Daily Press Briefing: April 11, 2014

Index for Today's Briefing:

    • Welcome to Briefing Visitors
  • IRAN
    • Iranian Ambassadorial Nominee to the United Nations / Visa
    • P5+1 Negotiations
    • Iranian Crude Oil Exports
    • Secretary's Meeting with Foreign Minister of Qatar
    • Letter Regarding Ukrainian Access to Oil
    • Meeting of U.S., Ukraine, Russia, EU
    • Coordination of Funds and Assistance to Ukraine
    • Russian Troop Buildup in Eastern Ukraine
    • Block of VOA Broadcast / Media Freedom
    • Secretary Kerry's Conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov
    • Russian Space Program
    • Natural Gas Routing
  • CUBA
    • Visit of French Foreign Minister
    • Alan Gross
    • USAID Communications Platform / Text Messages
    • Ambassador Indyk's Schedule
    • Tax Revenue Transfers to Palestinian Authority
  • DPRK
    • Special Representative Glyn Davies Schedule / Ongoing Consultations
    • Kenneth Bae
    • Consultations with Six-Party Partners
  • IRAN
    • Drafting of final Agreement
    • SNCF / Holocaust Compensation
    • Tax Revenue Transfers to Palestinian Authority
    • Ukrainian Neutrality
    • Reports of Chemical Weapons Use
    • Representation at U.S., Russia, Ukraine, EU meeting
    • Inclusivity in Ukraine
Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
April 11, 2014


12:56 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Friday. I would first just like to welcome – we have several interns today in the back from DRL who are here today as observers, so welcome to all of you.

With that, let’s get to – and I should also mention there’s a bilateral meeting, as all of you know, with the Qataris at 2 o’clock, so let’s try to get through all the topics as quickly as we can.

Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Gotcha, all right. Well, I want to start with Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: But in fact, the White House has just changed my mind because they’ve just said that you’re not going to give a visa to the Iranian ambassadorial nominee, and I’m wondering if you can expand on that at all.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can also confirm, of course, that we have informed the United Nations and the Government of Iran that we will not issue a visa to Mr. Aboutalebi, and we – I don’t believe I can expand that much more, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, when did you tell them?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into details of that. Obviously, these discussions have been ongoing.

QUESTION: How is that – yeah, I’m sorry, how is that – why is that some kind of sensitive bit of information?

MS. PSAKI: In terms of what? Why, when?

QUESTION: When? When did you tell them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, these discussions with the Iranians and with the UN have been ongoing. I’m just not going to detail the timeline.

QUESTION: Well, you didn’t say that you wouldn’t do this yesterday, so can – should we assume that it happened either yesterday afternoon after – sometime after your briefing or prior to the White House briefing just now?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t make assumptions about the timing. I’m confirming the facts here and that’s where we stand.

QUESTION: All right. Did you give them a reason?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve been very clear that – with the Iranians that this nomination is not viable, so there’s been no secret of that. But I think they understand what the reasons are.


QUESTION: Well, did you give them a reason why his nomination is not viable?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly we’ve had discussions with them about the reasons for why it’s not a viable nomination.

QUESTION: What is the reason, for the record, now that you’ve denied him a visa? Or have you actually denied the visa or have you simply asserted to them that you would deny it or will deny it?

MS. PSAKI: We have made clear to them that we will not issue a visa.

QUESTION: So – but did you – this may sound like a distinction without a difference, but it’s not. Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: No, I understand your question. I’m not going to detail it; I’m not going to outline it further.

QUESTION: So you won’t say whether or not you actually denied it?

MS. PSAKI: I will not, no.

QUESTION: Why not?

MS. PSAKI: Because I’m not going to go.

QUESTION: And what – why – (laughter) – and, well --


QUESTION: -- because – well, why – I know we’ve discussed this here a great deal --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- for the record, now that you have informed the Iranians that you will not issue a visa to Mr. Aboutalebi, why is his nomination unviable? What are the main issues that came up here?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to that from the podium, Arshad. Obviously, we have confirmed what we’ve conveyed, which is that we will not issue a visa. It doesn’t change the fact that details of visa cases, including the reasons, which gets to your past – your last question prior to this, are not issues that we can talk about publicly for legal reasons.

