1:57 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I’m sorry we’re a little late today. Obviously, there was some breaking news.
QUESTION: There was?
MS. PSAKI: I have some – I’m sure it will be asked about.
QUESTION: From this building?
MS. PSAKI: Well, not from this building. Let me give – do two things at the top here. Secretary Kerry will accompany President Obama during his visit to Warsaw, Poland; Paris, France; and Normandy, France next week. While in Warsaw, Secretary Kerry will meet with Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski and attend meetings with President Obama. While in Paris, Secretary Kerry will attend meetings with President Obama before departing for Normandy to participate in the commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day.
I’d also like to welcome the group in the back. Hello, everyone. Thanks for coming – who are here as part of the Transatlantic Diplomatic Fellowship Program that aims to strengthen transatlantic bonds by allowing mid-level diplomats from NATO allies, EU member states and institutions, and Switzerland, to undertake a one-year position at the State Department before then serving a regular tour in their home country’s Washington embassy. I’m told that this year’s fellows are from Turkey, Germany, France, Switzerland, Lithuania, Greece, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary. So quite a diversity. So welcome to all of you.
With that, Matt, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks. I want to get to the subpoena, which is what I think you were referring to --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- when you opened in a second.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But I first need to ask you really quickly about the alleged American suicide bomber in Syria. Are you in a position now to be able to confirm that this person was an American and did blow himself up?
MS. PSAKI: I can confirm that this individual was a U.S. citizen involved in a suicide bombing in Syria. We don’t have further information beyond that at this – to share at this time.
QUESTION: Okay. But not even how you know? How did you get confirmation? Was it something – did this have to go through the Czechs, who I think are still the protecting power, or --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to go into that level of detail. I can just confirm that this was an American citizen.
QUESTION: Can you share a name?
QUESTION: What about the name?
QUESTION: You can’t share a name?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other further details to share at this time.
QUESTION: And is this – is it correct that this is the first time an American citizen has apparently been involved in a suicide bombing in Syria since the start of the war?
MS. PSAKI: I believe that is correct. Obviously, there have been a range of reports. You know how concerned we are about foreign fighters in general, and that’s something that we are watching closely.
QUESTION: Well, apparently he blew up himself with three other foreigners and so on. Are you concerned that there may be some sort of training grounds here in the United States for such fighters to go into Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I wouldn’t want to speculate on that. We are concerned about the flow of foreign fighters into and out of Syria. It’s difficult to provide that level of analysis or a precise figure, but we’re engaged in a focused outreach effort with key partner governments regarding our shared concern over the flow of foreign fighters to the Syrian conflict. Our partners across the region and Europe are also gravely concerned. That’s an effort that’s been ongoing for months now, as you know, but it’s one that we will continue our – to put effort into.
QUESTION: Can you confirm at least the name that he went by, as was published, Abu Hurayra al-Amriki?
MS. PSAKI: That is correct, or the translation is “the American.”
QUESTION: Do you have an age?
QUESTION: Do you guys have any sense of --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional information.
QUESTION: I know you can’t talk about specifics in terms of numbers, but do you have any sense that there are more Americans there participating in this kind of training or joining these groups? Do you think he’s a completely isolated incident or do you think he’s part of something larger?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that. Obviously, we are closely tracking and closely working with our partners and allies about our concern about the growth of foreign fighters and the growth of extremism. I would point you to the announcement the President made just a few days ago about this new counterterrorism fund. Clearly, we’re stepping up our efforts to address threats where we see them coming from, and that’s an example of our effort to do that.
QUESTION: Sorry, sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Jen, just one quick follow-up. Can you tell us whether he is a naturalized American or U.S. born or is he a convert?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details for you on that.
QUESTION: So are we done with that?
QUESTION: Can I get one more --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Arshad.
QUESTION: What – the challenge with – I would imagine with Americans who become suicide bombers is that if they choose to come back into the United States, it’s probably not easy to stop them because they’re American citizens, they don’t need visas, et cetera. I realize that there are multiple agencies that would be involved in that, but what are you doing to try to prevent potential American suicide bombers from carrying out attacks in the United States?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, first, as it relates to the State Department, as you know, we don’t track the activities of U.S. citizens abroad. So that’s why – one of the reasons I’m unable to provide numbers for you. Broadly speaking, any individual who poses a threat to the United States or a potential threat even would be watched by law enforcement – our law enforcement partners and colleagues, and they’re really the appropriate place to direct that question. It is an issue, broadly speaking; foreign fighters and the growth of that – of them in Syria and the surrounding region is something we are very concerned about. It’s an issue that has received quite a bit of discussion with our partners in the region and our European partners. And again, I would point you also to the President’s announcement from earlier this week.
Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: Sorry. Can I just ask --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- on practical issues, are you in contact with his family? Have they made any here – have they made any representation to you for any help in trying to --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details than those I shared.
QUESTION: And do you have any details about the actual bombing itself, where it took place, when and so on and so forth?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details.
QUESTION: So you can’t confirm any of the reports that have been out there about --
MS. PSAKI: I cannot confirm or share any other details at this point.
QUESTION: Do you have any more details?
MS. PSAKI: None that I can share.
QUESTION: No? Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: Can we get – move on?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- and the fact that Secretary Kerry is no longer required, I guess, to go or he’s been released from having to appear on the 12th. I wonder what your reaction is to that.
MS. PSAKI: Well, this announcement just came out in the last hour, as all of you saw. Despite being subpoenaed, despite participating at every moment in this process – 50 briefings, more than 25,000 documents – despite the fact that the Secretary offered to appear, he agreed to appear, he cleared his schedule to appear, we were mystified by the decision to cancel the briefing and also mystified by the language in the press release that was just issued. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Mystified, but in fact, when you had first – or I think it was maybe Marie who said --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- had made it clear that this was an either/or proposition, that the Secretary would either appear before the Oversight Committee or before the Select Committee, but not both. So aren’t you, in a way, pleased that the Chairman has decided to release the Secretary from the Oversight Committee? Because the argument that the State Department was making at the time was that he wasn’t the most appropriate witness to appear before the Oversight Committee, and that, by inference then, was a suggestion that he was a more appropriate witness for the Select Committee, which is looking at the whole – the entirety of the incident.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the meaning of that was more that our view is that these issues have been pored over in depth to an extensive degree, and our focus, as you’ve heard the Secretary say, should be on what we can do together with Congress to protect the men and women serving overseas.
