1:13 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
MS. PSAKI: Happy middle of the week Wednesday. I don’t have anything for all of you at the top, so Matt, let’s start with you.
QUESTION: Well, that’s good. I don’t have anything, actually, that is jumping out at me to start the briefing with, so I will pass to Arshad.
MS. PSAKI: Arshad. Welcome back.
QUESTION: Thank you. I’m going to pass, too.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. (Laughter.) Let’s everyone pass, not make it a marathon. Give you all a break.
Okay. Let’s go with Lalit first.
MS. PSAKI: I did see the report, of course, which I know many of you may have read. We’re naturally not going to discuss alleged specific operational issues. We talked about this a little bit yesterday. The issue of whether to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban is an internal matter for Pakistan. We would, of course, refer you to them on what is happening on the ground regarding those details in those reports.
QUESTION: But on the --
QUESTION: Because --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, you said you’re not going to discuss alleged specific operational what?
MS. PSAKI: Issues.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: How about specific alleged operational issues?
MS. PSAKI: Not that either.
QUESTION: No? Damn.
MS. PSAKI: Said.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I know that you issued a statement about signing the agreement, the energy agreement with the minister of oil and so on.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. A Media Note just went out.
QUESTION: Okay. All right.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t know if all of you have seen it yet.
QUESTION: It just went out and it was quite detailed and so on.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Yeah.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about your efforts regarding having a hydrocarbon law and why is it being held up. And how does that affect all the contracts that many American companies have already signed with the north – with the northern region of Kurdistan?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think broadly speaking on the specific – excuse me – hydrocarbon issue, I’d have to connect you with one of our experts on that, and I’m happy to.
MS. PSAKI: As you know, our position has long been that we believe that all of these contracts and any revenue should go through the central government, and that’s been the case we’ve continued to make. But obviously, the Media Note we sent was pretty detailed, and if you have a specific question about an energy resource, I can connect you with some experts.
QUESTION: Well, I do, because one of the main stumbling blocks and the points of contention between the central government and the regional government of Kurdistan is basically the hydrocarbon law that has been held up for the past --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- I mean, for the past six years or so. So, I mean --
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, why don’t we connect you with someone --
MS. PSAKI: -- from our Iraq desk who can get into more level of detail about specific forms of energy.
QUESTION: Okay. In the meantime, let me stay with Iraq.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Today was a very violent day. About 50 people have been killed through various bombings and so on in Iraq. What are you doing in terms of augmenting Iraqi security to deal with the scourge of, obviously, terrorism and violence?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that we, of course, condemn in the strongest possible terms the terrorist attacks in Baghdad today, including the attack as terrorists attempted to access the ministry of foreign affairs. We commend Iraqi security officials for the actions they took to prevent access beyond the ministry’s security perimeter, but unfortunately also witnessed the loss of life to MFA staff, security officials, and civilians. We extend our sincere condolences to the families of the victims, to our colleagues and friends of the ministry – at the ministry, and hope for a rapid recovery of those who were injured.
As you know, we have a very close working relationship, and especially as we’re working to address the events over the last couple of weeks. Our role here – we continue to work with Iraqi leaders, including Sunni leadership, to advise and assist Iraq in developing strategies with the understanding that security operations only work in the long term if used with political initiatives. This has been a key focus in recent senior visits and calls with a host of Iraqi leaders, including president – or Prime Minister Maliki. And we’ve emphasized, of course, the importance of pursuing political initiatives and addressing the legitimate grievances of all communities.
You may have seen that Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk just testified – I think it’s concluded now – and talked extensively about our efforts over the course of recent weeks and over the long term as well, so I’d certainly point you to that.
QUESTION: Okay. On, I guess, January 6th or 5, the United States Government agreed to supply Iraq with Hellfire missiles and so on, although they don’t really have the means to deliver them and so on. Could you tell us what is the status of arms deliveries to combat the surge in terrorism?
MS. PSAKI: Of the Hellfire missiles? I’d have to --
QUESTION: Or any other arms that can – they use from the air, let’s say, to combat --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I’d have to check, Said. As you probably know, but there’s a process, of course, once items have been approved that needs to go through in order for them to reach the ground, so --
QUESTION: Okay. I’m not – my last question. Could I just --
MS. PSAKI: But let’s go to someone else because we’ve had a few from you. So let’s do one more from you, and then we’ll go to somebody else.
