1:26 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay, I have just a couple of items for all of you at the top. To answer – in response to Jo’s question yesterday, I have a trip announcement, of course. Secretary Kerry will visit Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Kinshasa, DRC; and Luanda, Angola from April 29th through May 5th. To encourage – on the trip, he will encourage democratic development, promote respect for human rights, advance peace and security, engage with civil society and young African leaders who will shape the continent’s future, and promote trade, investment, and development partnerships in Africa. The Secretary’s trip will also highlight U.S. investments in the PEPFAR program.
In Addis Ababa, Secretary Kerry will co-convene the fourth session of the U.S.-AU High-Level Dialogue and discuss a range of issues on which we partner with the African Union. Secretary Kerry will meet with both the prime minister and the foreign minister to discuss efforts to advance peace and democracy in the region and strengthen important areas of bilateral cooperation with Ethiopia.
In Kinshasa, Secretary Kerry will meet with President Kabila and will discuss how the DRC’s government’s progress in neutralizing some of the dozens of dangerous armed groups that victimize the Congolese people can be consolidated, and how to best advance the DRC’s democratization and long-term stability, including through a timely and transparent electoral process.
In Luanda, Secretary Kerry will commend President dos Santos for Angola’s leadership of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and encourage the president’s continued personal engagement in the Great Lakes peace process. The Secretary will also discuss bilateral policy and trade issues with the foreign minister.
QUESTION: Can I just ask you on that?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Yesterday the Secretary mentioned another stop. Is that not – stop not happening now, or might there be other stops on the trip other than the ones that you just announced?
MS. PSAKI: I – trips are always subject to change, as you all know who have traveled with us. But I don’t have any other stops to announce today.
QUESTION: But he said there was another stop and even identified it.
MS. PSAKI: I understand. I don’t have any other stops to announce. Obviously, the Secretary has a range of places he’d like to visit.
Finally, Secretary Kerry will also be accompanied by Assistant Secretary for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the DRC Russ Feingold, Special Envoy to Sudan and South Sudan Donald Booth, and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Cathy Russell.
One more announcement for all of you: With World Press Freedom Day around the corner on May 3rd, the Department will launch its third annual Free the Press campaign later this afternoon in New York at the USUN mission. Beginning on Monday and all of next week, we will highlight emblematic cases of imperiled reporters and media outlets that have been targeted, oppressed, imprisoned or otherwise harassed because of their professional work. The first two cases will be announced by Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski later at USUN, and we invite you, of course, to follow Tom at Twitter, who has – on Twitter, who, as you all know, was just confirmed several weeks ago – @Malinowski – and to keep up with human rights issues on DRL’s website.
With that --
QUESTION: Sure. Just on that, who – reporters who are what? Harassed? I’m sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Targeted, oppressed, imprisoned, or otherwise harassed.
QUESTION: Otherwise harassed. Does that include those who may have been targeted, harassed, imprisoned, or otherwise, whatever, by the United States Government?
MS. PSAKI: I’m --
MS. PSAKI: -- I think you’re familiar with our Free the Press campaign, Matt. But --
QUESTION: Fair enough. So it does not include those who might have been harassed by --
MS. PSAKI: We highlight, as we often do, where we see issues with media freedom around the world.
QUESTION: Right, I understand. But you would say that you don’t – the U.S. does not believe that it has a problem with press freedom, or if it does, that it’s not nearly as severe as the problems in other countries?
MS. PSAKI: We do not. I think we can look at --
MS. PSAKI: -- many of the problems – on media press freedom?
MS. PSAKI: Oh. Go ahead, and then we’ll go to you, Lalit. Did you have another question on media press freedom week, or --
QUESTION: Huh? No, I was going to go to something else. Unless --
MS. PSAKI: Sure, I do. Well, as I just noted and as evidenced by our plan to highlight many cases around the world over the course of the coming week, freedom of the press, including freedom of the airwaves and safety for journalists, is of paramount importance to freedom of expression and to the healthy functioning of any democracy around the world. We continue to wish Hamid Mir a speedy recovery and to call on the Government of Pakistan to bring all those responsible for these attacks on the media to justice.
On the Geo TV blocked question, we’re aware of these reports and also aware of reports that the information ministry has asked PEMRA to restore transmission. We’re continuing to follow events. I don’t have any other updates for today.
QUESTION: I’d just go back to the overall – in general, the Administration does not regard attempting to prosecute American journalists as an infringement of press freedom?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure which – or what you’re referring to.
QUESTION: Well, there’s several cases that are out there right now. The one that comes – springs to mind is the James Risen case, where the Justice Department has – is attempting to prosecute. You don’t – I just want to be clear; I’m not trying to --
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt --
QUESTION: I just want to know if you regard that as an infringement on press freedom or not. And I would suspect that you do not, but I want to make sure that’s the case.
MS. PSAKI: As you know, and I’ll of course refer to the Department of Justice, but the leaking of classified information is in a separate category. What we’re talking about here, as you all know, and unfortunately we have to talk about on a regular basis here, is the targeting of journalists --
QUESTION: No, no --
MS. PSAKI: -- the arrests, the imprisonment, for simply exercising --
MS. PSAKI: -- their ability to tell a story.
QUESTION: Right. I understand that, and we’re all, I’m sure – myself and all of my colleagues, we’re very appreciative of that. But the reporters in question here have not leaked the information; they simply published it. So is it correct, then, that you don’t believe – you don’t regard that as an infringement of press freedom?
MS. PSAKI: We don’t.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to say on that case.
MS. PSAKI: Do we have a new topic?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: North Korea that is. You are aware of the reports from – North Korean news agency that they have detained an American citizen. I’m wondering if you can tell us anything about this. Have you been in touch with your protecting power about it?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. We are, of course, aware of the reports that a U.S. citizen was detained in North Korea. As you all know, there’s no greater priority to us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens. We don’t have additional information to share at this time. We have been in touch with the embassy of Sweden about these reports. As you know, the – Sweden is our protecting power in North Korea.
QUESTION: Okay. You have been in touch, and as far as you know, they have not had any success?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other updates for all of you.
QUESTION: When you say (inaudible) media reports --
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: -- correct? So you don’t as yet have any independent knowledge?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to share with all of you. Any more on North Korea? Go ahead, Margaret.
QUESTION: A question on that. In these reports, this individual, this American citizen was claiming to seek some form of asylum in North Korea. Given – you can’t talk about this particular case, but given the human rights record in North Korea, is this something you would have a fair amount of skepticism about?
MS. PSAKI: Again, because – as you all know, but it’s worth repeating, absent written consent from any individual, we can’t discuss a specific case. You’re all familiar with our views of North Korea’s human rights record. They were outlined, of course, in the Commission of Inquiry report. There have been reports about them probably on a daily basis around the world, so I don’t think we have to explain that much further, but --
QUESTION: On North Korea again: The indications or not of a possible nuclear test? Nothing?
MS. PSAKI: I have nothing new to say on that beyond what I said a couple of days ago.
QUESTION: All right. If we could move on from --
MS. PSAKI: From North Korea? Sure.
