2:07 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: All right. Hello, good afternoon.
QUESTION: Good afternoon.
MS. PSAKI: I have a couple of items for all of you at the top.
General Allen and Ambassador McGurk met today with His Majesty King Abdullah II and other Jordanian Government officials, commending Jordan’s critical role in countering ISIL and Jordanian leadership on regional and global security issues. The Government and people of Jordan have shown great compassion and generosity in receiving and hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrian and Iraqi refugees. We recognize this is a tremendous challenge for Jordan’s economy and public services. In their meetings, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk conveyed our continued commitment to supporting Jordan through this crisis.
General Allen and Ambassador McGurk then traveled to Cairo, where they will meet tomorrow with Foreign Minister Shoukry and Arab League Secretary General Elaraby. They will next travel to Ankara on October 9th and 10th, which is, of course, tomorrow and Friday. We’ll have further readouts of those meetings there as the week continues.
I wanted to also note we certainly echo the sentiments made in the statement put out by the White House welcoming Canada’s – the Canadian Government’s deployment of fighter and refueling aircraft, as well as intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft, to participate – excuse me – in the campaign to degrade and destroy ISIL.
Also, we’ve already confirmed or mentioned to all of you the Secretary’s travel to Cairo to participate in an international conference for Gaza reconstruction. There he will join the EU, the UN, the Arab League, and other foreign leaders in support of a major humanitarian assistance and reconstruction effort to benefit Palestinians living in Gaza. This will build on the commitment of the $118 million from the United States in humanitarian assistance to Gaza announced in September.
He will also travel to Vienna, Austria on October 15th for a trilateral meeting with EU High Representative Lady Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif as part of the comprehensive nuclear negotiations with Iran. This meeting will follow on the two trilateral meetings held in New York recently during the UN General Assembly and is part of the EU-led P5+1 negotiations with Iran.
In preparation for the trilateral meeting, on October 14th, Deputy Secretary Burns, Under Secretary Sherman, and Senior Advisor Jake Sullivan, with the U.S. negotiating team, will meet bilaterally with Iran in Vienna. Deputy EU Secretary General for the External Action Service Helga Schmid, along with their expert team, will join this meeting as well. We will be releasing a full U.S. delegation list soon.
Two other quick items. In the back, we have journalism students in the red jackets, I believe, who are here visiting us from Santiago, Chile. They’re in the United States to visit government agencies, media outlets, and historic sites in New York and Washington, so welcome to all of you.
And let me also welcome – where is she – Adelaide? Where is she? You gotta wave your hand. Okay, hello. Adelaide Cope, a seventh grader from Falls Church, Virginia. She is also a child of a Foreign Service officer and maybe an aspiring future spokesperson. So Matt will probably still be here. Maybe some of you will be as well. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Oh, God. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: But welcome to her. We’re glad to have her plans.
QUESTION: I never make plans that far in advance. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Yes. And I hope she’ll let me come back and visit when she – if she one day has this job.
Okay, Matt, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, let’s start with McGurk/Allen/ISIS, ISIL/what is going on, because I gotta say I’m completely mystified. You’re going last today, at least in terms of briefings. The Secretary has spoken, the Pentagon has spoken, the White House has spoken, now you’re going to speak. So --
MS. PSAKI: Yes. What can I add?
QUESTION: Do you or do you – is a buffer zone something that is worthy to be examined, or is it something that is flat out not under consideration? Because I don’t know, it’s mind-boggling to me how the messages – maybe I’m just not understanding it correctly, but I thought I heard the Secretary say that it was worth a very, very close look, worth examining – all right, sorry. “It’s worth looking at very, very closely.” “It’s worth examining.” And then I hear the Pentagon say no and the White House say no, this is not something that’s under consideration. Aren’t these things mutually exclusive?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe so, but let me do my best to clarify or just explain to all of you --
QUESTION: Good luck.
MS. PSAKI: -- what our position is. This is a proposal, as all of you know, that Turkey and other countries have raised for some time – for years, in fact – and we’ve discussed with them over the course of time. These conversations are continuing. As I noted in the beginning, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk will be there Thursday and Friday. Secretary Kerry also spoke with Prime Minister Davutoglu over the last two days.
So while we are not considering the implementation of this at this time, it doesn’t mean we are not continuing discussions about a range of options, including proposals and ideas that a range of countries out there. So – or out there have proposed. So we’re working with the Turks to identify and undertake actions that support our shared objectives in Syria and Iraq, and when they have ideas they raise them. And we’re open to discussing this. We’ve never ruled it out. We’re just not considering the implementation at this time.
QUESTION: Well, if you think it’s a bad idea, why even bother to discuss it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think --
QUESTION: I mean, it just sounds like a waste of time then.
MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with that. I think it’s not without challenges, as we all know. Secretary Kerry said in his response there would have to be safety guarantees, would have to have guarantees there wouldn’t be attacks by the government. So those are issues that would have to be thoroughly examined. They’re not easy to address, but we’re happy to hear out our partners and allies out there about their ideas and what they think would be most effective.
QUESTION: But if you’re just – but if the Pentagon and the White House are dismissing it out of hand, why even – I mean, it sounds like it’s like a tease. I mean, why tell Erdogan that you’re – that this – that you think that this is a worthwhile – at least it’s worthwhile to examine, while you have the executive – you have the White House saying it’s not a consideration and the Pentagon, who would be involved in actually enforcing such a thing, saying that it’s not under consideration. It’s just --
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, it’s not without challenges to implement. And certainly, the Pentagon would be – have primary responsibility for that. And we’re not naive about that fact. We’ve never ruled it out. We’re open to hearing from our partners. And that’s what I expect we’ll continue to do.
QUESTION: But you – you’re open to hearing – you’re open to talking about it, but you’re not open to implementing it. So why waste everyone’s time with talking about it and getting people’s hopes up if --
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not considering implementation of it at this time. We’re going to talk about the issues --
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: -- what the challenges are. And that’s what we’ll continue to do.
QUESTION: Well, the French president came out today and said that he supported the idea.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So are you opposed to someone else trying to do this, to someone else trying to enforce it, or does this have to be – do you think that you need to be involved if it’s going to – if something like this is going to happen?
MS. PSAKI: I saw the comments of the French president. I’m not sure if they indicated that they would be open to enforcing it or if they just supported the idea.
QUESTION: But you can’t even say that you support the idea.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not – we’re open to discussing it. We haven’t made a decision to do it, obviously, or you’d know.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: Do you know --
QUESTION: If you --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Have there been any conversations today with the Turks about this?
MS. PSAKI: There haven’t been new conversations at the Secretary’s level. Certainly at the local level, sure.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: In terms of implementation – sorry, Jo. Can I just ask, just to follow up on that?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: If it’s something that you are discussing or considering, it is something that you think you can do within the authorities you have right now from Congress to strike ISIL?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sure --
QUESTION: Or is it something that would require going back to Congress to do?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Nicole, I think it’s a good question. I’m not a lawyer, as you know. So I think if we made a decision that there were – that this was something worth continuing a discussion on or we were open to implementing it, we’d have to ensure that we were abiding by all legal authorities, of course. But I’d have to talk to them about if there’s any specifics there – our legal team, that is.
QUESTION: Jen --
MS. PSAKI: Sorry, Said. Let’s go to Jo first and then we’ll go to you. Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: I just want to go back on what Matt was saying. I mean, this is the first time that Secretary Kerry has actually seemed to indicate that it’s worth looking at the idea. Before you’ve always taken the position that you’re not considering it and therefore it’s not even going to be discussed. Whereas now he’s sort of saying that it’s – as Matt said, it’s worth looking at very, very closely, and he said if Syrian citizens can return to Syria and be protected in an area across the border, there’s a lot that would commend that. So he’s actually going a step further than you have done in the past.
