2:11 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: It’s too bad Matt’s not here yet because he asked the question, but I announced yesterday that the Secretary had actually announced the – that we were launching our 2014 QDDR, and I wanted to just highlight, as an example of how effective this process was during the first term, what some of the examples of how we’re implementing it are. And if this works well, which it has, the recommendations and the process results in a – changes or updates that make things more efficient, more focused, and better, and that’s what we saw from the first round. So bear with me while I just highlight a few of these.
After the 2010 QDDR, economic statecraft, which as you know is a big part of what Secretary Clinton did when she was traveling overseas, became a – there – a stronger emphasis was placed on trade promotion, investment, and leveling the economic playing field. That’s something the Secretary has continued to support. As he often says, economic policy – foreign – economic policy is foreign policy, and that’s one of the roles that we can play here at the State Department and our diplomats play around the world.
We also – as a result of the 2010 QDDR, we also now have a fuller integration of women and girls into our policy framework – planning and budgeting, program monitoring and evaluation, and management and training. That continues to be a big priority for the State Department, promoting women and girls around the world.
The QDDR also – the 2010 QDDR also reorganized and created bureaus to address the needs of the 21st century – of 21st century diplomacy that we’re seeing in effect today. So that includes a reorganization of the Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment. As you all know, and we talk about frequently in here, the ENR Bureau and the work they’re doing on energy issues, which is newer to the State Department – relatively so – is vital in places like Ukraine. We’re seeing that today.
It also established the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, and established, as I already touched on, three new bureaus, including the Bureau for Counterterrorism, which of course, is one that we work quite a bit with.
So I just wanted to highlight that as a follow-up. And of course, we’re just beginning our process. We’ll be providing regular updates as warranted. With that, I know there’s a lot in the news today, so go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: There is. And I actually was going to – I wish we had gotten a two-minute warning, which we didn’t.
MS. PSAKI: I apologize for that. The only thing I did at the top was better answer the question you asked yesterday.
QUESTION: Yes, and I would like to go back to that.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: But I think there’s some more urgent things to discuss first.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: As urgent as that is and compelling as that is, can we start – and I will get back to it later in the briefing --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: We can.
QUESTION: I understand that the Secretary has called or there was a call between the Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu, in which they discussed the Palestinian reconciliation matter. I’m wondering if that’s true, and if it is true, what did they have to say? And how does the reconciliation this time around affect your efforts to try to bring the parties together to agree to an extension of the talks?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly. Well, I also want to note that the Secretary’s team has also been in touch with the Palestinians on the ground. He has not spoken with President Abbas, but our team on the ground has. As you all know, our principles on the issue of reconciliation have been consistent for decades. Any Palestinian government must unambiguously and explicitly commit to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, and acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties.
This announcement was – the timing was troubling and we were certainly disappointed in the announcement. If – absent a clear commitment to those principles I just outlined, this could seriously complicate our efforts – not just our efforts, but the efforts between the parties, more importantly, to extend the negotiations, as evidenced by the announcement by the Israelis to cancel the negotiating meeting this evening. So this is a case where, of course, we are watching closely. They’ve had – they’ve made similar announcements in the past before. We’ll be watching what steps are taken, but this certainly is disappointing and raises concerns about our efforts to extend the negotiations.
QUESTION: The phone call, did it happen? Can you --
MS. PSAKI: Yes, it did. My apologies. Yes, it did.
QUESTION: Well, I guess you did say that. But I don’t know, can you give us any kind of a readout of the call?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional readout, but certainly this was discussed.
QUESTION: Well, did – would it be fair to say, or can – is it a safe assumption that the Secretary said pretty – well, in addition to whatever he said privately, that this message was conveyed to Prime Minister Netanyahu as well, what you just said to us?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly. And it’s also been conveyed to the Palestinians as well.
QUESTION: Right. I understand. Right. I’m just dealing with this phone call. Did the Secretary have anything to say about the cancelation of the meeting, the Israelis deciding to cancel this meeting tonight?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – and I spoke with the Secretary about this --
QUESTION: Was this an understandable thing?
MS. PSAKI: -- this afternoon or this morning as well – I realize it’s afternoon. But I think the Secretary and we all understand it’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist. And that is one of the principles that’s long been expected.
QUESTION: Okay. And then you say that this will seriously complicate --
MS. PSAKI: Could seriously.
QUESTION: -- could seriously – I mean, haven’t actions by both sides to this point already seriously complicated the effort to extend the negotiations?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, Matt, there have been ups and downs in this process. And let me just preface, since you gave me the opportunity – they haven’t made these announcements in the past. We’ve been negotiating with President Abbas throughout this process. I shouldn’t say we; the Israelis have been negotiating with President Abbas. We’ve been facilitating those talks. If that continues, we’d certainly support that. But it’s up to the Palestinians now to answer these questions about whether those principles will be met.
QUESTION: But do you think that it is worthwhile for Israel to continue to talk even before the 29th – in this period, the several days that we have until the end of the – until the end of April – given what the Palestinians – both factions of the Palestinians have announced today? Do you – I mean, are you encouraging them to stay in – at the – to keep at it, or do you think that the Israelis are entirely justified in saying, “That’s it”?
MS. PSAKI: I think that the ball, at this point, is in the Palestinians’ court to answer these questions as to whether this reconciliation, whether these principles would be met through that process that have been long established.
QUESTION: When you say, though, it’s in the Palestinians’ court to do this – this is in President Abbas’s court, with Fatah, or is it – or are you expecting this – are you expecting Hamas to come out and say, “Okay, we’re changing our longstanding principle that we don’t recognize Israel has a right to exist”?
MS. PSAKI: Well, if Hamas were to – if this reconciliation – if the Palestinian Government, the PLO – if President Abbas were to continue to pursue reconciliation, Hamas would need to abide by these principles in order to be a part of the government. So if it’s a unified government, yes, they would need to abide by these principles.
QUESTION: Wait, wait. Not in order to be – I mean, the Palestinians can – are free to choose whoever they want to be in their government.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: You’re talking about for there to be the peace talks and for you to be involved in an effort to bring the two sides together.
MS. PSAKI: What I’m saying is what has long been U.S. Government policy, and certainly we understand that when you’re talking about negotiating with a government, if they’re a part of it that has not recognized the existence of Israel --
QUESTION: Right. And then --
MS. PSAKI: -- that poses challenges.
QUESTION: Okay. And then last one, I’ll shut up, and then I got to leave, but – and I’ll be back, but the – in terms of the U.S. assistance to and dealing with the PA, quite apart from the peace process, what does this reconciliation mean, or alleged reconciliation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, there would be implications. I don’t have those all in front of me, Matt, but what we’re going to watch and see here is what happens over the coming hours and days to see what steps are taken by the Palestinians.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Abbas just issued a statement saying that there is no contradiction between national reconciliation and continuing the talks with Israel. Do you disagree with what he’s saying?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think it’s important to note here that the talks are between the parties, Said. It’s between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And obviously, as I just stated, our principles have been – have long been the same in terms of the Palestinian Government in unambiguously and explicitly committing to nonviolence, the recognition – recognizing the state of Israel, accepting previous agreements and obligations. And it’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist.
MS. PSAKI: So we will see. There are certainly questions, as I noted, that the Palestinians are the only ones who can answer. As I noted, we were – we are troubled by the announcement and we are – we’ll wait to see what their answers are.
QUESTION: Was the U.S. surprised --
QUESTION: I’m trying to understand – I’m trying to understand why --
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m trying to understand: Why is it disappointing? I mean, if the Israelis – certainly the Israeli Government has some members in it that do not recognize the Palestinians and so on, but the government itself deals with the Palestinians. Now, if you have exactly the same situation but the reverse on the Palestinian side – the Palestinian Government recognizes Israel, works with it, negotiates with it, but it has members that come from Hamas – why would this jeopardize the process?
MS. PSAKI: There have been longstanding principles, and again, I think I answered that question by conveying --
MS. PSAKI: -- it’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist. Again, they’ve made these announcements before.
MS. PSAKI: This process has been tried before. The principles haven’t changed. We will see what happens. President Abbas has been our – has been the negotiating partner with Prime Minister Netanyahu, and if that were to continue, certainly we would not only support that, we’ve been facilitating that.
QUESTION: But there were statements – if you’ll allow me just to go further – there were statements in the past made that if the Palestinians are divided and fragmented, who do we negotiate with? Who represents the Palestinians? And on the other hand, if there is unity, although there may be total agreement on the process of negotiation, then they are caught between a rock and a hard place. Wouldn’t you agree?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been consistent principles about what a unified government would need to abide by. Those haven’t changed.
