1:23 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
QUESTION: Hello, ma’am.
MS. PSAKI: I hope everybody enjoyed your long weekend. I have a couple of items at the top.
As you all know, the Secretary is en route to Beijing to take part in the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The Strategic and Economic Dialogue is a central forum for the United States and China to take stock of progress, set new goals for the relationship, develop habits of cooperation and areas of mutual interest, and manage areas of difference through candid high-level discussions. The S&ED remains an important component of our efforts with China to build relations between our countries, and the 2014 S&ED brings dozens of high-level U.S. Government officials to Beijing to discuss nearly every issue – every major issue in our bilateral relationship, from issues like food security and human rights to combatting wildlife trafficking.
Our two countries will exchange views and forge progress on global, regional, and bilateral challenges, including pressing issues related to Ukraine, Afghanistan, Iran, the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and maritime disputes. We expect to have high-level discussions on climate change and clean energy, including how expanding cooperation under the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group and the U.S.-China EcoPartnerships will allow us to make significant strides toward addressing the pressing global challenge.
I would also like to start by highlighting the recent sentencing of a Saudi human rights lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair. The United States is troubled by the 15-year prison sentence, travel ban, and steep fine handed down to human rights lawyer and activist Waleed abu al-Khair. Mr. al-Khair’s situation is discussed in our most recent Human Rights Report on Saudi Arabia. We urge the Saudi Government to respect international human rights norms, a point we have made to them regularly.
And finally, I want to express deep concern by the United States by reports that Zhang Shaojie, pastor of the government-sanctioned Nanle County Christian Church, was convicted July 4th and sentenced to 12 years imprisonment in retaliation for his peaceful advocacy on behalf of his church community. We call on Chinese authorities to release Pastor Zhang and we urge China to cease harassment of his family members and congregants. We call on the Chinese authorities to allow citizens to worship freely in accordance with China’s own laws and its international human rights commitments. Freedom of religion is a critical – is critical to a peaceful, inclusive, stable, and thriving society.
With that, go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: Was there a reason that – well, first, happy Fourth of July.
MS. PSAKI: Happy Fourth of July.
QUESTION: Was there a reason that you separated the two China things by the Saudi thing? Are you --
MS. PSAKI: There was not.
QUESTION: Is there – do you expect that this guy’s case is going to come up in the Secretary’s conversations --
MS. PSAKI: Well, as --
QUESTION: -- or in any of the conversations that --
MS. PSAKI: As you know, there are a range of officials on the ground. We raise human rights issues at every opportunity and we always welcome a direct and candid dialogue.
QUESTION: All right. One thing that I noticed that you didn’t say was on the agenda was cyber issues. Does that mean that there is not going to be any discussion of this issue, which you and others think is a very big deal, with the Chinese?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it continues to be – cyber continues to be an incredibly important issue to the United States and to China. And we are – have a range of means of communicating on cyber issues. Was – that was not meant to be inclusive of every topic discussed by every official on the ground. As you know, we have quite an extensive delegation who will be there.
QUESTION: Right. But in terms of the actual formal cyber talks that you had been going on that the Chinese canceled after the indictments of the PLA guys, that’s not happening. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed in that regard.
MS. PSAKI: But again, there’ll be a great deal of time for dialogue. There are many meals involved, so I’m certain there’ll be a range of issues that will be discussed.
QUESTION: So they’re going to be chatting about cyber-crime over their --
MS. PSAKI: Stay tuned, Matt. There’s quite a bit of time our team has on the ground.
QUESTION: -- orange chicken, lemon chicken? Okay. Can we start with just this, quickly – Bahrain.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The expulsion of Tom Malinowski. What is the status? Have you guys accepted this? Are you protesting to the Bahrainis? Has he left the country? And what’s your understanding of what he did wrong that would warrant – or not warrant, as the case may be – this kind of a move?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that Assistant Secretary Malinowski is in Bahrain. He remains in Bahrain; he’s still in Bahrain today. He was – he’s on a visit to reaffirm and strengthen our bilateral ties and to support His Royal Majesty King Hamad’s reform and reconciliation efforts at an important time, particularly given events elsewhere in the region. Our team – we’ve, of course, seen the statements, and our team is in close touch on the ground to figure out – with the government to figure out exactly what’s happened here. I expect we’ll have more later once we have more of an update on the ground. As you know, these reports or these statements just came out in the last hour or so.
QUESTION: Right. Well, does him going there and then becoming – being declared persona non grata, how does that reaffirm and strengthen U.S.-Bahrain bilateral ties?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, what I was stating is the purpose of his visit and why he was on the ground.
QUESTION: Would you say that at this moment that it succeeded?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this visit is not complete yet. He is still on the ground --
QUESTION: Well --
MS. PSAKI: -- and we’re in close touch with the government officials. So we’ll see what transpires.
QUESTION: Or how does it express Bahrainis’ commitment to human rights and democratic reforms through the reconciliation process that you are talking about?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this was a statement made – as I mentioned, our officials are in close touch with Bahraini Government officials on the ground, and we’ll see what transpires over the next several hours.
QUESTION: Can we go to Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. Over the weekend, former Ambassador Ryan Crocker told --
QUESTION: I’m sorry, Said. I just have one. Do you have any details of his schedule in Bahrain, what he was doing there?
MS. PSAKI: In terms of his --
QUESTION: Other than --
MS. PSAKI: -- his specific meetings?
QUESTION: Yeah, other than – no. Yeah, in terms of his specific meetings, but not necessarily specific, but as specific as you can get.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have his specific schedule in front of me. I can see if there’s – that’s something we can provide.
QUESTION: Do you know, did he meet with government officials today?
MS. PSAKI: Did he – did Assistant Secretary Malinowski meet --
QUESTION: Tom. Yeah.
MS. PSAKI: -- with government officials today? Not that I’m aware of, but why don’t we check and see what the specific details are of the schedule.
QUESTION: Is it correct that he met with the Al Wifaq people yesterday and again today?
MS. PSAKI: I know he did yesterday. I don’t have confirmation of another meeting today.
QUESTION: One more. Are you planning to consider any Bahraini diplomatic persona non grata too, or how will --
MS. PSAKI: Again, our team is in close touch on the ground with government officials. Assistant Secretary Malinowski remains on the ground, so let’s see what happens through the course of the day.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yes. Former Ambassador Ryan Crocker told CNN – I know he’s a former official but he probably knows Iraq better than many people. He said that, “The Islamic State may have done us a favor by publicly erasing the Iraqi-Syrian border. If they have, I think we should too and go after their targets wherever they are.”
