Daily Press Briefing - February 11, 2014

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • U.S. Condolences to Algeria on Military Airplane Crash
    • U.S. Welcomes UN Announcement of Resumption of Talks on Cyprus Settlement / Olympic Athlete of the Day Eddy Alvarez
    • Geneva II Process / UN Security Council Members / Coalition Gathering
    • Russian Engagement / Foreign Minister Lavrov
    • Humanitarian Access
    • Reaction to comments by Rep. Gohmert
    • Outreach to Senior Political and Business Leaders / Visa Policy
    • Director of National Intelligence (DNI) / Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA)
    • Importance of Religious Freedom Around the World
  • IRAN
    • President Obama's Remarks on Foreign Trade / Secretary Kerry / Negotiations on Comprehensive Deal
    • U.S. Engaged Working Closely with UN / Supportive in the Process
    • World Engaged on Future of a Resolution / Framework for Negotiation
    • U.S. Welcomes Step Both Sides have Taken / Constructive Dialogue
    • Ambassador King's Visit / Annual Military Exercises / Kenneth Bae
    • Assistant Secretary Biswal's Testimony in Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing
    • Reaction to Elections
    • Readout of Secretary Kerry's Phone Call with Foreign Minister Lavrov
  • IRAN
    • Sanctions / U.S. Pressing for Talks to be Successful
Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 11, 2014


2:44 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I hope everybody ate lunch before you – we all joined each other here today.

QUESTION: No lunch.

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) No lunch? Don’t --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: I know. Well, I apologize. We had a few things going on today, including a great visit from our friends from France.

I have a couple of items at the top. The United States Embassy expresses its deepest – the United States expresses its deepest condolences to the people of Algeria on the tragic deaths from this morning’s military airplane crash. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who lost their loved ones and those who were injured.

The United States also welcomes the resumption of talks and the agreement on a joint statement as important steps towards achieving a just and lasting Cyprus settlement. We urge all parties to seize this timely opportunity to make real and substantial progress toward a settlement reunifying the island as a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. As the White House noted in its statement today, the United States also welcomes the constructive role played by Turkey and Greece. We reaffirm our support for the Cypriot-led process under the auspices of the United Nations Good Offices Mission, and reiterate our willingness to assist in any appropriate way the parties find useful.

And finally, given the popularity, we have, of course, today’s athlete of the day, which is a short-track speed skater, Eddy Alvarez, affectionately known as Eddy the Jet. You may recognize Eddy from his appearance in our “We Are All Athletes” video. This is Eddy, right to our right here. The son of Cuban immigrants, the 24-year-old Alvarez hails from Miami, Florida, which isn’t exactly known for winter sports. But he began as an accomplished inline roller skater and has dreams of being a pro baseball player after his skating career. Very ambitious. Yesterday, Eddy represented the United States in Sochi, but fell short of reaching the finals of a 1,500 meter short-track competition. He still has opportunities in the 1,000 meters, the 5,000-meter relay, and his favorite event, the 500-meter sprint. So tune in.

With that, Matt. Love the hockey scarf there – USA Hockey.

QUESTION: Team USA. You got it. Now I just need to make sure that we’re going to be able to see some of the games while we’re on the road.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, we’ll see what we can do.

QUESTION: Thank you. (Laughter.) Listen, can we start with Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The situation in Geneva is looking bleaker and bleaker. Brahimi today even said that it’s – he can’t force the two sides to agree to an agenda and they simply don’t agree and seem to be unwilling to agree. So number one, does the U.S. think that Geneva – the Geneva II process is the – has a chance of success or is the best way to go about reaching the goal that you desire here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, a couple of things, Matt. As Joint Special Representative Brahimi noted, the two parties did sit in the same room in Geneva, face-to-face. We do note, of course, and certainly agree that very little progress has been made, is being made, and we find this unfortunate. Our view is that the regime is at fault and that the regime needs to engage constructively. And of course, we would like things to move more quickly.

As you know, Under Secretary Sherman will be heading there later this week for a trilateral meeting with the Russians and the UN. That’s part of the ongoing trilateral meetings and consultations that we’ve had to date. There’s obviously activity up at the UN, working to move things forward and to press for humanitarian access. But we never thought this would be easy. We don’t expect a major breakthrough this week. And what we believe we need to continue to do is press the regime – gather the international community to press the regime to engage more seriously in this process.

QUESTION: Well, but the people on the ground in Syria need help now.

MS. PSAKI: I – we --

QUESTION: Correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: I mean, that’s the – that’s not a subjective statement.


QUESTION: People are dying every day. People are starving every day. People are – according to you, not according to me.

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. Matt, absolutely.

QUESTION: So if you don’t expect any major breakthrough this week, I mean, what’s the point?