MS. PSAKI: Well, but, Jo, also in his answer he talked about how there are many challenges to implementing this, including safety guarantees, including assurances there wouldn’t be attacks by the government, resources. And many from the military have talked about those. Those have been challenges that have been around for some period of time. Obviously, this is an active – or an active debate out there now because Turkey and other countries have renewed their interest in having a discussion about this. And we’re certainly open to having that discussion with them. It doesn’t change the fact that there are challenges. And that certainly is – are some of the prominent reasons why we’re not considering the implementation of it at this time.
QUESTION: So has he really spoken out of turn? I mean, he said, “We are all in favor of looking at this very closely.” “We are all in favor.”
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re open to discussing. We’re open to hearing from our partners and allies. That’s his role as the chief diplomat of the United States. It doesn’t mean our policy has changed as the United States.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, on this point of we are all being in favor, it’s even more mystifying and dumbfounding because the purpose of a no-fly zone is to sort of disallow your enemy from the benefit of using their air assets. To the best of your knowledge, does ISIS have airplanes and helicopters and so on, so you can impose a no-fly zone?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think when he said that he was referring to we’re all in favor of hearing out our partners and allies who want to talk about this proposal. That’s what he was referring to.
QUESTION: But you do agree that the purpose of a no-fly zone is to prevent your enemy from using their air assets, correct? Airplanes, attack planes, and things of that nature.
MS. PSAKI: In that area where there’s a no-fly zone, technically, broadly speaking, sure, yes.
QUESTION: Right. But you can’t confirm that ISIS, until now, does not have any kind of airplanes or attack planes or anything like this. So why would you have a no-fly zone in that particular area?
MS. PSAKI: I think there’s a range of reasons a number of countries have outlined and advocated for why they think it would be beneficial. That isn’t our position, but I would point you to the other countries’ comments.
Roz, go ahead.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on this.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Could that be the reason why the Pentagon is saying no, we don’t need it?
MS. PSAKI: I think that our position as an Administration, across the Administration, is that we’re not considering the implementation of this at this time. That is consistent across the Administration. It is not without challenges, as I have mentioned, and as the Secretary mentioned as well, and certainly as the implementing part of the Administration – the Pentagon – is well aware of what those challenges are. Certainly.
QUESTION: One of the key points that Rear Admiral Kirby made during his briefing today was that from the Pentagon’s perspective, the mission is denying safe haven to ISIL fighters.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: How would --
MS. PSAKI: I think I said that yesterday too, but go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. But how would a buffer zone even be compatible with that larger mission, which he kept saying has to be the primary focus right now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I said we’re not considering the implementation of it, so I’m not going to speculate on what it would achieve.
QUESTION: But it’s not a matter of speculation. I mean, if there were an active discussion and then decision by the U.S. and others in the coalition that some sort of buffer zone and/or no-fly zone should be implemented, how does that affect the offensive mission of going after the enemy?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, there has not been, and if there’s a decision to, we’ll outline why we’re doing it. But obviously those are discussions that will take place with our partners about this in the coming days.
QUESTION: But it just seems really incongruous. And then obviously the thing that’s not being talked about is that when you establish a buffer zone or when you establish a no-fly zone, that requires more personnel, more equipment, more money, more of a robust coordinating commitment --
MS. PSAKI: I think I just talked about the challenges, and we’re certainly aware of those, Roz. And you’re right, there are many challenges to implementing a buffer zone. We have not been the country advocating for that. There are other countries who have been advocating for why this would be an effective tool.
QUESTION: But there does seem to be reluctance on the Pentagon’s part to want to bring in more of those elements in order to conduct something when they’re still looking at making certain, as Admiral Kirby said, that Baghdad doesn’t fall, that ISIL does not have the ability to retake any of the territory that it has lost to the Iraqi military in coordination with the coalition airstrikes.
MS. PSAKI: There’s agreement on the challenges across the Administration about this. That’s obviously why it’s been discussed for years. It’s not been something that’s been implemented.
QUESTION: Thank you. So this no-fly zone and buffer zone, first time it came out, December of 2011.
MS. PSAKI: First time Turkey --
QUESTION: By Turkey, yes.
MS. PSAKI: -- mentioned it? Okay.
QUESTION: Yes, put forward. And every single year, Turkey has been talking about this for about three years. And you are saying now that you are open to discuss the idea. I don’t get it. You have not discussed this idea with Turkey for the last three years?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve certainly been hearing Turkey and other countries out about their ideas over the course of time. Obviously, I think Turkey and other countries have raised it – I’ll let them speak for themselves – recently because of the events on the ground, the growth of ISIL, the increasing threat that they’ve seen to their border. So I don’t think anybody should be surprised about their renewed focus on this option.
QUESTION: So you – that means that you have not discussed this idea before, you have not gotten any concrete proposal?
MS. PSAKI: It’s certainly been raised by Turkey, as they have said, in private discussions for some time now.
QUESTION: Today, there was a story in New York Times and it was an unnamed official, U.S. official, and he was saying that, or she was saying that, there is de facto no-fly zone in northern Syria anyway, so asking Turkey, why do you need no-fly zone? Would you agree with this assessment?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve seen those same reports. I think I don’t have any military confirmation. I’m not sure if my colleague over at the Pentagon was asked and addressed that particular question. I’d point you to Turkey for their reasons on why they think it’s an effective tool.
QUESTION: Do you suspect that Turkey is using this as a ploy really to target the Syrian Government and the Assad regime, and not really ISIS? I mean, seeing how the way they have been maneuvering around Kobani and others and so on, really allowing sort of the Kurds to be attacked and so on?
MS. PSAKI: Well, look, Said, I think Turkey is an important coalition partner, an important ally, an important NATO ally. They’ve felt this threat, the threat of ISIL, as much or more than most countries around the world. And certainly they have their own concerns to be focused on, and that’s one of the reasons why they need to play a pivotal role here, and that’s the discussion we’re having.
QUESTION: But if you look at the rhetoric coming out of Ankara, you find that the anti-Assad rhetoric far exceeds whatever they’re saying about ISIS.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s a recognition ISIL poses a direct threat and a neighboring threat to Turkey. The Secretary has been in close touch with them, General Allen has been – will be there in the next couple of days, and clearly we think they can do more.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: Jen, in the article – sorry, Matt – in the article in The New York Times, there was a quote from an unnamed Administration official saying there’s a lot of angst in Washington about Turkey’s reluctance to step into the fight. Is that the way that you would characterize it?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t characterize it that way. I think, Jo, we understand weeks ago that they had some sensitivities, which is why they couldn’t join up earlier. They’ve indicated they want to be a part of it. We’re in active discussions with them about what role they’ll play, and that’s what our focus is on.
QUESTION: Rear Admiral Kirby also allowed that, quote, “We can’t make them do anything,” meaning the Turkish military.
MS. PSAKI: That’s true of any country.