QUESTION: Well, okay, so is the Secretary prepared to appear before the Select Committee now that he’s been released of this --
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, this just happened. We will endeavor – we remain committed to being cooperative with this process. We haven’t received a specific request. We will, I’m sure, be in touch with Congress and continue to assist --
QUESTION: Can I --
MS. PSAKI: -- with their efforts.
QUESTION: Where do you think that the Secretary could be helpful now in this process given what you know? I know you say you haven’t received a request from the Select Committee. But given what you know about the mandate of the Select Committee and the fact that they would like to speak to the Secretary, how do you think the Secretary could be helpful in this process?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to them to answer that question, Elise.
QUESTION: Well, you know what your Secretary has to offer in terms of --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’ve heard us say that we’ve extensively answered questions. We’ve done more than 50 briefings, provided more than 25,000 documents. The Secretary, as someone who served in the Senate for 29 years, more than 29 years, values the role of oversight, but again, I’m not going to speculate on what he could contribute. As you know, he was in the Senate at the time; he was not in this position. But we will have a conversation – continue to have a conversation with Congress about how we can best assist in their efforts moving forward.
QUESTION: Can I ask you --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: -- about what language you’re mystified by in the statement? I’m assuming – but correct me if I’m wrong, please – that you’re referring to the line, “It's been disappointing to watch a long-serving former Senator, like Secretary Kerry, squirm his way to what I'm doing today – releasing him from the upcoming hearing commitment.” Is that correct? That’s what --
MS. PSAKI: That is correct. Hard to see how that’s accurate when we were prepared to appear.
QUESTION: Well, you – so you take objection to, what, the word “squirm?”
MS. PSAKI: I think the entire theme there, Matt.
QUESTION: Entire theme? What about this other line here: “While Speaker Boehner and I had both originally concluded Secretary Kerry needed to promptly testify and explain why his Department had withheld subpoenaed documents, neither of us immediately recognized how opponents of Congressional oversight would use this as an opportunity to distract from the select committee’s effort.” Is it correct, that the Secretary is an opponent of Congressional oversight, as this would suggest?
MS. PSAKI: I think his record speaks for itself, and it’s clear he’s not – as does his willingness to appear before the committee.
QUESTION: And do you agree or disagree with the statement that – or with the line, “why his Department had withheld subpoenaed documents”? Did the Department withhold subpoenaed documents?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what that’s a reference to. Obviously, there’s an ongoing – has been an ongoing document production, so I’d point you to Mr. Issa to see what the meaning of that is.
QUESTION: All right. And my last one is that – another bit of language from the last paragraph (inaudible): “As much as we fought to learn what we could, bring critical witnesses forward and shame the Administration into disclosing more than it originally intended” – is that also mystifying language to you?
MS. PSAKI: It is a bit mystifying, yes. There are several examples of mystifying language.
Go ahead, Nicole.
QUESTION: How many – could you give us the number for the documents that you’ve provided them so far? It was in the thousands?
MS. PSAKI: More than 25,000.
QUESTION: More than 25,000.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Can we change topic?
MS. PSAKI: On this topic or any others. Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: If we can change topic to the Palestinian issue?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Palestinians claim that the United States issued an invitation to Rami Hamdallah, who is the prime minister of the Palestinians, past and present. He’s been asked to form a government – a national unity government. Is that true? Could you confirm that he’s been issued an invitation? And if that is true, then does that mean that he will work with a national unity government that includes Hamas?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there has been no invitation issued to Prime Minister Hamdallah. As we’ve said all along, we’ll not make decisions until we see the final formation of the interim government and have the opportunity to assess and make a determination about whether this is a government we can work with. And we will base that assessment on the government’s composition, policies, and actions. So we’ll have to take a look when any official announcement is made.
QUESTION: So the claim made by this Palestinian official is just plain false?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
MS. PSAKI: Be careful about background claims.
QUESTION: The Russian press was reporting that Foreign Minister Lavrov --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure. Then we can go to you, Nicole.
QUESTION: Sorry. It’ll be very brief.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: One, have you gotten an update from the Israelis on the investigation into the fatal shooting in the West Bank?
MS. PSAKI: I have not, no.
QUESTION: Do you know if you’ve been in touch?
MS. PSAKI: I suspect that any update they might do publicly, I would suspect. I’d leave it to them to make that determination.
QUESTION: All right. And then secondly, are you aware of these new reports of Israeli spying on Americans? There’s a Newsweek report today that cites an upcoming book which says that the Israelis intercepted phone calls between President Clinton and President Assad – the father – during the attempt to get the – an Israeli-Syrian peace deal done, and also have intercepted communications – I don’t know if they were telephone or letters between Madeleine Albright and Farouk al-Sharaa. Have you seen this report?
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen those reports.
QUESTION: Could you endeavor to get a comment from whoever?
MS. PSAKI: I will endeavor to get a comment. Yes, happy to.
QUESTION: All right. Thanks.
MS. PSAKI: More on this topic, or --
QUESTION: Yeah, on this topic, very quickly.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Sorry, Nicole.
QUESTION: It’s okay.
QUESTION: On the issue of that investigation, the Israelis suspended the soldier who was responsible for the killing of the two teenagers. And we have seen this in the past where those things wither away, so to speak. Would you continue to demand strongly that the investigation be vigorous and have some integrity and proof is shown?
MS. PSAKI: I think what we’ve been clear about, Said, is that we supported an investigation, one that they were already endeavoring to do. And if that’s concluded, you may have more information on the outcome than I do.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) to look at the veracity of the investigation?
MS. PSAKI: Again, Said, I think I’ll leave it what I said.
Should we go – did you have a question about --
QUESTION: I’d love to.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
MS. PSAKI: Yes, absolutely. They spoke this morning. The Secretary encouraged – the focus of the conversation was on Ukraine. The Secretary encouraged Foreign Minister Lavrov and his Russian colleagues to work with President-elect Poroshenko and the Ukrainian Government on a path forward. As you all know, we not only believe that it was a successful election in Ukraine, but we believe that that dialogue is the best path forward from here.