MS. PSAKI: Well, what I’m referring to, Matt, is at the Geneva process, which the focus of that and the purpose of that is the creation of a transitional governing body. Right now --

QUESTION: Not according to the Syrian Government delegation, it’s not.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it is the view of more than 40 nations and organizations who kicked it off just a couple weeks ago.

QUESTION: Yeah. But the one party that needs to agree to that and accept it for it to mean anything doesn’t. So that’s a serious problem, no?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s why we’re continuing to press and why we’re gathering with the international community to press. But the important note here too is that, yes, absolutely aid is needed and assistance is needed on the ground now. So right now, of course, as you’ve seen, there’s a coalition gathering together up at the UN. The language, of course, is being circulated by UN Security Council members. It’s – there’ll be consultations later this afternoon. Our understanding is that’s more at the staff level, but that’s another track. And our belief is that we absolutely need to do everything we can to remove barriers for humanitarian access and that something needs to happen now, which is why we’re supportive of this effort.

QUESTION: It’s another track, but it takes more time, and it – I mean – and you’re kind of – it’s doomed to fail because the Russians say they’re going to veto it. So I don’t understand why it is that there can’t be something done to get help to these people that you – help to the people who need it immediately when it’s needed, and why there is this – such a heavy emphasis on international conferences and international meetings at which there is all talk and no action, and meetings get pushed back to the end of the week, and --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt --

QUESTION: -- when the problem is now.

MS. PSAKI: What we’re doing – we could not agree with you more, but we’re using every diplomatic lever at our disposal here.

QUESTION: All right. I --

MS. PSAKI: And I would point you to – and I don’t know if you had the opportunity to see this, but the President had some pretty strong --


MS. PSAKI: -- comments.

QUESTION: I want ask about those.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And I’ll be brief, very brief about them --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- to let other people go. He said – in one of his remarks with President Hollande, said, “Right now, we don’t think that there’s a military solution to the problem.” And what I’m curious about is the “right now” part of that. I thought that the Administration’s line had been since day one, essentially, that there was no military solution to this conflict. And when I asked if anyone could remember the last time the U.S. thought there was a military conflict to – a military solution to a conflict, I never – I don’t think anyone got back to me. So does this mean that the Administration is willing – that there are circumstances that can – circumstances could change so that you might believe at some point that a military solution is the way – that a military response is the way to end this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President’s view, the Secretary’s view, the Administration’s view hasn’t changed that there is no military solution. We also haven’t taken options off the table, and we never have. So our position on that has been consistent for several months.

QUESTION: So you’re not willing to say that there is a circumstance where you think that a military solution is the way to go about this?

MS. PSAKI: We continue to believe that a political solution is the way to end the conflict, yes. The one point I just was going to just make in addition is I would also point you to what the President said about our efforts to press the Russians, that if they want to engage in a proactive and positive way, if they want to play a constructive role, then they are just as responsible for having – encouraging the regime and pushing the regime to be more constructive in providing possibilities of humanitarian access.

QUESTION: Right. But even long before you arrived on the podium --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the current Secretary arrived here, the previous Secretary of State and her people were saying the exact same thing. This goes back three years. The Russians haven’t budged at all and there’s no sign that they’re going to now. So I’m not sure why you’re putting any hope in --

MS. PSAKI: A lot of circumstances have changed over time, Matt.

QUESTION: They have, the main one being that the death count has gone up from zero at the very, very – before it started to more than – to 130,000 people.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we’ve – we have worked together on securing an agreement on chemical weapons. We have worked together in kicking off the Geneva conference. If the Russians, which they’ve said they want to be constructively engaged, want to be, we’d like to see some action to back that up.

QUESTION: So you --

MS. PSAKI: So that is what has changed.

QUESTION: Okay, and that action – and this’ll be it for me – that action would be to support this resolution that’s being talked about --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we think they can – certainly we would welcome their support, but they can also press the regime to your earlier question, to do more, take more significant steps, to provide humanitarian access.


QUESTION: But that support – just to follow up on Matt’s question – that support doesn’t seem to be forthcoming because Foreign Minister Lavrov said today that the draft resolution that he must have seen was absolutely unacceptable because it has an ultimatum in it for the Assad regime. And the – he said that instead of engaging in everyday meticulous work to resolve the problems that are blocking deliveries of aid, they – the Americans – see a new resolution as some kind of simplistic solution. So I don’t understand why you think that you are going to get any kind of resolution through the UN.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re at the beginning of the drafting process. As you know, it takes a bit of time, which is one of the reasons that we’re working on every diplomatic lever that we have at our disposal. As I mentioned a little bit at the top, we – this – the language is circulating with UN Security Council members. There’ll be some consultations lower than the ambassador level, as we understand it, later this afternoon.

