2:26 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon, everyone.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you all for the understanding of the later briefing time. James had a birthday yesterday, so we’ll start with that. Belated, but --
QUESTION: Very kind of you.
MS. PSAKI: And if you note for us, we’ll recognize all of your birthdays for the transcript, without the age unless you ask. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I don't know why he would be embarrassed about 27.
MS. PSAKI: It’s true. You look great for 27. (Laughter.) Okay.
QUESTION: Back at you.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you. I have one item for all of you at the top. It is not only ISIL targeting innocent civilians in Syria. As the – it is also the regime. As the international community works to counter the threat of ISIL, the regime is targeting communities that are also confronting the danger of ISIL and other extremist groups. We condemn in the strongest terms the Syrian regime’s indiscriminate bombing of a densely populated neighborhood in Damascus.
According to eyewitness reporting, hundreds of rockets have struck the neighborhood of Jobar over the past six days. This de facto carpet bombing has utterly destroyed entire city blocks of a neighborhood that has already been targeted by the regime before. We call on the Syrian regime and their patrons to immediately stop the indiscriminate shelling of Jobar and countless other towns across Syria. We have been clear that those responsible for such atrocities must be held accountable.
Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: I’ve got two very brief logistical ones.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The second one goes into what you were just talking about, though. They both have to do with the Secretary’s remarks at the Diplomacy Center. One, I just want to make sure there are seven former living Secretaries of State, right? Not six?
MS. PSAKI: That is correct.
QUESTION: Okay. So --
MS. PSAKI: And they were all invited. Obviously, two were unable to attend.
QUESTION: Okay. I just wanted to make sure of that and that nothing had happened to one of the other two overnight or whatever. And secondly, the Secretary in his comments paid tribute to former Secretary Baker and his diplomacy in the lead-up to the first Gulf War. He said that it was the gold standard of modern coalition-building and one that he would be personally using as he – in the coming days as he goes around the Middle East trying to build a coalition against ISIL.
That struck me as interesting because, of course, one of the main accomplishments of that coalition in 19 – back in the first Gulf War was that Syria was on board in it. I presume that that particular element of the Secretary’s use of Secretary Baker’s gold standard is not – it is not part of it. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: Syria – there’s no way that Syria can be part of your coalition against ISIL.
MS. PSAKI: Nor is that what the United States is pursuing, but let me just give you a little context of the Secretary’s remarks. The Secretary, before he became Secretary – or when he was named Secretary, I should say – spoke a great deal, he reached out to all of the secretaries. He looks at their records, their accomplishments and how they went about diplomacy, and thinks history has a big role to play in how you pursue things moving forward. And I think, certainly, today was an appropriate day to recognize. He also tweeted quite a few times about different accomplishments of different secretaries and their role and reputations and --
QUESTION: I just want to make sure I understand that by calling the – Baker’s coalition building the gold standard of it and saying he’s going to follow it does not indicate that he’s going to be trying to get Syria – this current Assad regime as opposed to the father’s regime – on board?
MS. PSAKI: That is a correct assumption, yes.
MS. PSAKI: However, building a coalition – the United States obviously is not going to go it alone in the fight against ISIL. That is what he is speaking to.
QUESTION: All right. I will yield.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Ladies.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) coalition (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: Hmm? Sure.
QUESTION: The coalition – which are the countries --
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Lalit.
QUESTION: Which are the countries that you are approaching to be part of the coalition?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Lalit, it is not limited by geography. There are a range of countries that the Secretary is reaching out to, that Administration officials are reaching out to. There are already a number of countries that may not be in the Arab world or aren’t in Europe who are already contributing resources and offering assistance to fight ISIL and to address the humanitarian situation in Iraq. So it’s a broad range of countries. Just yesterday, he spoke with his Australian counterpart, his Emirati counterpart, Jordanian counterpart, Qatari, he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu, which I know I mentioned yesterday. He spoke with the Saudi ambassador as well as the Italian foreign minister.
So these calls will continue, as will our travel, which is an important part of diplomacy as well.
QUESTION: Have you asked India also to be part of the coalition as --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Lalit, that as we engage in this effort, which we’re just in the beginning of building this coalition, that certainly reaching out to a range of countries that have a desire to be a part of the coalition is certainly something that the Secretary and others in the Administration will be doing.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can you give us an idea of what kind of resources and assets you might be asking them to contribute?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think this is not as much a demand or a “We ask you to do X.” It is a determination of what resources and assets that any country has, and every country has different capabilities, so it’s a discussion back and forth. I think what we saw with Iraq is – over the past several weeks is a good example, because there are countries that were able to participate or assist in areas like humanitarian aid drops, which require a range of assets that every country may not have. Australia, France, the UK all were assisting in that. There are countries that made decisions to provide arms to the Kurds. So moving forward – but there are also countries that may not have those capabilities or may not choose to go that route. And so there are a range of ways that countries can contribute to the coalition.
QUESTION: You’re not talking about putting people on the ground, though, in that sense?
MS. PSAKI: We are not talking about that, as you know. Obviously, every country makes their own decision, but the focus of our discussion now is about using the resources and the capabilities that a range of countries have to coordinate as we take on the threat of ISIL.
QUESTION: And to touch on Matt’s question yesterday about Syria, what is it that the United States is hoping that the coalition can actually do in Syria given that ISIL doesn’t respect the border between Syria and Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the President and the Administration has also been clear that we’re not going to be limited by geography. Obviously, there are a range of decisions and discussions that are ongoing – or decisions that are ongoing in the Administration, I should say, and decisions that still need to be made. But I’m not going to get into specifics other than to convey that there are a range of ways to take on the threat. There are certainly military steps that can be taken. There are also financial targeting. There’s also efforts to fund engagements that we may be participating in. There also is humanitarian assistance. And so a discussion about all of these issues is what --
QUESTION: But you’re not just focusing on Iraq; you’re also looking at the situation in Syria?