QUESTION: On that --
MS. PSAKI: Ukraine, or --
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, on the call. The Russians say that Foreign Minister Lavrov asked Secretary Kerry to use his influence with the authorities in Kyiv to stop the counterterrorism operation, the military operation, in the east. Is that correct, one, and if it is, is the Administration willing to do such a thing?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to readout, as you know, Foreign Minister Lavrov’s comments or views. But I will say, as we’ve talked about a little bit in here, that we have a fundamental disagreement with the Russians about what the Ukrainian Government is doing and the validity of their own right to maintain calm and order in their own country. And in our view, since the beginning of the unrest, while we’ve seen numerous human rights abuses by the separatists, including murder, kidnapping, and looting, the Ukrainian Government has, continues to have, the responsibility to enforce law and order on its territory. And while unfortunate incidents will always happen in a combat zone, we commend and continue to commend the Ukrainian Government’s restraint and efforts to limit damage and injury to the civilian population.
So our view has consistently been that they have every right to take steps to maintain law and order in their own country.
QUESTION: But you’re acknowledging that there have been, as – what you call, “unfortunate incidents.”
MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been reports of them, Matt. Yes.
QUESTION: Right. But committed not just – committed by the Ukrainian military or by the separatists?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not placing blame. I’m suggesting that in any conflict like this that occurs. That’s unfortunate. They’ve taken every step possible to exercise restraint while trying to maintain law and order in their own country.
QUESTION: Okay. So you believe – the Administration believes that the Ukrainian military has shown restraint in its operations in the east?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. And then do you – so when you talked about human rights abuses, what were you referring to before?
MS. PSAKI: By Russian separatists?
QUESTION: I don’t know. I --
MS. PSAKI: That’s what I was referring to.
QUESTION: So even though there have been unfortunate incidents, which you say – on both sides. Or am I mischaracterizing that? You believe there have been --
MS. PSAKI: There have been in general.
QUESTION: -- unfortunate incidents --
MS. PSAKI: Yes, on the ground. Yes.
QUESTION: -- on both sides – the – what you would term human rights abuses have come only at the hands of the separatists? Is that --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re – I know this is not your intention, but I don’t – I’m not sure if there’s a specific report you’re referring to. We’re not aware of one.
QUESTION: I – well, no. I’m just – I’m not referring to a specific report. I’m just referring to the – you said that there were human rights abuses committed. And then you said that there were unfortunate incidents, and I’m trying to --
MS. PSAKI: Well, what I’m referring to, Matt --
QUESTION: An unfortunate incident isn’t necessarily a human rights abuse.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You say that unfortunate incidents have occurred on both sides, but the actual abuses, which I presume have intent – there is intent behind a human rights abuse.
MS. PSAKI: I said, well, unfortunate incidents will always occur in combat zones.
MS. PSAKI: So yes, there have been reports which we believe to be true, that there have been injuries and losses of life on both sides. What I’m – but in our view, the vast, vast majority of our concern is – if not all of it – is about what we’re seeing from the Russian separatists and --
QUESTION: Right. Okay, but so --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- the difference between an unfortunate incident and a human rights abuse, I think – correct me if I’m wrong – is intent, right? Is that what – an intention to commit an abuse, as opposed to an accident.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. That’s --
QUESTION: And you don’t see that the – any – that any of the unfortunate incidents committed by the Ukrainian military have been actual abuses. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: That is our view. Yes.
QUESTION: Could I just ask on – follow-up on what the Secretary said last night in his interview with PBS?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: He mentioned that there had been some signs of Russian troops moving back to Moscow, not towards Kyiv, and that seems to be backed up this morning by NATO. They also said they’ve seen similar movements. Do you have more details? Do you have numbers? Is this encouraging? What’s your reaction to --
MS. PSAKI: Certainly. Well, we continue to observe Russian troop activity in the vicinity of the border with Ukraine. Over two-thirds of the troops have now pulled back from the border. Several thousand troops still remain in the vicinity, but most of these units appear to be preparing to withdraw. Some units continue to be capable of operations at short notice. So if we see complete, comprehensive, and verifiable withdrawal we would welcome it. Obviously --
QUESTION: You can’t welcome the steps that have already taken place?
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish, Elise. Obviously, these initial steps are positive, but we would like to see the full withdrawal, as you know, and that’s what we’ve been consistently calling for.
QUESTION: So two-thirds of 40,000, which you estimated, it was about 40,000.
MS. PSAKI: Approximately two-thirds.
QUESTION: So two-thirds would bring us up to – sorry, my maths is atrocious. Help me out here.
QUESTION: Don’t look at me. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: No one in here was a math major, I’m going to bet. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: It’s a lot of troops that have been pulled back.
QUESTION: How far have they been pulled back? I mean --
QUESTION: Twenty-seven thousand.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other level of ground-game detail. This is obviously information that is being discussed through the interagency. DOD is probably the more appropriate place to go for that level of detail.
QUESTION: Okay, but it’s – I thought that there was a question about whether they might be getting pulled back only a little ways and, I mean, you alluded to this possibility when you said some could go into quick action. And since you’re the one who’s talking about –
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- since it was the Secretary who said that they’re heading toward Moscow --
MS. PSAKI: As others have said as well.
QUESTION: I know. But if you could endeavor to get an answer on whether you have any concerns that they’re only pulling a little ways back rather than a long ways back.
MS. PSAKI: I will check. And my bet is we’ll point you to – I mean, DOD has also spoken to this, so that’s what I wanted to reference. And as Elise noted, we’re also being careful here about how we characterize this, because we’re obviously watching. There’s more that needs to happen.
QUESTION: Do you characterize it as a pullback, though, or are you just – I mean, I suppose that goes to what Arshad’s question was.
MS. PSAKI: Have pulled back from the border, yes. In terms of the exact distance, I don’t have that level of detail. I will see if there’s more specifics we can share.
QUESTION: But do you believe this is a de-escalation of tensions?
MS. PSAKI: This is the start of, but there’s more that needs to happen, and obviously we want to see a complete, comprehensive, and verified withdrawal, and that’s what we’re waiting to see.