We simply disagree with the notion that this is what the United States believes should be the singular approach or the simplistic approach, or whatever the language was. Our view is that whatever path we can take to provide more humanitarian access, to get the food, the medical supplies, the necessary tools to the people on the ground is what we should do. And this is one of the ways to pursue that. But again, there’s a process that will play itself out. So we’ll let that play itself out.

QUESTION: But you do concede that for the people in Homs and the other people in besieged towns around Syria, there isn’t any imminent hope of too much aid coming their way, let alone an end to any fighting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what we saw over the weekend – and I think Marie talked about this yesterday – but we were, of course – disappointed is probably an understatement of how we felt about the UN convoys that were targeted by mortars and snipers over the weekend. Homs, as we’ve said, even last week, is a small part of a vast, catastrophic situation, which goes to your point in that there’s far more that needs to be done, and the real issue here is the regime’s broad and deliberate denial of humanitarian access to innocent civilians. But let’s be clear: There’s more that they can do on the ground to do that. It doesn’t require a resolution. Certainly, a resolution, and efforts to do that, is a means of pressing for more action.

QUESTION: Change of subject.

MS. PSAKI: Syria, or – let’s finish Syria. Syria? Okay, well, go ahead.

QUESTION: Change of subject.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On South Asia. First on --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- Balochistan. There is a news report interview by Texas Republican Louie Gohmert in which he says to resolve the Afghanistan crisis, it’s better to have a separate Balochistan carved out of Pakistan. What is State Department, U.S. Government position on this? Do you agree with his views?

QUESTION: What’s your position on Representative Gohmert as well – (laughter) – more broadly?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any particular --

QUESTION: And his foreign policy expertise?

MS. PSAKI: -- position on any member of Congress. I know there have been reports – and this is – perhaps speaks to part of your question – that we had been engaged in Balochistan with – I know I have something on this. I apologize for my delay here. Let’s see if I can find it for you. Well, let me – I know I have an answer on this, so let me see if I can find it. Otherwise, we’ll get it back to you right after the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay. Meanwhile, on India, what led the U.S. to change its policy on the Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, who is also the BJP’s prime minister candidate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we are often engaged in concentrated outreach to senior political and business leaders. We began doing that months ago, if not years ago – in different scales, of course – to highlight and continue our U.S.-India relationship. There have been no – there’s no changes in our policy per se. This is an effort in that engagement. But I can certainly confirm the appointments or the meeting upcoming.

QUESTION: But this is definitely a change in the sense for the last nine years after that riots happen. No U.S. ambassador has ever gone and met him. Otherwise, ambassadors have met all chief ministers in India.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any further details to share other than to convey that we do broad outreach to a range of officials in India and many countries around the world with different backgrounds. And it’s certainly – it’s simply just an example of that.


QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The Indian foreign minister, reacting to this, has said that if U.S. will ever forget the Holocaust days, is – so in a way, he’s linking the U.S. diplomat’s visit to Nazi excesses and all. What is your reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’d certainly refute that notion or that claim. This is – again, we meet with officials from a range of backgrounds in many, many countries, including India, and it’s simply an example of that.

QUESTION: So that – so this backpedaling after nine years, does it have to do with that as one of the commentators this morning on Times Now said that because he’s a potential prime minister in a few months?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you well know, we don’t take positions in elections, and certainly that – this is not an example of – this is an example of a – this is not an example of us taking a position. We don’t take positions. So no, it wouldn’t be a reflection of that. It is just a reflection, as I’ve stated a few times, of us reaching out to a range of individuals from different backgrounds, different political affiliations, which we do in countries around the world.

QUESTION: But just after 2002 riots in which thousands of Muslims were killed, and it was the State Department in 2005 which revoked the visa. And since then he has been a person who’s not welcome here. So how – today, what happens, a business interest and future prime minister, it takes precedence over human rights?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there has been no change in our longstanding visa policy. When individuals apply for a visa, their applications are reviewed in accordance with U.S. law and policy. This is not a reflection of any change. As you know, we don’t speak to that. This is simply a meeting happening on the ground in India. It’s not a reflection of anything else than outreach to a broad range of officials.

QUESTION: Well, but just one moment. I want to clarify for our viewers --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that in 2005 the State Department cited about the human rights, about fundamental rights of religious communities to practice, and that were not present, it felt, in Gujarat where he was the chief minister. And nine years down the road, I have asked this question many times that no – okay, no visa policy change. But why suddenly the ambassador is going to meet him?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything, I think, to add to your question.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So what will be the topic of the meeting?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re – I think we’ve finished with your question.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, but what will be the --

QUESTION: Can I just verify --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- what the other group is saying who have lobbied against Modi getting a visa. They are now saying that it’s change in U.S. policies because of the section of the Indian diaspora, American industry, a section of the U.S. Congress urging Secretary and the State Department to change its policy, and thus State Department has succumbed to their lobbying efforts. Can you say on this?