QUESTION: Thanks. Hassan Yousef just posted on Twitter that Hamas will not recognize Israel and will not give up its resistance against Israel. Have you made clear to the Palestinians or reminded them of --
MS. PSAKI: The principles that I just outlined?
QUESTION: The – actually, the law that governs our aid to the Palestinians, which has codified those principles and says that if they don’t abide by that, that, “No aid is permitted for a power-sharing Palestinian Government that includes Hamas.”
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been in touch with the Palestinians. Obviously, this announcement just happened this morning. I don’t have that level of detail, but I don’t think there’s any secret about what the impact would be.
QUESTION: You’ll recall in 2012 there was an effort between Fatah and Hamas to try to reconcile. It didn’t really work out.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But it’s my understanding that they never ever stopped talking about this. Does this announcement today come as a surprise to the U.S., and if so, why?
MS. PSAKI: In terms of – what do you mean? Can you explain a little further?
QUESTION: In terms of trying to find a way to actually come together as one government rather than two parties running parallel governments.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I noted, Roz, there have been several attempts at this in the past. It’s not just – it’s certainly the content of the announcement. It’s also the timing of the announcement. And they’re in, of course, negotiations with the Israeli Government about a peace process.
QUESTION: But certainly, given that Ambassador Indyk has been in the region recently trying to help both sides figure out how to extend the talks beyond April 29th, was there no sense among the Americans that something like this was afoot? Or was the U.S. caught off guard by this?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into any more level of detail than to say that we are disappointed by the announcement and certainly troubled by it.
QUESTION: But doesn’t that go, then, to the question of whether or not the Palestinians feel that they can actually look to the U.S. and actually trust the U.S. enough to say we’re really, really frustrated by the way things are going with the Israelis; we’re wondering whether they’re negotiating in good faith, and in order for us to maintain credibility with our own people, we have to look at possibly doing something such as this if for no other reason than to be able to come back at some point, assuming that these talks fall apart?
MS. PSAKI: I think that’s making a lot of assumptions about their motivations, and I would talk to them about that specifically.
QUESTION: Speaking of (inaudible) and forgive me if I missed this --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- but I know you said that the Secretary had spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary spoken to President Abbas about this?
MS. PSAKI: He has not. Our team on the ground has been in touch with the Palestinians, though.
QUESTION: So they are well aware of your disappointment and concern?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. We’ve expressed the same points privately that I’ve made publicly.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea why the Palestinians may have done this four days, a few days, before the deadline?
MS. PSAKI: I cannot ascribe the reasoning for that on their behalf.
QUESTION: Is it your sense that they’re interested in continuing to talk?
MS. PSAKI: They have consistently expressed that throughout the process, and it’s pretty clear that if that continues to be their view, which we would support, then they need to clarify what is happening here – we need more details on what is happening here – and they need to – we need more information on whether these principles would be abided by through the process.
QUESTION: And if they don’t abide by the principles, from your point of view, there’s no way for them to negotiate?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it would – I think as I’ve said a couple of times, it is hard to see how Israel could be expected to negotiate with a government that does not believe in its right to exist. And as you know, that’s one of the principles that has been longstanding.
QUESTION: But does that mean that the U.S. would be willing to step away as the interlocutor?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead of where we are, Roz, in the process. This is, again, between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I think I’ve been pretty clear here about how disappointed we are in this announcement in terms of the content as well as the timing, how seriously this could complicate efforts on the ground to extend the negotiations, and I will leave it at that.
QUESTION: Do you expect the negotiations now, the extension of the negotiations, to be a moot issue?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t say that. Again, these announcements have been made in the past. We’re going to see what clarification or what additional information comes from the ground. We certainly continue to support a final status agreement, but obviously, this complicates the effort to extend.
QUESTION: I’m trying to understand. So the Palestinians come to you today and say we have agreed to extend the talks three months, six months, whatever it is; you would say no unless and until you nullify whatever agreement you have with Hamas --
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve been pretty clear that we need more information here, and the principles stand.
QUESTION: What kind of information? What kind of information they would have to --
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve answered that, Said.
Go ahead, Arshad.
QUESTION: Why is it hard to expect Israel to negotiate with a group that does not accept its right to exist? It is not as if there have not been, in past history, negotiations between two sides where one does not agree with the other one’s right to exist or doesn’t recognize them as a state or a government; and yet it is through the process of negotiation that you ultimately, if it succeeds, get to a point where both sides recognize the other’s right to exist. So why --
MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, it’s up to – go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Given that, why?
MS. PSAKI: It’s up to the Israelis to make that determination. As you have seen, I’m sure, they canceled the negotiating meeting for tonight. I think that’s evidence of their view of the announcement by the Palestinians. We can’t lead either side, nor have we ever been able to, to negotiate as a part of a process that they are unwilling to.
So clearly, there are several layers here. We have our own relationship with the Palestinians, whether that’s aid or principles that we expect the government to abide by through any reconciliation process. But certainly, for the Israelis – I’ll let them speak for themself – but I think they’ve clearly conveyed their displeasure with the announcement.
QUESTION: But what you said was you said – and this is the U.S. Government’s position – that it’s hard to see how Israel can be expected to negotiate with a party that does not believe in its right to exist or doesn’t recognize it. And I don’t understand, just as a matter simply of, like, logic and theory why it is inconceivable to the U.S. Government that two parties who don’t believe in the other’s – or one party that doesn’t believe in the other one’s right to exist could still not be expected to negotiate in the hopes that they might eventually get to a point where they would recognize the other’s right to exist.
MS. PSAKI: Well, negotiating, as you’ve touched on, is certainly about talking about areas where you disagree.
MS. PSAKI: But there are some basic principles, I think, that have been – there’s a lot of history here, as you know. That is important context. And I think that’s – I’m going to leave my comments at what they were.
QUESTION: Jen, is there any sense in the State Department or the U.S. Government that this could provide an opening? I mean, it does mean that, for the first time, the Israelis would be negotiating with the entire Palestinian polity and not just the West Bank, and that this might provide at least a stepping stone towards a more workable relationship with Hamas and an agreement that’s actually representative of all Palestinians. Is there any sense that there may be a silver lining in this, that there may be something to work with?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Nicole, I think there is a great deal that would have to happen, including the – and abiding by the principles that I laid out at the – a couple of minutes ago during the briefing: commitment to nonviolence, recognition of the state of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and obligations between the parties. And ultimately --
QUESTION: So should I take that as a yes if – yes, it could be a silver lining if?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not saying that at all. Ultimately, I think this is a decision between the parties. It’s not --
QUESTION: Right, but I’m asking about the USG view because you guys have been so involved in this.
MS. PSAKI: No, no, this is a relevant answer. Let me finish my answer.
MS. PSAKI: It’s not just about what the U.S. Government view is, which I’ve outlined.
MS. PSAKI: It’s about whether the Israelis will negotiate with the Palestinians, and they canceled the meeting for tonight. There have been – they have made some statements about the announcement today. So I’m not going to play quarter – or I’m not going to – I’ll mess up that analogy. I’m not going to guess on their behalf or speak on their behalf about whether they’d be willing to negotiate.
QUESTION: But I’m not asking you to. It just seems like from a policy point of view this actually may provide a real opening. I mean, before you’ve had the Secretary pouring a lot of energy and time into a negotiation that was arguably with basically half the Palestinians, not all of them, and now you have a chance to do something that’s actually broader.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Nicole, historically though, Hamas has not shown a willingness to abide by these basic principles. And they’ve tried this many times. So what you’ve outlined is --
QUESTION: Okay. So --
MS. PSAKI: -- not how the U.S. Government views it.
QUESTION: Great. Just hours before this reconciliation deal was announced, Abbas laid out three conditions for the continuation of peace talks. Those conditions include a freeze of all settlement activity, the release of 30 prisoners, and the third was – what was the third?
QUESTION: The borders, which is particularly relevant now. Was Secretary Kerry made aware of these? Did he have an opinion on these? And also in terms of bringing Hamas into the fold, do you find it odd that Hamas would be part of a government that’s negotiating borders with Israel?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I’ve outlined how we feel about this announcement and what we feel is possible as it relates to the negotiations and not possible. In terms of the specific criteria you outlined, there are a range of issues that have been discussed and have been on the table, including those that you mentioned that are important to both parties, whether it’s borders or concerns about ongoing settlement activity, prisoners, et cetera. That has been ongoing. We will see what happens from here based on what happens from the Palestinian side.
