1:58 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
MS. PSAKI: Welcome back, Lucas. I just have one item at the top. The United States looks forward to welcoming Indian Prime Minister Modi for his visit to Washington, D.C. today and tomorrow. The United States and India have a broad and deep relationship, and we look forward to talks with Prime Minister Modi and concrete steps to further our strategic partnership.
As many of you know, President Obama will host Prime Minister Modi for a private working dinner tonight as well as a bilateral meeting tomorrow at the White House. Secretary Kerry will join Vice President Biden – the Secretary will participate in that meeting. Secretary Kerry will join Vice President Biden in welcoming the prime minister to a lunch tomorrow at the State Department with members of Congress, the private sector, and the Indian-American diaspora.
Discussions with Prime Minister Modi will cover the full range of bilateral issues, such as partnering with India on its economic goals and objectives, including its priorities in infrastructure, manufacturing, and skills, and how we can continue efforts to removing impediments to expanding bilateral trade to $500 billion annually. We will also discuss India’s energy security, including the use of clean energy and clean technology to meet the needs of India’s population. We also look forward to discussing Prime Minister Modi’s domestic objectives for India, including his focus on sustainable development for all Indians, sanitation and security and defense, and how the United States can partner with Prime Minister Modi on these priorities. So obviously there’s quite a bit to talk about.
One other topper. The United States welcomes the September 28th announcement by the United Kingdom regarding their launch of a round of talks among the parties of the Northern Ireland Executive with the participation of London and Dublin. We urge all the parties to seize this opportunity to find a way forward on the issues that divide them. We support this initiative to help Northern Ireland build strong institutions, a vibrant economy, and an enduring peace.
With that --
QUESTION: Right. I’m sure we’ll get back to President Modi, but I want to start with the Middle East.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: On Friday, Jen, you had some pretty critical comments of President Abbas’s speech. You said that he used offensive language and that it was, essentially, unacceptable. And the Palestinians, you will not be surprised, aren’t very happy about that. They’ve said that your reaction to President Abbas’s speech was inappropriate and unwarranted, that they ignored the fact that they said – or the facts – and assign blame exclusively to the Palestinians for the failure of the – of Secretary Kerry’s effort in the peace talks and that you don’t have the courage to name the party responsible for obstructing that effort, quote, “namely Israel.” And I was just wondering what you make of that, of that criticism. Clearly you don’t agree with it, but do you think that your statement, your comments on Friday, did do that and placed all the blame on the Palestinians?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, it was not just my view, of course. It was the view of Secretary Kerry and the United States Government. I was speaking on their behalf. Second, I think his – President Abbas is a friend of Secretary’s. The Palestinian people are friends of the United States. But we felt the speech warranted a strong response, in terms of some of the statements that were made. As it relates to the peace process – which, as we know, nothing has changed; it’s still frozen – but it remains our view that the peace process was no longer moving forward as a few months ago, or stopped moving forward I should say, because both parties didn’t take steps that were – would have been required to move forward. So it was not meant to place blame. It was meant to speak to what we feel is productive in terms of moving toward a two-state solution.
QUESTION: All right. The other thing they said is that it was no surprise that your, quote, “inflammatory remarks” came out on the eve of the visit to Washington by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Is that the reason for the timing, or was it the fact that the – that President Abbas had given his speech earlier that day?
MS. PSAKI: They were in response to questions many of you all, understandably, had about our response to President Abbas’s speech.
QUESTION: So it didn’t have anything to do with Prime Minister Netanyahu at all?
MS. PSAKI: It did not.
QUESTION: Or it did?
MS. PSAKI: It did not, no.
MS. PSAKI: I did.
QUESTION: I just wanted – this will be very quick. I just want to go through a couple things that he said and ask you – because the White House briefing was going on at the same time, and I don’t think --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- your colleague over there got any questions about it. Just want to run through a few things that he said and see if the Administration agrees with him. One, he has a theory or believes that Hamas, ISIS, Iran – and Iran are basically kind of all part of the same big thing, which is this – what he would call a scourge of militant Islam. Do you – does the Administration agree with that?
MS. PSAKI: (Inaudible) never heard us state it in that way. We believe they’re both terrorist organizations. We obviously believe that ISIL poses a different threat to the United States, based on, of course, the military action and other efforts that are underway. We don’t believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu or anyone else from Israel is suggesting that the United States launch a military campaign against Hamas, so we certainly – they are both designated terrorist organizations under the United States designations, but certainly we see differences --
QUESTION: Well --
MS. PSAKI: -- in terms of the threat and otherwise. But go ahead.
QUESTION: But he’s – he linked them with Iran as well, and saying that Shia – it doesn’t really matter, Shia or Sunni, they essentially all want the same thing, which is a Muslim caliphate dominating the world. Do you – does the Administration believe that that is the case, that Hamas, ISIS, Iran, Hezbollah, these other groups, Boko Haram, the ones that you mentioned, are all part of the same kind of militant Muslim --
QUESTION: -- Islamic attempt to rule the world?
MS. PSAKI: We would not agree with that characterization, no.
QUESTION: Okay. And --
QUESTION: And --
QUESTION: Hold on. I’ve just got one more. The other thing is that he was quite critical of the UN system in general, but in particular of the UN Human Rights Commission. You have also been critical of the UN Human Rights Commission, but he went so far as to call it – say that what it’s doing is akin to – it should be – it might as well be called the “UN Terrorist Commission.” Would you agree with that?
MS. PSAKI: We would not agree with that. We have obviously voiced concerns when we have them about actions that are taken, but no, we would certainly not agree with that characterization.
QUESTION: One more --
QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to follow up on the --
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Why don’t we go Arshad, Said, and then we can go – go ahead, Arshad.
QUESTION: Do you concur with his – with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s judgment that a nuclear-armed Iran would be – would pose a far greater threat to the world than Islamic State militants?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as I noted a little bit in my answer to Matt’s question, obviously we’re taking on both threats because we feel both are important. And with the Iran – the case of Iran and the creation of a – the acquiring of a nuclear weapon, I should say, over the past week and a half, as you know because you followed this closely, the Secretary had two trilateral meetings; there were countless hours of meetings between – on the technical level. Obviously we’re spending a great deal of time and energy because we are concerned, as is Israel, about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. I’m certainly not going to do rank order. I think obviously we’re equally – or we’re also concerned about the threat of ISIL, given all of the energy that we’re putting into that.
