Daily Press Briefing - December 11, 2013
Index for Today's Briefing:
- Suspension of Nonlethal Aid to Northern Syria / Working Closely with SMC on Next Steps / Assistance Continues to Other Parts of Country
- Geneva II / Makeup of Opposition Delegation
- U.S. Contact with the Opposition
- Longstanding U.S. Support of the SMC
- Geneva II / Location of Conference
- Razan Zeitouneh
- Assistant Secretary Nuland's Meetings and Activities in Ukraine
- Support for the Ukrainian People
- Efforts toward European Integration
- Deep Concerns on Indian Supreme Court Decision / LGBT rights human rights
- Secretary Kerry's Visit with Indian Foreign Secretary Singh
- Readout of Meeting Between Secretary and Prime Minister Hasina
- Release of Mustafa Balbay
- Continue to Look to Egyptian Government to Afford Due Process to Citizens
- Foreign Minister Davutoglu's Visit to Armenia
- Human Rights
- Denial of Visas for U.S. Journalists
- Secretary's Meeting with Ambassador Power
- Focus of Upcoming Secretary's Trip
- MIDDLE EAST PEACE
- Secretary's Meetings with Justice Minister Livni and Dr. Erekat
- Bilateral Security Agreement
- Bilateral Relationship
- U.S. Arctic Claims / Canada
- Secretary's Upcoming Meetings with Israeli Officials
- Bilateral Relationship / Military Cooperation
1:45 p.m. EST
QUESTION: Sounds like, “Hello, Newman.” (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I’m always thrilled to see you here in the briefing room. (Laughter.) I don’t have anything at the top, so let’s get to what’s on all of your minds.
Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: Yeah. Can we just start with Syria --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- and the decision on the suspension of aid?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What – can you explain exactly why this step has been taken and whether it means anything of significance for the SMC and the control that General Idris has over the Free Syria Army?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, let me state first unequivocally it is not a suspension of aid or a holding back of aid. But let me outline for you what’s happened here.
We’re obviously concerned that Islamic Front forces have seized the Atmeh headquarters and warehouses belonging to the SMC, and we are, of course, in close contact with General Idris and the SMC about these events. We’re gathering the facts, consulting with friends in the Syrian opposition on the next steps we can do in support of the Syrian people. And as I mentioned, of course, we’re working closely with General Idris and the SMC staff at this point to inventory the status of U.S. equipment and supplies provided to the SMC. As a result of this situation, the United States has suspended all deliveries of nonlethal assistance into northern Syria while we evaluate the situation on the ground and gather additional details.
QUESTION: So can you – but I guess the question is: Why? The Islamic Front is not the al-Qaida group.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: In fact, they say that they claim to have no ties at all. They claim just to be, I guess, Islamists but not radical. So is there – what’s the – and I was under the impression that you guy were willing to talk – at least talk to people who fit into that category, the category of not terrorists, but not moderate or not secularists.
MS. PSAKI: Who are not designated terrorists. At the same time, Matt, as you know, we’ve been working with the SMC. They are the group that we have – and we, with the international community, have designated as the coordinating group for military assistance and other assistance. We’re, of course, evaluating what this means, what the impact is. But as you have seen in reports and you have all reported, the fact that the warehouse – the headquarters and warehouses belonging to the SMC have been taken over is certainly something concerning and has left us to, given that, suspend all deliveries at this point.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: We’re evaluating it and we are, of course, taking an inventory of what it means and what supplies are applicable here.
QUESTION: All right. Well, recognizing that you don’t have – well, how are you doing the inventory? But then recognizing that you haven’t done the inventory yet, do you have any idea of how much and what is in these warehouses?
MS. PSAKI: Well, nonlethal assistance, as you know, could include – includes items like MREs, laptops, et cetera. In terms of what specifically was included in this warehouse, that is an ongoing process. I don’t have an evaluation of that for all of you. I’m not sure we’ll make a public evaluation. But certainly, we’re working with the SMC. We are in close touch with General Idris as well as members of the SMC to undergo the process of reviewing what’s included and what the impact would be.
QUESTION: Are you aware if there was any military – lethal military equipment, either supplied by the United States or by others, in these warehouses?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an evaluation of that at this point. Again, this was – our understanding at this point was that it was nonlethal, but we’re, of course, evaluating what was included in there.
QUESTION: All right. And then my last one is just – what does this say – the fact that apparently the SMC forces just ran away, what does that say about their viability or credibility as a fighting force and as a credible military opponent to either the Assad regime or to the al-Qaida-linked groups?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I know there have been a range of reports, many of them by many of your outlets. We’re still evaluating what happened on the ground, so I wouldn’t confirm or reiterate reports about what happened or what exactly went down on the ground.
This has nothing to do with our support for the SMC. It has nothing to do with our support for the opposition. It has everything to do with the security of the material assistance, which is, of course, what we’re evaluating. But beyond that, I wouldn’t want to speculate about what happened or what it means until we have more time to consult with the people on the ground.
QUESTION: Sorry. Have you any idea how long the suspension of aid might last?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t. It’s important – let me just reiterate, too – and I forgot to mention this in the beginning part – that assistance continues through other neighboring countries to other parts of Syria. So that’s what I meant by it’s not suspended. It’s just for this particular part, given the circumstances.
QUESTION: But no idea yet whether it would be a matter of days, weeks, or --
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t want to put a day on – or a date on it. Obviously, it’s in our interest, in the international community’s interest, to reassume – to have the aid going through this area as soon as we can. But we want to evaluate the circumstances on the ground and make a decision from there.
QUESTION: And maybe just go back to Matt’s point, is there concern here that this is a theft or is there concern here that this is nonlethal aid of a type that you do not want going into the hands of the Islamic Front? As Matt pointed out, this isn’t a group that you’ve necessarily been opposed to on the ground in Syria.
MS. PSAKI: We have, as I know Marie talked about last week, and we have been in touch with a range of officials, as you all are aware. At the same time, the SMC is the group that we are working with, that we are encouraging the international community to work with on assistance, management of assistance, overseeing the assistance. So certainly, it would be – it is of concern to us that these warehouses and their headquarters have been seized by another organization. What that means and what it will mean longer term is something that we’re evaluating.
QUESTION: And can you tell us again more broadly how much the United States has given so far in nonlethal aid to the SMC?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to double-check on those numbers in terms of what has hit the ground. Obviously, this has been an ongoing process, as you know. But I’m happy to take it and we can send around an update on what’s actually been processed, if that’s helpful.
