Daily Press Briefing - February 25, 2014

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Foreign Secretary Hague's Visit
    • Expulsion of U.S. Diplomats / Reciprocal Response
    • U.S.-Venezuela Relations
    • Campaign Season / Troop Withdrawal / BSA / Strategic Relationship / Congressional Concern / Interagency Planning Process
    • Framework Agreement / Core Issues / Abbas Visit
    • Security Augmentation / Marine Security Guards
    • Deputy Secretary Burns Visit / Meetings
    • U.S. Assistance / IMF
    • Russian Involvement
    • Afghanistan BSA Impact / Consultations
    • Security Augmentation / IMF
    • South China Sea / Secretary Kerry's Visit / Territorial Claims / Use of Water Cannons / U.S. Policy
    • Possible Resignation / Transition / Elections / Universal Human Rights / Involvement of U.S. Officials
    • Defense Ties / Arms Sales / Sanctions
    • Dalai Lama Visit / Meeting Readout / ChargĂ© Meeting with the Chinese / U.S. Policy
    • Arms Deal / U.S. Concern / Contact with Iraqi Government
    • Anti-Homosexuality Bill / U.S. Foreign Aid / Publishing of Names / Broad Range of Concerns
    • Ambassadorial Nominees / AFSA / Nominations Process
Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 25, 2014


1:09 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hello, everyone. I have just one item at the top. A few people have asked about Foreign Secretary Hague’s visit and what they’ll be doing together today. And we sent out a Media Note yesterday, but we all know there’s a lot going on, so I just wanted to reiterate what they’ll be doing. They have an event that starts just about 1:30 or a little after, and they’re going to be discussing efforts by the United States, by the United Kingdom, to prevent sexual violence in conflict areas. This is an initiative that Foreign Secretary Hague has worked on a great deal, one the Secretary is also committed to. So they will be having a discussion about that later this hour.

With that, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, I do have Afghanistan questions, which I’m sure a lot of people do, but maybe we should just go and get on the record the Venezuela expulsions first.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. As many of you have seen, because I believe some of it has been reported, but in response to the Venezuelan Government’s decision to declare three Foreign Service officials persona non gratae, we, on February 17th, in accordance with Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, the State Department has declared three officials from the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC, persona non gratae as well. They have been allowed 48 hours to leave the United States. As you know, the convention permits the United States to declare any member of a diplomatic mission persona non grata at any time and without the necessity to state a reason.

QUESTION: Sorry. What was on the 17th?

MS. PSAKI: That was when that action was taken in Venezuela. So in response to that action --

QUESTION: Right. I was wondering --

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, that was sort of confusing --

QUESTION: Okay. So – but they’ve been given --

MS. PSAKI: -- how I stated that.

QUESTION: Right, okay.


QUESTION: So they’ve been given 48 hours from what, today?

MS. PSAKI: Last night was when it was given.

QUESTION: Last night, okay. So it isn’t just taking a week for this to come out that you guys --


QUESTION: All right. I want to go to Afghanistan, but if other people want to --

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Sure.

QUESTION: I just have one question on that as well.


MS. PSAKI: Let’s just go --

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let’s just go one at a time. Jo, go ahead.

QUESTION: I don’t – I saw – I’m still catching up, having been away with you. But I saw this morning that President Maduro had actually said that he was interested in trying to appoint a new ambassador to Washington. Were you aware of that before you decided to make these expulsions public, or was it in response to that that you were making these expulsions public?

MS. PSAKI: These – well, these – we’re making these public because we made the – the message was sent last evening, so it wasn’t related to anything other than that. This was in response to the actions taken by the Government of Venezuela.

QUESTION: So in light of the comments made by President Maduro, he’s stating his intention to try and appoint a new ambassador, which I believe is going to be made sometime later on today. Would that be something that you would welcome?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen those reports, and obviously, we have indicated our readiness to develop a more constructive relationship with Venezuela. We’ve said many months ago that could include an exchange of ambassadors. But Venezuela also needs to show seriousness for us to be able to move forward. And recent actions, including expelling three of our diplomats, continue to make that difficult.

QUESTION: So you would not go back on this decision should he, this afternoon, decide such and such a person is going to be the ambassador? That would not – you would not go back on your decision to expel these three particular individuals at this point?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, a decision about an exchange of ambassadors is a mutual decision, so obviously, we’ve said months ago that we could – we would be open to an exchange of ambassadors but that Venezuela needs to show seriousness about their willingness and their openness to a positive relationship moving forward. And – but this is not an action that’s related to that. I wouldn’t look at it in that way.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Jen, I want --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. And I told her she’d be next.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you. Since you are in a kind of a stalemate with Venezuela, what is next? Are you going to suggest anything in order to improve dialogue, to break relations, to have any initiative in the frame of the OAS? So what to expect from your side? Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we’ve said before, we have serious concerns about some issues in Venezuela, including democracy and human rights. And we’ll continue to express those concerns. If and when Venezuela decides to engage constructively on areas of mutual interest, we would welcome that. And as I said, we have indicated and have indicated for months our openness to develop a more constructive relationship with Venezuela, but again, recent actions, including expelling three of our diplomats, continue to make that difficult.

QUESTION: So these actions cancel any good faith actions in either side? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I said that. I think I’ll leave it at what I just said.

Do we have any more on Venezuela?

QUESTION: I just have one more now that --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- now that that’s been raised. You talk about you’ve indicated for months. I mean, I remember in Guatemala when the Secretary met the foreign minister – correct, had a meeting with him?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So since then, if you had a – if you could do a chart, like a chart, how would you say the rapprochement has gone? Is it flat-lined? Is it going down? Is it going up? I mean, what has been – since that meeting back in Guatemala, there were at least two, I think, meetings between Roberta Jacobson --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and Venezuelan officials. Have there been any more than that that we just don’t know about?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other meetings to report. I’m – what I’m indicating here is an openness in the future to a positive relationship. Obviously, there are steps --

QUESTION: All right. No, but – so for the last – but over the last year, how would you – what does that graph look like?

MS. PSAKI: I’m certainly not going to give a grade, Matt.

QUESTION: I’m not asking for a grade – a graph.

MS. PSAKI: Or an evaluation of it, or a graph, any form of mathematical analysis.

QUESTION: Wise, wise.

MS. PSAKI: But what I am not – what I will just reiterate is that we’re open to a positive relationship. Obviously, we need to see more positive steps from Venezuela.