QUESTION: So here’s a question, then.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How can you announce that you won’t give him a visa if visa applications are entirely confidential? Isn’t it – to say, “We’re not going to do this,” doesn’t that impinge on the confidentiality of the process?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve conveyed – I’m conveying what we have communicated to the Iranians, and that’s what I’m communicating to all of you today.

QUESTION: So to capture it --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You said earlier this week, I believe, that there were a couple of categories where there was a limited exception to the general rule that, as a host nation, you should be granted visas. They were – they included security, terrorism-related matters, and foreign policy concerns.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Should we assume that this application fell within one of those three categories, at least?

MS. PSAKI: I – obviously, all of these issues are looked at by our legal teams, but I’m not going to give a specific reasoning.

QUESTION: All right. So understanding that you’re not going to give a specific reasoning --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- you can say, though, that the Iranians have been told why you believe his nomination is not viable. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, throughout --

QUESTION: They – this is not – it is not a secret to them why you’re saying, “No, we’re not going to issue a visa?”

MS. PSAKI: It should not be, no. But as a reminder, Matt --


MS. PSAKI: -- we’ve also communicated that it’s not viable as well --

QUESTION: Gotcha. Well --

MS. PSAKI: -- prior to the news I’m confirming today.

QUESTION: Right, but they aware of the – or they are aware of the reasons why you can – even if you’re not going to tell us, they know why.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think there should be any mystery to them about that.

QUESTION: All right. And then you said the details of – did this actually rise to the level of a visa case?

MS. PSAKI: Can you just expand on that question?

QUESTION: Well, you said details of visa cases are confidential, but if this didn’t actually rise to the level of there being an application that was actually considered, then how is it a visa case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve all seen the media reports, or many of us have seen the media reports, that the Government of Iran has stated that a visa application was submitted to the U.S. Government. As I’ve noted, U.S. law generally prohibits us from commenting on details of visa cases, but I would not dispute that statement.

QUESTION: Right, unless – okay, so they did submit the application --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- according to – and you said – and I guess the – I realize it’s a detail and it’s --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- but did you actually stamp “no” on the application or did you just say, “We’re not going to take any action on this?”

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into any greater level of detail.

QUESTION: Is it also not the case that usually if a visa – someone who is denied a visa speaks out about the reasons publicly and speaks out about a denial, that you will discuss or you can discuss, you are no longer bound by the – is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: That has happened in the past.

QUESTION: So we should ask the failed nominee to speak about this and then get back to you – and then come back to you and you should be able to enlighten us all, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m happy to keep continuing the discussion. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you believe that your decision to tell the Iranians that you will not give him a visa to enter the United States will harm – has harmed or will harm the P5+1 negotiations with Iran about their nuclear program?

MS. PSAKI: No, we do not. And obviously, our team was on the ground this week, as you know, negotiating through the P5+1 process, and our team did not find that this ongoing discussion in the public impacted those negotiations.

QUESTION: And why do you think it won’t harm them going forward? I mean, it’s a rejection of their choice.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Presumably that will upset them to some degree. Why won’t that – why do you think that won’t have an effect going forward?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t analyze what will or won’t impact their own views. But obviously, they’re engaged in these negotiations because they – and they have their own reasons for that, including the impact of sanctions and their desire to deliver on President Rouhani’s promise he ran on.


QUESTION: I said, “has or will have,” and you said, “No.”

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did you mean no, it has had no effect, and no, it will have no effect? Or did you mean no, it has had no effect?

MS. PSAKI: It has not, and we don’t anticipate it.

QUESTION: Did you mean that you --

QUESTION: And can I ask – can I ask --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Sorry. Have you asked the Iranians to put forward another nomination? And presumably it’s not your intention that Iran should operate without a representative at the United Nations.

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say that was our intention. I’m not aware of that level of detail on – but again, we’ve been pretty clear even before today that this nomination wasn’t viable. And obviously, there could have been an alternative --

QUESTION: So you welcome – you would welcome an alternative name being put forward?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been, just historically, a range of individuals who have represented the Iranians in the UN. So I would point you to that.

QUESTION: And just as a matter of historical precedent, do you know if this is the first time that you’ve actually turned down a --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into historical precedent from the podium.

QUESTION: You won’t tell us from the podium?

MS. PSAKI: No, I’m not. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Did you mean that --

MS. PSAKI: Iran?