QUESTION: Jen, can I ask you --
QUESTION: Jen, how much of the two --
MS. PSAKI: We’ll go to you – Lesley and Michael. Lesley, and then we’ll go to Michael.
QUESTION: How much of this – do you know where Idris is at the moment? Is he back in Turkey? Because he fled – I mean, is he back in Syria? Because he fled into Turkey and then --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates on his whereabouts. I’d point you to the SMC for any update on that.
QUESTION: And is it not true that the group that seized the warehouses was in talks anyways and is a breakaway group – was in talks with Idris’ group about an alliance that would then form part of the Geneva talks?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to both of their groups and the SMC for any evaluation of that. Obviously, we’ve long said and this remains the case that we are – we would support representative delegations coming to a Geneva conference. That’s something we’ve communicated to the SMC as well as the SOC. We’re working closely with them as appropriate on that. As I said, we engage with a broad cross-section of Syrian people and political and military leaders; that continues to be the case. But I don’t think we should lose the context here that warehouses and a headquarters that was previously run by the SMC was seized, and certainly, that’s concerning.
QUESTION: How much of this has got to do with the political leadership battle between the SMC and this Islamic Front? I mean, as my colleagues did point out, this is a group that you have been in talks with trying to convince them to come to the bargaining table. How much of this is something that you think could easily overcome through just discussions, or do you think that this is something much bigger?
MS. PSAKI: It’s a good question, Lesley. I think it’s too early to say at this point what this means and what – and how it will be resolved and what the best steps are to resolve it. That’s obviously what we’re endeavoring to determine with our contacts on the ground.
QUESTION: Jen, just two follow-ups on these questions and clarifications. First off, have American officials been in touch with representatives of the Islamic Front to ask that these warehouses be returned, to get their version of events? What is this group telling the United States?
And the second question is, given that the Syrian opposition has been fragmenting a bit over recent months – we’ve all had stories about different alliances that have emerged and cropped up, and different factions – the Islamic Front is one of them, and given that you’re saying you’re meeting with a broad cross-section of groups, under what conditions would the United States consider working with the Islamic Front or inviting them to Geneva II or cooperating with them, since while the SMC may be designated as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people, there are clearly a plethora of groups out there now.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. On the second question, Michael, it is – you are right that we do engage with a broad section of groups, as I mentioned, including political and military leaders from many parties. The SMC continues to be – and this has not changed – the group that we work through and that we want other countries to provide aid and assistance to.
In terms of how a delegation will be put together and who may or may not be included, that’s an ongoing conversation. Obviously, that’s for the Syrian people to determine and make an evaluation of. We are in touch with them, but that’s not something I have an update on for you today. It’s a good question, not something I have an update for.
The first question you asked was what? Can you repeat it for me one more time?
QUESTION: Well, have you been – have American officials been in touch with Islamic Front officials to ask that the warehouses be returned, number one, and also to get – and what is the Islamic Front saying about what happened, how this came about? What have they told you about it?
MS. PSAKI: My understanding – and I’m happy to check this again with our team, Michael – is that our primary focus here, of course, has been contact with the SMC and evaluating the impact and the inventory. But I’m happy to check if there’s any additional contact to report to all of you.
QUESTION: Could you just let us know by the end of the day whether you’ve had communications with this group?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: And what you might have learned from them?
MS. PSAKI: Happy to.
QUESTION: Because it would be strange if you hadn’t.
MS. PSAKI: Happy to check back and see what we can report. Absolutely.
QUESTION: Can I ask on this?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Have you managed to get in touch with General Idris?
MS. PSAKI: I’m fairly certain we have been in touch with him and with his team, and about this specific issue, yes.
QUESTION: All right. And then just to clarify, this attack was on Friday and the aid was – the delivery of aid was suspended on Saturday? Is that correct, effective Saturday?
MS. PSAKI: I would have to double-check the exact date on it. Obviously, it was done soon after we learned a little bit about the events on the ground.
QUESTION: Yes, just to clarify, do you have any general, I mean, the dialogue with Islamic Front beyond that incident? I mean, do you have any channel with Islamic Front?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more specifically to report to all of you. We’ve never outlined exactly who we’ve been in touch with. We’ve been clear we’re not in touch with designated terrorist organizations. We are in touch with a range of officials, military leaders, political leaders. I will see if there’s more I can report to all of you on that front.
QUESTION: Did SMC consult with you before giving the key of this warehouse to Islamic Front?
MS. PSAKI: Again, we’re looking at events on the ground and what’s happened. We’re in touch with them. Obviously, I don’t think it was their preference for the facilities to be seized. I think that certainly is fair to say. Beyond that, I don’t have much more to report to you all on it.
QUESTION: No, I mean, did you consult with SMC before, because the humanitarian aid of U.S. was in there? Did you ask your opinion about –
(Fire alarm sounds.)
QUESTION: Oh, great. See what you’ve done? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: To me? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I have a little button under here just in case. (Laughter.) Just kidding.
QUESTION: Thank you. I mean, and did they ask your opinion about this decision to --
MS. PSAKI: To --
QUESTION: I mean, because as I understand, the Al-Nusrah attacked the warehouse and they were trying to protect the warehouse, and finally, Islamic Front came and they gave the key of the warehouse to the Islamic Front?
MS. PSAKI: I would say there have been a range of reports. We’re still evaluating what happened on the ground. Obviously, we’ve been in touch with the SMC about it, as we are every single day. In terms of communications and the specifics of them, I have nothing to report to you on that front.
QUESTION: Are you – the last two questions. Are you concerned about the future of SMC? Because after this incident, without any equipment and without any, I mean, the logistical support – I mean, they were becoming weaker and weaker day by day.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are --
QUESTION: And after especially this incident.
MS. PSAKI: We are certainly concerned, as I’ve said. We are – about the inventory of what was included in the facilities, which we are evaluating now. While we evaluate that I’m not going to make a determination of what it means. Certainly, any pause in aid makes it more challenging. So all of those issues are issues we’re looking at. In terms of what the long-term impact is, it’s too early to say at this point.
One piece just so I don’t forget to mention, because there’s been some confusion about this. This doesn’t impact humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian assistance is distributed as you all know, through international nongovernment organizations, including the UN, and that is not impacted. That assistance is not impacted by this.
QUESTION: And the last question.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Did you discuss this issue with Turkish Government? Because I mean, Turkish Government also closed the border at Cilvegozu, just across the Atmeh, the village that the Islamic Front took control of. And did you discuss this issue with Turkish Government? It was a synchronized decision?
(Fire alarm sounds.)
QUESTION: Again? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Maybe we should move on to a new person and see if it goes off? (Laughter.)
