1:38 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
QUESTION: Hello, Madam.
MS. PSAKI: I have one item for all of you at the top. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s barbaric stoning of a woman yesterday in Tabqa, Syria. This is the latest example of ISIL’s infamous atrocities against the Syrian people. ISIL is a vicious terrorist organization with a proven agenda of grotesque violence and repression which runs against the Syrian revolution’s goals of freedom and dignity. It seeks to distort religion solely to obtain power through violence. We’ve been clear that all those who commit crimes against the Syrian people must be held accountable. The United States regularly reports on violence against women and girls around the globe, and supports efforts to prevent and respond to such violence, including advancing accountability by working with law enforcement, supporting civil society’s efforts, and engaging with critical stakeholders such as men and boys. We raise these issues with world leaders and at international fora such as the United Nations to spur collective action against such – these egregious crimes.
With that, Matt, I hope we gave you enough two minutes --
MS. PSAKI: Our apologies.
QUESTION: No, there was no two-minute warning at all. But –
MS. PSAKI: I believe there was. You may not have heard it, but anyway, we’ll continue.
QUESTION: Well, no one heard it. (Laughter.) But anyway --
MS. PSAKI: Perhaps we have a technical issue.
QUESTION: -- it’s not as if I think you’re trying to, like, escape.
MS. PSAKI: Good. Good to hear.
QUESTION: Let’s start with the plane.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The President said there was at least one American. Was this person traveling with a U.S. passport? Is it – and I believe there’s still three unidentified. Is it possible that any of those three are American citizens?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. Let me give you an overview that I think will answer some of – all of those questions and maybe a few more. On Thursday, Malaysia Airlines notified us that no passengers boarded Malaysia Airlines flight 17 using a U.S. passport. Knowing this information, we immediately then took additional steps to verify whether any of the passengers were also U.S. citizens. And the process that we underwent was to individually check each name against our passport records, and there isn’t – there wasn’t, in this case, biographical data available either, so obviously that takes some time to check. And we, of course, need to ensure that we can be confident in our results before we notify family members.
So the President spoke to one individual, who is a dual national. There are also – I believe the number, unless there’s been a change, are – there are four individuals that Malaysia Airlines has not identified the nationalities for. So certainly, we also don’t know the nationalities of those individuals. We’re also – while we’ve gone through the manifest, because there isn’t biographical data available we’re continuing to do our due diligence to match any available data up to ensure there aren’t additional dual nationals in the manifest.
QUESTION: Well, so you’ve gone through all of the names.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: And the only one that popped up as holding a U.S. passport or being a U.S. citizen is --
MS. PSAKI: There were no individuals holding U.S. passports who boarded the plane.
QUESTION: Okay. So this one guy --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- this one victim who the President named was a dual citizen but did not have a U.S. passport?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Did not possess one?
MS. PSAKI: Well, not – didn’t – I’m not sure if they possessed one, but they did not have one that they boarded the plane with. I suppose they did not possess one.
QUESTION: Well, wouldn’t – all right. Then I’m confused. If you check all the names against your passport data --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- wouldn’t it show up if he had one, whether or not he had used it to get on the plane or not?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I would remind you obviously there are also a dual – sometimes there are names that are common names that we need to check.
QUESTION: Well, but let’s just talk about this one guy.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: He did or did not possess – whether or not he used it or not to get on the plane, did or did not possess a U.S. passport?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he is a dual citizen. What passports he possessed, I would have to check if that’s how we determined.
QUESTION: So the State Department doesn’t know if this guy had a – possessed a U.S. passport?
MS. PSAKI: Clearly, we know that he was a U.S. – a dual citizen. I don’t have any other additional information. I assume that’s how we knew.
QUESTION: Does that mean that if you typed in “Jennifer Psaki” into the passport records, it would not pop up that you have a passport?
MS. PSAKI: I am a U.S. citizen.
QUESTION: You have a passport.
MS. PSAKI: I would board a plane with a U.S. passport.
QUESTION: But not all U.S. citizens have U.S. – anyways, we’re probably getting bogged down.
MS. PSAKI: That is correct.
QUESTION: Anyway, so none of the other – including the four, or three, or whatever it is that are not yet identified by nationality by Malaysian Airlines, you – none of those people are U.S. citizens; is that what you’re saying?
MS. PSAKI: At this point in time, we’re still doing a review given there isn’t biographical data available for a number of individuals, so we’re doing due diligence to ensure before we make that confirmation.
QUESTION: But you can’t say for sure that none of the 200 – none of the total number of people on the plane actually held a U.S. passport?
MS. PSAKI: None of them boarded the plane --
QUESTION: I know that.
MS. PSAKI: -- with a U.S. passport.
QUESTION: Maybe I’m getting bogged down into something that’s really – I just don’t understand why you can’t tell – you can’t go in and look at a name and see if that person has a passport.
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to double-check that for you, Matt.
QUESTION: All right. Anyway --
MS. PSAKI: I’m providing the information we have available, which is the one individual and the process we’re undergoing.
QUESTION: Are you aware of any discussions between – from this building and Russia or Ukraine over the course of the last 20 – 18 hours or so between Secretary Kerry or other senior officials?
MS. PSAKI: Secretary Kerry has not made calls --
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Nuland?
MS. PSAKI: -- to Russian or Ukrainian authorities. I would remind you that we have a large – or a number of senior officials who have been in touch with Ukrainian and Russian authorities, certainly both on the ground, but also you’ve seen the calls read out by the White House.
QUESTION: I’m hoping this isn’t something going on and --
QUESTION: This reflects dissembling (inaudible).
QUESTION: Very sensitive issue.
QUESTION: I think it reflects the state of chaos --
QUESTION: -- state of chaos in the world.
MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we can turn that off if that’s possible. Is that possible? Okay. Great. Does that help decrease the distraction?
QUESTION: There we go. Look at that. All the world’s problems are fixed.
MS. PSAKI: All right. (Laughter.) All right. Have a good weekend. (Laughter.) Good to see all of you. Just kidding.
QUESTION: So there have been contacts, but just not at the Secretary’s level or a senior level?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. Are there any plans for there to be such contacts or any plans for the Secretary to potentially travel to deal with this situation? The reason I ask is that Ambassador Power at the UN this morning made some pretty powerful, strong --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- accusations, allegations against the Russians.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And I’m just wondering if anyone thinks – if the Administration believes that it would be worthwhile to pursue these with Russian officials or whether you’ve decided that it’s more appropriate to wait until an investigation is finished.
MS. PSAKI: Well, our focus right now is on seeing through a full, credible, thorough investigation. I can give you an update on the resources that the United States has sent – made available for that. In terms of travel, there’s no current plans for the Secretary to travel to the region. As you know, he always has a bag packed, and if that is a decision made that that would be productive, I’m sure he’d be happy to do that. You’re right. Ambassador Power – and then again, the President – repeated a number of items of evidence and data that is available about what is happening on the ground. They both reaffirmed the fact that we’re not going to prejudge the investigation. We want to see that move forward, and that is where we are at this point in time.
With that being said – let me just finish, and then we’ll go. With that being said, we certainly understand that – and our focus is, as the President said and as the White House statement said last night, is of course continuing to call for a reduction in tensions and a de-escalation. And aside from the investigation, if there’s a need to play a role in that, the Secretary or anyone in the Administration is certainly ready and willing to do just that.
Can I just give you an update on the staff that are – the individuals who are going? So we have offered – the Government of Ukraine, as many of you may have seen, has issued invitations to assist with an investigation to ICAO, NTSB, Boeing, Malaysia, the Netherlands, and the European Civil Aviation Conference. We have offered assistance to the Ukrainian Government, including personnel and resources from the NTSB and the FBI, which the Ukrainians have accepted. The NTSB will be sending at least one investigator to the Ukraine. The timing of this is still being determined, and our response will, of course, be guided by events as they unfold, and our understanding is at this point the FBI is preparing to deploy at least one FBI individual personnel member to Ukraine. It’s also not clear on the timing of that. Of course, it remains a fluid situation, and we, of course, will be responsive to their needs moving forward.