QUESTION: Right, but if you take it in the context of the – President Putin did say – endorse – not endorse, but accept the results of the election. The Russians have said that they want to work with the new government. It looks like the two presidents are going to meet shortly. And it does seem as if this is trending in the right direction, wouldn’t you say?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, what I’m trying to be careful of here is there have been a lot committed to – there has been a lot committed to verbally over the last several weeks, and we want to see a complete and verified withdrawal. We would like to see President Putin work with President-elect Poroshenko, so there’s more that needs to be done and we’ll continue to press for that in the days ahead.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to the restraint issue? The – you – I want to make sure I understand correctly. Your opinion is that the Ukrainian military is using restraint, so you do not see a need to urge the government to use restraint?
MS. PSAKI: We’d urge all sides in any conflict --
QUESTION: You still do?
MS. PSAKI: -- to use restraint.
QUESTION: Use restraint.
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. But we would commend them for the restraint they’ve used to date.
QUESTION: Got you. All right, great, thanks.
MS. PSAKI: More on Ukraine? Did you have another one? Sorry.
QUESTION: Yeah. Very quickly --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- on the role of foreign fighters in the Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay, we’re confused --
MS. PSAKI: In --
QUESTION: -- because yesterday --
MS. PSAKI: The Chechen.
QUESTION: Yeah. You said that in the call on Wednesday, Secretary Kerry raised the issue of Russia allowing Chechen fighters to go into Ukraine. But today, the Russians – or yesterday – were saying that there are 300 fighters that were trained in Syria that have crossed and fighting alongside government forces. Can you confirm --
MS. PSAKI: Trained --
QUESTION: -- did they talk about that?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry. Are you talking about two different things here, Said?
QUESTION: No, not two different things.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Because – the role of foreign fighters in the Ukraine. Because yesterday --
MS. PSAKI: The Chechens.
QUESTION: -- if I heard you correctly --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- you said that the Secretary of State expressed his concern that Russia is allowing Chechen – or Chechnyan, whatever – fighters to go into Ukraine to fight alongside the separatists. Today, the Russians are saying exactly the opposite. They’re saying that the foreign fighters are going in to fight alongside government forces and they come from Syria. Do you have anything on that, or --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not --
QUESTION: -- was that an issue that was raised?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure you have all of your facts completely right there, but --
QUESTION: I mean, I never have my – all of my facts --
MS. PSAKI: You often do, Said. (Laughter.) But let me kind of restate what – let me restate what is the – what are the facts here.
MS. PSAKI: Without a doubt, we’ve seen numerous reports that armed Chechen fighters have traveled from Russia to Donetsk to support Russia-backed separatists. Russian-backed separatists, as you know, is – are the armed militants we have been expressing concern about for weeks, months now. We’re also talking about – they’re not separate; they’re related, obviously. We’re all talking about Ukraine – the troops on the border that have been gathered on the border for several weeks as well. So what I was just answering in response to Matt and Elise’s question before was where those troops are located. We remain concerned about these Chechen fighters who have crossed the border to join the Russian separatists.
QUESTION: So you believe the Russians have some control over the Chechens?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we --
QUESTION: Over the Chechen fighters that you say are going in?
MS. PSAKI: We do feel that there’s a Russian hand involved, yes.
QUESTION: Right. Okay. Well, then why can’t the Assad regime turn around and say: Well, you must have some control over your American who comes to – goes to Syria and blows himself up. I mean, these people don’t necessarily act because their government or any other government tells them to do so.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt --
QUESTION: You believe that this is an orchestrated, concerted thing and not just people going individually, making up – deciding they want to --
MS. PSAKI: I understand you like to compare things and that’s one of your favorite things, and that’s fine, but I would say that we see --
QUESTION: These are a few of my favorite things. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: We – these are a few – you also like Buffalo sports teams. I would say that in our view, there’s a difference here. What we’re talking about – we’ve clearly condemned the actions or – of this American citizen. What we’re talking about here is individuals, Chechen fighters, who have traveled from Russia in armed convoys and --
QUESTION: Right, so it’s organized is what you’re saying.
MS. PSAKI: Yes, it’s a difference.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Russia? A Russia-related question.
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry. Are we – Ukraine?
QUESTION: Still on Ukraine and on the Chechen fighters, you don’t have – do you have a figure for the number of fighters – Chechen fighters believed that have gone across the border?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail, Jo.
Go ahead, Nicole.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask about President Putin’s economic forum May 23rd --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and reports or U.S. efforts to dissuade European and U.S. companies from attending.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think a couple of weeks ago – and so it’s been consistent – we’ve talked about this and I believe the White House also talked about the fact that there are regular conversations with business leaders. U.S. Government officials decided not to attend the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum. Obviously, companies are going to make their own decisions, but – and we believe that senior business executives traveling to Russia to make high-profile appearances with Russian Government officials at events such as this would send an inappropriate message given Russia’s behavior. I’m not aware of outreach to companies outside of the United States, though. Obviously, companies have bases everywhere, but --
QUESTION: Right. Does – can I infer that there was outreach to companies within the United States?
MS. PSAKI: We had a range of conversations, as has been confirmed several times by the Administration, but – I’m just conveying that it’s not new, but --
QUESTION: Okay. I did try and look for the transcripts but just couldn’t, so --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, no, it’s okay. I just wanted you to know the backstory.
MS. PSAKI: But I don’t have any other further details. Obviously, companies, officials have also come out and stated why they are not planning to attend as well. So I point you to both of that --
MS. PSAKI: -- both of those.
MS. PSAKI: Yes. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: This is about the jailed U.S. Marine Andrew Tahmooressi --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- who – his mother tells us that yesterday, a team from the consulate in Mexico, under the charge there, sent a crew to the jail where he completed an affidavit of mistreatment, abuse in prison. We just spoke to this Marine on the phone and – about his conditions and he
says he’s abused. They have deprived food and water, kept him shackled on all fours for a month, and he could not walk when he was let out for the first time. And I was just wondering if you could tell us about your understanding of his treatment in jail and whether – and what your recourse with the Mexican Government is.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have details to that level. I’m happy to venture to get them and talk to our team. As we’ve said many times, we’ve not only attended his proceedings and visited him. Our consular officers have numerous times. The Secretary raised this issue when he was in Mexico just last week. He was – it is true that he – when he was first incarcerated at the La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana on April 8th, he was removed from the general population to the infirmary for treatment and observation. As we understand it, he has since been transferred. He’s no longer restrained and is in his own cell. Obviously, we would take any accusation seriously, but let me talk to our team and see what the recent update is on his case.