QUESTION: Okay. I just wanted to ask one last thing --
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Sure.
QUESTION: -- on Iraq because of the fact that the border is so elastic and the – now the terrorists from Syria are going to Iraq and so on. Do you see a connection there, and are you willing to acknowledge that perhaps some of your allies are aiding, abetting, and supplying and arming elements that actually now fight in Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: Are you referring to specific --
QUESTION: I’m referring to, let’s say, your allies on the GCC Council – in the Gulf Cooperation Council – that have been arming and supplying these militant elements in Syria that ultimately find their way to Iraq.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not sure if you’re referring to a specific incident. I think you’re familiar with our broad policy and our broad concern here that we’ve expressed about any efforts to aid extremist elements.
Let’s go to the next. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I think that’s absolutely fine.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you very much. As you know, North Korea and South Korea agreed to hold a family reunion this month.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I think probably from – I believe 20th to 25th. Do you have some readout?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly welcome the decision by South Korea and North Korea to set a date for family reunions. As you know, we support improved inter-Korean relations, and that this is certainly an example of that. We would refer you to the South Korean Government for any more information on this and the specifics of how they will take place.
QUESTION: Do you think it’s – this movement, you think it’s an optimistic movement even though the joint military exercise is going to start at the end of this month?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly welcome the decision. DOD, of course, oversees any of the joint military exercises. That’s something that happens – these annual training events happen on a, well, annual basis, obviously, since they’re annual training events. And they’re designed to increase our readiness to defend South Korea once a year, protect the region and maintain stability on the Korean Peninsula. But I would point you to the Department of Defense for any more specifics about that.
QUESTION: One other thing.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: The North has been arguing for the South to call off those exercises. They’ve done that many times in the past also. You have no intention of doing that, do you?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t – of course I would refer to my colleagues over at the Defense Department. But again, these exercises occur around the same time every year and are a clear demonstration of the U.S. commitment to the alliance. So I don’t have any predictions for you on --
QUESTION: You’re not aware of any plans --
MS. PSAKI: No, no. Not at all. Not at all.
QUESTION: Could I just stay in the region as well?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, of course.
QUESTION: There was a report – I think I asked you about this earlier this week – there was a report that the Secretary is planning to visit South Korea, and yesterday on his newly launched Twitter account --
MS. PSAKI: Are you following him, Jo?
QUESTION: I am.
MS. PSAKI: All right.
MS. PSAKI: To be fair, he did say that last weekend as well, so --
QUESTION: He said he was going to China last weekend.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, that’s in Asia. Go ahead. I’ll let you ask your question.
QUESTION: That is in Asia, but he was suggesting it’s a slightly broader trip. And also he said that the theme of the trip was going to be climate change, and I wondered if you had any more indications on that for us.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, obviously the planning is ongoing. You all know what an important issue not just addressing climate change in the United States but around the globe is to the Secretary. He gave a speech in India last year about this issue. So I don’t have any more details to lay out of you. I expect as we get closer to the trip we will have that, but again, as he said in the past, in order to address global climate change we need to have the largest contributors and emitters, including the United States, including China, take steps to address. So I expect he will certainly talk about that while he’s there.
QUESTION: How much of the trip – I think he said that it would be a big theme. How much of the trip is going to be focused on the issues in the South China Sea and the East Sea? And Danny Russel talked about this again yesterday and he’s --
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, he just testified on – and he’s testifying today, this afternoon. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Right, right. How much of a theme is that going to be of this particular trip?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m certain that maritime security issues will be of course a part of the discussion as they always are, but there are also other issues in addition to climate change. There’s the threat of North Korea and the steps that he feels – we all feel – are necessary to take. There’s ongoing cooperation on economic issues, security issues. So of course a range of issues will be discussed, but certainly that will be on the agenda.