QUESTION: Can I ask just on – going from what Matt said. I didn’t actually see the speech myself, I’m afraid, but if Prime Minister Netanyahu suggested that the UN should be called the “UN Terrorist Commission,” would you not say that that was offensive language?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve spoken about our concerns in the past. We certainly wouldn’t characterize it that way. We don’t see the need for heated rhetoric. But obviously there are times when we certainly agree, and we’ve expressed concerns, as Matt noted, in the past as well about the same organization and how they operate.
QUESTION: But you don’t think equating the world UN body to a terrorist --
QUESTION: It was the Human Rights Commission.
QUESTION: -- or was it the Human Rights Commission? I --
MS. PSAKI: I think we certainly haven’t used that language. I think that speaks to how we view it.
MS. PSAKI: I think – I don’t think I need to repeat it, Said. I --
QUESTION: I mean, do you find the whole speech offensive?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sure, knowing you – knowing you, I’m sure you read it closely and --
QUESTION: I read it very closely, but --
MS. PSAKI: -- and there are the – were the use – was the use of some terminology in there that we felt we needed to speak to.
MS. PSAKI: But I don’t think I need to outline that from here.
QUESTION: Okay. So you find the – that the terminology he used, as genocide; that’s offensive? Is that it?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think – I think I would point you to --
QUESTION: But --
MS. PSAKI: Said, let me finish. I’ve already spoken to this. I don’t think we need to – it’s productive to get into a --
MS. PSAKI: -- more of a back-and-forth about it. I will note again that the Palestinian people, President Abbas – Secretary Kerry had a lengthy, I think 90-minute meeting with President Abbas last week. He’ll have ongoing discussions. It doesn’t mean we don’t voice our concerns when we have them.
QUESTION: Let me ask you in a different way. I mean, do you find part of it offensive? The whole thing offensive? 10 percent offensive? What is offensive?
MS. PSAKI: I appreciate the opportunity, but I’m not going to go down this rabbit hole with you.
QUESTION: Okay. Let me just continue on with the --
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead. Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: -- Netanyahu speech and so on.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Mr. Netanyahu said that he wants peace, not as an occupying power, but he wants peace because it’s good for the Israeli people. I’m paraphrasing, not word for word. Are you concerned that he used peace not as an occupying power, perhaps he wants a peace maintaining the occupation?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to --
QUESTION: How do you interpret that?
MS. PSAKI: I think I spoke to a few of the comments made that were asked specifically. Obviously our view is that a two-state solution is the only way that both parties can live side by side. That hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: Do you think that Mr. Netanyahu perhaps means to say that we want peace, we want quiet with the Palestinians, but we also want to keep the occupied territory? Do you see it that way?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his team and see if you want to address questions to them.
QUESTION: And I know – just one – my last question on the – he’s tried to correlate Hamas with ISIS. I know I asked you this many times before. Is Hamas a global terrorist power as, let’s say, ISIS is? Or is it, let’s say, working within a very small, well-defined area?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me – I think I addressed this a little bit earlier, but let me reiterate it. Obviously, we’ve designated both as terrorist organizations, but ISIL poses a different threat to Western interests and to the United States. And that’s just a fact.
QUESTION: And are you going to respond to the PLO statement about you, in particular your statement?
MS. PSAKI: About me?
QUESTION: Yeah. They issued --
MS. PSAKI: I think --
QUESTION: -- a statement just a little while ago, or --
MS. PSAKI: I think Matt asked that question, Said. And what I was conveying --
QUESTION: Yeah. But are you going to say – are you going to explain your position?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just addressed it. But go ahead.
QUESTION: I have two questions on ISIS.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Hold on, hold on.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure. Let’s finish this. Is that okay?
QUESTION: I have just one more thing from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: He – remember last year, he brought that drawing of the bomb and he warned about President Rouhani being a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and – I don’t believe that you guys were prepared at the time to accept that kind of a characterization. But he said essentially, Prime Minister Netanyahu, almost the same thing again today with different words, saying that as soon as or if Iran ever gets nuclear weapons, that this charm, facade will fall away and the true face of the extremist nature of the Iranian regime will show itself. Do you share that kind of a fear?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think --
QUESTION: I mean, not personally, but does the Administration share the fear that --
MS. PSAKI: One, if there is – I will answer your question, and if not, you can obviously ask a follow-up – if there is an agreement on a comprehensive – or if there is a comprehensive agreement with the United States, the P5+1, and Iran, that will address the nuclear issue. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t concerns about other issues, whether it’s their state sponsor of terrorism, their human rights record – you’re familiar with our concerns about the detainment of Americans and other individuals.
MS. PSAKI: That doesn’t change. I’m not going to make a prediction of what President Rouhani or others may be like should there be a comprehensive agreement achieved. Obviously, our view is that this is the first step to showing the world that they can have a peaceful program and that they can reintegrate into the international community.
QUESTION: Well, no, no, he saying if there isn’t a comprehensive agreement – in other words, or you guys settle for a bad deal, that essentially the kind and gentle face that is being presented right now will fall away and there’ll be some kind of, I don’t know, very scary face there instead, and --
MS. PSAKI: Well, we --
QUESTION: Do – but are you concerned at all that Rouhani himself is just masquerading as a “moderate” and that what they’re trying to do is to take advantage of the West so that they can promote, propagate this – what Prime Minister Netanyahu says is this idea of radical militant Islam, albeit of the Shia variety?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can assure anyone that an agreement reached would not be based on a charm offensive or how that impacts us, but on the facts and the details. And we’re not going to agree to a comprehensive agreement that doesn’t meet our standards and meet our threshold.
QUESTION: Right, okay. But do you – so you do or you do not share Prime Minister Netanyahu’s fear that the Iranians are putting up a charm offensive in order to kind of trick the rest of the world into thinking that they’re really nice guys when in fact they’re actually these militant Islamists bent on world domination?
MS. PSAKI: Well, whether or not Iran has increased their PR campaign, which I think you all can speak to the facts of that, what – the point I’m trying to get at is that our negotiation and our discussion about a comprehensive agreement is not impacted by that. It’s about the facts and the details and what a final technical package would look like.
QUESTION: Is not impacted by what? Prime Minister Netanyahu?
MS. PSAKI: By any effort to do more public relations or do more --
QUESTION: Okay. So the charm offensive, or whatever you want to call it, that the Iranians have put on is not going to have any impact on you guys in making sure that they don’t have the ability to develop a nuclear weapon?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: And you don’t have this fear that the Iranians are going to try to take over the world for militant Shia Islam?