QUESTION: You said that he has not been restrained, so then you’re acknowledging that he was under restraints.
MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, I understand that you’ve raised the case, but I mean, a U.S. – particularly a U.S. serviceman in a jail being mistreated by guards would – I would think would be an issue of huge concern.
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s an issue of huge concern, which is why we’ve raised it so many times with the government. He’s been charged with possessing firearms and ammunition, which is in violation of Mexican law. We have been attending his court hearings, will continue to provide every applicable consular service. But obviously, we are concerned about the case, which is why we have raised it.
QUESTION: I understand that he’s been charged with firearms, but the understanding is that he kind of mistakenly got across the border – in fact, called the police in California to try and help him, and this was kind of a mistake. And, I mean, how come a month later, this hasn’t been able to be – it seems like something pretty easy to kind of rectify with the Mexican Government.
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s seeing its way through the court process there, Elise. There’s a role that the consular office plays. We’re playing – we’re doing everything under that purview, but I will check and see if there’s more of an update we can offer.
QUESTION: Do you know, Jen, on this case, if in your conversations with the Mexicans, the Mexicans have ever – have raised the issues of Mexican citizens in the United States who have been executed, over their protests? Do you know – is that causing a – is that causing any kind of a problem in this – in the attempt to fix this situation?
MS. PSAKI: I have to check, Matt, in terms of any additional details about the conversations about this case.
QUESTION: Libya and --
MS. PSAKI: Do – well, let’s go to Scott in the back.
QUESTION: Can we --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, did you have more on this specific issue?
QUESTION: On – a short one.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Scott.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Azerbaijani President Aliyev said that Armenia’s fate will be very dark if it does not withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh, saying that Armenia is led by a criminal, corrupt, and dictatorial regime. Do you have any comment on that and what it means for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, let me first say that inflammatory rhetoric and statements that run counter to these – to our principles raise tensions in the region and damage the peace process. As a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, we remain committed to helping the parties reach a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Joint statements by the Minsk Group presidents and co-chair countries from 2009 to 2013 have made clear that a lasting settlement must be based on the core principles of the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act, particularly with respect to the non-use of force, territorial integrity, and equal rights of self-determination of people. So we call on all sides to redouble their efforts at the negotiation table and to focus on the benefits that peace would bring to people across the region.
QUESTION: Just one more.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Some people on his behalf are arguing that the killing was religiously motivated because he’s a member of the Ahmadi religious minority in Pakistan. And I know the Embassy in Islamabad has offered its condolences for his death. Does the U.S. Government have any reason to believe that his killing was religiously motivated, or do you think this was just ordinary crime of some sort?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, local authorities are still investigating the matter. We are aware of these specific allegations that you’ve raised but can’t verify at this point the motive for the murder – for his murder. We remain concerned, broadly speaking, about endemic sectarian violence in Pakistan. And ensuring protection of human rights and religious freedom as an important part and an element, of course, of our bilateral discussions, but I wouldn’t want to speculate as there’s an ongoing investigation.
QUESTION: And are you making any efforts, as you, I think, ordinarily might in the context of the annual Human Rights Report to try to establish whether such violence is religiously or sectarian motivated? Are you trying to figure out yourselves what happened here, or are you kind of leaving it to the Pakistanis to do their investigation?
MS. PSAKI: We are – the local authorities have the lead on the investigation, but as you know we look at a range of information for our annual Human Rights Report.
QUESTION: Can we go to Libya?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I have a very quick question. The London Times is claiming that U.S. special forces and in particular CIA forces, French forces, and Algerian forces are inside Libya chasing after Mokhtar Belmokhtar, who apparently survived. I mean, reports of his death were erroneous. Could you confirm to us whether there is actually a role for the U.S. in Libya or a military presence?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more than what we’ve already announced.
QUESTION: Could you – okay. Could you comment on the presence or the deployment of the USS Bataan with some 2,000 Marines at the shores of Libya?
QUESTION: Is there anything new on this?
MS. PSAKI: There’s nothing new, and it was announced, I believe, two days ago.
QUESTION: Okay, but – yeah.
MS. PSAKI: But I’m happy to confirm for you --
QUESTION: Are we to assume that maybe Americans citizens are ready to leave the country? That’s the question.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I would say we – last Friday, I believe it was, I think, or maybe it was Monday – sorry – we put out a new Travel Warning. We have – as a result of the ongoing instability and violence, we reduced – and in that Travel Warning we reduced that we – we announced that we reduced – sorry, tongue-twister – the number of U.S. Government personnel at its Embassy – at our Embassy in Tripoli, and we are taking prudent steps to assure the security of our personnel given the instability. We are in constant contact with our Embassy, we are constantly evaluating the security needs, but I have nothing new to report on on that front.
QUESTION: I just – before everyone gets all excited, this is not an evacuation, right?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: These people left on regularly scheduled commercial aircraft. There was no panic. There was no attack, anything like that. They --
MS. PSAKI: There is no plan for a U.S. Government-sponsored evacuation at this time. This is a temporary reduction in staffing.
QUESTION: How many – can you address how many staff left and how many diplomats – I’m using that word not necessarily to include their security people, which I’m not asking about – you now have in Tripoli?
MS. PSAKI: We cannot comment on staffing levels for security reasons.
QUESTION: More than one? You’re not prepared to say?
MS. PSAKI: That is fair to say. More than zero.
QUESTION: Sorry, when did it happen? I was --
QUESTION: It happened over the last few weeks.
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, which piece? The Travel Warning? I believe it was --
QUESTION: No, the reduction.
MS. PSAKI: The USS Bataan?
QUESTION: The reduction.
MS. PSAKI: That was announced in the Travel Warning that I believe went out on --
MS. PSAKI: -- Monday – Tuesday evening.
MS. PSAKI: Yes. That’s right.