QUESTION: Yes. Did you mean that you conveyed the denial to the Iranians before the negotiations? That’s why it didn’t affect the negotiations from --

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t – no, I wasn’t indicating that at all. We’ve over the last couple of days, as you know – pardon me, sorry, microphone – we have stated that we have conveyed it’s not a viable nomination. Obviously that conversation has been happening publicly while the negotiations were happening. So our negotiators were clear on the ground, and I’ve spoken with them as well and they don’t feel there was an impact.

Go ahead. Iran? Or --

QUESTION: Yeah, the ambassador.

MS. PSAKI: Iran, okay.

QUESTION: Did your – or is – your decision was related to the unanimous vote in the Congress in a way that, “Hey, we are obliged to, because we don’t have another exit for it?” Was it connected to the vote in Congress to deny the visa for this ambassador?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the votes in Congress certainly underscore how troubling this potential nomination would be, and we share those concerns. But obviously there’s an ongoing process internally in the federal government as well.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Did Under Secretary Sherman raise this issue with the Iranians in Vienna?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to go into more detail about what channel it was raised through.

Do we have more on Iran?

QUESTION: No. Could I – if we don’t, can I go to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Sorry, I have one more on Iran --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- just to close out that topic.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The International Energy Agency today released its report on Iranian crude oil exports for the month of February.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Those figures show that it exported on average 1.65 million barrels per day during the month of February. As you’ll recall, the fact sheet that the White House put out said that your target was to keep Iran to 1 million barrels per day under the JPOA. How are you going to keep them under a million barrels per day if, in the first month after the JPOA took effect, right, on January 20th, they’re already at 1.65?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Arshad, but just for everybody, the current average amounts of crude oil refers to the average volume over a six-month period. It’s not referring to one specific month. So month-to-month variability is normal in oil markets, and we expect and we still expect and anticipate that the average over – that this will average out over a six-month period.

QUESTION: To 1 million?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, to meeting the bar that was set in the JPOA.

QUESTION: In the JPOA or in the White House fact sheet? I’m sorry to interrupt. The JPOA doesn’t actually specify a number, but the White House fact sheet does, which is 1 million barrels per day. So that is what I think is the marker.

MS. PSAKI: Well, what is specified in the JPOA --


MS. PSAKI: -- is that the United States will pause efforts to further reduce Iran’s crude oil sales, which allows current customers to purchase their current average amounts of crude oil. And those averages are looked at over a six-month period. Nothing – I don’t – we have nothing to dispute what was either in the White House fact sheet or the JPOA. We are still anticipating on meeting everything that was laid out specifically.

QUESTION: So in – and just so I’m clear, so your target – since it came from the White House, it’s clearly Administration policy.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So your target is that over the six-month period beginning when? Beginning November 24th, or beginning --

MS. PSAKI: Beginning January 20th, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that Iran’s oil exports must be held to an average over that 180-some-day period of one million per day.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. What was in the White House fact sheet still stands, yes. Let me just outline for you a couple of reasons why these monthly numbers have recently looked high. Iran’s contributions to Syria are part of what drives up numbers cited on exports. What’s important to keep in mind here is that Iran does not get revenue from this oil. So oftentimes, you see those numbers, but that’s not reflected in the revenue Iran is receiving. And that’s part of the numbers as well. Also, there are variations in month-to-month numbers because of seasonality, and of course, the numbers you’re referring to are February numbers. Winter is traditionally a peak period, so that is often reflected in how high the oil numbers are.

And finally, and this is more of a technical piece but still relevant for those close followers of these issues, export figures often mix condensates and crude oil, which often creates inconsistencies in the way numbers are reported. And what matters as it relates to implementation of the JPOA and the accompanying fact sheet is the crude oil numbers. So we look at all of these factors, as we look at what the average are over the six-month period.

QUESTION: How do you know that they don’t get any money for the stuff that they send to Syria?

MS. PSAKI: How do we know?


MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to go into greater detail.

QUESTION: Do – are – I mean, are you 100 percent confident that they’re not getting anything either in – revenue in cash or in kind?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t be saying it if we weren’t confident, but --


MS. PSAKI: -- I’m not going to put a percentage.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Iran?

QUESTION: Just one more on this.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The OFAC guidance on the JPOA implementation makes very clear that – it’s in the sort of frequently asked questions – that any transactions that are now permitted that were not previously permitted must be initiated and completed within the six-month period.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In other words, you can’t agree to sell them something on July 13th and close the deal on July 21st.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there, therefore, a propensity for oil buyers to try to make their purchases and pay for them earlier in the cycle rather than later? In other words, is there any possibility that India, China --

MS. PSAKI: That individuals would be buying a lot in February --

QUESTION: Right, that they’re front --

MS. PSAKI: -- in anticipation of later months?

