

I have two items for all of you at the top before we get going.

QUESTION: Suffering since the ‘60s.

MS. PSAKI: Fair enough. My husband is a Cincinnati Bengals fan, so he can relate.

First, an announcement on the Secretary’s travel. He’ll be traveling to Paris and Kuwait City from January 11th to January 15th. In Paris, Secretary Kerry will attend a ministerial meeting of the London 11 to coordinate with key international partners on Syria in advance of the Geneva II conference. Secretary Kerry will also meet with representatives of the Arab League’s Arab Peace Initiative Follow-up Committee to update them on the ongoing final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians as part of his continued engagement with our Arab League partners on the issue.

In Kuwait City, Secretary Kerry will lead the U.S. delegation to the Second International Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria in Kuwait, co-hosted by the Emir of Kuwait and chaired by the UN Secretary General. With foreign countries, international organizations, and NGOs in attendance at Kuwait II, the Secretary will discuss the critical nature of international contributions toward the 2014 UN appeals for Syria, as well as other humanitarian issues surrounding the crisis in Syria as well as its neighbors.

One other item just before we go to you, Matt. I wanted to read out a call the Secretary had yesterday with Iraqi Foreign Minister Zebari. The Secretary and foreign minister discussed the situation in Anbar province and the Government of Iraq’s efforts to combat ISIL in coordination with local police and tribes. The Secretary noted the critical need for support from the local population and encouraged the Government of Iraq to continue its efforts to empower local officials and tribes to isolate ISIL and drive them out of populated areas.

He also emphasized the opportunity for the Government of Iraq to focus on political initiatives to increase political inclusiveness as an essential component of the CT campaign as the only path to long-term stability. He assured the foreign minister that we will continue to provide technical military advice and enhancing material support, and stressed that military efforts must be fused with political and economic efforts to isolate extremist groups.

Foreign Minister Zebari expressed appreciation for the support of the United States under the Strategic Framework Agreement for Iraq's struggle against terrorism. He also expressed appreciation for the international support for Iraq that has been – Iraq has been receiving in the fight against terrorism and its ongoing commitment to support the process of constitutional democracy in Iraq.

Both leaders – finally, both leaders noted progress on finalizing an agreement under discussion between Baghdad and Erbil on energy and revenue sharing, underscoring that this agreement should be concluded as soon as possible, as it will demonstrate that all Iraqis share equitably in the benefits of Iraq’s natural resources.

QUESTION: Thank you. On the trip --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- did you leave anything out of the Paris schedule? I mean – and I don't mean like a nice dinner on the Left Bank or something like that. I mean --

MS. PSAKI: I did leave out – which we’ll have to fix – that he has a meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, as I confirmed yesterday.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So that is still – remains the case.

QUESTION: Okay. And nothing else?

MS. PSAKI: That is his schedule.

QUESTION: Those three things?

MS. PSAKI: Correct --

QUESTION: The Follow-On Committee, London 11, Lavrov.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Obviously, given we have a few days, as things develop we’re happy to provide all of you updates.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Isn’t he supposed – sorry. Isn’t he supposed to go to Israel and the Palestinian territories?

MS. PSAKI: There were reports of planned trips back. We had not made a decision yet on when we’ll return. Presumably, it will be soon but we don't have a date scheduled yet.

QUESTION: There are multiple reports this morning and this afternoon that --

MS. PSAKI: This afternoon?

QUESTION: Yes, late this afternoon, that the Secretary has asked the kings of Jordan and Saudi Arabia to amend or alter the Arab peace proposal to include a recognition of Israel as a Jewish state in the hopes that that will give President Abbas some flexibility, some political room to do the same thing. Are these reports correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, as you all know, the Secretary was in Jordan and Saudi Arabia this weekend to brief King Abdullah of Jordan and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on the status of the negotiations as well as efforts to agree on a framework for moving forward. As a part of that, they discussed all of the core issues, including the asks from all sides, but it would not be accurate to say that there was an attempt to change the Arab Peace Initiative.

QUESTION: Does that mean – and then the Secretary – does – well, the Secretary was relatively upbeat when he --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- about those two meetings. Did the Abdullahs express a support for what the Secretary was talking about?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, both King Abdullahs have supported and historically been not only supporters but leaders in the effort to come to an agreement in the Middle East on final status negotiations. They are pivotal players on this process. You saw Foreign Minister Saud come out and make his own comments about their discussions, but I’m not going to further read out their views or thoughts beyond that.

QUESTION: Well, quite apart from whether he asked them to change the peace plan, is that something the United States would like to see?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Matt.

QUESTION: You don’t want the Arab countries to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MS. PSAKI: You’re talking about – obviously, there are a range of issues, as you know, that are a part of the negotiations directly between the parties that we’re very involved in. In terms of whether there’s an effort underway to change the Arab Peace Initiative agreement --

QUESTION: There is not?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, quite apart from that then, would the United States like or not like to see the Arab world recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to – you know what our position is – the United States. Obviously, this is a discussion that’s a part of the negotiations. I’m not going to parse it further.

QUESTION: So it’s no longer the policy of the Administration that the endgame here is a solution where there are two states for two peoples?

MS. PSAKI: It is our position, Matt. But in terms of what would be in a framework, how it would be – what the language would be specifically, those are discussions we’re having with both parties --

QUESTION: Okay, but I’m not --

MS. PSAKI: -- we’re briefing the Arab world on. Sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: No, no. I don't want to – I don’t mean to interrupt. I’m not asking about the framework.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In the broad scheme of things, does the United States want the Arab world to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to – what I’m trying not to do here, Matt, is – obviously, you know what our position is. You know what the Israelis would like to see. This is part of the discussions in the negotiations. Beyond that, I’m not going to further outline here what is being discussed with all of the parties.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, maybe I’m not making myself – I’m not talking about the negotiations.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In general, does the United States want to see the Arab world – the Arab League, the members of the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, whatever – recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MS. PSAKI: We want to see them support, which they’ve indicated they would, a final status agreement between the parties. What is included in there is not yet determined.

QUESTION: Jen, if I may follow up.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does the United States of America recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MS. PSAKI: I think you know what our position is, Said.

QUESTION: I’m not asking your position.

MS. PSAKI: We’ve talked about their --

QUESTION: A legal point of view. How do you recognize Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I don't have anything more for you on this.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you --

MS. PSAKI: Do you have another question?

QUESTION: Let me just take Matt’s line of questioning just a bit further.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Did you request from the Palestinians or are you pressuring the Palestinians to recognize in the negotiations – not outside of the negotiations, in the negotiations – to recognize Israel as a Jewish state?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to discuss the private negotiations that are happening with the parties. Obviously, there are a range of reports out there. When I say all core issues are being discussed, that remains the case. You’ve seen both parties raise what are most – what are the most important issues to them, and you can assume they’re being discussed on both sides.

QUESTION: Okay. And now let me ask you this, seeing that Israel does not have a constitution and it has minorities who are not Jewish: How would the United States go about reconciling these two elements? If the Palestinians do recognize Israel as a Jewish state, what is to happen to the Palestinians who have Israeli citizenship?

MS. PSAKI: Well, given we’re not there yet, it’s a hypothetical at this point. As a general matter, as with any democracy around the world, we believe, of course, that minority rights need to be protected. But you’re getting ahead of where we are in the process, so I’m not going to entertain the specific hypothetical.

QUESTION: But we are almost in the third trimester in the process. I mean, (inaudible) two months?

MS. PSAKI: That is a new way of defining it. We will – (laughter).

QUESTION: So I mean, we’re getting very close. Where – how do we discuss these issues?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll keep talking about it, but I’m not going to lay out for you the private discussions.

QUESTION: And is that intended from your point of view, seeing that this issue came into being only in 2003 and 2002 as a negotiating tool by the Israelis, how is that – is that intended to sort of nix whatever chance or possibility for the Palestinian refugees to return or for the Palestinians to have – to give up the right to return? Is that what the intention is --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, as you know, right of return is part of the discussion that’s being had now. I’m not going to lay out for you further the status of those discussions.

QUESTION: And I really appreciate your indulging me just a little bit further. Is it true that the Secretary sort of warned both the Israelis and the Palestinians unless there’s something at the end of this process, U.S. engagement will be lowered or the level of U.S. engagement with the process would be sort of lowered or sort of downsized?

MS. PSAKI: In terms of in the region or – I’m not sure what that would be referring to.

QUESTION: No, no. In terms of the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, unless they both come to some sort of terms, they give or they make the hard and difficult and painful decisions, as you call them, if they don’t arrive at something at the end of this process, the U.S. will not be as engaged?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would not put it in that way. You’ve heard the Secretary say that this is how he says it privately as well, that it’s – now is the time where tough decisions need to be made. That is the case as we discuss a framework for negotiations moving forward. There’s decades of history here. There are sensitivities. There are tough issues that are being discussed. So that’s a message he’s conveyed publicly and privately, but I would put it in that – in those terms and not the way that you described it.