QUESTION: And that seems to really just underscore this whole idea of even trying to engage with the Turks if we – if we, meaning the United States, can’t make them do anything, then who’s going to do it? And it seems as if, by default, it’s going to fall back on the Pentagon to conduct this fight.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, there are more than 50 countries that are a part of this coalition, many of them taking military action or contributing militarily. We don’t need every country to contribute militarily. But what I think my colleague over at the Pentagon was saying is that they have to make the decision about what choices they’re going to make and what contributions they’re going to make on their own. Certainly, we’re encouraging them to do more, and that’s the reason General Allen and Ambassador McGurk are going there.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: You said in response to an earlier question that the Turks need to play a, quote, “pivotal role here.” Are you concerned that they are not stepping up to the plate, have not stepped up to the plate to play a pivotal role thus far?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we all know, Matt, that they are still determining what role they’ll play in the coalition. So obviously, there’s more that they will do over the course of time --
MS. PSAKI: -- and that is what we are discussing with them.
QUESTION: And recognizing that it was several weeks ago that the hostage – their diplomatic hostage situation was resolved, and it was less time than since the parliament voted, it’s still been some time during which they have had the sensitivities removed, ostensibly --
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: -- and they haven’t done anything, and in fact, not just not doing anything, they’re – instead of just sort of only just having their military lined up on the border watching what’s going on in Kobani, they’re actively preventing Kurds from inside Turkey, who are trying to go to help in Kobani, from going in.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --
QUESTION: How is that – how is that the action --
MS. PSAKI: -- it’s clear, Matt, that we’re having discussions with them about what more they can do military. There are other contributions they’ve made that are not military contributions in participating in this. The parliament voted just a week ago.
MS. PSAKI: So they knew that Ambassador McGurk and General Allen were coming there. It’s an opportunity to have a discussion, and we’ll see where things go from there.
QUESTION: Well, so what exactly have they done?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they’ve taken steps to crack down on foreign fighters. They’ve --
MS. PSAKI: I went through some of the outline of this the other day.
QUESTION: So – right. But in terms of actual – so doing what they should’ve been doing in the first place years ago, i.e., not letting extremists into Syria in the first place, whether it was inadvertent or intentional, doing what they’re supposed to be doing, doesn’t make them – I mean, does that make them a full and active member of the coalition with a pivotal role? Or do they actually have to do something?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, they’ve taken steps that are in many of our lines of effort to crack down on foreign fighters, to do more on counter-financing, to do more on delegitimizing ISIL. Obviously, there is a discussion about their military role. That’s an ongoing discussion.
QUESTION: So the question is what more would you like them to do? Do you want them to put boots on the ground?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to outline that from here. It’s not appropriate to do that. There’s a discussion between our CENTCOM leaders – General Allen and Ambassador McGurk and others – about what role they’ll play.
Go ahead, Michael.
QUESTION: Jen, how many civilians are trapped or in Kobani and the surrounding villages? And are any of them able to move to a safer place across the border in Turkey? How many people are there?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any assessment of that, Michael, in front of me.
QUESTION: Well --
MS. PSAKI: We can get you more if possible. Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: I’ll just – a follow-up on that.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry and you have made the case that you have strategic objectives going after command control and the like, but not all of the military operations in Iraq have – in that area have been based on strategic considerations alone. There was the intervention on Mount Sinjar for the Yezidis. How does – why does the plight of the Kurds in Kobani differ from the case of the Yezidis? How do you decide on what basis to launch a humanitarian intervention for the Yezidis but not on behalf of the people in and around Kobani?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one, as you know, Michael – I know you follow this closely – we have been doing airstrikes into the area around Kobani for the past several days. They’ve increased overnight. I think there’s different strategic objectives when it comes to Syria and when it comes to Iraq. And with Iraq – let me actually say with Syria, we are focused on disrupting ISIL’s command and control centers, destroying ISIL’s critical infrastructure, attacking sources of ISIL fuel and financing. That’s where our military – what our military objectives are focused on.
In Iraq, obviously, Iraq has been a partner and one that we have been working closely with the government on. We’ve been boosting up the Iraqi Security Forces. And our objectives there have been different. It’s not that we don’t watch with deep concern about what is happening in Kobani; that’s one of the reasons we’ve taken military action. And also, certainly, there have been on-the-ground efforts between forces on the ground to work to push back on this as well. We’ll continue to do more. But there are different objectives for different components of this effort.
QUESTION: Can you just – not just for my benefit, but for everyone here – by the end of the day give us your estimate of the number of civilians there? Because I don’t understand how you can say that the fall of Kobani would basically not be a strategic setback if you can’t even tell us how many people are there and how many people might, in fact, be in danger of losing their lives. I think – can you give us your best estimate by the end of the day and the number of civilians at risk there --
MS. PSAKI: We certainly – certainly --
QUESTION: -- in the city and in the surrounding villages?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly, Michael, we can look into what estimate we can provide on that front.
QUESTION: Jen, one question. I want to follow up, just a follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: Just – go ahead.
QUESTION: Just a follow-up: You said that because Iraq is your partner, the strategic goals are different from the ones you have in Syria. To me, it sounds like saying if you – if I put it bluntly, saying that saving Erbil is more strategic for you than saving the people in Kobani.
MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all how I put it. I was outlining what our military objectives are. I think the United States has clearly done more than, I would say, any other country in the world to date to take on the threat of ISIL. We’ve done more strikes in the area of Kobani. We’ve provided more humanitarian assistance in the region writ large. But our focus in Syria is on taking on the threat of ISIL and going after areas where there are safe havens and trying to reduce their ability to train, equip, and sustain this fight, and that’s what our objective focus is on.
QUESTION: Okay. But why – like, just overnight you were able to stop the advance of ISIS on Erbil because of, like, really intensive air campaign, but why haven’t you been able to stop the advance of ISIS on Kobani for three weeks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think every fight is different. There are different forces on the ground. I’m not in a position to give you military analysis from here.
QUESTION: Jen, I think the point is that – it is an interesting point. You said that there are different strategic objectives in Iraq than there are in Syria, and it would seem to me that the translation of that, if you’re on the ground in Kobani and being threatened by this, is that the U.S. is not going to do that much to help me because they don’t like the Government of Syria, the Assad regime. Whereas if you’re a Yezidi on Mount Sinjar, you got help and protection from the U.S. because you guys are – because the American Government is friendly with the Iraqi Government.
Part of this was supposed to be a humanitarian operation, especially in Iraq. I mean, that was the authorization, right, was to help --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, first of all, as I just said in a response to his question, there’s no country that’s done as much as the United States --
QUESTION: I’m not suggesting that --
MS. PSAKI: -- let me finish – on humanitarian issues, on providing more humanitarian access. But this is a long-term fight. This is one where we have to be focused on what our objectives are. Our objectives here are going after the threat of ISIL, the safe havens where ISIL has in Syria. There will be other towns and cities that we know will be threatened in Syria, but we have to focus on our strategic components here, which are command and control centers, which are oil refineries, which are other pieces where we’ve done our precision strikes over the past several weeks.
QUESTION: So saving people – saving innocent lives from this – from ISIL, which you’ve called barbaric and evil and everything else under the sun, is not as – is just not a priority?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not.
MS. PSAKI: The reason why the United States is leading this coalition is to take on the threat of ISIL and prevent them from doing as much harm across the region and to other parts of the world that they’ve done.
QUESTION: Okay. But can you understand how in the immediate term, in the short – very short – the now term, people are – large numbers of people are threatened and you are doing some things --
MS. PSAKI: And as I mentioned, we’ve done a range of strikes over the past couple of days in this exact region.
QUESTION: So we should --
MS. PSAKI: And we’ve provided a range of assistance.
QUESTION: Okay. So we should expect to see more and there --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- to be – there to be a concerted coalition effort to keep Kobani from falling?