MS. PSAKI: We’re looking at the threat of ISIL as it relates to the global community, certainly the region. But obviously, there are a range of countries that are concerned about this that don’t even live in the region.
QUESTION: Are you finding that any of the countries that the United States is approaching is seeking any reciprocal gestures or measures by the United States?
MS. PSAKI: No. I think, James, that I would point you to the public comments made by a number of the countries that the Secretary even spoke with just yesterday. The threat of ISIL, what we’re seeing in terms of their capabilities, their growth, is of concern not just to the United States but to Italy, to Germany, to Australia, to Saudi Arabia. And I think that these discussions are about how we can best coordinate to address it.
QUESTION: Can you say as a matter of policy that the United States is unwilling to pay any other country to join this coalition?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not even sure if you’re – what you’re referring to, James, so – that’s not what the discussions are about.
QUESTION: Can I ask – going back to the video, the beheading of --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- Mr. Sotloff, is there anything more --
MS. PSAKI: I have a little bit more.
QUESTION: You do? Can you give us what more you have on that, as long as it goes beyond what the White House said, what the NSC said this morning? I mean, well, repeat that if you want.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I will repeat what I know, and obviously there have been a range of remarks made by different people today, so – we did learn about the video when it was made public. I know that was a question that was asked yesterday. They may have already confirmed that.
We have already determined – while the intelligence committee is – community is analyzing the video to learn as much as we can about what happened, where it happened, when it happened, and who was involved, we’ve already determined that the videos were not shot at the same time, with the video of Mr. Sotloff being filmed after the Foley video. Obviously, this video was just made public yesterday, so there are additional questions I’m certain that we’re still looking into that I don’t think I’m going to have more to say.
QUESTION: Can you say how it is that you – that the intel community ascertained that this latest video was filmed at a different time than the Foley one? And does that mean also that the images of Mr. Sotloff that were in the first video, was that – were those taken at a separate time as well?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t go into more detail. I can just confirm for you, as you already know, that before we make a public statement, we certainly do our due diligence in ascertaining it’s accurate. Obviously, that’s why I made that comment. But --
QUESTION: Okay. So the answer is you don’t know or you can’t say or that determination hasn’t been made yet?
MS. PSAKI: Well, ask your second question again. I just --
QUESTION: Well, I’m curious to know if the – you’ve determined – or you just said that the intel community has determined that the videos were shot at – this latest one that came out yesterday was shot at a different time than the Jim Foley video.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: The bit of the Foley video that showed Mr. Sotloff, was that contemporaneous with the more recent one, or was that all – do you think that that was all --
MS. PSAKI: Just to --
QUESTION: Are there two videos or three videos, is what he’s asking in essence.
MS. PSAKI: Well, okay, just so I understand what you’re asking, and I’ll see if I can answer this. Are you asking whether the video that showed him in the video is – that was at the same time as the --
QUESTION: I’m asking – the Foley video had Foley and Sotloff in it.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: That was all shot at the same time, you believe? Or was the Sotloff part of that video shot at a separate time?
MS. PSAKI: I would have to double-check on that.
MS. PSAKI: I just want to be extra careful.
QUESTION: Okay. But – so what you’re saying now is that the video that appeared yesterday was shot at a different time. You’re not prepared to say sooner or later than the --
QUESTION: She said after.
MS. PSAKI: I said after.
QUESTION: Oh, you said after?
MS. PSAKI: After.
QUESTION: Okay. And does that mean anything to you in terms of whether Mr. Sotloff was alive after the Foley video?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just – I don’t have any more analysis at this point in time. I expect we’ll have more as each – as the intel community analysis continues.
QUESTION: Just to clarify Matt’s question for a moment --
MS. PSAKI: Just go – one at a – Said, one moment. Let’s just go one at a time. Go ahead, James.
QUESTION: Just to clarify Matt’s question --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- Mr. Sotloff appeared in two videos.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: And I think Matt’s question was aimed at finding out whether those two appearances of Mr. Sotloff were shot at different times, or whether one videotaping session with Mr. Sotloff was used in two separate videos. Does that make sense?
MS. PSAKI: But you’re talking about the first two videos, not – you’re talking --
QUESTION: We have two videos in which – in each of which Mr. Sotloff can be seen.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: The question I think Matt was posing was whether those two appearances from Mr. Sotloff were recorded in the same session --
MS. PSAKI: Understand.
QUESTION: -- or reflect two different recorded sessions.
MS. PSAKI: Understand. I just have to check with our intel community and see if there’s more we can say on that specific regard.
QUESTION: And are you able to say whether or not the two videos appear to have been shot in the same place?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more. I think – when I said that, obviously, there’s a lot we’re looking at – where it happened, when it happened – those are some of the questions we certainly understand --
QUESTION: Those remain unanswered?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: You don’t know in terms of location? Because I think the Secretary alluded to Syria, like the location where these videos were filmed was in Syria. So you don’t have – you don’t know whether it was actually Syria or Iraq or elsewhere in the --
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly know where he was kidnapped, and we know a lot of details, Said.
QUESTION: Right, yeah.
MS. PSAKI: But again, this video just came out yesterday. I don’t want to guess, as you know. So --
QUESTION: Okay. Going back to --
MS. PSAKI: Did you have a question on the video, or can we finish that?
QUESTION: Not video.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: I have one more, actually. Yesterday I asked a question about the Briton, the British guy who was shown in the second video of Mr. Sotloff. Have you had any contact – again, I asked yesterday – with Britain about that? Do you know about his condition? Any details --
MS. PSAKI: We certainly remain in touch with the UK about any of these issues. I’m not going to have more specifics to read out for you. I would point you to them for any more questions about one of their citizens.