QUESTION: And they – these – they were already being taken out of the country at that point? I mean, they’d already left or they were still there and were leaving?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t remember the exact timing of that. It was just an announcement that staff would be reduced. Some may have left; some have been leaving.
QUESTION: But are you being urged by the Defense Department or others in this Administration to further reduce your staffing? I mean, I understand you have a core staff there, but are you being pressured in any way to further those reductions?
MS. PSAKI: There are discussions through the interagency on a regular basis, if not daily, about our security needs at posts around the world and what the appropriate steps are. And this was decided through that process, and that’s why we put out the Travel Warning.
QUESTION: Because Pentagon officials are saying that actually, they’re urging you, strongly urging you to completely – maybe not use the word evacuate, but take out or send home the rest of your diplomats and are somewhat frustrated by the fact that you won’t do so, because they feel it’s better to get them out before something happens instead of having to scramble when something does.
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s nothing more important to the State Department than the safety and security of the men and women serving overseas. We look at a range of information. There’s a broad discussion that occurs through the interagency, and that’s how decisions are made. So --
QUESTION: Is that really your top priority? Because I thought – and I think I’ve heard people from this building say that diplomacy is the --
MS. PSAKI: I can say one of our top priorities if that would make you feel better.
QUESTION: Right, because --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- diplomacy, like lots of things, is dangerous.
MS. PSAKI: You’re right.
QUESTION: And you don’t operate in a zero-risk environment. And if you did, you would have nobody in lots of countries.
MS. PSAKI: You are correct, Arshad. And if you ask men and women who serve in places like Libya, they would tell you exactly that. So --
QUESTION: Is Ambassador Jones in the country, or – I mean, in Libya, or --
MS. PSAKI: She had been in the United States on prior travel.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on her whereabouts. She has plans to return.
QUESTION: Can we next door?
MS. PSAKI: Do we have – Libya, or --
QUESTION: To the right.
MS. PSAKI: To the right. Okay.
QUESTION: To the east.
MS. PSAKI: I like this going-around-the-world system we’ve started to do. Go ahead.
QUESTION: To the east.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Right? Egypt is the east of Libya, right? Yes.
QUESTION: Yes, east.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. It’s a Friday afternoon. Let’s have some fun. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Have you come to any determination about the – about what you think about the election?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned yesterday, we’re waiting for the official announcement of the results by the presidential electoral commission of Egypt, which we understand will happen next week. So we will wait for that. We have clearly expressed our concerns about the electoral environment in the lead-up to the election and are looking at all reports about the electoral process during the election. I know some – there have been a range of reports that have been out about that, and we’ve expressed concerns about those throughout the process.
QUESTION: Right. Well, the Egyptian Government is highlighting several of the – several reports, or at least one report that says – that’s quite complimentary, that says that things were orderly and that it was, in fact, free and fair. You’re not prepared to endorse the findings of that? I mean, they put it out in a statement.
MS. PSAKI: I understand that. We will speak to the election when the official results are announced. But we stand by the concerns we’ve had about the lack of inclusivity, crackdown on media freedom --
MS. PSAKI: -- protestors, et cetera.
QUESTION: But in terms of the actual conduct on election day, you are still going – you’re still reserving judgment, or you have a judgment and you just don’t want to announce what it is until the results are in?
MS. PSAKI: We’ll wait to speak to it until the results are in.
QUESTION: So will you say – like, once the results are out, will you say to General Sisi, “Congratulations on a convincing victory”? Is that it?
MS. PSAKI: Said, you’ll have to come back next week and see what happens.
QUESTION: No, I mean – but don’t you have an idea already that – it’s like something, 95 percent of the vote went to General Sisi?
MS. PSAKI: We often don’t issue an official statement until the official results are made.
QUESTION: But even – can you – yeah, Michel is correct. President Putin has called to congratulate President-elect --
QUESTION: -- Sisi. Are you concerned at all, one, that the Russians are maybe getting ahead of you here, because it’s clear that he is the winner – that he is the victor regardless of whatever determination you make on the conduct of the election – that the Russians may be getting a foot in early?
MS. PSAKI: No, we are not. We have a --
QUESTION: No? All right.
MS. PSAKI: -- strong relationship, a long, enduring relationship with Egypt, and we remain in touch with a range of officials and that will continue.
QUESTION: And --
QUESTION: So as a general rule – sorry, can I ask on this?
QUESTION: As a general rule, do you think it’s a good idea to arbitrarily extend elections? Like in 2000, would it have been a good idea for the U.S. Government to have extended the 2000 election for --
QUESTION: Only in Florida.
QUESTION: -- for a day or two? Is that a good idea, as a general --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make a sweeping point on that. I appreciate the opportunity.
QUESTION: Well, how about this: I mean – or I guess it’s understandable, or I guess it’s arguable that it’s a good thing to wait until the official results are in. But does it – is it not at all a concern of yours that the second-place finisher in this was invalid ballots? I mean, that the opposition candidate came in third behind spoiled ballots?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve --
QUESTION: Does that not raise any --
MS. PSAKI: We’ve been clear, as I referenced the lack of inclusivity, the crackdown on media – all the issues we’ve talked about in the lead-up. We’ll have more to say when the official results are announced.
QUESTION: Right. But you don’t have it that – you can’t even speak to something like that, which is a fact, that the opposition candidate finished behind – percentage-wise, behind the spoiled ballots?
MS. PSAKI: I am aware of the results. We will have a comment when the official results are named.
Egypt, or another issue? Go ahead.
QUESTION: At yesterday’s briefing you mentioned that the Secretary had spoken with Lavrov about the failure of Syria to meet the deadline for removal of chemical weapons and related materials, but I didn’t – we didn’t hear an actual explanation as to why the deadline has been missed. Is that purely a --
MS. PSAKI: The deadline hasn’t been missed. He expressed a concern about – well, the June 30th deadline. He has not – he expressed a concern about the need to move forward, and that was the message that he conveyed to Foreign Minister Lavrov during that call.
There have been a range of reasons offered on the ground. As you know, the UN has said they will do everything possible. The OPCW has said they will do everything possible. And broadly speaking, the Secretary’s view is that we need to continue to press the Syrian regime. We need the help of the Russians to continue to do that, to remove the final 8 percent, which is in one location.