MS. PSAKI: I – that – I think, Matt, my colleague already addressed this at the Pentagon. We – I can’t predict for you if Kobani will fall or not. There will be other towns and cities that are going to be threatened. We will continue this effort, which will be a long-term effort, to take on the threat of ISIL.
QUESTION: But Rear Admiral Kirby also said – sorry, let me jump in here – Rear Admiral Kirby also said it’s not just that other towns and villages will be threatened; some of these towns and villages, possibly including Kobani, will fall. And he said that the military has to look at the larger picture of trying to deal with the effort of taking out ISIL. Basically, in so many words --
MS. PSAKI: I think that’s what I just aid.
QUESTION: No, but he put it much more bluntly than you just did, which is basically that --
MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s speaking on behalf of the military.
QUESTION: -- there may be some communities that are lost to ISIL, but that’s not going to be the measure of actually winning. What’s going to be the measure of winning is actually degrading and taking out ISIL fighters. Is the U.S. prepared to just let Kobani and any other number of cities fall to ISIL for the larger goal over a longer fight to defeat this organization?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I think the fact is we’ve undertaken multiple airstrikes in the Kobani area over the course of the last several days.
QUESTION: And yet ISIL fighters keep pushing back and keep coming in.
MS. PSAKI: I understand that. There’s also an effort on the ground to push back. I don’t think I have anything to add to what my colleague at the Pentagon said.
QUESTION: Just very quickly, would you say the priority is to go after the leadership of ISIL and not really to save whatever ground they gain?
MS. PSAKI: The priorities are as I just outlined them.
Go ahead. Go ahead, one more.
QUESTION: One more question. Foreign Policy has reported that – it’s quoted Robert Ford --
MS. PSAKI: I answered this yesterday. I’m happy to reiterate it. Are you asking about contacts through intermediaries?
QUESTION: Yeah, the rebels. Did – I mean, did you have direct contacts with the YPJ rebels in Syria?
MS. PSAKI: That’s not what the story says. The story talks about being in touch through intermediaries, which is correct, and I confirmed that yesterday.
QUESTION: Can I just ask one?
MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t see it that way at all. We’re not considering the implementation of a buffer zone. We’re happy to hear from our partners and listen to them and talk to them about a range of options that they are putting out there and they’re proposing.
QUESTION: So I mean, to go back to the question, which I don’t think you actually answered: Did the Secretary misspeak?
MS. PSAKI: No. I think we were – are – consistently have been open to hearing from our partners about their ideas and their proposals. We – they’ve proposed this and been talking about this for some time now, certainly as the diplomats and representing the diplomatic community. That’s what we would do here. But --
QUESTION: But to go back to Matt’s earlier question, I mean, it is a one-sided conversation. They’re talking to you, and you’ve already said “nyet.”
MS. PSAKI: We’ve never ruled it out, Jo. That continues to be the case.
QUESTION: Yeah, but --
MS. PSAKI: It’s not without challenges.
QUESTION: But it’s like the --
QUESTION: But if you’re not considering implementing it, then you’re not considering implementing it – in other words --
MS. PSAKI: We’re not considering implementing it at this time.
QUESTION: How is it not the diplomatic equivalent of “talk to the hand”? I mean, it just – I don’t know, I don’t understand how it’s not – unless you’re just being duplicitous and feigning potential interest by agreeing to discuss it, I don’t – not sure --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think --
QUESTION: I guess I’m not sure where they gets you.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we see it that way --
QUESTION: Do you think that you could lure the Turks into --
MS. PSAKI: -- and I would encourage you to ask other countries to see if they’d like us to hear from them on their ideas and proposals. And I think the answer would be yes.
QUESTION: Right. But I think those countries would also like you to take them seriously, and if you say you’re going to discuss then not to have already ruled them out by the time you get to the conservation.
MS. PSAKI: I just said we’ve never ruled it out.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: If you’re not considering it at this time – sorry, just one more follow-up. If you’re not considering it at this time, do you envisage a time when you will be considering implementing it?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t predict that, Jo. I think it’s not without challenges. Those would have to be addressed. But obviously, we don’t have answers for how they’d be addressed at this point in time.
QUESTION: Jen, has the Secretary received any call from the White House after his statement on the buffer zone?
MS. PSAKI: No. In fact, we’re in agreement on our position on this.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Did you ask Turkey or did you put any pressure on Turkey to at least let reinforcement cross the border to that city, to that town, so the people running out of ammunition --
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been discussing --
QUESTION: And they’re not letting the reinforcement --
MS. PSAKI: Sure. We’ve been discussing a range of options. I’m not going to outline those here for you, though. Those conversations are ongoing.
QUESTION: Sorry, along those lines.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Kirby kept saying that airstrikes alone wasn’t enough and that the solution usually came from an indigenous ground force --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- which he acknowledged wasn’t possible in that area and won’t be possible for a while, because it’s going to take a while to train and equip these forces. So what’s the solution in the meantime, if airstrikes alone aren’t enough and the best solution is an indigenous ground force, which we don’t have?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I hope that somebody asked that question. That’s an appropriate question to pose at the Pentagon. It’s a military question. As I mentioned yesterday, there are de facto coalitions in some of these towns, including those near the Turkish border. Obviously, they’re making an effort to push back. It’s true that there’s obviously more work that needs to be done with the Syrian opposition in order to push back. These are all efforts that are underway, but certainly, this is a challenging issue and we’re discussing what the options are with Turkey and other countries.
QUESTION: But why can’t – I mean, it looks as if you’re kind of dancing around the idea that you think that this is coming up against Turkey’s border, it’s creeping up against their border, and that they should step up and do some more, and whether it’s artillery or sending troops across the border, that you are looking for Turkey to take a more active role here.
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a range of steps that Turkey could take. We’re in discussions with them about that, but we just don’t think it’s appropriate to outline that on their behalf publicly. So it’s as simple as that.
QUESTION: Are you expecting, Jen, that the meeting tomorrow and Friday with – between McGurk and General Allen and the Turks will – that we’ll know something, or you’ll know something at least, before the weekend?
MS. PSAKI: I would --
QUESTION: In terms of what the Turks are willing and able to do.
MS. PSAKI: I certainly think we hope that we’ll be able to further the discussion, but I don’t think we expect every piece will be concluded.
QUESTION: Okay. So you can’t say where in the discussion you are with the Turks in terms of them coming to a decision on what they’re going to do?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this is sort of in their decision-making pool.
MS. PSAKI: So we’ll have a better sense, perhaps tomorrow, on where they are. I’m not sure how much we’ll be able to outline of that publicly, but we’ll see.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you know if the Secretary plans to have any meetings face-to – on the trip that you just talked about with any of the Turks? Is that something that’s being considered?
MS. PSAKI: Not currently planned. I should’ve added, actually – there’s more on the trip that is still being finalized. We’ll put out a media note hopefully later today, if not tomorrow.
QUESTION: But is it something that is possible?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not currently planned. I’m not aware of a plan to add that to the schedule, but --
QUESTION: Well, I’m not saying necessarily go to Turkey, but --
MS. PSAKI: Sure. No, no, I understand what you’re saying.
QUESTION: -- meet at some point in Europe with --
MS. PSAKI: It’s not under consideration that I’m aware of. Certainly sometimes, as you all know, these trips come together and things are added at --
QUESTION: Right. Well, I presume that the Turks will be present at the Gaza conference in Cairo. I don’t know who, but – I mean, it’s something – it is possible that the Secretary would have some kind of face-to-face discussion.