Is that the kind of thinking that may be germinating in this building that --
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said --
QUESTION: -- because the Iraqis recognize their borders and the Syrians recognize their borders. Only the Islamic State that recognizes this fungible border, right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Ambassador Crocker is a private citizen and doesn’t speak for the United States Government. We’ve also talked quite a bit in here about the fact that our focus remains on encouraging urgent steps toward a government formation, and we have a range of options at our disposal to take on the threat that Iraq and the region is facing from ISIL. That’s long been the case for weeks now, long before these comments were made.
QUESTION: But as they expand their territory – and obviously they are – I mean, what is the United States doing actually on the ground to sort of reverse the tide?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think a range of steps. One, we’re consulting closely on the ground with a range of government officials from all parties. We also have increased, expedited our security assistance. You’re familiar with the steps we’ve taken in that regard. And we remain in close consultations. And again, we have a range of options at our disposal. But our focus remains on encouraging political steps forward and a unified front against ISIL and the threat that all people --
QUESTION: You said that --
MS. PSAKI: -- of Iraq face.
QUESTION: You said that your kind of first priority is a government.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Now, the parliament wrapped up and kind of delayed its next meeting until August 12th without any kind of judgment or new government or anything. And I mean, do you have – given, like, if you think back to the last time the Iraqi Government tried to form a government, that took months.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have that kind of time to kind of wait for a government to form and hope that that gels and will fight ISIS? I mean, it seems like they’ll probably be pretty close to overrunning the country before the Iraqi – if that’s like what needs to happen before any meaningful action is taken.
MS. PSAKI: Elise, there’s no question that sooner is better than later and that we’re in a dire – we’re looking at a dire situation on the ground, which is why it’s so important that things move forward urgently on the ground. We’ve seen the statements. Our view is that’s not set in stone, that they still have the ability to move forward more quickly than what they outlined this morning.
QUESTION: I understand. But I mean, if history is any indicator, that doesn’t really seem like it’s going to – that – like that’s going to happen. And I mean, can you afford really to wait until a new government is formed, regardless of how long that takes? It could take a week. It could take six weeks or six months. And so, can you really afford to wait, given that ISIS is continuing to gain territory with astonishing speed, as you admit?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the circumstances are different than they were the last time we went through this. And certainly, you’ve seen us increase and expedite our – a range of assistance that we’re providing to the security forces on the ground, as a result of the circumstances on the ground. Our view is that government formation and the steps that the Iraqis need to take themselves is essential to a long term – the long term success in Iraq; that’s why we’re encouraging it. But the President has the prerogative to take any steps he chooses. But I don’t want to get ahead of any decision-making process.
QUESTION: Let me just follow up on the government and the formation. In your opinion, what is really the hold up? Is it the Sunni bloc in the parliament or is it Maliki, who insists on being the prime minister once again or – what is it? What is the hold up?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to do analysis along those lines from here, Said. At – bottom line is it’s urgent that all parties in Iraq take concrete steps to form a new government as quickly as possible under the constitution. That’s what we’re encouraging; that’s what we’re conveying to all parties on the ground.
QUESTION: But you would think that after such investment in blood and treasure – of American blood and treasure in Iraq, you would be more engaged in this process. Or you would be --
MS. PSAKI: We would be more engaged?
QUESTION: Yes. You would be more engaged, perhaps a bit more forceful on what kind of outcome Iraq --
MS. PSAKI: Well Said, just to refute your point – and I’m not sure – how – what are you referring to when you say we’re not engaged?
QUESTION: I’m referring that – I don’t know. Are you engaged in this parliamentary, sort of little, whatever, ballet that is going on now to choose the three presidencies, as they call it – the president to the parliament, the president of the country, and the prime minister?
MS. PSAKI: Well Said, the Secretary was just there two weeks ago. We’ve had Ambassador Beecroft, we’ve had Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk engaged every single day with a range of Iraqi officials. We’ve expedited our assistance. We’ve been in – probably as engaged or more engaged than any other country in what’s happening on the ground. So I think your point is not backed up by facts.
QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you this: Are you still sort of sticking to Maliki, or do you prefer to see someone else? Because the Iranians said today that while they support Maliki, they are not really – they could see working with someone else like Adil Abd al-Mahdi, who is the former vice president of the country.
MS. PSAKI: We’ve consistently said it’s up to the Iraqi people and only the Iraqi people to determine their future leadership. Moving forward in the process is what our focus is on now.
QUESTION: Jen, do you have a specific reaction of whether it’s discouragement or anger or whatever to the parliament just taking off and not doing anything?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think specifically, as we’ve said in the past, we hope that Iraq’s leaders will move forward with extreme urgency, and that’s what we’ve been calling for.
QUESTION: Have you --
MS. PSAKI: Again, it’s not – in our view, the reports and what they called for this morning is not set in stone. They have every ability to move forward more quickly, and we’re encouraging them to do so.
QUESTION: Well, do you think they’re demonstrating great – or the urgency with which you think that this situation needs to be treated?
MS. PSAKI: We think there could be greater urgency in moving forward, yes.
QUESTION: All right. And then you had also said that the United States has been engaged perhaps more than any other country? Would you put Iran in that category?
MS. PSAKI: Well, what I’m referring to, Matt, is the fact that we’ve been engaged on the political front. We’ve been engaged on providing assistance. We’ve been working closely with the Iraqi Government. The Secretary was just there.
MS. PSAKI: So I think there’s no question I was refuting the point that Said was making.
QUESTION: I understand that. But do you think that – or is it you think that the United States has been as engaged and active in Iraq over the course of the last three years as Iran has been?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think I wasn’t meaning to draw a comparison --
MS. PSAKI: -- but bottom line, I don’t have all the details on their engagement either.
QUESTION: Jen, I stand refuted, but let me just take you to what, let’s say, Martin Dempsey said – the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Now, he said that the Iraqis may be able to defend Baghdad, but they will not be able to, sort of, liberate territory already (inaudible) – or taken, and now under the power of control of ISIS. Is that something that you want to see go on? I mean, this is – where is --
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen the full --
QUESTION: Where is the sort of the more, let’s say, more engaged – engagement by the United States?
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve answered this question. Let’s go on to another Iraq.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Jen. Yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Do you have --
QUESTION: Yes. Just a follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Over the weekend on Friday, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gave a sermon. Can you confirm the authenticity of the video?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen, of course, the reports of the video. We have no reason to doubt the authenticity of the video.
QUESTION: And do you think the Islamic State is the number-one threat to the United States?
MS. PSAKI: I know you always like to do this, Lucas, but I’m not going to give rank order. We have annual reports we issue that go through where we view the threats are and where our concerns are. There’s no question we have been – our concern has grown about the threat of ISIL to the region, to Iraq, and that’s why we’ve increased our assistance and why we’ve been so engaged in the last several months on this issue.
