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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 16, 2014


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • LEBANON
    • Condemnation of Bombing in Hermel
  • SYRIA
    • Secretary's Remarks on Geneva II
    • Participation in Geneva II / Opposition / Iran
    • SOC Representation at Conference
    • Purpose of Geneva II
  • TURKEY
    • Turkish Legal System
    • Ongoing Corruption Investigations
    • Turkish Domestic Politics
  • IRAN
    • Undersecretary Sherman Briefing on Capitol Hill Today
    • Joint Plan of Action / Documents Provided to Congress / Public Releases of Documents
    • Sanctions Legislation
  • SYRIA
    • Geneva II Plans, Objectives
    • Humanitarian Access
    • Cease-fire / Steps that would Encourage Better Climate on Ground
    • Goals of Russia and U.S. at Geneva II
    • Cease-fires
  • IRAN
    • Joint Plan of Action / Publication of Documents
  • KEYSTONE
    • Process / No Timeline
  • MISCELLANEOUS
    • Missing Journalist David Bird
  • JAPAN
    • Secretary Burns Meeting with Japanese Senior Parliamentary Vice Minister
    • Encourage Dialogue between Japan and China
  • NORTH KOREA
    • U.S. Policy Remains Unchanged / Continue to hold North Korea to its Commitments and International Obligations
  • INDIA
    • Upcoming Elections
    • American Embassy School
  • EGYPT
    • Constitutional Referendum
    • Concerns about Arrests
    • Next Leadership
    • Fostering Rights of Civil Society
    • U.S. Assistance to Egypt / Budget
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Budget / Assistance
    • BSA
    • NATO's Work to Fulfill Commitments in Afghanistan /Timelines
  • BENGHAZI
    • Response to Senate Intelligence Report
  • RWANDA
    • Murder of Patrick Karegeya in South Africa
    • Troubled by Murders of Prominent Rwandan Exiles
    • Sanctions / M23
  • JAPAN/CHINA
    • No change in U.S. Position on Competing Sovereignty Claims
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • U.S. Does not Recognize Legitimacy of Settlements
    • PM Netanyahu's Meetings in Jordan


TRANSCRIPT:

2:11 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I know some of your colleagues will soon be joining us. I know we’ve been making an effort, just so everybody knows, to be more on time with the briefing, but we all know that you wouldn’t mind hearing form the Secretary, so hence we were delayed today. So, hope you don’t mind.

I just have one item at the top. The United States condemns in the strongest terms today’s terrorist bombing in Hermel. We extend our condolences to the victims and their families. The Lebanese people deserve to live free from the violence that they have been subjected to in recent months. We urge all parties to exercise calm and restraint and refrain from retaliatory acts. We support the Government of Lebanon’s efforts to conduct a thorough investigation. The United States continues to support Lebanon’s national institutions, including the Lebanese armed forces and the internal security forces, as they work to ensure a stable and sovereign Lebanon.

Hello, Lesley.

QUESTION: Hello. Welcome back.

MS. PSAKI: Hello. Thank you. I hope you didn’t miss my topper about how we are making every effort to be more on time, but figured you all would not mind hearing from the Secretary.

QUESTION: Exactly. To kick it off, what was behind that statement? Is – the Secretary seemed to indicate that there’s a pushback on what the aim of this conference is about. Has it got anything to do with one of the opposition groups that today said they were not attending? So could this catalyst into something bigger?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we all know, there have been a range of comments over the course of the last several months about what the purpose of the conference is or isn’t, whether parties will or will not attend. The Secretary felt it was important that he convey and reiterate and restate what the purpose of the conference is, why we’re all looking ahead to that. He just has returned, as you all know, from several days of talking with his counterparts from around the world, and so he just wanted to take the opportunity as the opposition prepares to vote tomorrow, as there are a range of reports out there with statements – some accurate and some inaccurate – about what the purpose is, to make absolutely clear what it is.

QUESTION: Is there any indication that the opposition --

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, Deb. We started, but we’ll go to you next, yeah.

QUESTION: Is there any indication that the opposition is not going to vote in favor of attending?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, they’re going to vote tomorrow. We’ll let them have their vote and see their process through. As the Secretary has said several times, we feel that they will go, that this is the right opportunity, the best opportunity, the only opportunity to bring an end to the suffering of the Syrian people, and that is to create a process for putting in place a transitional government, and this is the best way to do that.

QUESTION: I mean, just one more question: Is there also any indication that – or change of heart on Iran attending?

MS. PSAKI: There has been no change on that. As we’ve stated a couple of times, and you all heard the Secretary say, our requirement there is for Iran to embrace the Geneva I communique. Nothing has changed. The ball is in their court to do that, but there’s no indication they have any desire to do that.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s go to Deb first, just because we missed her, and then we’ll go –

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: One moment. Well, let’s finish Syria, and then we’ll go to whatever topic next.

QUESTION: It seemed like the --

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: It seemed like he was pointing some of his remarks to the comments from Lavrov. Lavrov said that Iran inevitably will play a role in this. And he never mentioned that, but it sounded as if they were directed that way.

MS. PSAKI: That was not the purpose of his remarks. The purpose was to convey, on the eve of the opposition voting, on a day where there have been a range of comments from the regime and others, that this is the purpose of the conference, this is what we’re working towards, this is what we’ve been discussing, and that’s what we’re looking to do next week.

QUESTION: Okay. Perhaps she’s already asked this, but what did he mean by revisionist?

MS. PSAKI: In what way?

QUESTION: He said there’s been many revisionist accounts –

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- recent revisionism about Montreux.

MS. PSAKI: What he means is that there have been different statements about what the purpose of the conference was. He was not referring to the Russians. He has had a meeting – he referenced his conference – or his call, I should say – with Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday. He met with him earlier this week. They are in agreement about the purpose of the conference. So it was more a statement as we prepare for the next couple of days leading in about why we are gearing up for this.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Is it more accurate to suggest, given the tone of the Secretary’s comments, that this is in response to the Syrian Government’s official acceptance of its invitation to Geneva II, and indicating that in its view, the conference should be about fighting terrorism – its word, not mine – and that it would also be helpful if countries that have been supportive of the opposition would stop – and I’m paraphrasing here – interfering perhaps with their supplying of lethal assistance to the Syrian opposition?