QUESTION: Do you think that that’s purely like a matter of technical – complicated technical issues, or is this reflecting some recalcitrance from the Syrians or Russians or both?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have been working with the Russians throughout this process to press the regime to remove the chemical weapons. Ninety-two percent has been removed. There’s 8 percent left at one location. There have been concerns expressed about security needs on the ground. Those have been expressed by the UN as well, but again, everybody has made clear – I should say the UN, the OPCW have made clear that they’re going to endeavor to do everything possible to take the necessary steps to get this – the remaining 8 percent out.
QUESTION: Jen, do you have --
QUESTION: Were any other topics discussed in that phone call, other than – in the most recent phone call --
MS. PSAKI: The one today?
QUESTION: -- the one today – other than the Secretary urging Foreign Minister Lavrov, as he did on Wednesday afternoon, as he said, to – for the Russian Government to deal with Poroshenko?
MS. PSAKI: The focus of the conversation was on Ukraine, but I don’t have anything further to read out for all of you.
QUESTION: On Syria. There’s a discussion, either ongoing or just finished, in the Security Council about giving aid – humanitarian aid – to Syria, delivering humanitarian aid to Syria whether the government or the opposition like it or not. I mean, are you aware of that? Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure – can you be a little more specific about what you’re referring to?
QUESTION: Of the Security Council today – well, there is I think a resolution introduced by Australia and two other countries --
QUESTION: -- and Jordan and one other country to deliver humanitarian aid to areas in Syria, whether it is under the control of the government or the opposition, without consulting with them. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I have not spoken with our USUN team. As you know, across the board we have been supportive of efforts to take steps to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches the people who need it most, but let me talk to them about the specific proposal or resolution.
QUESTION: The President kind of gave mention to the political solution, but it certainly doesn’t seem as if there have been a lot of efforts made on the political track in terms of this Geneva process and trying to get a political solution. Is it your kind of assessment that until you work more on some of the things that you’re discussing right now in terms of added training or support for the opposition, in terms of changing the battlefield on the ground, that kind of political talks are fruitless because Assad’s calculus hasn’t really changed in any way?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are several tracks of the political discussions, and one of those is coordination and cooperation through the London 11, and there was a meeting just two weeks ago where they discussed where we need to go from here, and it agreed that there would be a stepped up coordination. You heard the President say just two days ago that he’s – we’re going to take steps to increase assistance to the moderate opposition. So we’re taking steps here. Others are taking steps, and I would say all of those are done with the purpose of strengthening the hand of the moderate opposition on the ground.
QUESTION: So I understand. I mean, a London 11 meeting is not actually – I’m not saying that you’re not working hands-on with the opposition, but those are just meetings of people who are not on the ground, not parties on the ground.
MS. PSAKI: But we’ve also been – Daniel Rubenstein and others have been also continuing to work with the moderate opposition.
QUESTION: I understand. My question is: Are kind of efforts to bring the opposition and the regime together in terms of forging some kind of political compromise unproductive at this point until you do what you’re talking about, which is strengthen the hand of the opposition?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our bigger concern is what the agenda would be and what the purpose of the discussions would be. And it’s not – I wouldn’t put it in the terms you put it in. We continue to determine with both our international partners as well as the opposition what the next appropriate steps are – and the UN – and we evaluate that day by day, week by week.
QUESTION: But you would say that until you strengthen the hand of the opposition and actually change the equation on the battlefield, which would change Assad’s calculus, you think that a political solution is really necessary – possible before then?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Elise, there are a range of factors at hand. Some of them you mentioned. And we are going to continue to work with our international partners, work to strengthen the opposition through assistance, through a political – through boosting their political power, and we’ll make a determination with the UN, with the opposition, on what the appropriate steps are in terms of a political process.
QUESTION: So I’ll take that as a no, you don’t think a political solution is possible right now until you get the opposition in a position where it’s strengthened.
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it in those terms. We need to continue to work with the opposition, but I’m not going to say it in as definitive a way as you would like me to.
QUESTION: So voting has started in overseas embassies for the elections, ahead of the elections on Tuesday, and I don’t know if you heard, but some of the reports were that there was actually quite a lot of interest in them, a lot of people who turned out to vote. They actually ran out of ballot papers; there were longer lines than people anticipated. Are these people seriously misguided?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you know our view, which is that this is a slam – a sham – slam? – a sham election. You heard the Secretary speak to this yesterday during the PBS interview that you referenced earlier in the briefing. We don’t feel it’s valid and we don’t feel the results will be valid. I don’t want to make a judgment on the individuals voting, but the point here is that we’re going to continue to proceed forward. We’re not recognizing the outcome of this election and I don’t think the international community will either.
QUESTION: So the rebels have actually – the opposition has actually called for those people inside of Syria to boycott the election. Is that something that you would concur with?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think where – our focus, Jo, is on where we go from here. And we don’t recognize the outcome, we won’t recognize the validity of it, but I don’t think I’m going to speculate on it further.
QUESTION: I mean, some people are saying the argument is that this is the way he actually wins legitimacy – through a ballot box.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we don’t feel it’s a legitimate election, so we would argue with that point.
QUESTION: So on the lines, the throngs of people that were at the embassies, especially in Lebanon – I mean, they showed like tens of thousands of people and so on. Are you saying that these people are – just to follow up on them – misguided? Whatever – were they forced to sort of vote by perhaps third forces or anything?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that, Said.
QUESTION: On Mali.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Wait, wait, just on that. So this election, before it’s even held, is not valid. Is that what you’re saying?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve been clear it’s a sham election. We’re not going to recognize the legitimacy of it.
QUESTION: Okay. But the jury is still out on Egypt?
QUESTION: On Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: Every country is different, Matt.
QUESTION: Can I – okay. I have another one, but now I’ve just forgotten what it was.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Why don’t we let Scott go to Mali.
QUESTION: You could go to Scott, yes.
QUESTION: It was last week, I believe, when we were speaking about Kidal and the fact that AQIM had taken that village, and I believe at that time, you said that it was the position of the United States to support the government in Bamako in its reconciliation efforts with militants in the north. Today, at the United Nations, Mali called on the international community to help it fight terrorists who it said are not cooperating with reconciliation efforts in the north. So is that over and does the United States recognize now that it’s time to join the government in Bamako to fight these militants?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I will venture to talk to our UN team about this as well, along with the other question that Jo asked – or Said asked, I can’t remember up here – and we’ll get you something back, Scott.