MS. PSAKI: Not at all. This is --

QUESTION: Were you influenced by these groups?

MS. PSAKI: This is – let me answer your question. This is simply a meeting that we’re going to be having that the Ambassador is going to be having on the ground. Nothing has changed about our visa policy. We don’t speak to that, given it’s private. So this is not a reflection of that changing, and certainly not a reflection of anything changing regarding our longstanding and strong advocacy for human rights around the world.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: And one more quick?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. We’ll go to you next, Matt.

QUESTION: We have been asking the same question at the White House and here --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: In the past, other countries like UK – UK’s prime minister sent his personal delegation, business delegation to meet with Chief Minister Modi and other countries and all that. And then we asked the same thing if U.S. is going to follow, and we were told, “No, we have no change in policy at all.” My question, quickly, that no U.S. official ever went to meet with Mr. Modi after all those years went by as far as – and we’re not talking about visa and all that. So now suddenly, there’s a change – maybe not in policy, but change in mind from the U.S., somehow, whatever, is letting –

MS. PSAKI: Well, the --

QUESTION: -- that the Ambassador is going to meet with him --

MS. PSAKI: The meeting was just scheduled, so that’s why it’s something that we’re now confirming.

Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: So it’s going to change any– I’m sorry – going to change any as far as U.S.-India business relations in the future?

MS. PSAKI: Should it – is it going to change our business relations? Absolutely not. That’s – we have a growing economic and strategic relationship with India, and one we look forward to continuing in the future.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: In some of your answers to the previous question on this issue, you said, “We don’t take positions.” Would you like to clarify that at all? Because to say you don’t take public positions, because I think we heard quite clearly in a conversation – a recorded telephone conversation not so long ago that the United States, or at least people – officials inside the Administration, do take positions on the suitability of certain politicians to take on certain roles.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would certainly refute that.


MS. PSAKI: I would.

QUESTION: Okay. So in other words, the bottom line here is that the decision to meet with this guy rested entirely with the ambassador, or was there some decision made in Washington?

MS. PSAKI: No. Certainly, it doesn’t – these don’t – these decisions don’t always rise up to every highest level. But certainly, all relevant individuals who needed to weigh in weighed in, and agreed that it was certainly an appropriate meeting to have.

QUESTION: Can I stay on something, change real quick?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Change topic? I’d like to go to Afghanistan, if that’s okay.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I don’t know if you saw today – because it’s been busy here – that DNI chief James Clapper was up on – I think he was up on the Hill today and he was talking about the BSA with Afghanistan.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And said, “It’s my own view – not necessarily company policy – but I don’t believe President Karzai is going to sign it.” And this comes on the back of reports at the weekend that the U.S. military is revising its plans, is now going to wait until after the elections to – before presenting some kind of plan on what to do about future troops in Afghanistan. Could you just clarify where everything stands at the moment, from your point of view?

MS. PSAKI: Well, nothing has changed. We continue to --

QUESTION: But clearly, it is changing. I mean, if you’ve got the – James Clapper saying that he doesn’t believe they’re going to sign it. There’s unnamed sources --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d point you to DNI for his comment or for any questions about his comments. But our Administration position continues to be that we believe the BSA should be signed promptly. I don’t have anything new to report to you on the BSA, so nothing has changed about our position.

QUESTION: But is there planning on – planning going on within the Administration for Scenario B, Scenario C, Scenario D?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you always have contingency planning regardless, and that has been the case for many months. In terms of next steps and decisions about planning for a zero option that we’ve talked about before, I don’t have anything new to report on that.

QUESTION: There’s a NATO summit coming up, I believe, shortly.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. The end of February. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is it you’re going to be telling your NATO partners about the situation as regards troop withdrawals this year?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have been in very close touch with our NATO allies and partners for – throughout this process. So I would say we’ll continue to convey to them that, of course, we want the BSA to be signed promptly. We certainly recognize the planning challenges that come into play the longer this goes, and that’s something that we’re discussing and working through on our end as well.

QUESTION: But you could – I mean, we’re getting almost to – the NATO summit’s the end of February, so that would be two months, then there’s March and then the elections are April the 5th. And I understand it’s not necessarily clear that there’ll be an outright winner from that and the timing could slip even further. But you must be at some point considering when it is that you can say what your decision’s going to be.

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, within the Administration there’s always ongoing discussions about many issues, including issues as important about the future – our future presence in Afghanistan. But I just don’t have anything new to tell you on that today

Any more on Afghanistan, just to finish that area? Okay, go ahead. And we’ll go to you next.