QUESTION: That they’re frontloading it, exactly. Do you think that’s a reason for this?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not one that I understand from our team. I will ask them if that’s something that we’re watching closely.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.


QUESTION: No, on the Secretary’s meeting with the foreign minister of Qatar.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What’s on the agenda for this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I expect they’ll talk about a range of issues that we work together on, including the ongoing crisis in Syria, including the ongoing negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, and I’m sure we can put a readout out after the meeting.

QUESTION: And the Secretary met the Amir of Qatar during his visit to Algeria. Was that a coincidence or pre-planned?

MS. PSAKI: He was – happened to be in Algeria and so there was a discussion about whether it made sense to have a meeting, and we agreed it did.

QUESTION: Is the Secretary trying to improve relations between Qatar and the Saudis?

MS. PSAKI: No. We work closely – look, of course discussions about the best ways to ease any tensions in the region can came come up in these discussions, but we work closely, as you know, with the Qataris on a range of global issues.

QUESTION: You work to ease tensions in the region. There’s a report today the ambassador of Iran in Beirut – he said Iran’s relation with the Saudis is getting – improving, and this will have an impact on the region. Is this – did the Secretary try to urge the Saudis to receive the foreign minister of Iran to visit Saudi Arabia or to improve --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the meeting that the Secretary most recently attended with the Saudis was one led by President Obama and King Abdullah, and they, of course, were the leaders of the discussion. I’m not aware that this came up, that issue came up at the meeting. And I’d point you to the White House for more clarification on that.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So there’s a lot of stuff coming out of the Kremlin and out of the Russian foreign ministry today, some of which is kind of, I don’t know, fluffy.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Fluffy?

QUESTION: Some of it is not.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Let’s start with the non – with the more jovial parts of it, perhaps. President Putin seems to have – not seems to, has accused you of peeping on his correspondence with the Europeans and making – and you specifically making comments --

MS. PSAKI: Me, personally?


MS. PSAKI: Oh, interesting.

QUESTION: Peeping Jen apparently is what – (laughter).

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I haven’t seen those reports.

QUESTION: Right. Well, and apparently in a meeting with Foreign Minister Lavrov, he made these comments. He said that it’s not unusual for the United States to eavesdrop; everyone knows they do it. But this letter that was sent to the Europeans wasn’t addressed to you – the United States – and therefore you shouldn’t have read it and/or commented on it. I’m wondering if you have any response to that.

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Pointing out that it was, of course, published online and in English.

MS. PSAKI: I was going to get to that next, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Naturally, this was a letter that pertained to access to oil for the Government of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine. And helping the people of Ukraine through this difficult period, helping them have the economic assistance they need, the resources they need, is – it’s no secret that’s a priority to the United States. So I certainly don’t think it’s out of any line for us to comment on concerns we have about efforts to thwart that.

QUESTION: Right. But you don’t regard this as some kind of rude invasion of the Russian president’s privacy?

MS. PSAKI: I think commenting on a public letter is hardly an invasion of privacy.

QUESTION: All right. Okay. So you’re aware of former Secretary of State Stimson’s comment about – “gentlemen don’t read each other’s mail?” This does not apply in that case?

MS. PSAKI: There are a range of public correspondence out there that individuals --

QUESTION: Got you.

MS. PSAKI: -- across the world comment on.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, apart from that, Foreign Minister Lavrov had a meeting with some NGOs, unclear to me whether they were Russian NGOs, because I don’t know if there are any NGOs left in Russia anymore, but in which he made a series of comments about how active Russian engagement in Europe has always resulted in stronger European economies and growth. Do you agree with that statement?

MS. PSAKI: Statistically, Matt, I don’t have any data to back that up or refute it in front of me, obviously. But I will say that Russia’s exports, if you look at oil, to Europe are much more beneficial to Russia and they’re much more dependent on them than most European countries. So I’m not sure what those comments are based on.

QUESTION: Another thing he said was that Russian participation or Russian cooperation with NGOs has been – is critical to understanding the – I can’t remember the exact words he used, but something like critical to understanding the – civil society is a very important part of understanding what things are going on politically and foreign policy-wise. Given Russia’s actions, the Russian Government’s actions against NGOs, do you – I mean, what do you make of a comment like that?