QUESTION: When you say all of these issues, that would include not just the hostage, but also the guy who is doing the killing, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure, of course. Of course. I think Jo was asking specifically about the reports of the individual --
QUESTION: Yeah, I know, but I wanted to make sure you were talking about both.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you happen to know whether the U.S. intelligence community has access to video from these particular recording sessions involving Misters Foley and Sotloff more extensive than what has been released or posted online?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, James.
QUESTION: I have one more – sorry – on the --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, go ahead.
QUESTION: On the guy who is supposedly a British guy who does the killing, do you believe in both videos it is the same person?
MS. PSAKI: We just don’t have any more --
QUESTION: Don’t know that?
MS. PSAKI: -- to offer at this point in time.
QUESTION: As far as the locations of these videos and of these hostages and all these terrorist groups, do anybody, like Syrian Government or any groups – do they know the location where they are, or --
MS. PSAKI: You’d have to ask the Syrian Government that question.
QUESTION: I mean --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. On global coalition --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: How do you deal – how do you find Turkish Government’s willingness to join this coalition while their 49 diplomats are being held captive?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, we remain in touch with the Turkish Government. They have – they certainly share our concern, and I would point you to them about the threat of ISIL. Obviously, every country has different capabilities and different interests in terms of what they will or won’t provide. There’s a range of factors for that. I’m not going to speak on their behalf, so I’d certainly point you to them.
QUESTION: How is the dealing with the Turkish Government in terms of this coalition goes? Because we haven’t heard anything – any supporting statements from the Turkish leadership so far on this issue.
MS. PSAKI: Turkey remains an important ally and one we work closely on addressing counterterrorism. Nothing has changed in that regard, and obviously, if they have announcements to make about what type of capabilities or interests they – or support they may or may not be offering, we’ll leave that to them.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: When the Secretary said the gold standard, I mean, that coalition, I remember half a million soldiers were deployed to Saudi Arabia. He doesn’t mean anything like this? He does not mean that all these countries would send in all these troops and locate them, deploy them, like Turkey or Jordan and so on, and then move forward? He doesn’t mean that, does he?
MS. PSAKI: Look, I think the Secretary was not announcing a military strategy for approaching the threat of ISIL. The Secretary was referring to the hard work of diplomacy that several of his predecessors undertook.
QUESTION: Right. Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, every situation is different. A coalition – the capabilities and what will be required is certainly different now than it would have been 20 years ago.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: Can we move more broadly to the U.S. approach to ISIS and the President’s comments this morning? In just the one appearance in Estonia, the President iterated three times the mission against ISIS, and in all three iterations it seems strikingly different. At one time he spoke about wanting to destroy and degrade ISIS. At another point he spoke about wanting to roll them back. And at still another point he talked about wanting to shrink its sphere of influence to the point where it would be a manageable problem.
Am I correct in identifying those three iterations as markedly different from each other?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important for everybody, including people at home who watch Fox, to look at the context of the remarks that the President made. Certainly, our objective here is to degrade and destroy ISIL. I think the President also said that that’s going to require an ongoing effort, that what we want to see is preventing this group from destroying – or being an ongoing threat to the region.
QUESTION: But how can reducing something to the point where it is a manageable problem be consistent with destroying it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d have to look at the full context, James, but I think it’s understandable that the White House press corps and others who were asking questions asked in many different ways. And obviously, there are many questions to be discussed and answered on this particular issue. But I think there’s no country that has done more than the United States to help Iraq build a coalition, to take on – begin to take on the threat there, to build an international coalition. I think the President’s actions are the most important factor for people to look at.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: I wasn’t asking you about what was escaping the lips of the White House press corps in Estonia. I was asking you about the pronouncements of the President of the United States. And I think you would agree that it is very important, especially in a situation like this, that the President speak with clarity so that the American people at home and people around the world, not least of all the members of ISIS, understand him.
So when he speaks about making something a manageable problem but also speaks about destroying something, can you understand why people might be confused about that and regard it as mixed messaging?
MS. PSAKI: Well, James, with all due respect, I know there sometimes is a desire to twist words or take things out of context, but I think there should be no question that the President’s desire is to degrade and destroy ISIS. He has taken action to do that. I think actions are an important factor, not just a word game of what you think it means. He has been clear he wants to build an international coalition. That’s not going to be overnight. We need capabilities from many countries. And I think his actions tell you what you need to know about his commitment to doing this.
QUESTION: Speaking – just back to the coalition for a second, you mentioned the Secretary’s calls yesterday – Australia, UAE, Jordan, Qatar, Netanyahu, Saudi ambassador, Italian foreign minister. So is it safe to assume that these countries represented here will be – are prime candidates for the – for coalition membership?
MS. PSAKI: I think that these countries are all countries that have a concern about the threat that we face from ISIL, but I’m not going to speak on their behalf.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: Many of them have already taken steps in Iraq.
QUESTION: And then I just want to go back to one thing. In the conversation with Prime Minister Netanyahu, which I’m sure we will get back to --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- later on, did the question of Mr. Sotloff’s citizenship come up?
MS. PSAKI: I – let me see what I have on the call, Matt.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as you know, the Secretary spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu just yesterday, last evening. They discussed issues, of course, related to the Palestinians, including Gaza as well as ISIS and other regional issues. I’d have to check and see if that level of specificity came up.
QUESTION: Okay. In terms of his citizenship, do you know – was the U.S. aware pretty much after he went missing that he was an Israeli – that he had Israeli citizenship? And was this an extra concern of yours about – is this an extra – something else that made you concerned about his safety that would, perhaps in addition to what you – your concerns about other hostages?