QUESTION: And then last one from me, at least I hope it is. You referred to Ambassador Power’s comments to the Security Council. You said that she presented items, evidence and data. What – maybe I was watching a different Security Council meeting. I mean, she certainly made some strong accusations, but I don’t think she presented any evidence to back them up or any data to – that would back up the claim, her claims. Is – one, is there such items, evidence and data that you have? And two, are you willing to make it public? Because clearly there are people on the Russian side who don’t buy this.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, what I was referring to – and I’m sorry you disagree with my terms I used to describe it, but – was the information that’s available, the context of what has been happening on the ground, which is what she outlined. Obviously, she stated – as the President stated – we’re going to see the investigation through. We want that to be a credible international investigation, and there isn’t a separate process that we’re undergoing from the United States.
QUESTION: So – but – so you’re saying that you are not willing to make the evidence and data that you have public – you’ll give that to the investigators, but you won’t make it public to --
MS. PSAKI: What I’m referring to is exactly what she stated publicly, which is the presence of certain systems along the border, which is the fact that – and many of them are public reports. She was outlining information about what has been happening on the ground, which I think is important for context. But we’ll see the investigation see itself through.
QUESTION: Well, but she was pretty – she said that “we assess that” – and that’s clearly a finding by the intelligence community, because they’re the ones who use that language --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- “we assess that is was fired” – this missile was fired --
MS. PSAKI: Sorry, your thing – yes.
QUESTION: -- an SA-11 was fired – where is the data? Where is the evidence that backs that up?
MS. PSAKI: There isn’t additional data that we are providing publicly at this point. I’m – it is likely we will use – we will provide that through the investigation process.
QUESTION: So – all right. But do you understand how there are people who are skeptical of what she said, especially given previous UN Security Council presentations by Americans? I mean, I just – if you’re pretty convinced about it, would – could you – I would appeal to you to ask to make some of this information public. I’m not necessarily doubting any of it, but --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- when you say that she presented evidence and data, she really didn’t. She presented --
MS. PSAKI: What --
QUESTION: -- the overall assessment from --
MS. PSAKI: The overall assessment and facts of what we’ve been seeing on the ground.
MS. PSAKI: That may be the more accurate way of describing it.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: James.
QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. I have a number of areas related to this that I’d like to pursue --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and with the indulgence of my colleagues. First, there’s been a lot of discussion of a credible international investigation that the United States, through various spokespeople, has said that it would like to see pursued here. Under what auspices does the United States wish to see an international investigation pursued?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Ukraine – this happened in the territory of Ukraine, so they clearly would have the lead on this process. As I mentioned, there are a range of countries they’ve asked for assistance from that have agreed to provide and participate in any investigation. We’ve also seen on the ground a number of international organizations already engage. And these reports just came out, so I’m not sure if you saw them, but the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission went to the site of the crash today. They’re obviously playing a role here as well. They had only limited access and left after 75 minutes. Of course, calling the need for unfettered access is incredibly important in our view.
QUESTION: So in calling for there to be an international investigation, is the United States also calling for the final report or product of this investigation also to be international in character?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the engagement of a range of countries and organizations, I think, in our view makes it an international process. But of course, Ukraine would have the lead in the investigation.
QUESTION: And the final say in the outcome of the investigation as – in terms of ascriptions of culpability and so forth.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, there’ll be participation and expertise provided by a range of countries and organizations. You’ve seen a broad level of interest, and the Ukrainians themselves have requested the assistance from a range of international organizations and countries as well.
QUESTION: I guess I’m making a distinction between the investigation and potential prosecutions that might flow therefrom.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And I’m – I guess I’m asking if your desire to see an international investigation is mirrored by a desire to see the prosecution – any potential prosecutions also retain some kind of international flavor or character.
MS. PSAKI: Well, James, it’s a good question. I think we’re not quite there yet in the process.
MS. PSAKI: One of the reason – let me just finish – that we sent a – we’re sending an FBI – an individual from the FBI, if not more over time, is because of the special expertise they have in criminal investigations. So we’ll see where we get to in the process.
QUESTION: When the announcement went out last night that Secretary Kerry had canceled his appearance at the Sixth and I Synagogue here in Washington, the press release stated that he was doing so so that he could engage in internal discussions with staff and discussions with his counterparts around the world. You’ve just told us that those counterparts did not include anyone from Russia or Ukraine, and so I’m wondering if you can give us a readout of his calls to date --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- on this subject. And I guess perhaps later when we do Gaza, you could reserve that for that segment of the briefing or --
MS. PSAKI: Well, if you don’t mind, let me just – because I think it gives a flavor of what he was working on last night. There were, of course, a range of discussions that he and senior members of the Administration were in last night through the interagency. So that was part of what his time was spent on.
QUESTION: What are you talking about there exactly? Is – was there an NS principals meeting or an NSC? What were --
MS. PSAKI: No. But again there are a range of ways to engage, and certainly on the phone and discussions about how to address – as you know, there were a number of statements put out pretty late in the evening last night, so there was an effort to work on those as well through the process.
Last night – or yesterday, I should say, and today – he has spoken with Quartet rep Tony Blair, with the Malaysian foreign minister, Dutch foreign minister, Qatari foreign minister, the Arab League secretary general. He spoke last night with the Egyptian foreign minister twice – sorry, once last night, once yesterday – with French Foreign Minister Fabius, with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We – you saw the – I’m sorry – readout we put out last night with Foreign Minister Davutoglu and with the UAE foreign minister.
So he was engaged and there were times when he was back and forth and spoke with some of them multiple times last evening.
QUESTION: Okay. To proceed to some of the specific points of contention today --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: First, the Ukrainian security services released what they claimed were transcripts of the intercepts involving Russian military intelligence officials --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- purportedly directly discussing this attack. Does the United States Government have any assessment as to the authenticity of those recordings?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any assessment to offer at this time. There’s obviously an investigation. We’ll let it see itself through.
QUESTION: You don’t – do you have cause to doubt the authenticity?
MS. PSAKI: I really don’t have any analysis of it to provide.
QUESTION: Secondly, the Russian defense ministry disclosed that it has intercepted the activity of a Ukrainian radar system on the very day when this attack occurred, and the defense ministry stated, and I quote, the launch of rockets could have also occurred from any of the batteries deployed in the populated area of Avdiivka, which is eight kilometers north of Donetsk, or from Gruzsko-Zoryanskoe, which is 25 kilometers east of Donestsk. Does the United States have any assessment of this disclosure by the Russian defense ministry of radar intercepts and suggestions of alternative scenarios to what Ambassador Power suggested?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think one of the points Ambassador Power made was that while the Ukrainians do have SA-11 systems in their inventory, we’re not aware of Ukrainian – any Ukrainian SAM systems in the area of the shoot-down. Obviously, that’s a contextual example and that’s why we need to see the investigation see itself through, but obviously relevant information.
QUESTION: Is that assessment, which Ambassador Power included in her remarks, take into account what the Russian defense ministry is saying here about these other installations that could have been the origin point for this missile?
MS. PSAKI: I think she was stating what we’re aware of at this time. And obviously these events are only – just over 24 hours old, so that’s why we’re going to focus on seeing the investigation through.
QUESTION: Last question, you’ve all been very patient with me --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: -- and I appreciate it.
So the President kept using a phrase in his remarks today: “We have confidence in saying.” And as you know, that’s kind of a term of art. This confidence that the United States has that the origin point for this missile was rebel-held Ukrainian territory – is that high confidence?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m going to leave it where the President of the United States stated it, James, no surprise. And again, there is a range of information, as you noted in your question, we have available that we don’t always speak about publicly, and I believe that was what he was referring to.
QUESTION: He later called it “increasing confidence.” So he qualified it at one point.
And just to follow up on what Matt said, when we have the President saying we feel confident in saying something, and then we have the UN ambassador saying “we assess” – doesn’t that strike you as there being some kind of important semantic difference there?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think it was meant to be a difference. Those statements were very coordinated and were similar in the language that was used.
QUESTION: Because the last thing she said: “We assess Malaysian airlines Flight 17 carrying these 298 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was likely downed by a surface-to-air missile, an SA-11, operated from a separatist-held location in eastern Ukraine.” Is – the word “likely” appears in there. Is the word “likely” which occurs right before “downed by a surface-to-air missile,” is she saying that it’s the missile that was likely or she’s saying that it’s the rebel-held territory that’s the likely part of this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we have some information available about what happened. Obviously, we know – we’re confident in what and where. The questions we really have are who and why, and I think that’s what the investigation will really be exploring.
