1:37 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
QUESTION: That was a long two minutes.
MS. PSAKI: My apologies. I apologize.
I have a couple of items for you at the top. We’ve seen in recent days fighting in Tripoli and Akkar and other areas of Lebanon as terrorists attacked the Lebanese Armed Forces and tried to divide the Lebanese people. The United States commends the bravery of the personnel of the Lebanese Armed Forces who are working to keep Tripoli and Akkar safe for all residents, and we join with Lebanon as it mourns the loss of the soldiers and officers who died defending Lebanon from terrorist groups.
We’re encouraged by the strong stand of the prime minister in this regard, and that of other leaders. We condemn those who seek to sow chaos in Lebanon and are confident that the Lebanese people will persevere if they stand united in the face of this threat. The army and the state security institutions alone have the legitimate role of defending Lebanon under the direction of the government. We remain very confident in their abilities and we will continue to support it and the Lebanese Government as they battle to keep Lebanon safe and secure.
General Allen and Ambassador McGurk were in Riyadh yesterday, where they had constructive meetings with Foreign Minister Saud and other senior Saudi royal and government officials to discuss shared efforts to combat ISIL. The delegation thanked the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for their participation in airstrikes in Syria, their agreement to support train-and-equip efforts for the moderate Syrian opposition, for important steps they have taken to prevent Saudi citizens from traveling to join ISIL’s ranks, and the Kingdom’s efforts to encourage moderate Muslim voices decrying ISIL’s violence and un-Islamic message.
From Riyadh, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk went to Kuwait, where General Allen delivered remarks at a conference of coalition partners confronting and contesting ISIL’s messaging, especially in the online space. In his speech, General Allen called for coalition partners to coordinate their efforts to expose ISIL’s true – true message, yes, noting this “line of effort is vital, perhaps central to defeating ISIL and ensuring that it can longer threaten the region and the global community.” They also had productive meetings with the amir of Kuwait, as well as the prime minister. They conveyed our thanks for Kuwait’s support of coalition military efforts and our encouragement for further action on steps Kuwait has taken to monitor ISIL sympathizers, increase oversight of charitable donations. They are next – they are now in Bahrain and they will then travel to Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Muscat in that order.
Finally, Secretary Kerry will travel to Ottawa, Canada tomorrow, October 28th, for a series of bilateral meetings and to convey condolences to senior Canadian officials following last week’s attacks in Canada. He will also express America’s solidarity with the Canadian people, reaffirming the close friendship and alliance between our countries. The Secretary will emphasize steadfast U.S. support for our Canadian partners, continued close cooperation in our shared approach to countering violent extremism, and our commitment to stand beside our Canadian neighbors and friends.
With that --
QUESTION: Can I start with a different trip? And I realize --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- that this isn’t your exact area. But since Ambassador Power does – is part of the State Department family, perhaps you can --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- enlighten us as to the answers on a couple questions I have.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: One, has there been or are you aware of any contact that USUN had or that this building had with authorities in New York state about this trip and whether or not the people who are on this trip would be subject to quarantine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Ambassador Power and the traveling party were obviously aware of the discussions of potential quarantines by state and local officials prior to departure, and will, of course, be prepared to abide by requirements upon return. That said, they are also in close contact with the CDC, with medical experts, and are taking absolutely every precaution to stay safe and to avoid contracting the disease, a risk that pales in comparison to the risk we take if the international community does not take further action.
QUESTION: Is it this building or USUN’s understanding that they would be covered by the quarantine orders that are in effect, at least in New York and New Jersey?
MS. PSAKI: They would abide by the requirements state by state, or any other requirements.
QUESTION: Do you believe that they – if they do what they say they’re going to do on this trip and don’t deviate from the norm, would they be covered by the existing --
MS. PSAKI: When you say “would they be covered,” what do you mean by that exactly?
QUESTION: Would they be covered by the existing quarantine order? My understanding is that at least in some cases, these quarantine orders only apply to health care workers who have had direct contact with Ebola patients in these countries. I don’t know that that’s the case with Ambassador Power or her traveling party.
MS. PSAKI: Well, they will not have contact with individuals infected with Ebola. She’s not visiting any Ebola treatment units. They’re observing all hand-washing protocols and doing temperature screenings multiple times a day. So the point is it’s different state to state; depending on where she is and where she lands, she’ll abide by whatever the requirements are.
QUESTION: Okay. She’s not visiting any Ebola treatment center? Why is she there then? I mean, what’s the point of the – if she’s not going to show support for the specific facilities or the people working in them, why is she there?
MS. PSAKI: Well, while she’s there – and I know they have put out information on this – she’ll be receiving briefings on the ground, she’ll be meeting with officials in the countries. And certainly, she is a prominent U.S. official making a trip to not only raise awareness but talk to experts on the ground as well.
QUESTION: And then one last one on this. You have embassies that are open in all of these countries.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Returning diplomats from these countries, is it the same standard that you just said that – for Ambassador Power and her party that they are prepared to comply with all laws or regulations? That applies to U.S. diplomats who are returning home on – for leave or whatever? Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. If it applies to them, sure.
QUESTION: Are you aware that any of them have?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any specific application.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Jen, can I follow up on one aspect of this?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: You’re talking about her having briefings and meeting officials and raising the profile. Do you really believe that the threat from Ebola needs a higher profile?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, first I think she’s gaining a better understanding of the international response and the dire needs on the ground. And obviously, that can be done meeting with experts. That can be done meeting with officials. And as you know, one of the cases she’s already made on the ground is that there’s more the international community needs to do. So it’s not a question of whether the news media is covering it enough. I certainly think the media is around the world covering it quite a bit. But there are a number of countries that can do more, and she certainly can shed some light or bring some attention to why those needs are so dire.
QUESTION: Are you now in a position where you’re willing to identify the countries that aren’t doing enough? Because you’ve been talking about other countries that need to do more --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- for quite a while now. If they still aren’t doing more, then why not identify them and maybe shame them into doing more?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary has done that in the past. Obviously, you are aware of the amounts that countries have given. I think you can draw your own conclusions.
QUESTION: Jen, can you tell us how many people are accompanying Ambassador Power? What’s the size of her party?
MS. PSAKI: How many individuals in her party?
MS. PSAKI: I can check with their team, or you certainly can. I’m happy to, though, and let you know.
QUESTION: So they would – so basically then, they would all be subject to adhering to whatever kind of quarantine requirements that are --
MS. PSAKI: Whatever applies to them they would adhere to.
QUESTION: Meaning it applies to their home state? Is that --
MS. PSAKI: Whatever states they travel through.
QUESTION: On the service men and women that are back, I think from Liberia, are they being quarantined now? Are you aware of that?