MS. PSAKI: If they are participating – I don’t have a list, but if they are participating, certainly, I expect he’ll have a lot of sidebar conversations.
QUESTION: Jen, the discussions with the – these discussions that General Allen will be having – I’m sorry if you went over this already, but --
MS. PSAKI: No, no, it’s okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: -- would you say that they were more general about what Turkey specifically can do for the coalition, or do you – I mean, could you kind of flesh out what the Secretary was saying about Kobani being part of the things that they’ll discuss? Do you anticipate some action items on Kobani in particular, or are you just looking at what their general role will be?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the purpose of their trip --
MS. PSAKI: -- I mean, we’re still in the early stages, but – is to have the first kind of big trip of General Allen and Ambassador McGurk to the region. So it’s more broad, is the objective of the meetings. But certainly, given the circumstances in Kobani, we fully expect that will be discussed.
QUESTION: I know it’ll be discussed, but are you looking – I mean, obviously you’re looking to flesh out what their general role will be going forward, whether it’s Incirlik Air Base or any of those things. But are you hoping that General Allen will come away with a specific action plan for Kobani?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make any predictions, Elise. I think we’re going to wait for the meetings --
QUESTION: I’m not asking you to predict whether he’ll get it.
MS. PSAKI: That is a prediction.
QUESTION: I’m saying is that a specific goal?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not – they’ll discuss it. I don’t have any predictions that I’m going to make from here about what will be concluded from the meetings.
QUESTION: Jen, do you consider the fact that the population of Kobani or Ayn al-Arab are regime-friendly and they were close to the regime is basically what lies behind the Turkish position?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to Turkey to ask them that question.
QUESTION: Just one more question.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say about the brutal crackdown by the Turkish police on pro-Kobani protestors in Turkey? More than 12 people have died.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we – I addressed this a little bit yesterday, but it’s worth reiterating. We are concerned about the reports of deaths resulting from clashes during demonstrations. It’s very concerning to us. We support freedom of expression, freedom of assembly in Turkey, as we do around the world. We urge all sides to exercise restraint and avoid violence.
MS. PSAKI: Yes, and then I think we’ll move on, because I --
MS. PSAKI: -- there’s probably other topics, but go ahead.
QUESTION: Just couple days ago, President Erdogan said – which is affiliated with the PKK – he said that he sees PKK and ISIL are the same thing, and it’s wrong to think these are different. Would you agree with this assessment?
MS. PSAKI: I think others have made comments along these lines. They’re both designated terrorist organizations. Obviously, they’re different. ISIL poses a direct threat, if left unchecked, to the United States. That’s why it’s a focus of ours. So I’ll leave it at that.
QUESTION: And one more statement: Would you agree that Turkey’s inventing reason not to act against ISIL, as quoted by the same story in New York Times?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to Turkey to ask them that question.
QUESTION: One more?
MS. PSAKI: One more on Turkey?
QUESTION: On ISIL.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Are we done with Turkey or are we – okay. Go ahead, Nicolas. We’ll go to you in a second. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Move on.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I’m wondering which countries were targeted by the two secretaries.
MS. PSAKI: Well, without naming names today, I think one of the things the Secretary said is there are some bigger countries that have contributed less. There are some smaller countries that have contributed more. So obviously, if you look at the contributions that were in some of the charts that we provided to all of you, then you can draw your own conclusions.
QUESTION: Okay, right. Because --
MS. PSAKI: The point is --
MS. PSAKI: Sorry, let me just – the point is a third of what is needed is not being filled, as you saw the Secretary say. And the fact is there are countries with tremendous resources that can do more. The United States has already contributed more than 113 million, will continue to do more, but other countries need to really step up to the plate. I will see if there’s more we can give you on the specific countries.
QUESTION: Why not? Why not call these countries out?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m going to do that today, but --
QUESTION: No, no, no. Well, I’m not asking you to do it. I’m asking you, why not? I mean, this is an urgent – apparently, according to the Secretary, I mean – and both secretaries, and according to pretty much everybody, this is an extremely urgent public – international public health crisis.
MS. PSAKI: You’re right. It is.
QUESTION: So why not say, “Hey, Country C,” for example, “why aren’t you stepping up to the plate? Hey, Country R, why -- ” why not call them out?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as of now, we think these countries know who they are and that they can do more, and all of you are reporters who can delve into who should do more.
QUESTION: Okay, a follow-up on that.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: When we look at your interesting slides, one big country – or middle-size country is missing, the former colonial power in West Africa, France. So is Country F missing and – I mean, does the U.S. call France to do more or to do a little bit to fight Ebola in West Africa?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we call any country – on any country that is – has a large number of resources to do more, and we’ll let you draw your own conclusions about which countries are included in that.
MS. PSAKI: Would you – do we have any more on Ebola, just before we finish?
QUESTION: Again, yes. The threats by Turkey against Cyprus led to the breakdown of the talks, and there are some people in Nicosia that – they believe that Turkey wants to start a new war against Cyprus. Do you have any comment on this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we recognize the Republic of Cyprus’s right to develop its resources in its exclusive economic zone. We continue to support strongly the negotiation process conducted under UN good offices to reunify the island into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. We continue to believe that the island’s oil and gas resources, like all of its resources, should be equitably shared between communities in the context of an overall settlement. And certainly, we believe it’s important to avoid actions that may intensify, increase region – tensions, I should say, in the region.
QUESTION: So do you --
QUESTION: Cyprus president withdrew from the talks. Do you have any comment on this specific issue?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we welcome the arrival of the UN Special Envoy Espen Barth Eide to the island. We continue to support the negotiation process. We encourage the parties to show the necessary commitment and courage to reach a just and lasting comprehensive settlement. We hope that settlement talks can progress successfully.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary or somebody else from this building call in Ankara or Nicosia about the threats by Turkey against Cyprus?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any calls to read out in terms of calls about this issue. Let me check on that and we can see if there’s something we can get you after the briefing.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Palestinian, okay, and then we’ll go to Scott. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Very quickly, I know the Administration expressed its sort of dismay at being called – criticizing the settlements as not – as un-American, which, of course, the Israelis criticized. But today, also the Israelis announced new settlements. Are you aware of that?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen that, Said.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you believe that every time you make such a strong statement, the Israelis react by announcing more settlements?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that, Said. But I think you are familiar with our position. I’m happy to take a look at that and happy to reiterate that.
QUESTION: I am fully familiar with your position. Did you follow up on your expression of the other day with the Israelis saying that we do stand by what we say and we urge you to stop the settlement activity, or you just left it at your statement?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly, we make that point through private diplomatic conversations all the time, absolutely.
QUESTION: On the Gaza conference --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- how much are the expectations of the United States that this will also talk about implementing the terms of the ceasefire as well, since it’s somewhat fruitless to spend a bunch of money reconstructing Gaza if it’s just going to be knocked down again?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we expect this conference will certainly focus on Gaza’s reconstruction, and that’s the objective of it and the hosts – the Egyptian and Norwegian co-hosts are certainly focused on that and a discussion of humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts.
To your point, of course, ideally, we’d like to see an agreement on a way forward for a sustainable ceasefire that addresses the long-term issues so we don’t have the recurring conflict. Will there be opportunities to discuss that at this conference? Certainly, there could be, and I expect the Secretary will have some sidebar conversations, but it’s not the primary focus. They’ll have to reconvene the parties to have that discussion separately from this conference.
QUESTION: I understand that it would be up to the hosts, but is the – does the United States believe that Iran might be involved in this conversation as well, given its support for Hamas both in the reconstruction and in implementing the terms of the ceasefire?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware, Scott, of plans to involve them or invite them. I can certainly check and see if anything has changed, but not that I have heard of.