QUESTION: So we know the “where,” is what you’re telling us?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have – you heard the UN ambassador. You heard the President also speak to that. And I think --
QUESTION: Because the President said we don’t have a definite judgment on that, but you seem to be rather definitive on it, saying we know the where.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have a good sense, as the ambassador to the UN said. So again, we’re going to see the investigation through. As we have more information, we’ll provide that information.
QUESTION: So it’s not a slam dunk?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not sure what that means, but go ahead.
QUESTION: A couple of questions. Jen, is there any doubt about who those four individuals who have not been identified yet might have been doing on the plane, or is that sort of – there’s no suspicion about who they were, or it’s just that they haven’t been identified?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of at all, Kim. I think it’s just that information about their identities.
QUESTION: And then going back to the point of the international – about the international investigation, it’s an interesting point. Under whose auspices – apart from the fact that it was – that it happened on Ukrainian territory, surely the Russians might be in a position to contest the results of any investigation if they feel they’re not part of it or if it’s not UN-led. I mean, how are you going to make sure the results of this investigation aren’t contested by the Russians, for example?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know that we can ensure that, of course, but again, I think it’s only natural that because this took place in Ukrainian territory that they would have the lead on the investigation. And that’s a pretty standard procedure. But they have welcomed and invited in a range of countries, a range of international outlets with expertise, and clearly, that’s an indication of their openness to an international investigation.
QUESTION: Would you want the Russians involved?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not in a position to make a decision on that. Of course, we don’t have the – we’re not in the lead on the investigation.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Can I just follow up on the list of calls that you listed --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- that the Secretary made today? There wasn’t a call, unless I missed something, with Foreign Minister Lavrov.
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: I realize the presidents spoke yesterday --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- but is there a reason why he’s not trying to reach out to his Russian foreign counterpart? Isn’t this something that – obviously, that the two diplomats of the two countries should be talking about?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s nothing other than there’s a great deal of focus at a very senior level in the Administration on this issue right now. The President of the United States spoke with President Putin just yesterday. He spoke with the president of Ukraine just yesterday. And I’m certain, if there’s a need, that Secretary Kerry would be more than happy to speak with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and we’ll see what happens over the coming days.
QUESTION: Because Ambassador Power’s statement basically laid it squarely at the door of Russia, as did the President in saying that the equipment had come from the Russians. I mean, it would seem that at this point, you need to be having some kind of discussions with your Russian counterparts.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are in discussions with Russia, and we have a large embassy there. We have a great deal of engagement with Russians. The question of whether the Secretary will make a call – that certainly is possible in the coming days. I’m just not going to predict given I don’t have those plans yet in front of me.
QUESTION: Were you able to get an answer to the question that I asked yesterday about these missiles? Let’s say the SA-11, which is what the – what Ambassador Power said was likely used to shoot this plane down, is that among the materiel that the Russians sent into Ukraine according to your information?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe that the reports that have been out there have referred to Buk missiles. Those are – while we’ve expressed concern about surface-to-air missiles in general, we have not specified those in that level of detail. We just don’t have information we can share on that particular missile system.
QUESTION: Well, but when you, Marie, and other officials were talking about missiles along with tanks going from Russia into Ukraine to supply the separatists, did they – did those missiles include SA-11s?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we have specified to that level of detail, Matt.
QUESTION: So you don’t know as --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not saying we don’t know.
MS. PSAKI: I’m saying I don’t have any more information to share.
QUESTION: Well, but do you – you don’t – so you don’t have any information to share with us about whether you even know for sure that SA-11s were in --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information to share --
QUESTION: -- in the (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: -- on the types of surface-to-air missiles that we have seen in the hands of Russian separatists.
QUESTION: Well, okay. Could I appeal to you to – I mean, if – because if this isn’t among the arsenal that you say was moved --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would remind you too, Matt, that aside from that, one of the points that Ambassador Power made this morning was that there was an SA-11 system reported by a Western reporter, and separatists were spotted hours before the incident with an SA-11 system.
QUESTION: Yeah, I understand that. But I’m just wanting to know if you believe that SA-11s were among the things that were sent in over the course of the past month or two months into --
MS. PSAKI: I’ve – if there’s more information to share publicly about specific weapon systems, we can make that available; I’m not sure that there is.
QUESTION: So I mean, I know you’re still trying to determine exactly what happened, but it sounds like, just to put a fine point on it, regardless of whether it came from the Russian side of the border or it came from one of the separatists, that you feel that Russia has a responsibility here, whether they gave them the weapon, they had operatives that helped them do it, or they just gave them the weapon and an instruction manual and said go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all what we said or what the President said or what the UN ambassador said, Elise. They laid out specific details of the events we’ve seen happening on the ground. All of that is important context. But we’re not going to prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
Certainly, aside from this specific tragic event, we have concerns about a range of the steps that they outlined, including providing access to weapons systems, providing materials to the separatists, but we’re going to see the investigation through before we make a judgment.
QUESTION: Do you think that this will in any way will change President Putin’s calculus in terms of his support for the separatists or for his kind of bid to destabilize Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it certainly should. This, as the President said this morning, was a wakeup call to the world, to many European countries, and certainly should be to Russia as well that given all of these events, this is of great concern and it’s something that we think, certainly, that President Putin and the Russians should take a close look at.
QUESTION: And do you think that this will harden European kind of resolve in terms of the severity of the measures that you’ve been considering?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we can’t make a full prediction of that for obvious reasons, but certainly seeing the horrific events that happened yesterday, seeing the families who are mourning their loved ones, all of the information that’s available should be a wakeup call to everybody.
QUESTION: Are you going to push the Europeans to be – to take a tougher line on Russia now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, again, we’re going to see this investigation through. But we’ve been engaged in discussions with the Europeans about sanctions for months now, as you all know. We’ll see how this proceeds, but those will continue regardless.
QUESTION: Jen, after the President – after Ambassador Power’s comments and after the President’s comments, but in particular Ambassador Power’s comments, how can you say that we’re not going to prejudge the outcome of this investigation? I mean --
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt --
QUESTION: -- she outlined what you assess, your – the conclusions of your looking into this so far, and basically – not basically, did blame the Russians for it; said it came from a – not a specific area, but a rebel-held area; that it was a specific kind of missile that was used. It seems to me that that’s prejudging, or you’ve done your own investigation and those are the results of it.
MS. PSAKI: We have --
QUESTION: But you seem to want to have it both ways.
MS. PSAKI: -- not done our own investigation.
QUESTION: You make your – you make these allegations.
MS. PSAKI: We’re participating in the international investigation.
QUESTION: I understand.
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. There’s a range of information, most of which is publicly available, that Ambassador Power laid out in her remarks this morning. That’s all relevant context.
MS. PSAKI: But again, there’s an official process that will be seen through.
QUESTION: Well, it’s not public information that an SA-11 – that the U.S. assesses that an --
MS. PSAKI: I said a vast majority.
QUESTION: -- right – SA-11 was responsible, and that it was fired from rebel-held territory. That’s not – that’s something that --
MS. PSAKI: I said the vast majority of information.
QUESTION: I understand that, but in coming – but in presenting those conclusions or those assessments, that seems to me, unless you’ve done your own investigation already, that you – that there has been a pre-judgment of what happened here.
MS. PSAKI: That was not the intention --
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: -- and I’d point you to where she stated in her remarks – I don’t have it exactly in front of me – a reference to the fact that there will be an investigation.
QUESTION: All right. But then she closed out her remarks – near the end she said, “This war must end. Russia can end this war. Russia must end this war.” How is that not a prejudgment of the situation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s a concern here outside of this --
QUESTION: Or is she talking about more broadly?
MS. PSAKI: Correct. There is an ongoing concern about the escalation, and certainly outside of this investigation, we have remaining concerns about the steps of Russia and their – the materials they’ve provided to separatists.
QUESTION: But wait a minute. But you’re --
QUESTION: And then – just let – I actually have one – this is extremely brief. You don’t regard what she said and what the President – what Ambassador Power said and what the President said as prejudging the outcome of the investigation?
MS. PSAKI: Correct, we do not.
QUESTION: But why, then, are you tying this incident, then, to everything of the – if you don’t know and you aren’t kind of prejudging that – I know you’re not prejudging the exact details, but it seems as if you are prejudging that these events are a direct result of the conflict in Ukraine, of which you’ve said that Russia is the main instigator here.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t actually think that’s what they said at all. I think outside of this, there’s no way, given this event happened in Ukraine, given there’s accusations being tied back and forth – I can assure you CNN and every other outlet has been tying this to the events happening on the ground, and of course we look at that context. And we look at the concern about rising escalation; we look at – that’s why we called for a return to a discussion about a ceasefire. So certainly, the context of what’s happened over the last several months, given the accusations back and forth, is incredibly relevant here.