QUESTION: And do you – you said you haven’t got any further details, but can you tell us whether this trip is imminent or is it going to be like next week or the week after or next month, or --
MS. PSAKI: We’re not leaving tomorrow. We’re still working on the final details of where the Secretary will be traveling, and so I expect we’ll have a note on that in the coming days.
QUESTION: One more thing about join military exercise. As you know, the B-55 and the B-2 bomber and the U.S. aircraft – Korea also joined last year. Do you know about what the condition of this year – B-55, B-2 – is going to join this exercise today – this year?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I would point you to my Defense colleagues for that level of specificity.
Do we have any more on Asia and the region?
QUESTION: President Aquino of the Philippines made some comments on China that were rather pointed, comparing efforts to refrain – comparing refraining from reining in China to appeasement of Nazi Germany. Do you have any – State Department have any comments on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you are I’m sure familiar with our position, we of course don’t take a position on the competing sovereignty claims to land features in the South China Sea, while we do – though we do have an interest in the manner in which countries address these disputes. I would point you to, as I just mentioned and Arshad flagged as well, Assistant Secretary Russel is testifying on the Hill at 2 o’clock this afternoon. The focus of his testimony is on maritime issues, so I’m certain he will address this. And I would encourage you to stay tuned.
QUESTION: Does the State Department have any direct response to President Aquino’s remarks?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I’d point you to Assistant Secretary Russel’s testimony. I’m certain he’ll address that later this afternoon.
QUESTION: You don’t want to object to the suggestion that you’re appeasing the Chinese?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re familiar – you’re familiar with my – our position, which I just restated, that obviously that’s not a position of appeasement; that is a position of not taking a position on the competing sovereignty claims.
QUESTION: Well, that’s kind of like not taking a position on Germany moving into Czechoslovakia, isn’t it? No? If you’re not taking a position on it, then – if we’re going to stay with the World War II --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- analogies here --
MS. PSAKI: Okay. This is the theme of the week.
QUESTION: -- do you have any – do you see that the North Koreans, in their usual fit of bombast, have labeled Prime Minister Abe of Japan the Asian Hitler? Do you have any thoughts about that? Do you – does the United States regard Prime Minister Abe as an Asian Hitler?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly not. Obviously, Japan is a close friend and ally. We work with leaders in the region, including the leaders of China, including the leaders of Japan. And we, of course, wouldn’t agree with that characterization.
QUESTION: Okay. But you can’t say – never mind.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Should we move on? Syria.
QUESTION: Syria. Do you have any reaction to the United Nations report on children in Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I do. Bear with me here.
We, of course, are deeply disturbed by the contents of this report. We strongly condemn the mistreatment and torture of children in any conflict. While there have been too many tragic stories coming from Syria throughout the conflict, the impact on the youngest victims is the most disturbing and must stop. We condemn the use of child soldiers in Syria and around the world. The use of children in armed conflict is morally reprehensible and the United States does not support or condone this activity.
QUESTION: Any update on the chemical weapons delivery? And have you heard anything from Russia regarding the next delivery?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any specific update. You’ve, of course, seen the comments made, I believe by the Russians, yesterday or the day before about their conversations with the Syrian regime. And as I said yesterday, of course actions speak louder than words, so we’ll see if they deliver on their commitment to make progress over the course of the next few weeks.
QUESTION: Also on Syria. I mean, the Secretary, in a tweet and in a statement yesterday, has been --
MS. PSAKI: I love that Twitter’s coming up so much. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, it seems to be our only access to him these days. So --
MS. PSAKI: Whoa. That’s inaccurate. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So, I mean, he’s stepping up the rhetoric on the barrel bombs, but I’m wondering what you guys are doing about it. I mean, is it time to bring this to the ICC? Is it time to raise this again in the Security Council? I mean, what are you doing diplomatically to challenge what Assad is doing in Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Well, of course we’re in close intact and in close touch with our UN colleagues about the next appropriate steps. That’s a process that is underway up there, and I don’t want to make a prediction of what the outcome will be or what they’ll put forward, or if they’ll put anything forward. This is an issue that raised to the level of concern that the Secretary not only tweeted about it, he did an extensive statement condemning it. This is an issue that he has raised with colleagues in the region, and he has expressed concern in that regard. And as he said many times over the past couple days in a variety of press avails you may not have been in attendance for, that this is an issue that we won’t be satisfied until humanitarian issues are addressed, until we bring an end to the crisis, and we’re going to continue to discuss options within the Administration and with our colleagues and partners around the world.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about the humanitarian situation?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Has there been any change in the corridors, the supply trucks and so on? Has there been any supplies that have gone in into Homs or – and Yarmouk? Yarmouk received some trucks.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I know we provided an update on this a little bit last week, Said.