MS. PSAKI: I know we were aware at some point in time; I don’t have a timeline and exactly when we were made aware. I can see if there’s more to convey on that. In terms of our level of concern, I think our level of concern was certainly already at a very high point, so --
QUESTION: No. Obviously. But I mean that this is another circumstance --
MS. PSAKI: Certainly.
QUESTION: -- an extenuating circumstance that may have increased your – I don’t know. Maybe it didn’t; maybe it did. That’s what I’m asking.
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check with our team and see if it raised the bar further than it already was.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- Kerry call?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: The Secretary certainly raised his concern about the expropriation of land, correct, for a new settlement?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, he did.
QUESTION: Okay. Now are you aware that today the Israelis announced further settlement building in east Jerusalem for 2,200 units just now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think in our statement just yesterday we --
QUESTION: I mean, I’m talking about today.
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. We talked about concerns about upcoming settlement announcements that had been reported, so we had addressed that in some capacity. Certainly, I haven’t looked at those specific details, nor have I talked with our team about them, but think we’ve been clear about our concern about these type of actions. Obviously, different places are slightly different, but that hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: Will the Secretary feel snubbed, I mean, considering that he brought up the topic with the Israeli prime minister last night, and today they announced another settlement building plans?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I don’t think we expect that when we raise concerns there’s always going to be immediate change. What we do have a responsibility to do is raise concerns when we have them, to express the United States view that we don’t recognize the legitimacy of settlements, we think it’s unproductive to moving forward towards a two-state solution, and those are all concerns that are worthy of expressing.
QUESTION: Okay. So now you are – you express concern and so on, but – and you said that they don’t have immediate results and so on, but in your recent memory, have the Israelis rolled back any settlement plans as a result of your expression of displeasure?
MS. PSAKI: There certainly have been times, and obviously there were times when announcements weren’t made as well. But I’m not going to do a history lesson with you here, Said.
QUESTION: Was the Secretary given assurance from Netanyahu that he was – they were going to stop or --
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more to read out from the call. I would point you to them if they would choose to say more.
QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit about the tone of the call? The Israeli press, notably Haaretz, is saying that the Secretary was highly critical of the decision. I mean, that’s more than just concerned. It sounds like he actually stepped up the tone.
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to characterize it further.
QUESTION: And what about --
QUESTION: Concerning --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.
QUESTION: Concerning the Administration’s view of these recent moves, does the Secretary regard them as the kind of moves that he has previously warned the Israeli Government would be the kind of moves that would result, potentially in boycotts and other adverse measures against the Israeli Government?
MS. PSAKI: I think you’re familiar with not just what has been said in the past, but – by the Secretary, but what others have said outside of the Administration. So --
QUESTION: In other words, he warned about this prospect previously, if Israel didn’t change its course. Now they have announced new moves. Is this the kind of thing the Secretary had in mind when he issued that warning?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to address that further.
Go ahead, Lesley.
QUESTION: I was going to ask about the meeting – and I guess it’s this afternoon with Erekat --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- the Palestinian negotiator.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: They are – and there are reports out of the region today that he’s going to bring a plan to the Secretary. Have you – have they reviewed that plan? I mean, does he know about it? Have they discussed it? What time is the meeting?
MS. PSAKI: They don’t have – I believe they’re meeting this afternoon. I don’t have an exact time for you. It may have been on our public schedule.
MS. PSAKI: But – I’m sorry, Said?
QUESTION: No, go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I didn’t see it on --
MS. PSAKI: But the focus of the meeting will certainly be on hearing their proposals and I’m sure asking some tough questions. We don’t have all the details about what they intend to produce or what their plans are, so certainly that will be part of the discussion. They’ll also, of course, discuss the negotiations that the Egyptians will convene in Cairo pertaining to Gaza, and so that will be a part of the discussion as well.
QUESTION: I want to go back to your description of what you said a little while ago about when you raise concerns you don’t necessarily expect immediate change. Do you expect change at all?
MS. PSAKI: Of course we expect and would like to see change. We ask for decisions to be reversed. But I also think there is a role to – that we need to play as a government in conveying our concerns when we have them, and that’s part of what we do as well.
QUESTION: Right. But getting back to what Said was saying, I mean have you – in a situation like this, where an announcement has been made, and you come out and say we think this announcement has been reversed, when – so when do you expect – if it’s going to be immediate that they’re going to reverse it, when is it exactly that you expect their --
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, our strong preference would have been that they didn’t announce it to begin with, as you know, and that they didn’t make these decisions to begin with.
QUESTION: I don’t know that you – you mean before it was announced, you guys went to the Israelis and said, “Hey, it would be a really bad idea if you did this. Don’t do it”?
MS. PSAKI: I think there’s no secret about our position and our view on the legitimacy of settlements.
QUESTION: No, no. But I mean specific – but specifically, do you know --
MS. PSAKI: That’s not what I was saying. I think – let’s – I think we all know what the United States position is on settlements.
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m not --
MS. PSAKI: It would not be a surprise to any Israeli government about what our view would be. So my point is that it’s not – that’s not a new – I don’t think our concern about this was --
QUESTION: Okay. But what might be a surprise to the Israeli Government is if you did something about it, other than just say you’re opposed to it and you should change your mind. I mean, is there – so if you don’t see results or a reversal in the immediate term, or the intermediate – or intermediate term, or even the long term, what happens?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I’m not here to project that. I think it’s – we have an important relationship with Israel.
QUESTION: I’m not doubting that.
MS. PSAKI: We certainly express our concerns when we have them. There are a range of countries that have expressed their concerns about these type of activities. Obviously we feel it’s not just in the United States interest, it’s in Israel’s interest to take steps that would be conducive to being able, at some point, to move toward a two-state solution.