QUESTION: Okay. In the event that these negotiations bear no fruit at the end of the process and the Palestinians go ahead with their threat or warning that they will go the UN, what are you telling them that you will do in the event that they actually resort to the UN?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, you’re way down in the process. We remain confident that both parties will remain committed to the process at the table. They have expressed a willingness and openness to make tough choices, so we’ll keep our focus on that.

Do we have any more on the Middle East peace process?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Gestational references aside, there are also reports that in some Israeli media that the Secretary is behind the European Union’s plans or potential – I don’t know what to call them – sanctions on Israel over the settlement – over settlement issues; in other words, that the Secretary is encouraging the Europeans to put this pressure on the Israelis. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: It’s hard to see how that would make sense given the Secretary expressed just a few months ago publicly his desire to see a delay in EU taking – European Union – sorry – taking action that would be unhelpful to the process.

QUESTION: Right. And I guess the report suggests that the Secretary would stop urging the Europeans to not do this and, in fact, tell them that it’s okay to go ahead if, in fact, the third trimester ends with no live birth.

MS. PSAKI: Wow. (Laughter.) We’re not at that point yet. I’m not going to outline private discussions. But I would just state that our efforts are in working with the two parties. Obviously, these are sensitive issues. We’re not encouraging anyone to take steps that would be unhelpful to the process.

QUESTION: Is it still the position of the Administration that the EU should hold off on doing anything like this, at least until the end of the nine-month period?

MS. PSAKI: That has been our position. I’m not aware of a change --

QUESTION: And it hasn’t changed --

MS. PSAKI: -- to the position.

QUESTION: So just for clarification, if the Secretary decides to go to the West Bank and to Israel --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- will this happen as part of this coming trip?

MS. PSAKI: It’s not currently on the trip as I announced it. Obviously, we continue to review the best time to return to the region. And if anything changes, we’ll let you all know.

Jo, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I go to the London 11 meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. So what is the purpose of this meeting at the weekend, and what do you guys hope to get out of it?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, first, as you know, there the aim of the meeting is to meet with key partners and coordinate with the international community vis-a-vis the crisis in Syria, make preparations for a Geneva II conference, as well as discuss ways to support the moderate political and military opposition.

As you know, and you’ve been with us on many of these trips, they’ve met regularly over the course of the last year plus, and so this is an important time to have a meeting given preparations for Geneva II.

QUESTION: And does it hinder the discussions that the opposition has decided to postpone until the 17th of January its decision on whether to attend the Geneva talks or Montreux --

MS. PSAKI: Hinder the discussions at the London 11?

QUESTION: In the London 11. Yes.

MS. PSAKI: No. Preparations – we note that there has been a great deal of recent activity among the opposition in recent days. The discussions about Geneva II will continue. There are several paths for that, including the London 11, including our conversations with the opposition, including the Secretary’s meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov. They said they will vote next week, so we will wait for that process to play out.

QUESTION: And is Ahmad Jarba going to be at the London 11 meetings? There’s some suggestions that they might actually make their decision on whether to go or not after the meetings happened, after the London 11 meetings happen.

MS. PSAKI: It’s a good question. I’ll – I’m happy to take it and see if we have an update on whether he’ll attend or not. Sometimes, as you know from past London 11s, we haven’t known until the day or two before.

QUESTION: So at the moment, there’s no plans for him to --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I’ll have to check for you.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: How do view the resignations from the coalition, the Syrian coalition? Forty-two person or leaders have resigned.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – and I talked about this a little bit broadly yesterday in the sense that it shouldn’t be surprising that there are disagreements within the opposition, that there are challenges within the opposition. Obviously, they are working through a difficult time given what’s happening on the ground. We’re going to let the process see itself through. As we just discussed, they’ll – they’ve indicated they’ll be voting next week on their participation in a Geneva conference, so we will continue to work with them toward that.

QUESTION: But can you hold a conference without the opposition there? If they vote no, that’ll only be five days before the conference is supposed to happen.

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, they are a pivotal player in the conference, so we are continuing to work with them, encourage them to attend, as are many of our international partners around the world.

QUESTION: Have they told you what their main problem is with going to the conference?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s something that I would outline here. They, of course, have made their own public comments, but we continue to convey why this is the best opportunity to bring an end to the civil war and the suffering of the people in Syria.

QUESTION: Given the many fissures within the opposition, and as Michel noted, these resignations in the past 72 hours, is there a concern that if any members of the opposition show up, that their position would be inherently weaker than if they showed up with as broad a cross-section of the opposition as possible in Geneva?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not there yet. As you know, they just had elections. They’ve been meeting for days. We’ve been in close touch with them. A number of our partners in the region have been in close touch. We’ve been in touch with our partners in the region; hence the trips to Saudi Arabia and Jordan this past weekend. We are letting this process see its way through. We’re not surprised that it’s difficult, and we’ll see where we land on the 17th.

QUESTION: You keep saying “they.” Who are they? Who are they?

MS. PSAKI: The moderate opposition.

QUESTION: What is that? I mean, in terms of organization --

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, President Jarba was just reelected.

QUESTION: Okay. All right.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, they have to --

QUESTION: So you’re talking about the council?

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish, Said. They’re working to determine a representative delegation, and obviously, they need to vote on their attendants. So we will see who is representing them at a Geneva conference.

QUESTION: And is --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) conference?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not there yet. Obviously, they’re a pivotal part of having a successful conference, given the negotiations and the significance of it as having the representative body from the opposition and from the regime at the table together.

QUESTION: But how confident are you that they will attend? I mean, the invitations were issued not so long ago, but we’ve been talking about the date as the date’s been on the table since last December.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. That’s true.

QUESTION: And they still haven’t got a delegation together.

MS. PSAKI: You’re right.

QUESTION: They’re talking about getting a delegation five days before this very important conference is supposed to happen.

MS. PSAKI: And if they have a delegation together and are participating, then it would be significant because it would be the first time that the opposition and the regime are there at a conference together. We’re continuing our planning for it and we’re not going to get ahead of where we are in the process.

QUESTION: Right, but I mean the point is: Will the conference happen if the opposition doesn’t have a team there?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, the conference, given the purpose is implementation of a Geneva communique and the key part of it is participation of the regime and the opposition, it would be challenging not to have the opposition there.

QUESTION: All right. So the meeting is off if the opposition can’t --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead of where we are in the process, Matt. Obviously, we’re working with them to put together a delegation. They’re working on that. They haven’t yet voted yet, so at this point it’s a hypothetical.

QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but I’m – well, yeah, but it’s a hypothetical whether – what the weather is going to be as well, but I mean --

MS. PSAKI: True.

QUESTION: -- but you plan for it. So I mean --

MS. PSAKI: We can talk about the weather on January 22nd, when it’s January 22nd.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but I mean, can there be a conference without the opposition there? That’s not a hypothetical question. That is a straight --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, it’s pivotal to have them there. That’s what we’re working toward.

QUESTION: So there cannot. So it is correct that there cannot be a conference --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Said.

QUESTION: -- if the opposition – is that right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we’re – the purpose of the conference is to implement the Geneva --

QUESTION: So it would be pointless to have a conference without the opposition.

MS. PSAKI: The purpose is to have the opposition and the regime there.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So obviously, that’s what we’re working towards.

Said.

QUESTION: Is Ambassador Ford taking the lead in talks with the opposition to determine who is going to attend?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, that’s for the opposition to determine. He has been working --

QUESTION: Since he is from the American side.

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. He’s been working closely with them on the ground and he’s spent a great deal of time in Turkey working with them on that and certainly has been a key player in the process.

QUESTION: Has he made any – did he make any headway in the last couple weeks? What is the status of his talks and negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’ve seen that they have elected leadership, that they’ve indicated what the timing of a vote to attend the conference. I’m not going to give you a day-by-day play-by-play of our internal discussions with them, but he remains committed to it and we continue to make the case for why it would be important to attend a conference.

QUESTION: Yeah, but with this fluid situation on the ground and the opposition fighting each other very intensely, very bloodily, as a matter of fact, how does that impact the civilian moderate opposition?

MS. PSAKI: In what way are you asking?

QUESTION: In the way that its ability to represent the Syrian people, because they basically control large swaths of land in Syria.

MS. PSAKI: So are you asking – tell me your question --

QUESTION: I’m asking you if – are you going to include some of the military groups, or is part of the talks that Ambassador Ford conducting with the moderate opposition, the political opposition, is also to incorporate or include some of the militant groups that are doing the fighting in Syria?

MS. PSAKI: We have long said that we would be – that we believe it should be a representative delegation. Obviously, that’s a process that’s being worked through in terms of who would be included in the delegation.