We certainly are in close contact, as you know, with the Turkish Government. In terms of whether this specifically has been discussed with them, I’d have to follow up on that and see if there’s anything to read out for you.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: Jen --
MS. PSAKI: Let’s go to Margaret, and then we can go to you. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. concerned more broadly, though, that these heavily armed Islamist groups are coming to dominate among the rebels?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Margaret, we’re talking about an incident which we’re obviously concerned about, as I’ve mentioned. That includes specific headquarters and warehouses in the surrounding area. We’re concerned about the inventory that may have been impacted. We’ve had to suspend nonlethal assistance to that area. So, clearly, we’ve taken steps and we are concerned about it. We’re not prepared at this point to make a broad statement about what it means and what the long-term impact will be. We’re evaluating that. We’re in close contact with the SMC, and we will see over the course of time what this means.
QUESTION: But there have been some very high profile defections from the SMC over to the Islamic Front, which seem to suggest that they’re stronger, and that they are dominating here.
MS. PSAKI: That is – the SMC continues to be the group and the organization that we have worked with, that international communities are working with. Obviously, events are challenging on the ground, but our support for them is longstanding, and we’re not prepared at this point to make an evaluation of what the impact of these events are.
QUESTION: Jen --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does this decision reflect any changes in the U.S. policy towards the regime – the Syrian regime, first, and the opposition, second?
MS. PSAKI: No. In fact, to be absolutely clear, this is about specific military – specific material assistance, I should say. This is not related to our support for the opposition. We still remain firmly supportive of the opposition, and of the SMC. That’s why we’re in close contact with them. We’re gathering the facts, we’re consulting with them, we are doing a full evaluation of the inventory, but we remain firmly supportive of the opposition.
QUESTION: But, I mean, just to follow up on Margaret’s question --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, I know you’re concerned about the warehouse in itself, but it is symbolic of a larger problem, which is that Islamic groups are taking greater control over spots of the country, including a crossing with a NATO ally. So, I mean, that’s got to be a larger concern in terms of your – when you look at the strength of this opposition and whether you may need to rethink your unequivocal support just for this group.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not – it is a good question. We are evaluating that. We are not ready to make any long-term evaluation or decision about that. We remain firmly committed to the SMC and to providing them assistance. Certainly, an event like this is concerning, as I’ve said. And it is – there have been other incidents, as you’ve mentioned, which we’ve expressed concern about as well. But right now, we are – continue to work with the SMC, we continue to work with the SOC, both on military assistance but also on preparing for a Geneva conference, and that has not changed.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you care if Geneva II is not actually in Geneva?
MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) I knew you were going to ask that question.
QUESTION: Is Montreux okay?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt --
QUESTION: Montreux is fine with me.
QUESTION: How about Lausanne? (Laughter.) Or Davos? Or Zurich?
MS. PSAKI: There are a lot of beautiful --
MS. PSAKI: -- beautiful options in Switzerland.
QUESTION: Does it have to be Switzerland?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the benefit of – the reason why there was planning to have this in Geneva was because of all the resources there that you’re all well aware of. Obviously, we’ve seen the comments made by Brahimi. We understand the logistical challenges. And that is something that is being worked through.
QUESTION: Do you find it to be unfortunate at all that a gathering of watchmakers is going to force this conference, this very important political conference with geopolitical strategic ramifications, out of your desired city?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as long as we have representative delegations and we have the rooms and the resources we need, I’m sure we can move the process forward.
QUESTION: So Montreux is okay?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think a final decision has been made. I know they’re working through logistical dates.
QUESTION: Well, would it be okay?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that the location is our primary concern here.
QUESTION: But do you have your representative delegations yet?
MS. PSAKI: You would certainly know if there were representative delegations. As you know, the next trilateral meeting is on December 20th. So, certainly there they’d be discussing the agenda, attendants, as well as where things stand with the delegations from both sides.
QUESTION: So no news at the moment, though?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any news at that – on that issue at this point.
QUESTION: Given the situation that we’ve seen over the weekend and the growing influence of extremists on the ground, and you also had a couple other developments – you had the kidnapping of a major opposition figure, Razan Zeitouneh, which is one of the leaders, really, of the moderate opposition --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- do you really think Geneva – the Geneva conference is – it’s a good time to hold it right now, when certainly the strength of the opposition is being questioned? And would they really have the kind of influence that they would need at the bargaining table?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, we certainly – I mean, on the – we believe the Geneva conference is – it’s important to happen right now, for many of the reasons you mentioned, which is that there’s no military solution on the ground. We believe that. The Russians believe that. We’re continuing to work both – with both sides to bring them to the table. We’re talking about the future of Syria, the future of the tens of thousands of people or more who are living in Syria and at risk every single day. That’s an argument we’re making to both sides, and we feel it’s vitally important to do this now. So that hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: Do you have any information about Razan Zeitouneh’s whereabouts?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t. We have, of course, seen the reports. We’ve obviously very concerned by them. We’re looking to get more information and facts regarding the situation. And I don’t have any other particular update at this moment.
QUESTION: But she was taken in an area that was – is controlled by extremist groups. She has been – the more that she’s been criticizing the kidnappings and work of al-Qaida related groups, she’s been threatened, so --
MS. PSAKI: Right, and there have been claims made by certain groups, but in terms of her whereabouts, I don’t have any information on that.
QUESTION: Jen, do you have any specific expectations from Islamic Front to start a dialogue with them? For example, if they assure you that they will deny to contact with al-Nusrah or ISIS – I mean, the al-Qaida related groups, would it be enough for you to start a dialogue with them?
MS. PSAKI: That’s a hypothetical at this point, and I don’t have anything to add to that.
QUESTION: Jen, can we go to --
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Syria or --
QUESTION: Yeah, Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Yeah. Related to Michael's question is with the contacts, part of these groups, many of them, they have contacts with Saudi Arabia or Qatar. You are in contact with them to mediate or make channels of communication?
MS. PSAKI: I addressed this a little bit, in that we’ve said – we’ve long said that we’re in touch with a range of groups, whether they’re political or military leaders or officials. We’ve never outlined the specifics of those and I have no plans to do that today.
QUESTION: No, he’s asking if you were talking to the Saudis and the Qataris about --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. I understood your question to mean about --
QUESTION: Maybe I’m wrong.
MS. PSAKI: -- the specific groups they’re in touch with. Are we in touch with the Saudis and the Qataris about which --
QUESTION: Because as much as we know, most of – it was reported that many factions of these groups are in contact and even funded by those two countries.