MS. PSAKI: And this makes it challenging for the other side.
QUESTION: I have a related question. This has to do with Gaza and fishing rights. Are you aware of reports that the Israelis are prohibiting Palestinian fishermen from going out as far as they are – should be allowed to under the ceasefire agreement? I believe it’s like six miles offshore.
MS. PSAKI: I was not aware that that was an issue. I know, obviously, the fishing rights was a part of the agreement.
MS. PSAKI: But --
QUESTION: So you’re not aware that that’s being infringed – that that has being infringed upon.
MS. PSAKI: I had not seen that that had been infringed.
QUESTION: Okay. Perhaps --
MS. PSAKI: I can certainly check on that.
QUESTION: I also want to just --
QUESTION: Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: No, go.
QUESTION: Is yours about fishing?
QUESTION: No, about Israel though. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Another fishing question.
QUESTION: I wanted to find out – yeah. I just want to make clear. Did you – was – we had a recent announcement of the settlements by the Israelis. Did that come as a surprise to you, or did you – were you aware of it before and then you warned the Israelis don’t do that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there were a range of reports in Israeli press. I don’t have any other information on whether – when we knew. But there were a range of reports that were happening for days.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask on the call, did the prime minister mention to the Secretary that Israel’s sending a delegation here, I believe next week, to talk about Iran? I guess it’s all feeding up towards the UNGA sessions that are going to happen later on this month, but they’ve announced out of Jerusalem this morning that’s what they’re planning to do. Is – was that one of the issues that was raised in the conversation?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. I can see if there was more, Jo, about that particular issue that they discussed.
QUESTION: About the West Bank --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- related question. The Israelis have been using a really heavy hand in the West Bank lately, arresting legislators, it doesn’t matter what political color or what political party they belong to, and so they could be communist or Hamas-affiliated. But also they’re killing more people at checkpoints, at – on the roads. Today, they bombed a dairy in Hebron, unnecessarily and so on. Are you concerned that these things may actually – sort of they add fuel to the fire, so to speak?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I’m not sure that everything you said is accurate, so let me check on that and see if there’s more we want to offer from here.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I can assure you that there was a dairy that was bombed today.
MS. PSAKI: When we have concerns, we express them. And if we decide to do that, we will do that.
QUESTION: Can I go back to Syria to finish Syria questions?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Syrian opposition forces in north of Syria and east of Syria have offered targeting information on ISIL positions. What has been the U.S. response to this information?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of the report you’re referring to or where it appeared. You can send it to us and --
QUESTION: This is by the Syrian FSA spokesman in Washington. They said that they offered this. Let me ask this way: Is there any active collaboration between the FSA forces and the US against ISIL right now in northern Syria or east Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly we remain closely engaged with the members of the Free Syrian Army and obviously we’re continuing to provide a range of assistance. And the threat of ISIL and the concern we have about that is shared, but that’s not the focus of our efforts at this point in time.
QUESTION: Again, on Syria, Washington Post over the weekend reported that U.S. State Department denied visa for 12 Syrian refugee women who were supposed to come here. These are Syrian women who were supposed to come Washington for a play in Georgetown University, and the State Department rejected these women’s applications.
MS. PSAKI: They were applying for refugee status --
MS. PSAKI: -- or they were applying for visas?
QUESTION: For visa as an entertainer to come Washington --
MS. PSAKI: To enter to be in the play?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not familiar with the circumstances. We can see if there’s more we can share on that specifically.
Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: And one more on Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Last one. In the first 10 months of fiscal year of 2014, it looks like the U.S. admitted grand total of 63 Syrian refugees while about 3.5 million refugees in countries in the Middle East. It looks like U.S. only accepted 63. Do you think this – something is wrong with this picture?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we should provide you with a little more information on how the refugee process works not just in the United States, but through the UN. There are certain asks that are made to countries to make room for or begin a process. That’s something that’s relatively new and has been ongoing. We’ve indicated our openness here, so why don’t we get you a little more information on that, and we can talk about it a little bit more.
QUESTION: In terms of U.S. coalition building --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- is there a certain timeframe that the U.S. has in mind in which it would like to see enough partners onboard to proceed to the next step in terms of Iraq and Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t equate it as being until we have a coalition of X number of partners there won’t be additional action. Obviously, we’ve already taken steps in Iraq and there are a range of countries that have taken steps. This is a process that will be ongoing. As the President said, this is not a challenge that can be addressed overnight, and so certainly we’ll have an ongoing discussion about the capabilities and capacities of different countries in this regard, and that’s one that we’re obviously spending a great deal of time focused on over the coming weeks. So we’ll see where we end at the end of that period of time.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What about Iran’s role? Will you accept Iran to participate in the global coalition?
MS. PSAKI: They’re not a country – that’s a country that, as we’ve noted in the past, they can play a role by encouraging inclusivity and encouraging all of the different political sects to work together in Iraq, but beyond that, no, we’re not working with Iran on this regard.
QUESTION: I’m trying to drill down a little bit on this coalition thing, but I won’t take long. I promise.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Of the three most recent coalitions that the U.S. has put together – the Gulf War coalition, first one; the post-9/11 coalition, war on terrorism; and then the coalition of the willing for the second Iraq war – they were all kind of formalized. There was a list put together by people in this building and at the White House and at the Pentagon. Is this that same kind of thing, or is it more of an informal collection of countries that are not going to be identified as a coalition of the willing or a coalition of whatever it is that one decides it’s going to be called?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we have to see, Matt. I mean there are countries that --
QUESTION: Well, what’s the idea? What’s the President – what is it the President and the Secretary want? Do they want that kind of a coalition where you’re either signed up, on board, you’ve checked off the list? Or is it more of just a kind of a loose --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think the requirement is that a country signs a document. I think there --
QUESTION: You know what I mean. I mean is it going to be some kind of grand, formal coalition, or is it just kind of a loose association of people of likeminded countries?