QUESTION: Jen, the Nusrah Front made some – the leader of the Nusrah Front made some comments recently calling for a ceasefire and suggesting that an Islamic court be established to resolve disputes. Is that something the U.S. would support?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you know our position on groups like al-Nusrah, groups that are designated terrorist organizations that represent the extremist element of the Syrian opposition. We remain concerned, we continue to express that, and our position has been longstanding. So our focus is not on what those groups – the pronouncements of those groups; it’s on working to strengthen the moderate opposition, working toward a Geneva conference, and that’s what we’ll keep our eyes on.

QUESTION: But it would seem that the level of ferocity in the infighting between rebels would present a challenge to having a good conference in Geneva, no? So wouldn’t any attempt to have – broker a ceasefire be potentially welcomed?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not – these are new comments. There hasn’t been action on them, so I’m not going to do analysis on what it means because it’s something we’ll have to determine over the coming days.

QUESTION: On the subject of terror groups --

MS. PSAKI: Can we just finish, Lucas? Do you mind? And do you have one on Syria, or --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: On the fights between the rebels – how the U.S. is supporting the moderates against the extremists there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, are you – in terms of what specifically?

QUESTION: Are you helping them against the extremists, to fight the extremists?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we’ve been working – we’ve been committed for months, if not almost a year now, to working all of our aid and military assistance through the moderate opposition. That is helping the moderate opposition. That’s what we have agreed to as part of London 11 meetings with our partners around the world and regional stakeholders. That’s helping the moderate opposition.

QUESTION: But at a certain time, you stopped supporting them.

MS. PSAKI: Aid through the north, that’s correct.

QUESTION: And is it still?

MS. PSAKI: That has not – I don’t have anything to announce on that today or changes to that today. Obviously, there are other countries that are continuing their aid and assistance, and we work in coordination with them as well.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: I have one more. I wondered if there was any U.S. reaction to the news that the headquarters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant was seized from them in Aleppo today by several different rebel groups, including Islamist groups as well.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on that now. Let me talk to our team and see if we can get you guys a reaction to that.

Lucas? Oh, do you have one on Syria or something --

QUESTION: No. Different subject.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Lucas.

QUESTION: Do you have an update on designating a former Guantanamo Bay detainee and his organization, Ansar al-Sharia in Libya, as a terrorist organization?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to announce today. As you know, we don’t discuss deliberations relating to the designation of individuals or foreign terrorist organizations. So I have nothing on it for you today.

QUESTION: And there’s just a press release from Chairman Royce’s office saying he looks forward to this designation taking place. Does it – is this a matter of just days on Capitol Hill, (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to give you a prediction of that. I will note his release.

QUESTION: Okay. And is the Guantanamo detainee – is his – is this designation of al-Sharia as a terror group, is that linked to his ties to al-Qaida?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to, again, get into deliberations about designations. In terms of Ansar al-Sharia Benghazi, Ansar al-Sharia Derna, we have no – these are separate groups. We have no indication that – and they’re not official affiliates of core al-Qaida – so we have no indications still, that remains the case, that core al-Qaida directed or planned the Benghazi attack. I can give you one update.

As we’ve noted, and as you’ve all noted in the past, Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi and Ansar al-Sharia in Derna have been involved in terrorist attacks in the past, of course, against civilian targets, frequent assassinations, and attempted assassinations of security officials and political actors in eastern Libya. Can also confirm that that includes the September 11th attack against the special mission and annex in Benghazi, Libya.

Obviously, there’s an ongoing investigation and we’re not asserting that these groups were the only two organizations whose members were involved in the attack, that those organizations preplanned the attack well in advance, or that those – these organizations are somehow more responsible than others, but that is one piece I can confirm for you.

QUESTION: But Jen, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia, Bin Qumu, he has ties to bin Ladin, he trained with him in camps in Pakistan in 1993. Doesn’t that give him ties to al-Qaida?

MS. PSAKI: Well again, Lucas, there’s no indication at this point that core al-Qaida was involved or planned these attacks, and these are not official affiliates of al-Qaida, so --

QUESTION: If you’re an alumnus of al-Qaida, doesn’t that give you ties to al-Qaida? I mean, I’m just curious what it takes to have --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

QUESTION: What does it take to have ties to al-Qaida? Is it an email? Is it a certificate of completed training? I’m just curious what it takes to have ties to al-Qaida.

MS. PSAKI: They don’t give out t-shirts or membership cards, as you know. So what we’re talking about is --

QUESTION: Check expenses.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) check expenses --

MS. PSAKI: -- is this specific case and these specific attacks and reports about the specific --

QUESTION: But, you see, you’re making a statement that there’s no indication that they are official affiliates. What is an official affiliate of – I mean, how does one – how do you – who is an official affiliate of core al-Qaida in the Administration’s view? What group is?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: I mean, would that be AQIM?

MS. PSAKI: I mean, Matt, I think --

QUESTION: AQAP?

MS. PSAKI: The point I’m making is that, which – as I understand Lucas’s question, was there ties to core al-Qaida, which we still have – that hasn’t changed despite recent reports.

QUESTION: No, no, no. Forget about his question completely. (Laughter.) Your answer to him --

QUESTION: Thanks. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You’re not – well, I don’t mean it that way. I’m just talking about – I’m not asking about his question. Your answer to his question says that they are not – there’s no indication that these are official affiliates of core al-Qaida.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I’m just wondering – I mean, I don't think it’s an irrelevant question as to what makes one an official affiliate --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any --

QUESTION: -- as opposed to an unofficial or a wanna-be affiliate.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any criteria to outline for you.

QUESTION: Well, then how --

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check with our counterterrorism team and see if that’s --

QUESTION: Okay, because if you don’t have --

MS. PSAKI: -- something that’s publicly available.

QUESTION: Okay, because if you don’t have criteria for what an official affiliate is, then I’m not sure how you can say that one isn’t an official affiliate.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I can say one isn’t by the fact that they were not directed by. So it’s – there is a difference.

QUESTION: But that doesn’t mean – whether they were directed or not doesn’t mean that they’re not an official affiliate or affiliated or unaffiliated for that matter. I’m just wondering what the criteria is for a group to get – if Mr. X wants to start a group and be considered an official affiliate of al-Qaida, what in the Administration’s view does he have to do to get that status?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think it’s unlikely we have public criteria on such a question, but it’s important to note the context of the fact that they were not directed by or affiliated with al-Qaida, which was the point I was trying to make.

QUESTION: Well, I – right, right. No, I understand that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But I mean, when you get into to delineating between an official affiliate of al-Qaida and a wanna-be or not quite ready for primetime, whatever you want to call it, then it suggests that there is some kind of criteria, and I’d be interested to know what it is.

MS. PSAKI: Well, okay, but the relevant point here related to the Benghazi attack – I know you know this, but it’s worth reiterating – is that there were initial reports and claims that core al-Qaida directed the attack. So that’s why I made the point.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: But isn’t al-Qaida a franchised organization? I mean, when you talk about core al-Qaida and affiliates – I guess this is more to Matt’s point – can you not say that al-Qaida is a franchised organization?

QUESTION: I have something.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more to outline for you on al-Qaida’s affiliations and what their qualifications are.

QUESTION: Well, actually if you went to a college, William and Mary perhaps, and you call yourself --

MS. PSAKI: Great school.

QUESTION: You have ties to the – one would have ties to the school, correct?

MS. PSAKI: I’m pretty sure it does not work the same way as being an alumni of a college. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: But similar. I mean, if you have trained under the al-Qaida flag, if you trained in camps, if you’ve left the nest so to speak, doesn’t that, no matter where you go in life, give you ties back to that organization?

MS. PSAKI: But Lucas, the question is not whether individuals know each other. It’s whether there is a direct link between Ansar al-Sharia in Benghazi and core al-Qaida. And so that’s the question I was answering. It’s not whether different individuals have met in the course of their lifetimes.

QUESTION: Right. But if you’re a Guantanamo Bay prisoner freed, you go to Libya and a year later you’re freed from the Libyan Government and you attack the Benghazi compound, and you’ve been known to have ties with al-Qaida that go back to 1993, doesn’t that present enough evidence to say that he has some ties, and so does his organization?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, there’s a very talented FBI team that has an ongoing investigation that we’re all committed to. We’re not going to draw conclusions at this point, and what I’m providing to you is what is been determined and what is publicly available at this time.

QUESTION: And is there any update with that investigation?

MS. PSAKI: There is not.

QUESTION: Can we go to Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just finish this, Roz, and then I’m happy to go to Afghanistan. Do we have any more on this topic?

QUESTION: On Iran?

QUESTION: Yeah, I just wanted to ask you very quickly.

MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I mean, al-Qaida is led by Ayman al-Zawahiri.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And more and more we see that he really lost his grip on all these affiliate franchises of al-Qaida everywhere. Is it – does that make it very difficult for your law enforcement, the FBI or whoever, to sort of track these teams and tag these organizations under a multitude of names?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you, Said, to the FBI in the process of the investigation. I don’t have anything more to outline for you on that from here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s go to Roz if – on Afghanistan if there’s not any more. Go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: Well, first off, has there been any progress on getting President Karzai to sign the strategic agreement with the U.S. on any U.S. troop presence after the end of 2014?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you on that.