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly I’m not going to verify or confirm any of the range of reports that have been out there, some of which are conflicting. Certainly, we have continued to encourage all of our international partners to provide assistance and aid though the SMC and not through other groups. Of course, discussion of extremist elements or other groups is part of what we talk about whenever the Secretary and other officials from the Administration speak with the Saudis or the Qataris or other important countries in the region, and that’s part of our ongoing dialogue with them.
QUESTION: Do you think that this is going to impact the way the U.S. is going to try to bring together an opposition – several representatives of the opposition in Geneva?
MS. PSAKI: It is too early to say, Lesley. I know I keep saying that, but given these events are just a couple of days old and we’re still evaluating what they mean, we still remain focused on and committed to working with the opposition on a delegation that’s representative of the different factions of the Syrian opposition. That certainly would include the SMC. That obviously hasn’t been determined yet, and is something we continue to work with them on.
QUESTION: Jen, (inaudible), we know that you conveyed several – I mean, the messages to – especially Turkish Government regarding the foreign fighters going to Syria through Turkey --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and joining the radical elements in northern Syria. Islamic Front was part of this problem, or just you were mentioning Al-Nusrah or ISIS, then you will convey these messages to Turks?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve talked about concern about any foreign fighters from any country, so that hasn’t changed. That’s consistently been our position.
QUESTION: I’m trying to understand your view on Islamic Front. Was that --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything more to add for it – to you than what I’ve already said.
Do we have any more on Syria? Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Do you have more Syria or --
MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s go to Ukraine and then we can go to India --
MS. PSAKI: -- to India, okay?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- registering his disgust at the – what was happening in the square. And Assistant Secretary Nuland has been back in Kyiv for her second visit after talks in Moscow. Is she – what is the – what role is Assistant Secretary Nuland playing in trying to defuse this crisis?
MS. PSAKI: Well, she met with President Yanukovich this morning – that may have been in some of the readout, but just for those of you who had not seen that – and with opposition and civil society leaders yesterday. As you mentioned, this was her second visit in the last week, and she is currently now on her way back to the United States. The role she has played – as you know, the Vice President spoke with President Yanukovich just two days ago I believe, and she made it clear that what happened last night is absolutely impermissible in a European democratic state. She also made clear that we believe there is still a way forward for Ukraine, that it is still possible to save Ukraine’s European future, and want to see President Yanukovich lead his country back onto that path, and that this is a pivotal moment to either meet the aspirations or disappoint the voices of the people. So that is the message that she communicated in her meeting with President Yanukovich this morning when she --
QUESTION: And then in her talks in Moscow, she was talking about the situation in Moscow as well, was she?
MS. PSAKI: She was in Moscow as well. I think that was two days ago. Let me just how – where – I have to look it up.
QUESTION: And did Ukraine come up in the conversations?
MS. PSAKI: I believe, yes, it certainly did. Let me just find my rundown of that. Give me one moment. Let’s see. I’m just looking for my exact rundown of the meetings she had while she was there. So I don’t have that in front of me, but I’m happy to get that to all of you.
While she was there – you’ve heard us say many times and you’ve heard Assistant Secretary Nuland say many times that our view is this is not a zero-sum game, that there are – can be relationships and friendships and partnerships with a range of countries. The people of Ukraine have spoken and have made clear their support for an interest in European integration. And she certainly discussed a range of topics while she was in Russia, but that was certainly one of them.
QUESTION: And then this morning or last night, she was down – she went down and visited the protesters --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and there’s pictures of her handing out, I think it’s cakes and cookies or – what was the purpose of that visit? Why go down to the square? I mean, to support --
MS. PSAKI: Well, she had been, I believe, to – as well as visiting – she’d visited with opposition leaders and officials last week on her first visit as well, and it is important to convey our support for their ability to voice their views, support for their efforts on European integration. Our belief that respect for democratic principles including freedom of assembly is a universal right, not just an American right. So she – it’s obviously been a challenging couple of days and she went down there to show her support.
QUESTION: Are – you said earlier that this kind of – what happened last night is impermissible in a European democratic state. Does the Administration regard Ukraine as a European democratic state?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re talking about the aspirations of the people.
QUESTION: So it’s still an aspirational thing?
MS. PSAKI: Of course. You would know if it was not.
QUESTION: You also said that there is still a chance – or still something – I can’t read my writing – to save Ukraine’s European future.
MS. PSAKI: That’s right. What I mean is --
QUESTION: Still – it’s still possible to save Ukraine’s European future. Are you convinced from the discussion that the Vice President had with President Yanukovich and Assistant Secretary Nuland’s conversation with him that the Ukrainian leadership is interested in having a European future?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s up to the European – I mean, the Ukrainian leadership to speak to. What we’re talking about is --
QUESTION: Well, if they’re not – if you’re selling something that they’re not interested in buying, what hope do you have to --
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as you know, they have taken several steps towards it in the last several months, so --
QUESTION: And several giant steps away from it as well. So I’m not sure – I’m just wondering if you believe that when you tell the Ukrainian authorities that there is still a chance to save your European future if they care.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the context of that --
QUESTION: I mean, do they – are they interested in that?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak for whether – what their views are, but Matt, the context is you have people protesting in the streets, making clear that – what their preference is, the people of Ukraine.
QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but people --
MS. PSAKI: And as they’re listening to that and trying to determine what to do about it, the EU has made clear they’re still open to entertaining a process forward with Ukraine. And that is what we’re conveying.
QUESTION: Right, but, I mean – look, there were protests in Eastern Europe in the ‘50s and ‘60s against Soviet, or Russian – what was then the Soviet Union – domination, and the leadership in both Moscow and in those countries, they were – well, they were – they crushed that kind of thing. So are you convinced that they, that Yanukovich and the – and his government care about or have any interest in a European future or in being a European democratic state?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt --
QUESTION: Because I – I mean, their actions --
MS. PSAKI: -- it would be --
QUESTION: You always say actions speak louder than words.
MS. PSAKI: Certainly.
QUESTION: And it would seem to me that last night’s actions and the actions over the weekend, or since this has all happened, would lead you in the exact opposite direction, which makes, I think, the argument kind of a feeble one if they’re not interested in it.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think the point is that there is still an opening. Obviously, President Yanukovich spoke to the – with the Vice President. He met with Assistant Secretary Nuland, I believe, for an hour or two. And certainly they had a robust discussion about what the options are moving forward. It was important from our view to make the case that despite the events of the last few weeks, there is still an opening and an opportunity to move towards a European integration.
QUESTION: But what --
QUESTION: So you think that the president’s willingness to meet or to speak with you guys --
MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t doing --
QUESTION: -- is an indication that he is interested in --
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I wasn’t doing an analysis of what it meant. I’m just indicating that, obviously, we’ve been discussing the issue.