QUESTION: Right, right.
MS. PSAKI: I know there have been reports about some progress that’s been made on the ground, but let me venture to – let me take the question and see if we can get all of you an update on what we’re seeing on the ground.
QUESTION: Okay. And very quickly, do you have any reaction to what the opposition leader said in Moscow yesterday, that they are ready to resume talks on the 10th of February?
MS. PSAKI: That’s certainly – and as you mentioned, President Jarba was in Russia. They had an extensive meeting while he was there. They have said previously that they were prepared to resume talks next week and attend and participate. That’s the next stage in this process. And as I said yesterday a little bit, we always knew this would be long, we knew it would be challenging. This is the next step as a part of the Secretary’s consultations over the weekend, including meetings with Joint Special Representative Brahimi. He expressed the strong view that this needs to be focused on the implementation of the Geneva communique; that needs to be more front and center; all sides need to come prepared to talk about that.
Any – go ahead.
QUESTION: Why isn’t this a good time to raise the issue of Syria, and notably humanitarian access and the torture of children, at the Security Council?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, I wasn’t implying that. I was actually more conveying that this is an issue, broadly speaking, what to do next is an issue being discussed. And you may have seen that I think a couple of days ago Valerie Amos hosted a meeting in Rome where they discussed the fact that – and they publicly spoke about the fact that the October 2nd statement hasn’t been delivered on and the need to kind of readdress and see where we are. What I was trying not to do is speak for actions that they’re considering, which, obviously, we’re in close consultation with them on.
QUESTION: So this is potentially a good time, but you’re not predicting whether that’ll happen or not?
MS. PSAKI: It’s just safe to say that it is an issue, of course, we’re closely engaged with the UN Security Council on, but I don’t want to predict what they may do. And just another piece to note for all of you, Valerie Amos will brief the Security Council on February 13th, so that’s just coming up next week, and her briefing will provide important information for the Security Council as it considers any future action to support humanitarian access. And that’s something, obviously, we’re closely engaged with.
QUESTION: Could I just quickly follow up?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Why can’t the humanitarian situation be dealt with independently of reaching a political settlement? I mean, I remember during the Vietnam War, they’re all – the fighting would stop around Christmas and so on, and supplies would go in and all these things. Why can’t you, let’s say, take an initiative --
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are actually – just to be very clear here, there are many roads that the Syrian crisis is being discussed on. There certainly is the discussions in Geneva, the UN discussions. Valerie Amos briefing the Security Council next week, that is not a part of the Geneva process. It’s all coordinated, of course. But we want to do everything we can to address the humanitarian crisis, and certainly, there are many roads for that to go down.
QUESTION: After the Secretary’s statement yesterday on the use of barrel bombs in Aleppo, are you considering drawing a new redline for the Syrian regime?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not drawing any new redlines.
QUESTION: And are you considering --
QUESTION: So it’s okay for them to continue barrel bombing civilians in Aleppo?
MS. PSAKI: That’s hardly what I said. And actually, what the Secretary made very clear in his statement was it’s absolutely unacceptable. I think I’ve outlined already the fact that we’re working through several avenues, whether that’s consultations with the UN or it’s through the Geneva process or it’s even discussing internally. I have nothing to announce for you today.
QUESTION: But there’s no potential sanction associated with their continuing with this unacceptable behavior?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to make a prediction of what any one of these entities may decide to do. There’s obviously several paths that this is being discussed in – several avenues.
QUESTION: Could I ask you about Ambassador Ford? I know you’ve talked about this before.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So the buzz around town that he is retiring, maybe the end of this month. Who will replace him? Do you have anyone in mind that will lead the U.S. effort and the negotiations, working with the opposition, and so on?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, first let me say that Ambassador Ford is hard at work on his Syria portfolio and he’s heading to Geneva next week. I don’t have any personal announcements to make today, whether that’s what his plans are or any plans for any future personnel. So – and any announcement like that at any point would come from the White House anyway.