Do you have – on Venezuela, Said?

QUESTION: Venezuela, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: How do you decide which three diplomats to expel in retaliation? Is it like a predetermined list? Or what kind of process, what kind of selection process do they go through?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m --

QUESTION: In this case or similar cases.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to outline that for all of you. Obviously, reciprocal actions and steps taken like these are pretty standard practice. So that’s a step we took last night, and I’m just announcing it today.

QUESTION: So it would be safe to assume that they would be of the same level?

MS. PSAKI: Often they can be, but I don’t have any other readout for you than that.

QUESTION: Do you have the names or who are they?

MS. PSAKI: I do. Let me see – let me do the best I can here for you, so bear with me: First Secretary Ignacio Luis Cajal Avalos, First Secretary Victor Manuel Pisani Azpurua, and Second Secretary Marcos Jose Garcia Figueredo. How did I do?

QUESTION: Very well.

MS. PSAKI: All right. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Great. Thank you.

QUESTION: One question about --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: -- Venezuela.


QUESTION: It’s very common that the U.S. reacts in many cases when there are a situation of human rights in many countries. There is a lot of material on Venezuela. You can see them on YouTube, you can see it in Twitter. It’s unbelievable the kind of images that we are seeing that – of repression to the society there. Now, the Government of Venezuela have said that the U.S. is insolent making these comments. Any reaction to that? Is the U.S. – has the U.S. a right to talk about other countries when you see these kind of situations going on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would certainly not just point you to but stand by the Secretary’s statement that we put out this weekend where he called on the government to stop – to step back from its efforts to stifle dissent through force and to respect basic human rights. And respect for human rights and freedom of speech and freedom of the media, as you know, are principles that we believe should be held to universally. So certainly we respect, of course, the sovereignty of every country, but we certainly think we are within every right to point out where we think appropriate actions are not being taken.

QUESTION: Now, we have seen these situations in other countries. For example, we remember Libya, we have seen it in Syria. Are we close to say, “Maduro, you have step out also,” or we are far away from that?

MS. PSAKI: That is certainly not what I am suggesting at all. We, of course, are again open to a positive relationship if they’re willing to take steps.

Do we have any more on Venezuela? Venezuela. Okay.

QUESTION: I’ve got a – yeah, Afghanistan.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So I read with great interest the White House readout of the President’s phone call with President Karzai, and I’m having a hard time understanding if anything is different today post-call than it was yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think in the readout – which many of you may have seen that the White House put out, but let me just reiterate what was in there – in addition to talking about the upcoming campaign season and affirming the support of the United States for fair, credible, and an Afghan-led process, the President also told President Karzai that because he’s demonstrated that it is unlikely that he will sign the BSA, the United States is moving forward with additional contingency planning. That’s not something that we have talked about before, not something that had been indicated to President Karzai before. And President Obama has also – as has been announced and was in the readout as well – has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal. You may have also seen the statement that Secretary Hagel put out.

So this is an indication that we are taking President Karzai at his word that he has no plans, he has not indicated he’s going to sign the BSA. We need to do our own planning, and that includes contingency planning for a range of options. The later it goes the harder it is, as you know, because we’ve talked about it often. But this is a candid assessment, to your point, of where things stand --


MS. PSAKI: -- and an indication to people of what our planning entails.

QUESTION: I’m – so I’m confused, though, because I thought this contingency planning had been going on for months.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we always have contingency planning, but we haven’t talked about --

QUESTION: Right. I mean, it would be irresponsible not to have been --

MS. PSAKI: -- planning for – of course.

QUESTION: -- planning for it.

MS. PSAKI: But we have not talked about till now planning for the – a zero option, which again, is not our preference. But that is something we’re talking about now, and we’ve indicated to President Karzai, which is an appropriate place for that conversation to take place first.

QUESTION: So the difference is that the President has told President Karzai that it’s directly what you and every other spokesperson around this town and officials on background have been saying for months? I’m – I just – I’m not – the contingency planning that was going on prior to today included a zero-option possibility, didn’t it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we had – we’ve always said that we’ve been doing contingency planning.


MS. PSAKI: But planning, which I’m not going to outline all the details of what that means --

QUESTION: I’m not asking for the details.

MS. PSAKI: -- but specifics and for options that include a range of numbers and include zero troops is something that obviously is picking up.

QUESTION: Okay. But did the President tell – or has the Administration set a deadline for Karzai and/or his successor to sign a BSA? Because the statement makes it clear that a BSA – the U.S. is open to a BSA being signed later in the year, although it would have consequences --

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. Right.

QUESTION: -- on the planning.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But you haven’t told him sign by X date or we’re going to the zero option. And you haven’t said to any of his successors or potential successors that I’m aware of – or at least it wasn’t included in the call – whether they’ve been told, like, on day one, if you don’t sign this we’re going to go ahead with – I guess I’m just having a hard time figuring out if there was any policy decision here, because it just seems like the White House has kind of kicked this down the – kicked the can down the road again without making any decision.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve decided that we’re not going to leave this in the hands of President Karzai to sign, and that there is the option of having a successor sign. So that is certainly a new piece of information that we have not indicated in the past.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS. PSAKI: In addition, in terms of consequences, what we have indicated is that the later it goes, the harder it is, but also the – to plan, and also the smaller it will be. And that certainly is a consequence.


MS. PSAKI: But in terms of a deadline or a date, that’s not something I’m going to get into.

QUESTION: Okay. So in fact – then I’ll stop after this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: In fact, what the main point of this is is that you no longer insist that Karzai has to sign this thing and that you’ve given the Afghans another several months or an undefined period of more time to sign the BSA without having any definite consequences, because you’re just leaving the options open, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: So they got – now have more time rather than less time to make up their mind.

MS. PSAKI: No, I would refute that, Matt. Look, for the – for our long-term strategic interests, it is in our interest, it is in the interest of the Afghan people to have a signed BSA. Karzai has not indicated – I don’t think you would disagree with me on this point –


MS. PSAKI: -- that he is planning to sign the BSA. So this is a candid assessment of where we are and planning for other options to get a BSA signed. And if we have a partner who’s the next elected leader of Afghanistan who will sign the BSA, then we will – we are happy to move forward with that. In terms of consequences, as I mentioned, the longer it goes, the harder it is to plan, and the greater impact it will be on the size.