MS. PSAKI: Well, when he referred to revisionist comments, I think that is perhaps a good example, but we’re also on the eve of the opposition voting on whether or not they are going to attend. So he addressed, really, both in his comments.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary happen to see Foreign Minister Muallim’s letter to the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon? And if so, what is his specific reaction to it? Or can we just infer it from his comments today?

MS. PSAKI: I think you can infer from his comments today what his reaction to that is. I did speak with him about this this morning as well – not about the specific text of the letter but the basic gist of it. And his view, as you heard him say, is that the only way to deal with terrorism is to have a stable and secure government. And obviously, the Assad regime and the brutality that they have inflicted on the Syrian people shows that they have no ability to do that.

You heard him also – more artfully, perhaps, than I will, but – talk about the role that the Assad regime has played and Assad himself has played in attracting terrorism, as that’s grown in Syria over the past couple of years. So I would safely take that as his view of those reports.

QUESTION: Given those caveats, how is it that the international community can believe that Syria will deal in good faith at Geneva II next week? Or is it you simply have to get into the room and see what happens?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the latter part of what you stated is a good representation of, I think, where we are, where many in the international community are. This is a difficult situation. It’s a situation, as we all know, where thousands – more than 100,000 Syrians have died. The best solution, which we agree with the Russians on, which we agree with many in the international community on, is to put in place a process for a transitional government, for a political solution. This is the best way to do that. It is not the United States, as you know, and you didn’t reference, alone who will determine whether this is a process that’s working. It is the international community. The UN is a part. The Russians are a part. As you know, there are 35 countries, I believe, that were invited to participate in this. So we will see how things go next week, and we’ll go from there.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary satisfied with the remarks by the Iranian foreign minister in Moscow today?

MS. PSAKI: I actually haven’t seen those statements.

QUESTION: Yeah. According to a BBC report that he indicated that he’s willing to encourage the Syrians in the process in the G-II to reach an agreement according the principles of the Geneva I conference.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me take a closer look at those comments. I am not sure if they meet the bar of endorsing the Geneva I communique and the purpose of the conference, but we’ll take a closer look at those and get something around to all of you.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary have any heads-up from the foreign minister, Mr. Lavrov, that he would be meeting with Foreign Minister Zarif today and that President Putin would be joining them at that televised meeting?

MS. PSAKI: I’m fairly certain they announced it in some capacity. So I don’t know about all the components of what he was aware of and the President Putin joining, but I’m fairly certain – let me double-check – that we were aware.

QUESTION: Because it could be read as a signal that perhaps the Russians are putting more pressure on Iran to meet some of the standards that have been outlined from this podium --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- about supporting the goals of Geneva I, about not having such an interfering role, if I can say that, in the Syrian conflict, in order to try to bring peace to the Syrian people.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to draw too many conclusions, and I certainly expect the Russians will speak to the purpose and what was accomplished by their meeting, so I would refer you to that. As you know, part of their meeting earlier this week was to ask the Russians to play a role as – in appropriate way they can to – use its influence with the Syrian regime to put in place some steps on the ground. But I would refer you to them on what they accomplished or what the purpose of their meeting was.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Change?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Let’s finish Syria, and then we can go.

QUESTION: The National Coordination Body said today – that’s this opposition group – that they are not attending the summit. Were they actually invited to attend the summit?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that is a very good question I’m glad you raised. Our focus continues to be working with the SOC and moving them toward Geneva with a fully representative delegation. We remain confident that they will do so, and obviously, they have their upcoming vote. We are aware, of course, of the NCC statement. But again, this is about the SOC, which is the umbrella body, putting together a representative delegation to represent the opposition at the conference.

QUESTION: Jen, with the divisions in the opposition --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I mean, it’s – I mean, even with the vote or not tomorrow, and if they decide to come, if they are not united in what they want to do, in their aims, can anything really be accomplished by the conference next week?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think everybody is coming to the conference with the knowledge in mind – and the Secretary stated this as well – that the purpose of this conference is to move toward a process of creating a transitional governing body. That is the expectation of all sides, including the representative delegation from the opposition.

QUESTION: And just one more question on Iran: Do you know whether for sure that the Russians are trying to convince Iran to accept Geneva I and then come to the table?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to outline for them what they’re trying to accomplish, to be honest. I would point you to them.

QUESTION: Would you still welcome Iran’s participation if it did accept the Geneva I?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s see if that happens. Let’s see if they take that step and then we’ll evaluate from there.

Any more on Syria? Okay.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I have a couple of questions on Turkey. One of that is the – it has been a month that this corruption case started. How do you assess the current situation in Turkey now, in general terms?

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?

QUESTION: Whether the country is stable.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, I think we’ve stated many times, but I am happy to reiterate it today, we continue to follow the ongoing corruption investigations in Turkey. In our conversations with all stakeholders in Turkey, we continue to make clear that the United States supports the desire of the people of Turkey for a legal system that meets the highest standards of fairness, timeliness, and transparency, where no one is above the law. We remain in close touch on the ground. Turkey is a valued ally, a valued NATO ally, a valued partner. We work closely with them on a range of issues, including Syria, including preparations for the Geneva conference. So beyond that, I don’t have any new analysis for you.

QUESTION: When you say you talk to all stakeholders, is the Gulen movement, which is the – accused by the prime minister and the administration as behind these investigations, do you talk to them as well?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen, of course, a lot of reporting about Turkish domestic politics in the wake of the corruption investigations, and we’re not going to comment on those.

QUESTION: Yesterday, again, the prime minister said that this coup attempt – not about corruption – actually, he said that this is package as corruption, but it’s actually coup. Do you agree with that? Have you been updated on these attempts?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those. I know we’re in close touch. Obviously, we’re not going to get engaged too closely in comments back and forth on the ground.

QUESTION: Do you think there is a coup attempt against your ally in Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything further for you on those comments, which I’m happy to take a closer look at.

QUESTION: Last couple days, Turkish security forces have been raiding some IHH offices, and today, just according to reports, there are about dozens or dozen al-Qaida operatives or suspects arrested. Have you been updated on these issues?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Government of Turkey. I can check and see if there’s anything I can read out for all of you about any updates we’ve received.