QUESTION: All right. And when the – say – let’s talk about the – I recognize that the White House may be a better place to answer this, but you said that they laid out options for or potential avenues for proceeding further?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to overstate.
QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but --
MS. PSAKI: What I meant by that – what I was – what I meant by that is that there is still a path forward to European integration.
QUESTION: Right. So presumably – tell me if I’m wrong – the Vice President didn’t say in his conversation with the president that one of the options you have available is a brutal crackdown on demonstrators in sub-freezing weather. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: I think that’s fairly safe to assume, Matt.
QUESTION: So he – in other words, he acted in 180 degrees differently from what the Vice President said would be a good way to pursue the opening.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details on the Vice President’s conversation than what they have read out and provided to all of you. Obviously, given we’re at a pivotal point here, given that sending – our belief is sending riot police in is beyond the pale. That was the reason for the strong statement.
QUESTION: But why is it important for – or why is it in Ukraine’s interest to move towards Europe?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken about this a bit. I think, one, that is not – it’s not as important what the United States’ view is. It’s the Ukrainian people have spoken out and been clear that is their preference. And that is something that they would like to see the country move toward. And obviously, they were very close just a couple of weeks ago and there were steps taken back since then. So given the events on the ground, given how loud the voices are of the people in Ukraine, that is what we’re referring to.
QUESTION: But what if it’s the wrong decision? I mean, they elect a government to choose decisions for them. If they don’t like the decision that the government’s taking, then presumably they should take it to a ballot box.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think they’re also voicing their dissatisfaction with the steps of the government. And obviously, the government’s response to that with riot police last night is something we found completely unacceptable.
QUESTION: Jen, what has the U.S. proposed to lure Ukraine to democratize? I mean, have you – has – did Assistant Secretary Nuland actually go with some proposals, economic and political proposals?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to get into all the specifics of any conversation. But obviously, getting back into a conversation with Europe and with the IMF and bringing, of course, justice and dignity to the people of Ukraine is what we were – what our strong message was on the ground. All policy options, including sanctions, are on the table in our view. But obviously, that still is being evaluated.
QUESTION: If there – if this – if the Ukrainian leadership doesn’t accede to these requests from the street, what further measures could the United States impose? Would you be prepared to go, for instance, down the road of imposing sanctions on individual --
QUESTION: She just – I think she just said that.
QUESTION: Did you say that?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Excuse me.
QUESTION: I was going to follow up on the sanctions. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So was I. Like, what kind of sanctions?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into specifics of that. We’re considering policy options. There obviously hasn’t been a decision made. Sanctions are included, but I’m not going to outline more specifics.
QUESTION: Can you refresh – please refresh my memory. The last election that Ukraine had you regarded as acceptable, free, and fair?
MS. PSAKI: I would have to – I believe probably, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. So kind of like the Egyptian election might have had a little – some problems, but --
MS. PSAKI: I knew there was a comparison coming here. I was trying to sniff it out. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, I just want to know if you – mass protests in the street, if that’s a – if you believe that – and this relates to Jo’s question – I mean, people elect a government or a president and a parliament, and if they don’t like it, they can demonstrate, surely – sure, and you think that they have the right to demonstrate. But I mean, can they control the – do you believe that the mass of – a mass of people should be determining the – Ukraine’s foreign policy, or should that be left to the government to decide?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, obviously, listening to the voices of the people in Ukraine is something we feel is important. This was a case where Ukraine was deciding between two paths. You know what our view was on the better path. And given they came so close, they took other steps. That is just the message we are communicating to the government.
QUESTION: Would these be political or economic sanctions?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into any more specifics. Again, there’s a range of options that we are open to, but we’re not at that point at this stage.
QUESTION: And what about the IMF? Would you be prepared to support the IMF – an IMF loan for Ukraine, for instance? Would that be an option?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we do believe they should be in contact with not just the – getting – they should get back into a conversation with the IMF. In terms of what steps would be taken, we’re not quite at that point yet.
QUESTION: Are you – do you know if the issue of potential sanctions came up in the conversation that Vice President Biden had, or in Toria’s conversations?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to --
QUESTION: Are the Ukrainians aware, other than this briefing, that this is a possibility?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sure they’re all watching live right now. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: They might be.
MS. PSAKI: I would have to check on that, Matt, for you. I’m happy to do that.
QUESTION: How do you view the role that Russia is playing in the Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve talked about this a bit in here. We’ve communicated to Russia that we, of course, don’t feel this is a zero-sum game. We understand that they have put options on the table. The EU has put their own options on the table. But we continue to believe that the preference of the people of Ukraine should be what the government listens to.
QUESTION: Can we stick on – stay on Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, and then we can go to India. You’ve been very patient. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I just wanted – so usually, when sanctions are imposed, it’s because a country has misbehaved in some way. I mean – and you say that you haven’t reached that point yet. What exactly --
MS. PSAKI: Well, about making decisions about it, but we’re certainly --
QUESTION: Well, is this because of the crackdown on the protestors, or – it’s not to punish them for not looking towards a greater integration. Would it be because of the political crackdown?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, there are a range of events on the ground that we’re looking at, and clearly, we have concerns about the events of the last couple of weeks. I’m just talking about options, not any decision that’s been made.
QUESTION: Yeah. I understand.
QUESTION: I’m curious. You’re suggesting to them that – to Russia and Ukraine – that this is not a zero-sum game, but you’re, on the other hand, presenting a choice between a trade deal or sanctions. That sounds kind of zero-sum-ish, doesn’t it?
MS. PSAKI: I think you’re combining a few things there, Chris.
MS. PSAKI: I think obviously, there have been a range of events on the ground over the last couple of weeks that we’ve expressed our incredible concern about. What we mean by not a zero-sum game with Russia is that Russia can also, of course, have a relationship. We’re talking about what’s best for the future of the people in Ukraine in terms of their integration. So that’s a separate question.
MS. PSAKI: And in terms of sanctions, obviously, that’s not a decision that’s been made, but of course, as in many cases, we can consider a range of policy options, which we’re certainly doing in this case given events on the ground.
Do we have any more on Ukraine?
QUESTION: One more. But do you think that the Russians are playing a constructive role in Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any evaluation of that. This isn’t about the U.S. versus Russia. This is about Ukraine and the voices of the people in Ukraine and what they’ve expressed to the government, and their – the importance of their ability to express their views and abide by democratic principles, and that’s where our concerns lie.