QUESTION: I ask because some critics have said that the ISIS is more of a regional threat, that this is a Sunni-Shia battle and they’re not a threat to the homeland; they’re akin more to the Taliban.
MS. PSAKI: Well, our view, Lucas, is that there are threats that are relevant to the United States, and we’re concerned that these threats and what’s happening in the region could pose a threat to the United States. And you heard the Secretary say that, you’ve heard the President say that, and so I would point you to their comments.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was actually in U.S. custody some years back?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details to confirm for you, Said; just about the relevance of the video.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan?
MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Iraq and then we can go to Afghanistan if that works for you.
MS. PSAKI: Any more on Iraq? All right. There you go, Lalit. Okay.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. Following up your statement you issued on Afghanistan elections, have you been in touch with the two presidential candidates officially, both Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani?
MS. PSAKI: We have been in touch with both candidates, but I don’t have more details I’m going to share beyond that.
QUESTION: But do you worry that the way there have been resistance to the Independent Election Commission by these two candidates is leading to some kind of political strike inside the country – strong differences, ethnic conflicts inside the country?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I noted in my statement, but just in case other people haven’t seen that, we want to – I want to reiterate that today’s announcement is of preliminary results. These results are not final or authoritative and may not predict the final outcome. There are serious allegations of fraud, which I think you referenced there and they’ve been raised, and in our view, they haven’t been sufficiently investigated. So right now, our focus is on encouraging a full and thorough review of all reasonable allegations of irregularities. We think that’s essential to ensuring that the Afghan people have confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.
There have – also noted in the statement were four additional measures that have been accepted by both camps, and we certainly encourage movement forward on those. But there have also been a range of steps proposed by the UN. The UN has proposed a series of additional audits of suspected – suspect ballots, and it’s essential that the IEC and the ICC and the UN – work with the UN to execute these additional audits.
QUESTION: There were some reports earlier today that the ambassador, the U.S. Ambassador, had gone to the Electoral Commission. Those were refuted by the Embassy. I’m wondering if there was – did the U.S. have a position on whether the head of the commission should come out and announce these results given the fact that they are so preliminary, they’re subject to change, and don’t really settle anything?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to outline for you, Matt. I would obviously stand by the refuting by the Embassy of where their ambassador – where our ambassador was at the time.
QUESTION: But you don’t know if the U.S. took a position on whether they should go ahead and make the announcement of these?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more details to share.
QUESTION: So right now, Ghani is leading by a million vote, so it looks like he will be the next president. Are you willing to work with him, he’s a good --
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me reiterate what I just said. These are preliminary results. These results are not final or authoritative. We don’t support any individual candidate, as you know, because we state it frequently. But we have long stated our support for a credible, transparent, and thorough process, and obviously, there are additional steps that need to be taken in that regard.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Just to follow quickly, Madam, U.S. had played a great role as far as the democracy and previous elections are concerned also. Isn’t this also a threat to the foreigners living there and working under constructions and plus also to the future of the Afghanistan democracy if these things doesn’t get resolved because of international relations and so forth? But finally, what role you think UN can play that U.S. cannot play?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the UN has proposed a series of additional audits of suspect ballots, and we encourage the IEC and the ICC to move forward and working closely with them. And in terms of the long-term impact, we believe that the audit process can be completed in time to allow the inauguration of the next president to proceed as scheduled, which is on August 2nd.
And certainly, both candidates have made clear that they would sign the BSA. Obviously, there are a range of steps we would take or we’re planning on taking, and beyond that we’re going to let this process play itself through.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Did you want an update now?
QUESTION: First, do you have any update on the American citizen who was detained and that was then put under house arrest?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t know if I have much of an update since yesterday, Matt, but let me provide you --
QUESTION: Well, has he been – has anyone gone to visit him? Have you looked at his – has he – is his health okay?
MS. PSAKI: Well first, our – we visited him in the – an official from the U.S. Consulate General visited him on July 5th and attended his hearing on July 6th. We’ve also seen the family. I don’t have anything else to read out for you in terms of his health.
Obviously, this is a case where we remain deeply concerned about the reports. In fact, we remain shocked that he was severely beaten while in police custody and strongly have condemned that, and any use of excessive force, of course. We’re calling – and I would reiterate our call for a speedy and transparent and credible investigation. As I understand it, he’s been interviewed for that, and so that’s moving forward.
QUESTION: You remain shocked?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are shocked.
QUESTION: You’re shocked --
QUESTION: Well, it sounds like --
QUESTION: You’re shocked when a --
MS. PSAKI: We continue to be shocked.
QUESTION: What you were saying, I think on Thursday or in your statements over the weekend, that you remain concerned about reports that he was apparently beaten. And now you’re saying that you’re shocked that he was beaten. So it seems as if like – it doesn’t seem as if there’s any doubt, really, now. I mean, there might be a doubt as to how it happened, or the extent of it, or whether what he did – the Israeli Ambassador said that he was provoking, that he wasn’t an innocent bystander, that kind of implied that he asked for it.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, a couple things, as you know, happened over the weekend. One, of course, we – our consulate – a representative from our Consulate General was able to see him. And obviously, he’s been released and is with his family now at this time. And of course, I’ve seen the comments, and our view is an arrest is justified for anyone who is guilty of committing a crime. And obviously, there’s an investigation; there’ll be a process to review that. But beating an arrestee after they are subdued and in custody is never justified. So we will let the process see itself through. But certainly, we’ve all seen him and we’ve been in touch with him, and we are continuing to call for a credible investigation.
QUESTION: Have you formally demarched the Israeli Government about it?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve been in close touch with the government, but I’m not aware of a specific demarche.
QUESTION: Do you have any concerns about the – an Israeli investigation into this incident?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen Prime Minister Netanyahu and other officials express strong concern about a range of these reports, and they’ve expressed a commitment to seeing through an investigation.
QUESTION: All right. Now meanwhile, in southern Israel --
QUESTION: Well, can we just stay on this for one second?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I understand that Secretary Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu over the weekend. Was this case in particular brought up, or was it about the larger kind of escalating violence?
MS. PSAKI: He reiterated – the Secretary did speak with the prime minister about a range of incidents that are happening on the ground, Elise. And certainly, the focus was on reiterating our concern about escalating tensions. And the Secretary, of course, urged Prime Minister Netanyahu – as he’s urged both parties – to exercise restraint and avoid steps that could further destabilize the situation.
QUESTION: Did he speak to prime – President Abbas?
MS. PSAKI: He has spoken with him over the course of the last several days or week. I don’t – let me see if I have anything specific over the last – he spoke with him – let’s see – I know last Tuesday. He’s been in – I think it’s important to reiterate here we’ve been in touch on the ground very closely with both parties.