QUESTION: What’s your general understanding of the al-Qaida operatives or al-Qaida presence in Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any particular announcement or analysis on that for you from the podium.

Do we have any more on Turkey? I assume probably not? Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: I have one more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Today, it has been about – there have been about half a dozen warning came out of the European Union, and today, also Council of European Commissioner on Human Rights said that this new judicial bill at the parliament undermining the public’s confidence in the judiciary. Do you have any take on that?

MS. PSAKI: I think I would just point you to the comments I’ve made and the comments and the analysis that we put out every year when we put out our own reports and analysis on those issues.

QUESTION: This obviously new development just happened last couple days. So my question is that – do you think this bill being discussed at the parliament is a blow to separation of powers in Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any analysis on it for you, but I’m happy to check and see if we’d like to add anything.

Margaret.

QUESTION: Jen, on Iran, can you tell us anything about briefings on the Hill?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I believe there’s a closed-door one today?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, Under Secretary Sherman is up on the Hill today. I can also confirm for you that today we provided Congress with a document containing the technical understandings related to the implementation of the Joint Plan of Action. So that is also something that was provided this morning.

QUESTION: And is that – just to clarify, that technical understanding, is that the copy of the actual EU document, or is it a digested version?

MS. PSAKI: It is. It is. That was provided to Congress this morning. These type of documents, as I know my colleague has been discussing in here for the last couple days, are not always made public. In this instance, as it is the preference of the IAEA that certain technical aspects of the technical understandings remain confidential, so we are abiding by that. But obviously, working with our congressional colleagues is an important part of what we all do here. In fulfillment of our commitment to release as much information of the – as much of the information in the text as possible to the public, we’ll also release a detailed summary of the text later today.

QUESTION: And does Secretary Kerry plan in any way to talk to his Iranian counterpart in the next few days as the countdown clock begins Monday?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check with him on any scheduled calls we have, and I’m happy to provide an update for all of you after the briefing.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I want to then come back to Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Because it’s just – because it is --

QUESTION: I have one on Iran.

MS. PSAKI: On --

QUESTION: They are a murky water – do you want to go first?

MS. PSAKI: Oh.

QUESTION: Oh.

QUESTION: Can we do Iran?

MS. PSAKI: How graceful. Go ahead. Iran.

QUESTION: Okay. Is there anything that --

QUESTION: Almost connected to that.

QUESTION: Okay. On the nuclear – okay?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there anything that is being discussed on the Hill in terms of these new sanctions that they want to impose that would jeopardize the six-month interim period that would impact Iran during this six months? Or is it only that it would impact them later if a final deal is made?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are different pieces of legislation that do different things. But our view remains that it is not the right time and it is not useful and it could be very destructive to the process to put legislation in place, and that’s one of the arguments that we’ve been making, regardless of when it would be implemented.

QUESTION: But is there anything that says that – that punishes Iran during this six-month period? That’s what I’m asking. Do you know?

MS. PSAKI: Again, there’s a range of pieces of legislation. Obviously, some have more supporters than others. So I would point you to --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- the Hill on that particular piece.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I ask about the – go ahead.

QUESTION: Are there any plans for the Secretary to meet anyone from Iran in Switzerland next week?

MS. PSAKI: There are – obviously, the schedule is still coming together because it’s a week away and that’s how we roll here, but I know that there are a number of Iranian officials who will be there at the same time as he is. There’s nothing currently scheduled at this point.

QUESTION: And then just coming back to the whole Syria thing, because it really is --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- a bunch of muddy waters, as the Secretary said. One of the issues here is: What is the Secretary hoping or what is the U.S. hoping to come out of this conference? Surely you’re not looking for – are you looking for a settlement or a declaration of some sort at the start of the transition? Is that the base outcome? What is the worth – I mean, what does starting the process mean?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a good question, and one we’ll continue to discuss in the days ahead. Obviously, there are a lot of preparatory discussions. That happened this week with some of the Secretary’s counterparts from around the world. That will be ongoing with other officials, whether it’s Ambassador Ford on the ground – Under Secretary Sherman is clearly going to play an important role here.

What does it mean for the launch of a process? It means that we’re beginning the effort to put in place a transitional governing body. How far will we come? I don’t want to make a prediction of that. The UN has read out a little bit of what the plans are for the conference and the role that the foreign ministers will play. Obviously, there will be an ongoing role past that, and so we’ll take it day by day and see how far we come.

QUESTION: Would you seek a cease-fire first as these talks go on? What – there was a discussion over the last week in the Secretary’s travels of truces to open up humanitarian corridors.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Those corridors are being discussed, and – since, I think, UNGA. But nothing has really come from that. How does he envision that – those talks proceeding as the war continues, or how does --

MS. PSAKI: Well, in terms of a cease-fire, obviously, we’re talking about local cease-fire. That’s what we were – local cease-fires. That’s what we were talking about earlier this week. We asked – the Secretary asked the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and the Russians to use their influence.

You’re right. There has been a long discussion about this, a long discussion about the need to improve humanitarian access. We feel we are closer to moving those efforts forward than we have been, so that is positive. But obviously, the proof is in the pudding, as the Secretary has said, and we will see what actions are taken on the ground.

QUESTION: Would the U.S. ask for a cease-fire, a broader cease-fire at the conference so that you can talk under a more open environment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it requires many parties to agree to that. I don’t want to get ahead of where we are in terms of what we may or may not ask for. Where we are at this point is where the Secretary was just a couple of days ago, and the Russians are continuing to meet with many of their counterparts, and we continue to press on that as well.

QUESTION: Jen, I’d asked this earlier in the week of Marie: Do you know yet who’s going to lead the Syrian regime delegation?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on that for you. I would assume that they will make that announcement, or the UN would make that announcement.

QUESTION: And I know you were asked about it at the top of the briefing, but how concerned are you by the talks that have been going on in Russia today between the Russian, Syrian, and Iranian foreign ministers, and this idea that there’s some kind of secret agenda that they might be trying to draw up ahead of the conference next week?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, to be clear, we are on the same page with the Russians about the purpose of the conference, about the role that we will both play, about the need to bring both parties to the table, about the importance of putting together a – putting a process in place of creating a transitional governing body through mutual consent. Obviously, the Russians have a special relationship with the Iranians and the Syrian regime that we do not have.