MS. PSAKI: I think the Defense Department has spoken to this. I know – I believe they’re the appropriate entity to speak to it. I would say that I would expect you’ll hear more from the CDC later today on new guidelines which will – which, of course, they’re working closely with states to implement. I don’t want to get ahead of their announcement, but I would certainly point you to that.
QUESTION: Did – I heard some of the White House briefing in which they said that this DOD quarantine/non-quarantine, whatever it is you want to call it, was the work of not – it was not a policy of the Pentagon but it was one specific commander.
MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. I believe they’ve spoken to it, yeah.
QUESTION: Right. But I wanted – but State has no plan to do the same with those people that we’re talking about who are serving, the diplomats who are serving in these countries?
MS. PSAKI: No. As I mentioned, they’ll abide by any regulations that apply to them.
QUESTION: But there is no State Department policy on this?
MS. PSAKI: No, we would abide by any federal policy.
Do we have any more on Ebola? Ebola? Okay, let’s --
QUESTION: One more.
MS. PSAKI: One more, okay.
QUESTION: Thank you, Madam. Madam, my question is that as far as this disease is concerned, many countries have not had the kind of health care system like in the U.S., like in, let’s say in India and South Asia. All those countries are involved now as a part of this U.S. effort to stop this Ebola? I mean, are you in touch with the India, let’s say?
MS. PSAKI: There are a range of countries that are contributing, Goyal, to this effort, to this international effort. And we certainly will continue to encourage every country to do more, as we will.
Should we move on to a new topic?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Jo. Kuwait?
QUESTION: The meeting in Kuwait --
MS. PSAKI: The meeting today? Sure.
QUESTION: -- attended by General Allen. What are you actually hoping concretely will come out of this? Are you expecting some kind of framework to be drawn up or are you expecting further commitments from countries? What exactly concretely will happen?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they read a joint statement at the meeting which we’ll put out and provide to all of you, which may be useful, Jo. But during the meeting, they – part of the emphasis was on the need for coalition partners to work individually and collectively to expose ISIL’s true destructive and barbaric nature. They discussed steps that their governments are taking individually and cooperatively to strengthen the resistance of communities to ISIL’s extremist message. This involves – and they discussed intensifying our engagement to address significant events, enhancing exchanges, training and other cooperative programs for government leaders and spokespersons, actively opposing the recruitment of foreign fighters and encouraging important religious and social leaders, opinion makers and the millions of young people who oppose violent extremism to raise their voices through traditional and social media.
So this was an important coordinating mechanism from here, and I haven’t had the chance to speak with Under Secretary Stengel about this but believe from here there’ll be more coordination and there’ll be calls and additional meetings, and a discussion of how to implement this country by country and certainly do more to get the – get our – their voices out, I should say.
QUESTION: Do you think there’ll be more religious leaders, for instance, who now come out and sort of voice support for moderate Islam and against the sort of extremism we’ve seen from ISIL?
MS. PSAKI: That certainly is our hope, and as you know, some have spoken out. But certainly part of their discussion was about how impactful certain individuals, including important religious leaders, can be in this space, so certainly that’s our hope from here.
QUESTION: Did Under Secretary Stengel express sentiments of welcoming Iran’s participation in the anti-ISIS coalition?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that was part of the discussion, no.
QUESTION: Can you tell us the days that – you said that he’ll be going on to (inaudible), Abu Dhabi. Can you tell us what days he’ll be in each country, as apparently that seems to be a big secret?
MS. PSAKI: I believe he’ll be back Thursday night, so I assume, Elise, and I’m happy to check this, that --
QUESTION: Yeah, if you can take that question that would be really great --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- because apparently it’s a big secret or --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think probably, as I mentioned in the opening, that he’s – they’ve already been in Kuwait, so they’re going to Doha next. We’ll check days for you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Kuwait or ISIL?
MS. PSAKI: ISIL? Sure.
QUESTION: Yeah. So General Allen made some comments to Asharq al-Awsat that were published on their English-language website over the weekend. I don’t know if he was speaking in English or in Arabic, and then in English and translated back, but the gist of what he said is, in one aspect, when he was asked whether the forces that the United States hopes to train once it has vetted them and built the facilities to train them in, would ultimately go on to fight Syrian Government forces. He replied, “No, what we would like is to see for the FSA and the forces that we’ll ultimately generate, train and equip to become the credible force that the Assad government ultimately has to acknowledge and recognize.” There’s a thing I don’t understand here. I know the President’s been quite clear that the purpose of training these forces is to go after the Islamic State. And I heard General Allen here, two weeks ago, be very clear – or 12 days ago – that he hopes they’ll someday be part of a political solution.
What I don’t understand, though, is two things: One, those forces are to some degree already fighting Assad’s forces, right? So it’s hard to imagine that they’re not going to keep fighting them, particularly if they have fended off Islamic State. And then secondly, why on Earth would Assad take them seriously, recognize them, see them as something to reckon – a group to reckon with if they’re not fighting?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well --
QUESTION: So I don’t get it.
MS. PSAKI: -- I’ve spoken with General Allen about this many times. I didn’t speak with him today about this; I did speak with his team about it. I saw the same report you did. And his view is what the view of the President is, which is that – and it’s hard to explain exactly how the question was posed and if there was a language barrier. I’m not quite clear on that, Arshad – but is that they’ve been fighting a two-pronged war, as you mentioned, against Assad and against ISIL. Even as we increase our support in the form of airstrikes against ISIL, which, as you acknowledge, is our focus, we fully expect the opposition will fight Assad as well, and that’s part of the effort.
What I have had him – heard him describe, which he did in the interview as well and I think is a clearer way of describing how we see this transpiring, is that part of this is increasing the military credibility of the opposition so that they can get back to the negotiating table. And while we don’t believe there’s a military solution, we are not advocating for that to be how this is ended, we believe that getting back to the negotiating table will need to increase their military credibility.
QUESTION: So – but military credibility isn’t just a matter of saying, “Ooh, I’m big and tough.”
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Presumably, it comes out of fighting.
MS. PSAKI: Right.
QUESTION: So, in fact, unlike the – and I don’t know if there are translation issues here, but in fact you do expect the forces that you are helping to train and equip, whenever you get that done, to actually fight Assad’s forces to some degree.
MS. PSAKI: To continue to fight. Yes. Yes.
QUESTION: Great. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: And I’m not acknowledging – I don’t know that there were translation issues.
QUESTION: I don’t know either. Yeah.
MS. PSAKI: I’m just saying that I’ve discussed with General Allen many times and that’s consistently been his view. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: Jen, to follow up on this, to fight the regime forces, the opposition needs anti-aircraft missiles in this war. Are you ready to support them with this kind of weapons?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our position on that has not changed. We’ve expressed concerns about that particular type of weapons system in the past due to the proliferations risks that do not serve our interests. That’s a position that’s well-known, including by the opposition.