QUESTION: Well, but you’ve seen the comments that are coming out of Hamas. And now that the U.S. has, in effect, kind of accepted the fact that Hamas is now in this unity government, you would think that as leader of this unity government it would be incumbent on President Abbas to rein in or take – try and maintain some kind of control over the activities of Hamas. Isn’t that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re right. I mean, we’ve stated – you’re right in the sense that we have stated from the beginning that we would judge the interim government by its actions, composition, and policies. And based on what we know now, this hasn’t changed. We don’t believe that Hamas plays a role in the government. However, to your point, it is difficult to see how other aspects of the reconciliation process can move forward in this current atmosphere, and we’ve conveyed that as well.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I understand that you – that maybe it’s a technicality that Hamas doesn’t play a part in this government, but it is a unity government that includes Hamas. And I’m just wondering, now does President Abbas more so than ever bear responsibility for the actions of Hamas?
MS. PSAKI: No. But we have – President Abbas himself has suggested that there would be serious consequences for whatever party carried out the crimes that we’ve been talking about over the last several weeks. And as I mentioned, it’s difficult for us to see, given this current atmosphere, how other aspects of the reconciliation process could continue.
QUESTION: Just one quick last one. Did Secretary Kerry mention the specific case of this Israeli – Palestinian teen that was beaten?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other further details, but I think it’s safe to assume when he’s talking about the escalating tensions on the ground, he’s talking about all of the reports that you’ve seen in the news that we’ve all been discussing.
QUESTION: Did you have a response, reaction – and forgive me if I missed it – to the Palestinian teenager who was killed, the cousin of this – or did that happen over the --
MS. PSAKI: I believe we’ve put out something over the weekend. I can double-check that and certainly --
QUESTION: Okay. Thus far, have you seen both sides exercising the kind of restraint that you think is necessary?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, typically you convey that to parties when you feel there’s more that needs to be done.
QUESTION: All right. On the --
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: On the – you say it’s difficult to see how other aspects of the reconciliation can go ahead. Can you be more specific about that? What other aspects?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there’s – obviously there’s the formation of the interim technocratic government, but there’s also the reconciliation process between Hamas and Fatah, and we feel that obviously, there are a range of circumstances on the ground that make it difficult to see how things can move forward at this time.
QUESTION: So you think that he should stop the reconciliation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll leave that up to him, but obviously, there are a range of circumstances on the ground that we feel make it difficult.
QUESTION: Okay. In those circumstances, have you gotten 100 definitive evidence or proof that the – that Hamas was responsible for the kidnapping and the – of the three Israeli youths?
MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed since we discussed this last week when we talked about the patterns and --
QUESTION: So you’re still not convinced that Hamas was behind it?
MS. PSAKI: That wasn’t what we said – what we’ve stated. We’ve obviously pointed to the patterns --
QUESTION: No, I understand that, but --
MS. PSAKI: -- but I don’t have – there’s an ongoing investigation, as you know, that hasn’t concluded.
QUESTION: So when you talk about the situation on the ground making it difficult to see – making it difficult for you to see how the other aspects – that refers not to the kidnapping specifically but to the rocket attacks? There have been almost 80, I think, just today. Do you have anything to say about the rocket attacks into southern Israel from --
MS. PSAKI: Well, and I’d also point you, Matt, to the raising tensions and the increasing violence on the ground, as those are all aspects that certainly impact what’s happening on the ground.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: Well, wait. Do you have any reaction to the – anything to say about the rockets? I mean, the Israelis say that this is really ramping up the tensions.
MS. PSAKI: Well, correct. As you know, I mean, anytime there are rocket attacks into Israel, we certainly condemn those and we would do so in this case as well. And there’s no place for violence and increasing tension as we’re seeing on the ground. We don’t feel that’s productive to a peaceful society.
QUESTION: Jen, the small cabinet, the security cabinet, just finished a meeting like an hour or so ago, and they decided to continue with their – with targeting targets in Gaza. Are you talking to anyone – like perhaps the Egyptians – to see if they could somehow broker a quieting period or a quiet-down period? Because it seems this thing is really escalating out of control, isn’t it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, we – as I mentioned, we strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel, but we also support Israel’s right to defend itself against these attacks. I think the Secretary’s calls have also reiterated the need to reduce tensions and decrease violence, and that’s part of the discussion that we’re having with both parties at this time.
QUESTION: What about the area of bombardment by the Israeli Air Force of Gaza? I mean, they killed nine yesterday, today they killed a woman and injured a child, and in fact it’s ongoing as we speak now. Are you calling on the Israelis to sort of hold back or restrain themselves at this point?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered the question on the Israelis.
QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you about the teenage boy. He – you said he was released, but in fact, he was sentenced to 10 days under house arrest.
MS. PSAKI: Said he was released --
QUESTION: Is that satisfactory to you?
MS. PSAKI: He’s under house arrest with his family, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. And that is fine with you that he was sentenced to 10 days under house arrest?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I think we’ve been – pretty strongly conveyed how we feel. Circumstances around this case are not fine, but that’s an update on where things stand. His – he was asked to post bail. He’s restricted to his uncle’s home. He’s permitted to visit medical facilities. And if the investigation is concluded properly, as we expect, he should be able to return to Florida as planned with his family later this month.
QUESTION: Well, when you say that you want it to be conducted properly, what are you saying? That if a fair – free and fair investigation that’s unimpeded will probably illustrate that he had no wrongdoing and will be able to leave on his own reconnaissance?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to prejudge the outcome, but I think obviously, as we see these things move forward, we feel that if they move forward adequately, that he’ll be able to return with his family to the United States.
QUESTION: Did the Palestinian raise with you the fact that they are suffering from a deficit, a reduction of 62 percent in their budget? Have they spoken to you about their financial conditions?
MS. PSAKI: We have regular conversations with the Palestinians about their economic needs. As you know, we provide a great deal of assistance, and we’re in close touch through our consulate on the ground.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: To follow --
QUESTION: But as far as you’re concerned, it’s – you’re not aware that any U.S. funds are being held up at the present time?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve spoken to this before. Obviously, we constantly review these, and Congress is in the position to make decisions about what funds will and won’t move forward. But beyond that, I don’t have any other update.
QUESTION: Can I change the topic?
QUESTION: Wait, one more?
QUESTION: The last time before this that you called for an investigation – an Israeli investigation into something – at least I think it was the last time – one of the last times – was the shooting of the – shooting deaths of the two Palestinian teenagers. Do you recall what the outcome of the Israeli investigation was into that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on that in front of me, Matt.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I’m just – okay. Could someone take a look at what the results of that investigation was and see if the results were acceptable, if you thought that they were an accurate representation of what happened?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s also important to note here, Matt, that Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials have pointed to their desire to hold those accountable who are guilty of excessive --
QUESTION: I’m not saying that I don’t – that – I’m not casting doubt on that.