QUESTION: -- from that to --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So in the aftermath of yesterday, where do things stand? Is Ambassador Indyk still in the region? Is he still trying to – attempting to, I don’t know, rescue, salvage, whatever kind of word you want – whatever word you – verb you want to use – the talks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Ambassador Indyk is still in the region. I don’t have any updates on his travel plans. I spoke with the Secretary about this this morning. As we – as is no surprise, we talk about it probably every day. And what his view is, is this is a moment of transition and part of the process. We’re in a holding period where parties need to figure out what is next. And as we’ve known all along, there may come a point – we’ve always thought there could be a point where we needed to pause and both sides needed to look at what was possible, and we’re clearly at that point now.
QUESTION: So what are his – does that mean he’s just going to be sitting tight there and not attempting to – I mean, you say that there’s a holding – that we’re at a holding period, so this is a time for both sides to reflect on their own, without any U.S. involvement?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been in touch with them certainly, and --
QUESTION: Well, I understand, but, I mean, in terms of the – I mean, it was active.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There was quite a bit of activity, not just Ambassador Indyk and his team, but also the Secretary himself. Are we in a – now in a period where you’re basically going to let, like, I don’t know, a timeout or something like that, where you’re going to – where it’s – each side needs to reflect on its own about what it wants to see happen?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a good question.
QUESTION: Without your involvement.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, I understand what you’re asking. I can’t make a prediction of that at this point because the Secretary, as you all know, was in touch with President Abbas yesterday. He’s been in touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu as recently as yesterday afternoon. He certainly may stay in touch with them, as may our negotiating team. But in terms of what needs to happen now, yes, absolutely, we’re at a point where the parties need to figure out what’s next. We’ll still remain in touch with them, but it is on them.
QUESTION: You said he may stay in touch with him, and you said that the team on the ground may stay in touch with them. That implies they may not.
MS. PSAKI: I expect they will stay in touch. Certainly, we work with Israel on a range of issues. Certainly, we have a relationship with the Palestinians as well, as you know.
QUESTION: Does he feel that this was a failure? His original goal, as he announced, was to achieve a peace agreement by April 29th. Subsequently, it emerged slowly that the goal was a framework agreement, and then in the last few weeks it’s been very clear from your comments and others that the goal was simply to keep the two sides talking, to extend the talks. Does he regard this as a failure?
MS. PSAKI: No, Arshad. He’s always said that he believed it was worth it not just for the United States to engage in this effort as a facilitator or to play any role possible in helping these parties come to the table, but worth it for the parties, because the status quo is not sustainable, because the future, where there is a two-state solution, where there is a greater opportunity, where there is greater economic prosperity, is still in the interest of both people. And we continue to believe that it’s in America’s interest as well as Israel’s interest and the interest of the Palestinian people to see if we can resolve a conflict, this conflict. That remains the case. This is a process. We’ve always believed it would be a process, and so we will continue to see what happens in the days, weeks, and months ahead.
QUESTION: Could you explain to us what is pause – what does pause mean? What does it mean? You said holding pattern. Is that like when airplanes are up in the air going around and so on? What does that mean, holding pattern, or a pause?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t know if it’s quite that. Look, I think it’s a time where we’re going to – where we’re, clearly, as I said the other day – the steps that have been taken by both sides have contributed to making this a challenging situation. But we’re going to see what happens. We’re going to take a – we’re in a holding period to see what parties – what the parties are willing to figure out about what’s next.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. So what are the Secretary’s ideas about, let’s say, the 29th of this month? Is there going to be a statement, there’s going to be a review; we have done one, two, three, four; we have accomplished this, we did not accomplish that? I mean, what kind of a – something should we expect coming out of this Department?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the peace process and the pursuit of a peace process and a final status agreement is not something that we are giving up on. We are continuing – that continues to be in the interest of the United States, in the interest of the Israelis, and the Palestinian people. We’re headed to Africa on the 29th, so that is what the Secretary will be doing that day.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: I understand. But considering that the 29th – just bear with me a little bit. The 29th was designated as a benchmark of some sort. Should we expect that something will come out of that day that says on this day, the 29th of April, 2014, we say one, two, three, four, we have accomplished this, and this remains to be accomplished?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t expect that.
QUESTION: But Jen, when you look at what President Obama said this morning in Seoul, his tone was decidedly much more pessimistic and he even allowed – and I’m paraphrasing here – that he does not expect the parties, which he said both have not made the tough political choices or don’t have the political will to make these choices – he doesn’t expect them to come back to the table tomorrow, next week, in the next six months, essentially saying that there is a pause and that this process that has been underway is done and dusted and that it’s time for everyone to think about how to restart the process. When you put it in those sorts of terms, what is the reflection here in the State Department? Was there something wrong with its strategy in trying to get these two sides to make these tough political choices? What should be done differently if there’s a third run at this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, first, I don’t think that’s exactly what the President said, so I would point everyone to the full transcript of his comments. But what he reiterated is very much what the Secretary feels as well and I’ve just outlined, that it is still in America’s interests as well as Israel’s interests and the interests of the Palestinian people to see if we can resolve this conflict; that there is no scenario in which peace is not made between the Israelis and Palestinians where we can have a secure, democratic, Jewish state of Israel and the Palestinians have a state without peace being made; that this continues to be a goal that we should all share and see what – if there’s a path forward.
At the same time, and this is very much what the Secretary feels, we can’t force the parties to take steps they’re unwilling to take, and --
QUESTION: But there was one thing that the President did not make in his comments this morning, and that was the idea of hope. We heard the Secretary make allusion to that yesterday as well as in recent days, and the President also made a point of saying that both sides haven’t been able to essentially buck their political considerations, their domestic political considerations --
MS. PSAKI: Well, we --
QUESTION: -- in order to move this process along, and so he basically said we really need to reexamine whether we should even be spending our time on this right now.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I just outlined that this is a moment of transition, and that’s part of the process. And the Secretary agrees that the Israelis and the Palestinians have both taken unhelpful steps throughout this process. It’s up to them to determine if there’s a path forward. And this – the President also said about this process that it’s the right thing to do, that it’s important and it’s in America’s national interests. So we’ll see what happens, but there’s – this is a situation where we’re – again, as I said, we’re in a holding pattern. We’re going to see what the parties are willing to do between each other.
QUESTION: Jen, can I ask – tomorrow, the PLO is supposed to be meeting to decide whether to press ahead or not, I guess, with this reconciliation attempt with Hamas. What do you expect to come out of that meeting?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as I’ve said before, that President Abbas has on many occasions reaffirmed his own support for the principles that we’ve talked about here. I can’t predict for you what will come out of their meeting. I can convey that when the Secretary spoke with him yesterday, he assured him that any government that is formed will be his government and represent his policies, and that includes a recognition of Israel, commitment to nonviolence, adherence to prior agreements, and commitment to peaceful negotiations toward a two-state solution. So we’ll see what happens, and obviously, we’ll be in touch on the ground as well.
QUESTION: Is that okay with you, or do you want to have some proof of that in what he says?
MS. PSAKI: Some proof of it?