QUESTION: No, I understand. But if you say that you don’t believe that the Ukrainians have this type of missile and you say it came from eastern Ukraine, which would indicate that – and you say that you believe that the separatists were responsible, and you’re blaming Russia for its support for the separatists, wouldn’t that logically point to Russia as having some type of culpability here?
MS. PSAKI: Again, when there’s a conclusion of the investigation we’ll have more to say about what culpability is and what it means and what the implications will be.
QUESTION: Can we go to Gaza?
QUESTION: I was told that the Russian ambassador to the UN said today that Ukraine should have closed its airspace. Do you have some comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen those particular comments. You may have seen – I mentioned yesterday a step the FAA took a couple of months ago. And you may have all seen this, but the FAA, after considering the recent event, has determined that an increase in the area covered by our prohibition is necessary. So therefore, the FAA has issued a notice to airmen to prohibit all U.S. flight operations within two flight information regions in eastern Ukraine. That was, obviously, a recent step that’s been taken since the events of yesterday.
QUESTION: But I mean, it sort of suggested that the fault lies with Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Well certainly, this area, aside from Crimea, which there was a – there was an aviation regulation in place since April on, this has been open flight area. So I think we would disagree with that notion.
QUESTION: Sorry, did you say that happened since yesterday?
MS. PSAKI: Correct --
QUESTION: The FAA has --
MS. PSAKI: -- given the events, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: So in addition to what was – Ambassador Churkin also said that – raised the question of why Ukraine air traffic controllers would’ve routed this jet over an area that was a conflict zone. Do you have any response or reaction to that kind of question being raised?
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s important to remind everyone that this action was taken in an area – the area was – the conflict there was caused by the intervention and the engagement of Russian separatists supported by Russians. And otherwise, there are certain regulations that the FAA and other flight organizations put into place, but there wasn’t one over this particular area of eastern Ukraine.
QUESTION: So you think that it’s irrelevant? That question that he posed is pretty much irrelevant.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s not – it doesn’t speak – there are – now, it’s important to note that a number of operators over time have chosen to voluntarily alter their routes beyond just the restriction in the Crimean Peninsula. But it’s not – it wasn’t a requirement or a regulation in place.
QUESTION: No. But I mean, his question – his raising the question, why did the Ukrainian air traffic control route the plane over this area, you don’t think that that’s particularly relevant to the investigation?
MS. PSAKI: No. It was open airspace.
MS. PSAKI: So it was – there were planes flying over it.
QUESTION: All right. And then President Putin in his comments last night, and again Ambassador Churkin at the UN – and I also believe Foreign Minister Lavrov – all say that this would not have happened if it hadn’t been for the Ukrainian Government resuming its military operation in the east. Is that – what’s your reaction to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important, again, to remember that the entire conflict in eastern Ukraine is due to the illegal intervention of Russian-backed separatists, the support of Russia with military equipment and other materials. That’s where the conflict came from. They went into a sovereign country, and that’s why we’re here. There’s no other reason.
QUESTION: Okay. So that just – you do not accept that?
MS. PSAKI: Correct, yes.
QUESTION: Just to follow up?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Goyal.
QUESTION: Thank you. A wake-up call to the world; this terrible incident, Madam, has shaken up the entire aviation industry. And also within half an hour of this incident, Air India, carrying 126 passengers, went through luckily and landed safely in Delhi. And prime minister of India, coming from Brazil to Germany to Delhi, also about to come within one hour, but he – they would change their route.
What I’m asking you is that as far as these kind of weapons are concerned, you think other terrorists also may have – including in Afghanistan and Pakistan? And then what is the future and how can you stop them not to carry all these weapons? Because this is a first-of-its-kind incident.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m trying to follow what exactly your question is, but let me try. So there’s an investigation that’s ongoing with international support about this specific incident. I would caution anybody about broadening that into what it means and to other countries. Obviously, there are steps that the FAA here has taken. Other national or international civil aviation outlets may take similar steps, but we’ll leave that to them to determine.
QUESTION: What kind of investigation can be done if – right, they only allowed them to stay for 75 minutes, the first group that went in? I mean, it’s over a huge amount of territory.
MS. PSAKI: You’re right, and that’s why we’re very concerned. And those who say they are going to participate in or welcome this investigation need to give unfettered access, and obviously, we didn’t see that when these individuals were there for 75 minutes.
QUESTION: A couple last things, I’m sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: Does the United States Government have any information as to the whereabouts of the black box and in whose custody it presently resides?
MS. PSAKI: There have been a range of reports about those being in the hands of Russian-backed separatists. I don’t believe we have any independent confirmation of the location.
QUESTION: And is it fair to say, just to follow up on Elise’s line of questioning earlier, that when the President tells us we still await definitive judgment on the origin point and likely culpability for this attack, is it fair to say that the United States, given the case that Ambassador Power laid out, has at least reached a preliminary conclusion about those matters?
MS. PSAKI: I think there’s a range of information that’s publicly available. As is the case with serious incidents like this, we’ll let the official conclusion be made. But obviously, Ambassador Power wouldn’t have said that if there wasn’t a reasonable belief that that was accurate information.
QUESTION: Don’t you see a sort of possible conflict of interest that people might see when the eventual report comes out of how this happened? The U.S. Government, given Samantha Power’s statements at the UN, is then – the U.S. Government is then sending the FBI to also be a part of this investigation, this report. Couldn’t it be difficult for the results of this report to stick if we’re already hearing sort of a line from the U.S. Government that they believe it’s Russia’s fault, then they are – the government is indirectly involved in this investigation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s not exactly --
QUESTION: There are a range of other nations that have many --
MS. PSAKI: Let me answer your question. That’s not exactly what either the President or Ambassador Power said. They also both made clear that there’s an investigation we’re going to see through. The FBI participation – the FBI clearly has a range of important expertise in criminal investigations. I think that’s expertise that could – we don’t know – could come in handy in this case. That’s what they will be offering. So there’ll be a range of expertise and entities that will participate in this investigation.
QUESTION: So I have one more on something that Ambassador Power said, and that was she said that we cannot rule out the possibility that Russia – there was some kind of Russian technical assistance to the --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Why not? Why can’t you rule that out? And is she referring to the tapes that the Ukrainians have presented that James referred to earlier? Is that what makes this a question?
MS. PSAKI: She’s referring to the technical complexity of the SA-11 and the unlikelihood that the Russian-backed separatists could effectively operate that kind of assistance without assistance – the kind of – systems, sorry, without assistance from knowledgeable individuals.
QUESTION: But could not those knowledgeable officials be former Soviet soldiers who happen to be Ukrainians who happen to happen to have joined the separatists?
MS. PSAKI: She said “rule out.” We can’t rule out.
QUESTION: Okay. But I mean, that – so she’s not intending to make the accusation that there was – that the U.S. believes there was Russian assistance in operating this SA-11 system. She’s saying – she’s just throwing it up there --
MS. PSAKI: She was making the point that it’s a complicated, technical system that would require expertise in that system.
QUESTION: Kind of like Churkin questioning whether – why Ukrainian air traffic control routed the plane over --
MS. PSAKI: I would hardly compare the two --
QUESTION: No? Okay.
MS. PSAKI: -- given it was open airspace.
QUESTION: So – I’m sorry, though.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Elise.
QUESTION: I mean, it’s – I understand what you’re saying, that you’re waiting for the final results, but for a Cabinet member to go out and address the world and say we can’t rule it out, that’s pointing the finger at someone, even if you’re not 100 percent sure. And given the fact that you’re careful in all other areas so as not to say anything – I mean, clearly you didn’t want to say anything yesterday – you’re not saying with 100 percent certainty that Russia was involved, but you are pointing the finger at Russia. To say that you’re not is disingenuous, I think.
MS. PSAKI: I think we’re laying out a range of contextual facts that we’ve been concerned about for some time.