QUESTION: But you’re not denying that he is leaving?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just spoke to it, as I did yesterday.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) announcement on who might be ambassador to Syria. I mean, the White House does not have to choose someone to be a point person for the opposition, do they?
MS. PSAKI: No, I’m talking about --
QUESTION: The ambassador --
MS. PSAKI: -- ambassador-level positions.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the agreement between Houthi Shia rebels and the Hashid Sunni tribe there?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, we condemn, of course, recent violence and ongoing sectarian clashes in Yemen. We support efforts to negotiate a lasting ceasefire and call on all parties to refrain from inflaming sectarian tensions or inciting violence at this critical moment in Yemen’s political transition.
In the wake of the conclusion of Yemen’s national dialogue, we urge all Yemenis to work in the spirit of compromise to advance stability, prosperity, and security now and for future generations.
QUESTION: But how do you view the agreement between the Houthi, the Shia, and a tribe in Yemen, the Hashid tribe?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I said, we support efforts to negotiate a lasting ceasefire. There’s obviously more that needs to be done toward that end, so we continue to encourage Yemenis to work in the spirit of compromise and continue to make progress.
QUESTION: And do you think that this agreement is helpful in the reconciliation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s a step, but there’s more work that needs to be done.
Go ahead, Samir.
MS. PSAKI: Let me – I don’t have any readout for you. Which meeting? I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Tony Blair.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, Blair, Tony Blair. Sorry. I thought you said Bear; I thought who is that? (Laughter.) Tony Blair. He meets with him regularly, as you may or may not know, including on the road. He just met with him when he was on this last trip in Germany. It’s regular consultations about the ongoing negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians, so it’s not meant to be a news deliverer; it’s meant to be a consultation. He respects his opinions and views, and they often talk about what’s happening in the peace process.
QUESTION: So it’s not a hint that the framework agreement may be announced soon?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not an indication of anything on timing. It’s just an effort to consult with somebody he respects his views on the process.
QUESTION: Well, what is happening with the peace process? Since you said that that’s what they discussed.
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: How’s it going?
MS. PSAKI: It’s great, Matt. There are ongoing negotiations. Ambassador Indyk is in the region. He’s working with both parties, talking to both parties. And our focus remains on closing the gap on these issues and working towards a framework for negotiations.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the attempts by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Tzipi Livni, Justice Minister Livni and other Israeli officials to tamp down some of the invective rhetoric coming from other Israeli officials, which now – and spiritual leaders as well? I just saw something about a group of very Orthodox rabbis saying that the Secretary declared war on God, and using words like, well --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I spoke with the Secretary about this particular issue – not your exact question, but this morning – and where he stands at this point is he’s not going to spend a lot of time worrying about words people are using against him. His greatest concern about this is the impact they have or they could have on the process, that the words aren’t an attack on him, they’re actually an attack on the peace process itself. He knows that trying to create peace isn’t a favor – and this is something he conveyed this morning – isn’t a favor we’re doing, and it’s very much his view, for the Israelis and the Palestinians. It’s something that people in Israel and – the Israeli people and the Palestinians very much want. So while he has a tough skin and he’s been through a lot more difficult circumstances than having personal verbal attacks thrown at him, he is – he wants the focus to be on these tough issues.
QUESTION: Right, but considering – if, in fact, he does believe – and I’m sure he probably does – that these are not really – these are attacks more against the peace process --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and he is the messenger of the --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- of that peace process, are you satisfied with the attempts that have been made, apparently been made, by the prime minister and the justice minister, to rein – and the president of Israel also to try to rein in this – I don’t even know what you call it --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- rein in this clearly inflammatory rhetoric?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll see what happens over the coming days and weeks, Matt. I think the challenge here is that it’s hard to evaluate until you have a circumstance. Obviously, the events of the last weekend, I think I’ve spoken pretty extensively to those and the Secretary’s view on that. But we have a long way to go in this process, and I think his view is that some of this is a sign that the heat is on and we’re getting down to the difficult issues. So it’s hard for me to evaluate whether we’re satisfied or not. I think the question is whether his record and his words will continue to be mischaracterized.