QUESTION: So would you say, Jen, that the zero option today is more likely than it was yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t say that, because there’s still the possibility that – we’ve always said it was an option – there still is the possibility that one of Karzai – Karzai’s successor, whomever that may be, could sign the BSA. And we’re still happy to work with whomever that may be to move forward.

QUESTION: But in this statement that was put out from Secretary Hagel, there was a mention of the upcoming NATO Ministerial in Brussels.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is the – are you making a recommendation to your NATO allies about how they should be planning this going forward?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are working closely with them and, of course, advising them on what steps we are taking to plan for a range of contingencies, including the possibility of a full withdrawal. They’re, of course, going to make their own decisions, and we leave that to them, but we have laid out for them the fact that that is a planning process that’s underway.

QUESTION: But you’re not saying to them: Our preferable option at the moment is a zero-troop option and you should plan for that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it doesn’t – it’s not our – a preferable option. Because if there’s a BSA signed, that lays the groundwork for a troop presence in Afghanistan. If there’s no BSA, we can’t have a presence there. We are saying today that we are open to one of Karzai’s successor – or Karzai’s successor signing the BSA. But that doesn’t indicate a preference. Obviously, the President hasn’t made a decision about troop numbers at this point.

QUESTION: But realistically, how late can you go? Because the election’s in April. Given the fact that it’s extremely unlikely that the – it’ll be an uncontested election that could go to a second round, you could be looking at much later into the year, beyond spring and into summer, before you have a decision on who the successor is.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re evaluating this, of course, week by week, just like we would about any policy process. This is where we are at this point. Obviously, the elections are scheduled for April. We’ll see where we are at that point.

QUESTION: But, I mean, to get all these troops out is a huge logistical operation.

MS. PSAKI: You’re right. That’s why it makes it harder to plan. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The longer you leave it on the table though this possibility of some rather than zero, the harder you’re going to make it for yourselves towards the back end of the year, if you don’t have a successor until, say, I don’t know when, nobody knows when.

MS. PSAKI: Well, but I don’t want to predict that at this point. Obviously, we’ll continue to evaluate as events on the ground continue in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Can we --

MS. PSAKI: Afghanistan?

QUESTION: On Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As far as this contingency planning, how much of it extends to this building? Because so many people know the security situation being what it is there, Foreign Service officers, the Embassy presence is very, very dependent on the security provided by the military. So what kind of planning is happening here for diplomats?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly we’re a part of the interagency – an important part, I will say – of the interagency planning process. And the Secretary and Ambassador Dobbins and other senior officials have been a part of all of these discussions about the path forward. I don’t have anything specific to outline for you, beyond to say that we have strategic interests in maintaining our relationship through a BSA with Afghanistan, national security interests, interests in continuing a lot of the progress that’s been made over the last ten years, whether that’s on education issues or women’s issues.

These are many things, as you know, that the State Department and diplomats around the world have made great investments in. So certainly, we believe, and it’s in our interest as well, for a BSA to get signed so that we can continue that relationship.

QUESTION: So it would be safe, then, to assume that the size of the U.S. diplomatic presence will be impacted by this security agreement itself?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to outline for you on that today. Obviously, there’s a range of discussions that happen regarding everything from troops to what it will mean for where we have diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, just like any country. So I don’t have anything to tell you on that today.

QUESTION: Jen, because – but on that, though, I mean, so much of what people on the ground tell you in Afghanistan is it’s not just the number of soldiers. It’s the number of dollars, it’s the number of aid support mechanisms coming in there.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So was that part of the discussion between the President – the two presidents today? I mean, how much of the diplomatic presence and aid was part of it?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more to outline for you beyond what the White House put out. And I would certainly point you to them, and I’m certain your colleagues are asking them. As you may have seen in the readout, they also talked about the upcoming campaign season, they talked about the importance of continue – of Afghanistan continuing on the path to a strong, stable, unified, and democratic country in the future.

Of course, the President is deeply committed to a range of these programs that we’ve invested in over the last ten years. And that’s why we’ve long said that zero option is not a preferred option. We understand and recognize the strategic relationship and the strategic consequences of not having a presence in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Doesn’t the continuation of some of your foreign assistance programs depend on somebody signing the BSA, as laid out in the budget that went forward?

MS. PSAKI: Yep, it does. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, if there’s no BSA signed, some of this foreign assistance will not be approved by Congress according to what they laid out --

MS. PSAKI: According to what Congress has --

QUESTION: -- according to what Congress laid out.

MS. PSAKI: -- what Congress has laid out.

QUESTION: Yes. I mean, does that not concern this Department, that some of those programs that you were talking about are either going to have to be halted or going to fall into some kind of limbo because there won’t be any way of funding them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s really important to remember here that if we take a step back, when we started negotiating the BSA in November of 2012, what we set out was a goal – and we agreed with Afghanistan – of signing – concluding the agreement and signing it within a year because of all the reasons I outlined about our strategic interests and the progress that’s been made on important issues like education, like promoting women; as well as counterterrorism and other issues that are of great value to the United States.

So certainly, our preferred option is not to not have a BSA signed. We want to have a BSA signed. And today, what we’re conveying is that we have left open the door for Karzai’s successor to sign it, which should give you more of an indication of how important it is for us to get this signed and move forward with our relationship.

QUESTION: So correct me if I’m wrong then that the upshot of this deal is that you – that the President has basically removed all the pressure or all of the – removed – I’ll use pressure for lack of a better word – has removed all the pressure from Karzai to sign this by saying that a successor could sign it and it might not result in a zero option.

MS. PSAKI: Well, if there’s no BSA there won’t be a troop presence.

QUESTION: No, I understand that.

MS. PSAKI: So --

QUESTION: But you basically just told Karzai, “You’re off the hook. You don’t have to sign this anymore --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t --

QUESTION: -- because your successor can sign it and we still might not go to zero.”

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt --


MS. PSAKI: -- if there’s no – no.

QUESTION: No, okay.

MS. PSAKI: If there’s no BSA signed --

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. PSAKI: -- we’re not going to have a presence in Afghanistan.


MS. PSAKI: The longer this goes the less of a presence – the greater a factor it will be in our planning, and it will have an impact on the size, certainly. So those are all consequences.


MS. PSAKI: Karzai is going to be in office for another --

QUESTION: Two or three months?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. And so what we’ve acknowledged here is that he has not indicated that he’s going to sign it. So let’s look ahead to future options for how we can come to an agreement on the BSA.