QUESTION: You’re building a case against Russia. Is that --
MS. PSAKI: No, I wouldn’t put it that way. It’s – I think it’s clear what the SA-11, which is a complicated, technical system, it’s hard to see how back – how separatists, pardon me, could do that on their own. She was making a statement of a fact. We – she said we couldn’t rule it out. She didn’t say an individual was at fault or she didn’t say it absolutely is. There are a range of facts in this case that are publicly available information or information that we’ve assessed. She said in her own statement that there’s going to be an investigation.
QUESTION: I just think that if you weren’t reasonably sure that you felt that Russia had some capability here, you wouldn’t even be laying out a possible Russian involvement.
MS. PSAKI: Well, capability, which was laid out --
MS. PSAKI: -- is different – culpability. I thought you said capability. Again, Elise, I would – I think if you look at what she stated and what her remarks outlined, it was information laying out the context of what we’ve seen happen on the ground.
QUESTION: Can we go to Gaza?
QUESTION: I have one more follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: Can we just do a few more, and then we can go to you, Said?
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay, I have two questions.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: First, it’s about the timing. Since the U.S. has imposed sanctions to Russia, then this happened. And I will add, the recent trip of President Putin to Latin America, if you see any connection.
And the second one, I was wondering if you have any information: How could a passenger plane be mistaken for a military aircraft? Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Well, these are all excellent questions, and this happened just 24 hours ago. So they’re questions we just don’t yet have definitive answers on.
QUESTION: Just one more?
QUESTION: As the Secretary makes these calls here, and you all, and the President and everyone else, is part of the message that it’s about time Europe stood up to Putin and put in some real sanctions?
MS. PSAKI: As he speaks with his European counterparts?
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s important to note that we have been working in lockstep with our European counterparts on announcing sanctions and rolling out additional consequences. And clearly --
QUESTION: But haven’t they’ve been sort of – not done as much as this country would have hoped?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, they have taken a number of steps that there has been an impact. There’s no question that the economic impact, or the economic impact on Europe is different from the impact on the United States. We’re also talking about dozens of countries that need to agree and work together. We’re one country. But regardless of all of that, we have worked very closely with the Europeans. They announced a new set of sanctions just this week, and obviously, if events continue to escalate, if President Putin continues to choose escalation over de-escalation, the international community will continue to put consequences in place.
QUESTION: Just one more on the plane. Today Turkish prime minister was very definitive, and he said that this Malaysian plane was hit by Russia over Ukraine. Have you reached out to Turkish prime minister, whether he got some intel that you don’t?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware. There hasn’t been a call from here with the Turkish prime minister, so beyond that I don’t have any other speculation on that. I think I’ve outlined where we stand.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. He spoke to the foreign minister.
MS. PSAKI: He did. And they spoke a great deal about the events in Gaza. And of course, they’re all coordinating on and discussing the events that happened yesterday in Ukraine as well.
QUESTION: I think now is a good point to go to Gaza.
QUESTION: A small one?
QUESTION: Would that be all right?
QUESTION: I have a small one.
MS. PSAKI: You can duel it out, Said. We’re here all day, Said.
MS. PSAKI: We can go to you next.
QUESTION: Do you consider this as an act of terrorism? If yes, then if you’d like to call the separatist side terrorist outfits?
MS. PSAKI: I think, again, we don’t know the origin. Of course, any time the loss of innocent lives are – we see a loss of innocent lives, that’s a horrific act. We’ll see the investigation through. I’m not going to put additional labels on it beyond what the President and the – Ambassador Power –
QUESTION: (Off-mike) who did it, but the act itself. Is this an act of terrorism?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to put additional labels on it from here.
QUESTION: Do you rule out that it could have been an accident?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’re not ruling out – well, we don’t feel this was an accident. We feel – I think you heard the President and Ambassador Power give very definitive remarks on this. But we’re going to see the investigation through, and I will --
QUESTION: Because Vice President Biden yesterday stated this was no accident. So the Department stands by those remarks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we – I think there have also been remarks that point to that from the President and from Ambassador Power as well.
QUESTION: Wait a second. I want to make sure that – because I think that you clouded the – muddied the waters a little bit here.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: You do not believe this was an accident. In other words, you do not believe that whoever fired this missile wasn’t aiming for something else. Or to put it another way, you believe that whoever fired this missile intended to hit and take down a passenger airplane.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not – I wasn’t --
QUESTION: A civilian passenger airplane.
MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t stating that, Matt.
MS. PSAKI: I think I’m not going to go farther than I’ve gone here.
QUESTION: All right. So in other words, it may have been an accident in terms of whoever fired this thing thought that they were hitting a military target?
MS. PSAKI: Correct. Look --
QUESTION: All right. So that’s --
MS. PSAKI: Again, this --
QUESTION: That’s a mistake. That’s an accident.
MS. PSAKI: There are a range of ways of defining it, yes. Thank you for your clarification.
QUESTION: But you’re not saying that you know or you believe that this --
MS. PSAKI: We don’t know --
QUESTION: -- Malaysian aircraft’s Boeing 777 civilian plane was targeted by the people who fired this missile?
MS. PSAKI: We don’t know more than what I’ve just stated and what has been stated today.
QUESTION: But when you say, quote, “we don’t feel this was an accident,” you are expressing a preliminary conclusion, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s not my intention. I think we’ve been pretty clear. We’re participating in the international investigation. We’re going to let that conclude. There are a range of events and information that’s available from what has happened on the ground recently. That’s all relevant, but this happened 24 hours ago.
Kim, go ahead.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, because we’re going back to square zero here. Are you saying --
MS. PSAKI: Okay. I hope not. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Because accident and mistake are two different things, and if you’re saying “we don’t feel that this was an accident,” that means that you’re saying it’s still possible that this plane just came down from the sky because something went wrong with the plane.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Kim, let me just be clear here. This happened 24 hours ago. There hasn’t been an investigation; that’s been underway. We’re participating in that process. I’m not going to prejudge it beyond that, and we’re – I don’t think I’m going to have much more to add from here today on it.
QUESTION: Okay. So when you say “accident,” you mean – when you say you don’t feel this was an accident, you mean that whatever the motive or whatever whoever fired this missile was shooting at, they were shooting at something, and this wasn’t a malfunction of the plane. Is that what you mean by “accident”? Because I think we’re getting hung up here on something. When you say “accident,” you mean the engine failed or something like that in terms – is that what you’re saying?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s no evidence of that to date. I don’t have anything more in terms of analyzing what exactly happened here, but obviously there’s a range of contextual information from what’s happening on the ground that’s relevant.
QUESTION: Can we go to Gaza?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Yeah. Let’s begin with the national security – I mean Security Council meeting this afternoon at 3 o’clock. There’s going to be a call for an immediate ceasefire. Will you support that?
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: That’s in about a half hour.
MS. PSAKI: -- let me – I understand. We’ve certainly seen the reports. I would note that no action requiring a vote has been proposed from this session. We’re not aware that this has changed. We’re certainly supportive of diplomatic efforts to end the ongoing violence. And our focus, though, is on the Egyptian initiative and the role that can play as a means of doing that – of moving to a ceasefire moving forward, and that’s really where our efforts remain.
QUESTION: Now both the President – President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in their conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke of Israel’s right to self-defense and so on. Do you feel that although they called for caution, do you feel that really this is giving a green light to Israel to go ahead and do – and strike by whatever might it has in Gaza?
QUESTION: Then I’ll have a follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: And the specific statement that the President made is that it is our understanding the current military ground operations are designed to deal with the tunnels, and we are hopeful that Israel will continue to approach this process in a way that minimizes civilian casualties.
You saw the Secretary’s readout of his call last night with Prime Minister Netanyahu, which was certainly consistent with that. And I don’t think either of them were stating what you just stated.
QUESTION: Now Israelis are saying that this operation may need 10 days or 14 days and so on. Do you support that or do you support, let’s say, an operation that would go on for about two weeks in Gaza?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to give a timeline, Said. I think we’ve been clear that these ground operations are designed to deal with the tunnels and the events that happened over the past 24 to 36 hours. And the President and the Secretary have – well, the Secretary’s call with Prime Minister Netanyahu last night spoke to that.
QUESTION: But you are not aware of any initiative that the United States could be taking to bring an end to the violence, are you?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our initiative to bring an end to the violence is the engagement that I outlined a little bit earlier in the briefing of the Secretary with his counterparts around the world, with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, with the Egyptian foreign minister, and our efforts to encourage all countries and parties to work through the Egyptian ceasefire proposal.