QUESTION: How can they be able to fight the regime without this kind of arms do you think?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you asserted that was something they needed. We did not. So our view continues to be as it has been for some time.
QUESTION: Jen, I want to just follow up --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) that the ISIL are actually using anti-aircraft missiles now as well?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re aware – I think it was claims by ISIL --
MS. PSAKI: -- that they possess MANPADS and have used them to target Iraqi aircraft. We’re assessing these claims. There’s clearly significant potential threat to aviation operating in Iraqi and Syrian airspace due to ongoing fighting. But – and of particular concern is our advanced conventional weapons like MANPADS, but we don’t have confirmation of this at that time – at this time.
QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to go back to something that you said about the – going back to the negotiating table. You’re saying – so are you saying that any diplomatic effort is now completely on hold until there’s some sort of a military outcome to this thing?
MS. PSAKI: Not exactly, Said. What I was getting at is you know – you would know if there was a negotiation going on right now between representatives of the regime and representatives of the opposition. Obviously, there’s not. And in order for us – them to get back to the table, it’s clear that they need to have a stronger political standing, and certainly stronger military standing will help them get there.
QUESTION: So knowing that ISIS – ISIL creates an enemy in common to all these groups, wouldn’t some sort of reigniting the negotiating in Geneva or elsewhere would actually help accelerate the – to sort of defeat ISIS?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not going to have talks just to have talks, and certainly they need to be in a position where they have a strong negotiating position at the table. And that’s where we’re trying to get to.
QUESTION: And you believe that they – after this fight is over, they will have a stronger negotiating position than they do now?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not after this fight is over as much as they are – we – our train and equip program moves forward, as they increase their military capabilities, that will help strengthen their political positioning as well.
Is this on ISIL?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: But on ISIL in Kobani.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: So we know, like, it’s been more than a week since president of Turkey said that he will allow Peshmerga forces to be deployed to Kobani, but that hasn’t happened yet. It was supposed to happen last week just – and then it was delayed to yesterday and then today didn’t happen. Peshmerga sources tell us – they say it’s because of technical reasons. I just want to know what’s your understanding of the situation there.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly, again, would welcome Turkish efforts to facilitate the crossing of Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga into Kobani. We continue to work closely with Turkey and the Kurdish Regional Government authorities on a sustainable way forward to support forces in Kobani, and over the longer term, efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. I would refer you otherwise to Turkish authorities on this, but it’s an ongoing effort and certainly we support the fact that they’re open to and willing to facilitate it.
QUESTION: Do you believe it should happen? Peshmerga forces should be deployed to Kobani?
MS. PSAKI: We support it, yes.
QUESTION: One more question about the – yesterday – I think it was yesterday, Peshmerga forces recaptured a key town on the border, and now people are talking about the collapse of the economy in Mosul; I think Guardian reported that as a result of another strategic town they captured on the Syrian border. So what is your understanding of Mosul’s economy? And also, how strategic was Zumar, the town that was captured yesterday – from a U.S. perspective?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an analysis of the economy there. I’m happy to check with our team and see. Obviously, given the – not just tensions; that would be an understatement of it – but given the fighting and what’s happened around there, it’s not a surprise it’s had an impact on the economy. But I don’t have an analysis. I can check and see if we have one from here.
We’ve seen reports that the Iraqi Security Forces made some advances south of Baghdad and in northern Iraq. These are positive developments, but as we’ve said, this is a long-term effort and there are going to be good days and bad days, and we – and victories and setbacks. So we don’t want to overstate what it means. If there’s a town, obviously that would be a good step, but there’s a long way to go, and we’re certainly aware of that.
The first step is having the security forces move from a defensive to an offensive posture. We’ve begun to see that over the last several days, but this will, of course, take some time.
QUESTION: Just one more question, sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Haider al-Abadi, he was in Jordan, and according to some Jordanian media outlets, he told his counterparts or his – Jordanian officials that he’s going to arm the tribes in Anbar province. Is that something you will support? That’s pretty much similar to what the United States doing – did in 2007 with the surge.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not sure if this is what it’s a reference to. As you know, we’ve been working with the national – I mean, we’ve been supportive of his efforts to implement a national guard program, and part of that is empowering the local tribes, certainly including in Anbar province, and this is an effort that they’ve been implementing. We would certainly welcome the visit by Prime Minister Abadi to Jordan to promote relations between the countries. He did meet with an Anbar tribal delegation residing in Amman and stressed the importance of Iraqi unity and discussed the government’s desire for greater cooperation.
The important piece here is that they’re working under the umbrella of coordination with the Iraqi Security Forces and creating a longer-term line of defense.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: On ISIL?
MS. PSAKI: ISIL, sure.
QUESTION: You just stated a couple questions ago, I believe, that your fight against ISIL helps moderate opposition to fight against ISIL, but according to reports, which – over the weekend from Washington Post and New York Times, it’s saying that the Assad regime actually was taking advantage of the campaign against the Islamic State to concentrate its forces against the moderate opposition. And we have not seen Syrian regime is taking fight against ISIL recently, and we have seen the Assad regime taking advantage in Hama, Damascus suburbs, and Aleppo against the moderate opposition.
So the argument is your fight against ISIL is kind of – became de facto alliance with the Assad regime, even though you don’t want to admit that.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve answered this many times, but I am happy to reiterate that before our engagement here and before our engagement with airstrikes and the military actions we’ve taken, now we’ve conducted more than 700 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, including four airstrikes yesterday and today against ISIL in Kobani, which destroyed five ISIL vehicles in an ISIL-occupied building. Before that, the opposition, I should say, was fighting on their own against both the regime and against ISIL. And now, we are working to degrade and defeat ISIL. We are helping to take on one of their enemies. And certainly, as I mentioned in response to Arshad’s question, we know that obviously, the materials that are being provided by a range of sources, the training that will be provided, that also – they will also use that to fight against the Assad regime. So it’s hard to see how they are worse off than they would have been had we not engaged in this effort.
QUESTION: The arguments goes that the Assad regime increased its barrel bombs and other attacks on the locations that the Syrian moderate oppositions are taking. This is the argument. They stop fighting with ISIL, which they weren’t much anyway, but now they increase their attacks on the moderate opposition.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are of course concerned about any attempt by the regime to seek to exploit the coalition campaign. We watch closely, of course, what they are doing. But at the end of the day, we’re taking on a threat that poses – that poses a threat to Western interests, that is one that we were concerned about – the United States – that also was a threat to the opposition. And we feel that taking on ISIL will strengthen the opposition.