MS. PSAKI: The context is --
QUESTION: I’m just wondering what the --
MS. PSAKI: The context is important. That’s why I mentioned it.
QUESTION: One more?
MS. PSAKI: Do we have more on this? Go ahead, Lucas.
QUESTION: Senior Hamas officials have said the rocket attacks will continue from Gaza until Israel’s siege of Gaza ends. Do you think Gaza is under siege by the Israelis?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to echo names or terms used by Hamas or anyone else. Our view is that Israel has the right to defend itself, and we certainly support that.
MS. PSAKI: More on this topic --
MS. PSAKI: -- or a new topic? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, this topic. President Abbas has called on yesterday UN Secretary General to form an international committee to monitor and investigate what he referred to as crimes by Israeli settlers. Do you support the formation of such a committee? Or what’s your position?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to offer on that. I’m happy to check with our team and see if we have a view on that specific call.
QUESTION: And today, he mentioned that he will be applying or going to have the Palestinian Authority attending more UN organizations. Do you have any position toward this too?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have details on what he outlined specifically, so why don’t we take a closer look at that and we can see if there’s more to say.
More on this topic or a new issue? Go ahead, Elise.
QUESTION: A new topic?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, sure.
QUESTION: The last you had said was that the – she does have documents to travel to the U.S. Does that mean that she has documents to come here on a tourist visa? Can she apply for citizenship, asylum? Because her husband, I believe, is an American citizen. So I’m just wondering, would you allow her to live here permanently? Anything you could say about that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of where we stand, and obviously, part of that is State Department, but part of it is DHS and other entities. So I’m not going to have a lot to update you on, and that – obviously, that process would have to play itself out, whatever the outcome is.
Where things stand now is she was released on June 26th by Sudanese police on bail. The family remains in a safe location, as has been the case all along. In order to ensure their safety, we aren’t discussing their specific location.
Our view, as you mentioned, continues to be that she and her children have all the necessary documents to travel and enter the United States as soon as she is able to fulfill the Government of Sudan’s exit requirements. We remain in close touch with the Sudanese foreign ministry to ensure she and her family will be able to travel as quickly as possible. But as of now, she remains in Sudan.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, she was for – at some point in the American Embassy in Sudan. I mean, are you treating her as the wife of an American citizen – kind of what is your particular interest in this woman other than the case – the fact that she did have a kind of horrible experience and all? It seems as if you’re treating her as a quasi-American citizen.
MS. PSAKI: I think we’re – again, I’m not going to confirm specifics of her location. I think we’ve all seen the details of her story and circumstances around her story. And we’re taking steps to assist her, as I mentioned.
QUESTION: But in what capacity? I mean, are you – she’s receiving this special attention because of the ordeal she went through, and this is a humanitarian gesture? Or is it because – is she being afforded some kind of assistance as the wife of an American citizen? I’m just – and when you say that she has documents to travel to the United States, are you saying that she has an American passport?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into details of the documents she has. She has the documents she needs to enter the United States. Obviously, there are steps that need to be taken on the other side in Sudan in order to ensure that she can.
QUESTION: Do you consider her an American citizen right now?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, no, Elise.
QUESTION: Jen, you said that she was released on bail. So is it your understanding that she’s going to have to go back and go back to court and be tried on something --
MS. PSAKI: That was not what I was conveying.
QUESTION: -- for some --
MS. PSAKI: That was how she was released. We’re obviously in close touch with the Sudanese authorities about how to make sure she has the documents needed to leave Sudan.
QUESTION: But does that mean that the charges that they said that she had – that those charges about her allegedly trying to travel on fake documents, that those stand? They still exist and that needs to be resolved before she can leave?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think – they haven’t been resolved, otherwise she would be able to leave, because we’ve provided – she has the necessary documents from our end in order to leave Sudan.
QUESTION: Right. But your understanding is that because she’s only out on bail, she wasn’t like she was just released and they said, “You can go do anything you want.” She was released on bail, which implies that there’s some kind of an obligation on her part to go back to the Sudanese justice system.
MS. PSAKI: I will check and see if that’s the specific case or if that’s just the legal terminology.
QUESTION: She has travel documents to travel to the U.S. in what capacity? As a tourist, as a – someone with a green card with --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into other details of her travel documents.
QUESTION: Would she have to be on U.S. soil to apply for asylum?
MS. PSAKI: Broadly speaking, that’s how people – where people would need to be.
QUESTION: May I move to Japan?
QUESTION: Just one more on this.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But you’re not saying that that’s the case here?
MS. PSAKI: Well, any individual who’s applying would have to be typically on U.S. soil.
QUESTION: But is the --
MS. PSAKI: The Embassy is not U.S. soil.
QUESTION: Is this the type of issue that a special ambassador for international and religious freedom could help with in the future?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you know how strongly we feel about having someone in that position. And obviously, there are a range of officials at the highest levels who’ve been involved in this case. But obviously, having more senior officials who can advocate in cases like these is vitally important.
QUESTION: Is there any update --
QUESTION: Why don’t you send Tom Malinowski? He’s nearby.
QUESTION: Is there any update on the nomination process?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you, Lucas.
QUESTION: Did you just say in response that the U.S. Embassy is not American soil?
MS. PSAKI: Not technically, no.
QUESTION: Can I move to Japan?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. Despite what you’ve seen in movies and television. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No, it’s sovereign soil --
MS. PSAKI: Not U.S. soil.
QUESTION: It’s not U.S. territory?
QUESTION: It’s American territory.
QUESTION: It’s American territory.
QUESTION: Well, tell that to the Brits and Julian Assange and the Ecuadorians.
QUESTION: Going back to --
QUESTION: On Japan – okay. Sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Japan.
QUESTION: Japan. Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, visited the United States?
MS. PSAKI: The defense minister?
QUESTION: Defense minister.
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Defense for more details.
QUESTION: And recently we know the Japanese cabinet approved the collective self-defense resolution, and there was a fairly large demonstration outside the prime minister’s office, and arrested . Do you have any comments on that?
MS. PSAKI: You know where we stand on the recent announcements by Japan, and we certainly support their efforts and the announcements that they made. Otherwise, I would point you to Japanese authorities --
QUESTION: But --
MS. PSAKI: -- since that’s a domestic issue.
QUESTION: You realize there are some people also against this kind of resolution.
MS. PSAKI: As there often are in any country. But I would point you to Japan and the Japanese authorities for any reaction.