QUESTION: The reason I ask this is because Egyptian Government sources saying that the Secretary of State may be heading that way. Is he?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any travel to announce for all of you. As has remained the case, he’s prepared to go if we decide that that is the right step to take to help de-escalate the situation on the ground.
QUESTION: And I – let me ask you again what I asked you yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Should any ceasefire proposal include things to relieve the humanitarian suffering of the Gazans under the siege, the closure of the entry points and border points and so on. Should it include that, any kind of ceasefire that you might support?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I said yesterday, Said, that we in the Secretary’s call with Prime Minister Netanyahu just a couple of days ago – and certainly this is a point we’ve reiterated – we’ve made clear that it’s important to take every step possible to reduce civilian casualties. We’re urging all parties to respect the civilian nature of schools and medical facilities and certainly our effort and focus on the ceasefire is in order to prevent more civilian deaths.
QUESTION: The other day I asked you on Al-Wafa hospital, in particular, a few days ago. And now the Israelis yesterday bombed the Wafa hospital after giving people a very short time to evacuate. In fact, there were invalids they could not move and so on – those 17 (inaudible). Would it have made any difference had you, at the time, said maybe they ought to spare Al-Wafa hospital?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our view has consistently been that facilities like hospitals serve as shelters for many of those fleeing the conflict and they must be treated as inviolable and off-limits from military use and targeting by all sides – by both sides. So I can’t predict for you what would’ve happened or wouldn’t have happened.
QUESTION: In the readout last night and the Secretary’s call with the prime minister, the Secretary – it says that the Secretary told Prime Minister Netanyahu that the U.S. would like to see Israel use precision – same thing that the President said today, but didn’t use the word precise, I don’t think. Thus far, in the last 22 hours or so of this operation, this ground operation in Gaza, has the U.S. seen Israel using precision to go after strikes? Or are – do you have concerns that they are not doing as you called for yesterday – what the Secretary called for, what the President again called for today, that they are not doing as much as they possibly could to minimize civilian casualties?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, obviously part of that reference was certainly to the deaths of the four boys that we talked about a little bit yesterday. I don’t have an evaluation of over the last 16 hours or so since the Secretary spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Certainly, we are encouraging Israel and both sides to continue to take – take as many steps as possible to reduce civilian casualties. So I don’t know that there’s going to be a point of satisfaction as much it’s something that we’re encouraging both sides to continue to do.
QUESTION: Right, but I’m not asking you to give them a grade necessarily. I’m just wondering if the concern still exists or if they have addressed – if those concerns had been addressed. I don’t know. It’s not an A, B, or C.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I guess it’s more like a pass/fail.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, again, as long as civilians’ lives are put at risk, it’s a call we will continue to make.
QUESTION: Yesterday, I was going to bring this – raise this yesterday, but I don’t know why I – I guess time ran short. Yesterday, UNWRA put out a statement condemning – and apologizing to Israel for the fact that some rockets were found in one of their schools, a vacant school. Do you have any comment or response to that?
MS. PSAKI: I actually had not seen that. It may be due to the range of events over the past 24 hours.
QUESTION: Fair enough.
MS. PSAKI: We can check on that for you, Matt, and get you a comment.
QUESTION: Fair enough. But this has been a complaint that the Israelis have had for some time now, which has been always in the past denied by UNRWA. And I’m just wondering if U.S. officials, if the Administration has any – have any thoughts about that. And lastly, are you aware of reports that family members of the boy who was killed, the Palestinian teenager who was killed and apparently set on fire, who was the cousin of the American citizen who was beaten up, that they have been detained by Israelis? And if you are aware, do you have anything to say about this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware. Our Consulate General in Jerusalem has been following this incident closely. We understand that several family members were arrested without charges and placed in detention. As you know, by – as you know, we were shocked by the treatment of Tariq and strongly condemned any excessive use of force. We are deeply concerned about this latest development and reports and are closely tracking them on the ground.
QUESTION: Can I ask: What is the cause of your deep concern about these detentions?
MS. PSAKI: The arrests of family members without charges and the placement of them in detention, and certainly the backdrop here is of the treatment of their family member.
QUESTION: But – no, no. But have you – I mean, it is possible, is it not, that the Israelis have good reason to arrest these people. Right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there were no charges filed.
QUESTION: Okay. So that’s the reason for your – have you made your deep concern clear directly to the Israelis?
MS. PSAKI: That is a good question. I’m happy to check on that. I know there – I believe we have, but let me make absolutely sure.
QUESTION: But not at the – it didn’t come up in the conversation between Secretary Kerry and Prime Minister Netanyahu, right? It would be --
MS. PSAKI: Let me double-check for you, Matt, and just make sure.
QUESTION: Do you know – and do you have any details about when this happened?
MS. PSAKI: It was over the last couple of days. I don’t have a specific day for you, but we can get that as well.
QUESTION: Do you have a specific number of how many members of the family?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more information, but we can ascertain to get that.
QUESTION: All right. And then --
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: -- hold on a second – then can I ask: Why has the U.S. taken such – the Consulate General taken such a particular interest in this? Are any of them Americans? I – the cousin was, clearly, but is there some kind of U.S. – other than your – just your basic interest in human rights and rule of law, due process, et cetera, is there some kind of special American interest in this family?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware, though I can check on this with the group of questions that any of them are American citizens. We’ll check. But obviously we were deeply shocked by the treatment of their young family member. And certainly we’ve taken an interest in --
QUESTION: The one who was an American?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
MS. PSAKI: We’ve taken an interest in this case and certainly the treatment of family members would be of interest to our team on the ground.
QUESTION: So is it a – so the interest lies in the fact that these are relatives of the American citizen who was beaten up, or the interest lies because these are relatives of the Palestinian teenager who was killed?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I don’t want to pick one or the other. I think, Matt, that obviously we’ve seen the suffering that this family has gone through. Many of our officials have been able to get to know the family members, and certainly we’ve taken an interest.
QUESTION: See, I mean – following on that very point, I mean, most Palestinians that are arrested by the Israelis are arrested without charges. In fact, they languish year after year under administrative detention for a very, very long time. So why this particular case?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered that question, Said. Do you have another question?
QUESTION: I have plenty, but --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: -- I think I’ll refrain.
QUESTION: There have been protests in front of the Israeli consulate and embassy in Ankara and in Istanbul and Israel. Recall some of the diplomatic staff to Turkey. Did the Secretary talk about these issues with Foreign Minister Davutoglu? Is there any way you can give us some more detail?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe I have many more details. Let me just check and see about whether that came up on the call. Give me just one moment here. I just – I don’t have any additional details on that specifically.
MS. PSAKI: We can check for you, certainly.
QUESTION: And today, Prime Minister Erdogan, while talking about the situation in Gaza, he said that Israel is applying state terror as well as undertaking a genocide in Gaza, is his quote. Do you have any view on – would you agree to this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, we believe his statements are offensive and wrong, and of course, this kind of provocative rhetoric is unhelpful and distracts from urgent efforts to bring about a ceasefire.
QUESTION: Is there a figure that would constitute a genocide? Is there a figure? How many people have to die before something can be termed a genocide – civilians?
MS. PSAKI: There’s a range of definitions, Said, but I don’t have any more information available for you.
QUESTION: Okay. Is the death of 300 Palestinians thus far in Gaza, most of them civilians, does that constitute a genocide in your view?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe we’ve called it that. It’s horrific that there have been losses of that many civilian lives.
QUESTION: But independent of the circumstances that are ongoing, would the death of, let’s say, 200 civilians or 150 civilians constitute genocide?
MS. PSAKI: I appreciate your line of questioning. I’m sure we can connect you with an expert on this particular issue, Said.
QUESTION: I don’t believe that you appreciate his line of questioning. I think that you --
MS. PSAKI: Certainly, I always appreciate Said.
QUESTION: Can I – just back on the Prime Minister Erdogan comments, these are pretty strong and, you said, offensive and wrong comments. Do you know if the – anyone from the Administration plans to take this up with either him or with Foreign Minister Davutoglu?
MS. PSAKI: I can certainly check and see if there – if that’s already happened or if there’s a plan otherwise.
QUESTION: Because it would seem to me Turkey is a NATO ally, it’s a country that the government has some relationship with Hamas, and I’m just wondering if you think that they – the Turks, given the comments of the prime minister, have forfeited a role to play in potentially negotiating a ceasefire, if they are showing so much – if their leader is coming out with comments that you find offensive and wrong about your ally, Israel.