QUESTION: Back to Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we – I promised India, so let’s go to India and then we can go back to Syria.
QUESTION: Thank you. You must have seen the Indian Supreme Court decision criminalizing homosexuality, which has sent shockwaves in the global LGBT community. And it’s more important, because only yesterday, Secretary Kerry issued a statement on Human Rights Day, and in which he mentioned LGBT. So what is the reaction that – and especially because the Indian foreign secretary is in town?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, we, of course, are aware of the Supreme Court decision. The United States places great importance on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people. And as you saw and as you referenced in the Secretary’s statement yesterday, that includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons around the world. We oppose any action that criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct between adults. LGBT rights are human rights. That’s something you’ve heard Secretary Kerry say, I believe Secretary Clinton say before him, and we call on all governments to advance equality for LGBT individuals around the world.
I know you asked me about the visit of the foreign secretary. I’m happy to give a readout of that, if that’s helpful as well. Secretary Kerry and Deputy Secretary Burns met yesterday with Indian Foreign Secretary Singh to discuss ways to deepen the U.S.-India Strategic Partnership and consult on regional issues. Foreign Secretary Singh also met with Acting Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia Nisha Biswal, and other senior officials.
The United States and India agree to joint principles to strengthen India-U.S. cooperation on training UN peacekeepers, developed with support from the Department’s Global Peace Operations Initiative. The United States also accepted India’s invitation to serve as a partner country for India’s technology summit and expo in New Delhi in the fall of 2014, further intensifying our broad scientific cooperation.
QUESTION: Thank you. Are you planning to reach out to the Indian Government to express your – directly about what needs to be done? Because if you see the atmosphere there, the political parties, the pressure, and – it is not just a vague Supreme Court decision.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have – we consistently bring up human rights issues with most countries we meet with, and I don’t have any specific recent call or meeting to read out for all of you, but certainly, that’s something we’re happy to express publicly and privately as needed.
QUESTION: Back on India --
QUESTION: Well, in that meeting between the top diplomat for the Administration and his Deputy and the Indian foreign secretary, this didn’t come up?
MS. PSAKI: That happened yesterday. I don’t – I’m not aware of when – I believe this decision may have been today, the Supreme Court decision.
QUESTION: But she still has a meeting today too in the building.
MS. PSAKI: Hmm?
QUESTION: She had a meeting today also. Was this issue brought up with her?
MS. PSAKI: Today? With – who was the meeting with today?
QUESTION: I don’t know, but I think she had --
QUESTION: But she’s in town.
QUESTION: -- some meetings here today also.
MS. PSAKI: I have to check on that. I was under the impression that most of the meetings were yesterday, but I’m happy to check, and if there were meetings today, we can check if this issue came up.
QUESTION: All right. And then --
QUESTION: Yeah, but the question --
QUESTION: -- in the initial – in your initial response, I didn’t hear you actually give any reaction to what the decision actually was. I’m presuming that you think it’s a bad ruling by the Supreme Court, but I didn’t hear you say that.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we --
QUESTION: Can you go ahead – can you say that?
MS. PSAKI: I believe by saying we oppose any action that criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct between adults in general around the world, I think I was pretty clear about what our view is.
QUESTION: So what do you think about the – specifically about the Indian Supreme Court decision?
MS. PSAKI: I think --
QUESTION: I’m looking for something that’s got the word “India” in the answer, other than just --
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I’m not sure I have much more to add other than to convey that any legislation around the world, whether it’s India or any other country that criminalizes --
QUESTION: But this isn’t legislation.
MS. PSAKI: -- I’m sorry – any action that criminalizes consensual same-sex conduct between adults that doesn’t recognize that fundamental freedoms of people include their right to sexual orientation – those are issues that we certainly would be concerned about, as we are here.
QUESTION: So you are expressing concern about the Supreme Court decision in India on this case?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
MS. PSAKI: Does the supreme --
QUESTION: Clarify it one more time.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: You are opposed to the Supreme Court decision and you are going to raise this issue with the Indian Government, right?
MS. PSAKI: I think I expressed our concern about any cases along these lines. We are in regular touch about these issues and others with India. I don’t have anything specific to read out for you in terms of future meetings or conversations about this.
QUESTION: And on – regarding Foreign Secretary Singh’s meetings here --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- was the issue of Bangladesh discussed? Because there have been some differences between the two countries on this issue.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that in my particular readout. I’m happy to check if that was an issue during their meetings.
QUESTION: And was the issue of the Sri Lanka raised, do you – in these meetings?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more than what I read out for you. We can check if Sri Lanka and Bangladesh came up as a part of the conversation.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: And other --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. It was actually late last night.
QUESTION: Oh, was it? Okay. What prompted that call? And could you give us a readout of what was said between them, the two of them?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, he did speak with Hasina about current events in Bangladesh. We have – part of the discussion was conveying the importance of major parties coming together on a way forward for elections that are free, fair, and credible in the eyes of the Bangladeshi people. We also – he also – we also welcome the visit of UN Assistant Secretary General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco to Dhaka, where he is meeting with both parties to encourage a peaceful way forward. So they discussed a range of topics, and certainly that was a big focus of the message the Secretary conveyed.
QUESTION: On India still?
MS. PSAKI: India?
QUESTION: Yeah. Does the United States expect India to – the parliament – with respect to the parliament, does it expect the Indian parliament to repeal that law?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other comment for you on the Supreme Court case than what I’ve just offered or any other expectation of steps. That’s obviously steps the Indian Government would take.
QUESTION: Is there any actions at all the Supreme Court – is there any options at all the State Department is examining to encourage India to repeal that law?
MS. PSAKI: That’s a decision that the Indian Government would make. We obviously don’t make decisions on behalf of other governments and their legislation. So I expressed our deep concern about any efforts around the world to not recognize that LGBT rights are human rights, and that’s a message we’ll continue to convey.
QUESTION: Well, the only problem with that is that you’re threatening sanctions on Ukraine, or saying that they’re a possibility because they’re violating people’s human rights and not listening to the – not listening to the people. And yet here with India, it’s not even clear whether this has – has come up, will come up, or will ever come up with the Indian Government. And in fact, the meeting – the readout that you gave of the meetings yesterday said that everything with India is full speed ahead, and we’re intensifying our relationship, and --
MS. PSAKI: Well, this case – as I understand it --
MS. PSAKI: -- the Supreme Court case was today.
QUESTION: Right. Okay. That’s fair enough.