QUESTION: Well, one, I find it unusual that you’re providing us Abbas’s side of the phone call when you’ve refused to do that with pretty much every other conversation the Secretary has.
MS. PSAKI: Well, often, Matt --
QUESTION: But I know – but that aside, and I appreciate the fact that you’re willing to tell us that, but that aside, is his promise to the Secretary good enough, or do you need to see it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, good enough in what respect?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, would you tell the Israelis that, look, President Abbas has made a commitment to us, the Americans, that his government, even if it includes some members of Hamas, will be technocratic in nature and will abide by all of the PLO principles, the ones that you just laid out. Would you be willing to take that – make that case and take it to the Israelis to get them to end their suspension?
MS. PSAKI: That is not at all what our plan is. I would say that, obviously, to your point, actions are important and we would need to see what happens. And they have tried this many, many times before without success. I was just conveying, which I think is a very important point, President Abbas’s own view. And we’ll, of course, see what happens over the coming days and weeks.
QUESTION: Right, but is that view – is that a positive thing, do you think?
MS. PSAKI: That he restated his --
QUESTION: That he said that any – that this – any government that’s formed with Hamas would be technocratic and would respect – and would accept Israel’s right to exist and reaffirm the nonviolence pledge? Is that a good thing to the U.S.?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. It’s consistent with what he’s said in the past, but certainly it’s positive.
QUESTION: Right. Okay, but the Israelis have said that no way, no how, are they going to talk with a Palestinian – with Abbas if he’s in a government that includes members of a terrorist organization. So do you agree with that position, the Israeli position, or not?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead of where we are, Matt. Obviously, they’ve made a statement about the creation of a technocratic government. They’re going to have a series of meetings.
MS. PSAKI: We’ll see what happens.
QUESTION: I understand that, but if they do form a – and I realize this is a hypothetical, but if he does, in fact, follow through and come through on the commitments that he made to the Secretary, would you drop your objections to there being a unity government? And would you tell the – advise – not that they would listen to it, but would you tell the Israelis, look, we think that this is a – this is someone you can work – this is a government you can work with?
MS. PSAKI: I think we would have to see what it looks like and where things stand. And obviously, it’s ultimately up to the Israelis to make that choice.
QUESTION: Right, but the problem is that by saying that you think it’s a good thing that President Abbas made these commitments to the Secretary – and he has made them to others as well; he’s made them to the UN, he’s made them. By saying it’s a good thing, it suggests that you would be okay with a unity government, the Palestinian unity government, that includes a foreign terrorist organization in it, and that you would then – by extension, would then think that Israel should negotiate with that government.
MS. PSAKI: I think you’re taking it down a few steps --
QUESTION: I am?
MS. PSAKI: -- that I didn’t go down.
QUESTION: All right, okay.
MS. PSAKI: And again, our position as it relates to reconciliation has been pretty consistent over the course of a number of years, and certainly, he’s restating support for those principles.
QUESTION: Well, let me just make a – I think the phone is ringing somewhere right now in NEA. There’s a call coming in from Jerusalem wanting to clarify that – what you said, but okay.
MS. PSAKI: All I was stating, to make it abundantly clear, is that President Abbas stated on his call his support for these principles that he’s long supported.
QUESTION: Right. But you said then that that was a positive thing.
MS. PSAKI: I didn’t make any indications of what it means for the peace process. That’s up for the Israelis and the Palestinians to determine.
QUESTION: So you’re not opposed in principle to the concept of reconciliation among Palestinians so long as they abide by these principles – renouncing terrorism or violence, recognizing Israel, and abiding by, adhering to all agreements?
MS. PSAKI: That’s long been our position.
QUESTION: So is that – so that is not to say we reject the concept of reconciliation with Hamas, correct?
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve stated our position and it’s consistently been the case.
QUESTION: Okay, one last question regarding this issue.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The President also talked about alternatives in a certain context. He said that both sides ought to look at alternatives. What does he mean by that, or how do you understand this – he means by that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, for the last several weeks it’s been up to the parties, and long before that, about tough decisions that needed to be made. But for the last several weeks, the focus has been on whether they would agree to extending the talks. That continues to be the case if they decide to pursue this moving forward. And so alternatives – again, it’s up to them to determine what conditions they would be and what it would look like. That’s what he was referring to.
QUESTION: This is very brief.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: But since you talked to the Secretary – you said that you talked with the Secretary about this this morning.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You probably recall back when this all started, the Secretary said on numerous occasions that this is not mission impossible.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: In retrospect, was he wrong?
MS. PSAKI: No, he still doesn’t feel it’s mission impossible.
QUESTION: Really? By the 29th of April to get a final – to get a final comprehensive deal?
MS. PSAKI: I think, Matt, he was making a point about a very difficult, intractable issue with decades of history.
MS. PSAKI: But again, he agrees with the President, as is no surprise to anyone here, that still a peace process that resulted in a final status agreement between the parties is in the best interests of the Israelis, the Palestinians, and the United States.
QUESTION: Right. Well, I’m sure we can revisit this on Tuesday, when the – the 29th, and I’m sure we will if he hasn’t flown off to Africa already by briefing time – I mean if you’re here.
MS. PSAKI: I’ll be here. I’ll look forward to it.
QUESTION: You will? Okay. Because I’ll ask you the same question again.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Was it not – because it would seem to me that if you can’t – if you don’t accept the fact that it was, in fact, mission impossible to achieve a deal within nine months, then you’re just – you’re living in the same alternate reality that you accuse Putin of living in on Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s hardly a comparison, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, I’m just saying that it – anyway. We’ll come back to it.
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just --
QUESTION: We’ll come back to it on Tuesday.
MS. PSAKI: Middle East peace? Go ahead, Roz.
QUESTION: Going back to the point about financial aid from the U.S. to the PA being contingent on not having any terrorist groups as part of its government, let’s talk a little more about the legalities of how the U.S. can engage, cannot engage, with any terrorist group, in this case Hamas, assuming that they do work out the terms of some sort of unity government. Is there a direct prohibition on the U.S. from engaging in any way with Hamas?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, as you know, there are congressionally mandated requirements as it relates to aid in a range of areas, including this one. If a new Palestinian government is formed, we’ll assess it based on its adherence to the stipulations we’ve talked about quite a bit in here, its policies and actions, and we’ll determine any implications for our assistance based on U.S. law.
QUESTION: Now, that is just dealing with the money. In terms of talking one government to some political entity, the U.S. has had backdoor contacts with North Korea, it’s had backdoor contacts until very recently with Iran, it does engage with the Haqqani Network, with the Taliban. What prohibition is there, if any, on talking to Hamas?
MS. PSAKI: Again, you know that they are a designated terrorist organization. I don’t have anything further for you. I’ll check with our team and see if there’s more we want to outline on that issue.
QUESTION: But Iran has been known or designated as a state sponsor of terrorism --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- and yet the U.S. Government engages with Iran. What’s the difference?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, you’re right. Every country is different. I don’t think I’m going to have much more to outline, but I’ll see if there is more to outline, and I’m happy to share that with all of you.