MS. PSAKI: I can assure you, Matt, that obviously we’re focused on the here and now, and our effort is focused on these negotiations and the upcoming deadline in November.
QUESTION: I wonder if you could comment on the Israel announcement for a new settlement today. Does that contradict what – Prime Minister Netanyahu call for peace? Is it contradictive?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen the specific details of that, Said. I’m happy to take a look at them. You’re familiar with our concerns. I’m happy to get you around something afterwards if helpful.
QUESTION: Can I ask my question now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s just make sure – are we done with Netanyahu’s speech, Abbas’s speech?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Sure. So you know the Kobani, the predominantly Kurdish city in Syria, has been besieged by ISIS for almost two weeks. And more than 100,000 residents have fled. I want to know what the United States has been doing to help the people of Kobani.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, a couple things. One is you’ve seen the announcements from my colleagues over at the Department of Defense about the airstrikes and the effort underway to have an impact on the ground. And that certainly is in part in that area. So I would point you, one, to that. Also, we, of course, have continued to provide humanitarian assistance. That’s something that is – where we are still able to provide across the country and in many regions of the country, and that’s something that the UN and others are working very hard to do. But did you have a specific question about --
QUESTION: The – yeah, more specifically, the rebels there, the Kurdish rebels are saying that they need weapons. And the United States has decided to provide weapons to the Syrian rebels. Are the Kurdish rebels included when you try to arm the Syrian rebels?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are – obviously under the SOC, there are a range of entities that are a part of that. That’s – the train and equip program is something that we’ll be implementing over the course of the next year or so, but I can check and see if there’s more specifics for you.
QUESTION: Jen, who are you working with in the SOC? What is the head of the SOC that’s working with the United States?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we work with a range of officials in the SOC, Lucas. I mean, Daniel Rubinstein has been traveling in the region meeting with a range of political and military leaders. We remain in very close contact with them.
QUESTION: Because on Friday, Secretary Hagel could not name the head of the moderate opposition that the United States was working with, and I was wondering: Is there a figurehead that we have designated as this is our man in Syria?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not a figurehead; it’s who the SOC has elected. So we work – but we work with a range of officials on the ground depending on what the entity is and depending on what the needs are.
QUESTION: Can you say who that figurehead is?
MS. PSAKI: I can. I can actually give you a list of individuals we work with, if that’s useful, Lucas. Let me see if I can get you a little update on what we’ve been doing there. Well, let’s see. In addition to SOC President al-Bahra, we also have had a range of officials who have visited. I – of course, you’re familiar with the SOC delegation that came in May. But Daniel Rubinstein – this is what I was trying to find – he spoke – he’s been in touch with, of course, al- Bahra, as well as other leaders in the SOC.
I think the military component has always been a component that we’ve worked closely with to work through the moderate opposition, so that continues to be the case.
QUESTION: And moving over to the Khorasan Group, can you tell me the difference between core al-Qaida leadership and the leadership of the Khorasan Group?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as we’ve talked about in the past, Lucas, obviously there are groups – affiliates of al-Qaida that we have concerns about. While we feel, and we’ve talked about a bit in here, including with you, that we have decimated core al-Qaida, some of the affiliates we have remaining concerns about. The Khorasan Group is a group that we have been watching for two years now. We don’t always talk about that publicly, but we still have concerns about the threat they pose.
QUESTION: But the reputed head of the Khorasan Group, Mr. al-Fadhli – he has ties to core al-Qaida. He has ties to Usama Bin Ladin. His deputy, Mr. al-Nusar is a third cousin of Usama Bin Ladin. So is the Khorasan Group part of core al-Qaida?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re affiliated with. So I wouldn’t characterize it that way. There’s a range of ways that we characterize terrorist organizations, and obviously we wouldn’t have gone after this group if we didn’t feel there was a threat that they posed.
QUESTION: So you say affiliate, but would you say they are part of the group?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve characterized it a range of ways, Lucas, so I’m happy to get you a CT briefing if you’d like.
QUESTION: Can we talk about another affiliate --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- or a former member of al-Qaida --
QUESTION: Can I just --
QUESTION: Just one brief thing, Jen. On Lucas’s first question, you named the head of the SOC al-Bahra, right? But there used to be for quite some time a Free Syrian Army general who was the commander of the so-called moderate --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- forces, whose name escapes me.
QUESTION: Right, who’s – is he still – he’s not still around. General Idris, right? So is there one? Do you – can you point to one leader of a unified moderate Syrian rebel group, or are they just in pockets and there isn’t any unified command?
MS. PSAKI: No, there is one, and we work closely with them as well as with al-Bahra, but why don’t I get you a list of the different individuals we’ve been in touch with to the degree I can, if that’s helpful?
QUESTION: Two things on the al-Nusrah group, which used to be affiliated directly with al-Qaida. They have threatened retaliation against the United States for the attacks on Syria. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. One second, Arshad. There’s a lot going on in the world.
Well, we’ve obviously seen those comments. I think – we’ve obviously seen those comments, Arshad, over the weekend. As you know, the effort that’s underway now is to take on the threat posed by ISIL, posed by the Khorasan Group, posed by other terrorist entities within Syria. And airstrikes, as you know, we undertook last week. We have – we’re continuing to build on that. Those are ongoing through – the Department of Defense is providing updates on those. But I’m not sure I have much more of a specific comment. But do you have a --
QUESTION: Well, I mean, I’m particularly interested in whether you’re afraid of or see a significant threat from al-Nusrah in terms of retaliation.
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve obviously seen the comments. We watch them closely. It’s a group we’ve long had concerns about, and obviously – I don’t think I have anything to preview for you beyond that.
QUESTION: One other thing --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.
QUESTION: -- about that, if I may. There are reports that al-Nusrah is under some pressure to reconcile with the Islamic State militants. Do you have any reason to believe that’s true, and does that trouble you?
MS. PSAKI: I have seen some of those reports, but I haven’t – don’t have any confirmation of that. We’re all familiar with what happened over the history of the breakup, I guess, for lack of a better term. But beyond that, I’m not going to analyze what we don’t know to be true.
QUESTION: One last one on Turkey, if I may --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- following up on those questions. The Turkish Government has been reportedly – well, it has been pushing for some kind of buffer zones in Syria that would allow some of the refugees that have flowed into Turkey to stay in Syria and be cared for in some kind of camps there. And as part of that, they have called for --
MS. PSAKI: A no-fly zone.