QUESTION: Also, the Institute of the Study of War compiled 18 allegations of the chemical attacks. The first one is the August 19, which was the same day supposedly Syrian regime was – handed over its chemical weapons. And the same day --
MS. PSAKI: Are you talking about new allegations?
MS. PSAKI: From --
QUESTION: So according to this, again, study for – Institute of the Study of War group, between the – August 19 and now, they – there have been 18 chemical weapon attacks on the Syrian opposition forces, and the civilians, obviously, through barrel bombs. Would you concur with these allegations?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, would I what?
QUESTION: Your findings also concur with these allegations?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, these are allegations that would be looked into – and I think we’ve spoken to this recently over the past couple of weeks – by the OPCW, and we’d certainly support that. But let’s be clear about the United States response to the Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons. In less in a year since the regime launched a deadly chemical weapons attack on the Damascus suburbs, the United States and the international community removed and destroyed the Syrian regime’s declared stockpiles. Now, we never said that that meant that the job was done. The OPCW is working to complete three remaining tasks: resolving discrepancies in emissions related to Syria’s chemical weapons declaration to the OPCW, destroying Syria’s remaining chemical weapons production facilities, and addressing continued reports of the use of chlorine gas in opposition areas, as described by the OPCW fact-finding mission. That’s an ongoing process. They would not be monitored if they were not a part of the Chemical Weapons Convention, which they joined as a part of this agreement reached a little over a year ago.
QUESTION: Jen, very quickly. I know it’s been over a month since the bombings started in Syria, and you informed the Syrians on that day. Do you inform them regularly every time you have an airstrike?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates on contacts with the regime.
QUESTION: Can you tell us something about the protocol or the protocol that you follow to inform the Syrians?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more updates for you.
QUESTION: I still --
MS. PSAKI: Do we have more on Syria or should we move on?
QUESTION: I still have one.
QUESTION: Yeah, on Syria I got one.
MS. PSAKI: Syria? Syria?
QUESTION: I still --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I have one on Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Syria. Go ahead.
QUESTION: There are reports, Jennifer, saying that Islamic State open an office or something like that in Ankara. Do you have anything to say or tell us on this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Islamic – ISIL, or Daesh, as it’s called in the region, is not --
QUESTION: Yeah, I know. It’s your (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: It’s not a state, so they would not be in a position to open an embassy. So I would be very doubtful that those reports would be true.
QUESTION: ISIL – one more, please?
MS. PSAKI: I think we have to move on, Goyal, but we’ll get to you around the next round. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On Israel, could you talk about Israel accelerating new settlement units that was just announced today, and if you – we could just follow on last week. It just seems that there’s a little bit of acrimony between the U.S. and Israel right now surrounding the defense minister’s visit, Israel now with these settlements and what’s going on.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen – they’ve been reports. There haven’t been an official announcement at this point in time. We’re certainly deeply concerned by the reports. We are engaging at the highest levels with the Israeli Government from our Embassy on the ground to get --
QUESTION: Does that mean the President’s called?
MS. PSAKI: No. We’re – I said on the ground – from our Embassy on the ground to get more information. And we continue to make our position absolutely clear that we view settlement activity as illegitimate and unequivocally oppose unilateral steps that prejudge the future of Jerusalem. Israel’s leaders have said they would support a pathway to a two-state solution, but moving forward with this type of action would be incompatible with the pursuit of peace, and that is certainly a message that we are conveying directly.
In terms of our relationship, the defense relationship, as you know, remains as strong as ever and the ties between us are unshakable. There are times when we disagree with actions of the Israeli Government, including settlements, the issue of settlements, where we have deep concerns about some of the steps the government is taking. We express those, but it does not mean that we don’t have a strong and formidable relationship that continues.
QUESTION: Sorry, do – have there – has there been any contact outside of the Embassy with the Israelis since the defense minister left?
MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary spoke with the prime minister this weekend.
QUESTION: Could you read it out so we can --
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. About what?
MS. PSAKI: I’ll check and see if there’s more to read out from the call. It was not about the visit of the defense minister, obviously.
QUESTION: It wasn’t?
MS. PSAKI: No.
QUESTION: But – okay. So it had to do with your concerns about settlements, or it had to do with the two American children who were --
MS. PSAKI: I will check and see if there’s more to read out for you, Matt.
QUESTION: All right. So in terms of you making your point clear on settlements when you’re speaking with the Israelis, have they been told that you’re actually going to do anything if they go ahead, or is it just that you’re going to say that you’re upset?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve expressed our view exactly as I just expressed it, Matt.
QUESTION: So there isn’t – so there is no consequence, then, beyond you just saying that you think it’s --
MS. PSAKI: This is often your question when we have a discussion on this issue.
QUESTION: Well, I’m just wondering if this time it would be different --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as we said --
QUESTION: -- because what --
MS. PSAKI: -- many times before, there obviously is – you’ve seen reactions from the international community. You’ve seen our strong reactions from here. And I’m going to leave it at that.
QUESTION: Yeah, but those strong reactions don’t actually – it doesn’t stop them from doing anything, though.
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: So I’m just wondering if this time – if they go ahead with what you were just talking about, that you’re deeply concerned, I’m wondering if it will actually draw a consequence --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the key --
QUESTION: -- other than you getting angry from the podium.
MS. PSAKI: The key challenge, Matt, I think, is if Israel wants to see – wants to live in a peaceful society, they need to take steps to reduce tensions and to avoid steps that are going to be incompatible with peace. And that’s consequences that they would – they would – that would impact them directly.
QUESTION: Are you saying that – I mean, do you think now that, basically, Israel is kind of giving up on that and is just going ahead with its own unilateral plans?
MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say that. I would leave it at what I just said, which is that it’s incompatible with their stated desire to live in a peaceful society.
QUESTION: You called – late on Friday you issued a fairly strong statement in your name calling for a speedy and transparent investigation into the killing of a U.S. citizen apparently by – or your statement said by the Israeli Defense Forces. It’s been 48 hours since – more than that, actually – 60 hours, say, since you issued that statement. Have you yet seen a speedy and transparent or speedy or transparent investigation by the Israelis?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I don’t have a day-to-day evaluation of the investigation. We remain closely engaged with authorities. Our consulate-general in Jerusalem is in contact with the family, but obviously, we want to see that investigation rapidly concluded.
QUESTION: Is the FBI involved in that?
QUESTION: Could you ask – can I keep going on this? Forgive me. You asked for it to be fast. Has it been fast?
MS. PSAKI: It’s been moving forward. I don’t have an evaluation of the investigation timeline.
QUESTION: Could you take that one for us? Because you asked --
MS. PSAKI: I will let you know if there’s more that we can convey.