QUESTION: Have there been any high-level discussions from the Secretary, from Special Envoy McGurk, Ambassador Beecroft, about where the Karzai government is on signing this deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’re referring to folks who are running point on Iraq, so they wouldn’t be.

QUESTION: I’m sorry.

MS. PSAKI: But the Secretary has not been in touch with President Karzai. We remain in the same place. It is safe to assume that our team on the ground, the ambassador on the ground, our negotiating team on the ground, is in very close contact, of course. It remains true, and this is the case we continue to make, that the delay in signing negatively affects confidence in the region as well as our and our allies’ ability to plan a potential follow-up – follow-on mission. And with the drawdown already ongoing, decisions have to be made soon about issues such as base closures and force levels. I know we’ve talked about this, but not in a while, in here. And of course, without a BSA, near-term decisions about those issues would have to be made accordingly.

So we continue to press and make the same case we’ve been making. I don’t have any updates on that at this moment.

QUESTION: A follow-up on --

QUESTION: Why hasn’t the Secretary been in touch with President Karzai?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, they have a long relationship, which is, I’m certain, why you’re asking. And obviously, if we felt it would be productive to be for him to have a conversation, he’d be happy to do that. But our team on the ground is in close contact, and so that remains the case.

QUESTION: So the flip side of that is – does the Secretary think it would be futile at this point to try to talk to Karzai (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion, but obviously, they’ve spoken many times. If there is a reason and a desire for him to speak to him again, I’m sure he’d be open to doing that. But it’s important to note that our team on the ground is in very close contact, of course, and is conveying the message on behalf of the Administration.

QUESTION: So the Secretary hasn’t abandoned hope of getting President Karzai to sign this before the April elections?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not. As you know, the Secretary is always hopeful, and continues to – and we continue to make the case why this is important to do between – before that --

QUESTION: It just seems strange, because before Christmas --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the President – the Secretary was calling President Karzai on a – I think that there was one occasion where it was, what, twice a day --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- at one point. And now silence. It just – is that supposed to send a message to President Karzai?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t do too much analysis of it. Obviously, calls and contact at that level are important at certain times, and we make a decision about what the level of contact should be and what would be most productive to move things forward.

QUESTION: Has the Administration reached a decision, at least privately, on when they have to start a drawdown absent an SFA? And if so, has that date been given to the Karzai government to add to the sense of urgency?

MS. PSAKI: Well, what we’ve been saying remains what we’ve been communicating to the government, which is that if we cannot conclude a BSA promptly, we’ll initiate planning for a post-2014 future. Obviously, there are the elections, but we want to move forward as quickly as possible. That remains the case.

QUESTION: Is it correct that April is too late?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, April – the elections.

QUESTION: So, I mean, your colleague at the White House said the other day weeks not months, so April is definitely – if Karzai wants to stretch this out and have his successor do it, that’s too late for you?

MS. PSAKI: April would be months.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: So does that mean that – that means then necessarily, I think – correct me if I’m wrong --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that planning would begin before – the zero option planning would begin before then?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, obviously we make decisions day by day, week by week, so I can’t give you a prediction of where we will be --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- but obviously, our hope is we can resolve this in (inaudible).

QUESTION: And is it just planning? The reason I ask is because just – you plan for all sorts of eventualities --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- it doesn’t mean it necessarily going to be – going to happen.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: But say you do have the plans in place, it doesn’t mean that you’re taking off the table plans to have a residual force, correct? Just because you’re planning for a zero option doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the only option, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. That’s generally the case.

QUESTION: So you could draw up the plans – Karzai could – Karzai’s successor could sign the BSA in April, and you could just rip up the zero option plans and – correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to get too ahead of what’s possible, because I’m not an expert on military planning. Obviously, there’s a strong feeling that the best step would be to conclude this in weeks, not months. That’s what our focus is on. Beyond that, given planning is not underway at this point, we – I don’t want to get into what it would mean and whether we could rip it up or what have you because that’s not a determination that’s been made yet.

QUESTION: Planning is not underway?

QUESTION: Iraqi officials --

QUESTION: I find that hard to believe that planning is not underway somewhere in this Administration.

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, there’s always contingency, but my point is that we are – will have to initiate planning and obviously undergo a serious process if there’s not a BSA that is signed soon.

QUESTION: And how much is the current violence that we’re seeing in Iraq going to play into that planning?

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?

QUESTION: Well, there was a zero option in Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The troops were withdrawn. And now we’re seeing this really serious bloodshed happening in areas like Fallujah and Ramadi, where a lot of American lives were lost during the war.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I wondered how much that is coloring, or could color, the planning that you will have to do for Afghanistan if one of the options on the table is a zero option.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the President and the Secretary and the Administration has been clear that if there’s no BSA, we can’t have troops in Afghanistan. So that doesn’t change. But beyond that --

QUESTION: But that will surely risk seeing the same kind of bloodshed in Afghanistan, although they’re two different theaters of war.

MS. PSAKI: And we’d also refute the notion that it is because of decisions that were made that were mutually agreed to by both sides that that is what has resulted in the violence that’s happening on the ground now in Iraq. So --

QUESTION: But there are reports that Iraqi officials have told the Karzai government, look, we weren’t able to work out the SOFA with the U.S. officials. Now we have this problem in Anbar province. You could find yourselves with the same problem with the Taliban if you don’t sign this BSA sooner rather than later. That is out there, that different circumstances but same result could happen in Afghanistan. Is this Administration also sending that message to the Karzai government?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to convey to you in terms of our discussions with the Afghan Government, and I would point you to the Iraqis and the Afghans on any reports of discussions between the two. I don’t have any details on that.

QUESTION: And what about --

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more – oh, go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: And what about – because there’s always been this specter of Hamid Karzai as being a hothouse flower, for lack of a better expression.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not familiar with that expression. That’s a new one.

QUESTION: Delicate. Sensitive.

QUESTION: Mercurial.

QUESTION: That’s a very – that’s a great word. The – many reports now of the former Defense secretary’s characterization of the President not liking or can’t standing Hamid Karzai. Is there any concern within this Administration that with this BSA outstanding, that he could see these news reports and possibly get an advance copy of the book and just say forget it; if the U.S. doesn’t like me, I don’t have to do business with them?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you, certainly, to my colleagues at the White House for any commentary on that. Let me just say on the book, since you gave me an opportunity, obviously, I haven’t read the book. The Secretary hasn’t read the book. So though it hasn’t been asked yet, I’m certain someone may ask it – I’m obviously not going to give analysis on it. I will say it’s not about, of course, the current State Department. But in terms of the Secretary’s experience – and I talked to him about this this morning, or over the last 24 hours – he’s – his experience with the White House has been one where he’s had an open engagement, he’s had a relationship where he felt he could not only voice his opinion, but also serve the role as chief diplomat around the world that he needs to serve with the rein he needs to do that. So that hasn’t been his experience, and I just wanted to add that commentary.

QUESTION: I wasn’t going to bring this up, but since you have volunteered that, the Secretary was not Secretary, obviously --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- during the period of time that was covered by this book.

MS. PSAKI: He was not, correct.

QUESTION: He was a member of the Congress, of which Mr. Gates does not apparently have a very high opinion. Does the Secretary have any thoughts about what Mr. Gates had to say about the Congress?

MS. PSAKI: No thoughts to add on that front, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Because that would be – seem to be – I mean, perhaps other than being maybe miffed that he’s not included more in the book, that would seem to be the thing that would be most relevant to the current Secretary as it relates to this book, no?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s fair to say that given the Secretary served for 29 years in Congress and proudly served, that he has a disagreement about the role Congress plays, but we didn’t have a particular discussion about that piece.

QUESTION: But you can certainly refute the notion that this Administration is not convinced of its own strategy, can’t you?

MS. PSAKI: Is not – can you say one more time?

QUESTION: Is not convinced with its own strategy in Afghanistan, as Mr. Gates suggested?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Said, I think most of these questions are more appropriate for the White House than the State Department --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- given it’s not about the current State Department. However, as it relates to Afghanistan and as it relates to the Secretary’s experience with some of the major players who are mentioned in this book, he’s known the Vice President for 25 years, if not longer. There’s almost no one he respects more in terms of his foreign policy expertise, his knowledge of the issues, that he likes to consult with more, as chairman of the SFRC and currently.

And one more point and then we’ll get to you again: And in terms of the President’s view and approach to Afghanistan, what the Secretary’s experience has been over just the last year – which this book is not about but they’ve been discussing this issue – is that it’s a very deliberative process that takes into account everything from what is best for our troops, what is best for the American military, what is best for the American people, and what’s best for the interests of Afghanistan. It’s a challenging issue, and he’s been a part of nearly every conversation that’s been had about this issue this year.

Go ahead. You may have had another question.