QUESTION: But it’s a critical point because if the Palestinians argue that they have the right to choose their representatives, and if they feel that at this point in the peace process that they don’t have enough representative voices as a part of their negotiating team, as well as trying to do the day-to-day business of providing services to their people, why is it that the U.S. cannot respect that point of view, and then further, try not to engage with those members of Hamas that would join this technocratic government to try to see if their ways can be changed, to see if they can be persuaded to recognize Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, to renounce violence, to honor these previous agreements, and anything else that the U.S. might think is necessary?
MS. PSAKI: Well, what you just outlined is not a representation of what our view is or what I’ve stated in the briefing room at all. What we’ve said consistently, but let me just repeat, is there are certain principles that have been – have long been our policy and the Quartet – policy of the Quartet that a unity government would need to abide by. Obviously, that’s related to our relationship with the Palestinians, but clearly we’re talking about a peace process. We can’t determine on behalf of the Israelis who they negotiate with, just as we can’t – like we can’t determine on behalf of the Palestinians who they negotiate with. They need to make those determinations. We’re not making them for them. I’m just stating kind of what the events are on the ground.
QUESTION: But the Palestinians’ argument is that they’re being held to a different standard than the Israelis are. That’s the point of my question.
MS. PSAKI: In what capacity? And I’m not sure I’ve seen those statements that they’ve made.
QUESTION: They’ve – (inaudible) made the statement yesterday, Mustafa Barghouti made those statements yesterday, other members of the PA made those statements late yesterday evening. You may not have seen them.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I think I’ve consistently --
QUESTION: But they have all – but they all consistently said --
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. I’ve consistently said that both sides, and the President said this just today, have taken unhelpful steps throughout the process, that it is up to them to determine what their path is forward. So we’re operating under that assumption. It doesn’t change the fact that the – pursuing this process or achieving a peace agreement is still in everyone’s interests, doesn’t change the fact that the Secretary not only has a personal relationship and affinity for President Abbas, but we have a strong partnership with the Palestinians. That doesn’t change that fact, as well as with the Israelis either. So I think the facts in this case in terms of our approach and what we’ve said speak for themselves.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. --
QUESTION: There’s a couple of elements (inaudible) and it’s not just Iran. The one involving the Israeli – there are members of the Israeli Government, of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government, who the United States – who U.S. officials, on the record and off the record and on background, have accused of trying to sabotage the peace process, people who you believe do not believe in a two-state solution.
MS. PSAKI: You’re right.
QUESTION: Okay. So if there are members of the Israeli Government that don’t believe in a two-state solution, and Hamas is saying that it does believe in a two-state solution, why won’t you talk to them? So that’s question number one.
But the question – the other one, aside from Iran, is Hezbollah. Is there an option here where you could deal with a unity government, but just not deal specifically, as you do with the Lebanese Government, not deal with the members of Hamas who are in it?
MS. PSAKI: Again, all they’ve issued is a statement announcing plans to create a technocratic government.
MS. PSAKI: We will see what happens over the course of time. I also think there’s a difference between a willingness to pursue a peace process and other actions outside of that that have obviously caused them to be designated.
QUESTION: Fair enough. I don’t think that – well, I mean, I think there are certain Palestinians who accuse the Israelis of being terrorists, but I don’t think that that’s for them to do. And I’m not suggesting that members of the Government of Israel who are not supportive, who you don’t believe are supportive of a two-state solution, are identical --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- to Hamas. But there are people in the Israeli Government who you believe are not in favor of a peace deal.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And so I think that it – you’re going to run into a consistency problem if in fact Hamas does do what President Abbas says it’s going to do and he does what he says he’s going to do if you then still refuse to deal with them. That’s all, because --
MS. PSAKI: We will see what happens, Matt.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: I disagree with that, but I won’t engage in it.
QUESTION: Can I go back to North Korea? I’m sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. I should have asked this earlier.
QUESTION: Let me ask you one question --
QUESTION: Is it still Mideast?
QUESTION: Yeah, please.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: How long do you expect the pause or the holding period to last?
MS. PSAKI: It’s up to the parties to determine whether there’s a path forward.
QUESTION: Will you be --
MS. PSAKI: So I can’t give you a timeline for that.
QUESTION: Will you be waiting for the formation of the new government to decide the --
MS. PSAKI: Again, all they’ve issued is a statement. There are a range of events that could happen over the course of the next couple of weeks and months, and I can’t predict those for you.
QUESTION: I should have asked you if there was any update on Ken Bae’s status and whether the U.S. offer to send Ambassador King still stands.
MS. PSAKI: The offer certainly still stands. I do have just a few quick updates in terms of our contacts. The Embassy – as you all know, the Swedish Embassy continues to be our protecting power. Swedish Embassy representatives have met with Mr. Bae 11 times since his detention, most recently on April 18th, so just last week. We also remain in very close contact with his family as well.
QUESTION: And was he – anything on his condition at that meeting on the 18th?
MS. PSAKI: We remain deeply concerned about his health. We continue to urge North Korea – North Korean authorities to grant Mr. Bae special amnesty and immediate release on humanitarian grounds. I don’t have any other specific updates on his health.
QUESTION: Staying on North Korea, yesterday President Obama said that there would be a, quote, “firm response” to any more of North Korea’s nuclear provocations. I was wondering, does Secretary Kerry share in that sentiment?
MS. PSAKI: He does. And I think you’ve heard Secretary Kerry speak very strongly about his concerns about their threats and provocations, and he certainly shares the sentiment of the President’s comments this morning.
QUESTION: And what are some examples of that?
MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?
QUESTION: Like – of a firm response. What are the options here?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to outline options. Obviously, the President talked about sanctions. There’s a range of diplomatic tools we have at our disposal, but I don’t have anything further to add to his comments.
QUESTION: Can we --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- talk about Egypt?
QUESTION: Stay in the region (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: The Chinese ministry, did you say?
QUESTION: The Chinese foreign ministry --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- has summoned the American ambassador in Beijing. Do you have any comments on that?
MS. PSAKI: I actually had not seen that before I came down here. Do you know what it was in regards to?
QUESTION: This is in regards to the joint statement that was issued by the U.S. and Japan following Obama’s visit. The foreign ministry said that the statement reflects a Cold era mentality, and they take issue to the suggestion that the mutual defense treaty covers what China calls the Dialou Islands, and that it does not change the sovereignty of the islands there.
MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re familiar with our position. I will check and see if there’s more detail on the specific demarche you’re referring to.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can you also find out from your treaty office whether you care what the Chinese think about a treaty that they’re not a signatory to?
MS. PSAKI: I’m certain I know the answer to that.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Really? What would you think it is? No?
MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) I’m not going to entertain it.
MS. PSAKI: Egypt?
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, I’m sorry. One more on China. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I just wonder, could you please explain why there is this necessity to have the U.S. President to reiterate the position on you call Dialou Island or Senkaku Island and we call Dialou Island for the first time? Why do you think it’s necessary?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve stated this position dozens, if not hundreds, of times. I would point you to the White House on your line of questioning.
QUESTION: And also, I assume you know – you knew China would be irritated by this decision by specifically outline Senkaku Island into your joint statement. So have you ever taken China factor as – into your consideration?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we work with China on a range of issues. Again, I’d point you to the White House. It’s the President’s trip, so they’re best to answer your question.