QUESTION: Right. But the future option no longer rests with him. You’ve taken all of the leverage that you had with Karzai in saying, “Look, if you don’t sign this thing, we’re going to leave.” That’s all gone now.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not gone, but this has never been about --

QUESTION: It is gone.

MS. PSAKI: This has never been about President Karzai. This has been about the United States relationship with Afghanistan and our long-term presence in Afghanistan. So it’s not about President Karzai; it’s about that. And we’re trying to take steps to figure out how we can --

QUESTION: Right, but when this --

MS. PSAKI: -- be in the most productive place moving forward.

QUESTION: But when we were in Kabul and the Secretary and President Karzai negotiated this thing, and for the previous nine months to a year --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- it had all been with this goal of having it done within a year, and then that slipped, obviously. And you said you still want it sooner rather than later --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- which is presumably what you still want. But now you have accepted the fact that Karzai is not going to sign it or says that he has no – given no signal that he will sign it, and said, “Okay, it doesn’t matter anymore because your successor can sign it.”

MS. PSAKI: Well, his actions and his recent rhetoric have frankly concerned us. And so again, this is not about President Karzai. And that’s a point, obviously, we’re making with this announcement today. This is about our long-term relationship with Afghanistan.

QUESTION: But up until today, it was on President Karzai to sign this thing.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as the president of the country, certainly.

QUESTION: Right. And now it’s not. So this is why I don’t understand. It seems to me that you – that the White House has basically just left – just extended the deadline if there are – the target for anyone to sign the BS for basically until November, it could be.

MS. PSAKI: That is not what I’m indicating.

QUESTION: Well, that’s what --

MS. PSAKI: Again, what I’ve said a couple times is that the longer it goes the more of an impact it will have on what kind of a presence we could even have.

QUESTION: Can we go to --

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Afghanistan? Okay, go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli peace process.

MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Is there any more clarity today on the visit of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to Washington?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details to tell you today.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, let me just understand correctly. Why would he be coming to Washington considering that you had a lengthy meeting with him last week that lasted for eight hours, and it seemed that the talks are deadlocked? Are we looking at the possibility that perhaps the framework agreement would be presented to him much as it would have been presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the day before or the week before?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, and I think we’ve talked about this --

QUESTION: Right, but just a --

MS. PSAKI: I have never given an indication of the timing.


MS. PSAKI: Obviously, there are many core issues that still need to be discussed and the gaps need to be bridged between the parties. So I would caution you against believing any report that’s suggesting there’s a planned date for a framework to be announced or agreed to because it’s between the parties to do that. So again, for President Abbas and his visit, I would point you to him.

It’s not infrequent for a range of officials to come to Washington. Obviously, we’re at an important time in the discussions about the peace process, so that doesn’t seem too out of the realm to me.

QUESTION: Okay. So the venue, Washington, is more propitious or more suitable to sort of move this thing forward --

MS. PSAKI: Again, Said, I don’t have any --

QUESTION: -- than, let’s say, Paris or Ramallah?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to tell you about what his plans are or meetings he has happening here. I would point you to him for any indication of that.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Ukraine, please.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Two questions: Do we have any information that State has requested for a Marine contingent to go to the U.S. Embassy in the Ukraine? And secondly, do you have any schedule for Mr. Burns on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I think you’re referring to reports about security augmentation – is that right – at our Embassy there in Kyiv? Security posts, as you all know – security of our posts, I should say, and our personnel worldwide is our highest priority, and worldwide post security is under constant review. We’re, of course, not going to discuss specifics as a matter of policy. We have slightly augmented our existing Marine Security Guard force at the Embassy in Kyiv, so that perhaps is what you were seeing in reports.

In terms of Deputy Secretary Burns’ trip, let me give you some more details on that. Today, Deputy Secretary Burns met with a broad range – a broad spectrum of political leaders, including Rada speaker Turchinov and other party leaders and Rada deputies. He – this evening, he’s meeting at St. Michael’s Cathedral with the medics who provided assistance to those injured during protests on the Maidan, as well as civil society and religious leaders to honor the sacrifices made by so many, as we seek to partner with Ukraine’s civil society, political, and business leaders to chart a new way forward. He also had a very good meeting with EU High Representative Ashton on the situation on the ground and the way forward.

In his meetings with political leaders, Deputy Secretary Burns urged the rapid formation of a national unity government representing the wide array of stakeholders in Ukraine and urged that the critical reforms necessary to restore Ukraine’s political and economic health be undertaken immediately.

QUESTION: On Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did Ukraine come up with – in talks with Hague?

MS. PSAKI: The meetings just started, so I don’t have anything to report to you. Obviously, as you know, we’ve been working very closely with Foreign Secretary Hague and a range of international officials. The thrust of their time together today will really be on the issue I talked about at the beginning, kind of shining a spotlight on the important issue of violence against women around the world in conflict areas. But I am certain they will take a few moments to talk about vital issues of the day, including Ukraine.

QUESTION: Okay. Any update on the amount the U.S. is considering to supplement to the IMF program?

MS. PSAKI: No. And again, obviously, as I said yesterday, anything we would – anything we’re discussing or considering would be complementary, of course. And in terms of the IMF, we’re, of course, encouraging Ukraine – officials in Ukraine to start that conversation and begin negotiations with the IMF. It’s of course up to the IMF to make that determination. We believe that there needs to be an assessment done about exactly what the state of the economy is, a real assessment of what the needs are. And so we’re also encouraging them to undertake that, but all of the discussions we’re having would, of course, be tied to and in coordination with IMF assistance.

QUESTION: So the U.S. funding would only come once an IMF program was in place?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I’m not going to – obviously, these discussions are ongoing, so I have nothing to outline for you about the timing or the content. But clearly, moving forward on necessary negotiations with the IMF is an important part of what we’re also encouraging.

QUESTION: Sure. But just in terms of Egypt, the U.S. was not going to contribute a good amount of funds until after an IMF program was in place, and as Lew said Sunday, I think, political stability is intrinsically --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- tied to economic stability, and if you’re giving money to a state that’s just going to continue mismanage the funds, then you’re not going to have that kind of --

MS. PSAKI: And I can assure you, of course, that all of those issues, including political stability, having a government in place, are what will be factored in into our decision making.

QUESTION: So when you’re considering the program with the IMF, how do you --

MS. PSAKI: We wouldn’t consider it. We’re encouraging Ukraine to take steps.