MS. PSAKI: It’s really more the latter, Matt, but obviously we’re at a stage in this where we are just beginning the discussions about --
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: -- what roles individual countries can play.
QUESTION: All right. But you said that there’s no geographic limit to this, but you’ve ruled out two countries so far as participating I think, Syria and Iran.
MS. PSAKI: I said it’s not limited by geography. It doesn’t mean that every country in the world --
QUESTION: Unless your geography is Syria or Iran.
MS. PSAKI: Well, what I was conveying, which I think I explained in the context --
MS. PSAKI: -- was that there are countries in Asia and other parts of the world --
MS. PSAKI: -- that are not next to Syria --
QUESTION: Fair enough.
MS. PSAKI: -- that will play a role.
QUESTION: What about Russia? Are they – no, I’m serious. I mean is – are Russia – I mean the Russians have been allied with President Assad, who you say is not welcome to join. Are they worthy of admission or worthy of consideration for admission? Or should they not even bother to apply – don’t write the essay, don’t --
MS. PSAKI: That’s not how we’re looking at this, Matt. I think, obviously, if countries want to play a constructive role in the fight against ISIL that that’s a discussion we’re happy to have. But I think there are a range of countries that have been more constructive in this regard.
QUESTION: And your ultimate goal, is it the destruction of ISIL? Is that the ultimate goal? Or is it wider than that, to ensuring stability in Iraq and ensuring stability in Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s --
QUESTION: What’s the ultimate goal of this coalition?
MS. PSAKI: It’s both. I mean, you want to end the threat that – from ISIL that the region is facing. Obviously, destroying and degrading ISIL would be – would result in that. But certainly, that’s part of an effort to strengthen countries in the region as well, and other steps that countries in the region have to take on their own even as we’re encouraging them – Iraq and others that are forming a government or taking more productive steps to be more cohesive and --
QUESTION: So the initial line would be to try to deal with the threat of ISIL or ISIS, or whatever they call themselves now, and then more broadly work towards political stability? Is that – in both those countries?
MS. PSAKI: No, no, it’s – this is – I think political processes in some countries like Iraq are important to take on the threat of ISIL. Obviously, there are efforts that the United States undergoes and a range of countries undergoes every day to help promote stability in the region. But certainly, ISIL is posing a threat. This is a coalition to address the threat of ISIL. There are a range of causes of that and there are a range of steps countries can take to address it. It depends on where we’re talking about.
QUESTION: Jen, the stated position of the GCC countries and Jordan and all these countries, and Turkey, is really to fight ISIL. Why not formalize it? Why not have a coalition similar to that that took place in 1990 and ’91 or thereafter?
MS. PSAKI: Said, I think we think this is the best approach at this point in time, so that’s why we’re pursuing it.
QUESTION: One more?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Madam, as far as this coalition is concerned, this mission will continue to the United Nations next – I mean, later this month? And second, as far as this group is concerned, many people are asking that is this part of – or with a new name or part of al-Qaida, or who are really behind this group? I mean, is there a new name and in the future then we will have another group maybe going after this group now? So what is the future, people are asking.
MS. PSAKI: Wow, that’s a big question.
QUESTION: Predict the future. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Well, just briefly, the history is that, of course, al-Qaida and ISIL are no longer affiliated. They were once affiliated. So obviously, we’re concerned about the growth of groups like ISIL. There are other terrorist organizations, al-Shabaab and others around the world, that we were also concerned about. So taking on the threat that we face is not just limited to ISIL, but certainly, given the events of the last several months, it’s a primary area of focus.
QUESTION: And you will take this to the United Nations later this month as far as building coalition and in getting them to --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I’m – I don’t want to predetermine what that process will be or what the final outcome will be. Obviously, there will be a meeting that the President chairs on foreign fighters at the UN General Assembly meetings. I’m certain this will be a topic of discussion. But we’ve got a few weeks till we get there.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Ukraine --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- and Russia, please.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: So the President was quite tough on Russia in his speech – his various appearances today in Estonia. And I just want to make sure, does that – was he fully aware of – had he been briefed – and I realize you don’t speak for the White House. But there appears to be some progress towards a ceasefire agreement between the Ukrainians and the Russians after this conversation that Putin and Poroshenko had. Do you know – I mean, have you just – has the Administration and the President dismissed that apparent progress, or was it really not settled yet by the time he made his strong comments?
MS. PSAKI: Well, just over the course, I think, you may have seen President Poroshenko’s comments about these reports of an agreed ceasefire, where he indicated that it was a discussion.
MS. PSAKI: Our view is that if President Putin is prepared to stop financing, arming, and training separatists and remove Russian troops from Ukraine, those are objectives, of course, not only would we support but certainly the Ukrainians would support. And President Putin’s plan certainly does not do that. So as of now, I think there’s a great deal more work to be done. And President Putin has had a lot of words but not backed them with actions, and that’s essentially what we feel needs to happen from here.
QUESTION: Okay. So you think that his seven-point plan is not worth pursuing, or it is worth pursuing, but – what is it that --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – and I think I would of course point to President Poroshenko and his comments. But there were issues, core issues that were not addressed, including what to do about the Russian engagement in this incursion. And I think that’s an obviously big factor here.