QUESTION: But Mr. Gates says that the Vice President was wrong on every foreign policy issue. He doesn’t just say one, Afghanistan – he says he was wrong on every single policy – foreign policy issue.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to the White House, but I just laid out for you what the Secretary’s view is of the Vice President’s expertise.

QUESTION: Just one on Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of the senior negotiators in Iran, Mr. Abbas Araghchi, said that Under Secretary Sherman has expressed a willingness to stop by in Geneva talks and attend a trilateral meeting --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- probably with the EU representative. Can you confirm that? And if yes, tell us why this sudden interest?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any details on this, but I can tell you all that I expect there will be more to say on Under Secretary Sherman’s travel.

QUESTION: It’s out.

QUESTION: It’s out.

MS. PSAKI: Is it out? Okay. So there’s an announcement that just went out that has more details on it. I was waiting for the --

QUESTION: The announcement doesn’t say – to go back to the question, doesn’t say that she’s going to hold a trilateral meeting. Can you confirm that section of --

MS. PSAKI: I’ll have to check on the details of her schedule. I knew that we were announcing some details of travel, but I’ll have to check on that particular piece.

QUESTION: And the other statement by the Iranian foreign ministry is about the warning which was issued about the resale of the commercial plane engines. And they said that it’s going to – it’s not going to be beneficial for the atmosphere of the talks. Can you – do you have any reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: That was a decision and an announcement made by the Department of Commerce, so I’d point you to them for more specifics on it. Obviously, I’ll let them outline the reasons and actions. And let me just say broadly that while of course we’re very committed to moving forward in these – in the implementation of the first stage of these – of the agreement, there are still areas where we are implementing United States Government policy, whether that’s that or whether that is sanctions that we continue to implement. So that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: Your referral to the Commerce Department doesn’t suggest that the State Department was not consulted about its decision, does it?

MS. PSAKI: No. I’m just conveying that they have --

QUESTION: So you aware and you don’t think --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, I just wanted to make sure, you – there was an interagency process, or at least consultation, right, before Commerce announced this?

MS. PSAKI: Presumably, yes, Matt. There’s no opposition to it from our end. They just – or they’re point and have all the details.

QUESTION: So in other words, you – this building does not believe that that step by them would necessarily harm or hinder the negotiations, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: And then how close are you or do you expect there to be this week an announcement of an implementation agreement --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- as coming out of these talks that are – that Under Secretary Sherman’s going to have?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. I don’t want to make a prediction of it. Obviously, as we’ve said from the podium here – and my colleague Marie has spoken more about this in the past week – there were some remaining issues which they were working through. Obviously, we would like to see the implementation begin soon – as soon as possible. So that’s what they’re working toward.

QUESTION: And they are working toward concluding one by the end of the week?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to make a prediction of the timing, but obviously, as has been the case, we – and there are just a few remaining issues, so we’re working toward that.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Jennifer, I have a question on Greece and --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- terrorists.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran?

MS. PSAKI: On Iran? Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. On December 19th, the White House said that the President would veto any new sanctions legislation from the Congress. Since that time, support in the Senate has doubled to 50 senators in favor – bipartisan group of senators in favor of this new sanctions legislation. Those in favor of it say that it gives the President a year flexibility to negotiate, it honors the modest sanctions relief that Iran sought in the interim agreement, and it gives Congress the insurance policy that it had been seeking that ensures that the interim agreement is actually upheld.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have anything to say to the senators that haven’t committed yet, given the fact that – actually this morning, it’s now 51, so the bill could pass?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our position on this hasn’t changed. It’s the argument that the Secretary – that Under Secretary Sherman and many Administration officials have been making to Congress, which is that new sanctions in any capacity would undermine the prospects for a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran. We continue to strongly oppose any action taken by members of Congress which we feel is unnecessary and directly contradicts the Administration’s work to resolve the concerns about the Iranian nuclear program peacefully.

And the other piece of this that’s very important is the Secretary, the President of the United States, were two of the strongest advocates for sanctions and the effectiveness of sanctions. That’s one of the major reasons why we’re here. And if we got to a point where we needed to put new sanctions in place, they would be leading the charge, and I don’t think anyone thinks there would be a challenge in passing sanctions.

So the question is: Why risk this important pivotal stage we’re at by putting new legislation in place?

QUESTION: Right, and the Iranian point of view on this is that enacting new legislation is a violation of the Joint Plan of Action. Is that – does the Administration have the same perspective that enacting new legislation is the same as imposing? And I cite that the Joint Action Plan says the U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions. It doesn’t say “enacting.” It says “imposing.” Are those the same?

MS. PSAKI: As I understand it, putting new legislation in place would be – would violate it. Obviously, if the President were to veto it, then it’s not being put in place. So --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Is this building stepping up its efforts to persuade the senators to back away from this effort to pass this? And if so, in what ways?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Is this just from the legislative arm, or is this from the Secretary on down doing personal lobbying?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they have been doing personal outreach. The Secretary, Under Secretary Sherman, many officials in the Administration have done countless briefings with the Hill as well. So that is not stepped up; that has been ongoing throughout. I don’t have any recent updates on that. I can see if there’s anything to report. As you know, Congress is just coming back.

QUESTION: On the answer to the penultimate question, is that supposed to mean that you – that the Administration believes that giving the President authority to impose new sanctions is the same as imposing sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: No, I was saying the opposite of that; that obviously, if sanctions legislation is not put in place. Putting new sanctions legislation in place is the question.

QUESTION: Yeah. But the --

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: And implementing it.

QUESTION: No, but the legislation that’s being discussed doesn’t impose new sanctions; it gives the President authority to impose sanctions. Isn’t that correct? And your line of – by your line of reasoning, granting authority is the same as imposing them, and thus a violation under the agreement.

MS. PSAKI: I did not mean to make that point. I will check on the specifics of this legislation and see if there’s anything we want to offer on that.

QUESTION: Just a quick question on Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Have you heard the statement by the Iranian Foreign – Defense Minister – I’m sorry – Hosein Dehqan saying that we don’t want a nuclear weapon, we can defend ourselves with conventional means? Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen that statement. Obviously, the concern of the United States and the international community remains efforts that have been underway for some time to develop a nuclear weapon, and that’s one of our concerns and why we are where we are.

Go ahead, let’s go to Greece.

QUESTION: I’m sure you’ve heard that a well-known member of the organization November 17th, Mr. Xeros, escaped, actually to – he didn’t return to the prison. Do you have any reaction to this?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I do. We are deeply concerned that convicted terrorist Christodoulos Xeros, a central member of the 17 November terrorist organization that killed five U.S. mission employees, is missing after a furlough from prison where he was serving six consecutive life sentences for murder. We are engaged with Greek officials concerning this case. We call on the Greek Government to locate Xeros and return him to prison. The United States and Greece are partners in combating terrorism in all its forms, and we work closely with Greek authorities in confronting those who use violence to seek to achieve their goals.

QUESTION: Jennifer, can you tell us, if it’s possible, if this organization, November 17th, is still on the list of the terrorist organizations of the State Department?

MS. PSAKI: It is.

QUESTION: Since the Greek Government says that 17th of November is dead, why do you have them on the list?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details on that for you. They were designated on October 8th, 1997, because – let’s see, they were named – let me see if there’s any other details here. My apologies. But again, I’m not going to get into deliberations on why groups or individuals are added or taken off from the list.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you about this?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does it say anything to you about the state of the Greek justice system or the Greek Government that they would allow someone who was convicted and sentenced to six consecutive life terms in prison a furlough in the first place? Do you --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any comment for you, Matt. I would refer you to them --

QUESTION: Well, I mean, are you --

MS. PSAKI: -- on their policies for parole.

QUESTION: Well, yeah, but do you have an opinion on whether this kind of thing is a – whether this is a good thing? Can – does the U.S. Government believe that one could honestly expect someone who is supposed to spend the rest of his life in prison to return voluntarily to prison after being released on a furlough?

MS. PSAKI: Again, they have their own policies --

QUESTION: Well --

MS. PSAKI: -- and I’m not going to comment on it.

QUESTION: Have you – are you aware if the United States has raised objections with the Greek Government about the fact that this person who killed five – who was convicted of killing Americans was given a furlough despite having been convicted and sentenced to six consecutive life sentences?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are in close contact with them, of course, about their efforts to find him. But I don’t have any other details on our contact.

QUESTION: All right. Well, could you take the question and see if it is possible to find out if the United States has taken a position on whether this was a wise move?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to see if we have more to add on that.

QUESTION: Can we go to North Korea briefly?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I know we talked a lot about this yesterday, but today there’s video and photographs of Dennis Rodman playing in the birthday celebration basketball game. I’m wondering if you have a comment on that, if it’s something that the U.S. sees as productive or that a leader such as Kim Jong-un should be indulged in on his birthday given what’s been going on in the country. Just that first, and then I have a couple more.