QUESTION: -- publicly for a speedy investigation. More than two days has gone by. A U.S. citizen is dead, and it --
MS. PSAKI: I’m well aware. That’s why we put out the statement on Friday.
QUESTION: And that’s exactly why I’m asking if you’ve actually seen whether or not there has been a speedy investigation.
MS. PSAKI: I will let you know if there’s more we want to convey from the U.S. Government.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. Government involved in the investigation? Have any – is the FBI involved in any way, or if this is the Israeli Defense Force --
MS. PSAKI: Local authorities have the lead, Elise. Not that I’m aware of.
QUESTION: Well – but, I mean, usually in the killing of an American citizen – I mean, usually the FBI or some other kind of U.S. law enforcement agency would be involved in the investigation. You’re just leaving it up to the Israelis to investigate these – supposed Israeli killing of an American citizen?
MS. PSAKI: I will check to see if there are any U.S. officials involved.
QUESTION: Jen, there was another U.S. citizen who was killed in – last week as well, a child. And you put out a statement --
MS. PSAKI: We did.
QUESTION: -- about that as well, Actually, a baby, I guess, is the correct --
MS. PSAKI: Yes. A three-month-old baby.
QUESTION: Yes. How is the investigation into that going?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates on the investigations. I would encourage you all to ask the Israeli authorities that question.
QUESTION: Okay. Several --
QUESTION: Hold on, Elise. Several months ago, there was a shooting – there was an incident involving a shooting of some Palestinian youths. They weren’t Americans, but you called at that time for an – this was the video, the one that was captured on videotape. Are you aware of the results of that Israeli investigation?
MS. PSAKI: I would encourage you to ask the Israeli authorities for --
QUESTION: All right. And then --
MS. PSAKI: -- any outcomes they would like to share with you.
QUESTION: In the case of the Palestinian American teenager who was killed on Friday, are you – do you know the circumstances under which he was shot?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details.
QUESTION: There are – okay. The reason I ask is because there are reports out there that he was throwing Molotov cocktails at cars on a highway. And I’m wondering, if that is the case, would you have still been so speedy in putting out a statement and offering your condolences to the family? The argument that is being made by some in Israel is that this kid was essentially a terrorist. And you don’t agree with that, I assume, but I don’t know, so that’s why I’m asking.
MS. PSAKI: Correct, we don’t. I don’t have any more details on the circumstances now.
QUESTION: So you – does that – that would apply even if he was throwing Molotov cocktails?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate. I don’t have details to share.
QUESTION: All right. The other thing --
QUESTION: Back to the baby – back to the --
QUESTION: Well, I’ve got – I’ve got to get one more on this and then I’m done. There is a photograph of this teenager’s – this teenager being buried today, and he’s wearing a Hamas headband. It was put on him, obviously. Is that of concern at all to you guys?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more on this particular case.
QUESTION: Back to the baby. Can you – I mean, supposedly it was by Palestinian militants or whomever, not by the Israelis. Could you say or check whether – that the U.S. is involved in the investigation into the killing, into that car accident?
MS. PSAKI: I will see if there is U.S. involvement in either of the cases.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Jen, you said that Israeli leaders are committed to the two-state solution. Have you read the interview with the Israeli defense minister this weekend?
MS. PSAKI: I said they have stated that, but obviously --
QUESTION: Okay. But he actually --
MS. PSAKI: -- actions like settlement activity are inconsistent with that.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, let me get your reaction to what he said. He actually – he says that no, not a two-state solution, that the Palestinians basically will not give more than some sort of an autonomy, that both Abbas, as his predecessor Arafat, are not committed to peace, they don’t accept Israel, and so on. I mean, he said some strong stuff.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I have not looked at the interview. But as you know, there are some who are not supporters of a two-state solution or a peaceful outcome.
QUESTION: So --
MS. PSAKI: So I don’t think that’s --
QUESTION: So you find yourself in a sort of a different position, an opposing position, if you will, to the Israeli defense minister? You think that Abbas is --
MS. PSAKI: Said, I have not looked --
QUESTION: -- is a partner for peace?
MS. PSAKI: Said, I have not looked at the interview. I’m happy to do that. I would just state there have been comments made in the past that are not supportive of a two-state solution by individuals. Obviously, we have been working with Prime Minister Netanyahu in the past when we’ve been pursuing this process.
QUESTION: But – hold on a second.
QUESTION: Let me ask you this.
QUESTION: If – hold on, Said. If you’re talking about people in the Israeli Government or Israeli politicians who are not in favor of a two-state solution, presumably these are the people who are pushing for new settlement activity. Is that your understanding, that the consequence of that then is that they get what they want, which is they – there is no two-state solution?
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: I don’t understand how you expect to change Israel’s behavior as it relates to settlements if all you’re prepared to do is to verbally criticize it and not impose any consequence on it when the very people who are doing it – you’re saying the consequence is they don’t get a two-state solution. Well, that’s exactly what the people who are pushing the settlements want.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as we’ve in the past --
QUESTION: Not a two-state solution.
MS. PSAKI: -- obviously, the international community is watching closely what they do. I’m going to leave it at that.
Do we have more on this topic?
QUESTION: I’ve got one more.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: To go back to Matt’s question about – were you aware when you put out the statement on Friday night that there were allegations that the Palestinian American teenager had been throwing – our story said a Molotov cocktail and it was – it had run before your statement came out. So didn’t you – did you know at the time when you put out the statement that there were allegations that he was engaged in violence?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there were media reports, Arshad.
MS. PSAKI: Beyond that, I don’t have anything to read out for you.
QUESTION: Right, no. But I just wanted to get on the record that you knew about those reports when you put out the call for the speedy investigation.
QUESTION: Matt – I mean Arshad, I’m happy to talk to our team and see if there’s more --
QUESTION: But just to clarify what Matt was saying, and you said – you kind of said something but it was just very short --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- you do not believe that this teenager was throwing Molotov cocktails. Is that right?
MS. PSAKI: That’s – I don’t have any more to outline or confirm for you in terms of the circumstances.
QUESTION: No, he said that you don’t believe that to be the case.
MS. PSAKI: That’s not what I said.
QUESTION: Do you? And you said no, you – no.
MS. PSAKI: He asked me if we thought he was a terrorist, and I said no.
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: Is that no longer the case? Do you think you were too precipitous, perhaps, in issuing that statement condemning --
MS. PSAKI: I think we’re going to have to move on now.
MS. PSAKI: Do you have a new topic? Ukraine?
QUESTION: Yeah. The bilateral talks --
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. One at a time. Go ahead.