MS. PSAKI: No. I think our view and what we’re continuing to convey to any country in the region, including Turkey, is that the most productive role they can play is supporting the Egyptian ceasefire proposal. When there are concerns we have about comments made or actions taken, even when it is a NATO ally, we certainly don’t hesitate to make those concerns known.
QUESTION: So you would say, then, that these comments mean that Turkey or the Government of Turkey is an obstacle rather than a – is an obstacle to peace or to a ceasefire rather than an active participant?
MS. PSAKI: I think I will leave it as I stated, that they’re unhelpful, but again, there’s a role that many countries can play in the region.
QUESTION: But you don’t think that they have forfeited their interest by coming --
MS. PSAKI: No, I don’t.
QUESTION: Just one more on Prime Minister Erdogan’s strong --
MS. PSAKI: We’ll go to you next, Said. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Speaking of Prime Minister Erdogan’s strong language, he also talk about there is a crusader movement – today, just a couple hours ago, he said that there’s a crusader against Islam being assembled by the West. And my question is: Does the U.S. play any kind of role in this crusade – new crusader against Islam – was stated by the prime minister again?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not even sure what that’s a reference to or what he meant by those comments, so --
QUESTION: Reference is again Gaza. What’s happening in Gaza according to Prime Minister Erdogan is a new crusader movement against Islam.
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s safe to say that is not an effort the U.S. is undergoing. No.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you, just to follow up on – back when – before this latest flare-up, whether what Israel is doing today is – falls under collective punishment.
MS. PSAKI: I think --
QUESTION: Would you agree that it falls under collective punishment?
MS. PSAKI: The President of the United States just spoke to this, Said. I don’t think I have anything more to add to it.
QUESTION: Can I ask you, in his calls with Foreign Minister Davutoglu and also with his Qatari counterpart, did he ask them to use their influence with Hamas to try and – to accept a truce, a ceasefire?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly. That’s part of the message, Jo, that he’s conveying and discussing with any of his counterparts in the region, as well as encouraging all countries to support the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire.
QUESTION: So did he get any joy from either of those two countries as to whether they would use their --
MS. PSAKI: Any joy?
QUESTION: Any – did they say whether they would try and press Hamas, or are they still – are they keeping out of it? Are they just --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’ll let them, naturally, speak to that. But certainly, we think that they all have a role that they could play, and we’re encouraging them to play that role to the maximist – maximal position.
QUESTION: Just back on the Erdogan comments for a second – this is kind of unrelated to Gaza, but do you have any concerns that inflammatory remarks such as this will have a major negative impact on the rapprochement that you’ve been trying to engineer between the Turks and the Israelis?
MS. PSAKI: They’re certainly not helpful to moving that forward, Matt.
QUESTION: So they’re not helpful to the – resolving the situation in Gaza, they’re not helpful to getting a ceasefire to ultimately resolve – to the peace process more broadly, and even more broadly than that, to the Turkish-Israeli rapprochement, all three.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that kind of rhetoric is generally unhelpful.
QUESTION: Turkish prime minister actually said today, under no circumstances will Turkey’s relationship with Israel improve “as long as I am in power.” That’s a quote by him today, so I think that means that rapprochement is dead.
MS. PSAKI: I certainly wouldn’t say that. It’s obviously been an ongoing process that we remain committed to, continuing to encourage, but I certainly wouldn’t say that.
Go ahead, Kim.
QUESTION: Two questions also on this.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: The British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said that Israel’s airstrikes and incursion in Gaza have been deliberately disproportionate and were collective punishment. Do you disagree with your British allies?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I would leave it at how we’ve stated and how we view it is how the President of the United States outlined it just the last two hours.
QUESTION: So you disagree?
MS. PSAKI: I think I’d leave it at what public comments we’ve made.
QUESTION: Then in terms of negotiating a ceasefire, the regional sort of balance of power has changed with Qatar and the Egyptians at odds with the Muslim Brotherhood, and we’ve had people in Egypt call on the Egyptian army to actually bomb Gaza. So how will the mediation efforts actually work, and how does the U.S. fit in at this stage? Because clearly, the Egyptians aren’t able to actually talk to Hamas directly at the moment because they don’t seem to have that kind of connection. The Qataris are at odds with the Egyptians. And where do you fit in? I mean, how is this coming together? Or is it simply not the time to discuss a ceasefire because the Israeli generals are too busy with their ground incursion?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our view is that there’s no other serious ceasefire proposal being discussed other than the Egyptian proposal. And so in the Secretary’s engagements with leaders in the region, he’s certainly made that clear. You’re right that there are a range of different dynamics in the region, and there are also a range of countries and officials who do engage with and speak to Hamas, and we’re certainly encouraging them to play a role in encouraging Hamas to have a discussion about the ceasefire proposal, the reason why there would be benefits to the people and the civilians in the region who are currently at risk.
In terms of our role, the Secretary’s engagement has been pretty expansive, as you’ve seen by his phone calls. And he is trying to engage each of these countries with determining what role they can play. And as you know, this is complicated, it’s difficult, but there are countries that have a role they can play in speaking to Hamas and encouraging them to be more constructive in the discussion about a ceasefire process. There are countries that certainly have a significant stake like Israel and Egypt who have put forward a proposal.
So there are a range of conversations he’s having in the region, and I think he’s – certainly the United States has a stake in seeing stability and a return to and de-escalation of what’s happening, and that’s why he’s so engaged.
QUESTION: But there’s not much point anymore getting just a ceasefire with limited easing of some of the restrictions, because that’s where we were last time. So is there an opportunity here – as awful as it sounds while people are dying, is there an opportunity here to try to perhaps make this a slightly longer-term agreement?
MS. PSAKI: I think our immediate focus is on how we can end the violence now. There are obviously a range of dynamics here that existed long before the events of the last couple of weeks and will, perhaps, certainly exist after. But our immediate focus is on what we can do to get an agreement on an end to the violence and the back-and-forth rockets between the parties.
QUESTION: Sorry, Jen. You just said “end the violence now.” So if a ceasefire is announced, do you expect the Israelis to uncock their artilleries and so on, stop their guns, and withdraw immediately? Is that what --
MS. PSAKI: Well, a ceasefire would mean that there isn’t back-and-forth shooting of rockets, putting civilians at risk.
QUESTION: But you’d expect them to go back?
MS. PSAKI: In terms of the specific details, we’ll have to see that play out.
QUESTION: Can I just – I need to go back to Turkey for a second --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- but not the prime minister’s comments. There – the atmosphere in Turkey, according to Israelis, according to others, has grown increasingly anti-Israel, to the point where the Israeli Embassy I think is withdrawing some of its people. They – the Israelis are complaining about incitement, not just from the prime minister, but from media outlets in Turkey. I’m wondering if you have any comment about the situation there as it relates to anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiment.
MS. PSAKI: Obviously – and I spoke to the comments that were made, and, obviously, the circumstances around it or other anti-Semitic events going on would certainly be of concern to us. I really don’t have anything more, but we can get you something if you need.
QUESTION: Do you think the Turkish officials’ ruling party – the officials – and there are many, including Ankara mayor and many more highly visible officials – are tweeting these anti-Semitic tweets and other statements. Do you think that Turkish officials are playing any role in this anti-Semitic environment?
MS. PSAKI: I’m certainly not going to make a sweeping, general accusation or characterization like that. If we see comments that are of concern or statements that are of concern, we’ll make that known.
QUESTION: Can I change to Iran --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- the nuclear talks?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: So the deadline’s Sunday --
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: -- for a treaty with the P5+1 negotiators. The Chinese chief negotiator this morning said that it was likely that today there’d be an agreement on an extension of that deadline, and the Russians are saying that it could be as long – it could be a four-month extension to November. Could you update us where we are and what’s the likelihood of an extension --
MS. PSAKI: Well, our --
QUESTION: -- that we see one today or this weekend?
MS. PSAKI: Our team is on the ground in Vienna talking to the Iranians about what the contours of an extension would look like. And tangible progress has been made, but there’s more work to do. And there are a range of options, of course, being considered and discussed with our partners and with the Iranians. Of course, there’s a lot of speculation, as there always is in these sorts of cases, about what that will mean and when it will be concluded and how. And I’m not going to make a prediction of that, because the discussions are ongoing on the ground.