QUESTION: And by the way --
QUESTION: On Japan.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- China and South Korea, which suffered, I mean, from Japan’s aggression in the past, and also worry about how Japan might exercise this kind of resolution. So – and also, we know since 1947 that Japan’s constitution was written by the United States. So how the United States make sure that Japan will not abuse this kind of authority?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we – again, when the announcement was made, we welcomed – Secretary of Defense welcomed, we welcomed the Government of Japan’s new policy regarding collective self-defense. Obviously, in order for it to be successful, it’s important they move forward in a transparent manner. But we have an open dialogue with Japan about a range of issues, including our security cooperation and partnerships, and so we expect that to be the case.
QUESTION: Can I stay on Japan?
QUESTION: The U.S. also suffered from Japanese aggression as well.
MS. PSAKI: History.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout of Secretary Kerry’s phone conversation with Japanese foreign minister today?
MS. PSAKI: He did speak with Foreign Minister Kishida today. Let me see if I have anything specific on that. If not, I’m sure we can get you something after the briefing. I think it happened late this morning.
QUESTION: Back to Saudi Arabia.
MS. PSAKI: Saudi Arabia, sure.
QUESTION: Saudi Arabia’s one of the few countries in the world in which homosexuality still remains criminalized, and the kingdom’s LGBT rights record aside from that has come under scrutiny by Amnesty International and many other groups. Yet the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, in an op-ed that The Washington Blade last week published, said that this record was “regretfully absent” during the President’s meeting with King Abdullah back in March, and I know the Secretary recently met with him as well. Do you have any specifics as to whether LGBT rights in Saudi Arabia was discussed during that meeting in Jeddah, and if so, any readouts you have?
MS. PSAKI: The focus of the meeting with King Abdullah was really about the dire situation in Iraq, but that doesn’t mean that we don’t raise human rights issues, including LGBT issues, with a range of countries at many opportunities. And as you know, we have a very active embassy on the ground with a range of senior officials on the ground, but I don’t have any other specific readout from the meeting.
QUESTION: Do you have any specific statements, perhaps, that the State Department has sent out in the last year or so on Saudi Arabia’s LGBT rights record specifically, or can somebody maybe follow up with me on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re all available on our website.
MS. PSAKI: All statements we issue. So I’m sure you can find everything you need there.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can we go back to China, please?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
And I would also – just one more thing. We also issue an annual report on human rights, where we outline any concerns we have about every country, and we don’t hold back in that regard.
QUESTION: But actually – the second thing that you mentioned at today’s – at the top of the briefing was a statement about the jailing of a Saudi human rights lawyer.
MS. PSAKI: That is true.
QUESTION: At the end of that statement, you said you urge the Saudi Government to respect all human – international human rights standards. What do you – all this urging, what has it gotten you?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s important to continue to highlight issues where we have concerns, and that’s why we issue statements and why we talk about them from the briefing and why the Secretary raises them.
Let’s go to the back. Scott.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: I believe there was a report that we will have a new charge starting soon in Venezuela, but I don’t have an exact timeline at this point.
QUESTION: So does that – is that an opening for improving ties between the U.S. and Venezuela, then?
MS. PSAKI: There’s always – we remain open to a long-term relationship with Venezuela. We have existing concerns, as you know, about circumstances on the ground and accusations they’ve made against the United States. Those haven’t changed, but it’s an – it’s just somebody who will be there, of course, with other officials on the ground representing our – the needs of the United States.
QUESTION: Is there something that has happened to make this opportunity an opportunity?
MS. PSAKI: Nothing specific that I’m aware of, Scott.
Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: Yes. Regarding Germany and allegations of U.S. spying, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the United States is going to work with the Germans to resolve the situation appropriately. Can you comment on how that work is happening?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I will say, of course, that we work with Germans – with Germany – Germany is an extremely important partner. We work together on a range of vital issues, including many in the news today: the P5+1 negotiations that are ongoing in Vienna now; we have an important economic dialogue with Germany; the Secretary’s been there several times. Ambassador Emerson did meet with the MFA on Friday on these recent reports, and our dialogue will continue on this and every other issue we work together on. But I’m not going to outline that publicly.
QUESTION: Will there be conversations upcoming between the United States and Germany from here?
MS. PSAKI: We have an ongoing dialogue with Germany about a range of issues, and as with any case, we’re happy to discuss these issues if they plan to raise them.
QUESTION: Okay. One more, if you don’t mind.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: How damaging are – you talk about all the discussions and work you have with the Germans. How damaging are these continuing spying allegations to the relationship? And how do you quell the uproar, really, that’s coming out of Germany over them?
MS. PSAKI: We have a strong friendship and partnership with Germany built on respect and built on decades of cooperation and common values and interests. And we expect that to continue.
QUESTION: Was it also based on listening in to the chancellor’s phone calls? Is that --
MS. PSAKI: I think, Matt, you’re familiar with --
QUESTION: -- that’s the extent of the strong --
MS. PSAKI: -- the steps we’ve taken to address concerns --
QUESTION: -- depth of friendship?
MS. PSAKI: -- in that regard, and we’re continuing to implement those. Go ahead.
QUESTION: The White House – Josh Earnest at the White House suggested that you were going to do everything you could – or the government was going to do everything it could to resolve this situation.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is there anything to resolve?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I --
QUESTION: By saying – well, the reason I’m asking is: By saying that and by saying that you are willing to talk to the Germans about this, it suggests that there is some – there is a valid complaint that they have here, or at least that there is some validity to the reports that have come out about this person spying for the United States.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think without seeing the full context of Josh’s briefing, I will – I believe what he was referring to is our openness to continuing the discussion and engagement about a range of issues with Germany that’s been ongoing for decades.
QUESTION: Are you under the impression that – or is it your impression that the Germans are as open to this discussion as you are, given the fact that they’ve now been burned two or three times by revelations like this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve had an open dialogue with Germany for some time, including in recent months, where there have been more difficult issues to discuss, so we expect that will continue.
QUESTION: Chancellor Merkel said in Beijing today that this was – this was a serious case, and that if it’s true, if what’s alleged is true, it would be – it would compromise or it would – I can’t remember the exact word – but it would hurt the relationship of trust. Is that your – is that – does this government feel the same way? Does the Administration feel the same way?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a pending German law enforcement case, as she may have mentioned as well. So I’m not going to speak to it much further than to say that we have had decades of a partnership on tough issues, complicated issues, and we hope and expect that will continue.
QUESTION: Did you know what she was going to say in advance?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Matt.
QUESTION: Just quickly going back to China, please.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: As far as Secretary’s visit to China is concerned, you have been talking to the Chinese about these recent tens of thousands of Chinese demonstrating against the Communist rule in China for human rights and also China is against democracy. Do you support democracy in China?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we support – we, of course, raise human rights issues with China at every opportunity. I’m sure that will be a part of the dialogue here.