QUESTION: But you’re talking about lending money to the IMF – to Ukraine as well. You said money to complement.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re talking about, we’re considering a range of options in terms of assisting Ukraine, including working with the EU and working through a bilateral or multilateral process.

QUESTION: Okay. And would that be contingent on them making some measures, passing some laws, say, on restructuring the gas system or subsidies?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have – because these discussions are ongoing, we – as I’ve said, we’re working with partners around the world to provide support for Ukraine. We, of course, want that to complement the IMF program, but any IMF program or any effort with the IMF, but I don’t have anything further to outline for you about the discussions.

QUESTION: Just in terms of philosophy, though --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- okay. Ukraine – or – so the IMF has been very clear that there are certain preconditions that it would require for any loan. And the EU has been sort of more sanguine on that. I’m wondering where the U.S. is. When it’s doing its calculus --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- how much does it – is it going to back the sort of IMF precondition argument versus providing a carrot for the new democracy and taking advantage of this – this option?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything more to outline for you about our internal discussions. I can tell you that, of course, we are working with the EU and we’re in very close coordination with the EU about any efforts and any processes of developing a financial package.

QUESTION: So you don’t – just to be clear, you don’t feel as staunchly as the IMF does in terms of requiring preconditions before you --

MS. PSAKI: That’s not what I conveyed. I also haven’t outlined preconditions. So these discussions are, of course, ongoing. I just don’t have any other details about our internal deliberations to outline for you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The Philippines, please?

QUESTION: Wait, wait.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s see. Do we have any more on Ukraine?

QUESTION: Let’s stay on Ukraine. And I – tell me if this came up yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, I didn’t have a chance to read the transcript from yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: No, no problem.

QUESTION: But if it did come up, then I will just shut up and you can refer me to yesterday’s briefing. Does – is it still the U.S. position that the situation in Ukraine is not a zero-sum situation?

MS. PSAKI: I did not talk about this yesterday, though I’m happy to.


MS. PSAKI: Yes, it is.

QUESTION: Okay. It is. Do you understand how the Russians might not see that in this – might not see it in the same way? Their guy is out, your guy is in; they lose.

MS. PSAKI: Well, what we mean by that, Matt, is that – and we certainly don’t see it that way. We think that it --

QUESTION: I know you don’t see it that way. I’m asking: Can you understand why the Russians would see it that way?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we would think that Russia would want to see a prosperous, stable Ukraine in the future, and that that is in their interests as well. So that is what we mean by that. An economically prosperous, a stable, a productive Ukraine is in Russia’s interests as well.

QUESTION: That is fully aligned with the European Union that looks to the West rather than to the north and to the east?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s --

QUESTION: That’s in Russia’s best interest?

MS. PSAKI: That is not a choice we are making, as you know.

QUESTION: I know. I’m not asking if you’re making the choice. I’m just asking – that’s what you – you think that the Russians should want a stable, prosperous Ukraine, and you believe that that means that they need to look West rather than north and east? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: You’re familiar with our view on the most beneficial path forward for Ukraine in terms of European integration.

QUESTION: Right. And you believe that is the best way for them, that’s best for the Ukrainian people, that’s best for their economy, that’s best for their rule of law?

MS. PSAKI: As we’ve long said.

QUESTION: Okay. That is precisely what zero-sum is. You’re saying that Ukraine is better off allied with the West than it is connected to Russia.

MS. PSAKI: No, what I’m conveying to you is what we mean by zero-sum. We mean that it is in Russia’s benefit as well to have a stable, prosperous Ukraine, that Russia can also have a relationship with Ukraine.

QUESTION: Right. But you’re saying that the stable, prosperous Ukraine is antithetical to – your view of what that means is the opposite of what the Russians think.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not about our view, as you know. It’s about the view of the people of Ukraine. Why do you think we’ve been going through this process over the past couple of months? Because many people in the country have spoken about what they’d like to see in terms of their future.

QUESTION: Okay. If – and this is an extreme hypothetical, I realize --

MS. PSAKI: Uh-oh.

QUESTION: -- but assume that you are opposed to any potential split or breakup of Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. I mean --

QUESTION: Even if people in the eastern part of the country feel more aligned and more comfortable with Russia and Moscow, you don’t think that they should have – you don’t think their voices should be heard? You think that the west, the western part of Ukraine, should lead the way here. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we strongly support a unified and whole Ukraine. We don’t feel that secession or partition is in the interests of anyone, whether of the Ukrainian people or the United States, Europe, or Russia. So we feel strongly that Ukraine should remain united.

QUESTION: Okay. And is that something that the Secretary has made clear to Foreign Minister Lavrov or the President has made clear to President Putin?

MS. PSAKI: I am certain we’ve made it clear. I’m not sure if that exact language was conveyed on their recent calls, but we have certainly conveyed that to the Russians.

QUESTION: Can I just ask --

QUESTION: Just on Ukraine, can I follow up?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In your talks with Russia, did you get the sense that there has been some conciliation towards Ukraine in terms of the IMF? Siluanov said Sunday that the IMF could be helpful for the Ukraine, seeming to open the door to backing an IMF – and they, of course, signed off in terms of this G20 statement. So is there a change in the sense that State Department has from Russia on Russia backing an IMF program now?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any evaluation of that for you. Obviously, you’ve pointed out a number of the statements that have been made. And President Obama and President Putin talked over the weekend, as you know, about the path forward. But again, I would point you to the Russians on how they feel now and how they felt two weeks ago about an IMF program.

QUESTION: Well, I’m asking about your – how you’re sensing. But obviously --

MS. PSAKI: But you’re asking me about my analysis of how Russia feels, so I’m not going to do an analysis of how Russia feels about the IMF program.

QUESTION: Not quite. But, yeah, I see.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on Matt’s point --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- about an eventual partition and your statement that the United States would be opposed to such a move?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: How, in practice, is the United States working to try and avoid that happening?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, I don’t know – in practice, we’re conveying that this would have a negative effect and that we think the most productive and best path forward is for Ukraine to remain unified and whole. And that’s something we have conveyed broadly. Obviously, I’m doing that now. We’ve conveyed to various stakeholders in the region and in Ukraine. So in practice, that’s what we’re doing now.

QUESTION: And Secretary Burns’ visit is --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: He’s meeting – I mean, you said he’s meeting with the medics and he’s been meeting with – sorry, I forgot the list of people he’s been meeting --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- political leaders today. I mean, is he actually sort of – has he got some kind of plan that he’s brought with him to try and help?