QUESTION: Exactly. What’s the U.S. Government’s position on that?
MS. PSAKI: I know General Dempsey spoke to this on Friday, and I believe his comment was it’s not something we’re currently – is currently a part of our plan. Nothing has changed since then, so obviously, if it’s something we’re considering, we’ll let you all know.
QUESTION: And why – just why not? What – I mean, you can understand why Turkey, your NATO ally, has a concern about all the refugees --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- flowing into their country. Given that you are now engaged in military action there and that you have a lot of assets in the region and therefore could presumably do a no-fly zone, as you did over northern Iraq for so many years, what is the primary concern? Is it that refugees in a Syrian buffer zone would be vulnerable to attacks? Is it that you just don’t want to risk the possibility of direct confrontation with the Syrian Government forces? I mean, what’s the – what is the reason that this is not on your agenda?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to outline them publicly, but – other than to say that this has been an – or an idea that has been out there, as you know, for some time, and one I think it’s fair to say that Turkey and other countries have spoken about publicly. It’s not an easy thing to implement if there were a decision to do that, but if we decide to do it or if we’re actively considering it, I’m sure we can talk more about it.
QUESTION: Jen, what is your --
QUESTION: Jen, could I --
QUESTION: What is your understanding about the Turkish reluctance up until its hostages were released to engage more forcefully as a member of NATO against ISIL? We know that some of their tanks have been stationed near the town Kobani, but are they doing more? Are they doing what should be expected, given that the U.S. has been trying to build this coalition?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I think you touched on it there, Roz. Obviously, Turkey had a very sensitive situation with their hostages. That’s an issue that, certainly, Secretary Kerry spoke with them about when he was there just two weeks ago. I think it’s important to note, though, that they made every effort, and not only did they participate in the meeting in – at NATO, they came to Saudi Arabia. They’ve wanted to be a part of the discussion at every point in the process. Obviously, fortunately, the hostages have been returned, and Prime Minister Erdogan over the weekend, as I’m sure many of you have seen, spoke very forcefully about their interest in playing a role. As you all know, there’s a discussion in parliament. We won’t get too far ahead of that, but that is consistent, certainly, with the conversations that Secretary Kerry and – as well as the Vice President had with Turkish officials over the course of last week.
QUESTION: Is the expectation from this building that Turkey will be more robustly engaged in trying to fight members of ISIL?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Roz, I would point you to Prime Minister Erdogan’s own comments about --
MS. PSAKI: Sorry, President Erdogan. Sorry. President Erdogan – thank you – his own comments about wanting to be – not wanting to be on the sidelines. And that’s not an exact quote, but I think he was pretty forward in his desire to be engaged.
QUESTION: Why is he --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) on the --
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: Staying in Turkey. The – as Roz pointed out, they’ve deployed tanks on – to reinforce their side of the border. Do you have any comment on this, whether it’s a good idea, bad idea? And more broadly, has Turkey actually asked you for any help, any U.S. assets – for any help from U.S. assets?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any ask to speak to at this point in time. Obviously, as part of our military action that we’re undergoing in Syria is going after some of the ISIL forces that are posing a threat to the border, so I’d point you to that. As you know, we’ve provided a great deal of humanitarian assistance as well to Turkey, but I don’t have any specific ask to outline for you at this point in time.
QUESTION: And can I just ask as well, following up on the release of the Turkish hostages: Did you ask at all whether Ankara could help intercede on your behalf to release any of the American hostages?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to say on that.
QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to ask you about the --
QUESTION: Well, you’ve got nothing to say, so you --
MS. PSAKI: There was a discussion about their hostages. I’m not aware of any ask of them on our behalf.
QUESTION: Just one more --
QUESTION: You heard the speech by Foreign Minister Walid Muallim today --
MS. PSAKI: Have I heard the speech?
QUESTION: -- Syrian foreign minister?
MS. PSAKI: I have not actually seen the speech.
QUESTION: Okay. He’s actually – he’s saying that it was not a surprise to us, the rise of ISIL, we have spoken about it for three years, and it seems that he was right all along. Do you agree?
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: Do you agree that Syria has warned about the rise of ISIS and something should be done and that it is the number one enemy?
MS. PSAKI: Well, if Syria has known about it so long, perhaps they shouldn’t have let ISIL’s safe havens grow and ISIL thrive so much within their borders.
QUESTION: So are you saying that they are the ones that allowed the ISIS fighters to come in and fight them?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s fact, Said, that ISIL was able to grow and thrive – grow with their capabilities, grow with their financing within the borders of Syria. And the President of the United States spoke to last night, as has the director of national intelligence, as have we about what we anticipated and what we didn’t.
QUESTION: But you do agree that Syria has been fighting ISIL for three years, right?
MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say that. I actually disagree with that. I don’t think – the regime, the Syrian regime, is the reason why ISIL has gathered the strength that it has gathered. They’ve been a magnet for terrorism. They have allowed ISIL to thrive within their borders. So we actually haven’t seen them fighting back over the course of the last three years.
QUESTION: You also welcomed the bombardment of ISIS, and of course offered Syria’s help that they are fighting, that it’s their territory, and so on. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I think --
QUESTION: Does it make any difference what the – what Syria’s regime actually, what is – their position on the bombardment is?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not coordinating militarily with Syria. We did, as you know, last week inform the Syrian perm rep of our intentions, but we don’t have any intention of changing that approach.
QUESTION: You also called for the return of all refugees without persecution, that every Syrian who was forced to flee the country is welcome to come back. Would that be a good step forward?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to take a look at what the context of that is.
QUESTION: Just to follow up --
QUESTION: May I just follow up --
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time.
QUESTION: The growth of ISIL didn’t just happen in a vacuum with the only thing in that – that doesn’t work, does it – it didn’t just happen with the – the Assad regime was not just the – it was not the only magnet for the growth of ISIL. This happened not in a vacuum. There were support for opposition to perhaps one might call immoderate rebels by some of your closest allies, some of whom are – who are now in the same coalition fighting those people. I mean, that was also a reason for this, was it not? It wasn’t just that Assad was some kind of terrorist magnet alone. There was a concerted effort by some of your closest friends to get more people in there to try – to fight him, right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think, one, at this point in time, it’s important to note that we don’t have any evidence of any government funding, but it’s worth stating. Obviously, counter-financing and cracking down on individuals who are continuing to support is one of the effort – one of the five lines of effort of our coalition-building. And certainly, we have not held back on our concerns about support for whether it’s individuals or individuals who have support of terrorist organizations in the past.