QUESTION: There was a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing today earlier called the Persecution of Christians: A Worldwide Phenomenon and witnesses gave testimony after testimony highlighting the gravity of the situation. What is being done?

MS. PSAKI: Persecution of Christians worldwide?


MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen the specific hearing today, and I’m happy to follow up with our team on that. Broadly speaking, religious freedom and the importance of that around the world is something that we speak about, we communicate both publicly and privately about, all the time. The Secretary, when he was in Vietnam just a few months ago, he went to a Catholic service there, and we have Administration officials, officials from the State Department, making this case and advocating with governments where needed about the importance of protecting religious rights and freedom of religion around the world.

QUESTION: Some of the witnesses were concerned that the priority – the U.S. priority for religious freedom rights around the world was becoming lower and lower on the priority list. What is your response to that concern?

MS. PSAKI: I think you know we have people in the building dedicated to this issue every day. It’s one the Secretary is personally committed to, and I think that speaks to our desire to continue to raise this issue whenever we can.

QUESTION: So yesterday --

QUESTION: When you talk about this issue, though, you’re not specifically talking about persecution of Christians; you’re talking about persecution of all --

MS. PSAKI: No, we’re talking about religious freedom around the world.

QUESTION: All religions.

MS. PSAKI: Exactly.

QUESTION: So yesterday a Spanish court issued arrest warrants for Jiang Zemin, former president of China, as well as four other top officials. What is the U.S. reaction to these arrest orders?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Chinese and the Spanish on that particular question. I’m not sure we have anything specific from here. I’m happy to check if we do.

QUESTION: And one more follow-up?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Since the U.S. is a part of Interpol, if Jiang Zemin or any of these other top officials come to the U.S., would arrests be made of these individuals?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look into this more – more specifically and see if there is any position we have from here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we move to Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Great. So at the joint press conference today, President Obama made some pretty strong remarks on foreign – foreign trade delegations traveling to Iran. As you know, he said, “They do so at their own peril,” and that the U.S. would “come down on them like a ton of bricks.”

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: That response was quite different from the French president’s response. He said that as the president of the republic, he can’t control the movements of French executives or EU executives. I’ll quote him here. He said, “Companies just make their decisions when it comes to travel.” And then he said that he had made clear what the sanctions entailed.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But are you satisfied that the EU is going to strictly enforce these sanctions over the next six months, and your other allies as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that the Secretary made the same case just last week, and he’s made the case privately to Foreign Minister Fabius and other officials from other countries when relevant. And the important point the President and the Secretary are both making is that, at this pivotal time, we must remain united. The global community must remain united, P5+1 members and then other members of the global community must remain united in enforcing sanctions, holding those who attempt to violate them accountable.

Now, some of these businesses – we’re not making a calculation as to whether they have or haven’t. It’s not at that point. But obviously, the important piece here is that Iran is not open for business. There’s much more work that needs to be done, and that’s the message we’re continuing to convey. I can’t predict for you whether we’ll be satisfied. We’ll see what happens.

QUESTION: But – so that’s the message you are conveying consistently. Are you satisfied with the message that your partners are conveying – the French Government, the British Government, and so forth?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what’s important here is what message they’re conveying to their citizens, what message they’re conveying to businesses. And certainly, the Secretary and the President wouldn’t have raised this if they didn’t think that a stronger case still needed to be made.

QUESTION: Okay. And also on Iran, I was speaking with David Albright, who’s the founder of ISIS, and he was saying that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the NPT, is a living document when it comes to a host of its provisions, including what it says about R&D on nuclear research and that it’s going to be quite difficult to codify in a comprehensive agreement any restrictions on Iranian R&D. Do you have a response to that?

MS. PSAKI: I would say that the negotiations over a comprehensive deal are commencing next week. I don’t think anybody is naive about how challenging and complicated and technical they’re going to be. That’s one of the reasons we have a range of technical experts, both from the United States and the other P5+1 countries, participating. But I don’t want to get ahead of what the outcome will be.

QUESTION: Okay. But just in terms of a U.S. interpretation of the NPT when it – with respect to nuclear R&D, is there – I know that’s a very technical question – (laughter) – but do you have, like, a position on how it can be related?

MS. PSAKI: On how it will play in a --


MS. PSAKI: -- kind of negotiation over a comprehensive agreement, or --

QUESTION: What he says is multiple nations interpret it as state-sponsored nuclear R&D can be curtailed, but you obviously can’t limit one nuclear scientist working on a sheet of paper in a closet somewhere. Is it --

MS. PSAKI: I think this is not an issue I’m going to – even if I was a technical expert, which I’m not, but – get into from the podium, or I think in any public capacity, given that the comprehensive discussions are just beginning next week.