MS. PSAKI: This is all a part of an ongoing discussion and engagement. Obviously, his meeting with EU High Representative Ashton, that was – part of that discussion was to talk about the path forward, whether that’s financial assistance and what we’re considering there, whether it’s how to help continue to encourage Ukraine to take positive steps forward. So I wouldn’t think of it as a plan we’re laying down as much as a consultations and encouraging them to take steps forward towards some of our principles – constitutional reform, elections that, as you know, have already been announced, the creation of a new government, steps to evaluate and assess the economic situation on the ground. So that’s really the purpose of his visit.

QUESTION: And those seem to be preconditions before you get involved. I mean, you’re saying look, you need to have an interim government before we start legitimate talks on a bailout, and you’re saying look, there needs to be an economic assessment to determine exactly what is needed. So that, to me, in some sense, sounds like you’re saying well --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not laying out new preconditions at all. I’m conveying what steps in general we think Ukraine needs to take. Obviously, there are immediate steps, including the formation of an interim government, a transitional government, in advance of the elections in May. That’s something, as you know, that they’re working towards and they’ve talked about a timeline for that in Ukraine. Again, our internal deliberations about what we’ll be able to do and what we will do are still ongoing, so I don’t want to lay out for you what we will require when that hasn’t been decided yet.

QUESTION: So you still – you stick to the election in May? I mean, the Russians today – or Lavrov said that it’s a bad idea to have the elections on May 25th, as suggested.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s up to the people of Ukraine to hold those elections. But certainly we support their call for elections in May.

QUESTION: But you do take the statements made by Lavrov as conciliatory, because obviously he’s saying we don’t want either with us or against us and so on, but you would give them sort of the leeway or the elbow room to have, perhaps, a longer campaign (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: We think it’s an important step and we support their own call, the call of the people of Ukraine, for elections in May.

QUESTION: I think you touched on this yesterday, but I just want to make sure.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So it’s the U.S. position that the president has basically abdicated?

MS. PSAKI: Right. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. And so he’s no longer in the mix?

MS. PSAKI: He’s on the run, Matt.

QUESTION: He’s no longer in the picture at all?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I mean, I don’t have any --

QUESTION: I mean, because you had been – people had been speaking with him up – U.S. officials had been speaking – including the Vice President – up until quite recently. But you no longer regard him as being in the picture politically in Ukraine. That’s correct?

MS. PSAKI: As I said yesterday, nothing’s changed. He’s left and he’s on the run.


MS. PSAKI: And we have not spoken with him since then.

QUESTION: Pakistan?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: A senior Pakistani Government official saying today that this planning for a zero option in Afghanistan will lead to civil war that will have a real impact on Pakistan. He’s saying specifically that there will be attacks, they expect attacks in Pakistan as a result. Has this building consulted today or within the past week with Pakistani officials in light of some of these concerns?

MS. PSAKI: We consult regularly. I’d have to check and see if there have been consultations in the last 24 hours on that specifically. Obviously, there are a range of factors that are taken into account. But I think it’s natural – and I think this is part of what we would explain to any regional stakeholder – that given there isn’t a BSA signed, as much as that’s our preference, we have to plan for a range of contingencies, and that’s all we’re conveying. We’re not conveying that a decision has been made, we’re conveying we have to plan, which is only natural.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Back to Ukraine, if I may.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: These security enhancements at the embassy – is this a request that came from the embassy, and do we have any numbers or any timeline?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t outline numbers as a matter of policy. Typically how these decisions are made is that we make evaluations about security needs at a range of posts around the world, so that’s what we did here.

QUESTION: I was just going to follow-up on Ukraine. Apologies, and appreciate your patience.

MS. PSAKI: No, it’s okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: So you said that you thought the Ukraine should go to the IMF and help, but implicit in that is the fact --

MS. PSAKI: Pursue negotiations.

QUESTION: So you’re not aware that they have requested any help since Yanukovych has bolted?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a good question. I don’t have an update on what their contacts have been. I would certainly point you to them on that. I can check and see if there’s anything more we have to report on that front.

QUESTION: I appreciate that. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On the Philippines?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Any more on Ukraine? Ukraine?

QUESTION: No, Egypt.


MS. PSAKI: Okay. Philippines and then Egypt.

QUESTION: So the Philippine foreign ministry strongly protested China’s use of water cannons in the South China Sea to expel fishermen in the Scarborough Shoal area.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is the State Department engaged with the Chinese providing territorial claims in the South China Sea, and what is the message that they are conveying to the Chinese regarding this issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you are well aware that the Secretary was in China just about a week and a half ago, if I’m doing my math correctly. And certainly issues related to territorial claims and maritime security were a big part of what they talked about, as we read out at the time. We’ve seen those reports about the use of water cannons. Obviously, we’d be concerned if those reports are confirmed about that type of aggression. But beyond that I don’t have a real update for you.

QUESTION: And I think we’re quite familiar on the U.S. position on the East China Sea, and the territorial claims in that region, but what about the South China Sea? Can you remind us what the U.S. position is on it?

MS. PSAKI: Always happy to.

QUESTION: Particularly in regards to the Scarborough Shoals.

MS. PSAKI: I know. I just have to pull up my rocks cheat sheet. All right. Well, nothing has changed about our view, as you know. We don’t take a position on the competing sovereignty claims to land features in the South China Sea, but we do have an interest in the manner in which countries address these disputes, as you know, and that’s something that, of course, the Secretary expressed when he was in the region just 10 days ago. We continue to call on all claimants to clarify and pursue their territorial and maritime claims in accordance with international law.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: You said, “Egypt,” so --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, Egypt. Sorry. Let’s do Egypt and then we can go --

QUESTION: Same question than yesterday. Did you get an explanation on this surprise resignation? And I know you said yesterday that it’s up to the Egyptian people to decide for the election, but would you welcome this expected presidential bid from Marshal al-Sisi?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, knowing he has not announced, and I know we’ve been speculating a lot about it, of course, our position hasn’t changed in that we are urging the new interim government, when that is created following this announcement, whatever the makeup is, to advance an inclusive transition process that leads to a democratic, civilian-led government selected through credible and transparent elections that protects the universal human rights that Egyptians have demanded.