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, there’s also a statement, as I’m sure you’ve seen, that Kenneth Bae’s family has issued that I would point people to as well.

In terms of Dennis Rodman’s activities or comments, I’m not going to dignify them further with analysis or commentary on them. Our focus remains on reaching out through our own channels to North Korea about our desire to see Kenneth Bae released. As you know, we have grave concerns about his health, which his family also reiterated in their statement. We have our own channels for communicating with them and receiving updates. That’s where our focus remains.

And let me just add, because I know somebody asked about this yesterday, in terms of sports exchanges and diplomacy, this is something that we have done around the world back decades. The difference between now and what we did in China in the 1970s with ping-pong diplomacy is that China was a willing partner, and that’s not the scenario we have happening here. So we don’t have a sports diplomacy program. Dennis Rodman is not representing the United States, and we’ll work through our own diplomatic channels to communicate with North Korea.

QUESTION: Understanding the fact that he does not represent the United States and has no official capacity at all, is the Administration concerned at all that this – what some might call buffoonery – is actually endangering the life of an American citizen, or could endanger the life of an American citizen, or hurt your diplomatic efforts to get North Korea to denuclearize?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I mean, I think our efforts are separate from his efforts.

QUESTION: Clearly.

MS. PSAKI: Clearly.

QUESTION: But at some point, there might be – or I’m asking: Is there a point at which you would get – you get concerned that him running around and acting like a clown or whatever one might call it is detrimental to what the – what you as a government trying to do diplomatically with the North Koreans?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, all I can say is that we’re working through our own channels to secure Kenneth Bae’s release. We have a standing offer, to your question yesterday, to send Bob King there to talk about this as well as humanitarian issues. We regret that that effort hasn’t panned out at that – at this point. But beyond that, I don’t have any further analysis on what his actions mean or don’t mean.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I mean, are you concerned that not taking a public dim view of his antics is going to hurt – could hurt as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m sure if we thought taking a more aggressive public view would be helpful, we would do that. But right now, we’re focused on what we think is most productive to secure Kenneth Bae’s release, and we’ll proceed from there.

QUESTION: So is it fair to say you would just prefer that he go away?

MS. PSAKI: I think given we have not --

QUESTION: Get out of North Korea and --

MS. PSAKI: -- asked him to go on behalf of the United States Government, it’s not a trip we planned or we feel is moving the diplomatic path forward.

QUESTION: Jen, I asked this yesterday, but is there any consideration to talk to Mr. Rodman afterwards to say that you’re not really helping here and that there is an American citizen, fellow American citizen, that you could be endangering?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. We have not reached out to him. We have said before if he wants to reach out to us, we’re happy to hear from him and what he has to say. But our focus is on our own channels and efforts, and we’ll remain committed to those.

QUESTION: Do you know --

QUESTION: Is that really true? You’re happy – you would be happy to hear from him?

MS. PSAKI: We’d be happy to listen to what he has to say, Matt.

QUESTION: Really?

QUESTION: Are there any legal restrictions on (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: We’d be willing to listen to what he has to say.

QUESTION: -- government reaching out to him?

QUESTION: You would be?

MS. PSAKI: We would be willing to hear what he has to say.

QUESTION: But are there any legal restrictions on the government reaching out to Mr. Rodman and saying, among other things, “Hey, knock it off”?

MS. PSAKI: Legal restrictions?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?

QUESTION: He is a private citizen; he’s free to go wherever he can get a visa to visit.

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct, and I reiterated that yesterday.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. Government have the right to call him in and say, “We understand you’re free to do what you want --”

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of what the legal commitments are, but there’s no plans to do that, so I don’t think I’m going to speculate on that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you know when the last time the Swedes had consular access to Mr. Bae?

MS. PSAKI: To Kenneth Bae?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: It’s a good question. Let me ask, Catherine, and we’ll shoot around a note to all of you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: And were you disappointed when the U.S. team – it looks like they threw the game to the North Koreans – that Dennis Rodman’s fellow NBA players actually lost to the North Korean team?

MS. PSAKI: How do you know they threw the game?

QUESTION: I’m just wondering if you had a comment on that --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t.

QUESTION: -- if that was helpful. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Jen, you mentioned Ambassador King’s prospective future trip if the invitation is re-extended. Would you – given that it was canceled at such short notice last time, would you make any extra effort to ascertain the sincerity of any prospective future invitation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it remains – you’re right, it was canceled last time, and it was canceled on very short notice last time. So our offer remains open. We’ve been very clear about what our agenda would be for a visit. And beyond that, we’ll see if an offer is extended.

QUESTION: But I mean, it was kind of like a diplomatic slap in the face, so to speak. His bags were packed, he was ready to go, and just then the invitation vanished into thin air. And – but you would still be willing to accept any future invitation extended and give it the full --

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely, given the stakes and what we feel it’s important to talk about. And I can assure you our diplomats are much stronger than to worry about one event like that.

QUESTION: I have a quick one on South Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout of Secretary Kerry’s meeting yesterday with Foreign Minister Yun?

MS. PSAKI: I do. Secretary Kerry met yesterday in Washington with the South Korean foreign minister. They had productive discussions on a broad range of bilateral, regional, and global issues reflecting the strength and breadth of our alliance with the Republic of Korea. They also exchanged views on recent developments in North Korea. Secretary Kerry reaffirmed the United States’ strong security commitment to the Republic of Korea and emphasized that we will continue to coordinate closely in our efforts toward the denuclearization of North Korea. And you saw, I’m sure, their public statements they made after their meeting as well.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Go ahead in the back, and then I’ll go to you next. Go ahead

QUESTION: What is exactly the progress in terms of the nuclear issues?

MS. PSAKI: The progress?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?

QUESTION: In – as you told us earlier, they’re talking about the North Korean issues.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And they continue to coordinate and it confirms their cooperation.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And at the same time, together they called upon Pyongyang to start down the path of fulfilling its international obligation and commitment. But I don’t see – I don’t understand what progress they had yesterday’s --

MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t announcing progress as much as an important meeting where, obviously, the threat from North Korea was a major topic of discussion and coordinating on that threat, talking about steps that can be taken. The importance of working with partners in the region is something that we feel is essential, as do the South Koreans. And it was one of the reasons, of course, why they were here. But they also discussed a range of issues during their meeting.

QUESTION: Was the prime minister – was Prime Minister Abe’s visit to Yasukuni shrine discussed in that meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve both – as you know, both the United States and the South Koreans have expressed our views on that in the past. As a part of their discussion, they did discuss views on recent developments in Northeast Asia. But again, the focus of this meeting was on not just North Korea but they even talked briefly about Middle East peace, they talked about a range of issues, and obviously just reaffirmed what a strong partner and important partner they are.

Jo.

QUESTION: Can I go to Sudan?

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s – is there any else – thing else on this?

QUESTION: I have one.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead, and then we’ll go to you. Oh, I promised you in the back on Egypt. Okay.

QUESTION: I have something on the cancellation of India trip by an under secretary, and why is it now? Is it effect of the arrest?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we place great emphasis, as you know, on the U.S.-India energy partnership. It was an issue when the Secretary was there, and he even gave a speech talking about these issues. It’s a key element of our strategic partnership. In view of these important matters and in order to find a time to allow both sides to deliver on the important issues that we need to from both sides, we’re looking for a mutually convenient time in the near future that will permit both sides to do that. So we remain committed to holding this dialogue, and we’ll look for a time to hold it.

QUESTION: So he’s not going this month, which was initially scheduled for?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I don’t have a prediction of when it will be, but we’ll look for a time in the near future to do it.

QUESTION: And do you have an update on the UN paperwork which you received on December 20th?

MS. PSAKI: I do not have an update on it.

QUESTION: Jen, despite your efforts to tamp this down, the Indians seem to be intent on ratcheting this up to the point of, I don’t know what – to a point that some people, including the Washington Post editorial board, think is just ridiculous, basically. I’m wondering if you share those thoughts that were expressed in their editorial that India is practicing vindictive diplomacy that is not worthy of a true democracy.

MS. PSAKI: I would certainly not validate those thoughts. Our focus, Matt, as you know, is on moving the relationship forward on all the important issues we’re focused on. As we have concerns, we’ll express those privately, and publicly we’ll continue to work with them on the important issues we have stakes in.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, apart from the important issues that you’re continuing to work with, including energy, which you don’t seem to be able to get a mutually convenient date, probably because the Indians are being resistant to it, I’m just wondering if you have any comment about the latest restrictions that the Indians have placed on your diplomats in Delhi and elsewhere.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. And one thing let me just note, and I think all – this would be of interest to you. Sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: That also we’re welcoming an Indian delegation to the State Department tomorrow as part of the first-ever International Space Exploration Forum we announced earlier today. So just important to note that we do have ongoing dialogues on a range of issues, and we will schedule the energy dialogue at the appropriate time.