QUESTION: Well, maybe satisfied is the wrong word to use --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- but are you – do you think that – are you seeing the rhetoric being toned down now or not?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, the comments this weekend were more heated than the comments over the last couple of days, but there continue to be concerning comments made.
MS. PSAKI: And I think what would be a successful outcome would be for parties to focus their efforts on grappling with these tough issues and taking on these tough issues, and that’s what he thinks the focus should be on.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary watch --
QUESTION: Just – could I just ask --
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: Can I just ask --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- you said that the Secretary believes that these aren’t an attack necessarily on him but attack on the peace process. Does he fear that it could – this invective could damage the peace process and the efforts to bridge the gaps? Could it drive the sides further apart?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that process it ongoing even at the same time. And I talked about this a little bit earlier this week, but even on Sunday, he was meeting with Justice Minister Livni and Yitzhak Molho while some of these comments were being made. And certainly his hope is that the focus will be on what the lasting peace will bring to the Israeli and Palestinian people. And that’s what people will talk about. So --
QUESTION: But you have an atmosphere which is already very tense. I mean, issues which haven’t been decided or agreed on for the last 60 years. If you’ve got this kind of poisonous atmosphere that’s being injected into the process, doesn’t that make his job more difficult?
MS. PSAKI: Well, any rhetoric is – any damaging rhetoric or rhetoric that is inaccurate and as critical as this is is never helpful. But I think the larger point here is this process is not about Secretary John Kerry. This process is about what the future for the Israeli and the Palestinian people and the prospects of peace and security and prosperity. And that’s what he thinks people need – should be – need to be reminded of, in addition to the fact that these kind of attacks are unacceptable, and they not only distort his record but they distract from the real issues at hand.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) indulge me if you would.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I have a couple of follow-up. Yesterday, in an event, the think tank in towns and so on – the suggestion from the podium, by the way, in which one of your former diplomats participated – was that the success that we have seen so far is because Secretary Kerry finally hugged Bibi. And the meaning by that is that he adopted the Israeli position on refugees, on the right of return, on having Israeli presence along the Jordan Valley, and so on. Do you agree with that?
MS. PSAKI: I certainly don’t. One observation we were making this morning is given that there is criticism from both sides, that sometimes is a sign that either you’re doing things right or it can’t possibly all be correct, because it’s conflicting. So the truth here is, Said, nobody knows what it is in the framework.
MS. PSAKI: And so there are a lot of guesses and suggestions and hopes and proposals, but nobody knows what is in the framework. There is not a final framework. The parties are obviously discussing it. There are strong emotions and there’s strong history on these issues. But any characterization of it is inaccurate because it’s not final.
QUESTION: Yeah. But the suggestion was that Secretary Kerry should tell the Palestinians plainly that you can’t have a right of return and a state. It is either the state or the right of return. Do you agree with that premise?
MS. PSAKI: There are lots of experts in policy, policy folks who are making proposals. Obviously, this discussion is ongoing between the parties.
QUESTION: Okay. And finally --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- would you comment on the announcement for building a new settlement, 558 houses?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure. Well, our position on Jerusalem is clear. We oppose any unilateral actions by either party that attempt to prejudge final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem. We’ve called on both sides to take steps to create a positive atmosphere for the negotiations. And that is certainly a message we’re sending on the ground as well.
QUESTION: Let me understand something clearly. When you say “either party,” are the Palestinians also taking land and building settlements in Israel?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I’m making a broad point about actions taken by either party.
QUESTION: Jen, did you – you say nobody knows what’s in the framework.
MS. PSAKI: There is not a --
QUESTION: The framework doesn’t exist. Correct?
MS. PSAKI: Correct. That’s my point. So how can you know what’s in it?
QUESTION: But surely they have been talking about something other than the weather for the past seven months.
MS. PSAKI: Of course they have.