QUESTION: In terms of the bilateral talks to – or meetings to be held between Secretary of State John Kerry in Ottawa tomorrow, what more detail can you tell us about what those discussions will entail? Will it be enhanced cooperation in terms of the investigation into those terrorist attacks in Ottawa, in Quebec as well?
And also, has there been any increased security in light of those as the investigations are ongoing into what exactly transpired last week? Is there any enhanced security here at any government buildings, at any embassies, in terms of that in light of those attacks, again? And in terms of cooperation between law enforcement in the U.S. and Canada, is it primarily on a law enforcement basis, or is there investigations that are being cooperated with as well?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, the purpose of the trip is to certainly pay our respects given the events in Canada last week. Canada has long been an important partner. They will continue to be. I expect we’ll do some previewing on the way to the trip tomorrow. But the purpose of the trip is more to offer condolences and to continue to work closely as partners, as we long have.
QUESTION: Has there been any heightened security, though, here as a result of that or any --
MS. PSAKI: We don’t discuss security measures publicly, and certainly not from the podium. As you know, we issue through our typical system Travel Warnings. We issued an updated Worldwide Caution, I believe it was a couple of weeks ago, and that outlined potential attacks on Western interests. And certainly everybody observes that, reads it, and takes steps accordingly.
QUESTION: And is there cooperation also in terms of the ongoing investigation into what happened in that respect?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Canada has the lead on that, so certainly, I’m sure that will be discussed, but I don’t have anything else more for you on that.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, Ukraine.
QUESTION: What’s – yeah, what’s the U.S.’s reading of the elections? And also, what is the U.S.’s reading of Foreign Minister Lavrov’s seeming approval of the election outcome on Sunday?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’ll be a statement from Secretary Kerry that should go out shortly, perhaps even while I’m up here, but let me reiterate some points from there. We congratulate Ukraine on the successful parliamentary elections held October 26. The people of Ukraine made a bold and clear choice for democracy, reform, and European integration, showing enthusiasm and support for parties with strong pro-reform agendas. The United States stands with Ukrainians as they forge a brighter future for their nation and succeeding generations, and we applaud their commitment to an inclusive and transparent political process that strengthens national unity, particularly in the face of numerous challenges, most notably the conflict in eastern Ukraine. So look for that statement.
Certainly – sorry, what was your second question? I’m sorry, Roz.
QUESTION: Foreign Minister Lavrov basically said – and I’m paraphrasing – this is a government with which we can work and it seems to be a legitimately chosen government. Again, I’m paraphrasing.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as you know, there are a number of steps that – 12 specifically – that Russia and Russian-backed separatists need to abide by as it relates to the Minsk protocols. Certainly, this election is an important step. We saw – and as we looked at the results, and more importantly, as international organizations looked at the results, ODIHR’s preliminary conclusions were that the elections marked an important step in Ukraine’s aspirations to consolidate democratic elections. They also noted that the elections were characterized by the general absence of violence, by adherence to established procedures and by lower levels of electoral violations than in previous years. So certainly, we feel the vote was an affirmation of Ukraine’s commitment to the democratic process and occurred despite the efforts of Russia-backed separatists to disenfranchise many voters in eastern Ukraine. But obviously, there’s more work that needs to be done in terms of the implementation of the Minsk protocols.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: Yes, Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, Ukraine. Go ahead.
QUESTION: In context of the parliamentary elections in Ukraine, do you have an assessment on the structure of new Ukrainian parliament, which most probably will consist of seven parties?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can give you a little bit of our assessment. According to the Central
Election Commission, with 65 percent of polling results tabulated, three pro-reform and pro-European parties received the most votes, clearly showing the Ukrainian people’s determination to see Ukraine take its rightful place in Europe’s whole, free society. In terms of the – how the parliament, I should say, will be composed, I believe that it requires 450 – is that right? – seats to move forward or a certain percentage of that. I think I have something on this. And we believe that they’ll be able to reach that point.
But in terms of the breakdown of party by party, I know that will be put out by the election commission. That’s just kind of a summary view, and maybe we can talk about it more tomorrow as election results come in.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- and I don’t expect you to necessarily know the answer to this --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- but maybe if you could take it. It does have to do with the two Americans who were killed --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- last week and the statements that were put out by you, by this building in your name. One is that you said that now, the investigations – the Israeli investigations into both incidents are still going on, correct? And so you don’t want to draw any conclusions, so --
MS. PSAKI: That’s my understanding. Unless they’ve put out any specifics --
QUESTION: Okay. So --
MS. PSAKI: -- from Israel, they’re led by the Israelis.
QUESTION: But your statement on Wednesday about the baby being killed talked about the incident being a terrorist attack, okay?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So that is based on what the Israelis told you? Because the family of the guy who was driving the car say that he just lost control. Well, I don’t know whether that’s true or not.
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s based on our evaluation of the events on the ground, but --
QUESTION: Okay. But the investigation is still ongoing, and – but now, you’re – but you are not – you are sure or you don’t think that the Palestinian American teenager was a terrorist or engaged in a violent act, even though the investigation --
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me be clear. I don’t have an assessment of the events.
QUESTION: -- isn’t over?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an assessment of the events that happened last Friday. Obviously, we put out the statement because of – obviously, it’s a tragedy when a young teenager is killed, but there’s an investigation that will go on that’s not led by us. We’ll wait to see how that proceeds.
QUESTION: Could I – what about the two other elections?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: Just from the nature of the – you said local authorities and then you said Israeli-led. I mean, to your knowledge, does the investigation of the death of the Palestinian American teenager on Friday have any Palestinian involvement, or is it entirely run by the Israelis?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the local authorities there for more of a breakdown of who is running the investigation.
QUESTION: So you don’t know? When you’re calling for an expedient, transparent investigation, you’re not sure who you’re asking for it from?
MS. PSAKI: Arshad, I said local authorities. Obviously, the Israelis lead most of these. Let me see if there’s more we can provide to you to make it more clear to you.
QUESTION: Well, I’m just interested to know – yeah, if the Palestinians are also involved or not.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. We’ll check and see if there’s more we can provide to you. Okay.
QUESTION: Can we go to the Tunisian elections?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I mean, there were two other major elections --
MS. PSAKI: Yes, we put out a statement this morning. Did you see it?
QUESTION: --Tunisia – yeah, I’ve got it.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I can go ahead (inaudible) the statement, right?
MS. PSAKI: No. I mean, if – I don’t know if there’s a specific question.
QUESTION: Good. How about Uruguay? They had an election too.
MS. PSAKI: You – I can talk about that if you’d like. Where should we start?
QUESTION: And Brazil, but Brazil has already been commented on, I believe.
MS. PSAKI: Yes, Brazil has been commented on. Where should we go?