So we’ve met with them, the Secretary has been – I should – the Russians, of course – the Secretary has been in close contact with Foreign Minister Lavrov, but we are all working towards the same goal here. So beyond that, I would point you to them on what they come out of the meetings with and the purpose, but we feel we are on the same page with the Russians about the purpose of the conference and what we’re trying to accomplish.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, can you just clarify what you just said to Lesley? Is a broad ceasefire the first practical goal or target for Geneva II?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to get ahead of what may or may not be called for. And obviously, those are determinations that are still being made. Where we are is we obviously called for some steps that would encourage the climate on the ground. Those include increased humanitarian access, include local cease-fires. I have nothing further to announce or predict for you beyond that.

QUESTION: But would there be some list of items that everyone who was going into Geneva II is hoping that they can walk out of, or is this just going to be a meeting for the sake of having a meeting?

MS. PSAKI: It certainly is not a meeting for the sake of having a meeting. As you heard the Secretary say, the purpose is to create a process of creating a transitional governing body. That process will take some time. We have every expectation of that. That is typically the case whenever you’re trying to end a conflict as significant as this one. But otherwise, I’m not going to get ahead of where we are going into the conference, which is still several days away, and there are still many days where there’ll be a range of conversations about what we hope to accomplish.

QUESTION: But with respect, Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- this Geneva I was drawn up and agreed on the 30th of June 2012. Six principles, including a cease-fire, was one of them --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the transitional government. We’re now in January 2014, and although that’s obviously forming the basis of this conference, why do you believe that you will be able to move beyond what was agreed in June 2012 and never implemented?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, we have – the significance here is we have both the regime and the opposition. The opposition has taken a number of steps in terms of expanding their membership, electing leadership since that time. Obviously, the situation has only gotten worse on the ground in terms of the number of people who have lost their lives and the devastation that has happened across Syria. You have 35 countries invited who have a significant stake in seeing this process move forward.

So this is a challenging situation; there’s no question about that. But it is significant because we would have both sides at the table and a great number of stakeholders there to – who have an – who would like to see this process move forward.

QUESTION: North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Syria?

QUESTION: Back to Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Or Iran? Okay.

QUESTION: Just to reiterate, did you say that technical document that’s on Capitol Hill, that will be made public in its entirety today?

MS. PSAKI: No. What I said was that that document has been – containing the technical understandings related to the implementation has been provided to Congress, that these types of documents are not always made public – often they’re not. And in this instance, it’s the preference of the IAEA, who of course will be monitoring and verifying this, that certain technical aspects remain confidential. So it’s abiding by that. But to deliver on our promise to make as much public as possible, we’re going to release a detailed summary of the text later today.

QUESTION: Why not release the document to the public?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just outlined why, Lucas. The IA – we’re abiding by the IAEA’s requests, and this is a decision that all parties have agreed to.

QUESTION: But there’s some critics on Capitol Hill, including Senator Mark Kirk, who just made a statement asking for this document to be made public to – in keeping with the most transparent administration.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s being provided to Congress, and hopefully they’ll be pleased by that step. And what’s important here is also working with the IAEA and the important role they play. This is their preference, so that’s what we’re abiding by.

QUESTION: Do you run the risk, though, that – the notion is that you have a secret agreement in place – that by not revealing all the substance of this document that that rumor persists?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, I encourage you to take a look at the detailed summary of the text when that is released. And of course, there will be many members of Congress who have access to the full document, and working with them and ensuring that they understand these implementation pieces is clearly a priority for us.

QUESTION: Can I ask on London on the 20th when this interim agreement is supposed to come into effect, how will we know? By what mechanism will it go into effect?

MS. PSAKI: In what – I’m just trying to understand your question.

QUESTION: Well, in – how – I mean, January the 20th, but is there something – an act on the part of the Iranians that they have to do on January the 20th to start or to launch the process?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the EU has not yet acted formally, of course. The appropriate date for that is January 20th. In terms of how you will know, that’s a good question. I’m not sure if there will be a physical announcement. We can check if there’s any other guidance we can provide to all of you.

QUESTION: Is the IAEA going to be onsite in Iran and what – should they --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know the IAEA --

QUESTION: -- do something with the --

MS. PSAKI: -- they have scheduled their talks. I would have to check on that and see what their specific plans are. I’m not sure what they’ve announced.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Any more on Iran? No? Okay.

QUESTION: On Keystone, the Canadian foreign minister, speaking in Washington today, said that the decision on the Keystone pipeline should be made now, even if it’s not the right one. He said, “We can’t continue in the state of limbo,” which means it looks like the Canadians are losing patience. Any reaction to those comments? I mean, is this going to be discussed and cleared up with the Secretary tomorrow?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, this is not a political decision. This is a decision that has a legal and a policy process with many components. The stage we’re at now, obviously we’re waiting to release the Final SEIS review. When that’s released, obviously there’ll be a time period before a decision is made. But this is not a backroom decision made between the United States and the Canadians. There’s a process that’s in place that takes into account many different factors, and we’ll let that process see itself through.

QUESTION: Any idea when that review is going to be done?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of that for all of you today.

QUESTION: But hasn’t it been almost a year now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we also received more than a million public comments. So there are a number of factors, and we’re going to see the process work its – all the way through.

QUESTION: Is it going to be discussed tomorrow?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t predict what all sides will bring up. But certainly, given their public comments, I wouldn’t be surprised if they raised this issue.

QUESTION: Another change of subject?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead. Sorry. Go ahead, Lesley.

QUESTION: Another change of subject is the one on the missing Wall Street Journal reporter David Bird, who went missing on Saturday when he went for a walk around his home in New Jersey, and now his credit card has been used in Mexico. Does the State Department have any information on his whereabouts, and has this been raised with the Mexicans?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on that. Let me follow up with our Consular Affairs team and see if there’s anything we can provide to all of you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I have a quick question about comfort women issue, because as we know, the U.S. House of Representative passed the Fiscal Year 2014 budget bill on Wednesday, and this bill requires the Secretary of State urge the Japanese Government to comply with the comfort women resolution. How does the U.S. --

MS. PSAKI: This is a bill in Japan?