MS. PSAKI: Those meetings were yesterday. I think I expressed pretty clearly our opposition to this. In terms of what steps would be taken by a government on a Supreme Court case, that’s not something I would have a comment on. Obviously, the events in Ukraine we’ve expressed our deep concern about, and the reasons why. And as you know, we don’t group every country and everything that happens into the same category. Every circumstance is different.
QUESTION: Another human rights question, actually.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: A Turkish journalist and at the same time a member of parliament was released after almost four and a half years detained. Do you have a statement on that? After – I mean, the – following the Turkish Constitutional Court. Do you have any statement on that?
MS. PSAKI: You’re – I think you’re talking about Mustafa Balbay?
QUESTION: Balbay, yes.
MS. PSAKI: We are – we welcome his release and are pleased to see him take up his official duties in parliament. So --
QUESTION: And also there are six member of parliaments similar with his case. Do you have any reaction? Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: As you know, we evaluate the issue of due process and our concerns as it relates to Turkey and our Human Rights Report every year when we issue that. I don’t have anything specific on other individual cases. I can see if there’s more on those to report on.
QUESTION: Because the Turkish Constitutional Court’s decision was based of his – the status of him being a member of parliament. And there also six member of parliaments who have been jailed. And there are some debate on that in Turkey, too, that they’re arguing this decision should apply for others, too. So --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to speak – go too far on the circumstances around the six members of parliament. I’m not familiar with all the details. But as you know, we certainly express regularly our concerns about due process in Turkey, including in our annual report. We express, as needed, concerns about freedom of media, freedom of expression as well. And those are certainly issues that we’re happy to continue to voice our concerns about.
QUESTION: On human rights?
MS. PSAKI: Human rights?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yesterday on the Hill, there was a hearing about the violations of human rights in Egypt, and the vice chair of the U.S. Commission of Religious Freedom raised the issue that the – he – or the Commission submitted a letter to the White House and the State Department regarding what happened to the churches and the religious minority, specifically Coptic minority, in Egypt.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And he said that no response came, although it was raised in September. You have any --
MS. PSAKI: And it was a letter to the White House or to the State Department?
QUESTION: Both. I mean, he said both. I mean, as much as I --
MS. PSAKI: And the – I’m sorry, who was the author of the letter? Who was the letter from?
QUESTION: U.S. Commission for Religious Freedom.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: And the – I’m just trying to figure out: Do you have anything to say about that? Did you hear about --
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check on the status of the letter and our response. As you know, we regularly respond to letters. We have been very clear about our concerns, about the actions taken against Coptic Christians and other minority groups in Egypt. And I don’t think there’s any secret about that. So let me take a look, talk to our team, and see if there’s more we can say on the letter.
QUESTION: So there is another thing related to the trial of the general guidance of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohammed Badie. And it was raised – the issue – the last few days. Do you have anything to say about that? Are you following it? Are you interested about it or concerned about it?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly, we follow it very closely. And you’re right. I know there have been a range of reports about Badie as well as others, including sentence reductions, et cetera. While we welcome the sentence reductions and release of some pro-Muslim Brotherhood female demonstrators, concerns remain about the overall climate leading to arrests and detentions in Egypt. We continue to look to the Government of Egypt to ensure the Egyptians are afforded due process with fair and transparent trials, and continue to convey our belief that civilians should be sent to civilian courts. We have consistently called for an end to politicized arrests and detentions, and we will continue to do so.
QUESTION: Is this done through the – your presence on the ground, I mean, the Embassy or --
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Absolutely communicated on the ground, as well as publicly.
More on Egypt? Any more on Egypt? Okay.
QUESTION: On Turkey.
MS. PSAKI: Turkey.
QUESTION: By the way, I am (inaudible) from Anadolu news agency. Nice to meet you.
MS. PSAKI: Nice to meet you, too.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and he is going to attend the Black Sea Cooperation Organization’s meetings. And it’s going to be the first meeting after such a long time from Turkey. What do – what could you say about his visit?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we welcome his planned trip and hope his visit will provide an opportunity for dialogue between regional leaders. We continue to urge both Turkey and Armenia to ratify the normalization protocols and to pursue tangible steps, such as opening the border, that can help strengthen ties between neighbors and create jobs and opportunity for the people of both countries. So we certainly support the visit, and we’re hopeful they’ll be able to move the process forward.
MS. PSAKI: Somalia, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: On Monday, there was a woman, a 19 year-old who alleged that she was raped, who was sentenced by a Somali court to a suspended six-month jail sentence for defamation and lying. And the two journalists who had reported her story have also been handed similar sentences. I wondered if you had a comment on that.
MS. PSAKI: I have seen those reports, Jo. I don’t have anything specific on it, so let us venture to get you something after the briefing.
QUESTION: I have one on journalists as well.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: China’s authorities have been denying visas for American journalists in China, presumably for investigative reports. I know that Biden raised this issue last week when he was in China with Xi Jinping --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- but I wanted to know if the State Department had any particular reaction to these reports.
MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re right that Vice President Biden raised this when he was in Beijing just last week, and I know he also met with a group of journalists while he was there to discuss this issue. We certainly have been very engaged with concerns about the efforts to deny visas, efforts to deny the ability of media publications to report, to express their public views, to engage in their craft, for lack of a better word, and that’s something we’ve communicated to the Chinese Government. And as you know, the Vice President did while was there just last week.
QUESTION: For lack of a better word? You mean what we do is not craft?
MS. PSAKI: Craft. It is – it’s crafty some days. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Today, John Kerry met with Samantha Powers. Was it about the C.A.R., or were there other issues?
MS. PSAKI: It was a – it’s been a long scheduled breakfast, as I understand it. I don’t know the exact topics. I’m happy to check with him and see what else came up.
QUESTION: Can I ask about the – just briefly about the trip?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Okay. You – there was a lot of talk about the security plan --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- or rather ideas for a security plan. Thoughts, right. And I’m just wondering --
MS. PSAKI: Ideas, thoughts.
QUESTION: -- is this – yes – this trip, I mean, do you expect that to be a focus of, or the focus of, this current one? Is it still – are you still thinking that if you can get a West Bank security proposal accepted, that that will unblock – or that it may help unblock other parts of the negotiation? Or is the Secretary really going to be not focused on this in particular but on other things?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the reason why the last trip was focused on security is because, as you know, General Allen and his team have been going through a lengthy in-depth review of the security challenges in Israel as well as in a viable – as we look to a creation of a viable independent Palestinian state. It was – at the time, we had enough to report on in terms of ideas and prospects from our evaluation. So that was the purpose, to make that presentation and have a discussion.
MS. PSAKI: We certainly expect that security will be part of the discussion, given it’s such an important issue, but it is different than last week --
MS. PSAKI: -- in that there isn’t a presentation being made.