QUESTION: Egypt. Resuming – after resuming the delivery of 10 Apache helicopters, next Tuesday the Foreign Minister of Egypt Nabil Fahmy is going to visit Washington and the State Department as well. So is this like a turning point in the U.S. position toward Egypt? Especially that the Apache helicopters freeze was designed to pressure the army into more democracy. So it seems like there is more democracy right now?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t agree with that. The Apache helicopters – I spoke about this a little bit the other day, but just to reiterate, as you know, Egypt faces significant and growing threats 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, which is also, of course, a step that helps the United States, Egypt, as well as Israel.
This trip that Foreign Minister Fahmy is taking is completely unrelated to the certifications from this week. It’s been long planned. I’d point you to them on the specific timing. And while he’s here, he’ll see Secretary Kerry on Tuesday as well as other senior Administration officials and members of Congress.
So as you know, Egypt is an important strategic partner for the United States. We remain committed to a strong relationship. We have many common interests. That doesn’t change the fact that there are still steps, as we’ve noted a number of times, they need to take in terms of their democratic transition. And I’m sure that will be a part of the conversation as well.
QUESTION: Jen, can I just follow up on that?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, the – do you feel – sorry. There’s been a lot of criticism about the decision to release a partial amount of the funding that you suspended back in October. Human rights groups are saying that it sends a mixed message. I understand that you’re saying that the part that you’re releasing relates to strategic and counterterrorism operations, for instance, as well as your relationship with Israel, and that you’re withholding some part of the money still because you don’t believe that they’ve gone far enough down the path to democracy. But I think, too, some organizations say this is sending a mixed message that you’re slapping them a little bit down, yet six months later you’re going ahead with the funding and it really doesn’t have any consequences.
MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with that. One, we remain concerned about steps that Egypt has taken in recent months that have been against democratic principles, such as media freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of individuals to protest, the political arrests. And we have voiced those as we’ve had them, which, unfortunately, has been on a fairly regular basis.
However, as mandated by the Appropriations Act, Egypt did meet the specific requirements that you just mentioned, and that is why we are granting – we certified the 1(a) and 1(b). We didn’t certify 6(a) and 6(b) – they have different requirements for them – because those requirements are much more linked to those concerns you have exactly expressed.
QUESTION: But do you feel that you’ve lost some of your leverage now by going ahead with – depending on how your maths goes, but a third to half of the amount of money that you froze?
MS. PSAKI: No. Look, I think we made this decision to abide by law but also to, because of the concerns we’ve had – they’ve met the requirement as laid out in the law. And again, we still have existing concerns about steps they need to take as it relates to democracy, and we’ll continue to press them to do that.
QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?
QUESTION: Just on Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. One more on Egypt?
QUESTION: Yes, please. First of all, you mentioned 1(a), 1(b) and then 6(a) whatever, 6(b). Are – the certification process is like done on these different items, or it’s a whole general certification?
MS. PSAKI: How does 1(a) – are you asking me how is 1(a) and 1(b) different --
QUESTION: I mean, like when you say the --
MS. PSAKI: -- from 6(a) and 6(b)? Or --
QUESTION: Yeah, I know what is different, but it’s if the certification is taking place, it’s taking place for all items or just separately certify this item, certify then these items?
MS. PSAKI: What’s included in the 6(a) and 6(b) – or 1(a) and 1(b) you’re asking?
MS. PSAKI: Well, 1(a) and 1(b) certifications allow us to move forward with FY2014 assistance to the government for limited purposes, including continuing payments to maintain current FMF contracts, but we would only deliver items – any items funded for accepted categories. And the accepted categories are counterterrorism, border security, and nonproliferation. Also, there’s a separate pool of ESF funding for economic assistance, including in the areas of education and economic growth.
So 6(a) and 6(b) certifications, which we have not done, would allow us to deliver those other items and assistance that does not fall in those accepted categories, including contracts that aren’t existing, as an example.
QUESTION: So but just to clarify this point, yesterday or day before yesterday – yesterday there was a press statement released by you --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and the day before yesterday there was a question raised here regarding the 650.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So this 650 related to the 1(a) or 1(b) or something like that?
MS. PSAKI: To 1(a) and 1(b), yes.
QUESTION: And then the question is: What is the timeline of this thing? I mean, it’s like this thing is – now certification is done so it has to be approved by the Congress now?
MS. PSAKI: The next step is congressional notification, and that’s the next step in the process.
QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Yeah. So the war – the rhetorical war of words continues. I’m wondering, since the Secretary’s comments here last night, and potentially the President’s remarks earlier in Seoul, has there been any contacts with the Russians?
MS. PSAKI: The Secretary has not spoken with Foreign Minister Lavrov today, no.
MS. PSAKI: He last spoke with him, I believe, on Tuesday.
QUESTION: Have you seen any sign since the Secretary came out and rather forcefully said that the Russians hadn’t taken one single concrete step towards implementing the Geneva statement, have you seen any sign from the Russians?
MS. PSAKI: We remain concerned about their inaction.
QUESTION: That means no, there’s still no sign; in the last however many hours it’s been, you haven’t seen anything?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, correct.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the news today about OSCE observers? This is just happening, I believe, just before the briefing that some OSCE observers have been detained in the Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. We are deeply concerned about reports that unidentified gunmen have abducted a Vienna document inspection team that’s, of course, part of the OSCE, and their Ukrainian escorts, in the town of Slovyansk. The team was reportedly taken to the administrative building, which is being held by armed pro-Russian separatists. If true, we strongly condemn this action and call for their immediate release.
And over the past week we’ve unfortunately seen an increase and a rapid escalation in hostage takings by pro-Russian separatists. We condemn these repressive and cowardly tactics – this repressive and cowardly tactic, and call for the release of all hostages.
I will note that this has been largely focused in Slovyansk, where a lot of these activities are taking place, and there are many areas of Ukraine that remain calm where these activities – we are not seeing these activities.
QUESTION: Do you hold the Russians responsible for the actions of the pro-Russian militants that they claim that they have nothing to do with?
MS. PSAKI: Our view remains as it has been and as the Secretary outlined yesterday, that there is a strong connection between Russia and these separatists, yes.
QUESTION: Right. Right. But do you hold the – you – if you believe that these people are just Russian – are Moscow’s proxies, or Putin’s proxies to make it alliterative, do you hold the Russian Government responsible for their actions? In other words, is the Russian Government responsible for the safety of these people who have been taken, detained?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s no question in our view that they have the ability to get these people released.
QUESTION: Another thing that the Secretary went on about last evening was about Russia Today.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I’m going to assume that you stand by the Secretary’s statement that this is the – this network has become a, or is a, propaganda mouthpiece for President Putin and his fantasy about what is going on in Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: I would. Thank you for repeating it for the transcript’s purposes.
QUESTION: Well, I was going to let you. Would you like to repeat?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I need to. I think you all covered the Secretary’s comments last night.
QUESTION: Okay. The network in question is not pleased with that description. Have you gotten any kind of a complaint from them?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Matt.