QUESTION: No. This is just a bill including some – the – I mean, comfort women resolution.

MS. PSAKI: But is it a bill in the United States or it’s a bill in Japan?

QUESTION: In United States.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not familiar with the specifics of the bill. Obviously, our position --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- hasn’t changed on this. If it’s an ongoing piece of legislation, it’s unlikely we’d have any further comment on it, but I’m happy to check with our team on it.

QUESTION: How about – because the South Korea official says they plan to partner with other countries to – seeking to obtain United Nations world documentary heritage status for comfort women. And as we know that there is a comfort women statute in southern California, which lots of Japanese politicians ask for removal of it. How does the State Department react to this?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look closer – more closely into whether we have a view on that particular piece of legislation. It’s unlikely given it sounds like it’s happening in a state.

Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: On Japan and North Korea. First on Japan. So do you have any readout of yesterday’s meeting between Deputy Secretary Burns and the Japanese parliamentary senior vice minister for foreign affairs?

MS. PSAKI: I do. Deputy Secretary Burns met yesterday, as you mentioned, with the Japanese senior parliamentary vice minister. They discussed the full range of bilateral and regional issues, as well as cooperation that reflects the global nature of our partnership, demonstrating the strength and breadth of our alliance with Japan.

QUESTION: So did they mention Japanese Prime Minister Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine in their meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the meeting was an opportunity to discuss a full range of issues, including the steps we are taking to strengthen our alliance and the global nature of our partnership. Our position on that issue has been clear and hasn’t changed. I’d have to check and see if there’s more to read out for all of you on that meeting.

QUESTION: So Japanese parliamentary senior vice minister said yesterday in Washington that Japan has already discussed Abe’s visit to the Yasukuni Shrine with the U.S. Government at every level. So can you confirm this?

MS. PSAKI: I have nothing to refute that. Obviously, we’ve made our position clear publicly, which we’ve stated privately as well. So I don’t have any further details on every level of conversation but we’ve made no secret of our views.

QUESTION: Abe said in a TV program several days ago that even though his visit to the Yasukuni Shrine would spark criticism, but he would continue to do what he should do as a prime minister. So it seems that he will not drop the idea of visiting the Yasukuni Shrine. So do you have any comment?

MS. PSAKI: Just that our position hasn’t changed. As you’ve mentioned, we’ve raised it publicly, we’ve raised it privately. Our relationship with Japan is expansive and covers a range of regional and bilateral issues. That’s been the focus of the meetings that Deputy Secretary Burns has had, Secretary Kerry has had, over the course of the last few weeks.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: A follow-up on that.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Well, first, can you confirm if Secretary Burns is going to Asia?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any announcement on travel at this point.

QUESTION: And after he has talking to the Chinese ambassador and then with the Japanese vice foreign minister, and a week ago, I think, the South Korean foreign minister was here – after all the talks, what measures is United States going to take to help Japan to build better relation with their neighbors?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that obviously remains an important priority and something that we have been – publicly spoken about on countless occasions. Deputy Secretary Burns has, Secretary Kerry has. It’s something we continue to work with all sides on. Obviously, our relationships with these countries have a range of issues we work together on, and so the meetings typically cover many topics beyond just their bilateral relationship.

QUESTION: But just to follow up --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know that you continue to encourage dialogue between China and Japan to resolve the concerns over history, but right now the tension between China and Japan is frozen to a kind of iceberg. So do you have any specifics suggestions for the two countries to resolve the concerns?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to encourage dialogue. We continue to encourage all sides to refrain from taking actions that would be provocative. And so that’s a message we have with – we convey with both countries, and – but we continue to work with them on a range of issues.

QUESTION: On North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have you seen the new proposal by North Korea to stop the hostile action between North and the South?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen the reports of that. Our core policy on North Korea remains unchanged. As you know, and we’ve talked about many times in here, North Korea committed on numerous occasions, including in September 2005, to abide by a Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs. We’ll continue to hold North Korea to these commitments and its international obligations, and of course, as you know, we won’t accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state, but the ball remains in their court, and they haven’t taken any steps to change the views of the international community on this issue.

QUESTION: Is there anything North Korea can do that will make you be willing to cancel the military exercise with South Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to predict that, but a first step North Korea can take is to abide by their international obligations, which I just mentioned, including the 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) So the president and CEO of Asia Society is leading the delegation in North Korea. Do you have more information about that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details of that. I would point you to them on any specifics of their plans or meetings.

Do a new topic?

QUESTION: India.

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: India.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. India.

QUESTION: The – two questions. First one: The Indian elections are coming up in 100 days approximately. So is the U.S. planning to send in – send election observer team?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we – obviously, we wouldn’t get engaged in domestic politics or domestic elections in that capacity. I can check with our team and see if there’s any specifics.

QUESTION: Yeah, but the U.S. usually sends election observers to many --

MS. PSAKI: We often do. That’s true. I don’t have anything specific on that, so let me check on that.

QUESTION: Okay. And on this New York Times article about the American Embassy school, and the Indian ministry of external affairs is already calling it clearly a violation of the tax law. There’s a handout from the school which says to a couple who is coming to teach that male spouse apply for the employment visa, and the female spouse be noted as housewife on the visa application. What is your reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly seen those reports. Let me give you all a little more history here. Since 1952, when the Embassy exchanged diplomatic notes with the Government of India to establish the American Embassy school, the school has succeeded in providing an international education in New Delhi for the children of diplomatic and ex-pat business communities. It is not run by the Embassy. Only about a third of the students there are American. We are in discussion with the Government of India regarding issues they have raised concerning the school. Deputy Secretary Burns discussed these very issues with the Ambassador earlier this week, and we are committed to resolving them through diplomatic channels and to addressing the concerns that have been raised.

QUESTION: But this school is right next to the Embassy – it’s on the land which is owned by the U.S. – and there is nothing that you take responsibility for?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just said we’ve – we’re committed to addressing these concerns that have been raised. We’ll work those through diplomatic channels, and we’ve already had conversations at a very high level about them.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, any comment from the State Department on the Egyptian constitution, the referendum that overwhelmingly approved it, which was expected? But any comment on how that went and how it actually opens the door now to General Sisi to try and bid for presidency?