QUESTION: Jen, whether or not the ceasefire implementation is part of – a main part or a side issue at this conference, is there any thought to making at least a U.S. contribution to this contingent on a ceasefire holding? It seems like just throwing money away if you’re – if what you’re going to contribute to is, as Scott said, just going to get knocked down again.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned in the opening, I think we’ve contributed --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t remember the exact number. I don’t have any new contributions or new announcements that I’m aware of that are planned for this from the United States.
QUESTION: Well, I understand. But I mean, the whole point is to get more money, right?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly.
QUESTION: Do you know if there’s an estimate of the amount of aid, assistance that the U.S. has poured into Gaza over the last several years that have gone into projects that have been destroyed?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure there is an estimate. We can see if there is, Matt. Obviously, there’s a great deal of devastation and a great deal of reconstruction that’s needed, and obviously, the United States is the biggest donor to the Palestinians.
MS. PSAKI: So --
QUESTION: But --
QUESTION: And could – if and when you could find that out, I’d be curious to know who the blame – who you apportion the blame for that to – to Hamas, who were firing rockets into Israel, or to the Israelis and their response – or is it both?
MS. PSAKI: Elise, go ahead.
QUESTION: Are you going to answer his question, or no?
QUESTION: No, no, at the same time as you come back with an answer on whether you have --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m going to be playing the blame game. I think we have talked about concerns we’ve had about Hamas and their indiscriminate rockets --
QUESTION: And you’ve also --
MS. PSAKI: We have – we have also raised concerns about the fact that at times there was more Israel could do to avoid civilian casualties.
QUESTION: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said during the whole conflict that this was the last time that the international community was going to rebuild Gaza only to have it torn down again. I mean, how do you make sure that those are not empty words? Because I mean, this is like the sixth or seventh time. And I know particularly the Europeans have been very upset that they’re one of the largest – or if not the largest contributor to Gaza reconstruction and the Palestinians, and this money is just basically thrown down the drain.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that just gives you a sense of the frustration we’ve seen in the international community about the failure to reach a lasting ceasefire agreement that addresses the core issues. Obviously, that needs to be between the parties. In terms of guarantees, obviously, what we’re trying to achieve here is that lasting agreement between the parties that will bringing an end to this cycle of violence that continues to devastate communities and lead to civilian casualties and also leads to these reconstruction efforts.
QUESTION: Well, I understand. But I mean, while recognizing that the Palestinians are in desperate need in Gaza, are in desperate need of aid and reconstruction, to Matt’s point, how do you give them the humanitarian and reconstruction aid that they need and not – make sure that this doesn’t happen again? I mean, you really don’t have any assurance that this is not money that’s going to be --
MS. PSAKI: Well, countries have to decide if they’re willing to give more, how much they’re willing – more they’re willing to give, what they want to see happen. And obviously, there’s a great deal of interest from the international community – the UN, the United States, and others – to see a lasting agreement here. And we’re going to continue to work toward that.
QUESTION: Do you think that Israel should take a greater role in the reconstruction of Gaza?
MS. PSAKI: We do think that Israel will need to play a role in Gaza reconstruction. We were pleased to see that the UN, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority agreed on procedures aimed at expediting the passage of relief materials into Gaza while taking into account Israel’s security needs. We encourage the organizers to include all governments who can play a role, and certainly in the past there have been contributions, and we’re hopeful there will be more.
QUESTION: Do you think that Israel’s role should be one more of facilitating the logistical hurdles of this, or should they also take a part in the actual reconstruction, financial in-kind services --
MS. PSAKI: Well, they have contributed materials in the past, and we certainly hope they’ll do the same again.
QUESTION: Well, without a ceasefire, why would you tell the Israelis that you want them to give material and/or money to Gaza reconstruction without a ceasefire when it – very possible that it could then be used against them?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a ceasefire now, Matt.
QUESTION: I understand that, but --
MS. PSAKI: But we’re working towards a lasting ceasefire --
MS. PSAKI: -- and we certainly think there will be a reconvening of that effort to move that forward. So – but we – at the same time, we believe that there needs to be a reconstruction of Gaza.
QUESTION: So – but even without a long-term security assurance, you think that the Israelis should be – should assist and --
MS. PSAKI: There are a range of countries who are contributing, and we certainly hope Israel does the same.
QUESTION: What steps have been taken --
QUESTION: Jen, I asked – midway through the conflict, I recall very clearly – I asked you midway through the conflict: Why not make the parties to the conflict pay for the damage that they have incurred on the other?
MS. PSAKI: I think there are --
QUESTION: Why not – I mean, wouldn’t that be some sort of a guarantee --
MS. PSAKI: I appreciate your suggestion, Said, but there --
QUESTION: I’m being – I’m not being facetious.
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. There are a range of countries in the international community who are going to be contributing. That’s what our focus is on at this point in time.
QUESTION: No, I’m saying why not hold the parties to the conflict accountable?
MS. PSAKI: We will take your proposal and note it. (Laughter.)
Go ahead, Nicole.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I actually wanted to just go back very quickly to Ebola. I just wanted to ask you if the Secretary’s remarks, the slides, the presentation this morning reflect an increased level of concern. Has something changed in the Administration’s analysis of the way the epidemic is spreading?
MS. PSAKI: It doesn’t reflect that. I think if you saw the first – I know you couldn’t see it, I’m sorry, in the bullpen. So I apologize for that. But if you look at the first slide of the slides we sent you that has the list of all of the needs, it just outlines how much more is needed. And I think as there have been more discussions and meetings in the Administration, there’s just a recognition that there’s a lot that’s unfilled, and the international community has outlined that. So it really is a concern that we need to fill these needs now and we need to raise attention to why and who can help fill them.
QUESTION: I just wanted to go back to the ceasefire. What steps have been taken in the weeks since it was reached to actually deepen it? I know that Mr. Rubenstein’s been on the road and meeting with people, but what level --
MS. PSAKI: The ceasefire in Gaza, or --
QUESTION: In Gaza, right.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. So you mean Lowenstein?
QUESTION: Lowenstein. Sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Sorry. I was thinking, which ceasefire are we talking about?
QUESTION: Right. Right.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Lowenstein.
QUESTION: Right. But what more has been done in the interim? And why wouldn’t this conference be an opportunity for the U.S. to use its potential contributions as leverage to get the people of Gaza and the Israelis to actually firm up this ceasefire so that we don’t have another short-term war?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, we expect other countries will come to the conference with donations. I’m not aware of a new donation the United States will be making. We’ll see. But as far as I’m aware, there is not one coming this weekend. Otherwise, certainly there’s been a discussion and the Egyptians are – have been the – are going to be the hosts and will be the hosts of hosting the parties to have a discussion about the ceasefire.
My point is that the focus of this conference, which is cohosted by the Norwegians, is on reconstruction efforts. Certainly there will be conversations on the side. The Secretary has, as you know, been engaged in conversations with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with President Abbas, and with others pretty consistently, as has our envoy, Frank Lowenstein. So that will continue. We have been engaged in this, as have the Egyptians, as have a number of other countries. I was just making the point about what the purpose of this conference, as outlined by the host, is.
QUESTION: But to go back to Matt’s point, isn’t this an opportunity for the U.S. to try to move the ball down the field, as it were, and not just have this very tenuous status quo?
MS. PSAKI: And so what would you – be your suggestion and how that would be done?