QUESTION: And they would like – they say they would like an explanation. I presume that you’re not interested in entertaining that request.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything to add on that point.
QUESTION: Did you hear the response made by Mr. Lavrov to the Secretary’s statement that it was ill-mannered or something to that effect? Do you have any response to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said --
QUESTION: Not cultured.
QUESTION: Not cultured.
MS. PSAKI: -- the facts are the facts are the facts. And that’s what the Secretary outlined last night. Clearly, in terms of what steps the Ukrainians have taken, what steps the Russians have taken and the steps they have not taken, and so sometimes the truth hurts.
QUESTION: The network in question, Russia Today, said that they want you to present them with proof that they are actually a propaganda tool. Are you willing to do that?
MS. PSAKI: I think the evidence you have is – I would watch their broadcast.
QUESTION: I understand. But are you willing to lay out, like, an evidence in this event or on this case and so on, one by one?
MS. PSAKI: I think what I’m saying, Said, is I would watch their broadcast and see how it aligns with the facts on the ground.
QUESTION: Can you say now, and I don’t know if you are or not – but given the strong feelings about this network, is there any – and the fact that it operates a rather large office in Washington, is there any discussion of taking any kind of action against them, or is that --
MS. PSAKI: No, no.
QUESTION: So in other words, broadcasting what you describe as blatant falsehoods and propaganda fantasy is not actionable --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any --
QUESTION: -- because of press freedom, presumably?
MS. PSAKI: There’s no plans for action, Matt.
QUESTION: Jen, speaking of --
MS. PSAKI: And they come to the briefing on a regular basis, as you know.
QUESTION: Speaking on the war of words and propaganda bullhorns, last night you took to Twitter and said, let’s hope Russia, quote, “lives by the promise of the hashtag.”
QUESTION: Yeah, she said that in the briefing too.
MS. PSAKI: I did.
QUESTION: Can you explain that further?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say #UnitedForUkraine, which is something we’ve been talking about quite a bit, the Secretary has talked about – and that’s what we believe, that Ukraine – that the voices of the people of Ukraine should be heard, that they should be sovereign, be – continue to be a united country. We have been using that hashtag and we thought it was humorous that the Russians have attempted to plagiarize our hashtag given we support the message it sends and it’s hard to see how they do.
QUESTION: So, Jen, you do remember being asked about this yesterday at the briefing, right?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, I do.
QUESTION: So is it a surprise to you that this has all of a sudden become such a big hullabaloo after the tweet?
MS. PSAKI: No, it’s not.
QUESTION: Okay. Can I --
MS. PSAKI: Or I suppose so, but --
QUESTION: Can I ask you: If you believe that the Russians are hijacking or plagiarizing yourself, have you given any thought to taking this to the WTO for a complaint, given the fact that getting Russia into the WTO was one of the grand successes of the reset?
MS. PSAKI: No, Matt, obviously.
MS. PSAKI: And again --
QUESTION: Well, I don’t know. Why is it obvious?
MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) Again, we are – what I’m referring to is whether the actions of Russia are backing up their use of a hashtag. And it certainly, in our view, does not.
QUESTION: Jen --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: -- on a more serious note, why doesn’t the Secretary use – invoke the Budapest Memorandum when describing Russia’s violations in Ukraine? I noticed yesterday during his meeting with the Norwegian foreign minister, the Norwegian foreign minister mentioned the Budapest Memorandum, but Secretary Kerry did not.
MS. PSAKI: We’ve talked about it in the past. I mean, our view is that their movements into Ukraine are illegal, that they haven’t been abiding by their own commitments in the past, and we’ve talked about the Budapest Memorandum in the past.
QUESTION: In the Budapest Memorandum, it mentions that no country will – Ukraine and the United States, Russia, will not use economic coercions to subordinate Ukraine to their interest. Has the United States violated the Budapest Memorandum by its $1 billion cash package to Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: No, we have not. We’re supporting the legitimate government of Ukraine as they go through a transition.
QUESTION: Jen --
MS. PSAKI: Let me give you all one update, just so I don’t forget, on Ukraine, and we can keep going on Ukraine. You may have all seen the – I’m sorry, President Obama, the readout of President Obama’s call with President Hollande, Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Renzi, and Prime Minister Cameron. Secretary Kerry has also spoken today with Canadian Foreign Minister Baird, the Italian foreign minister, the – Foreign Secretary Hague, as well as – did I mention EU High Representative Ashton?
MS. PSAKI: And EU High Representative Ashton. This is all a part of our ongoing effort to coordinate and work closely with the Europeans. We’ve been working with – lockstep with them throughout this process. Obviously, as it relates to Russia’s actions and their inactions in terms of implementing the Geneva joint statement, we’re all working together in discussing what’s next on that. And it’s safe to say we’re in the stage of not just preparing but coordinating on sanctions and what’s next.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: Jen, in regard to the calls, where they all about Ukraine? Because the Ashton spokesman says that they also talked about Syria.
MS. PSAKI: It was – no, I appreciate it. They – he spoke about a range – with EU High Representative Ashton about a range of topics in addition to Ukraine.
QUESTION: But the rest of them also, or just with Ashton?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, absolutely. I think Syria as well as Middle East peace.
QUESTION: No, no. Came up in all the calls, or just with Ashton?
MS. PSAKI: No, I’m sorry.
QUESTION: So --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a readout for every single call.
QUESTION: -- Canada, Italy, and UK are just Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: They were focused on Ukraine. I will see if there’s any additional readout that’s of interest. I’m happy to share it.
QUESTION: So if you’re in the mode of not just preparing but coordinating, do you have some kind of heads-up on when you might be going ahead with them, when you might be unveiling them?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to convey to you, other than to point you to the President’s own comments about the fact that we are – they are teed up, and we will see what decisions are made.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: And do you feel that the Europeans are on the same page as you?
MS. PSAKI: We do. We’re working closely, in lockstep with them, about Russia’s steps and what needs to happen in response. So we agree there need to be consequences, and we’ll see what we do over the coming days.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on the President’s call and then the Secretary’s calls, in your answer to Jo, you just said – she said you believe that you’re on the same page, and you replied, “We do.” Does that mean that in those calls, the Secretary and the President now under – have an understanding that the Europeans are ready to proceed with additional sanctions?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we – they agreed on the calls to continue to coordinate additional steps to impose costs on Russia. I’ll let the Europeans speak for themselves in terms of what they’re prepared to do.
QUESTION: Right, but coordinating on additional steps to impose costs doesn’t necessarily mean – it could be, like, okay, yeah, you guys go ahead and we’re just going to wait for another week or two, or a month, or a year. I mean, it – coordination in and of itself does not necessarily imply that they will follow suit or that you will do it together.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we agree there need to be consequences. I’m not going to get ahead of where we are or where they are. But I wouldn’t analyze it in the way that you are analyzing it.
QUESTION: Jen, the prime minster of Ukraine said, or warned, that the Russians are driving the world into World War III. Is that hyperbolic, is the situation really that grave as you feel in here?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly hope not, Said, and obviously our view is there’s no military solution to what’s happening on the ground in Ukraine.