MS. PSAKI: Well, even though there have been a range of reports – which we’ve, of course, seen – the government has not actually provided an – the official results at this time. So we’re obviously watching those closely as the compilation of results is ongoing, and we look forward to hearing from Egyptian and international independent observers on the technical and procedural issues associated with the referendum.

All that being said, we remain deeply concerned by reports of politically-motivated arrests and detentions of political activists, peaceful demonstrators, and journalists in Egypt. We continue to call on the government to ensure respect for human rights and to permit an atmosphere for all Egyptians to demonstrate their universal rights and freedom. The Egyptian Government has an opportunity – important opportunity to make the most of this political transition, and we urge them to take advantage of it for the benefit of all. So we will see this process through, or watch the process through, as the government makes any official announcement.

Our position on – there hasn’t been an announcement of who will run. Our position has not changed on the issue. It’s up to the Egyptian people to be the ones who decide who leads the country next. And so our focus remains on pressing the Egyptians to provide an opportunity to people – for people to express their views and cast their votes peacefully and without fear of intimidation or harassment.

QUESTION: Does the – the constitution, the success – well, I mean, if – once they announce it – the fact that it went – that it was so overwhelmingly approved – does that in any way move more towards what – that the U.S. could look more favorably at unleashing some of the aid, or is it a step in that direction?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, there are a range of factors we look to. And I know this question was asked, so I can talk a little bit about the aid, which I think was asked yesterday. But moving forward, it’s also important for the interim government to foster a positive environment for civil society, to protect the rights of political activists in groups, to peacefully respect their views on the country’s future. So there are a range of steps that we’re looking at.

Let me just outline for you a little more specifically the aid, because I know there were some questions about this – or I should say the omnibus, where some of the aid is in and some of you, I know, had questions.

So the FY 2014 draft omnibus bill provides the Administration with some additional flexibilities, as you all know, and conditions as it relates to providing assistance to the Government of Egypt. It does not indicate a decision has been made. I think you all know that. But the bill includes two democracy-related conditions that are associated with two tranches of funding, one of up to $975 million, and a second allowing up to $576.8 million of requested FY 2014 resources.

So how does that break down, I think, was a question. Up to $975 million may be made available if the Secretary of State certifies that Egypt has held a constitutional referendum and is taking steps to support a democratic transition in Egypt. Obviously, that’s something that will continue to be evaluated. And up to $576.8 million is made available if the Secretary certifies that Egypt has held parliamentary and presidential elections and that a newly elected government is taking steps to govern democratically.

So obviously, there are a range of pieces that will be taken into the analysis, but that’s how the funding is broken down in the omnibus.

QUESTION: So – and the constitution is one of those?

MS. PSAKI: Right.

QUESTION: So what, we’ve got to wait for the Secretary to say, “Good job”?

MS. PSAKI: As is taking a step to – steps to support a democratic transition in Egypt, and there are a range of steps that are necessary for that.

QUESTION: Such as?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I just outlined acceptance of civil society, people to vote, express their views. There are a range of pieces we’re, of course, looking closely at.

QUESTION: Do you know what the 975 is for and what the 576 is for?

MS. PSAKI: Is for?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I think in terms of how it would be allocated on the ground, that’s a good question. I’ll have to check with our budget experts, budget gurus, nerds, on that specific piece.

QUESTION: Okay. On the spending bill, do you have any numbers or any more information on the Afghan section?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me see what I have here. Let’s see. I don’t have any specific numbers because while overall levels for the major civilian assistance accounts have been reduced, the bill itself does not include any specific cap for Afghanistan, and using – over the next few months, the Department will finalize bilateral assistance totals for the fiscal year. So there isn’t a specific number that we’re going to get into, but there’s no cap either.

QUESTION: Okay. I’ll get back with you on that.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And – but also, part of that is about – that some of it’s tied to the Government of Afghanistan signing the BSA. Does that concern you? Because obviously, if there’s a drawdown of troops, then there’s going to be a need presumably for a corresponding amount of foreign assistance to go into the country. If you’ve got – if they haven’t signed the BSA, then under this bill, if it stays as it is, you won’t be able to provide them with that assistance.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure and I’d have to double-check if something is actually specifically tied to that particular piece. I mean, obviously, we recognize that civilian needs in Afghanistan will not end with the end of the combat mission this year, and we continue to believe that sustained and significant support for Afghanistan’s government and its people are critical to maintaining the gains of the past decade. Obviously, there are a range of different processes that are happening at one time, and as I mentioned, we’ll finalize the bilateral assistance totals as the fiscal year proceeds.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Staying on Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: If, as you said, that the civil needs will – the civilians’ needs will be looked at, and is there anything in the making to get a kind of a proxy presence, like a UN force or any other countries if the U.S. has to leave, because – if there’s no agreement signature going on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, our focus remains on pressing the government to sign the BSA. That’s something not just the United States, but our NATO allies are pressing on. Obviously, there are always contingency plans, but I’m not going to get into those. And we remain focused on encouraging them to sign the BSA.

QUESTION: Is there any deadline near your – because the NATO people are meeting in Brussels – and is there any deadline you have put to that BSA if it is not signed? Because we cannot go on indefinitely.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it was certainly our preference to complete the agreement in 2013, as we expressed, consistent with the goals set out at the beginning of the process. Our position continues to be that if we cannot conclude a BSA promptly, we will initiate planning for a post-2014 future. As I mentioned and you referenced, it’s not just about the United States. It’s also about our NATO allies. And NATO, like the United States, is working with the Afghan Government to fulfill the commitment made at the 2012 Chicago NATO summit.

It’s important to note that this includes 37 – in addition to the United States, 37 other NATO allies and partners who have pledged their participation in a post-2014 support mission. This will be – which will also be impacted if the signing of the BSA continues to slip. So like the United States, these other nations each have timelines to meet with regard to their political, military, and budget planning process, and that’s why not just the United States, but many of our NATO allies are pressing for this to be concluded.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to go back to Benghazi as well.