MS. PSAKI: I think there are more lessons and more studying that can be done about what civil society is trying to teach, if they’re saying they learned from them.

QUESTION: That they need more --

MS. PSAKI: Right.

QUESTION: Let me just ask --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- since we’re on Ukraine, whether you’d managed – whether everybody had managed to square up their schedules yet and whether you have anything to announce on the meeting?

MS. PSAKI: I hope to later this afternoon, and I will just convey to all of you that we’re coordinating between several governments on content and timing and specifics, and that is the delay, not anything else.

QUESTION: It’s not over the name?

MS. PSAKI: I think your name is maybe in consideration, Matt.

QUESTION: Really? It is?

QUESTION: That’s good.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Is there a prize? The tetrad?

MS. PSAKI: Quad.

QUESTION: No, the tetrad, the tetrad.

MS. PSAKI: There’s a range of --

QUESTION: Quad is shorter.

MS. PSAKI: Stay at your emails. We’ll see – you’ll see what the name will be.

QUESTION: I think (inaudible) should do a contest on this. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I think there should be a prize.

MS. PSAKI: A Friday afternoon contest, perhaps.


MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Oh, go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have something on Jo’s question yesterday on where you are in terms of a loan guarantee and the money which has been allocated for --


QUESTION: -- 2013?

MS. PSAKI: It was a very good question, and we’ve been working through the interagency since yesterday, when I promised to get you something, to kind of do a comprehensive list of all of the coordination. It just took a little bit longer, but we hope to have something this afternoon.

QUESTION: So, and then on the more serious parts of the --


QUESTION: -- of what was coming out of Moscow today --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- they continue to insist that the buildup of troops on the Ukrainian border is nothing unusual, and don’t worry about it and nothing to see here. Have you, you or NATO – NATO is presenting you satellite images that show the buildup.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have you now – and I asked this question yesterday. Have you now seen any diminution in either that buildup or the provocations that Toria and others have spoken about over the course of the past few days in the east of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Look, we have remaining concerns about the troop buildup. I’m not aware of a change in the troop buildup or the tens of thousands of troops that we’ve been speaking about over the past couple of weeks. So we don’t view that as a military exercise preparation or as one that is just business as usual, and we have the same concerns we’ve had.


MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Russia has cut off Voice of America radio transmissions in Moscow by refusing to renew any broadcasting license for VOA. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: I do. We condemn the Russian Government’s recent decision to block continued Voice of America broadcasting in Russia. In the last year the Russian Government has passed laws imposing unprecedented censorship and restrictions on media and online publications. In the past few months alone, it has blocked independent websites and blogs, turned wire services into a propaganda tool, denied visas and accreditation to foreign journalists, and forced leadership changes at several media outlets that dared to challenge Kremlin politics.

We support the rights of all people, including Russians, to exercise their right to free speech regardless of their political views. This right is enshrined in the Russian constitution as well as in international agreements to which Russia is a party. In recent months, Russia has spoken out to defend free speech in other countries. We call on them now to drop this obvious double standard and allow the same access to information for their people that it insists other nations provide.

QUESTION: Will there be any reciprocal action from your part? We know that Russia has media outlets working in the United States.

MS. PSAKI: No. Look, I think we as a country that respects freedom of speech, that respects the rights of media, I don’t think that would be a particularly effective tool.

QUESTION: And how will you react to this?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just reacted to it.

QUESTION: Only by condemning this action?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.


QUESTION: Yes. Did Secretary Kerry speak with Foreign Minister Lavrov today?

MS. PSAKI: He did. It was just before I came down for the briefing. They spoke this morning. I don’t have any readout of that at this point, but we’ll venture to get you one after – this afternoon.

QUESTION: Okay. The Russian foreign ministry is saying that Lavrov was trying to convince Kerry to use his influence on the Ukrainian Government to not forcibly remove the protestors in the east.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen what’s been happening on the ground, and the Ukrainian Government has exercised remarkable restraint throughout the last several weeks. Prime Minister Yatsenyuk – and I should also mention that the Secretary also spoke with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk. But all of this happened sort of right before I came out here for the briefing. But Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and other Ukrainian Government officials visited Donetsk yesterday to speak to citizens of eastern Ukraine to address the current situation and constitutional reform. This is another sign that the interim Government of Ukraine is taking positive steps to be inclusive and receptive.