On your question, Matt, we, of course, endeavor to always be in compliance with local laws and regulations. The Indian diplomatic notes, which I believe is what you’re referring to, raise highly technical and complicated issues. We’re continuing our conversations with the government in response to their diplomatic communication and asks with the importance of our broad relationship in mind.

We have provided interim responses where appropriate and we continue to review and discuss all requests for action. We’re working, of course, closely with the Government of India on that.

QUESTION: Indian officials suggest that what they’re doing is reciprocal, that there is a question of reciprocity here in terms of what they’re doing as related to what happened to their diplomat in New York. Under any sense of the – your understanding of diplomatic reciprocity, is what they’re doing reciprocal?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe this falls into the category, but obviously, we’re working through any requests they have and working closely with the government on it.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, if you don’t believe it’s reciprocal, at what point or what are you waiting for before you actually come out and speak out and say to India: Stop it, grow up, join the big boys club here, this isn’t some – a childish game?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think our view is that both sides want to move this relationship forward.

QUESTION: Is it? How can you say that when the Indians are doing this? I mean, why --

MS. PSAKI: Because we’ve had a range of private conversations with them, and that’s our belief as the United States Government. So --

QUESTION: So their public tantrums and their public imposition of restrictions that are petty at best and vindictive at worst, as The Washington Post believes, that doesn’t bother you at all?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, as we have concerns, we’ll express them privately.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: We continue to believe that we can maintain our strong historic relationship, and that’s what our focus is on.

QUESTION: Do you believe that not cancelling this space exploration meeting tomorrow is a sign of the United States taking the high road in this situation?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t qualify it that way as much as they’re an important partner on space exploration and --

QUESTION: They are?

MS. PSAKI: -- this is a meeting we’re going to have tomorrow, and we’ll schedule the energy dialogue soon.

QUESTION: Can you explain to me how India is an important partner in space exploration? Give me one example of how it is.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to get you a ten-page memo on that, Matt. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: A ten-page? I would be impressed if you could get me a one-paragraph.

MS. PSAKI: We work with India and a range of countries, as you know, on innovation, on a range of issues. They are invited to this, they are attending tomorrow, and we’re looking forward to it.

QUESTION: So it’s not just U.S.-India. It’s a whole group of --

MS. PSAKI: There are – I believe there are a range of countries. I think we’re putting out if we haven’t already put out a Media Note on it.

QUESTION: Are there other countries who are attending as noted in the field of space exploration as India is?

MS. PSAKI: All right, Matt. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, I mean, who else is coming? I mean, what – Mozambique?

MS. PSAKI: We have a Media Note on it, I believe. I’m not sure if it’s gone out yet. If it hasn’t --

QUESTION: Central African Republic?

MS. PSAKI: -- we’ll make sure it goes out.

QUESTION: Algeria?

QUESTION: Who’s leading the India delegation? Because there was a note that came out yesterday but it didn’t have very many details in it at all, which it did mention India. Do you know if there’s another one that’s coming today? But --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It says “ministers,” so if there’s ministers, which is the minister from India who’s attending?

MS. PSAKI: I will check. I’m not sure who the delegations are, so I’ll check with our team and see. And it may actually – I believe there is another Media Note coming that may have that level of detail in it.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. Go ahead. Oh, one more and then we’ll go to you, I promise. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Follow-up on Matt’s question. Do you think the steps that India has taken after the arrest of this diplomat – are you comfortable with those steps, especially like closing down the commercial activities in the embassy, saying that if you violate the traffic laws, normal routine process will be – will no longer will be waived off. Are you comfortable with those steps?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as – what I will say is that as we have concerns we will express those privately, which is often the case of diplomatic issues. But we have been addressing their diplomatic notes as they’ve come up. It’s important to note many of them are highly technical and complicated issues, and we’ll continue to work through that process with the Indian Government.

QUESTION: So the U.S. is concerned with those steps that India has taken?

MS. PSAKI: We’re addressing them as they come up.

QUESTION: But do you believe that in the course of normal practice of diplomacy that their measures should be taken privately and not announced with great fanfare?

MS. PSAKI: Well, oftentimes they’re done privately, and we’ll conduct our business as we think it’s the right way to conduct business from here.

QUESTION: Okay. So – but you don’t have – it doesn’t bother you in the least that the Indians are making a big spectacle out of this?

MS. PSAKI: As we have concerns, we’ll express them privately.

QUESTION: It doesn’t bother you that they’re not doing the same thing privately, that they’re doing it very publicly?

MS. PSAKI: As we have concerns, we will express them to the Indian Government privately.

QUESTION: On the actual particular case of the diplomat --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I believe she’s waived her right to be indicted within 30 days, which would have brought us up to January the 13th, next Monday, I think. So what is the State Department involvement now in the prosecution of this case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, on the judicial or that piece, it’s in the hands of the Southern District of New York. I believe they’ve made some comments about these specific reports, so I would point you to them on that.

QUESTION: But there’s no State Department involvement in sort of saying try and hold off; we’re trying to sort this out behind the scenes --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously --

QUESTION: -- we don’t want a diplomatic incident with India over this.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, the legal piece is being managed by the Southern District of New York. We’re of course in touch with the Indian Government, but I don’t have any other details beyond that.

QUESTION: But are you in touch with the Southern District of New York, I guess is the question.

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?

QUESTION: To ask them to try and stall the case until you get a diplomatic solution.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details. Obviously, different agencies coordinate, but in terms of these specifics, they’re running point on it. I will see if there’s more we can share.

QUESTION: And what’s the status on her application for G visa, which would give her the full diplomatic immunity?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve received the paperwork. It’s under review. I don’t have any other details on it or updates.

QUESTION: Has any progress been made? Is she being towards getting the G visa or she’s being --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other updates on it.

Go ahead in the back. India? Egypt? Sorry, Egypt.

QUESTION: Today was supposed to be a trial of ex-president or former president Morsy, and it was postponed. Do you have any update about how do you see this process itself? Because you talk about it two weeks ago, President Morsy and Brothers are on trial these days. Do you have anything to say about that? Any new --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new commentary. I --

QUESTION: So regarding next week it’s going to be the referendum on the constitution.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I assume that for the last few weeks you were discussing or assuming that this is one of the focus of Egyptian policymaking. Do you have anything to say about that?

MS. PSAKI: I do. I think one of the pieces I would point you to is the release made by the Carter Center on the referendum. We share their concerns about polarization in Egypt, and urge – and have continued to urge Egypt – the Government of Egypt to seriously consider the recommendations of the Center regarding the process of the referendum, which as you know, the process is a piece that we’ve been particularly vocal and engaged with. And the process in the campaign ahead of the referendum and the referendum itself are the first steps, as you know, in the roadmap. So we would point you to that. And of course, the quality of the campaign for the referendum we also feel will affect the credibility of the outcome, and there have been recent reports around that as well.

QUESTION: So you mainly share what Carter Center’s saying, is not that you have a different point of view or --

MS. PSAKI: On the specifics on the process, there are a number of steps that they’ve recommended that have been – we have said we’ve supported in the past, but I would point you to particularly to the process pieces in there.

QUESTION: So what about the --

MS. PSAKI: One moment. Go ahead.

QUESTION: What about – what are your focusing points in your discussion with the Egyptian officials these days? You mentioned that in the discussion about Indian officials, other officials. What are the main issues of concern, a focusing – focus points, that you are --

MS. PSAKI: In general, broadly speaking?

QUESTION: Yes, in general, broadly speaking, or specific in the last few weeks.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we of course remain committed to a longstanding relationship with Egypt and to seeing a democratic transition in Egypt succeed. Success remains, continues to be important not only for Egyptians but for the region and the United States. We remain deeply concerned about the current climate for freedom of assembly and expression in Egypt, including putting political pressure – putting pressure on some human rights organizations and the continuing arrests of citizens for violating the demonstrations law and expressing views about laws, and we have expressed that. We’ve expressed concerns about reports that individuals were detained allegedly for campaigning for a no-vote on the referendum.

As I mentioned, we have – the quality of the campaign for the referendum, in our view, will affect the credibility of the outcome. And we’ve emphasized both privately with the Government of Egypt and publicly that the government must permit an open campaign process to allow Egyptians to choose and advocate for a yes or no vote or to abstain from voting.

So we obviously have a range of issues we’re communicating on, and that’s just an overview.

QUESTION: Is this – are these part of these issues the designation of Muslim Brothers as a terrorist organization or something different?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve expressed our view on where we stand with the respect to the Muslim Brotherhood terrorist designation and demonstrations laws in the past. We’re concerned by both and the atmosphere that these actions have created within Egypt. We don’t feel these steps move Egypt’s transition forward, and we continue to urge the government to move towards and inclusive, stable, and peaceful path as they move towards a democratic transition.

QUESTION: So the – this just to conclude the point, I mean.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Last week, when you said the U.S. official point of view – let’s say the spokesperson official point of view – regarding the Muslim Brothers and terrorist organization, the spokesperson, your colleague in the Egyptian counterpart – I know I can’t say it – said it’s like it’s an interference in the local or internal issues. Do you consider it’s an interference or it’s a --

MS. PSAKI: I think I consider it as I just described it.