QUESTION: So – at least one would hope so, because they’ve spent a lot of time and money doing it. But since they have been discussing what would go into the framework, clearly people know what the elements are that would make up --
MS. PSAKI: Well, and Matt --
QUESTION: -- the framework, so --
MS. PSAKI: -- we’ve talked about what the core issues are that will be addressed.
MS. PSAKI: The point I’m making is that given where we are in the process, given it is decision time on these tough issues, of course there are going to be raw emotions about what is or isn’t in a final framework. But my point is that because it doesn’t exist yet in terms of a final document, that it is inaccurate for any characterization of what has been – what is in there.
QUESTION: So would your suggestion be for all the people who are getting upset, screaming and yelling right now, to just hold onto their anger and their vitriol and once a framework is agreed, then let loose? Is that the idea?
MS. PSAKI: My suggestion is – you know we’re big proponents of freedom of speech, but for anybody who’s looking at what is accurate and what is – the details are, to take it with a grain of salt, given where we are in the process.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary watch the Israeli settlers council’s video ridiculing his Middle East peace efforts?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe he’s watched the video. We’re certainly aware of the video.
QUESTION: Have you watched it?
MS. PSAKI: I have not personally watched it, no.
QUESTION: Any reaction to it?
MS. PSAKI: I think it goes in with what I’ve already stated about attempts to mischaracterize his record, his position, his positions on issues, his statements, how that is not an attack on him; that’s an attack on the process. And of course that kind of rhetoric we find unacceptable.
QUESTION: Even in parody? I mean, clearly the Secretary does not believe that Jerusalem is a holy city for hobbits and Klingons, right? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Well, I have not seen the video, Matt, so perhaps --
QUESTION: Well, that’s one of the things that’s in there, so --
MS. PSAKI: Perhaps – now you’ve sold it very well. I will watch the video. I’m making a broad point about all the different reports that are out there.
QUESTION: But I mean, this is just – it’s parody, although it may have – it may seem a serious point, it is in itself ridiculous. He does not believe that Jerusalem is a holy city to fictional --
MS. PSAKI: To hobbits?
QUESTION: -- to fictional --
MS. PSAKI: I think that’s fair to run as an AP headline.
QUESTION: What about Klingons?
MS. PSAKI: Hmm?
QUESTION: They’re affectionate, too.
MS. PSAKI: I love Klingons.
QUESTION: So it could be a --
MS. PSAKI: Nothing having to do with the peace process. Let’s just do a few more here. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you could just give me – what is the formal terminology that the State Department uses for that body of water?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the U.S. Government names decided by the U.S. Board on Geographic – the U.S. Government uses names decided by the U.S. Board on Geographic Names. The U.S. Board on Geographic Names’ standard name for that body of water is the Sea of Japan. We understand that the Republic of Korea and others use a different term, but that is the term we use.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Do they take political considerations into consideration when they determine what the official U.S. Government word is going to be – or name is going to be?
MS. PSAKI: I am not sure who the U.S. spokesperson is for the U.S. Board on Geographic Names.
QUESTION: Well, but there is a – but within the State Department, though, there is a mapping body that does this kind of thing. I’d just be interested to know if political consideration – because we went through a whole long thing with FYROM/Macedonia, but also Burma/Myanmar. I understand there’s some people that still want to refer to Thailand as Siam. So anyway, if there is answer as to whether --
MS. PSAKI: Sure. There are obviously policy considerations taken to place in certain cases. I’m happy to check if there’s more specifics on this.
Go ahead in the back.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- because the Secretary said what he said. And you stated that he was indicating that there was a new process. But according to all reports from Nicosia, Mrs. Toria Nuland negotiated, even gave some ideas, and it seems that she broke the deadlock in Cyprus. What is your reaction?
MS. PSAKI: Well, she did – Assistant Secretary Nuland was in Greece and Cyprus over the past couple days. She’s now in Ukraine. While she was in Athens, she held productive meetings with the prime minister and foreign minister during which she expressed U.S. support for Greece’s reform efforts and economic growth, bilateral trade and investment, and discussed a range of regional issues.
In Nicosia, she had meetings with President Anastasiades and with the foreign minister. She also – they discussed a range of issues on our bilateral relationship, including steps we can take to deepen our economic relationship.