QUESTION: Well, the question is: Shouldn’t the U.S. make contingent whatever contributions it’s going to make on a good-faith effort between Hamas dealing through intermediaries with the Israeli Government?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the United States is and continues to be the largest donor to the Palestinians. As I just noted a few minutes ago, we’re not – there’s not new contributions that are planned that I’m aware of for this weekend. We believe that Gaza should be reconstructed. Obviously, we’re very supportive of this effort. We also have been very focused and spent most of our time talking with these parties about reconvening the ceasefire talks. Obviously, Egypt will be the host of that, but the focus of this conference is a noble and good purpose, and that’s why the Secretary is attending.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure.
QUESTION: -- and the nuclear talks?
MS. PSAKI: Iran? Sure.
QUESTION: The nuclear talks. So on October the 15th, I believe – I counted this morning – there will be five weeks and five days before the November 24th deadline.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, that has a nice ring to it, Jo.
QUESTION: Yes. So could you – I wondered why it was decided to hold these trilateral talks at ministerial level. I noted that you said there was going to be some expert – there was going to be a lower-level meeting on the 14th, excuse me. But why is it going to be bilateral? Is the suggestion that the EU is basically, to a certain extent – the other five ministers, the other ministers are sidelined, and it’s just come down to a more narrower meeting between the Secretary, the foreign minister from Iran, and Cathy Ashton? And do you believe within the five weeks and five days that it’s actually feasible to reach a comprehensive agreement?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Okay, let me see if I get all of these – five and five. This is an EU-led process, so it’s only natural that they’d be a part of the trilateral meeting. Virtually all of the countries in the P5+1 have had bilateral meetings with Iran over the course of time. Many of them happened at UNGA in New York, so this is just a follow-up for us. Other countries may do the same thing on their own time and terms.
In terms of when the next P5+1 round will be – full P5+1, which there certainly will be – I don’t have anything further on that. Obviously, the EU would announce that. Our focus, and certainly the focus of the Secretary’s meetings, will be – and Under Secretary Sherman and Deputy Secretary Burns – is determining whether it’s possible to reach an agreement by November 24th that effectively closes down Iran’s pathways to nuclear materials for a nuclear weapon. We believe – continue to believe that there’s still adequate time to work through these issues and arrive at a comprehensive agreement that will give the international community assurances that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon. But we don’t yet have an understanding of all the major issues, and we continue to look for Iran to make the decisions necessary to get to a comprehensive agreement. So as they did when we were in New York, I expect the conversation will continue, and certainly there will be many more meetings from here.
QUESTION: But what you just outlined is almost exactly what was told to us at the end of the last meeting in UNGA, between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Zarif. It would seem that there’s a stalemate. Is that a correct assessment?
MS. PSAKI: No. I think we still don’t have an understanding of the major issues, so that’s what the purpose of the discussion is on. We expect there will be many more meetings, and certainly there will be meetings at the experts level, and those will continue. And we have – feel we have adequate time to work through these issues.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Are you on Iran in the back, or no?
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yesterday at the UN, you are probably aware that a North Korean official acknowledged the fact that they have reform through labor camps, and I’m just wondering if you have any response to that acknowledgment.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve continued to urge, and urge again, North Korea to take concrete steps to – as outlined by the UN Commission of Inquiry – to dismantle the prison camps. Secretary Kerry spoke to this issue just maybe two weeks ago when he was at UNGA, where he called on North Korea to close all of its prison camps – a specific recommendation, again, of the Commission of Inquiry. This includes both its prison labor camps, which North Korea is apparently acknowledging now, and its notorious political prison camps, which – such as Yodok, the existence of which they continue to deny. So they acknowledge some camps, not all, but certainly we continue to call on them to close.
QUESTION: Well, do you see this acknowledgment as any kind of – as there being a glint of hope, and then actually doing anything? Or is it – do think it’s just a one-off?
MS. PSAKI: I think, obviously, taking action is what we’re looking for them to do, so --
QUESTION: But you don’t see any sign of them taking action in making this admission?
MS. PSAKI: Not that we have seen.
QUESTION: No? All right.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: On a different topic, back to ISIS.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Do – North Korea? Or --
QUESTION: Yeah, North Korea.
MS. PSAKI: North Korea. Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have any further insight – I know it’s a very closed government, but any further insight into Kim Jong-un and his location, or whether or not the capital city has been locked down?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve, of course, seen those same reports. I really don’t have anything new for you given how opaque the government – the North Korean regime is. It’s probably not surprising that there’s very little reliable information out there. But I don’t have anything new for you on it or any confirmation of anything.
QUESTION: And in terms of the high-level – their high-level visit to the South and the discussions there, which I think you talked about earlier in the week, does the – does your request or offer to send Ambassador King still stand?
MS. PSAKI: It has long stood. Yeah, it still stands; it’s my understanding, yeah.
QUESTION: It’s not been rescinded or anything?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: North Korea?
QUESTION: I have one on North Korea.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Can you say even whether you’ve noticed anything unusual, I mean, about the North that might suggest some leadership change or issues? Or does it just look the way it normally does to you guys?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more than what I offered, Arshad. It’s one of those – most opaque countries in the world, as you know.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: In South Korea, former Seoul bureau chief of the Sankei Shimbun, the Japan’s daily newspaper, was indicted on charge with defamation of President Park. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: We are aware of the reports that the Seoul prosecutor’s office today indicted the Sankei Shimbun Seoul bureau chief – bureau editor for defamation. We’ve been following the investigation by the Seoul prosecutor since its initiation. We certainly don’t have additional details. As you know, we broadly support freedom of speech and expression, and we have outlined in the past, and including in our recent reports that we issue annually from the State Department, about our concerns about the law on the books in South Korea.
MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?
QUESTION: Like, are --
MS. PSAKI: Or what are you – sorry, can you add a little more to what you’re asking?
QUESTION: Yeah, like how are – what are you doing to identify particular Americans believed to be fighting for ISIS in Syria. What has the State Department been doing?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s – obviously, we work closely with our partners in the intelligence community. We work closely with law enforcement agencies. There are certain capabilities the State Department has, including revoking visas and travel documents. Obviously, we’re not going to outline everything we’re doing, but clearly our focus or one of our objectives of the coalition is on cracking down on foreign fighters, including those who are with Western passports, and we certainly recognize that as one of the greatest threats that we face and something that we’re encouraging other countries to do more on as well.
QUESTION: Are you seeing a lot of progress in your efforts?
MS. PSAKI: In what – I’m sorry. In what capacity are you --
QUESTION: On identifying these people who have traveled there or who are going to stop traveling – or to prevent them from getting there. Is there progress since --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you saw the announcement made by the FBI just about two days ago. Obviously, our law enforcement partners and members of the intelligence community work most closely on this issue. There’s certainly a role that many in the interagency, including the State Department, play, but I would really point you to them for any analysis of specific progress.
QUESTION: So --
QUESTION: What kind of cooperation are you getting from people on the ground then? Are you in contact with people there that can help you point them to these American – or potential U.S. citizens fighting there?
MS. PSAKI: The Syrian opposition or others?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check and see what about that we can discuss more publicly.
QUESTION: Do you know if anyone’s passport has been revoked because of this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we don’t – actually there have been. I think I’ve spoken about this in the past. Recently?
MS. PSAKI: As you know, we don’t typically confirm --
QUESTION: I know. I’m not asking for the names. I’m just wondering if any --
MS. PSAKI: I understand, Matt. I will --
QUESTION: Because, as we understand from the FBI, there are about a dozen or so --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- who are actually fighting with ISIL. Do you know if any of those 12, approximately, have had their passports revoked?