QUESTION: Just going back – I’m sorry.

MS. PSAKI: One moment. Let’s go – go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes – yeah, thank you. Cyprus, please.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The White House issued a statement regarding the renewal of negotiations.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. I spoke to it at the top. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yes, you spoke – but I – my question is --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure. Go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- there were some points that you raised in terms of the – for example, status of Famagusta or involvement – much more than this – through the diplomacy to encourage the both sides for – to find a solution in this conflict. Can you please elaborate a little bit on this package that U.S. stated you are ready to support (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s under the auspices of the UN, and I would certainly point you to them for more specifics. Obviously, we’ve been engaged and supportive of the efforts, but I would point you to them for more details.

QUESTION: Especially this – because you mentioned about this – on the status of Famagusta on the statement, and it was one of the controversial issues between the two sides.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So I’m wondering, what is your position for the revitalization of Famagusta in these negotiations? And then the – secondly, what kind of involvement are you planning to proceed for the U.S. side in these UN-led negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again --

QUESTION: A special representative or any other way?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of that for you. We’ve obviously been supportive of these efforts, and Assistant Secretary Nuland was just in Cyprus, as you know, last week. So we’ve been engaged and working closely with the UN. The process is under the UN, so again, I’d point you to them for more specifics on the details.

QUESTION: There will be any special representative on the U.S. side on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of that at this point.

QUESTION: Is it just coincidental that the talks have resumed now after, or was there – there was then something that Assistant Secretary Nuland brought to the table that brought the two of them together?

MS. PSAKI: Well, she was obviously engaged in discussions about this issue, and clearly, it was at an important time. But again, it’s a UN process, and we’re just engaged with it in – as a supporter.

QUESTION: But I think the Cypriots have actually said themselves that they were very pleased with the U.S. role so far and the help that was provided to them. So I guess following up on that question is: What specific help are you hoping to bring to this process?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve just been supportive and engaged in the process. I don’t have anything further to outline for you in terms of our diplomatic role behind the scenes.

QUESTION: And also your --

QUESTION: How about --


QUESTION: How about publicly? Should we expect to see a stepped-up public U.S. role on Cyprus?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean --

QUESTION: In support of the UN process?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Obviously, the fact that the resumption of talks has begun – there was a statement from the White House, and we felt – and it was important to highlight this today. So certainly, we support it moving forward.

QUESTION: All part of the “we love the EU” theme?

MS. PSAKI: The “we love Cyprus” and the future resumption – the resumption of talks.

QUESTION: Part of Cyprus is in the EU. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I know. I was being more specific.

QUESTION: Is it something that Secretary Kerry would like to get his teeth into, because he likes these frozen conflicts?

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) Well, there’s no challenging issue --

QUESTION: Shuttle diplomacy --

MS. PSAKI: -- he doesn’t like to get his teeth into. So we’ll see what time he has and whether there’s an appropriate supportive role he could play.

QUESTION: Jen, and also two clarifications?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The statement also is --

MS. PSAKI: You’re talking about the statement that came out from the White House today, right?


MS. PSAKI: Okay. Just to --

QUESTION: As soon as possible to find a solution for this problem.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any timeline that you can share with us in your mind?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. Again, it’s a UN process. Obviously, we’ll continue to talk about this, given these talks just resumed. But I don’t have any other specific details or predictions for you on that.

QUESTION: Speaking of frozen --

MS. PSAKI: Of Cyprus?

QUESTION: -- of frozen conflicts.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: The French President mentioned – and I should check the translation, but he – I’m 90 percent sure he said that he was hoping that a framework agreement for continued negotiations --

MS. PSAKI: Framework for negotiations.

QUESTION: Yeah, I was getting that in there. (Laughter.) Between Israel and the Palestinians would be signed “now” was his word. Is he under the impression that there exists a framework agreement? And if so, why is that? Because you’ve mentioned there doesn’t exist one.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would, of course, point you to his talented team for any more specifics on his comments. But I think it just shows you how engaged the world is on the future of a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian efforts. And I think sometimes people say “now” as a figure of speech, as in as soon as possible or as quickly as possible. I don’t have a – the White House, I believe, probably did a readout of the bilateral meeting the Secretary participated in. But certainly, this is an issue that the Secretary has discussed with his counterparts, and I wouldn’t be surprised if, as part of the events of today, it was discussed today as well.

QUESTION: Is it --

QUESTION: So this is a case when maintenant did not mean maintenant? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Oh, incorporating French. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, it seems to be all the rage in the building today, so I thought I’d --

MS. PSAKI: It is. It is, yes.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Is it correct, as again reports over the weekend seem to suggest, that Secretary Kerry is next going to meet with the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu here when he attends AIPAC meeting in March?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that hasn’t – I would not be surprised if they have a meeting, of course, or they see each other while he’s here. But that is decades away in the schedule. So I don’t have anything specific for you in terms of a set time or a date or anything along that, no.