QUESTION: I want to follow on Nicole’s point --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- about Hamas and the possibility of an opening. Hamas is probably as isolated as it has been in some time probably in the past decade. It is not on good terms, as I understand it, with Iran, which had long been one of its supporters and underwriters. And it’s also found itself estranged from some parts of Egypt. There could be an opportunity to try to persuade them to give up their ways and to convert. Is there not a sense in this building that this could be an opportunity, perhaps the first such one since 2005?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve pretty clearly laid out what they would need to do as a first step here. We haven’t seen an indication of their willingness to do that, so we’ll start there.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. consider the fact that Hamas and Islamic Jihad are considered terrorist groups by this government, does the U.S. consider that a bar for all bars in terms of engaging with Hamas at all as part of this unity government, should it actually come to fruition?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t have details yet. There have been a range of reports coming from many of you about what they’re proposing this to – this unified – unity government to include. So I’m not going to speculate on that. Our position hasn’t changed. Neither have our principles in terms of what they would need to do in order to be a part of this government.
QUESTION: One more on this.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, go ahead.
QUESTION: After Hamas won the elections in Gaza, I believe in 2005, and there was consideration by some members of Fatah to join some sort of technocratic government akin to what they’re describing now, apparently the previous administration made it very clear to those people, people who were well known to diplomats here in Washington, that if they took part in this government, they too could find themselves designated as terrorists simply because they were working on some level with Hamas. Has that message been sent via people on the ground to members of the PA?
MS. PSAKI: This announcement just happened a couple of hours ago, so obviously it’s very fresh. I don’t have anything new to lay out for you in terms of that.
QUESTION: And you don’t have a readout on what U.S. officials are saying to Fatah members beyond the fact that they’ve actually talked?
MS. PSAKI: Everything that I’ve outlined is what we’ve been conveying to the Palestinians.
QUESTION: Do you think it is possible that both sides, the Palestinians with this reconciliation agreement which they surely knew would not please the U.S. Government, let alone the Israelis, and the Israeli Government with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s insistence of several weeks ago that the Palestinians acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state to continue the negotiations, a condition that I don’t believe was there when the Secretary re-launched the negotiations in July, that they’re both basically telling you they’re just not really interested in peace talks?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that, nor am I going to speculate on whether they will pursue this process moving forward. They’ve indicated to us over the last several weeks and they’ve said publicly that they wanted to continue this process. We’ll see what their actions are and whether they follow that.
QUESTION: But we’ve seen some of their actions, right?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, the Palestinians just announced a reconciliation government --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- that you just – you don’t particularly like.
MS. PSAKI: What I’m referring to is we’ll see what their actions are moving forward.
QUESTION: And have they reiterated to you in the last couple of hours that they’re interested in the process continuing? Because again, talking of actions, the Israelis just canceled the meeting, right?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So, I mean, have they told you – I know what they’ve said in the last few weeks, that they wanted to keep meeting, and they have kept meeting.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But do you have any reason to think that they actually want to keep meeting now? Have they told – they reiterated that to you?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to – I have no further readout for you of the calls.
QUESTION: Can I just ask what – I mean, we’re less than a week away now from the deadline --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- on April the 29th, the self-imposed deadline by all parties, including the United States. What is your plan for April the 29th? Do you come out with some kind of statement, or what are you considering doing?
MS. PSAKI: We’ll talk about it on April 29th. There’s quite a few days between now and then.
QUESTION: Well, two of which are a weekend, so --
MS. PSAKI: I work on the weekends – (laughter) – as do you. I don’t have anything to predict for you. Obviously, this is a very fluid situation on the ground, and I know we’ll continue to talk about it in here and --
QUESTION: But just on the deadline, you still consider the deadline – what’s the importance of April 29th at this point?
MS. PSAKI: Well, up to this – today we’ve been working on – the parties have been working on having discussions about extending the negotiations. As I noted, this announcement obviously could seriously complicate those efforts. We’ll see what happens over the next 24 hours.
QUESTION: So, just to understand something that you said earlier --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- your focus now is on understanding what this means to go forward, let’s say to have negotiations or extension or whatever. You want a clarification from the Palestinians, right?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, that’s part of it, absolutely.
QUESTION: What should that clarification include or entail? Should it include, like, we will not accept members of Hamas in any government? We would expect them to recognize Israel before joining the government? What are they exactly?
MS. PSAKI: I think I outlined them several minutes ago, Said.
QUESTION: Okay, all right. But the negotiating partner to Israel has all along been the PLO, and the PLO has amended the charter back in the presence of President Clinton, I believe, in Gaza and so on, to recognize Israel. It has done this before many times, has done this since. Isn’t that the entity that still negotiates, so that sort of renders the issue maybe a non-issue?
MS. PSAKI: I certainly don’t think it renders it a non-issue. I think there’s more information we need from those on the ground, and we’ll continue to have discussions with them.
Samir. We’ll go to you, Margaret, next.
QUESTION: Do you expect Ambassador Indyk to return to Washington, or he will stay till the end of the month in the region?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates on his travel plans. He’s on the ground now.
QUESTION: Jen, I stepped out for a few seconds --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- so forgive me if someone asked this.
MS. PSAKI: No problem.
QUESTION: But Abbas also said publicly, and then Palestinian officials tried to walk back, this idea that let’s just hand over the West Bank to the Israelis. He issued it – somewhat of a threat.
MS. PSAKI: Several days ago.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So given the context of what’s happening now, I mean, are these threats by the – seen by the U.S. simply as negotiating tactics? Is the possibility of something like a military movement into the West Bank something that also comes up during these conversations with Netanyahu?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to give any public analysis of that from the podium. Obviously, there are a range of conversations that go on behind the scenes. I’m also not going to analyze what their motivations are. I think there’s no question, though, if this is a negotiating tactic, then having the Israelis cancel the meeting this evening, having a strong expression of how disappointing and troubling this is, I’m not sure that was their primary goal here.
QUESTION: But would the – would that be seen as some form of consequence, essentially? I mean, you have had the Secretary say that there – if these peace talks don’t move forward, the alternative is pretty bleak, and it could be pretty bad. I mean, are you at the point now where you are actively discussing the what ifs and what could be if, after April 29th, these talks fall apart?
MS. PSAKI: With the parties? In terms of which piece?
QUESTION: In terms of even the prospect of what Abbas was sort of throwing out there as a threat or otherwise.
MS. PSAKI: Our efforts and our focus right now is on determining hour by hour, day by day, what the next steps are. And that’s what we’re doing on the ground, that’s what the Secretary is focused on, and I expect that will continue over the coming days.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on what Mark just said --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: If and when the Palestinians decide to dissolve the Palestinian Authority, do you expect the Israelis to reoccupy Gaza? Or would that be – would they be justified in reoccupying Gaza?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that, Said.
QUESTION: Just a technical question to follow up.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Technically, Abbas is negotiating as president of the PLO, not as president of the Palestinian Authority.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: And as yet, Hamas is not a member of the PLO.
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: This doesn’t factor into how you approach the peace talks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously what we’re talking about here in terms of the announcement is a suggestion that there will be a reconciliation and Hamas would be a part of the Palestinian Authority. So that’s clearly the new factor, and that is certainly different from where we were yesterday.
QUESTION: But the Palestinian Authority, as I said, is not the body that conducts the negotiations. It’s the PLO.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re talking about negotiating with who represents or who is leading the Palestinians. That has been President Abbas. Obviously, if it change – not that that piece would change, but if the group representing or who they’re representing changes in terms of the government or the entities, then that certainly would change things, and that’s what I’ve been laying out here today.
QUESTION: But Jen, I don’t really understand – I mean, to go back to Nicole and Roz’s question – I mean, they may be different parties, but they’re all one people. They’re the Palestinian people. And any peace deal has to, at some point, take into – take that into consideration. You can’t just have a peace deal between one party, Israel, who – which represents all Israelis, whether Orthodox Jews or Arab Israelis, and a section of the Palestinian people who happen to live in the West Bank. I mean, going back to what Nicole said, does this actually not in some way provide a better vector going forward in that if they meet the conditions that you’ve set out, you would have all of the Palestinian people negotiating with all of the Israeli people – or their representatives, rather?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that is an awfully optimistic view and I’m not going to speculate on whether the Palestinians will continue to pursue this. This has been tried or announced in the past. We’ll see what happens over the coming days.