MS. PSAKI: Let me check and see if there’s more I can confirm on that specific question.
QUESTION: So the figure is around 12, 15, 20, under 20?
MS. PSAKI: I think he’s referring to the comments of the FBI director, but – it more broadly beyond ISIL it’s more around a hundred.
Ms. PSAKI: But I mean, if you – if he’s confident enough to give a number of about 12, presumably you have a good idea of who those 12 people are.
MS. PSAKI: Which is, I think, what he said during his interview.
QUESTION: Right, right. And so it’d be – have all or any of them have had their passport revoked?
MS. PSAKI: I understand your question. I will see if there’s more we can confirm. Just abiding by the letter of the law here.
QUESTION: I mean, the fact that --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I mean, I don’t know if this is pointed to you, but the fact that the FBI is asking Americans for help to figure out who the person could be in the latest propaganda video, does it appear that – it appears that it could be that they are fighting a dead end and they don’t have any more leads in this case to find these foreign fighters.
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to them on their process. I just don’t want to speak on their behalf.
MS. PSAKI: New topic?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, Egypt?
QUESTION: Libya’s Prime Minister al-Thinni was in Cairo today for talks with his counterpart and he also met with President al-Sisi. After the meeting, he said that Egypt would be helping to train Libya’s army. Obviously, in Libya there are competing government factions. Do you find this a positive step or a positive – is there a positive role for Egypt to play in training Libya’s army?
MS. PSAKI: There’s a positive role for a number of countries to play. The United States works with a number of countries on helping Libya build up their capacity. We believe that their current challenges require political solutions. The international community has also made that clear on numerous occasions, and that outside intervention is not useful.
In terms of this specific report, I hadn’t seen it before I came out here, so let me get a little more detail on it and we can see if we can get you a more specific response.
QUESTION: I’m not sure if you’ve been asked about this in recent weeks, which is there’s still U.S. Government military assistance to Egypt that’s on hold, waiting for the Secretary to certify if Egypt’s taken positive steps on democratic principles, et cetera. Is there an update? Are you seeing positive signs on the ground in Egypt? What’s the latest assessment on that?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. There’s no update to provide. They’re – you’re referring to two of the remaining certifications, I think, that haven’t been confirmed --
MS. PSAKI: -- that are holding on aid that’s left over. There’s still more that we think that Egypt can do, so obviously, those certifications have not been certified. There’s probably a better way of saying that, but there you go.
QUESTION: Can I just ask on – because we’re going to a new budget year now, did you put in a request based on this – on past years for the 2015 Fiscal Year?
MS. PSAKI: For what our funding is – our Egypt funding?
QUESTION: For Egypt, yes.
MS. PSAKI: Let me take it, Jo, and I’ll see if there’s more on funding requests that we can get out to all of you.
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have that in front of me.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
Let’s just do a couple more here. Go ahead, in the back.
QUESTION: Before I go to my question to India, thank you, quickly on ISIL.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Who is buying the stolen oil from the ISIL (inaudible)? Are you going to go after those who are buying the oil from these terrorists?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, the transfer of oil or the ability of ISIL to gain funding and increased strength from oil revenues is of great concern. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve gone after the refineries, and that’s one of the objectives of our efforts.
QUESTION: Just my question on India quickly.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, I think we’ve got to go to the back. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay. One more on India, and then we’ll go to the back. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Are you aware or concerned about the ceasefire violations on the border? India is blaming Pakistan because Pakistan is targeting civilians on the border, India side. And also, when Prime Minister Modi was here, he made two points. One, as far India’s United Nations Security Council seat, what’s the future of that UN Security Council seat? And finally, as far as U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Agreement, what is the future of that now?
MS. PSAKI: I unfortunately don’t have many updates for you. I spoke yesterday a little bit about the violence along the line of control. We’re concerned about any violence along the line of control. We continue to encourage the governments of India and Pakistan to engage in further dialogue to address these issues. Our policy on Kashmir has not changed. We still believe that the pace, scope, and character of India and Pakistan’s dialogue on Kashmir is for these two countries to determine.
Obviously, those issues were all discussed while the prime minister was here, but I don’t have any additional updates for you.
QUESTION: Did anybody ask --
QUESTION: Okay, I think we’ve got to move on. I’m sorry, Goyal.
Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: Yeah, I’d like to ask about Russia. The State Department expressed regret that – by the decision made by the Russian Government to end the student exchange program called FLEX. And the Russian foreign ministry said that it was because of a political asylum case. A participant in this program has applied for political asylum in the United States, and they say that they took issue with a particular aspect of this case – that he was underage. So in Russia, for example, under Russian law, he wouldn’t be – he wouldn’t be able to ask for political asylum. Could you comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have anything specific on that reported case. But I can say that the reason that we regretted this decision to end this program is because it provided an opportunity for more than 8,000 Russian students to build the kinds of bonds between young Russians and Americans that we need in order to overcome the challenges in our bilateral relations. And we think many people – thousands, in fact – have benefited from these programs, and that’s why we feel it’s unfortunate that it was canceled --
QUESTION: Are you aware whether this particular case was discussed with the Russian side before the program was closed?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more on that particular report, but thank you for your question.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, I talked about a few of them. And I think, obviously, there have been – as he said today, there have been some successes and there have been some areas where we know more work needs to be done. And we’re continuing to work with the Iraqi Security Forces to strengthen them. As you know from the assessment that we’ve done, we’ve assessed that there are certainly some that need more training, there are some that are fully prepared to fight. And so we’re working within those constraints. But let me just give you a few.
I think I mentioned these yesterday, but just in case you weren’t there for it, we’ve already seen Iraqi Security Forces retake and hold land at the Mosul Dam, Amirli, and push back ISIL forces around the Haditha Dam. They’ve also refortified around Baghdad. We’ve seen reports, as I mentioned yesterday, that Kurdish forces, with the support of Sunni tribes, retook the Iraq-Syria border crossing at Rabia last week, which fell to ISIL in June. This is an encouraging development as it will make it harder for ISIL to operate across the border.
And there were also reports within the last week that Iraqi Security Forces, working in conjunction with Sunni tribes, have pushed back ISIL in the town of Dhuliya. And so those are some of the areas where we’ve seen some successes. But obviously, we’re not naive of – about this and there’s much more work that needs to be done, which is why we’re working closely with them.
MS. PSAKI: I think I did. It was about the – whether we would have an official attending – yes. An embassy official plans to attend the hearing tomorrow.
QUESTION: Right. But --
QUESTION: Well, that’s the Qatar – are you talking about Qatar?
QUESTION: No, not Qatar. Bahrain. So what – there’s – isn’t there more to it?
MS. PSAKI: Sorry. What was your other question?
QUESTION: Well, I mean, just what are your thoughts in general about this case?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we remain concerned by the Government of Bahrain’s detention of Mr. Rajab reportedly for tweets alleged to be denigrating to a public institution. We continue to call on the government to abide by its commitment to fair and transparent judicial proceedings and to resolve the case as expeditiously as possible.
QUESTION: Okay. And any progress on getting Tom Malinowski back over there?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any trips to announce at this time. We’ll keep you all updated.
QUESTION: I believe you were going to check and see if there was going to be a consular officer at the hearing for the Huangs.
MS. PSAKI: I did say I would check on that. Let me – I don’t think I have an update, but we’ll get you one right after the briefing, Elise.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:14 p.m.)