MS. PSAKI: No way. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yeah. It was front-page news today. I wanted to go back to Senator Feinstein’s statement that she made earlier today where she said that the Senate Intel Committee’s report says that the Benghazi attack was preventable. Do you have a comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen that. While you gave me the opportunity, I did want to say that she did make a statement or there was a statement from her office yesterday that indicated that AQ involve – al-Qaida involvement was limited to those elements loosely affiliated, referring to “groups not directly connected to or taking orders from core al-Qaida in Pakistan.” I’m only referencing that because I know that was a source of confusion for some.

Obviously, there was a report that was issued. The report reconfirmed that there was never a specific warning that the attack was coming, only a general understanding that the security situation was difficult. The report is also consistent with the ARB findings that were from over a year ago. Of the 12 unclassified recommendations directed to State in that report, 10 were previously issued by either the Benghazi ARB or the Best Practices Panel.

So we’re already moving things forward in a report that is a year after the initial report that we’re already implementing.

QUESTION: Senator Feinstein earlier today reiterated in her statement coming from the Senate Intel report that the attack was preventable. Do you agree with that assessment?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve had countless assessments of what could have been done. As we’ve said and as our ARB said, we need to do better. We’ve put in place steps to do better, including, as I mentioned, 10 of the 12 recommendations that are referenced in the report. So we’ve been under that process for quite some time, long before this Senate report, and we’ll continue to implement those pieces.

QUESTION: But Jen, it’s just a simple yes-or-no question: Do you think the attack was preventable?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Lucas, what I’m referring to is the fact that the points that were made in the Senate report are very consistent with the report that was done over a year ago. So we’ve already put in place steps to do better, and that’s what we should all be focused on.

QUESTION: And yesterday, Marie said I was generalizing when I said that there were some previous attacks and warnings that an attack, while perhaps not pending, was, I think, pretty self-evident now, that conditions were deteriorating. The report made note of that.

Specifically, there were 12 instances – I don’t think I’m generalizing here, I’m quoting from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report – there were 12 instances of attacks on either the U.S., the mission, or from our allies. Two specifically – a small IED was thrown – I’m quoting here from the report – was thrown over the wall of the temporary mission. On June 6, 2012 – this was three months before the September 11th attack – a 9 by 12-foot hole was blown into the side of the mission compound. So I’m asking – I don’t think you need to be a crack CIA analyst to figure out that the warning signs were there, and I don’t think I’m generalizing.

MS. PSAKI: Well, don’t take this in any bad way, but the fact that the intelligence community’s own review, the independent ARB, and the House Intel Committee all concluded that there was no specific threat indicating an attack was coming should tell you what you need to know.

QUESTION: But what do you need – what is a specific threat? Is it an email? Is it finding a note? Is it overhearing a conversation?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, those are details that our experts and professionals in the Administration analyze closely and look at closely as they watch threats around the world, but I would point you to the fact that all of their findings were consistent on that piece.

QUESTION: And back to Senator Feinstein’s statements. You said she rolled back her statement about loose affiliates involved in al-Qaida. What difference does it make, whether it’s core al-Qaida or an affiliate of al-Qaida?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it makes a big difference because you’re talking about where the funding comes from, you’re talking about who directed the attacks. There’s no indication that core al-Qaida directed the attack, so these are important pieces, and --

QUESTION: Even though one of the gentlemen that you placed on your specific terrorist list does have ties to al-Qaida?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we’ve talked about this, I think, as many times as I am old – as I am old, so a lot. And the fact is that there is not – a loose affiliation is different from official affiliation, is different from core al-Qaida directing an attack. The differences are important, and that’s why we make them clear publicly.

QUESTION: Well, it seems like you’re defending al-Qaida right now, that you’re saying, well, this wasn’t core, this is loose affiliation. Why going – why do you go so far out of your way to make the difference?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, these are important differences – important differences that the Administration, the intel community, Congress, intel analysts all look to, and it’s important that we make those distinctions as we’re all looking at the events and what happened here.

QUESTION: Does Secretary Kerry plan on holding anyone accountable? Specifically, does he have the full faith and confidence of Under Secretary Kennedy?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s simply a myth that there’s been no accountability, as we’ve talked about in here several times. Last year, the State Department reaffirmed the findings of the independent ARB and determined that the four officials who were placed on administrative leave following the ARB’s report should be held accountable for their performance by permanently relieving them of their positions and duties that gave rise to the ARB’s findings. They were all given positions of lesser responsibility.

After a thorough investigation, interviewing more than 100 people, reviewing thousands of documents and watching hours of videos, the ARB found there was no credible evidence that relevant decisions on security in Benghazi rose above the assistant secretary level. And that is my reference to your question about Under Secretary Kennedy. And Ambassador Pickering, who, of course, was an independent driver of the ARB process, stated just last December, “We fixed it at the assistant secretary level, which is, in our view, the appropriate place to look where the decision-making, in fact, takes place, where, if you like, the rubber hits the road.”

QUESTION: Now, earlier today on the Senate floor, Senator Graham said that no one was being held accountable and he even referenced another politician from the state of New Jersey firing someone over, I think we could agree, a much less or severe incident. What does it say to the American people and to the world that when you talk about accountability, no one, in fact, has been fired? You say they’ve been reassigned, but no one specifically has been fired.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the ARB, an independent review of these events that had some things that were not as kind to say about steps we needed to take and steps that we’re now implementing, did not recommend disciplinarian action. It – the ARB found that no one engaged in misconduct or willfully ignored his or her responsibilities. So I would point you to that.

QUESTION: Nobody ignored his or her responsibilities?

MS. PSAKI: That was what the ARB recommended. That was an independent analysis, Lucas. I think we’re almost ready to move on to a new topic here.

QUESTION: Right. But someone in charge of security, I mean, clearly did not do his or her job.

MS. PSAKI: Do you have a question?