QUESTION: Well, it does appear that the pro-Islamist party in Tunisia is conceding defeat. What is the U.S.’s reaction to that?
QUESTION: Well, just in general, I mean, it does seem that the kind of political Islamic experiment in the wake of the Arab Spring and the elections that happened in the region seems to have gone to the wayside. Was it, like, a quick – the movement towards political Islam a kind of quick blip?
MS. PSAKI: Is it a quick what?
QUESTION: Like a blip? I mean, did it – is it something that wasn’t sustainable? Is – did the Islamists prove --
QUESTION: Were they incapable of ruling?
QUESTION: -- incapable of ruling?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an assessment of it. I’ll check with our team and see if there’s more to provide.
QUESTION: Can I ask --
QUESTION: So in retrospect, should it not have been the case in Egypt, for instance? I mean, if Morsy would have been – should have been allowed to continue on, then perhaps we could have seen his demise politically without any bloodshed.
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve addressed that topic many, many times in the briefing room.
Should we go to a new topic? Or --
QUESTION: Yeah, China.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I was wondering – I think we’ve talked about this a few times before, but there was the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday for the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Now that that’s officially happened, do you have any comment or statement on it?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I think, one, as it relates to the Asian Infrastructure Bank, as we’ve said in here before, our view is that it would need to be done in a transparent manner with a high level of – high standards, and that’s something that we’ve conveyed to countries in the region, that we’ve conveyed as well to the Chinese. Beyond that, I don’t know that we have a new assessment of it.
QUESTION: If the – assuming those standards are met, in general, do you welcome the addition of this new partner for other investment banks in the region?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure that we have enough information to assess that at this point in time.
QUESTION: And then --
MS. PSAKI: I can check and see if we do.
QUESTION: And then is there any truth to the report that Secretary Kerry personally asked Prime Minister Abbott that Australia not join the bank, at least in its early stages?
MS. PSAKI: I’ve been in all of these meetings with the Secretary, including the one last week, and he simply restates what we’ve stated many times publicly, is that we believe that it needs to be – it would need to be done in a transparent manner with the highest level of standards, and that’s something that we’d want to see, and certainly that’s what he’s conveyed to countries in the region.
QUESTION: So – but there was never any instance of the U.S. asking or encouraging countries not to join the bank?
MS. PSAKI: That’s how we’ve conveyed it. That’s how he’s conveyed it.
Do we have any more on China?
MS. PSAKI: China? China. Okay.
QUESTION: China. China’s Communist Party had a meeting last week, 4th Plenary of the 18th Central Committee. As you know, the leaders promised a legal reform, but it seems like it is clear that the Communist Party remain the ultimate authority in the country. So my question is: What is the assessment of the United States of this important meeting, particularly in terms of the rule of law or political reform?
MS. PSAKI: I really don’t have an assessment. I can check and see or we can connect you with our EAP team and see if there’s anything they want to offer.
QUESTION: And then Hong Kong.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Uh-huh. As you know, the Hong Kong protest leader decided to cancel the vote a couple days ago, yesterday or the day before yesterday. They tried to ask what is the next step, but then they canceled. What is – what do you think? What is the – do you have some comment? And according to the pro-China organization, 50,000 people signed against occupation on the street. So what is --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our position continues to be that we believe that the government and protesters should address their differences through dialogue, and we understand the debate over universal suffrage and electoral reform in Hong Kong is one that is ongoing. And we believe the best way to address it is through peaceful dialogue.
New – any more on Asia before I move on? Okay.
QUESTION: How is Turkey in Asia?
QUESTION: Are we supposed to expect General Allen --
MS. PSAKI: Yes, Turkey is not exactly – but we’re moving on to Turkey. Go ahead.
QUESTION: -- General Allen and Ambassador McGurk to visit Turkey --
MS. PSAKI: Moving back to Turkey, I should say.
QUESTION: -- any time soon?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry? Can you say that one more time?
QUESTION: General Allen and Ambassador McGurk to visit Turkey any time soon? Are we expecting --
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, they were just there about two weeks ago.
MS. PSAKI: I think – I expect they’ll spend quite a bit of time in the region, but I don’t have any new trips to announce for all of you.
QUESTION: So as far as we can see, the disagreements or differences between the U.S. and Turkey have not been able to overcome over Incirlik Air Base and no-fly zone. It’s still the impasse goes on?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it in those terms. I’m sure you’d not be surprised by that. I think we believe Turkey continues to be an important partner. They’ve increased their participation in the coalition efforts. They’ve indicated an openness with – and helping to facilitate the Peshmerga traveling through to Syria to help in Kobani. They have indicated an openness to doing more to support our military efforts there and to do more as it relates to taking on the ISIL message. So we are – will continue to talk with them, and obviously this is going to be an ongoing effort and an ongoing discussion.
QUESTION: The reason I’m asking, Defense Minister Mr. Hagel a couple days – a couple weeks ago was stating that Incirlik Air Base is a key and very important place for coalition forces to combat ISIL. But the difference over it cannot be resolved. Is that the result?
MS. PSAKI: No. I think – obviously, we know it’s an important base. We’re continuing to discuss with Turkey an increasing role, and I don’t have anything more to preview for you at this point in time.
Scott. Can we do --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Turkey question.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Turkey sent two more troops – warships this time. I’m sorry – sent more ships to the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus. And this time they sent warships. Do you have any comment on this?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything new to offer in terms of our position on Cyprus.
QUESTION: Fair enough.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Thank you for asking though.
QUESTION: Indonesia. The new president in Indonesia has chosen as his defense minister a former army chief of staff, against whom there are allegations of human rights abuses, specifically in Aceh. Is the United States aware of those abuses, concerned about those allegations, and if so, has that concern been expressed to the new president?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Scott, I might have to check on that specific question for you. And I apologize I don’t have anything for you on it at this point in time. We have seen, obviously, the announcement of the new cabinet. In general, we think that’s a positive step, because he was just inaugurated a week ago, as well all know. The Secretary had a great, warm meeting with him when he was there, but let me check on this specific question and see if there’s any concerns here.
QUESTION: Wait, wait. Is he a current or former U.S. citizen – the president of Indonesia --
MS. PSAKI: The president of Indonesia?
QUESTION: Right. No?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Said.
QUESTION: Madam --
QUESTION: Jen, you may have seen a report this morning out of Moscow by our former bullpen colleague, Kirit, on ABC News about – talking about harassment – Russian harassment of U.S. diplomats reaching levels not seen since the height of the Cold War. I’m wondering, do you have any specific concerns about that? And whether you do or not, are Russian diplomats in the United States harassed in the same way that you seem to be saying that they are in Moscow?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have raised and will continue to raise at the highest level any incidents inconsistent with protections guaranteed by international law. Obviously, we wouldn’t be doing that if we didn’t have concerns. I certainly hope that we are treating – and I believe and I can confirm we are treating any Russian officials here with the utmost respect and – consistent with international law, of course. And as you know, but it’s worth repeating, the responsibility of – the safety and well-being of our personnel and their dependents is one we take very seriously.