QUESTION: But --
QUESTION: There are more military Russian troops on the move today than there were yesterday, since Secretary Kerry specifically referenced some of this movement as a form of aggression and warned against it. Is the view in this building that the situation is escalating? I mean, what does this signal to you? Because it doesn’t look like it’s pulling back.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t give any – I’m not going to give any updates or analysis of troop movements from the podium. Obviously, we’re watching what’s happening on the ground very closely. Any movement into Ukraine would be a grave mistake, and certainly that’s one of the areas, when we talk about escalation or de-escalation, that we’re looking at closely.
QUESTION: Jen, going back to what Lavrov said, he also said that he’d tried to call Kerry over the past two days, but the calls were – they couldn’t reach him because of circumstances outside of Moscow’s control. I’m just wondering: What were those circumstances, and were they precipitated by the U.S. side, or somewhere else in Russia that’s not --
MS. PSAKI: He speaks with him on a regular basis. I don’t have any details of that. Sometimes they don’t reach each other, but I don’t have any details. I’ll see if there’s more to share.
QUESTION: He was too busy playing with his dog upstairs in the – (laughter). Are we done on Ukraine?
QUESTION: Can I just ask --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Catherine.
QUESTION: On your comment on the OSCE monitors, you cited reports. Media reports, or do you have confirmation that this happened from the OSCE?
MS. PSAKI: I’m talking about media reports, and it was a Vienna – it was part – it’s part of the OSCE, but it’s a Vienna monitoring group. Let me get you the exact name of it. Vienna Document inspection team*is exactly --
QUESTION: Sorry, can you just – the – this just caught my attention. You said that you didn’t want to talk about troop movements from the – Russian troop movements? Because as I recall, yesterday you gave a quite extensive timeline of the situation in eastern Ukraine that involved Ukrainian troops, so I just want to – it’s – you’re okay talking about Ukrainian troops and their movements, but you don’t want to talk about --
MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t making a broad policy statement. I was conveying I have no updates to provide for all of you on Russian troop movements.
QUESTION: Gotcha. All right. I’ve got three really brief ones on – not on Ukraine, but --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: In the last week when the Geneva agreement was declared, like, there are many points including one of them, the OSCE thing. None of these points were achieved in the last week or anything that was done?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to the Secretary’s extensive statement last night --
QUESTION: Yes, it was.
MS. PSAKI: -- where he talked about the steps that have been taken on the Ukrainian side, and one of those is working closely with the OSCE special monitoring mission seeking separate – comprises with separatists in eastern Ukraine, introducing an amnesty bill to parliament. The point is, over the course of seven days, you’ve seen a very different approach to the implementation of the Geneva statement.
QUESTION: And the other thing, which is – I recognized from yesterday – the Secretary words and you are – what you are saying today, there is not any contacts now between the partners of this agreement, right?
MS. PSAKI: No, I wasn’t conveying that. The Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov just a couple of days ago --
QUESTION: Yeah, I mean you mentioned talking --
MS. PSAKI: -- and we’re obviously in close touch with the Ukrainians on the ground, we’re in close touch with the Europeans, so we’re actually in very close touch with all of the parties.
QUESTION: The reason that I’m ask – sorry to interrupt you. I mean, the reason that I’m asking, you mentioned the last call was Tuesday and today is Friday. And you mentioned, I think, yesterday that was – the number of the calls were six calls, I think.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So I’m trying to repeat what you said before. So from that day to Tuesday from now it’s – what is going on, which is the #diplomacy?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, a hashtag? A hashtag’s coming back.
QUESTION: I mean --
MS. PSAKI: Look, I think we’ve been very closely engaged with all parties, including the Russians. But the situation we’re in is they need to take actions, they need to take implementation steps, which they haven’t done. So I don’t know that you need to talk about that more. What you need to do is see them take steps.
QUESTION: The other step, which – you mentioned a partner, the European phone calls – I mean, whether the President or Secretary, you mentioned that we are not just planning, we are coordinating. What you mean exactly, coordinating?
MS. PSAKI: Coordinating on what the next steps in terms of consequences will be.
QUESTION: Jen (inaudible) the hashtag real quick?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Your tweet last night was (inaudible) hours old.
MS. PSAKI: I’m so glad you’re following me so closely on Twitter @StateDeptSPOX. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Oh, just --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) watch the briefing. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Agreed. That, too. The Ukrainian foreign minister – excuse me, the Ukrainian prime minister has said we’re on the verge of World War III here, and so given the --
MS. PSAKI: I think Said just asked the same question.
QUESTION: Right. But given that, I mean, should you be tweeting about promises of a hashtag? Is that what we’ve dumbed this all down to?
MS. PSAKI: I think I sent out quite a few tweets about the situation in Ukraine. We were highlighting – I was highlighting the fact that they have not been following their hashtag with actions.
QUESTION: People are now writing in, talking about the promises of pinky swears and all that, what’s next --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what’s clear is that the Geneva statement gave a path forward for diplomatic steps that both sides could take. I think the Secretary spoke clearly to that last night.
QUESTION: And can you confirm that was your Twitter account? It wasn’t hacked or anything?
MS. PSAKI: It was my Twitter account.
QUESTION: You were not under the influence or anything – (laughter).
MS. PSAKI: I was certainly --
QUESTION: No, I mean of pressure or running out of the office. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: That’s a first, and I’ve been doing this for a long time.
MS. PSAKI: It is a first.
QUESTION: Wait, it was --
MS. PSAKI: It’s a wacky Friday in here. It was my Twitter account. Go --
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: Which it’s where it’s obviously serious as well. The South Sudanese Government today, President Kiir, has released four of the leaders who had been arrested and had been accused of attempting to overthrow the government. He said the release was the price of peace. This was one of the conditions earlier on way – when the whole fighting started back in – back end of last year. I wondered if you have a reaction to the news of their release.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you all recall, that was one of the steps that we were encouraging them to take months ago when we – when the Secretary was spending hours on the phone over the Christmas holiday and we were working so hard on a peaceful path forward. Certainly, it’s a step that we support, but it should have happened long ago.
QUESTION: Do you think they’re doing it under pressure of the threat of possible international sanctions?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t make – I can’t really analyze that, given I don’t know what their motivations are. We continue to be shocked and horrified by the violence on the ground aside from – despite the release of prisoners. And we – again, I said this earlier this week but it’s worth repeating – are – continue to be concerned about the massacres that have taken place, including hundreds of people – that have impacted hundreds of people. We are actively considering individuals for designation under President Obama’s April 3rd executive order for threatening the peace, security or stability of South Sudan, obstructing the peace process, targeting UN peacekeepers, or those responsible for human rights abuses and atrocities. Haven’t – there are no – I have nothing to announce for all of you today, but obviously the violence on the ground and the targeted violence we’ve seen has raised significant concern here, and hence we’re actively considering sanctions.
QUESTION: Does the release of these four people give you pause on whether to go ahead with those designations for sanctions?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we haven’t – it doesn’t indicate that we’ve made decisions or that we’re on the verge of announcing anything. It just indicates that what we’re seeing on the ground and the level of violence and the horrific massacres that we’re seeing have led us to this point. The release of the four prisoners, obviously, as I said, that’s something we called for months ago. But the continued violence is what has raised our greatest concern here.