QUESTION: Do you know of any planned meeting before, between now and then?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. But again, we take it – as you well know because you travel with us quite a bit – week by week in terms of the schedule. So I don’t want to convey to you that it’s definitive that that’s the next time. It certainly is possible.

QUESTION: So I think the Israeli press is saying that the next – that they’ll meet – they’ll meet in March, early March, here in Washington, which this famous framework agreement or agreement for a framework --

MS. PSAKI: Framework for negotiations.

QUESTION: -- framework for negotiations --

MS. PSAKI: I’ll just have a card. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- is going to be presented. Is that your – to Prime Minister Netanyahu, most likely at the White House. Is that your understanding?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it would be very challenging to predict when both sides would agree to the specifics of a framework that will address the core issues, given they haven’t agreed. So I don’t think any report about a date of when there will be a final document or final outcome – any of them should be taken with a grain of salt.

QUESTION: You don’t think they should be taken --

MS. PSAKI: They should be. Sorry. They should be taken with a grain of salt.

QUESTION: Do you have the same philosophy towards this framework for negotiations as you do in the Iran talks, in that no deal is better than a bad deal, and that if there’s a single point, whether it be the identification of Israel as Jewish state or something like that, if that is not agreed upon, there is no framework that will be announced?

MS. PSAKI: Well, to be clear, they’re very, very different issues, as you know.


MS. PSAKI: One is about preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. The other is ending a decades, if not longer, of course, long conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. I think it’s not about the United States and what the United States agrees to. You’re familiar with our views on many of these core issues. It’s about the two sides. There’s no question that compromises will be required and – but beyond that, I think they’re very different issues.

QUESTION: As a general principle --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- do you assert that your policy toward every dispute in the world is that no deal is better than a bad deal?

MS. PSAKI: That’s probably a fair point, but I’m sure someone is going to find an exception in here, so – but certainly, certainly we don’t jump into bad deals as a matter of principle.

QUESTION: One more related to China.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So China and Taiwan held high-level dialogues for the first time in over 50 years.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. have any – does the U.S. welcome these types of dialogues in the future between Taiwan and China?

MS. PSAKI: We do. We welcome the steps both sides of the Taiwan Strait have taken to reduce tensions and improve relations between Beijing and Taipei. We encourage authorities in Beijing and Taipei to continue their constructive dialogue, which has led to significant improvements in the cross-strait relationship, so we certainly welcome the resumption.

QUESTION: A follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Has Taiwan or China, or have both of them contacted U.S. beforehand concerning this talk?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that for you if there’s been any discussion of it.

QUESTION: Jen, on North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As you know that the former CIA guy, Mr. Don Gregg, his visit to North Korea right now.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you know intention of his visit to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: I think Marie spoke to this yesterday and said it was a private visit and it wasn’t on behalf to the U.S. Government.

QUESTION: But North Korea canceled Ambassador King’s visit to North Korea for second times. It seems to, like, mostly political gain by North Korea. The – what is the United States diplomatic options or actions to the North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me – I know there were a couple of logistics questions on this yesterday and I have a few more details, so --


MS. PSAKI: North Korea extended the invitation to Ambassador King on February 5th, and rescinded the invitation on February 8th. North Korea is attempting to link Kenneth Bae’s case to unrelated military exercises. As you’ve heard us say many times, there is no connection. These annual military exercises are transparent, regularly scheduled, and defense-oriented, and they’re in no way linked to his case.

In terms of what our options are, we remain committed to securing Kenneth Bae’s release. Obviously, that is our priority and our focus. We have our own means of communicating with North Korea, which, as should come as no surprise, I’m not going to outline from here. We remain gravely concerned about his health. So we will continue to press on this issue.

QUESTION: But doesn’t --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) are you aware? And if you’re not --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- maybe you could find out for us?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: When the North extended this invitation on February 5th, did they say Ambassador King is welcome as long as you call off these military exercise? Was there any mention at all of the possibility that they might rescind it in the actual invitation any discussion of the military exercise? And then, also, on February 8th when they rescinded the invitation, you said that – you say that they are attempting to link the Kenneth Bae’s case to the exercise.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But did they specifically say that – that we’re – Ambassador King is no longer welcome because you guys are refusing to call off the --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- or anything like that?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check, Matt, and see if there’s more we can outline on that specific question.

Okay, let --

QUESTION: I’m going back to religious freedom before my question on Nepal.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Have State Department received any complaint as far as persecution of minorities – religious minorities in Bangladesh, and especially Hindus and Christians are being killed almost every day.