She also met with Turkish Cypriot leader Eroglu. In all her meetings, she reiterated strong U.S. support for the ongoing efforts under UN auspices to reunify the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation that would bring security and economic prosperity to all the people of Cyprus. So certainly it was a topic of discussion.
Obviously, as the Assistant Secretary for the region, this is a priority for her and a priority for the Secretary, but I don’t have any further updates for you right now.
QUESTION: Well, the report that she gave some ideas and even some proposals. Do you want to comment?
MS. PSAKI: The discussion was as I just described it, so I don’t have any other updates for you at this point.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: As you maybe know, Turkey violates constantly the exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus. Last Saturday, Turkey sent a warship inside the Cyprus EEZ and expelled a ship – belonged to, as I understand, to Norway and working on behalf of the French company.
I know that president of Cyprus spoke with Mrs. Nuland about this issue, and I wanted to know that – what is your reaction on this Turkish aggression?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we support Cyprus’s right to explore for energy in its offshore areas. We continue to believe that the island, oil, and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between both communities in the context of an overall settlement. And of course, she conveyed it’s important to avoid actions that may increase tensions in the region.
Go ahead, Arshad.
QUESTION: I don’t – did you --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Did you see the comments by Dmitry Peskov, Russian President Putin’s spokesman, about how there’s no need to review Russia’s gas deals with Ukraine if Ukraine pays its bills on time? I think the debt is now estimated to be something like $3.3 billion. Do you regard those comments as a Russian effort to squeeze the Ukrainians in some way or another?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t actually seen them yet. I’m not sure if they just came out before I came down here, so let me check in with our team and see what our views are on that.
QUESTION: Can I just stick on Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Yesterday, we were asking about the preliminary talks that you’re in with the EU and other bodies for a loan, and I had asked you whether it would be possible to make that loan to an interim government.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I wondered if you had any clarification on that today.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we wouldn’t call it an interim government. The stage right now is the creation of a new government. That’s what we’re focused on, that’s what we’re pressing the parties to work toward, and while this is preliminary and no decisions have been made about any aid or assistance packages, certainly we would consider and take a look at what that new government is doing and consult with them as we make that decision. So it wouldn’t be tied to an electoral date, if that makes sense.
QUESTION: Even though there would, at some point, be new elections? I mean, I believe that’s one of the issues that is now being under consideration.
MS. PSAKI: Certainly there have been proposals which we don’t have a view on. That’s up to the people of Ukraine. But what I was – what I’m trying to answer here is whether we would consider and whether we’re taking a look at the creation of a new government versus waiting for an election if there isn’t something that happens.
QUESTION: So you could consider a loan to a government that comes out of this process prior to any elections being held?
MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I wonder if you could comment on some reports about the Sochi Games that actually, Americans’ security equipment and American personnel have been quietly sent or are operating there now and coordinating with the Russians. Could you confirm that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are certainly in close consultation with the Russians. We gave a briefing on this about 10 days ago, which we’re happy to send you the transcript of.
QUESTION: Right, right, right.
MS. PSAKI: I know the Department of Defense and others have made various announcements about different resources that will be provided, so that’s correct. And of course, our focus is on keeping American citizens up to date, make sure – making sure we’re protecting our athletes. We have a – we’ll have – of course, Diplomatic Security will have the lead in terms of the security component we have, though Russia has the lead on the overall security of the games.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I was away for a few days, so my apologies if you’ve already --
MS. PSAKI: That’s okay.
QUESTION: -- addressed this, but I think Foreign Minister Zarif has been taking some heat from the legislature on some comments he made about Israel, and I think those comments were walked back by one of his deputies. But I was wondering what your read is on that situation.
MS. PSAKI: I have not followed that closely. I’m not sure. Are you looking for what our view is on the comments or the walk-back or --
QUESTION: The comments and – yeah, the whole thing. Do you view it as sort of a softening of the ground, or is it just kind of like – do you think that it has any kind of wider impact on --
MS. PSAKI: Sure, let me take --
QUESTION: -- potential change?
MS. PSAKI: -- a closer look at those and see if there’s something more substantive we can get for all of you.
MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:53 p.m.)
DPB # 23