QUESTION: One more question on Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: On Ukraine? Oh, okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. On Ukraine and RT, if possible, being from RT.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Welcome.
QUESTION: I wanted to – thank you very much. I wanted to ask, first of all, do you think the pretty harsh statements that are being made about the network could offend the viewers, American viewers, that actually watch and trust the channel? And also, your statements on Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov being ludicrous – you said this yesterday – do you insist on this --
MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say he was ludicrous.
QUESTION: His statements.
MS. PSAKI: I said his statements are ludicrous because they’re not based on fact.
QUESTION: Right. Do you insist on this language, and do you think it’s conducive for diplomacy moving forward?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we should get into an analysis of who is the worst name-calling from side to side. Obviously, there is a lot of language that is out there. But the point here is that we need to ensure that the facts of what’s happening on the ground are out there, whether they’re shared through the media or shared through what we’re conveying here. And obviously, that’s something we venture to try to do every day, and what the Secretary did last night was lay out the facts, and what the Ukrainians are doing, what the Russians are not doing, and that’s important for people to know and understand.
QUESTION: Do you think the difference in opinion may still offend the people watching RT who actually trust that there is another side to the story?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s always another side to the story, but there aren’t two versions of the facts.
QUESTION: And just one – and to follow up on the diplomacy, do you think this language, in an already pretty complicated situation, is going to help really in the short and long term?
MS. PSAKI: Well, what would help would be if Russia could take steps that they promised to take just a week ago. So that would be the most useful step forward.
More on Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Or should we go to Scott? Could we go to Scott? Go ahead, Scott.
QUESTION: Quick, on Ecuador.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The government has asked --
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Everyone is excited about your question, Scott.
QUESTION: The government is ordering the 20 DOD employees at the Embassy to leave by the end of the month. Have you received that notification? Any thoughts about it?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. So on Monday, March 7th, the Government of Ecuador formally requested that the U.S. Embassy Security Cooperation Office, formerly known as the Mil Group, end its activities in Ecuador. We respect the Ecuadorian Government’s sovereign decision. While we respect their decision, we regret that the outcome will severely limit our bilateral security partnership. Our close military cooperation over the past four decades has resulted in significant advances against drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism, and other transnational crime.
QUESTION: The government is apparently alleging that these DOD employees had infiltrated all sectors of Ecuadorian society. Do you have anything to say about that?
MS. PSAKI: I do. There have been also erroneous reports about the numbers in addition to that. I think they’ve come together – about 50 or more U.S. military personnel in Ecuador. Approximately 20 U.S. Department of Defense employees, military and civilian, are currently assigned to Ecuador and fully accredited with the Ecuadorian Government to engage in a range of liaison and cooperation activities with the Ecuadorian military. The pieces we’re cooperating on, which are, of course – have been cooperating on, I should say – which are also in Ecuador’s interests, have been technical training in the areas of vehicle and aircraft maintenance, safety and logistics, construction of a military peacekeeping center, strengthening Ecuador’s defensive capabilities, strengthening cooperation in a wide spectrum of security challenges.
So we’ve been working in partnership to make progress on a range of areas – drug trafficking, human trafficking – and it is unfortunate, while we respect their decision, that we won’t be able to pursue that moving forward.
QUESTION: Did they give the U.S. a reason why they no longer want the Mil Group to be in Ecuador? Or put it another way, is the U.S. satisfied with the reason why the Ecuadorians don’t want Mil Group there anymore?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we respect their decision. I would point you to them on their reasoning. They’ve made clear they no longer desire the security assistance, and I’d point you to them for any more reasoning.
QUESTION: You said it was March 7th?
MS. PSAKI: April 7th. April 7th.
QUESTION: April 7th.
QUESTION: Okay. This is not the kind of move that you would take a reciprocal action with, is it?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. I will double check that, but no, we respect it.
QUESTION: But, I mean, it’s not like you --
MS. PSAKI: It’s not kicking out of individuals.
QUESTION: -- it’s not like an expulsion or anything?
MS. PSAKI: No, no, no.
QUESTION: And the other – I just want to make sure because this – the name of this – this does – will not have – the removal of these guys doesn’t have any impact on the security, the physical security of the Embassy or its employees, right?
MS. PSAKI: No, these are – this is 20 individuals who are cooperating on a range of activities that I outlined with the government.
QUESTION: Got you. All right. I’ve got my other two – they’re very brief.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: They’re from TQs, or they were – they – I think they were supposed to be TQs.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: One, on Malaysia and whether the Department or the Embassy in KL had recommended to the President that he – whether or not they recommended that the President meet with Anwar, the opposition leader?
MS. PSAKI: We’re just not going to get into our private conversations. Obviously, you can speak to the White House about their schedule.
QUESTION: Right. So yes. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Not at all what I’m indicating. But go ahead.
QUESTION: And then do you have any comment on this lawsuit filed by the Marshall Islands against the nuclear --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe I have anything on this for you, Matt. I know you asked this yesterday.
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m just wondering – maybe you’re the wrong building. Building, sorry – maybe you are the wrong person. This building is the wrong building to ask. It might be --
MS. PSAKI: We may be, given it’s probably DOJ, but let me check and see.
QUESTION: Right. But if it is – if there is some Administration response, if you’re not the person to give it, could you tell me?
MS. PSAKI: Let me find out who is. Sure. Sure.
QUESTION: Can we go to Syria very quickly?
QUESTION: Oh, sorry.
MS. PSAKI: On Venezuela, sure.
QUESTION: Are you all aware of an American citizen who’s being held? A court ruling ruled that he could be held in custody, and he’s suspected of being a U.S. agent.
MS. PSAKI: Let me see, Catherine. I believe I have something on a U.S. citizen, but we are – because of privacy considerations, it’s unlikely I’ll have very much for you. But we are aware of the reports that a U.S. citizen has been arrested in Venezuela. We take seriously our obligation to assist U.S. citizens overseas. We stand ready to provide all appropriate consular services in cases where citizens are detained or arrested abroad. But again, I don’t have any other details, given privacy considerations.
QUESTION: Has there been a consular access granted?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details. I will check and see if there are any updates since yesterday when I had this information.
QUESTION: I wonder if I could ask you very quickly – there are rumors that Brahimi has submitted his resignation. I mean, he’s old. He’s 80 years old. He feels that he couldn’t produce anything. Do you know anything about this?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to his office for any details on his future plans.
Last one, in the back. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I just want to go back to the U.S.-Japan joint statement very quickly.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Has the State Department participated in drafting the joint statement?
MS. PSAKI: We regularly cooperate and participate in processes of Administration policy, so I’m certain we were engaged.
QUESTION: Because why I’m asking is because there was this report that the U.S. at the beginning didn’t agree with Japan to specifically put Senkaku, that words, in that joint statement. Could you please confirm --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on that. Assistant Secretary Danny Russel is also on the trip with the President.
Thank you, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:33 p.m.)
DPB # 74