QUESTION: But I don’t understand why the United States gets to choose which section of the Palestinian people they – Israel should negotiate with.
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not us choosing. I think it’s pretty clear that the Israelis, since they canceled the meeting this evening and they have made clear comments about this, that they – and they’re an important partner here. They’re the other partner here. So it’s not about the United States, though we have our own views on this issue in general, as you know.
QUESTION: But clearly, you’re backing the Israeli view on this issue.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t know that it’s about backing a view. We’re just laying out what would impact a peace process that’s been ongoing.
QUESTION: How would this affect the funding that the PA gets from the U.S., both directly and via UNRWA?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, this process – I’m not going to speculate on that. I know there are requirements in law. I don’t have those in front of me. I’m happy to take it, provide those to all of you. And Michael asked the same question.
QUESTION: Yeah, but --
QUESTION: So did I. Can I just ask you: Are you preparing now, or is anyone concerned for – about the very real possibility that should this all – should this severe deterioration, disintegration in the peace talk – in the peace process continue, that there’s a very real chance that by the middle of next week the situation is actually going to be worse than it was before the Secretary began his efforts to get the two sides back together?
MS. PSAKI: Our focus remains, Matt, on talking to both parties, hour by hour, to see what process can happen moving forward.
QUESTION: So you’re not yet ready to consider that?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly not.
QUESTION: All right. And then --
MS. PSAKI: We’re going to look for some – go ahead.
QUESTION: One thing that Khaled Meshaal said – I believe it was today after this announcement – was that Egypt had played a key role in brokering this alleged reconciliation. I’m wondering – in the past, it has been the --
MS. PSAKI: In the past. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: No, no. He said this one, too. But in the past, it has been the case that the Egyptian intelligence chief, which was for many, many years General Suleiman, had been the key interlocutor in this. And I’m wondering, since the Secretary is meeting with the new Egyptian intelligence chief right now, I think, if this is an issue that you expect him to raise or if you’re happy, you’re pleased with the Egyptians and their role in doing this again now?
MS. PSAKI: It is certainly possible. We’re happy to get a readout of the meeting. I will talk to our team about that, but I’m not sure if it will be a topic of conversation during the meeting.
QUESTION: All right. Then what will be – and we don’t want to get sidetracked on – I mean, is he going to be talking about the certification of the peace – because it would seem to me that if, in fact, the Egyptians did play a critical role in engineering this reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas, that there could be real questions about – and given your reaction to it, that there could be real questions about whether the Egyptians are, in fact, adhering to the letter and spirit of the Camp David Accords if you think that this has destroyed or will destroy a chance for the Israelis and the Palestinians to come together for peace.
MS. PSAKI: Well, they have been consistently supportive of the peace process, the Egyptians have been.
QUESTION: Well, they can’t have if they – if they encouraged this, if they brokered this deal --
MS. PSAKI: I have seen those comments.
QUESTION: -- which you say has had – which has a horrible impact on the --
MS. PSAKI: I agree.
QUESTION: Then they haven’t been supportive of the peace process.
MS. PSAKI: What I’m saying is I’m aware of the comments. I don’t know what the accuracy is of their level of involvement. I don’t have that level of detail at this point.
QUESTION: Jen, so you are opposed to any kind of reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority or Fatah under any circumstances despite the fact that negotiations are led by the PLO, Hamas is not vetoing --
MS. PSAKI: That’s not what I said, Said.
MS. PSAKI: What I said is I laid out the principles that have long been the case for decades.
QUESTION: Right. No, I understand. But Hamas is not saying that it is pre-conditional for the Palestinians, for us to have some sort of reconciliation to drop negotiations, to drop the recognition of Israel. They don’t dictate terms on the PLO to conduct its negotiation. That’s what the Palestinians are saying. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I think I’ve exhausted this topic.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Could we get a readout of the Egyptian intel meeting?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I will --
QUESTION: However unsatisfactory it may – I’m sure it will be.
QUESTION: And if you can specifically address the question that Matt asked, whether the intra-Palestinian reconciliation came up.
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to talk to our team about that. Absolutely.
QUESTION: Change of topic.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Today, Turkish prime ministry, for the first time in history, issued statement regarding 1915 World War I events. Do you have any assessment or reaction to that?
MS. PSAKI: I do. We welcome Prime Minister Erdogan’s historic public acknowledgement of the suffering that Armenians experienced in 1915. We believe this is a positive indication that there can be a full, frank, and just acknowledgement of the facts, which we hope will advance the cause of reconciliation between Turks and Armenians.
QUESTION: Do you have any other further comment regarding content of the statement which encourages different perspectives in terms of discussing these past events?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t. We welcome the event. We think it – we welcome the statement. We think it was a positive step.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: One more question on Turkey?
MS. PSAKI: Okay, one more on Turkey and then we’ll go to Ukraine. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Ismail Besikci, he’s a renowned Turkish author who has written about the plight of the Kurds for 17 years, and he got a valid 10-year U.S. visa, like more than a week ago. But he was denied from leaving Turkey to the United States at the airport, and the Turkish authorities told him that the order had come from the United States. Did you deny Ismail Besikci entry to the U.S.?
MS. PSAKI: Well, section 22F of the INA prohibits us from disclosing details from individual cases. So questions regarding his denial of boarding should be directed to the Department of Homeland Security.
QUESTION: But this is not detail; it’s a yes or no question. Did you deny him or not? I don’t need details.
Ukraine? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Last week I asked Marie about sending nonlethal aid to Ukraine and she said that the U.S. Government did not want to, quote, “de-escalate the situation between the Russians and the United States.”
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And I was wondering --
QUESTION: She said escalate, not de-escalate.
QUESTION: Oh, she didn’t want to escalate. Thank you, Matt. (Laughter.) She meant escalate the situation.
MS. PSAKI: Double negative. We all do it. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Exactly. How then do you reconcile the United States Government’s sending 600 paratroopers to Poland?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s entirely consistent. We’ve long said – long before last week, and last week as well – that we supported our NATO allies. We’ve continued to take steps to boost support for them. This has – is an issue that’s been spoken about by not only NATO but certainly the Vice President, Secretary Kerry. As you noted, the Department of Defense announced yesterday that they would be sending 150 paratroopers to each of four neighboring countries, and this – these exercises will – including Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. And these exercises will last about a month. This is just a tangible example of our commitment to our security obligations to our allies. But that doesn’t change the fact that we have – and these are exercises. These are showing support for our friends and neighbors in – not our neighbors, but our friends in the region.
QUESTION: They’re neighbors with each other.
MS. PSAKI: They are neighbors with each other. But this doesn’t change the fact that in Ukraine we have had not only an illegal occupation of Crimea and other areas, but we’ve had an – escalatory steps taken by the Russians, including the troops on the border, and that is a threatening step taken by the Russians that is to the – to Ukraine.
QUESTION: But what kind of message does this send to Ukraine, that you’re sending troops to Poland and not Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: That we – I think we’ve been pretty strongly supportive of Ukraine’s – the voices of the Ukrainian people and their efforts on the ground through economic support, through nonlethal assistance, and we’ll continue that. But what’s happening on the ground in Ukraine is not exactly the same as the situation on the ground in Poland or the situation on the ground in Lithuania. They’re different countries, as you know.
QUESTION: It’s worse, most would argue.
MS. PSAKI: Far worse, but it’s – they are different countries. We handle our relationships differently and circumstances differently. And what we feel is needed in Ukraine is de-escalation, as Marie --
QUESTION: Is it because Ukraine is not a NATO member? Is that why you’re sending the forces to NATO members?
MS. PSAKI: No. I think we’ve been very supportive, as evidenced through not only our financial assistance but our nonlethal assistance, our teams we’ve sent to the ground to help them with everything from energy to economic reforms, that we support their efforts.
QUESTION: But Ukraine has asked for weapons, and the United States Government has denied weapons to the Ukrainians.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to consider their request. We’ve granted additional requests, as you know, in the last few weeks. But again, our approach here is de-escalation. We don’t think there’s a military solution on the ground. There’s an occupation happening on the ground. What we don’t think we need to do is escalate or raise the tensions with the Russians, and the – and that’s a step we’re unwilling to --
QUESTION: So that means the – so they asked for weapons and you send them the Vice President? (Laughter.) Is that – that’s the way to de-escalate? I’m sorry, that was a little – even snarky for me. Sorry.