QUESTION: But you are not – you can confirm, then, that Russian diplomats or other officials in the United States have not been subjected to harassment.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t know if you’re referring to any reports; none that I have ever heard of.
QUESTION: No, I’m just – I just understood that during the history – during the Cold War, it was kind of frequent that both sides did this to each other, and it was kind of – it was seen as kind of part of the game as it were.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. But you’re asking about recently.
QUESTION: I’m asking about recently contemporaneous with the harassment that you guys say you’re being subjected to in Moscow.
MS. PSAKI: No, Matt. If there’s a specific incident, not one that I’m aware of.
QUESTION: One more on that?
QUESTION: On India.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Just so we’re clear on language, you said at the highest level again. Does that mean the President has raised this with Putin, or does that mean the highest level at the embassy or some other --
MS. PSAKI: The Secretary has raised this.
QUESTION: The Secretary’s raised it. Thank you.
QUESTION: Yes, ma’am. India.
QUESTION: On Egypt.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: We’ve just got just over four weeks now until the deadline for reaching a comprehensive treaty. Could you update us with any talks that are going on this week at different levels, who’s meeting whom? I assume there must be some work going on. You’re not just going to be leaving it a week with nothing happening considering this deadline’s looming.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there was some confusion that we created, unfortunately, by a schedule – an inaccurate schedule that went out. So I would just note there was not – Under Secretary Sherman is here. I’ve seen her this morning. She’s not traveling to anywhere tomorrow. Obviously, we remain in close touch. As you know, there’s ongoing work on the experts level. I don’t have anything to preview for you at this point in terms of political director meetings.
QUESTION: But those expert-level talks are taking place between the teams involved?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me check and see if – obviously, they remain in touch in a range of ways, not just in person. But I can see if there’s anything upcoming as it relates to in-person meetings.
QUESTION: On the negotiations and a potential deal, there are many members of Congress who are actively opposed to this, as is Israel and senior officials including Defense Minister Ya’alon, who have spoken about how bad they think such a deal would be. The Israeli ambassador to the United States gave a speech over the weekend in which he kind of ridiculed the idea of a deal and then the UN inspectors making sure that the deal was – that it was enforced. He called – he said something like, I’m sure we’ll all feel safe with a bunch of UN Inspector Clouseaus running around. I’m not sure if it’s – the plural is Inspectors Clouseau or Inspector Clouseaus, but I’m wondering: Do you have --
MS. PSAKI: Can you take that question, Matt?
QUESTION: Yes. (Laughter.) Do you have confidence in any UN or other inspection team that would take responsibility for making sure the Iranians live up to an agreement if one is reached?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, ensuring there’s a monitoring mechanism that can make sure that any deal is implemented and overseen and monitored, of course, it would be an important component of any agreement. And we certainly need to be confident and we would be confident in the --
QUESTION: Okay. Is it your understanding at the moment that if it gets to that stage where there is an agreement that the IAEA would be in charge of doing any monitoring, or would there be some new group that is created to do that? Or are we just so far away from a deal that no one’s even contemplated how it will be monitored?
MS. PSAKI: You’re familiar with the role the IAEA has played. Obviously, we have five weeks to go – or four weeks to go before the deadline. I don’t have anything to preview for you in terms of an outcome of a deal.
QUESTION: Right, right. But you don’t expect that some new group will be created to monitor a deal if there is one, right? It would be done with existing – the existing institutions?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more for you.
QUESTION: And have you determined yet when the next political director-level talks will be?
MS. PSAKI: Not quite yet. It’s being discussed. I don’t have anything to announce for you at this point.
QUESTION: And I don’t know if you saw the comments this morning from the deputy chief negotiator from Iran, Araghchi, who said that he was – he was referring back to comments that Under Secretary Sherman had made in her speech last week in which she said it was – the status quo was unacceptable – words she’s actually said before in the past. But he said that’s backwards, we’re going backwards, and we’re not going to go backwards on these talks. Do you have any comment on what he had to say about it?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure exactly what he meant by that, so I would point you to Under Secretary Sherman’s speech where she outlined where we are last week.
QUESTION: But he was referring to that. He was saying that what she was saying was actually going backwards from a position he must believe is on the table.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s – what we’ve been clear about in terms of our objective is cutting off all of the lines of – that Iran would have to acquire a nuclear weapon. So certainly, that may require step – taking steps back, I guess, if they refer to it that way. But I don’t think I have more of an assessment of it.
Go ahead. Do we have more on --
QUESTION: On India.
MS. PSAKI: Let’s – Egypt. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to the sentencing over the weekend of 23 activists to jail terms?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sorry. We are deeply troubled by the harsh prison sentence issued yesterday against 23 Egyptians for organizing an unauthorized protest. The defendants were sentenced to three years in prison under Egypt’s highly restrictive demonstration law. We understand that they will appeal. Our concern extends to the reports about Mr. Abdel Fattah, whose sentence, which was eventually vacated, we have previously commented on. We urge Egypt’s leadership to quickly complete its review of the demonstration law and to release an amended version that will enable full freedom of expression and association.
QUESTION: Just on a related – or maybe you would say unrelated – have those helicopters arrived?
MS. PSAKI: I can get you – I know Said asked about this.
MS. PSAKI: I can point you – we released them, so I would point you to the Egyptians and see if --
QUESTION: Okay. So they got them and then the totally independent judiciary issued these harsh sentences to these activists? Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we said at the time, Matt, that this was unrelated to whether we thought that they had taken all of the steps necessary. Obviously, we haven’t done the certifications – the additional certifications as it relates to human rights issues and media freedoms. You would be aware if we had, but we have not.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Also, have you seen the statement that was put out by a group of news editors basically saying to the effect that they would wholeheartedly support the government’s policies against fighting terrorism?
MS. PSAKI: We have seen that. Media freedom is a cornerstone of a democratic society. It’s the responsibility of a free press to guarantee the public’s access to information, including holding state institutions accountable for their actions. And so journalists in Egypt must be protected and permitted to freely do their jobs without the pressure of self-censorship.
QUESTION: Is it your assessment, though, that this statement was made sort of due to pressure from the government or due to fear of retaliation for critical reporting?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to them to make that assessment.
All right. Thanks, everyone.
QUESTION: Can I --
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry. We have to wrap it up. Thanks, Goyal.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:40 p.m.)
DPB # 182