We have not seen evidence of what the foreign minister or others are referring to in terms of incursions or aggressive actions by the Ukrainian Government; quite the contrary.

QUESTION: I’ve got one more one more on Russia. It’s unrelated to Ukraine. Well, maybe it’s unrelated to Ukraine. I’m wondering if you’ve seen this column written in a Russian newspaper by your favorite deputy prime minister, Mr. Rogozin, which talks about Russia’s space program and the need to colonize the moon. And I’m wondering if you’re concerned at all that Russia may try to annex the moon.

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that column, though it does sound interesting, Matt. I will talk to our team and see if we have any views on it.

QUESTION: I just wondered if you managed to get – glean any more details about this suggestion to help yourself to gas, the idea that you would reverse the gas flows back into Ukraine. I understand once the gas is in the European part of the pipeline, it’s considered to be Europe’s gas.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But do you have any more details about the kind of – which pipeline we’re talking about because there are several?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. You’re right. There are.

QUESTION: Which company and --

MS. PSAKI: It’s all part of the discussion. It’s a little preliminary in terms of those details. You are right that once gas enters Germany then it’s Germany’s gas to give, and that’s obviously what the discussion is about.

QUESTION: But you haven’t got any more details about how, when, who would do this?

MS. PSAKI: Not at this point. Not at this point. This is just one of the pieces that is being discussed and considered in terms of ways to help the people of Ukraine.


MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, do we have any more on Ukraine? Or – okay, Cuba. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. The French foreign minister will be in Cuba tomorrow.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: This is the first time for more than 30 years. Is it a good thing according to the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I think I spoke to this a couple of weeks ago on the trip --

QUESTION: But it was not confirmed. It is --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, when the trip was announced. Obviously, every government makes their decisions about who they have relations with and where they visit, and we certainly respect that. We do ask countries around the world, including France, to raise issues that we share concerns about, whether it’s freedom of media and speech or human rights issues. And we’ll see if this is one of the issues that the Secretary discusses when he next sees the foreign minister.

QUESTION: Do you know if he’s going to raise the issue of Alan Gross at all? Is that something that you’ve asked him to do?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of a recent discussion about this particular issue, but broadly speaking we certainly do ask foreign counterparts, including the French, including a range of our allies, to raise that issue and the importance of returning Alan Gross to his family.

QUESTION: On Cuba more broadly, do you have – has there – is there an answer yet from either you or AID as to these apparently political texts/tweets?

MS. PSAKI: There’s nothing new. And what I was trying to convey yesterday was that Administrator Shah, what he was – what he – in answer to a question yesterday, he conveyed a desire to look broadly at the program, including the text messages, and so I suspect they’ll take the time to do that before further evaluation publicly.

QUESTION: Do you know that – then should we expect an answer from AID or from here, once there is one?

MS. PSAKI: I suspect AID, and we can certainly discuss it as well, but they’re taking a broader look beyond the text messages.

QUESTION: Peace process?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Any update on the negotiations between the two parties? Any agreement has been achieved or --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update. I mentioned yesterday that Ambassador Indyk is returning. He is returning today. I understand he’ll be back in the United States later this evening. I don’t have any travel updates for you, so we’ll continue that discussion next week.

QUESTION: How about the Israeli decision to suspend the transfer of tax revenue to the PA? Anything on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen these press reports, but we have not seen an official public announcement by the Government of Israel, so it’s – we’re not in a position to confirm either the specifics or the details that have been reported. That said, we would regard such a development as unfortunate. We believe that the regular transfer of the Palestinian Authority’s tax revenues and economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been beneficial and is important to the well-being of the Palestinian economy.

QUESTION: Do you regard the transfer of money as something that the Israelis are obligated to do under Oslo or post-Oslo, any post-Oslo agreements, or is this kind of a privilege that the Israelis can suspend or put back into place kind of at will?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. It’s a good technical question, Matt. I’m not sure what our team views it as, whether it’s obligation or just something we think is useful and unhelpful to stop. So let me talk to them and see if we can clarify that further.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, it’s more than just useful. They can’t – they can barely pay their salaries of their people as it is, so --

MS. PSAKI: Right. As I said, it would be unfortunate if that were – if those reports are true.