Listen, I’m wondering if you – on Ukraine – if you are familiar at all with Foreign Minister Lavrov’s rather extensive interview earlier today.
MS. PSAKI: I did see that, yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any general reaction to it? I have some specifics, but I’m just wondering if you have any general reaction.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think many of the claims he made in his interview are ludicrous and they’re not based in fact of what is happening on the ground. The actions of the Ukrainian Government are a legitimate response by authorities to react to the illegal armed seizure of buildings in a few towns in eastern Ukraine. Throughout this process, including last weekend, including in the weeks leading up, the Ukrainians have shown remarkable restraint in their operations and have given multiple opportunities to negotiate a solution to these seizures. But again, his comments do not include any indication of a plan to implement the Geneva statement, to follow through on promises made, and his rhetoric is counterproductive and inflammatory.
QUESTION: Can you say which ones – which ones of the claims – or just to give us an example of the --
MS. PSAKI: Which ones of --
QUESTION: -- of the claims that the foreign minister made in the interview that you would regard as quote/unquote “ludicrous”?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one was certainly that the United States has anything to do with Ukraine’s counterterrorism operations, or that --
QUESTION: Or that you’re running the show? Is that the --
MS. PSAKI: Or that we’re running the show or funding it, exactly.
MS. PSAKI: I would put those all in the ludicrous category.
QUESTION: Okay. Anything else?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: So just one of the things that he said – and if he didn’t say it, it certainly came out of the Russian foreign ministry later – was that the Russians are demanding that Ukraine withdraw its troops from the southeastern part of their country. Is that something that you guys would see as a legitimate request or demand to de-escalate the situation?
MS. PSAKI: No, we would not. It is Ukraine; it is their country.
MS. PSAKI: They have a responsibility to ensure that there’s law and order, and that is what they’re doing.
QUESTION: So how can you at the same time insist that Russia withdraw its troops from its side of the border? Its troops are in – the ones that are massing that you’re complaining about, not the special Duck Dynasty-looking guys, but the guys who are actually in Russia – how do you square saying that those troops should move and that they should withdraw with you saying, well, the Ukrainians have a legitimate right to be in – their armed forces have a legitimate right to be in the southeastern part of the country? Don’t the Russian troops have a legitimate part – a legitimate reason to be in their part of the country?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our view, Matt, is that tens of thousands of troops massing on the border of a country that they’ve just illegally occupied is not business as usual.
QUESTION: Well, maybe not. But they say, as you just said in response to Lucas’ question about the troops in Poland, they’re just exercises. Well, that’s what the Russians say is all they’re doing on the border. So do you not see how someone could say this looks like a double standard?
MS. PSAKI: I can – I know they have said that, but I certainly think the circumstances are far different. We’re talking about illegally occupied buildings in eastern Ukraine where the legitimate government is taking steps to ensure there’s law and order, versus tens of thousands of troops in a threatening position on the border with the country. There is a contextual difference which is an important one.
QUESTION: But there’s law and order in Poland, and we’re sending U.S. troops there.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I also think Poland is an important ally of ours, and as – what is evident by the announcement by the Department of Defense, we are sending them tangible – we’re showing tangible examples of how we’re supporting them.
QUESTION: How long were these exercises planned?
MS. PSAKI: These exercises that are starting?
MS. PSAKI: About a month. Or how long have they been planned in --
MS. PSAKI: I think you should ask DOD that question.
QUESTION: Do you know if the Poles actually asked for these troops to go? Did they, like, suggest it?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you --
QUESTION: Maybe this is the key for Ukraine. If Poland doesn’t ask for anything, they don’t get the Vice President, but they do get several hundred troops. And if Ukraine didn’t ask for anything, they might get – no?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to DOD on the question of what they requested. Obviously, we’re in close touch with them about their needs.
QUESTION: Ukraine gets boots and Poland gets boots on the ground, perhaps.
MS. PSAKI: That sounds like a tagline for your next hit, Lucas. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Two more questions, Jen. Is it a matter of concern to the Secretary that one of the senior Russian officials who was sanctioned by the President in the wake of the Ukraine crisis continues to this day to benefit from multimillion dollar contracts with the United States Government that were awarded on a no-bid basis earlier this year?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the individual you’re referring to was obviously sanctioned as an individual, not as a company. We have a range of authorities, as you all know, and flexibility with the executive order. But I believe the contract you’re referring to is a Department of Defense contract and I would point you to them for any specifics there, but --
QUESTION: Okay. I believe it was a NASA contract.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Doesn’t it undermine our diplomacy with the Kremlin on Ukraine when the American Government continues to enrich the Russian space sector, whose boss we have placed under financial sanction?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think, one, we have a range of policies that we continue to work with the Russians on. I don’t have additional details on this particular contract, but we work with them on Iran, we work with them on the removal of chemical weapons, we work with them, perhaps, on space exploration as well. But I don’t have additional details about this particular contact.
QUESTION: So is the space program exempt from any sanctions?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask if you had anything further to say about the journalist who is apparently being given free room and board now by some very kindly pro-Russian separatists.
MS. PSAKI: I do. One moment. Well, I still don’t have a Privacy Act – information here. I can --
QUESTION: Well, isn’t that a surprise?
MS. PSAKI: I can express deep concern about the kidnapping of a U.S. citizen journalist in Slovyansk, Ukraine, reportedly at the hands of pro-Russian separatists. We have also raised our concerns with Ukrainian officials as they work with local authorities to try to de-escalate the security situation. We likewise condemn the taking of any hostages, including journalists in eastern Ukraine. We call for their immediate release and call on Russia to use its influence to ensure they’re freed immediately.
QUESTION: This is the American citizen, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you think of any possible way that this person could have signed a Privacy Act Waiver?
MS. PSAKI: I cannot.
QUESTION: You cannot.
MS. PSAKI: But again, you’re familiar with the law --
QUESTION: I am.
MS. PSAKI: -- and I just wanted to state that before I gave my answer.
QUESTION: Okay. But I mean, just – this is the kind of situation we go through time and time again, and it – saying that you can’t talk because they haven’t signed a Privacy Act Waiver just – it’s a little bit frustrating since there’s no possible way --
MS. PSAKI: I understand.
QUESTION: -- they could sign one, even if – you can’t even get one to put in front of them to sign.
MS. PSAKI: It is the nature of the law.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead --
QUESTION: Remember what Mr. Bumble said about the law, right?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: You remember?
MS. PSAKI: No, I’m not sure where that’s --
QUESTION: “The law is a ass.”
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: That’s what --
QUESTION: On Ukraine --
MS. PSAKI: Noted in the transcript.
QUESTION: It’s Dickens. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: Dickens. What the Dickens?
I wondered if you had any reaction to news coming out of Moscow as well that they’ve offered to host three-way talks on gas supplies to Europe between the EU and the Ukraine and Moscow on Monday.
MS. PSAKI: I had not actually seen that announcement before we came down. I’m happy to follow up with our team on it. As you know, some of the root cause of the concern here is from steps and threats coming from the Russian side. We’ve been – had officials on the ground – and Arshad asked this yesterday – but part of the delegation does include State Department officials that I mentioned yesterday working with the Ukrainians. I’m happy to talk with our team and see if that’s something we are supportive of and get back to all of you.
QUESTION: Okay. It seems to be coming from the Russian energy ministry, and they’re saying that they’re ready to discuss proposals from our partners. So I don’t know what that means, but I just wondered if you were more clued into it.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have additional details, but we will look into them. And energy – access to energy and energy security, as you all know, remains one of our concerns about what’s happening on the ground.
MS. PSAKI: Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Has the Secretary spoken with Foreign Minister Lavrov since yesterday? Are there any calls planned? And if he has, did he address the RT interview specifically?
MS. PSAKI: He has not spoken with him since the call yesterday. I’m not aware of any calls that are planned. If those do happen, we will venture to get you all an update.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Ukraine and then we can go to a new topic. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up from yesterday. Have you able to talk to this leader of Crimean Tatar community, Mustafa Dzhemilev, about the allegations?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware. I know that was a question you asked yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: Let me venture to actually follow up more closely on that and see if we have any update. I know we expressed a concern yesterday.
QUESTION: And again, to follow up about the annexation of the Crimea and being supported by the Armenia, do you have any further comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new on that.
QUESTION: And the last question: Again today, Armenian – just one question --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- economy minister announced that Armenia is going to join Russia-led customs union starting couple weeks. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that. I will check with our team and see if there’s any comment we have on that.