QUESTION: Okay. So I just want to make sure that I understand the Administration’s position is that this whatever it is, whatever resulted from this conversation, is not – does not go nearly far enough from the Russian side.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think outside of the United States, one, as I understand, the Kremlin and Russian-backed separatists have already backed away from it and President Poroshenko has spoken publicly to it. So it’s not for us to determine, but there are several issues, of course, including the arming and training of separatists and the assistance and financing that Russia is providing that would need to be addressed. And there have been several plans put forward by President Poroshenko as well that can certainly be the basis of a discussion.
QUESTION: Is Poroshenko --
QUESTION: Do you expect their plan to tide President Putin over through NATO – I mean, is – has he bought himself some time here a day before NATO?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I understand it, Lesley, the Kremlin and the Russian-backed separatists are already backing away. And President Poroshenko has spoken to it as well. So the discussion at NATO – and I think the President had some pretty strong words about NATO and what NATO should do to support Ukraine and support the people of Ukraine, and that discussion and the ongoing coordination efforts around additional consequences hasn’t changed and hasn’t been changed by the events of the last 24 hours.
QUESTION: And then to do with Russia, I mean, you saw the French have decided they will delay the delivery of the Mistral. Do you think that was a good decision?
MS. PSAKI: We do think that was a wise decision.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you --
QUESTION: Do you got any more to say about that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d certainly point you to them for more details. I know they gave sort of an outline of why they did it and for what reasons, and I’d point you to that. But we certainly support their decision.
QUESTION: Okay. So just – it was a wise decision that you support. That’s all. You don’t want to say anything more about the fact that you’ve had to --
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ll -
QUESTION: -- drag them kicking and screaming to get to this point.
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ll leave it at that, Matt.
QUESTION: There are some military exercises that will take place in western Ukraine, I think, by NATO in mid-month. Can you speak to that?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. You’re talking about the EUCOM exercises?
This month EUCOM will be participating with Ukraine in two annual pre-planned exercises. Both are designed to improve interoperability while promoting regional stability and security, strengthening international military partnering, and fostering trust. There’s one in the middle of September and certainly the – and then there’s one later in September. We, of course, have done these exercises before, so this is a continuation of that.
QUESTION: So Russia should not take this as, in any way, a threat to it?
MS. PSAKI: No. They’re annual, they’re pre-planned, and I think there was awareness of them in advance.
QUESTION: But considering what has transpired in the last year since these exercises were held --
MS. PSAKI: They’re not being held in response to current events. So no, they should not.
QUESTION: It’s with Ukraine – it’s U.S. and Ukrainian – NATO, U.S. – obviously U.S. if it’s NATO, and/or is it U.S.?
MS. PSAKI: It’s the United States and – they’re hosted by the United States and Ukraine. I’m not aware of a NATO component.
QUESTION: In Ukraine. And it – do you see what the – if it’s about interoperability, and – do you see why the Russians might be suspicious of something like that?
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: I mean, Ukraine is not a member of NATO.
MS. PSAKI: Correct, but Ukraine is a space --
QUESTION: It’s not as if the U.S. – I mean, is it for Ukraine sending troops to join an ISAF-type expedition outside of Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, one, this is, again, pre-planned and annual exercises.
QUESTION: Fair enough.
MS. PSAKI: So we certainly understand the context. But I don’t think – I can’t change Russians’ views, but that, I think, is important context about why we’re – why these are taking place and why we’re continuing to participate in them. Wouldn’t it be odd if we canceled them? That would be strange.
QUESTION: Well, they were – weren’t they delayed from earlier this year?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have the exact timeline, but I think, again, there’s – these are exercises we planned before.
QUESTION: But you think the conditions right now in Ukraine – I don’t know exactly where in the country these are going to be, but the conditions in southeast Ukraine, which are not good right now, are --
MS. PSAKI: They’re taking place – I can tell you --
QUESTION: But the condition of the country in general – Ukraine, that is – is okay enough for this – these exercises to go on?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re taking --
QUESTION: The Ukrainian military, in other words, isn’t needed --
MS. PSAKI: They’re taking place in northwestern Ukraine. It’s going to involve – let’s see – approximately 200 U.S. soldiers. Oh, there are – and in total there are 1,300 – let’s see – let me check on the NATO component of it for you just to make sure I have it --
QUESTION: Okay. But you’re not concerned that Ukrainian troops might be needed elsewhere?
MS. PSAKI: I think exercises are an important part of our cooperation with many countries, including Ukraine.
QUESTION: Madam --
MS. PSAKI: Okay, I can do a few more here.
QUESTION: Jen, yesterday you haven’t confirmed independently the presence of Russian troops in Ukraine. But today, President Obama – I quote – told that Russian forces have moved into Ukraine with tanks, with weapons, and this not a subject to dispute. Has something changed --
MS. PSAKI: We’ve said that many times before, and I actually said yesterday that we’d said it many times before. So it’s been – consistently we’ve said that for a couple of weeks now.
QUESTION: So you think it’s is a fact. So it’s – you think that Russian presence in Ukraine is a fact. Military presence.
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry. I’m not understanding your question.
QUESTION: Is a fact.
QUESTION: It’s a fact.
MS. PSAKI: Is a fact? We’ve long – we’ve stated for some time now. Yes.
QUESTION: Quick on Turkey?
MS. PSAKI: On Turkey, and then we’ll go to Jo. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Who do you accept in Turkey as a main interlocutor, as a chief executive in Turkey?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what the genesis of your question is. I think we all know who’s elected there and who the Secretary speaks to. But did you --
QUESTION: No, look, this is a very serious question, actually. The former U.S. official Andrew (inaudible) wrote a piece yesterday and arguing that U.S. basically doesn’t know who to talk to in Turkey since this is the first time ever elected president there. Also the prime minister who U.S. used to talk to is a main actor in Turkey.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary speaks with Foreign Minister Davutoglu, who is his counterpart. Obviously, the prime minister – Prime Minister Erdogan, now President Erdogan, certainly the appropriate counterparts we’ll speak to. I don’t think there’s a mystery in our view.