QUESTION: But you do believe that countries – say, Turkey – like Turkey have the ability to police and control their borders, or their border with Syria, right? I mean, a lot of these fighters, particularly the foreign fighters and the ones that we’ve seen in these horrendous videos of the last (inaudible) came across into Syria from Turkey.
MS. PSAKI: Matt, you’re absolutely right, of course, and we’re well aware --
QUESTION: Do you not think the Turks could have stopped that or done more?
MS. PSAKI: No, and obviously, the influx of individuals who are – were coming across the border is certainly an issue of concern that has been discussed. And now I would note, obviously, there’s more that needs to be done, but Turkey has – as they’ve stated publicly, has recently kicked about 6,000 people, I believe, out who were posing a threat. More that can be done; that’s part of the discussion we’ll continue to have.
QUESTION: Thank you. Just follow up, couple of questions on Turkey. First to Kobani that earlier talk about – Turkey’s pro-Kurdish party was in the city last week and he said that the heavy weaponry should be allowed to go to Kobani through Turkey. Have you talked to Turkish authorities about this? Do you think these Kurds, Syrian Kurds, should be allowed to receive --
MS. PSAKI: I think that question was already asked. I’ll check and see if there’s more to convey on that point.
QUESTION: Another point: This no-fly zone and buffer zone – in the past, you stated that you are not receive or you have not been proposed any kind of plan by Turkish authorities. At this time, have you been proposed such a plan – concrete plan?
MS. PSAKI: I’d point you to the Department of Defense. Obviously General Dempsey spoke to this on Friday. I don’t have anything new to update on that front.
QUESTION: President Erdogan also, over the weekend, when he came from UN meetings, said that the army land forces are being discussed among allies. Is there an update you can give us? What kind of a land force being discussed against ISIL?
MS. PSAKI: I, again, would point you to the Turkish authorities on that. Obviously they’ve spoken about what their interests and their intentions are. Clearly our view is that we’re not – as the President has stated many times, there’s no plan or intention to put U.S. combat troops on the ground. Our focus right now is working with partners in the region to determine what capabilities and what contributions different countries want to make.
QUESTION: Not by U.S., but is there no discussion among the allies to put land forces in Syria?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to those countries to speak to what their capabilities and what their interests are.
QUESTION: Are you satisfied with Turkey’s level of cooperation at this point, whether foreign fighters or in terms of the partnering within the coalition?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Turkey is – remains an incredibly important counterterrorism partner. We certainly understand the sensitivity around their hostages. And the Secretary had a great – brief just because of how many different meetings we had – meeting with Foreign Minister Cavusoglu last week. The Vice President had a great meeting as well. So obviously we’ve seen the comments of President Erdogan and we’ll see where they go from here.
QUESTION: You mentioned Mr. Cavusoglu, his foreign minister, and Erdogan is the President, but Turkey’s chief executive is still Prime Minister Davutoglu. Are you talking to Mr. Davutoglu as well?
MS. PSAKI: When Secretary Kerry was in Turkey he met with him as well, and the foreign – Foreign Minister Cavusoglu was in the meeting. Obviously they have a long relationship, but he’s – the Secretary has been working closely with the foreign minister.
MS. PSAKI: Prime minister, sorry.
QUESTION: We’ve got to get you the official election results.
MS. PSAKI: I know, too many switch arounds.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you, real quick, if you – are you aware of the report by Human Rights Watch that seven civilians were killed last – on the 23rd of this month by a Tomahawk cruise missile near Idlib, in the village of Kafr Deryan, including five children?
MS. PSAKI: Said, I think I have seen that report. Why don’t we get you something after the briefing?
QUESTION: And Jen, is the United States going to do everything that it can do to protect that – to prevent a takeover of Kobani by ISIS?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I --
QUESTION: Because they’re really talking about – of a dire situation, the people there. More than 100,000 people have fled, and they are at least besieged from three sides, according to media reports.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the actions we have taken are evidence of our willingness to take a range of steps. The United States is helping lead this coalition to take on the threat of ISIL. The – Ambassador McGurk and General Allen will be heading out on the road soon to have discussions with a range of countries and counterparts out there. Obviously you’re familiar with the day-to-day military updates that the Department of Defense is providing, but we’re really in a phase now – we are shifting to talking about the expansion of this coalition, and talking to each country about what specific role that they can play.
QUESTION: Just one more question about the party that he mentioned, the Kurdish party, the PYD in Syria. They just had a conference here last week, and you, of course, know that PYD is accused of being an offshoot of the PKK, which is designated as a terrorist group in – by the State Department. Does that mean – just by allowing them to hold a conference here, does that mean they’re not seen the same as the PKK by the United States?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check with our team and see if there’s more to add on this issue.
MS. PSAKI: Afghanistan.
QUESTION: No, one more on Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you inform the Syrian regime every time the American jets want to strike the ISIL in Syria, or not?
MS. PSAKI: You’re familiar with the – our contact we had last week. I don’t have any other contact to read out for you.
QUESTION: But how do you think they – they don’t use their air-missile defense when the American jets go if they don’t know that they are going to strike.
MS. PSAKI: I think we made our intentions clear last week.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I know the Secretary put out a statement welcoming the peaceful transfer of power.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. absolutely 100 percent convinced that, by this time tomorrow, a Bilateral Security Agreement will have been signed by both governments?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the United States and Afghanistan have agreed to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement tomorrow with Ambassador Cunningham signing on behalf of the United States. This is certainly the plan. This will enable Afghanistan, the United States, and the international community to maintain the partnership we’ve established to ensure Afghanistan maintains and extends the gains of the past decade. So that is the plan, and we look forward to having that signed.
QUESTION: Given that this signing is coming pretty much more than a year after originally planned, how is this going to affect the actual change over from a combat posture on behalf – on the part of the U.S., to a train-and-support posture? You only have about three months now to get this fully into play.
MS. PSAKI: It’s a good question, Roz. I think that the Department of Defense and certainly NATO and others are more equipped to address that. I will check and see if there’s more they plan to lay out, if there are any concerns. But obviously we’ve been clear that we’re still – we’d still be able to implement, as outlined, the President’s plan from this summer, and that’s my understanding of the case still.