MS. PSAKI: Any complaints?

QUESTION: Yeah, about --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – I’m not sure that’s the right way of asking the question, but our assistant secretary actually testified on Bangladesh today and answered a long list of questions about a range of issues, so I’d point you to her testimony and – for any questions about that.

QUESTION: And quick question on Nepal.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: After so many years now, Nepal has a democratically elected government and Mr. Sushil Koirala is the new prime minister. And now Maoists are out (inaudible) – what the Nepalese are saying, and they will have finally a new democratic constitution. So any comments on that, if U.S. is playing any role in the new constitution and also on this new prime minister relations with Nepal and U.S.?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, Goyal, why don’t I check with our experts on that issue and I’ll have them connect with you directly?

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.

QUESTION: Let’s go back to Syria --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: And this is not really – it’s a Syria related – has the Secretary – did the Secretary speak with Foreign Minister Lavrov today?

MS. PSAKI: He did. He spoke with him this morning.

QUESTION: Did you say that earlier?

MS. PSAKI: I thought I said it as part of my answer in terms of --

QUESTION: Maybe you did and I just was --

MS. PSAKI: -- the President’s comments, or maybe I didn’t quite make it there, but --

QUESTION: Okay, so presumably – and apologies if you went over this at the beginning and I just zoned out.

MS. PSAKI: No, I don’t think I did. I don’t think I did.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you – what – I mean, he basically said the same thing that – what the President and you have said about trying to get the Russians to do more, trying to get --

MS. PSAKI: He did. He --

QUESTION: -- and to support the resolution?

MS. PSAKI: He pressed him for the need to – for the Russians to play a constructive role in pressing the Syrian regime for more humanitarian access, for more – to – pressing the regime to play a more constructive role at the Geneva talks. And I think he delivered, as the President did, a pretty tough message about what needed to happen.

QUESTION: Okay. And then, do you have any reason to believe, or does he have any reason to believe after the phone call that the Russians are prepared to do or to make a move in the direction that you would like them to? Are you encouraged? Do you think that it is worth going – bringing this resolution to the Council, or is it just going to be – do you have any reason to believe the Russian opposition has softened?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we haven’t seen any change in their comments, and I’m not aware of any other change. But again, this is – we’re early in the drafting process. We’re going to continue to make the case on why this is one of many diplomatic levers that we should all be pulling. And the Secretary felt it was important to convey that message directly to Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning.

QUESTION: Just back to Iran very briefly.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure.

QUESTION: Is the Administration of the belief that this is the last chance at diplomacy for the international community on Iran given the time --

MS. PSAKI: I think it’s the best chance in a decade, but certainly, I don’t want to make any predictions about a process that hasn’t even begun, and that’s the comprehensive talks that will start next week.

QUESTION: Okay. So when the President vows and the Secretary vows to arm-and-arm be the two people to go to Congress and be the first two to ask --

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- for additional sanctions should negotiations fail, but by the logic of the Administration, the purpose of sanctions is to get diplomacy going.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know we discussed this before, but is that not to reinvigorate or to incentivize Iran back to a second round of talks should these fail?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not – we’re far from there. Obviously, we’re pressing for these talks to be a success. We know it’s going to be challenging. We know it’s going to be complicated and technical. But the larger point with the sanctions is just to reiterate that we know they’ve been effective. But there’s a time and a place for them. It’s – the time and the place is not now. But we can’t, again, look into a crystal ball and know six months from now where we’ll be. So we’ll see where we will be.

QUESTION: Well, you can’t look into a crystal ball; that’s correct. But you have made the policy line that you will be the first to go for new sanctions --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- which is to say you’ve decide that if negotiations fail, sanctions is the policy which you will adopt. So you do have that laid out. And when you say that they have worked in the past --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know if there will be other parts of a policy. That certainly is a piece we’ve seen to be effective. We’re hopeful that we will not be at that point, but we are certainly open to it if needed.

QUESTION: Although it is true that one would say that one could credit the sanctions with bringing Iran to the table, the sanctions for many, many years didn’t do what they were really intended to do, which was to get Iran to stop. Isn’t that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, but part of the goal of ramping them up over the last four years --

QUESTION: Fair enough.

MS. PSAKI: -- five years --

QUESTION: But all the punishment that the UN Security Council and that countries individually levied on the Iranians didn’t produce or didn’t get the Iranians to stop enriching --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- didn’t get them to stop their program.

MS. PSAKI: -- part of it, Matt, though – as you know, because we’ve talked about this many times – is also the fact that the president of Iran ran on a platform of improving the economic conditions. And the sanctions are a key part of that. So – did you have, Arshad – I didn’t mean to cut you off, but --

QUESTION: No. I’d just like to say thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:31 p.m.)

DPB # 27