QUESTION: But Madam, what message will you have for the --
MS. PSAKI: I think we have to move on, Goyal, because we’ve – we’ll have a briefing on the ground, then we’ll send that transcript out to everybody.
Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: Last week, Chinese president visited South Korea and held a summit with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. And you – last week, you said that you were going to see the outcome of this summit and the two leaders shared the view on – and they had showed some concern over Japan’s remilitarization, including exercising the collective self-defense, while not resolving historical issues. What is the reactions to this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our view on Japan’s recent announcement is as I stated a few minutes ago, so that hasn’t changed. We obviously, as I stated I think last week, we certainly encourage dialogue between countries in the region and strong relationships between countries in the region. We feel that’s the best – in the best interests of the region itself. So obviously, there were a range of issues discussed over the course of the weekend. I don’t have any other further readout since we weren’t involved in them, but if you have anything more specific, perhaps I can address that.
QUESTION: South Korean president was very critical of the Japan’s exercises – collective self-defense.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I stated our view. Our view hasn’t changed.
Go ahead, Catherine.
QUESTION: Following up on my question, I guess, from Wednesday about the unaccompanied minors and teenagers and families that are crossing the southern border of the United States, thank you for the information on refugees and asylum seekers. But the second part of my question was: What does the Administration view the people who are crossing the border as? Are they refugees or are they asylum seekers?
MS. PSAKI: Well, those definitions, I think as we stated in the taken question, are done by the Department of Homeland Security for individuals who are coming into the United States. I think our focus from here and Administration-wide is not on how we define, but what we do to address the problem.
I have a few updates I can give to all of you on what we’ve been working on. As you know, the Secretary was in Panama last Tuesday and we talked about that a little bit. On July 3rd, Counselor Tom Shannon and Assistant Secretaries Jacobson and Richard, and representatives from DHS, DOJ, USAID, and the NSC met with the ministers and ambassadors of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to discuss issues relating to unaccompanied children and repatriations, and to follow up on Vice President Biden and Secretary Kerry’s meetings in Central America the day before and a couple of weeks before.
Before that – and Secretary Kerry spoke about this on Tuesday in Panama – but before that, Ambassador Shannon and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson visited the southern border of the United States in order to take a firsthand look and work with authorities on the ground on how to address the issues at hand. And President Obama also announced that he’ll be making a request of Congress for $2 billion to immediately apply. And upcoming, Counselor Tom Shannon will travel to Guatemala with DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson tomorrow, July 8th, and he also plans to visit Mexico July 14th to continue the conversation.
And our view is that working – we need to continue the pace of close work with these governments – Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Mexico – to find a solution to the humanitarian situation taking place in our – on the border. And we must do whatever we can to stem the tide and address the core issues at hand, and we have an appropriate – of course, an important obligation to care for the children and adults and adults with children who are apprehended at our border. But from the State Department, we’re working to – with – closely with the countries to see how we can address and stem the tide.
QUESTION: A follow-up on that?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Why do you say that DHS should be the one to determine whether these people are classified as refugees or not? Because if I remember correctly, in all other instances where there’s an influx of refugees around the world – and I think maybe even in the case when Haitians and Cubans were coming into the United States many years ago – the United Nations was the one that you look to to determine the classification of these people.
MS. PSAKI: Well, from the U.S. Government is what I was referring to, Elise.
MS. PSAKI: In terms of individuals coming and crossing the border.
QUESTION: Have you been in touch with UNHCR about these people and whether there should – there is a role for the UN to play?
MS. PSAKI: I’m certain we’ve been in touch with the UN. I don’t have any other specifics in terms of the --
QUESTION: Can you take that question --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- what the discussions are with the UN on this? Because I mean, obviously, if the United Nations classifies them as refugees, then it would make it more difficult to return them to their home countries because they would be facing some type of – whether it’s persecution or violence or something.
MS. PSAKI: There are a range of definitions, right --
MS. PSAKI: -- as you know and as was in the information. But we are working to repatriate the children with their families back to their countries.
QUESTION: But if the United Nations classified them as refugees, it would be harder to repatriate.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not aware of that being in the pipeline, but I can check and see if there is something specific in regards to our work with the UN.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: I’m – do you know for a fact that the Administration has sought to get the UN involved in this, which is a --
MS. PSAKI: No, I said whether we’ve been in touch with the UN or not, I can check on that. Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. I would – right. And when the answer comes back no, to save yourself a lot of hassle, get it out to us quickly.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, we certainly will.
QUESTION: Well, and if not, why not? Because you want to repatriate them and you don’t like the answer that the United Nations --
MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t intending to speculate, but as you know, we are in touch with the UN about a range of issues. I’m not --
QUESTION: There are --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any request we’ve made.
QUESTION: Well, there’s a difference between you calling the UN and saying, “Hey, we could really use your help in classifying these people or helping deal with the problem,” or hearing from the United Nations, “Hey, you should really let us come down to the border and meet these folks and take a look at them.”
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me be clear. Our focus is not on that. Our focus is on working with these countries to address the core issues. Our focus is on, as the President has outlined, requesting additional assistance to address both security and necessary funding we need to repatriate the children and their families back. That’s where our focus is. So --
QUESTION: I understand where that’s where your focus is, but that might not necessarily be where the focus of the United Nations would be if they classified those people as refugees.
MS. PSAKI: I have not heard them say anything about this, but I will check and see if there’s more to report.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Just one more, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: You said it’s not how you define the problem but how you address the problem. Don’t you have to define a problem before you can go about solving it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, when I said “define” I was referring to asylum seekers versus refugees. And what I was conveying is that our focus is on how to address the influx of unaccompanied minors that are coming across the border and the dangerous journey that they’ve taken to reach the United States.
MS. PSAKI: Ukraine, sure.
QUESTION: There were some significant developments over the weekend.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I believe the Ukrainian Government took back one town, and it looks like the separatists are steeling themselves for a defense of Donetsk, I think. What’s your understanding of the situation? Do you think that both sides are – that the government is still showing restraint and that the separatists are still not?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What’s the U.S. position?
MS. PSAKI: Well, a few updates. As you noted, over the weekend we all saw reports that the Ukrainian Government was able to expel Russian-supported separatists from the cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. The government immediately moved to begin restoring public services and to providing assistance to residents in need in those areas.
Fighting does continue in the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, and the option of a cease-fire remains on the table. But it takes two to participate in a cease-fire, and President Poroshenko had that cease-fire for 10 days and didn’t see reciprocal participation or engagement from the other side. So there are still remaining steps that we have called on the Russian-backed separatists and the Russians to take. Those remain on the table.
QUESTION: You say that it’s two sides, but it would seem that all your discussion is three sides.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the Russian-backed separatists and the Russians are on the same side.