QUESTION: Right. But I mean this is kind of like a follow-up, or part of it is a follow-up to that, trying to get --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- both sides on board, or are you still in the receiving – are you still willing to get – receive suggestions from the two sides about how it could be --
MS. PSAKI: It is – we have always seen it – the security issue, border issues, all of the big issues. This is not a, “Here’s a plan, please ask for an up or down.”
QUESTION: Yeah, I know that. I’m not --
MS. PSAKI: It’s important on this issue. This is an ongoing discussion. Certainly, we expect they will talk about security, as they will discuss other issues. As the Secretary was leading – leaving last week, he had a limited amount of time because he had to get back for events on Saturday. He made the determination, in consultation with both parties, that on his way to Asia he would come back to continue the conversation.
But this isn’t about unsticking a process. The meetings are ongoing. The parties have been meeting with each other, including earlier this week in Washington. So this is to discuss all of the issues on the table that are important as we work toward a final status agreement.
QUESTION: All right. So continuing the conversation on the security. So is General Allen going to be there as well this time?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not just on security. That’s one of the topics.
QUESTION: I understand that. But you said “continuing the conversation.” And as I understood it – I wasn’t on the trip –
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: But as I understood, the conversation was largely about the security aspects.
MS. PSAKI: That’s right. That’s right. I’d have to check if General Allen – where he is in the world at this particular moment.
QUESTION: Okay. And then the last thing is just you’re saying now that Livni and Erekat did meet here?
MS. PSAKI: They did, which I said on Monday, too.
QUESTION: You did? Okay.
MS. PSAKI: But I can give you a little more detail.
QUESTION: I wasn’t here on Monday. Sorry.
MS. PSAKI: No, no, no, that’s okay. They met – so the Secretary met one on one with Justice Minister Livni. He then met one on one with Dr. Erekat. They then moved into a trilateral meeting with the three of them. Ambassador Indyk and Frank Lowenstein also participated in the trilateral meeting. And the meeting lasted about three hours.
QUESTION: And that was on Monday?
MS. PSAKI: That was on – this Monday. Yes, that’s correct.
QUESTION: And that – you’re counting that as a direct negotiation meeting between the two sides?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So was that the first time they’ve met since the Palestinian team had resigned?
MS. PSAKI: No, it was not. They have been meeting since then.
QUESTION: Okay. And do you know when the next plans are for a direct meeting?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details of that to announce for you.
QUESTION: Does it depend on whether the Secretary’s there?
MS. PSAKI: It does not.
QUESTION: So they --
MS. PSAKI: They have been meeting when he is not there.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Any update on BSA negotiation, BSA, signing of BSA? Do you have date for it?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you.
QUESTION: Any date for signing of BSA?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a date for you. If I had a date for you, I would hopefully have announced that at the top of the briefing.
MS. PSAKI: I would refer you to India and Pakistan. Of course, we support dialogue as a means for working through differences, and I would assume that is the case here as well. But I would point you to them for the purpose of their talks and whether they would support them.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I think it was on Monday, Canada submitted plans to the UN that would extend its sovereignty claims to include the North Pole, and I think it’s 200 square kilometers past that as well. Do you have a reaction to that?
And then on Tuesday, Putin made an announcement about moving military units in the Arctic. Do you have a reaction to that?
And does the U.S. have plans to submit new plans to the UN that would include the North Pole?
MS. PSAKI: I am weak on my Arctic guidance today, Catherine.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Come on. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I should. It feels that way outside.
QUESTION: No, the North Pole is very important.
QUESTION: And is Santa a U.S. citizen? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Santa is a woman, just so you know. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: And she is a citizen of the world.
MS. PSAKI: A citizen of the world. Santa will find you everywhere. That is what I always learned.
I would have to check on our specific reaction to the Canada announcement. I know that would be, of course, under the State Department purview. In terms of Russia and moving military assets, I would point you to DOD on that. But I will circle up with our Arctic team and see what we can offer to you.
QUESTION: So has the U.S. already issued a visa to Santa?
MS. PSAKI: Santa does not need a visa. He has a visa waiver in the United States. (Laughter.) So he can get to every house, and I assume that’s the case around the world as well.
QUESTION: Except if he flies over China. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: That’s right.
QUESTION: Did he meet with them?
MS. PSAKI: I believe the meetings are happening later this week, and certainly, we’ll have a readout of those. I think he has meetings at the White House as well as the State Department, and we’ll provide a readout to all of you when they happen.
QUESTION: Are these talks about Iran only or about the security arrangements for the Israeli-Palestinian?
MS. PSAKI: They are focused on Iran. General Allen and his team are leading the efforts on the security arrangements. However, it’s important to note that there are entities from virtually every relevant building working on that with his team, but the purpose is on Iran.
QUESTION: But they will talk with the Israelis on these issues, right?
MS. PSAKI: Correct. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Jen, do you have any reaction on the Gulf states’ statement after this summit in Kuwait?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Gulf states on the specifics on that, or DOD.
QUESTION: They welcomed the agreement achieved between the P5+1 and Iran.
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t read the full statement. My understanding is most of it is military related, so that’s why I pointed you to DOD.
QUESTION: The president of the Syrian Coalition, Ahmad Al-Jarba, at this summit yesterday he accused the Assad regime as for arming the al-Qaida and the extremists in Syria. Do you agree with this accusation?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on that. I haven’t seen his comments. I’m happy to take a look at them and see if we have anything more to add.
QUESTION: But your team that fights the al-Qaida ideology puts videotapes --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: They are saying that the al-Qaida is fighting on the side of the regime. I mean --
MS. PSAKI: We, as you know, have been very concerned about extremists, including al-Qaida.
QUESTION: You cannot confirm that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you on it, though.
QUESTION: A quick clarification on Ukraine. Every year, this arm-twisting by Russia with the gas taps goes on. Do you think this year it is more than that in Ukraine, or --
MS. PSAKI: I will let you, as a reporter, do an analysis of that. Of course, there’s a lot of focus on it, given Ukraine is making a choice about the direction of their future. So that’s why we’re all talking about it.
MS. PSAKI: Philippines?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Now, this trip of Secretary Kerry --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What going – the United States is going to discuss bilateral relationship in terms of military cooperation or rearrangement of military balance in that region?
MS. PSAKI: Are we going to be talking about that?
QUESTION: Yeah. Yes.
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, Secretary Hagel would have the lead on that. There are a range of issues that will be discussed. We’ll be doing a briefing in advance of the trip, so we’ll get that around to all of you once we conclude that.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:48 p.m.)