We, of course, as I said yesterday, are continuing to closely watch the events in Egypt. The situation is, obviously, fluid on the ground, as it has been not just for months but for years, and is pretty common in democracies when they’re in their new stages. And given the events over the last couple of years, we aren’t going to offer play-by-play analysis of what it may mean. Our focus is going to remain on urging the interim government, when that is formed, to take those positive steps forward.

QUESTION: Sorry. Do you regard Egypt as a democracy in an early stage?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve talked about in the past --

QUESTION: Isn’t it still a – wasn’t there a coup, and has there been elections since?

MS. PSAKI: There has not been an election.

QUESTION: Okay. So it’s not yet a – even nascent democracy.

MS. PSAKI: What I’m referring to, Matt, is the fact that, as you are very familiar with the history over the last couple of years and given we’ve been at this for over 200, we know that it takes some time to work through the kinks.

QUESTION: Has there been any conversations or any telephone calls between you or any U.S. officials with the Egyptians in the last 48 hours?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I referenced yesterday the call that Secretary Hagel did this weekend with Defense Minister al-Sisi --

QUESTION: But that was before the resignation of the government.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. But our charge Marc Sievers is on the ground. Our Acting Deputy DCM David Ranz is on the ground. An entire team is on the ground. And of course, they remain in touch with a range of officials.

QUESTION: Okay. There has also been, I think, a government named or at least suggested by the Egyptians. Are you aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen – I don’t know if there was a new report out this morning. We certainly expect the next step is the creation, as they’ve said, of a new interim government.

QUESTION: So is the U.S.-Egyptian relationship now so estranged that there is no direct communication on what’s going on?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just refuted that by conveying the strength of our team on the ground and repeating for you the fact that Secretary Hagel spoke with Defense Minister al-Sisi just a few days ago.

QUESTION: Can I go to Burma?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There was a report out recently from Jane’s Weekly that the United States might consider expanding its defense ties with Burma and even consider resuming arms sales, providing its human rights record improves greatly. I believe there’s some contention about that. Could you just set us straight on what the actual facts are?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, absolutely. And I’ve seen the report. Just to be very clear here, the United States is not considering lifting the arms embargo on Burma. There is no discussion, formal or informal, within the United States Government to lift our arms sanctioned – sanctions on Burma. We take a measured and calibrated approach to engagement with the Burmese military, and interaction to date has been limited and focused on discussions about issues including human rights, military justice, and civilian control of the military. So that is not a discussion that’s underway in the government.

QUESTION: And what other limits do you still impose on Burma after you lifted a whole bunch of them last year?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a good question, Jo. I know, obviously, we’ve had a range of announcements, as you mentioned, about different aspects we’ve lifted. I’d have to check and I’m happy to take it and see if there’s a more comprehensive list we have.

QUESTION: But at what point would you consider lifting the arms embargo?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of that. Obviously, it’s not even a discussion that’s underway at this point.

QUESTION: But for someone who routinely refuses to discuss internal deliberations of the Administration, you seem to be quite, quite categorical in saying there’s been no discussion, formal or informal, inside the Administration about this.

MS. PSAKI: You’re welcome.

QUESTION: Are you absolutely positive that some guy walking down the hallway hasn’t said once to a colleague, “Hey, why don’t we think about lifting the arms embargo?”

MS. PSAKI: I’d hardly think the Associated Press would include – incorporate that as a consideration of lifting --

QUESTION: But you said – you said there’s no discussion, formal or informal. I mean, there’s a lot of things that are bandied about informally that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, if you and Jo are discussing it in the hallway, I don’t count that.

QUESTION: No, but you know what I mean. So basically, you’re categorically denying this report that Jo mentioned.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay, that’s what I was looking for. I’ve got like – I’ve got three very brief ones.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Why won’t we go to you first and then we’ll go to Matt’s three brief ones. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, China. It’s about last week meeting between President Obama and Dalai Lama. First of all, do you have any update for – on U.S. position or Chinese action or something like that, first of all?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update today. I know the White House did a readout of that meeting, so I don’t have anything to add to that.

QUESTION: And the last week, the Chinese Government official called the U.S. official at midnight – yeah, I think at the very midnight. And what kind of conversation are there that time? As you know, the Dalai Lama is still in the United States. Probably a Chinese official request or asked something about visa issues or any conversation with U.S. official. So what is the Chinese demand?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Chinese. I can confirm, which is I think what you’re referring to but tell me if that – that the charge – our charge in Beijing was called in for a meeting with the Chinese Government. But I don’t have any other details to read out for you.

QUESTION: Did you have – did you – the Secretary Kerry visit. When Secretary Kerry visited in Beijing, did you have some – did he talk about Dalai Lama’s meeting at that time?

MS. PSAKI: Did he talk about the Dalai Lama’s meeting?

QUESTION: Yeah, with China’s official at that time?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they discussed the issue of Tibet, but they – I don’t have anything to outline for you in terms of communication on his visit and his visit to the White House.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) understanding at this moment, China didn’t raise tension. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Say it one more time?

QUESTION: Chinese Government didn’t raise any tension this moment now?

MS. PSAKI: Didn’t raise the tensions today?


MS. PSAKI: This moment?

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, I’m just wondering, why the Chinese Government didn’t raise tension this time. China did raise tension before, for example, stop dialogue or did lots of things before. But at this moment at this time, there is no tension. Could you tell me what’s the difference from before the last time – between last time and this time? Is it that one of the reason this is because the new model major power relations, or something like this?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any analysis for you. I can convey a little more detail that, of course, during Secretary Kerry’s most recent trip, in addition to urging the Chinese Government to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions and that threatened the distinct religious, cultural, and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people, he also urged China’s leaders to allow journalists, diplomats, and other observers unrestricted access to China’s Tibetan areas, and he pressed the Chinese Government to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, which has consistently, of course, been our position.

You may have also seen that we designated the special coordinator for Tibetan issues in an announcement earlier this week as well.

QUESTION: I just – on that very briefly before --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You’re not aware that the Chinese has told you of any retaliatory steps they’re going to take for the meeting. It’s just, they didn’t like it and they told you so, and they didn’t say “We’re going to not do this, this, or this.”

MS. PSAKI: Not that – I’m not aware of any, no.

QUESTION: Okay. So my three very brief ones. You were asked, I believe, yesterday about this alleged arms deal between Iraq and Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did – have you gotten any more clarity on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as I mentioned yesterday, we raise our concerns at the highest levels with the Government of Iraq and reiterated that any transfer of arms from Iran is in direct violation of UN Security Council resolutions. The Government of Iraq assured us that it would look into this matter. Today, we have seen the press release issued by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense denying that any contracts for military equipment were signed with Iran. And we will continue to follow up with the Government of Iraq on this issue.