QUESTION: I have one just sort of really brief one --
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Ukraine?
QUESTION: -- but it goes back to – yeah – to Donetsk and that flyer. We seem not to have heard a lot – we seem not to have heard anything about it from U.S. officials over the course of the last couple days. I’m just wondering if you have decided that, in fact, this was a hoax; it wasn’t really worth the uproar that it created.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional information. I know there have been reports – varying reports, I should say.
MS. PSAKI: Regardless, the --
QUESTION: No, I’m just wondering if the relative silence – I mean, maybe it’s because you haven’t been asked about it, but I’m just wondering if the silence means that you’ve decided that it was not – it wasn’t a thing --
MS. PSAKI: It was more that I haven’t been asked about it.
QUESTION: But if you were asked about it, you don’t have anything new to say, right?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new updates on the cause, but the message still has the same level of concern.
QUESTION: On Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just – do we have any more on Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Margaret. Let’s go to Margaret first, and then – go ahead.
QUESTION: On Syria, I’m wondering if the issue of that toxic chemical usage in Syria came up during the conversation with Lavrov at all yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: It was not a part of the conversation yesterday. But I will say that Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller, other senior officials from the Department, have been in touch with our – their Russian counterparts who work closely on this issue.
QUESTION: And since there was a briefing on it up at the UN today, I’m wondering what Secretary Kerry’s awareness is. I mean, is he also being debriefed on this, and what kind of information do we actually have? Do we know anything more now than we did yesterday?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new information. I can – one quick update. I mentioned this yesterday, but just to be more specific, our ambassador to the OPCW Bob Mikulak has met with OPCW – the OPCW director general, and we’re continuing to consult and share information with key partners, including the OPCW. The Secretary is kept closely abreast on this – of the updates on this issue. He asks about it on a daily basis. But I don’t have any other updates for you today.
QUESTION: So there’s no confirmation yet on --
MS. PSAKI: Correct. I don’t have any additional --
QUESTION: And is there any – what you said yesterday about the distinction between chlorine being used as an industrial agent, and all that stays the same? There’s no refinement to that?
MS. PSAKI: No, there hasn’t been a change to that. No.
QUESTION: Following up on that, you said that the use of weaponized chlorine is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Chemical Weapons Convention is cited repeatedly in the agreement that was brokered by the United States and Russia. Is a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention by Syria a violation of the U.S.-Russia brokered agreement? Does that translate?
MS. PSAKI: So part of the agreement was to become a member of the Chemical Weapons Convention. Obviously, there isn’t – there’s a lot that needs to happen to determine the facts on the ground. But the UN Security Council decided in the UNSCR, UNSCR 2118, that it would impose measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter in the event of noncompliance, including the use of CW.
MS. PSAKI: So we will see what happens here.
QUESTION: So also in the agreement, it wasn’t just membership in the Chemical Weapons Convention. It was – there were specific provisions of the convention that were cited, including the following: “The detailed procedures for its implementation shall apply to all chemical weapons.”
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And chemical weapons, of course, are categorized into different schedules. And you were talking about how chlorine is a schedule three chemical. Since the actual weapons are --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s what I said yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: But go ahead. Sorry, continue your question.
QUESTION: Well, it is. It turns out it’s a – it’s not a schedule one or two, which are weapons that are solely produced for mass killing.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Like sarin or VX or whatnot.
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s used – I think what I said is that what the accurate information is, just so you know, is that since chlorine is used in commercial and industrial processes in a peaceful manner often, it’s not required to be declared under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
QUESTION: Right. But schedule three --
MS. PSAKI: It’s not one of the declared chemicals.
MS. PSAKI: But obviously, the use of a toxic chemical, including chlorine, would be a violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
QUESTION: Yeah. Schedule three chemicals are exactly that.
MS. PSAKI: Toxic chemicals.
QUESTION: They’re chemicals that are – yeah, toxic chemicals that are widely produced for industrial purposes other than weaponization.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: But nevertheless, they are categorized as chemical weapons if they are used for the purposes which you cited yesterday, which is the harming or killing of people.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So I guess what I’m asking is: Because these chemical weapons have been categorized in three different schedules, are violations categorized in different tiers as well? Is it – if it’s only chlorine as opposed to sarin, is it treated differently? Are the violations not the same?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that. And that would be an OPCW-UN process. Obviously, they would conduct the investigation and they are the ones who are implementing the UN Security Council resolution.
QUESTION: Okay. But at the beginning of the agreement, the Secretary of State said anything but full compliance with the deal that was brokered by the United States and Russia would mean – would mean a violation, period, and it’s not graded or tiered. So is it really up to the OPCW, or do we not – does the United States not have a standard for noncompliance?
MS. PSAKI: I think I answered this pretty extensively yesterday. If there’s new information to provide, we’re happy to provide that.
Do we have any more on Syria or --
QUESTION: One more on Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: I have one on Syria, slightly different. I don’t know if you’ve seen the news today that there’s an MP from the Communist Party in Syria who’s registered to be – to challenge Assad in the elections which he seems to be pushing forward. I just wondered if you had a reaction to that. Does it confer some kind of legitimacy on this process, that obviously --
MS. PSAKI: It certainly should not, given the history of the Assad family and the steps they’ve taken to make it difficult if not impossible to have a fair and free election in Syria.
QUESTION: How about the history of the Syrian Communist Party?
QUESTION: Communist Party.
MS. PSAKI: Fair points. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On the subject of politics in Syria, it turns out that the head of al-Qaida’s victory committee has – was reported to be dead and killed last month in Syria. Sanafi al Nasr is alive and well and he is a member of core al-Qaida. And would you say that core al-Qaida has an increased presence in Syria and that al-Nusrah – the head of al-Nusrah – it’s not just an affiliate?
MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed about how we designate affiliates versus core al-Qaida. You’re familiar with our concerns about the growth of extremism in Syria. That hasn’t changed; in fact, it’s increased over time. But I don’t have any change in the way we designate or --
QUESTION: Would you say that al-Qaida’s presence in Syria has grown stronger in the past few months?
MS. PSAKI: I am not going to put a definition on that. Obviously, the growth of extremism, the growth – that is an area of concern and one that we are extremely focused on as we look at the path ahead.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. PSAKI: Or Syria? More Syria? Go ahead. Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Syria? Oh, Egypt. Some – or, sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I need to ask you about Alan Gross.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: MSNBC spoke with his lawyer today, and I’m quoting here, after – the lawyer has just met with him in Havana and, “He told me yesterday emphatically that May 2nd, which marks his 65th birthday will be his last birthday that he marks in Cuba one way or the other.” Alan means that he does not intend to endure another year of the solitary confinement and that he will return to the United States before his 66th birthday dead or alive. What’s your reaction?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that we are – this is a case and a – the – his detainment is one that we are – have been consistently extremely concerned about. It’s one the Secretary and other officials raise with our interlocutors who have relationships and have discussions with Cuba.
We recognize that Mr. Gross is in an extremely difficult situation. He’s been imprisoned by Cuban authorities for more than four years for doing nothing more than helping Cuban citizens gain access to the internet. We have made abundantly clear to Cuban officials our position that Mr. Gross ought to be released immediately. President Obama has engaged foreign leaders and other international figures to use their influence with Cuba to promote his release, and we’ve kept the case at the forefront of our discussions. We reiterate, of course, our call for the Cuban Government to release Alan Gross immediately. His detention remains an impediment to more constructive relations between the United States and Cuba.
And obviously, comments like that certainly are, of course, of great concern to us. His health and safety and well-being are on our minds every day, and that’s why we’re working so hard to secure his return.
QUESTION: Just to put a fine point on this, you’re saying there aren’t any direct discussions between Cuba and the United States about his case? I think you said you were talking through interlocutors.
MS. PSAKI: I’m just making the point that we raise this at every opportunity we have.
QUESTION: So on Cuba, but not this specifically, how is the USAID review going into the Twitter – the text messages?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on it for you, Matt. It is a process that they have been undergoing to look at the entire program and make sure they’re able to answer all the questions that have been posed.
QUESTION: As far as you know, though, the review is not over?
MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And you would know; they would tell you when it was over, right?
MS. PSAKI: I certainly hope so, yes.