Egypt?

QUESTION: No. If anyone is --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Yeah, just one more, going back to the trial of Morsy --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is there concern in this building about whether the military is deliberately keeping him and his codefendants out of site? Is there concern about how they’re being treated, what this says about the military’s willingness to let the return to a civilian government to take place?

MS. PSAKI: I haven't talked to our team about this specifically in a little bit, so let me talk to them and see if there’s something new to report to you on our concerns, which have been pretty consistent.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Sudan? Staying in the region?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I saw yesterday that you’d told us that Secretary Kerry had spoken with South Sudan President Kiir and urged --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- urging him to release all the political detainees in Juba. Is that because the – you consider that their treatment is – they’re being poorly held, or is it more that you believe that these guys could actually have some kind of role in the negotiations that are being held?

MS. PSAKI: We believe that they need to be present at the IGAD talks for discussions on political issues in order for them to be productive. So we believe they should be released immediately.

QUESTION: Okay. On the ground, are you hearing any – whether there’s any easing of that? Whether they’re likely to be released in the upcoming future?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me give you a brief update that touches on this. Special Envoy Booth remains in Addis Ababa supporting the IGAD-led talks. Negotiating teams from both sides remain in Ethiopia. IGAD mediators were in Juba today to meet with President Kiir and visit political detainees. IGAD has presented the parties with a draft proposal on a cessation of hostilities and on the release on political detainees. The discussions have made progress on a proposed cessation of hostilities. Disagreements remain on the issue of the release of political detainees. Obviously, the discussions are continuing, but that’s where things stand at this moment.

QUESTION: So what is the main sticking point for the release of the political detainees? Are you able to tell us that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything beyond that in terms of what I can outline. I think it’s safe to say that some are supportive of releasing them and some are not, so obviously working through the challenges with that issue is what they’re focused on.

QUESTION: And is the cessation of hostilities dependent on the release of the political detainees? Could you -- can you have one without the other?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question. Obviously – as I understand it, the draft proposal addresses both, so I’d have to ask for some more clarification on whether they could be separated.

QUESTION: And what kind of progress has been made on the cessation – I can’t say that word – of hostilities?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a hard word. As I said, the progress has been working towards getting the sides to agree. Obviously, they’re still working through the proposed – the draft proposal, so – but there has been more progress made on that than the other issue.

QUESTION: Any suggestion of a timeframe?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of a timeframe at this point.

QUESTION: Yeah, just to circle back around on Middle East peace --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- because I missed the first few minutes. You and Marie have both said that an interim agreement is not what the Secretary seeks --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- nor will he tolerate. He’s looking for all final status issues to be addressed. Could you just describe the difference between a framework agreement and an interim agreement, other than the fact that a framework has no enforcement mechanism whatsoever?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are many assumptions about both of those terms, especially interim. Interim implies, in our view, that you are stopping there, that is a legally binding update and outline for the next couple of weeks or confidence building measures. That’s typically how interim has been understood and why it’s important and why we keep repeating that it is not an interim agreement.

A framework for negotiations is outlining the contours of the issues for moving forward. So it is a – it is laying out the difficult choices and the difficult outline of what will be agreed to at a final outcome. And it reiterates the fact that we’re all working towards a final status agreement, and we’re not working towards a temporary interim set of confidence building measures.

QUESTION: Right, but – I understand that. But at the beginning of the process, all parties agreed that the nine-month timeframe was not for a framework to agree upon tenets of a final status agreement; it was the final status agreement itself.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we weren’t talking about a framework at the beginning, and obviously --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- as you proceed through any negotiating process, you determine what the appropriate steps are that you need to take along the way. Clearly, moving from a framework agreement to a full-blown treaty would take some time. We’re not at that point yet, so we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But by that point, the parties will know, or would know, where they’re heading. They’ll have a clear idea of the core final status issues that need to be dealt with, and we’ll deal with that when we come to that point.

QUESTION: One more thing on this.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The argument that’s been made for private discussions and for folks not to speak to us and to other journalists and to outline all of these different details that have been brought up in the discussions, the justification has been that privacy is required because it’s so sensitive. Surely, the day after a framework is announced, that argument doesn’t apply, right? So that time between a framework where all of these policies are laid out for everyone to see, that will be dominated by debate over the tenets of the details --

MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with the point you’re making. We have provided updates throughout the course of these negotiations. The Secretary – the agreement was the Secretary will be the one providing substantive updates. He’s provided updates on the number of meetings they’ve had, he’s given a number of speeches at the UN and at the Saban Forum, on where things stand and what the status is. That hasn’t changed.

If – our view is that an agreement on a framework for final status negotiations would be a significant breakthrough. We can’t see a scenario where that wouldn’t be public. Obviously, we would discuss that with the parties. But that doesn’t change the fact that as you’re discussing tough issues, we feel it’s in the best interests of the final outcome not to lay out the day-to-day ups and downs. And so that’s – that, I believe, will remain the case even after.

QUESTION: The prime minister has said that a minimal requirement for peace is the recognition of Israel as a Jewish homeland by the Palestinians. The framework is supposed to address all final status issues, so it’s to be assumed, then, that that will be addressed by the Palestinian side.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it is – the framework will address the core issues, which is what is being discussed.

QUESTION: All core issues?

MS. PSAKI: That is the goal of the framework.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But I can’t tell you what the final outcome or the final language would be in a framework yet, as that’s still being discussed and negotiated.

QUESTION: Jen, one of your early answers to this line of questioning – you talked about the Secretary giving updates.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you trying to suggest that the Secretary has offered any bit of substance in these updates?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, when we began in August we didn’t have a discussion over a framework, we hadn’t had nearly two dozen runs of negotiations, both sides were not discussing the core issues. So while that may feel unsatisfying --

QUESTION: Well, I’m not saying it’s --

MS. PSAKI: -- that does represent making progress, in our view.

QUESTION: I’m just asking if you’re saying that the Secretary or others in their updates have been substantive.

MS. PSAKI: I believe they have been.

QUESTION: They have? Okay, okay. Then clearly we have a difference of opinion over what substantive means. Can I just ask --

MS. PSAKI: Agree to disagree.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Diplomacy in action.

QUESTION: Uh-huh. And then in another answer you said that at that point – the framework point --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that both parties will have a clear idea where they’re headed. Don’t they have a clear idea where they’re headed right now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that would be a significant step forward in laying out where we’re headed moving forward.

QUESTION: Really? Well --

MS. PSAKI: Of course, discussing the core issues, which we’re doing now, is progress from where we were a couple of months ago.

QUESTION: I don’t understand, because you say where they’re headed now, what they agreed to do, was to enter into negotiations that would result, eventually, in a two-state solution. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: That’s where they’re headed?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: You don’t think that they know where they’re headed?

MS. PSAKI: What I’m conveying is a more detailed explanation of the path forward, which is progress from where we were months ago and progress from even where we are now.

QUESTION: Right, but you have – you and others have repeatedly made the point that both sides pretty much know what the two-state solution --

MS. PSAKI: What the core issues are? Sure.

QUESTION: No, what the two-state solution is going to be. And so I don’t understand why you think that getting it on paper now, if that’s what this framework is supposed to be, is – actually amounts to anything other than just putting it down on a piece of paper.

MS. PSAKI: Well, our view, Matt, is it would give a clear outline for how we conclude the negotiations, and that is an important step, would be an important step.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t believe that there is a clear outline of how to conclude the negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s not – does not conflict with the fact that we know what the core issues are. That’s been the case for decades, right?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: But talking about laying out a detailed – the detailed contours of moving forward would be the breakthrough I’m talking about.

Okay. Last one in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. I’m Ani Sandu, U.S. correspondent for the Romanian Public Radio.

MS. PSAKI: Hello.

QUESTION: And my question is about the Assistant Secretary Victoria Nuland’s visit to Romania.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: First of all, will the Assistant Secretary also meet President Traian Basescu?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Second, does the visit come as a result of the recent amendments to the penal code adopted in the Chamber of Deputies in Romania? And third, could you comment on the relationship between the Department of State and the Romanian Government after the U.S. Embassy in Bucharest issued a statement regarding the amendment, saying that they represent a step away from transparency and rule of law, and the Romanian prime minister criticized that reaction?

MS. PSAKI: Well, what I’d like to do is connect you with somebody who has a little more in-depth specifics on the trip. I know that Assistant Secretary Nuland left yesterday and she’s visiting a range of countries and is looking forward to that, but why don’t we connect you with somebody from our European Bureau who can give you more details.

QUESTION: And the comment in general about the relationship between the Department of State and the Romanian Government?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, she’s visiting Romania to explore all the important issues we work together on, but I will connect you with someone from the bureau who can go more in-depth for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:18 p.m.)



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