QUESTION: So President Obama, when he calls Turkey he calls – he’s supposed to call the President Erdogan or Prime Minister Davutoglu?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the White House on that question.
QUESTION: I have --
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you if you had any more information about the operation in Somalia yesterday, whether you had managed to ascertain whether the al-Shabaab senior figure had been killed or not.
MS. PSAKI: I unfortunately don’t have any additional details. Obviously, this was DOD-led, so I expect any additional details would come from there first. I think I confirmed yesterday, but for those of you who weren’t here, that U.S. military forces conducted an operation in Somalia over the weekend against the al-Shabaab network. But in terms of other specifics, I – we don’t have that at this point in time.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: On the issue of the three American detainees in North Korea, what if North Korea want direct talks with United States to using these three U.S. citizens? Then will the United States accept the North Korean’s request?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, the safety and security of American citizens, including, certainly, those who were detained overseas as an utmost priority to the United States and to Secretary Kerry. This is an issue that – certainly on the forefront of our minds. We have offered in the past to send Ambassador Bob King there. A trip was canceled twice. We’re going to leave no stone unturned in this case, and we certainly have means of communicating. But I don’t have any additional updates for you.
QUESTION: Just whether --
QUESTION: Do you not think – I mean, I guess the three gentlemen were put on the TV because perhaps North Korea is willing to deal now. And maybe they want somebody with a higher profile, unfortunately, than Ambassador King. Would the United States be willing to try and get somebody, as in the past – President Clinton or President Carter or Governor Richardson to go?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we saw their comments, Jo, and I think as I mentioned we’re going to leave no stone unturned, of course, in this case, but we’re not going to outline all of our efforts publicly. So we’ll work those privately, and obviously our objective here is to see the safe return home of these individuals who were detained in North Korea.
QUESTION: And North Korea wants former President Clinton or former President Bush want to come back to pick --
MS. PSAKI: I think Jo just asked the same question, which was a good question, but I don’t --
QUESTION: Yeah. Okay. Thanks.
MS. PSAKI: -- have anything more to offer to you.
MS. PSAKI: I can just do a couple more here, so let me get to – okay, go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: We’re done, just a quick thing. Will Libya readout on the meeting between Erekat and the Secretary of State?
MS. PSAKI: We don’t typically do readouts of those types of meetings. I will see if there’s anything more we can offer to you, Said. I certainly understand the interest.
Go ahead, Lalit.
QUESTION: On Afghanistan, are you worried that Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and (inaudible)
have not been able to reach an agreement on a unity government? The counting is still going on.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, we continue to expect both candidates will abide by the August 8th joint declaration that reaffirmed their commitment to a unified Afghanistan. We believe the electoral process can be completed soon. Obviously, a discussion about our shared commitment to Afghanistan will certainly be a part of what takes place at NATO when the President is there tomorrow.
QUESTION: But there has been no call by Secretary to these Afghan leaders in the last one week?
MS. PSAKI: He engages with them regularly. I don’t have anything to read out for you. I can see if there’s more we can offer on that front.
QUESTION: The last time he engaged with them in person, they both promised him that they were going to get this done by the time the NATO summit opens. I believe the summit opens tomorrow. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is it still your understanding that they are going to have a president-elect at least to send to the NATO summit?
MS. PSAKI: Well, at this point, Matt, it is our expectation that Afghanistan will be represented by the minister of defense. Obviously, there’s an ongoing process that is taking place. It’s continuing. I think the preference of everybody would have been to see the process concluded, but we hope the – and expect – believe, I should say, the electoral process can be completed soon.
QUESTION: Well, is that a disappointment? Because, I mean, essentially, these guys reneged on their pledge to the Secretary and to the people of Afghanistan.
MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with that. I think this --
MS. PSAKI: -- has been an ongoing process. The – both camps have continued to meet with each other and with UN officials. It’s ongoing. We knew it wouldn’t be easy. Afghanistan will be represented at NATO, and obviously, we are hopeful it will conclude soon.
QUESTION: One more?
MS. PSAKI: I can just do about two more here, so let me do one more, Lalit --
MS. PSAKI: -- and then we’ll do the two in the back. Go ahead.
QUESTION: When last year the elections were held in Pakistan, both the President and the Secretary had congratulated people of Pakistan for the successful elections, which was considered as free and fair at that point of time. Do you still consider the elections free and fair or do you go by what Imran Khan saying it was rigged?
MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed in our view. You know how closely we’re watching the situation. As I understand in Pakistan, the protests have died down and things have calmed a bit in the streets. I also want to make clear that our Embassy is fully open there in Islamabad. I know there was some confusion about that yesterday.
QUESTION: A small one?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, Lalit.
MS. PSAKI: I have to just do two more and then – because I have to run. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Not at this point. As you mentioned, and I think some of you may be aware, was that – we announced it, I believe – that she has been in Nigeria for the past couple of days and certainly addressing the threat of Boko Haram has been part of those discussions. We can see if there’s more of a readout to offer. Sometimes we deal with time changes and things of that sort.
QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up in the question I asked yesterday --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- about the prime minister, Prime Minister Abe changing his cabinet.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: That news came out today, so I just wanted to follow up with you.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, yes. We welcome the announcement of the new Japanese cabinet. We fully expect that our close cooperation with the Government of Japan across the board on a broad range – excuse me – of regional and global issues will continue to deepen, and we certainly believe that strong and constructive relations between our country and Japan, but also among countries in the region, is important to peace and stability.
QUESTION: Thank you, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone. I’m sorry. I have to go to a meeting. I apologize.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:21 p.m.)