QUESTION: Egypt, please.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. Yesterday you released a readout of the phone call between Secretary Kerry and Nabil Fahmy, the foreign minister of Egypt. And a few hours later, it was announced that 10 Apache helicopters would be released. And accordingly, some people said it’s to resume the aid to Egypt and some people say it’s partially resuming the aid. It’s – do you have any clarification about this?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, let me try to outline it a little more clearly. So as was noted in the readout we gave, there are two certifications that we have confirmed – certifications required by Congress through the Appropriations Act that this – we have confirmed they are abiding by. One of those is sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States. The other is upholding its obligations under the Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty.
So as a result of that, this – these certifications announced, as part of our readout, allow us to use FY 2014 assistance for limited purposes to – prior to certification related to Egypt taking steps to govern democratically, which obviously they still need to take, and those are separate certifications.
So these limited – through these limited purposes, we can now use FY 2014 funds for continuing payments to maintain current FMF contracts, as well – and also to deliver any items funded with FY 2014 FMF for accepted categories, including counterterrorism, border security, and nonproliferation. So it opens up the ability to use additional FMF FY 2014 funding through these two certifications. And again, that is – that was – as is laid out in the appropriations act.
QUESTION: Do you have a (inaudible) for what gets (inaudible)?
QUESTION: So can I --
MS. PSAKI: I do. Sorry, go ahead. Do you have another question?
QUESTION: So – I mean, yeah. I mean, the question is like – to understand this. So the certification is one package or three components differently, separately?
MS. PSAKI: There were two certifications.
QUESTION: Yes, which is the one, the – strategic and the second is bounding with the --
MS. PSAKI: Correct. The Apaches is separate, separate from that. The Apaches – as we all know, Egypt faces a significant and growing threat from extremist groups, particularly in the Sinai, and in the past several months has used Apache helicopters as a significant component of its counterterrorism operations in the Sinai. So we believe these new helicopters will help the Egyptian Government counter extremists who threaten not just Egypt, but Israeli security as well as the United States. And this is a broader element of our – one element of a broader counterterrorism strategy.
QUESTION: So explaining this, what’s – I mean, saying this, what is the next step taken by the Administration or the – Congress is going to do anything, any say about this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, part of – let me get to answer Matt’s question, which answers yours as well. So the next step here is we plan to initially move forward with 650 million of FY 2014 FMF financing, pending congressional notification and approval. That’s obviously the next step for that process, which will support these critical security efforts and continue to fund contracts for other goods and services.
Separately from that, as was noted in the readout we gave, we continue to urge Egypt to follow through on its commitment to transition to democracy, including by conducting free, fair, and transparent elections; easing restrictions on freedom of expression; assembly in the media. And those are steps that Egypt needs to take, even while we take these steps on our end.
QUESTION: So part of the aid now is, let’s say, suspending or frozen till that factor is achieved, right? The --
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are --
QUESTION: Which is the last part of – you said – you mentioned.
MS. PSAKI: There are certain limitations that continue to exist because they have not met all of the certifications, including these steps taken that I just outlined. There is additional funding that I just outlined through – that once we go through the congressional notification, and pending their approval, that we would be able to obligate.
QUESTION: Is there any timeframe for this, or just like whenever it’s happened?
MS. PSAKI: We will begin congressional notifications soon.
QUESTION: Do you know how much of the 650 million in FMF is actually going to be paid to American military contractors or defense contractors?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail. I’m happy to check with our team.
QUESTION: Is it possible to find out? Because I’m just curious: it seems that this is – this may be less of a boon to the Egyptians than it is to American companies, at least in terms of dollars. Clearly, they provide services to the Egyptians in parts, but that – a lot of this money isn’t actually going to end up in Egypt. It’s going to end up back in – back here.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I will check and see if we have any additional breakdown.
QUESTION: Also, can I just – can I – on this 650 million, does it include the 10 Apaches? Is the cost of the --
MS. PSAKI: No.
QUESTION: That’s separate?
MS. PSAKI: Separate. That is separate.
QUESTION: And then how much is still outstanding of the annual – of the FY 2014 money?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s about 1.5, so we can get you a more exact number, but --
QUESTION: It’s about 1.5 that is still outstanding, or the total is about --
MS. PSAKI: Total, total.
QUESTION: -- 1.5, of which 650 million --
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay, is going for --
MS. PSAKI: Correct, and that’s not all FMF. That’s the total --
QUESTION: But 1.3 of the 1.5 total is military?
MS. PSAKI: Correct, is FMF.
QUESTION: Could we get a breakdown of that, some sort of global --
MS. PSAKI: Sure. And just so I clarify, of what the breakdown of the 1.5 is?
QUESTION: Of what has been paid out, what hasn’t?
MS. PSAKI: It is more challenging than you would think --
QUESTION: I imagine.
MS. PSAKI: -- but I will check with our team and see what we can put together.
QUESTION: We’re sure you’re up to the challenge, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Certainly.
QUESTION: And is the final – the final – is the final certification on democracy a democratic piece? Is – that’s what’s holding up the rest of the 1.5 billion, minus the 650 million, the 10 Apaches, whatever that adds up to?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the 650 is not the maximum that we’d be able to give under these certifications. I don’t have that specific number. I will see if that’s available. But the additional certification, 6(a) and 6(b), are part of what we’re waiting for, and they relate to some of the funding as well.
QUESTION: Just so I --
QUESTION: So 650 million is what you’re going to – sorry, Arshad – is that what – that’s what you’re planning to release now once you’ve done the congressional notification?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So you could be under those initial certifications – the Israel (inaudible) and the strategic relationship – you can actually release more monies, then?
MS. PSAKI: Technically, you could, yes.
QUESTION: And it is – just so I’m clear, the – your ability to release additional funds prior to the 6(a) and 6(b) certifications rests on the exceptions that are in the law for the purposes that you described – security in Sinai and so on?
MS. PSAKI: Sorry, I don’t – I’m not sure I totally understand your question. All right? Can you repeat it one more time?
QUESTION: So – it might have been good to have a briefing on this last night when we were trying to write this, but as I understand it – and I may not understand it correctly at all – the law gives you the ability to release certain funds with the two certifications that you described --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- but absent the democracy and election-related certifications?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: So my question was: Am I correct in understanding that it’s not like there’s a dollar figure that you can release? You can release any funds within the amount that has been appropriated, provided that they only go for those accepted purposes that are in the law, which I think includes Sinai security, counterterrorism, et cetera?
MS. PSAKI: Border security, nonproliferation, counterterrorism, and --
MS. PSAKI: -- for a current FMF contract.
QUESTION: But that money – it’s not cash. It’s already designated towards items and programs, right?
MS. PSAKI: That’s my understanding, yes.
QUESTION: And then where does the – sorry, where does the actual money for the Apaches come from? Does that come from 2013 funds?
MS. PSAKI: I believe that’s correct, that it – not from FY2014. So that is a fair guess, but let me double-check that for you as well --
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MS. PSAKI: -- to make sure that’s the year it comes from.
QUESTION: So it’s ten Apaches plus this extra 650 million --
MS. PSAKI: Correct. Correct.
Go ahead, Nicole.
QUESTION: Just to follow up.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I – still some Egypt, sorry. The Secretary said, or you said in your statement about the Secretary, that he wasn’t yet able to certify that they’re moving towards a fully democratic transition.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What does he need to see in order to be able to certify that? And what would that release in terms of aid?
MS. PSAKI: Well, in order to see that, as was noted in there, that includes conducting free, fair, and transparent elections, easing restrictions on freedom of expression, assembly, and media. There are obviously additional steps, but those are some core steps that we would need to see them conclude.
In terms of additional funding, let me check that and see if we can get a description for all of you.
QUESTION: In terms of free speech and free media and so on, in the conversation, did the jailing of journalists come up at all, specifically those that are on trial right now?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail. I will check and see. Obviously, that’s something we’ve spoken publicly about --
MS. PSAKI: -- he’s expressed concerns privately about. I will see if it --
MS. PSAKI: -- is something that specifically came up in this conversation.
QUESTION: As well as the (inaudible) meeting.
MS. PSAKI: Understood.
Yes. Go ahead.
QUESTION: In days, Nabil Fahmy will be here in town. Did you have any schedule for when he is going to be in this building or something?
MS. PSAKI: So he will be in Washington next week to meet with Secretary Kerry and senior Administration officials as well as members of Congress. In terms of what his schedule is while he’s here, I would point you to his team. I believe that the Secretary has a meeting with him on Tuesday.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Jen, new topic. The FBI has conducted an investigation of a pedophile that taught for decades on schools that are used by the children of U.S. diplomats. Has there been any concern from any families in how you handle this kind of threat? And will that be part of the new civilian security undersecretaries?