QUESTION: My question is: If you’re in charge of security and the special mission was blown up, our ambassador was killed, and three other brave Americans, certainly many would question why there was no more harsh accountability taken.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, let me must go through a couple of the pieces that we have put in place, which you may or may or may not be familiar with. We have hired more security personnel and enhanced their training. With congressional support, the Department created 151 new diplomatic security positions; 113 were hired in FY2013. Of those, 75 are DS agents. The remaining 38 will be hired in FY2014. Since the attacks last year, we’ve been working with the Department of Defense to establish 35 additional Marine security detachments, to increase the size of a number of existing detachments, and to establish a rapid augmentation force in Quantico to add additional Marines to post as the situation warrants. We’ve also procured new personal protective and breathing equipment, which is being produced and shipped. We’ve long had a process in place to draw down or evacuate all of our posts for terror threats and other conditions. We’ve implemented a new tripwire process to evaluate that. The Department has also purchased and shipped better camera-related equipment to all high-threat posts, and 90 percent of it is installed and functioning.

So there’s no question here, Lucas, that lessons have been learned. No one feels this more than people in this Department. And these recommendations have – we’ve been working to put them in pace for some time.

QUESTION: One last question: Other critics have said that the State Department has blocked access to key witnesses and to documents and testimony. I know you have a long list of testimony, hearings --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- to read out. I’m just – this is coming from Capitol Hill yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the facts simply refute that notion, given that we have provided tens of thousands of documents, participated in dozens of interviews, made dozens of officials available, and have committed to cooperate with Congress, and we’ve done just that. But that doesn’t change the fact that we feel everybody’s focus should be on implementing the recommendations, keeping the men and women who serve safe overseas, and that’s what the Secretary’s focus will be moving forward.

QUESTION: Jen, can I move to Rwanda, please?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask about the murder of the Rwandan former spy chief. His name is Patrick Karegeya. I’m not exactly sure how you pronounce his name.

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s right.

QUESTION: He was found dead in his hotel room in Johannesburg on New Year’s Day. Are you aware of the case?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any more information? And what is the U.S. comment on it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we condemn – we are aware of the case. We condemn the murder of former Rwandan Government official Colonel Patrick Karegeya in South Africa, where he lived in exile. We welcome the South African Government’s prompt and thorough investigation into his death and await the outcome of that investigation. We also welcome their statement pledging – from January 9th, so just last week – to leave no stone unturned in bringing to justice those involved in this criminal act.

And let me also say we are troubled by the succession of what appear to be politically motivated murders of prominent Rwandan exiles. President Kagame’s recent statements about “consequences” for those who betray Rwanda are of deep concern to us.

QUESTION: Are you in touch with the Rwandan authorities about this? Have you spoken to them directly about your concerns?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check on that. I know, obviously, we regularly voice our concerns, but let me see if there is anything specific on how we’ve done that.

QUESTION: And where are you with the sanctions that were put in place over the M23 children soldier recruits issue?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to report to you on any changes to that.

QUESTION: They’re still – they remain in place, do they?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. But I can check with our team and see if anything has changed.

QUESTION: How would you review them? How would you go about reviewing whether to lift them or not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s always an internal review when we put sanctions in place or when we take them back, and there’s a range of factors, depending on the country. Typically, we don’t outline those publicly, but I can see if there’s anything specific to update you all on on that piece.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. In the back?

QUESTION: One other thing on Japan and Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So on Monday, Virginia’s legislative committee passed a bill that calls on local public schools to identify the Sea of Japan as also the East Sea. So does the State Department have a position on this?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a position on that bill. Our position hasn’t changed on that particular issue, which I’m happy to reiterate for that – for all of you[1]. We don’t take a position on competing sovereignty claims. That hasn’t changed, and I don’t think we’ll have a comment from here on a state legislative bill.

Deb, did you have a question?

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I’ve got one just on --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There is – are you aware of the Israeli radio today reporting that Israeli prime minister has increased the amount of occupied territory he wants to keep after any peace deal with the Palestinians. Any comment on this? Obviously, such a move would complicate things.

MS. PSAKI: Well, our position has been consistent on this, that anytime they are announced, we don’t recognize the legitimacy of settlements. Obviously, borders and how that will all break down is part of the discussion that is ongoing between the parties and one that Ambassador Indyk and Secretary Kerry are closely engaged in. There hasn’t been any decision made, so it’s fair to assume that there will be a – continue to be a debate about that among the parties that we’ll be involved in as a facilitator. But our view of it, of course, has not changed.

QUESTION: But is there anything – truth to what they’re reporting, that he is pressing for more – that he’s hardened his line on this and that he wants to keep some of that, and he’s also willing to buy some of the settlement land?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to confirm or deny for you about private discussions, as has been the case throughout the course of these negotiations.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I wondered if you had a reaction to the news today that Prime Minister Netanyahu went to Amman and met with King Abdullah.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly did see that, of course, and we were aware of it. As you know, the Jordanians play an incredibly important and influential role, and they have historically, in the peace process as prominent members of the Arab League. The Secretary has briefed King Abdullah and Foreign Minister Judeh countless times about what is happening on the ground. So we see that as a productive development.

QUESTION: Was this a meeting that you set up, that the United States facilitated in some way?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, but what I’m – the point I’m making is that it’s not surprising, given the important role they play. And certainly, we encourage that.

QUESTION: Do you think this will help push forward, perhaps, something like the security aspect in the Jordan Valley part of the framework that’s being negotiated at the moment?

MS. PSAKI: We will see what comes out of it.

QUESTION: Do you know what the prime minister was talking to the king about? Did he brief you beforehand? Have they briefed you since?

MS. PSAKI: I would let you, of course, speak to – or hear from Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Jordanians on the purpose and the outcome of their meetings. But we certainly were aware that they were planning to meet.

QUESTION: And are there plans – last one – for Secretary Kerry to meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu next week in Davos?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they will be there at the same time. We’re still working through the schedule, so there really isn’t anything on the schedule yet. That will change in the coming days, and I wouldn’t be surprised, but it’s not scheduled yet.

QUESTION: Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up on a colleague’s question --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- about the Japan Sea right now. I – as far as I – I know you don’t comment on state bills, but as far as I remember, the United States Government itself has a strong position on the name of it. So can you try to check out: Has it changed or not?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed. I can confirm that for all of you.

QUESTION: It should be Japan Sea as far as --

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed about our view.

Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:10 p.m.)

DPB # 11


[1] The standard name used by the U.S. Government for that body of water is the Sea of Japan. Per U.S. policy, we use only one name to refer to all high seas features. We encourage Japan and Korea to work together to reach a mutually agreeable way forward with the International Hydrographic Organization on this issue.



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