QUESTION: There’s also the intangible part, the hearts and minds part. The lack of certainty around this change over in missions – how does this affect the U.S.’s credibility? How does this affect ISAF’s credibility with the Afghan people, going into 2015 and 2016, the bulk of the time that they’re supposed to be in country under this new BSA and, we assume, a SOFA?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, this was an Afghan-to-Afghan negotiation. Obviously we were there in a supportive role. The outcome is an Afghan agreement that reflects the will of Afghan voters. I think they’re certainly – we’ve seen the Secretary was there just I think twice this summer, if not more – twice this summer. And certainly there is an understanding of how committed the United States is to an ongoing partnership with Afghanistan and with the people of Afghanistan. And that’s one of the reasons we worked so hard to help Afghans achieve this outcome.
QUESTION: Is it realistic to assume that all of the work, all of the money that has been invested in the past 12, 13 years, is actually going to lead to, one, an Afghan security force that is capable of keeping the Taliban and others from regaining power by force and, two, by actually creating a more stable government in a region that is really hit with a lot of instability, if – by right now?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what your question is, but maybe --
QUESTION: Is it the kind of situation where, with having this supplemental force in place, that the ability to neutralize the Taliban once and for all is going to actually happen?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Roz, obviously there’s a training component of this that has been ongoing. And as you know, Afghans have been in the lead, and we are continuing to implement that in the months ahead. We are – felt committed and felt so strongly about moving forward, of course, with a conclusion of this political situation as well as a signing of a BSA so we could continue to have that partnership. Obviously it has to be implemented, and we need to continue to work closely together to achieve a successful outcome.
QUESTION: And finally, is there anything that the U.S. Government overall – not just the Obama Administration but the U.S. Government overall – has learned about how to deal with countries as you move from a war relationship to a post-war relationship? In other words, how do you keep something like this from being so messy, so complicated, so difficult, and some might argue so personal, as we saw in one of the lines from the Secretary’s statement today?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Roz, obviously Afghanistan has gone through a tremendous transformation, and you can always draw from past experiences. But I think in this case we wanted to make sure we could play a supportive role with the Afghans leading the process. It continues to be our belief that that was the right approach to take. We know that the transition they’ve gone through would have some bumpy roads. But obviously an inauguration and the signing of a BSA are points to be pleased about, and we’ll see where we go from here.
QUESTION: Do you know who’s signing it on the Afghan side?
MS. PSAKI: I do not have that information at this point in time.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: Because they said that President Ghani couldn’t sign it because protocol demands that someone of his rank --
MS. PSAKI: That’s right. I will check and see. We didn’t before I came out here, Matt, but --
QUESTION: But you’re pretty sure someone’s going to sign it, obviously?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. That is my understanding.
QUESTION: It’s not going to be, like, an empty chair next to the ambassador or anything?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, yes, yes.
QUESTION: Can I --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: The signing ceremony will be done tomorrow?
MS. PSAKI: That is the plan, yes.
QUESTION: And who will represent the United States?
MS. PSAKI: Ambassador Cunningham.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: If that’s okay.
QUESTION: So do I.
QUESTION: Me too.
QUESTION: Might as well go then.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. I think that’s a different kind of go to Hong Kong.
QUESTION: Oh, we can all go down there. (Laughter.) Are we all going to go stand with the protestors on the streets of Hong Kong? That was my question, was about the chaos that we saw yesterday. I believe things have calmed down somewhat today, but there’s still a lot of people out on the streets of Hong Kong. In the past, you said from the podium that the United States broadly supports Basic Law, which – under which Hong Kong is ruled. What is your – do you have concerns about these demonstrations? Have you any message to Beijing about how they should be handling it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re certainly watching the situation in Hong Kong closely. We support internationally recognized fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, around the world. We’ve urged and we continue to urge Hong Kong authorities to exercise restraint and for protestors to express their views peacefully. We, as you know, support universal suffrage in Hong Kong in accordance with the Basic Law and we support the aspirations of the Hong Kong people. And we’ve certainly voiced – consistently voiced our support to China about our support for that, as well as support for the Hong Kong people, and we’ll continue to do so. And we have, certainly, over the course of these events on the ground.
QUESTION: So you support the protests that are on the streets at the moment in Hong Kong?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we believe protestors should express their views peacefully, and we certainly believe and recognize fundamentals – freedoms of speech and peaceful assembly – and so we urge them to abide by that.
QUESTION: There was a rumor going around earlier that Beijing was ready to send the military in. I believe the Hong Kong chief exec has come out and said that’s not the case. Are you concerned that the PLA could be sent in by Beijing to squash these demonstrations?
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that potential at this point in time. I can check with our team and see if that’s a concern we have.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering if you would be surprised if I said that I think that what you just said in your original answer sounds exactly like what Josh Earnest said at the White House about an hour and a half – I mean, word for word. Would you be surprised if that sounded that way?
MS. PSAKI: We – that is the view and the position of the United States Government. That’s what it – what you asked.
QUESTION: The Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said that, basically, this is an internal matter, and she chastised what she called outsiders for trying to instigate the protestors. Do you have a reaction to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, what’s happening in Hong Kong is about the people of Hong Kong. Anything otherwise is – asserting otherwise is an attempt to distract from the issue at hand, which is that the people of Hong Kong are expressing their desire for universal suffrage in an election that provides a genuine choice of candidates that represents the will of the voters. So we believe that this can be done in a stable manner. And as I mentioned, we’re encouraging protestors to operate in that capacity, as well as authorities.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. believe that Beijing is violating the spirit, if not the letter, of the Basic Law by changing these candidacy rules?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve expressed our view, Roz, about the – our belief that – our support for universal suffrage in Hong Kong. We’ve expressed that directly to the Chinese, and certainly publicly as well.
All right. New topic?
QUESTION: I – yes, just very briefly --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I realize that this is mainly a White House show, particularly tonight, but there is State Department involvement, between the lunch tomorrow --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- and the whole Office of Protocol is located over here.
MS. PSAKI: That’s true.
QUESTION: And I’m just wondering if anyone thought that it was really that much of a good idea to host a dinner and a lunch for the visiting president, who is in the middle of a fast.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt --
QUESTION: I mean – go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: -- I will say we certainly understand that and recognize it and respect it – his fast. It’s a way of honoring an individual, and sometimes there’s more formality --
QUESTION: Are these people going to be actually eating --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have the menu in front of me, Matt.