MS. PSAKI: Well, thank you for raising this terrible case. The FBI is seeking the public’s assistance to identify victims of a suspected international child predator who is now deceased. The focus is to locate and identify victims. The – many of the victims will likely be American citizens. It is expected that the victim pool will be multinational. In addition to foreign nationals, the schools were attended by children of American diplomats, military personnel stationed overseas, and other American citizens working abroad. The FBI is committed to providing victim assistance as needed. We will continue to work with the FBI through the – through DS and other national and international law enforcement partners on this ongoing investigation. By his own admission, Mr. Vahey provided victims with sleeping pills prior to the alleged criminal acts. And obviously, as you noted, this has raised a significant concern. We’re certainly closely with the FBI on this around the world.
QUESTION: Can you state what schools this is believed to have occurred in or may have occurred in?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of information.
MS. PSAKI: I think it is probably in the hands of the FBI, but --
QUESTION: Is there anything that the Department can do with these schools? Is there private schools?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t, again, have that level of information. Obviously, this is something we’re working with the FBI on around the world to, as I noted, to locate victims and to work in coordination from there.
QUESTION: One more Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is the State Department uncomfortable that a senior al-Qaida leader is now operating in Syria?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional level of detail of your original question. So I don’t have any details on that in particular.
Go ahead in the back.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So the South Korean Government has been saying that they’ve seen increased activity at nuclear testing sites in the North. Is this – they’re concerned, obviously, that a new test could be imminent. Is this a belief that the U.S. shares, and is it a concern that you have? If you have anything to add on that.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I – we talked about this a little bit yesterday. I don’t have anything new. But we’ve seen, of course, these reports, including the reports of the South Korean defense minister this morning about possible increased activity at North Korea’s nuclear site. We’re closely monitoring the situation. We obviously remain in close contact with both the South Koreans and the Japanese, and we continue to urge North Korea to refrain from actions that threaten regional peace and security, but I don’t have any additional information to share.
QUESTION: And then, kind of at the same time, the regime is releasing these childhood photos of Kim Jung-un. It’s very unusual for them to release a lot of information, so I wonder if you have any comment on that.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have seen no shortage of propaganda from the North Korean regime, so that comes as no surprise. But again, I wouldn’t link all of them because we don’t have additional details yet on the reports of a – of increased activity.
QUESTION: (Off-mike) you regard baby and childhood photos as propaganda? I don’t know. Maybe you do. I just --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, what I’m referring to is they have a history and a record of putting out information while their people are suffering, so --
QUESTION: Fair enough.
MS. PSAKI: Great.
QUESTION: No. No, no, no.
MS. PSAKI: Oh. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- the QDDR here. So what was it? I’m sorry. I’m – again, there was no two-minute warning and we didn’t notice the briefing was started until you popped up on the screen --
MS. PSAKI: Our apologies for that.
QUESTION: -- so I missed the very top.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I am assuming, however, that at the very top, you endeavored to present some demonstrable, quantifiable accomplishments from the QDDR 2010.
MS. PSAKI: I did, in fact. I said it was too bad you were not here because you asked --
QUESTION: I would have been here if – I was all set, but we didn’t get any notice that it was starting. So without you having to repeat them, were there any of these that didn’t simply involve rearranging of the bureaucratic deck chairs or shuffling responsibilities between one bureau to another or creating a new level of bureaucracy? Were any of the accomplishments in – outside of that, those areas?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely, Matt.
MS. PSAKI: I would say the whole process, if it works well, as it did in 2010, or leading up to 2010, is to better determine priorities and how to make things work better in a large functioning bureaucracy. So part of that has been – how it’s been implemented since 2010 is an increased focus on economic statecraft. As you know, that was a big priority of Secretary Clinton’s, and as Secretary Kerry often says, economic policy is foreign policy. So we’ve continued to carry that forward – fuller integration of women and girls and a greater focus on that important priority and the role the United States can play around the world.
And when you talk about creation of bureaus or agencies, it’s actually incredibly important because it shows where our focus is. And if you look at the creation of the Energy and Resources Bureau and how important that is as we – as it relates to Ukraine and their energy challenges on the ground, and they have been playing a role on the forefront in that, not to mention our counterterrorism bureau that was created through this process before. This shows priorities and focus and shows the world what we do here at the State Department. So it’s an incredibly important process.
QUESTION: Okay, well, maybe my question is not specific enough. I’m asking for actual demonstrable outcomes, not the creation of a new position or a new job. So the Energy Resources Bureau, which you talk about as important to Ukraine – other people have mentioned how important it is for Europe to diversify its energy supply --
MS. PSAKI: Sure. There are many important aspects.
QUESTION: -- so they’re less dependent on Russia. So in the last four years since this was created in the QDDR in 2010, how successful has it been? How much less dependent on Russian oil is Europe, is Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, look, Matt, I think, one, this is a bureau that was created through this process because there was a decision made that there was a need. And so I would say that if you talk to countries in Europe, if you talk to Ukraine, they would say the creation of this is incredibly important --
QUESTION: Yeah, but how has it --
MS. PSAKI: -- as they look to address their energy needs.
QUESTION: Right. But how has it actually helped them address their energy needs or diversify their economy? Other than making it a priority for you, how has it actually made any impact on the ground? Is Europe any – I mean, I recognize this can be an evolutionary process that would take some years. But it’s been four years now, okay? This thing has been around for four years, since 2010. I’m wondering if the bureau – maybe you could invite the bureau to come down here to tell me or tell the rest of us how exactly Europe is less dependent, how it’s more – how it has diversified its energy supply since this bureau came into being.
Similarly, with the Bureau of Counterterrorism, I’m not sure I really understand because, in fact, that was created by an act of Congress in 1994. It just was never turned into a bureau by the State Department. It was always an office.
MS. PSAKI: Well, it was turned into a bureau.
MS. PSAKI: It raised the level of focus of its importance, the level of leadership. I think that certainly sends a strong message.
QUESTION: Okay. And again, the impact of that on the actual ground, on counterterrorism efforts? Is there a way that you can show that turning an office into a bureau and giving – instead of having an office director or a coordinator, having an assistant secretary, has actually changed or been beneficial to the United – to the government’s counterterrorism operation? Does it have any quantifiable results? That’s the question. So I don’t expect you to have an answer right now, but it would seem to me that that’s an easy way to go about it.
In terms of the civilian power, I mean, this is a 242-page document. There were four major outcomes of – and all of them seem to be pretty much stating the obvious to me, and I think probably to the – the obvious to others, that we should build American civilian power, we should elevate and transform development to deliver results, we should try to save money, better planning and budgeting. I mean, these are all things that should be being done any – without an enormous QDDR process that requires its own special coordinator.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think that for the resources of the American people that are invested in our foreign policy – only 1 percent of the budget, I realize, but still important – for the message we’re sending to the rest of the world about whether we’re looking closely at what our priorities are, whether we are investing enough resources on that, it’s an incredibly important process. And I think if you talk to countries around the world who now are talking to officials from ENR, officials from our counterterrorism bureau, they would say they appreciate the level of coordination, the level of seniority. And part of what we do here is represent United States interests around the world. So I don’t know if that’s quantifiable in a data document, but it is certainly something that has had a huge impact.
QUESTION: Right. Well, okay. But when I say quantifiable, I mean something other than another government saying we’re very appreciative that you’re willing to talk to us about this – on this topic, because you were talking to them about it before the QDDR. So that’s what I’m getting at. So if there is – just on that one specific thing, on the Energy Resources Bureau, if there is a way to find out how exactly it has moved to diversify – or how Europe, with its help, with the help of the bureau, has moved to diversify its energy supplies away from Russia, then that would be – to me, that would be an indication that there was some definitive or quantifiable measure of success. That’s what I’m saying.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say there are a range of responsibilities under that bureau, not just that specific question, but --
QUESTION: Sure, but that was the one that was pointed to by several people to me on Twitter, including yourself.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. One specific example, though, I would give is the whole discussion of reverse flows that’s happening – I know this is one of Jo’s favorite topics – on the ground with Europe and with Ukraine is a process that ENR has been a lead bureau, a lead negotiator in. And I would say that that is a tangible example of some of the work that they do.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, that’s excellent. Has that actually happened yet, these reverse flows?
MS. PSAKI: They’re on the ground now discussing it, so it’s an ongoing process.
Thank you, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:35 p.m.)
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