QUESTION: Can I – I just remembered where I was.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: It was very simple. Has the Administration or has the U.S. Government, to your knowledge – because I think the last one predates this Administration – ever recognized a Syrian election as valid?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to dial back.
QUESTION: Okay, because I’m just curious.
MS. PSAKI: There is quite a long history there, especially with the Assad family, as you know.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: On the --
MS. PSAKI: Now is not the time. We will, though, clearly. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On the case in Sudan of the woman in jail and possibly being executed for refusing to convert, is there any – do you have anything further on that, anything further about whether the U.S. will take any action against Sudan?
MS. PSAKI: I have nothing new to add to what I said yesterday.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on the election – his question? Because --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- as far as I remember, Ukrainian presidential election’s official result just came out yesterday that – saying Poroshenko won 54.7 percent of the votes. But didn’t you guys officially admit that Poroshenko has won before that official result coming out?
MS. PSAKI: We actually put our statement out after the official results came out.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I have a question about Shangri-La Dialogue. So Mr. Hagel said he will use the summit to raise issues where he think China is overplaying its hand and presenting new challenges. Do you have any comments, and what’s your expectation about this dialogue?
MS. PSAKI: I would – I don’t think I have anything to add to what Secretary Hagel offered.
We have more on Asia? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Staying on Asia. Yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: The head of the Thai junta came out this morning – or this evening, actually, Thailand – in a national address and sort of laid out a plan for the year ahead. He says there’s not going to be elections for the first year. There’s going to be a first phase of three months of reconciliation. This is in order to set the right tone to hold elections in a year’s time. He said that he recognizes there’s international concern, but he believes this is the right way forward.
Yesterday, you said that there was no reason to delay the elections. Does his plan for trying to bring back what has been a very divided country – does this make sense? Do you welcome this approach?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we know that they have announced a “roadmap” toward democracy, but there are – with scant details included. We continue to urge the military council – so our position has not changed – to set a timeline for early elections and to facilitate an inclusive and transparent electoral process. That remains our view, and that – our view remains that that is the best step forward for the people of Thailand.
QUESTION: And would it be fair to say that you do not regard a year and three – or a year and three months, whatever it is, as a timely or early election, right?
MS. PSAKI: That is fair to say.
QUESTION: It is the same as has happened in Egypt, though.
MS. PSAKI: Every country is different, and we look at each circumstance different, as I think most people would hope we would.
QUESTION: But given the fact that they have been so totally divided – you’ve had six or seven months now of protests in Thailand – is it not judicious to try and marshal political forces so they can hold a proper, orderly election rather than just rushing out and it all ending in chaos and perhaps more kind of political turmoil down the road?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, we don’t want anything to end in chaos, but we think setting a timeline for early elections is something that is not just possible, but is what the appropriate step is, and that that should be what their focus is on.
QUESTION: So what would you consider to be early elections?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to give a timeline. I think it’s up to the people of Thailand, obviously, but we feel there’s no reason that they can’t be held in the short term.
QUESTION: Rather than a year?
MS. PSAKI: Rather than the long term.
QUESTION: I mean, a year is – would be long term, so --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to do an “If it’s this months or -- ”
QUESTION: Right. But I mean – okay, fair enough. But, I mean, if you say that a year – waiting a year or a year and three months is too long to wait, when – is six months too long to wait?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to do a timeline, Matt. I think it’s – in our view, is – our view is that these elections could happen soon and they should be – there should be a timeline set for early elections.
QUESTION: Right, but recognizing every country is different – I mean, with Egypt, you actually worked to set out a year-long timeline.
MS. PSAKI: Every country is different, as you just said. So in Thailand, we believe --
QUESTION: So what’s the difference between Thailand and Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: We believe that in Thailand, it’s the appropriate step, it’s the right step for the people of Thailand, and that it is certainly possible to do it. So – go ahead.
QUESTION: No, I think the differences --
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: -- between Thailand and Egypt are pretty clear, but --
MS. PSAKI: There are a range. We could spend a lot of time on that.
QUESTION: -- alphabetically as well. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: More Asia?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that: A Japanese defense minister today in Singapore met with the Chinese defense minister and asked Chinese to build maritime communication channel to avoid miscalculation. It seems like Chinese are super-reluctant, like saying Japan has to do more things before asking those kind of things. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to add to what I stated yesterday, which is that we’ve seen the reports of the Chinese and Japanese aircraft in close proximity. We also urge all states to ensure that they respect the safety of aircraft in flight. As we’ve long stated for months now, we don’t accept China’s declaration of an ADIZ over the East China Sea, and we urge China not to implement it. So steps that are, again – contradict that, certainly we’d be opposed to.
QUESTION: I’ve got three extremely brief ones.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. It’s a fast round.
QUESTION: One, on China, did you look – have you informed yourself about the Vice President’s comments, his disparagement of Chinese innovation yesterday? And are you aware of any – or two days ago? And are you aware of any complaints from the Chinese about anything?
MS. PSAKI: Not aware of any, Matt.
QUESTION: Secondly, at --
QUESTION: China? Still?
QUESTION: I just to ask if you’d set a date for the S&ED?
MS. PSAKI: We have been in touch with the Chinese about that, but we’ll announce the date with Treasury and then when it’s appropriate. I don’t have any announcements.
QUESTION: Secondly, since yesterday’s briefing, have you had an opportunity or perhaps you didn’t want to take the opportunity to ask Secretary Kerry about his opinion of Daniel Ellsberg versus Edward Snowden? That had not come up?
MS. PSAKI: I have not discussed that with him today. No.
MS. PSAKI: Oh. What does that mean?
QUESTION: Jay Carney is leaving.
MS. PSAKI: I know.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say that I – since you gave me the opportunity – that I worked with Jay very closely when I was in the White House and also on the campaign, and he is smart, a class-act. I’m sure he will be valued wherever he is in the private sector, but I hope he takes a big, long vacation, because that’s a long time to be in a very strenuous job.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.
QUESTION: Thank you. Happy weekend.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:54 p.m.)
DPB # 95