QUESTION: -- in front of him? So he’s going to be sitting there drinking his water or lemon-flavored water, and everyone else is going to be chowing down on a four-course meal in front --
MS. PSAKI: We can check and see what the menu is if it’s of interest to you.
QUESTION: I mean, it just – well, no, I just – I mean, is there actually going to be food served? Because it seems kind of – I mean, I don’t know about what the protocol is, but it seems a little impolite. I mean, you don’t – if someone can’t eat because they are doing a religious – I mean, you wouldn’t invite a practicing Muslim to lunch in the middle of Ramadan, would you?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I don’t think there’s any intention – I don’t have the menu. I don’t know what is being served.
QUESTION: I’m not saying there’s an intention.
MS. PSAKI: However, there’s no – well, it’s important to note --
QUESTION: Well, I know – I’m not saying that you’re intentionally trying to be impolite. It just seems kind of odd that they would choose an event like a dinner and then a lunch with someone who can’t eat.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say the goal of President Obama and of Secretary Kerry and Vice President Biden is certainly to honor the visit and have a discussion with interesting high-level guests, and so that’s what we hope will proceed.
QUESTION: So it’s going to be less about the food and more about the conversation. Is that what you’re saying?
MS. PSAKI: Exactly.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: So is it possible that they would have – is it possible that Protocol would have inquired about the appropriateness of meals that are done traditionally, as you say, to honor visiting dignitaries, and they would’ve consulted with the President’s staff about how to handle this situation?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly. That often happens. I will check and see if there’s more to communicate to all of you on this particular question.
Do we have more on this? Uh-huh. Go ahead.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) and in peace and security in South Asia – will Pakistan, India – will the question of improvement in Pakistan-India ties be on the table when Prime Minister Modi meets Secretary Kerry and President Obama tomorrow?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are, of course, a range of topics that I outlined at the top. Certainly peace and security in the region is often an issue that comes up, and I’m sure we’ll have more to read out for you as the meetings conclude.
QUESTION: And will the human rights issue which has been associated with the prime minister and his party in the wake of numerous instances of human rights violations of minority communities in India be discussed?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what will be the focus of the discussions is what I outlined at the top.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah --
MS. PSAKI: On India?
QUESTION: On India, yes.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Prior to the meeting with President Obama, Prime Minister Modi had met with Chinese and Japanese leaders. I know Asia rebalance will be the topic of discussion. So what kind of support the U.S. is seeking from India in terms of Asia rebalance?
MS. PSAKI: Well, India, as is evidenced by the extensive trip that the prime minister will be doing to the United States – not just that; I should say the trip that Secretary Kerry and a range of high level officials did to India this summer – is an incredibly important partner. There are obviously many, many topics that will be discussed. We remain very committed to the rebalance. India is an important partner and we hope to continue to grow our relationship and partnership in that regard.
QUESTION: And could you define what’s the strategic partnership with India?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I outlined it a bit at the beginning, but obviously there are a range of issues that we work together on, and we hope to continue to grow our relationship, including economic partnership, energy partnership, security partnership. There are obviously a range of issues that fall into that category, including infrastructure, manufacturing, and skills; expanding bilateral trade. Those are all issues we expect to be topics of discussion over the course of the next 24 to 36 hours.
QUESTION: India has suggested several times --
MS. PSAKI: We’ll go to you next, I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Yeah. India has suggested several times in recent years that it ought to be a member of the permanent UN Security Council. If the issue does come up in discussions tomorrow, what is the U.S. prepared to say?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve spoken to that in the past, Roz. I don’t think our position has changed; it’s exactly the same. We’ll see if it’s raised.
QUESTION: Jen, can you elaborate more on the U.S. position concerning the protest in Hong Kong? You mentioned that there’s, of course, been ongoing communication with China, but have any specific concerns been raised about the efforts to repress demonstrators there? And if so, can you elaborate on what was said?
Also, China considers the demonstrations illegal. What is the U.S. response to that?
And then thirdly, is this really an effort – a regression of democracy, or an attempt to cause a regression of democracy in Hong Kong?
MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I get all of these. We certainly support the individual’s right to protest peacefully, and we encourage them to do that peacefully. We’ve expressed – we have been in touch with China about our support for universal suffrage. Obviously, as we have concerns, we will raise them. In terms – I missed another – one of your questions. What was – can you – what was your first one?
QUESTION: Also, China considers these protests illegal. What is the U.S. reaction to that? And then also, is this really, in essence, a regression of democracy in Hong Kong or an attempt to do so?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly support the right of individuals to peacefully protests, so I think we just have – disagree on that particular point.
We believe that universal suffrage and the ability of the people of Hong Kong to have – that a genuine choice of candidates is something that they should have. That’s a concern we’ve expressed directly to China. It’s been consistent. So our views just differ on that particular point.
Mm-hmm. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Over the weekend --
QUESTION: -- an RPG was fired within a couple hundred yards of the U.S. Embassy in Sana’a, reputedly by an affiliate of al-Qaida, AQAP. And I was wondering if Secretary Kerry shared the President’s belief that Yemen is a success story in counterterrorism efforts.
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I know there were a range of reports about this weekend, so let me clear up, for those of you who weren’t paying as close attention. We’re aware, of course, of a rocket attack that took place in the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy on Saturday. Social media claims that our facility was the target are false. There’s no credible indication that the U.S. Embassy was the target of the attack. All mission personnel are safe and accounted for. The Yemeni Government is investigating the attack.
In terms of – I think you’re referring to the President talking about our efforts to crack down on terrorists in Yemen, and clearly that has been an effort – or an example that he used in his speech earlier this month when he outlined our plans to take action in Iraq and open the door to crossing over geographically into Syria. We still believe that we’ve had success in, of course, going after core al-Qaida and the elements that have been in Yemen. It doesn’t mean that there’s not more concerns about security and stability that we need to continue to address. Yemen remains, Sana’a remains a high-threat post. That’s one of the reasons we watch so closely and evaluate on a daily basis the security and needs of our personnel who serve there.
QUESTION: And is the removal of nonessential personnel, is that still ongoing in Sana’a at the moment?
MS. PSAKI: That has happened, yes. We’re temporarily reducing staffing in response to rapidly evolving political and security developments in Sana’a, but the Embassy is – continues to be up and running.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Sorry, there was damage done to part of the Embassy, wasn’t there, or a guard post or something like that, was it? I mean, when you say in the vicinity – or was there – were those reports incorrect?