QUESTION: You take them at their word? You believe their denial?

MS. PSAKI: Well, suffice it to say, we will continue to discuss the issue with the Government of Iraq, and we’ve of course seen their statement.

QUESTION: The issue in general of buying things from Iran or the issue specifically as related to this report that came out about this big – alleged big sale?

MS. PSAKI: Both.

QUESTION: So you’re not necessarily convinced that their denial is bona-fide?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not. I’m just conveying that, obviously, we’ll continue the discussion and these reports remain a concern of ours. But of course, we’ve seen the statement that they put out.

QUESTION: Well, are you heartened by the denial? I mean, or do you – that they say it’s not true? Is that a good thing?

MS. PSAKI: They did say that. We’ve seen that. They assured us they’d look into it, and this was a follow-up to that.

QUESTION: Second one is, I’m --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Hold on one moment, Said. One moment, one moment.


QUESTION: Well, no. I’ve got a --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, on Iraq? Okay.

QUESTION: No, I got a --

QUESTION: I just want to ask you on this very issue --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: There was a breakdown of lists. I mean, buying $35 million worth of, let’s say, mortars, or the equipment for tanks or whatever. I mean, it was really a very thorough and specific breakdown, which shows that the laundry list --

MS. PSAKI: I think I went through a thorough list with you yesterday.

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I’m saying that there was today – there was a laundry list published of the exact specific equipment and so on that the Iraqis allegedly signed back in November immediately after the return of Nuri al-Maliki from his visit to Washington. So I’m saying that your – the veracity of their denial – is it something that you believe, as Matt said, or despite the fact that it was really that specific?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve already answered the question. I don’t have anything more to add.

QUESTION: And what if it proves that they actually did contract the Iranians? What would you do?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I said yesterday, that would raise serious concerns, given it would be a violation of UN Security Council resolutions.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m going to presume that you have not or the building has not or the Administration has not finished its review of potential action on Uganda?

MS. PSAKI: I have nothing to update you on on that.

QUESTION: So – okay. So the review goes on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, and just because you asked the question, I don’t want to overstate – obviously, there are a range of steps we can take. We’ve said there would be consequences. But I don’t want to overstate this as some formal internal review because that’s not an accurate depiction of it.

QUESTION: Oh. Well, how would you – I mean, are people not paying – I mean, people seem to be genuinely upset or – and anger --

MS. PSAKI: Of course, and the Secretary’s statement was very clear and very strong on that point, so --

QUESTION: Right. Well, if it’s not a formal review, then it’s – you don’t take – I mean, that suggests that you’re not – that you may not be taking it as – not you, personally, but that you might not – the Administration might not be taking it as seriously as the outrage expressed would suggest.

MS. PSAKI: I was not meaning to suggest that at all, and maybe I’m overcomplicating the simple.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. And then the last one is: You’re familiar --

QUESTION: Sorry, Matt. Can I just ask you --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: We’ve been asked the question about what was the U.S. figure for foreign aid --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure. I actually have that.

QUESTION: -- for Uganda. Yeah?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Oh, and also on this, just if you have any response to this newspaper in Uganda publishing a list of 200 alleged homosexuals?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I can address both of those. The United States provided more than $485 million in bilateral assistance to Uganda in FY 2014. The majority of those funds were focused on global health programs. Assistance also supports security sector reform, governance, food security, education, and economic growth programs as well as efforts to enhance military education and training.

In terms of the newspaper report, Matt, our view is this is an aggressive invasion of privacy of these individuals, and it highlights what our concerns are that we’ve expressed over the last 48 hours, which is that enactment of this law that the President signed creates a climate where people could face discrimination, could even face violence, and that’s one of many reasons why we have great concerns about --

QUESTION: So you’re concerned that people identified as being allegedly homosexual in this newspaper get – that they could be targeted for some kind of attack --

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, we --

QUESTION: -- or arrest or whatever, yes?

MS. PSAKI: We have a broad range of concerns, yes, exactly.

QUESTION: All right. And then my last one is that --

QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry, on the – just checking on the funding --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- that was provided already in 2014 or requested in FY 2014?

MS. PSAKI: Provided more than, so let me just triple-check that for you, Jo, but I take that to mean we’ve --

QUESTION: You’ve already handed over, okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- given, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: I think this came up a while back. I don’t know if it was with you or Marie, but that – you know that AFSA has come out with this kind of list of what they would like to see in ambassadorial nominees. Did you – at the time that that came out, which I believe was two weeks ago or ten days ago or something like that, did you take – did this building take a position as to whether it agreed with or thought that those criteria that they were setting out were appropriate?

MS. PSAKI: I think I was perhaps in China during this time --

QUESTION: That’s what I – yeah, that’s --

MS. PSAKI: -- with you and others, so let me check and see if we took a position on it.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you – you’re aware of this call that they did today where they’re considering kind of withholding or saying that they do not support these three of the latest presidential nominees – that they’re considering doing that? They’ve done this in the past. I’m just wondering, do you believe that the – that AFSA as an institution – does the State Department believe, recognizing its – you’re not part of it, but it should have a say or should have any influence in the nomination process in kind of the same way that the ABA, the American Bar Association, has with judicial nominees?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not sure I’m going to have any commentary on that, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Well --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, the nomination process, as you well know, happens through the Executive Branch, which has been a traditional process, and input and thoughts comes from a range of resources. And certainly, we support freedom of speech by anyone in terms of what they view nominees should be able to – should – criteria they should meet. But again, these decisions have traditionally been made out of the White House.

QUESTION: Right. Well, they’re not traditionally – they are made out of the White House.

MS. PSAKI: Historically, I should say.

QUESTION: Well, legally made out of --

MS. PSAKI: Legally, historically.

QUESTION: I mean, but the question is: Do you believe that an association or the union for current and retired professional diplomats – does the building believe that they should have any say in the nomination process and --

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check and see --

QUESTION: -- I know that you’re not – right. Couldn’t you check?

MS. PSAKI: -- if we have an official U.S. Government position on that question.


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Very quickly, do you have any comment on the Israeli strike against Hezbollah positions at the Syrian-Lebanese border?

MS. PSAKI: I do not. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:09 p.m.)

DPB # 34