QUESTION: So they – so you equate the separatists with Russia?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m equating, but in terms of --
QUESTION: For the purposes of – for the purposes of this, you think that the – Russia saying yes to a cease-fire is the same thing as the separatists saying yes to a cease-fire?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve long felt that they have a strong influence with the actions of the Russian separatists, and there’s more they can do to influence.
QUESTION: Right. Right, but the thing is – is that they had said yes, had they not? I mean, the Russians had supported it; Putin had supported it. But you don’t think that that message – or that they did enough to rein in the separatists in fighting the Ukrainian Government, right?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Is that – so that would mean that it’s three sides to the ceasefire, because you need the separatists to go along with it, and you think that that won’t happen unless Moscow says “do it,” right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I still – my view is two sides. We can disagree on the shape of the --
QUESTION: I’m just – whether it’s a triangle or a line, I don’t know.
MS. PSAKI: Triangle or a line, yes.
QUESTION: But in your view, the Russians still have not done what they should or what you think they should do to --
MS. PSAKI: No. They can allow the OSCE monitors to do their jobs; they can call – they can stop the flow of weapons across the border; they can call on Russian-backed separatists to lay down their arms. There’s certainly more steps they can take.
QUESTION: Okay. And have there been any conversations between the Secretary or any senior officials on this issue since Thursday?
MS. PSAKI: With senior Russian officials, or senior --
QUESTION: Ukrainian officials, anyone – just on this subject that you’re aware of.
MS. PSAKI: The Secretary has not. Of course, our team on the ground remains in close contact about these issues, and there are ongoing discussions through the Quad meetings – or Quad discussions as well.
QUESTION: But that seems to have, unless I’m mistaken, broken down, right? That – they haven’t met since last Thursday or Wednesday.
MS. PSAKI: But they can – they could meet again, certainly, if there isn’t a --
QUESTION: The Russians have been calling for another meeting of that group no later than Saturday. You’re aware of that?
MS. PSAKI: No later than next Saturday?
QUESTION: No, this past Saturday – than the 5th.
MS. PSAKI: Than last Saturday? Well, they can still convene again.
QUESTION: Right. You would like to see another meeting of the Quad soon. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: We certainly support dialogue between all of the parties, yes.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the --
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just --
QUESTION: -- to the statement --
MS. PSAKI: We’ll go to you next.
QUESTION: President Putin’s statement about the Fourth of July and his willingness to work together, and they can resolve all the issues. Do you have any reaction to that?
MS. PSAKI: Our view remains that actions speak louder than words, and there are specific steps that can be taken.
QUESTION: Last week, your colleague Marie Harf doubted the sources of a UN report that talks about a sharp increase in the number of people fleeing Ukraine into Russia. Well, I’m with RT; you don’t like RT. What about other news sources, U.S. news sources? And here’s The Wall Street Journal writing about the horrors that people face and why they flee to Russia. Are all these sources exaggerating the scale of the crisis there?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s clearly a significant movement of people due to the violence caused by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine, though the vast majority have not sought refugee status. That hasn’t changed. There are a few – and I think Matt asked last week what the difference is between here and Syria, and one of the differences is that there are a range of international organizations on the ground in Syria and NGOs who are calculating or validating the number of asylum seekers or refugees crossing the border.
And so this is single-source reporting strictly from the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Government, and that’s one of the reasons that we expressed doubt about the numbers or the range of numbers that were reported in this case.
QUESTION: But it seems that you are downplaying the – honestly, downplaying the scale of the crisis there. These are just – that’s the reason why I would show these pictures. These are shots of civilians blown to pieces in their homes and their backyards, in the village of – in the village in eastern Ukraine last week. And Kyiv ordered these killings, nobody else.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --
QUESTION: What does the U.S. do to stop Kyiv from doing it --
MS. PSAKI: I think --
QUESTION: -- from the village of Kondrashovka. It’s --
MS. PSAKI: Well, you finished – go ahead. I’m letting you finish your question.
QUESTION: Yes, I’m sorry. These are gruesome pictures, but it seems --
MS. PSAKI: I think to be clear, on the ground, the reports that we’ve seen and the vast majority of people who are reporting from the ground report that the Russian-backed separatists are the ones who are not only engaged in violence and efforts to take over buildings and attack people and innocent civilians. They have no place doing that in a country that’s a sovereign country like Ukraine, so that’s our issue.
QUESTION: These people died in air strikes ordered by Kyiv – not by Russia, not by the separatist.
MS. PSAKI: The Government of Ukraine is defending the country of Ukraine, and I think they have every right to do that, as does the international community.
QUESTION: Do the people – and these people have right to live, don’t they?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the people of Ukraine have the right to live in peace and security without Russian-backed separatists attacking their homes and going into buildings. And I think that’s where the root cause of this is and we shouldn’t forget that fact.
QUESTION: Jen, on the numbers. Are you now – when you say there’s been substantial movement across the border, whether or not these people are technically classified by the UN as refugees or not, are you still saying that you don’t think 110,000 is accurate? That’s the number that the UN gave last week. Do you still take issue with that number, or do you now accept that even though they’re not refugees, there are – and maybe not all classified as refugees – there are a hundred – that the numbers could be as high as 110,000?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the context of what I was trying to explain, Matt, is that there’s single-source reporting here just from the Federal Migration Services of Russia. It’s not independent international organizations and NGOs reporting, as it is in Syria and some other places, because they’re not on the ground. So we don’t have any validation of those numbers, though there’s certainly no question that there are a range – a large number of people who are crossing the border because of the violence they’re seeing on the ground.
QUESTION: So who is it that you’re saying is on the ground in Syria that are collecting these – are you talking about Turkey and --
MS. PSAKI: There are international organizations, NGOs.
QUESTION: But that would be the UN mainly, right?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, who was the same person that’s saying 110,000.
MS. PSAKI: But they’re getting reporting from a single source in this case, whereas in other – in Syria, they’re getting reporting from a range of international organizations.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that the UNHCR is being credulous or they’re not looking at these numbers with enough skepticism?
MS. PSAKI: I think – I’m not trying to overstate it. That’s just the reason why we see the circumstances differently.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, when you say you acknowledge that there is substantial movement or substantial migration, whether it’s actual migration or whether it’s refugees or whatever, could that include – I mean, could that – could the number 110,000 – is that a feasible figure?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to guess at the specific numbers, Matt. I’m just expressing what our skepticism is about some of the numbers we’ve seen reported.
QUESTION: All right. And there are no NGOs, no international organizations that --
MS. PSAKI: Not that are reporting numbers on numbers of refugees on the ground to our – that we’re aware of.
QUESTION: In Russia --
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: -- or in Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, exactly, in the – what’s happening on the ground on the border there.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Great. Thanks, everyone.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:27 p.m.)
DPB # 118