QUESTION: Do you think there’d be any – if this is the case, would there be any move, do you think, within the U.S., to fill in the gap or – even temporarily and then – financially, I mean.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of a discussion of that.

Do we have more on the peace process or another topic? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Another topic.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have a travel update for Ambassador Glyn Davies?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have anything on that. If not, I will see what we have in the pipeline in terms of travel announcements. Let’s see. Okay, I do. Let’s see.

Special Representative for North Korea Policy Glyn Davies will host bilateral meetings in New York April 14th and 15th and Washington April 17th with his Chinese counterpart Wu Dawei – I think we just sent this out this morning – to exchange views on a wide range of issues related to the DPRK. Special Representative Wu’s visit is part of a series of high-level, in-depth U.S.-China discussions on how to achieve our shared goal of a denuclearized North Korea in a peaceful manner.

QUESTION: For these bilateral meetings, would you be able to tell us with whom he’ll be meeting with? Would they be UN officials or civilian leadership or --

MS. PSAKI: I will see if there’s any more detail we can spell out for all of you.

QUESTION: And does this meeting indicate that there’s now a picking up of momentum for re-executing Six-Party talks?

MS. PSAKI: This is just ongoing consultations with our partners on these important issues.

QUESTION: On North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.


QUESTION: Do you have any update on Kenneth Bae and his status, his well-being, and any – possibly any efforts to help get him out?

MS. PSAKI: I know we were venturing to get you an update on that, and my apologies on that. Obviously, we remain focused on securing his release. We have remaining concerns about his health. We are in close contact with his family on a very regular basis. I will check to see if we can send a quick update on last contacts out.

QUESTION: Great, thank you.

QUESTION: Jen – sorry – a follow-up on Taurean’s question.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why New York? Why are you meeting in New York? And I ask this because usually when you have a Washington-Pyongyang communication, direct communication, you do it through New York. So is this – are we laying the groundwork for a future diplomacy? Are the North Koreans being involved in any other talks?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details to lay out for you. We’ll see if there’s anything more we can share.


QUESTION: A couple of days ago --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- the South Korean director for the North Korean issues noted they – Japan and United States and South Korea is going to pursue the variety method of dialogue in order to resume the Six-Party Talks, which means what – I don’t know exactly what the variety method of dialogue means. Is it kind of New York talk, this kind of --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure which announcement you’re referring to.

QUESTION: Not an announcement. Just --

MS. PSAKI: Reports?

QUESTION: Debate. They talked before.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I think regardless of those reports, our approach remains the same, which is that we are in close consultation with our partners, our Six-Party partners. Obviously, there are steps North Korea would need to take. The ball remains in their court. Nothing has changed in that regard.

QUESTION: Nothing has changed. The U.S. position is not – doesn’t change?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed.

Any other topics? All right, Jo, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry, I should have mentioned this back --

MS. PSAKI: No, no problem.

QUESTION: -- back when we were talking about Iran. But there was something that was said in Vienna – and I just wondered if this was your understanding of it – by Foreign Minister Zarif that he believes that the next talks to be held in May, mid-May, will get down to the drafting part of the actual agreement. And I wondered if that was your understanding as well on the U.S. side.

MS. PSAKI: That is something that we have conveyed from our end as well. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. So then you’re actually going to be putting things down on paper with the idea of working towards an agreement by July still?

MS. PSAKI: Well, yes, that remains the goal. Again, this doesn’t change the difficulty of the issues, the challenge of the issues. But yes, it has been confirmed from our side as well that that is the timeline.

QUESTION: So from mid-May?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In order – I mean, are your experts already working on it to present something in mid-May, or are you going to start from mid-May doing the actual writing down --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the way that it’s been communicated is that the drafting will begin in May.

QUESTION: I’ve got two very brief ones.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One, I believe that yesterday was the third round of talks between you and the French on the SNCF compensation for Holocaust deportations.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Yep.

QUESTION: How’s that going? Is there any progress?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any specific progress to report. I know we put out a statement the other evening about this. This is a process that we feel is the most effective way to address. There have been some legislation in a couple of states attempting to address, so we are recommending to everyone to --

QUESTION: But the meeting did happen as planned yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, that’s my understanding.

QUESTION: Do you know where that was? Was it here or in France or --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details of that. I can check and see if there’s more to report.