QUESTION: Can we just back up a bit? So you are now talking about an extension?
MS. PSAKI: I think – yes. Yes.
QUESTION: You just said that, yeah. So we – the Sunday, July 20th deadline is now null and void for --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t – I wouldn’t make it null and void, but we’re certainly discussing what the contours of an extension would look like.
QUESTION: Okay. And so could you tell us when you are likely to make a definitive announcement on that? Would it be later today, or would we see something on Saturday?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any prediction of the timing on that.
QUESTION: And do you believe the extension is going to be for weeks, or will it be for several months?
MS. PSAKI: Again, there are a range of details and options that are being discussed, but I don’t want to get ahead of the negotiators and the discussions that we’re having with the Iranians and with our partners.
QUESTION: And would it be that the terms of the current JPOA, i.e. that there’s a freeze on a certain amount of uranium enrichment in return for a certain amount of sanctions relief, would then be applied to any extension of the talks? Or would there be added, additional things which would be added to that?
MS. PSAKI: I am certain that when we make an announcement about whatever the next step may or may not be we’ll have more details to share about what the details of that would look like. But everything’s being discussed right now.
QUESTION: So there will not be a comprehensive agreement announced on Saturday?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, I think we’re talking about an extension. Stay tuned all weekend.
QUESTION: Right. Does that mean that the team is staying?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re currently on the ground. I don’t have any predictions on that.
QUESTION: Because apparently the Iranians have left or are in the process of leaving.
MS. PSAKI: There are still individuals who are discussing the contours of an extension.
QUESTION: I have one on Afghanistan.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: In Islamabad today, officials of --
QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. Sorry. Just – did you offer a readout of the meeting that Secretary Kerry had this morning with the Jewish leaders? I presume it was about Iran, but it might’ve also been Gaza.
MS. PSAKI: I did not. I actually didn’t get one.
MS. PSAKI: If you’d like one, I’m sure we can --
QUESTION: Just curious what the --
MS. PSAKI: -- look into that for you.
QUESTION: -- subject was, or subjects.
MS. PSAKI: I would bet there were a range of topics discussed.
Go ahead. Afghanistan.
QUESTION: In Islamabad – yeah. In Islamabad today, officials of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India signed an operational agreement for TAPI gas pipeline. Do you have anything to say on that?
MS. PSAKI: I --
QUESTION: Which will bring gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan, Pakistan, and provide it to India.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I do not. We can get you something after the briefing I’m certain. Let me – can I give you just a quick update on what’s happening in Afghanistan? So a quick morning update. There were 30 teams of auditors this morning; 102 boxes were reviewed. There are – let’s see. Sorry, I just want to make sure I have the accurate numbers right in front of me. There were 156 accredited auditors in Kabul; 160 will be coming; 60 will be USAID implementers. ISAF has also begun moving the boxes from other parts of Afghanistan, but go ahead.
QUESTION: So are you satisfied with the progress being made on auditing of ballots?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly, and as I mentioned yesterday, we anticipate that will be ramped up, and we’re anticipating a pace of about 1,000 boxes a day as it ramps up.
QUESTION: So you expect the results would be accepted by the two candidates?
MS. PSAKI: They have stated that, certainly, and obviously we’re in the early stages of the review. It’s ramping up quickly, though.
QUESTION: So how many – if you’ve done 102 boxes, that’s out of a total. Do you know the total of boxes to be reviewed?
MS. PSAKI: That was just as of this morning, and I believe as of yesterday, there were just over 30. But again, because observers are – the number of observers are increasing rapidly, we’re expecting to get to a pace of about a thousand boxes a day, so we’re --
QUESTION: But how many total?
QUESTION: Thirty thousand; she just answered that.
QUESTION: Oh, okay. Sorry. Okay, 30,000 boxes.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: All right. Thank you.
QUESTION: India, quick one.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Madam, as far as the previous government was concerned of Dr. Manmohan Singh, a number of issues are pending, including billions of dollars of pipeline, and there are arms purchase, and also civil nuclear agreement. And now the prime minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, in Brazil, he said that time has come now to reform the IMF and the United Nations Security Council. So what I’m asking you: What is the future of those pending issues between the – and this is the question on U.S.-India relations in the past and the future. So what is happening on those issues, arms purchase, and also the civil nuclear agreement, and the reform of the United Nations Security Council and the IMF? And those issues were – we were talking last year and ’12 and ’13, but now no more.
MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re important issues, and I think we’re looking forward to welcoming the new prime minister to the United States, and obviously the Secretary will look forward to visiting India at some point soon, and think a range of other officials will be doing the same.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Sorry, go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead, Lucas.
QUESTION: Jen, last night you put out a tweet concerning your friend and former colleague in the Administration, and that tweet generated a lot of criticism. What is your response to that criticism?
MS. PSAKI: Is there a specific criticism that you want me to respond to?
QUESTION: How about just to all of it?
QUESTION: I think it was that you did not tweet anything about Gaza or anything else, but you tweet that particular tweet.
MS. PSAKI: I actually believe in the use of social media and do it quite frequently and tweet quite frequently. I think you’re referring to an opinion piece that a former colleague of mine wrote about the role women and can play in being both smart and having outside interests, and I think, as a woman, that’s an important message we can send to the world, so --
QUESTION: I guess just critics have said that you use Twitter both for – to convey messages, world events, the Bring Back our Girls, but then when you put out tweets like that, it kind of --
QUESTION: I think the criticism was about the timing because it was after the crash.
QUESTION: Correct, with world events, invasion of Gaza, crash.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, I can assure any critics that I was here yesterday for about 17 hours, and I put out a range of statements. I did about an hour-and-a-half briefing and answer questions all day, and there are – that’s my primary responsibility. But I think all of us, as whether you’re a woman or not, can represent the interests of making the point that you can be studious and smart, and you can also have outside interests, and I think that was the point I was making.
QUESTION: Yesterday I asked you a question about Cambodia and the arrest of some opposition leaders. I understand that you have an answer.
MS. PSAKI: I do. Mm-hmm. We condemn the violence that occurred in Freedom Park on July 15th, so just a couple of days ago, which resulted in injuries to numerous security personnel and protesters. We call on all parties to exercise restraint and to avoid further violence and escalation. We emphasize the importance of due process guarantees and call for the release of the Cambodia National Rescue Party officials. We once again also urge – again urge the Cambodian Government to lift the ban on demonstrations and allow for the peaceful exercise of freedom of assembly.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Were you also asked yesterday about some – by my colleague about --
MS. PSAKI: Burma?
QUESTION: Burma, that’s right.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure.
QUESTION: They arrested some Burmese journalists.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Sure. We are very concerned by reports that journalists and the CEO of the newspaper United Weekly News were sentenced to 10 years of hard labor for publishing investigative stories about a weapons factory. The sentence sends the wrong message about Burma’s commitment to freedom of expression, including for the press. The Burmese Government has made tremendous progress in the last three years working to develop an environment conducive to free, fair, independent media. This is a critical element of a vibrant and well-functioning democracy, and we urge the Government of Burma to continue that trend and respect the right of all journalists.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Should we do the last one in the back?
All right. I have an update on our engagement with the UN. Would you like that?
QUESTION: Oh, yeah. Yes.
MS. PSAKI: Was that your question?
QUESTION: No. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay. Well, too bad. (Laughter.) Why don’t you ask your question and I’ll give that as well.
QUESTION: Okay, okay. Earlier this week, North Korea became a observer member of the Asia Pacific group on money laundering. And I think the U.S. is also a member of this anti-money laundering group. Do you have any comment on this?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have a particular comment on that. I can give you an update on our engagement with the UN, which I know you’ve studiously asked the last couple of days. I can confirm that on July 17th, so just yesterday, we participated – the United States participated in UN Security Council consultations on the serious threat posed by North Korea’s recent series of ballistic missile launches which were June 2nd, July 9th, July 13th. As the council president reported to the press after the consultations, all members of the Security Council, of course, including the United States, condemned these launches as violations of the Security Council resolutions and urged North Korea to fully comply. In the remarks of our representative, we expressed particular concern with the irresponsible manner in which the launches were conducted, jeopardizing the safety of civilian aircraft and ships, and we will continue to monitor the situation closely and consult with our UN Security Council colleagues.
Thank you, everyone. Go have lunch.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:00 p.m.)
DPB # 125