MS. PSAKI: It was in the vicinity, Matt. I’m not aware of specific damage to the Embassy, but I can check on that as well.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. PSAKI: All of our personnel are safe and sound.
QUESTION: Right, right, right. But I’m just wondering – I mean, it’s an RPG. Are you so inured to just violence like this in Yemen that this doesn’t --
MS. PSAKI: No, I --
QUESTION: Regardless of what the target was.
MS. PSAKI: I was not suggesting that at all. I was suggesting that there are a range of reports that have been on social media. Some are inaccurate, and so I wanted to make that clear.
QUESTION: Right, but whether or not the U.S. Embassy was – happened to be the building, it happened to be the actual target of this guy with an – or woman, whoever it was – with an RPG doesn’t necessarily mean that counterterrorism operations in Yemen have been successful, I mean, unless --
MS. PSAKI: No, but I wasn’t --
QUESTION: -- you regard an RPG attack in a civilian neighborhood --
MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t answering the question in that regard.
QUESTION: -- as something other than terrorist.
MS. PSAKI: One, there were reports that it was a target. I think that’s important for everybody to know and understand that’s incorrect.
QUESTION: Right, but I think Lucas’s question was: How can you say that Yemen is a counterterrorism success or hold it up as an idea of how we want to go when, whether or not the Embassy was the target of an RPG attack or not, there still was an RPG attack in the middle of the capital? Or is that, like, such a normal occurrence now that --
MS. PSAKI: Matt, that’s not at all – you’re mixing up --
QUESTION: Am I?
MS. PSAKI: -- all the things I said in response to several questions. I think it was important for people to understand that the Embassy was not the target, and then I think for any high-threat post, that’s relevant information.
QUESTION: Right, okay.
MS. PSAKI: What I was referring to was that this continues to be a high-threat post. We take --
QUESTION: Okay. So it’s --
MS. PSAKI: We review and take action in order to keep our people safe. It doesn’t mean that we haven’t had success in --
QUESTION: Okay. I took – I was under the impression that your answer to him was, well, because the Embassy wasn’t the – we can’t tell that the Embassy was the target of this, that terrorism is no longer a problem in Yemen.
MS. PSAKI: No, I used it --
MS. PSAKI: -- as an opportunity to make that point clear because there’s been inaccurate information out publicly.
QUESTION: Two real quick ones.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: One you may not be aware of, but there are reports that shots were fired from the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington. Do you have any details on that?
MS. PSAKI: I have not – did that just happen or --
QUESTION: It happened, I think, in the last couple hours, yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. We will check that for you, Arshad. I had not seen that before I came out here.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So there is at least one advocacy group that says he’s now close to death because of his hunger strike in Egypt. Do you have any update on his case?
MS. PSAKI: Why don’t we get you one.
MS. PSAKI: I know we’ve been providing updates as we can, but I didn’t have anything new today, so let me get that. I can just do a couple more here.
QUESTION: I just had a quick question, Jen --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- on another American citizen named Stacey Addison from – who was detained in East Timor for five days and her passport was revoked. Are you aware of this? There’s a report.
MS. PSAKI: Do you know when it happened, Lucas?
QUESTION: Recently, I think, in the past few days.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: (Off-mike) passport revoked?
QUESTION: Her passport revoked – what I’m reading is passport. Anyway, she posted something on social media saying, “My passport’s been withheld, been held for five days, the investigation will take a year,” (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: Why don’t we take both of those and we’ll check with Consular Affairs and see if there’s an update.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Just – is there any – I had a question about the Marine that’s being held there --
MS. PSAKI: Tahmooressi?
QUESTION: -- Tahmooressi.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: U.S. Government has poured millions into the Mexican justice system, although in public opinion polls, the Mexicans have said they have no faith in their justice system. And I was wondering if – should – does the U.S. Government trust a non-transparent Mexican justice system that’s – in a case that’s now been drawn out for over six months?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think on this – and I’m happy to add this to the list if you’d like an update on him – obviously, as I’ve stated in the past, we have been in close contact with Mexican authorities. Obviously, every country runs their own judicial process. We’ve visited, also, Mr. Tahmooressi I think – I don’t remember the exact number, but I believe it’s more than two dozen times. So why don’t we check on specifics of that as well for you.
QUESTION: But does the U.S. Government have faith in the Mexican justice system?
MS. PSAKI: I think, Lucas, when we have concerns, we certainly express them. But in this case, we’ve been in close touch with Mr. Tahmooressi. We’ll continue. We care deeply about the case.
I just have to do a couple more because I have to go.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: Apparently, the Argentinian ambassador has today sent a letter to Secretary Kerry saying that if Argentina is declared in contempt of court by a New York court today, then the U.S. – he believes the U.S. could be liable for these consequences. Do you have any reaction to that?
MS. PSAKI: We will – I’m happy to take that. I haven’t seen that report.
QUESTION: I have one that you might have to take as well.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: And that is, you were quite – months ago, quite outspoken about the anti-LGBT legislation in Uganda. It was later overturned. There’s similar laws going through parliament or about to be signed in both Chad and The Gambia. I’m wondering if you have anything you could say about that.
MS. PSAKI: Why don’t we look at those. I’m certain we will have concerns about them, but since every law is different, I just don’t want to speak out of turn.
Okay. Let’s just do two more here. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: I have seen those reports, and we knew, of course, about it in advance. It’s really incredible that this woman had such bravery and played such an important role, and so I certainly have admiration for her personally.
QUESTION: Also, a son of Saudi Crown Prince Salman also joined the airstrikes. Can you also comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen that, of course, and I think we also were aware of that. Obviously there are a range of countries that have played an important role to date. There’s more that needs to be done, but the UAE, Saudi Arabia, a range of others who have already participated both militarily and otherwise, and I think this speaks to their personal commitment.
Okay, let’s just do one more here. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Today the leaders of five Caspian Sea littoral states held a meeting in Astrakhan, Russia, and that’s Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. They signed a joint statement at the end that part of it says, and I quote, “Non-presence in the Caspian Sea of the armed forces that do not belong to the parties,” unquote, which, well, the U.S. is not a party over there, but I believe has military relationships with at least Azerbaijan. What would this mean for U.S. in that region?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we haven’t been a party to this. I’m happy to have our team take a look at it, but I’ll do that after the briefing.
Okay, thanks, everyone. We’ll do this again tomorrow.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:01 p.m.)
DPB # 163