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

QUESTION: Could you tell us one clarification on that?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it – with you directly negotiating with Paris on this, any agreement for compensation would be paid by who? The rail firm in question or by the governments in question?

MS. PSAKI: Well, my understanding – I’d have to check on that level of detail, Jo. I mean, my understanding is the issue here is there are U.S. subsidiaries of the French company. So in terms of who would pay it, I’d have to check with the teams working on it. I don’t have that level of detail.


QUESTION: I believe the statement that was released about that a couple days ago mentioned that the legislation that’s being considered in both Maryland and New York is unproductive for negotiations. Why would that be unproductive?

MS. PSAKI: Because we feel the best means of addressing this is through the negotiations that we’re having with the French.

QUESTION: And my last one was just on the – Senators McCain and Menendez have come out today with a proposed bill that would remove the terrorism designation under the Patriot Act for some several Kurdish groups. Are you familiar with this at all?

MS. PSAKI: I am not. I haven’t seen that.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you look into it and --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, happy to.

QUESTION: I would like to know what the Administration thinks of it.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.


MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have anything – any reaction to the Senate adaptation of the Armenian genocide bill yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional comment beyond what I stated yesterday.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just two quick things. I think you were asked about the media reports that the Israelis were going to start withholding some of the tax revenues.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did you say that because you hadn’t seen any of – anything official on that, you couldn’t comment? Are the media reports in and of themselves unhelpful?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, I think I said that as well.

QUESTION: Oh, did you?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. Great. And then last thing --

QUESTION: Wait, you said that the media reports were unhelpful?

MS. PSAKI: No, I said the content, obviously, of the media reports was unhelpful, if this is true. Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And then second, on Ukraine, I don’t think you were asked, but forgive me if you were.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Lavrov is quoted as having said that Russia wants legal guarantees of Ukraine’s neutrality.

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen that, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah. What do you think about that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our view is that sovereign countries make their own decisions about – in relation to what other countries and what organizations they may have relationships with or they may seek to join. Now, as we all know, the legitimate Government of Ukraine has been clear that they have no plans to pursue a NATO membership at this time. But regardless, all of these decisions are up to the Government of Ukraine and the people of Ukraine, and that’s where we think they should lie.

QUESTION: Right. So there’s no reason why anybody except the Government of Ukraine, if it chose to, should give anybody guarantees about its neutrality?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: On Syria, the opposition has said that the regime has used the chemical weapons in the last few days. Do you have any confirmation?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen those reports you’re referring to. We don’t have any information to corroborate those claims at this time. We certainly take all reports of alleged chemical weapons use seriously, which is why we’re working with the OPCW and UN to remove and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons. But again, we have no information to corroborate those claims at this point.

QUESTION: And what does it mean if they are – if these reports are accurate?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that. Obviously, we don’t have information to corroborate them at this time.

QUESTION: Just back to the Ukraine tetrad conference.


QUESTION: Yesterday, I think you were asked or someone was asked about the Russians wanting representatives of the Russian – ethnic Russians and Russian-speaking minorities from the east to be involved in the delegation that goes to wherever this meeting is, whenever it is.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did you have a response to that? Or do you think that – I mean, are you amenable to that, or do you think that the representatives of the Ukraine delegation to the tetrad talks should be just the Ukrainian Government, as you see it now?

MS. PSAKI: We think that the Ukraine Government represents all of Ukraine.

QUESTION: So you see no need for people from – for people that the Russians might think – ethnic Russians and Russian speakers who have an interest now in what goes on in Ukraine, you don’t see the need for them to be there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, for this – no, because --

QUESTION: But at this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: At this meeting. The Government of Ukraine will represent all of Ukraine, and they’ve taken steps to be inclusive, to protect minorities, Russian speakers. That’s the most effective way we feel they can do that.

QUESTION: Are the representing Crimea also, from your point of view?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely.

QUESTION: What about like a separate discussion of all of the groups in Ukraine? That’s one thing that, from the foreign ministry, he’s said that Secretary Kerry has promised them, like a separate parallel thing where all – they would all have their input.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what that’s a reference to. Broadly speaking, we’ve continued to encourage the Government of Ukraine to be as inclusive as possible, to include all components from all communities. Even the prime minister’s trip to Donetsk is an example of reaching out to eastern Ukraine, and they have delivered on that – the government has. So we’ve seen them put that to action.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:36 p.m.)

DPB #64