Daily Press Briefing: May 9, 2014
Index for Today's Briefing:
- Makeup of U.S. Interagency Assistance Team
- UN Designation of Boko Haram as Terrorist Organization
- U.S. Coordination with Nigerian Government
- U.S. Efforts to Help Stem Threats of Extremists
- Additional Girls Kidnapped
- Child Marriage / Trafficking / Human Rights Abuses
- Reports of the Murder of Lawyer Rashid Rehman
- Statement by Deputy Secretary Burns on Pakistan
- INDIA / SRI LANKA
- Sri Lankan National Arrested in Chennai
- UKRAINE / RUSSIA
- Putin's Trip is Provocative and Unnecessary
- Readout of Secretary's Phone Calls with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk and Foreign Minister Lavrov
- London 11 Meeting on Syria
- Violence Caused by Pro-Russian Separatists in Mariupol
- Waiting on Action by Russia to Diffuse Situation
- Illegal Referendum
- Range of Sanctioning Actions Available / Want to See End to Escalatory Actions by Russia
- Focus of Discussions with International Partners
- Ongoing U.S. Support for Ukraine
- Chemical Weapons Removal / OPCW's Work throughout Effort
- Sigrid Kaag Comments on Syrian Weapons Removal
- Containing Efforts to Remove Remaining Weapons
- MIDDLE EAST PEACE
- Indyk Comments / Borders and Security Arrangements Essential to Final Status Agreement
- State Department Officials Interviewed for ARB
- Select Committee on Benghazi
- Outrageous Comments from North Korea
- No Discussions on Unmanned Arial Vehicles
- U.S. Assistance to Iraq
- CHINA / VIETNAM
- Provocative Actions in South China Sea
- U.S. Takes no Position on Sovereignty
- Six-Party Talks
- U.S. Remains Engaged with Partners to Urge DPRK to take Concrete Steps
- Attack on Convoy Carrying Minister of Defense
- AQAP is threat to both Yemeni and American Security
Daily Press Briefing
Due to technical difficulties, there is no video for today's briefing.
12:35 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
MS. PSAKI: It’s pink theme today. Jo and Roz, right here.
QUESTION: Oh, we got the memo. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I have one update for all of you at the top. A number of you have been asking for updates on the specifics of the interagency team that will be traveling to Nigeria. Just as a reminder, these individuals are complementing our country team that’s already been on the ground, has been in close touch with Nigerian authorities from the beginning, working hard to assess their needs.
So arriving today, there will be seven from AFRICOM and one from State, seven – so that is a total of eight. An additional seven will be arriving tomorrow – three from the FBI, three from the State Department, one from USAID. As we’ve been outlining all along, these individuals will be complementing our team on the ground. They’ll be working with authorities and local populations. They’ll be providing technical and investigatory assistance, helping with hostage negotiations, advising on military planning and operations, and assisting with intelligence and information. And obviously, as needs are assessed, if there are needs for more, we’ll continue to assess that.
That’s what I have at the top. Should we start with the ladies in the front?
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, we – can we follow up to start with --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: -- while you’re on that subject?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Today, President Jonathan said that the girls were still in Nigeria.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: U.S. intelligence is saying they’ve probably been split out and moved out of the country. Are you guys discussing this? Have you got any more information as to where those – where they could be?
And then to follow up on what you’ve just announced, what exactly is the strategy here? Is it the idea to work with the Nigerians, build it up – isn’t that time – going to take some time to build up that capacity? The U.S. is considering sending surveillance aircraft and stuff. When is that kind of decision going to be made? Is it only after a strategy is formulated or – I’m just looking at timing of those kinds of decisions.
MS. PSAKI: Certainly. Well, let me answer your first question. Our assessment hasn’t changed, but obviously, these discussions are ongoing, and our priority and the priority of the Nigerians is getting the girls back to their families. So we are – those discussions are ongoing.
Let me provide you just one more quick update: Yesterday, Ambassador Entwistle met with President Goodluck Jonathan on the margins of the World Economic Forum. They agreed on the importance of quick action on the UN designation of Boko Haram as a terrorist group. President Jonathan also affirmed his continued support for the multidisciplinary team.
And as you’ve heard the Secretary say and the President and other very senior officials, we want to move as quickly as possible. And let’s not forget that this specific offer and acceptance of assistance happened only three days ago. We have – already have individuals on the ground who will be assisting with the needs of the Nigerian Government.
Obviously, time is of the essence, and we’re going to do everything we can to move this as quickly as possible. And coordination meetings – internal coordination meetings, meetings with officials in the Nigerian Government are ongoing, and they will be over the course of the next couple of days.
QUESTION: And so the Nigerians have asked for surveillance and possibly intelligence sharing, a sensitive issue. How seriously are you considering that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, intel sharing will be part of what our team will be working together on. Beyond that, I’m not going to outline further the specifics beyond what we have said our team would be providing.
QUESTION: There’s been criticism in the last day or so that the U.S. – the Administration dragged its feet on naming Boko Haram a terrorist organization. Would that have changed anything as far as you’re concerned in preventing this kind of attack?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say we designated three Boko Haram leaders, related individuals, back in June of 2012, so under Secretary Clinton. Designating groups or leaders is one key tool in our toolbox, but it’s not the only one. And I would point you to President Obama’s speech he gave almost exactly a year ago where he talked about the need for a holistic approach to countering terrorism. That’s what we’re pursuing, what we’ve been pursuing with the Nigerians and international partners. We’ve been working to counter Boko Haram for many, many years. And designating is one tool, but certainly, we’ve been long – we have long been working on this effort before the designation last November.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- Lesley’s initial question about do you believe that the girls are still in one group or whether they’ve been split up?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details to share in terms of what the discussions are on the ground.
QUESTION: And you’re in contact with governments in neighboring countries where it’s believed some of these girls might have been taken to?
MS. PSAKI: We have been. Our – as I mentioned yesterday, I don’t have any new updates, but we’ve been in contact through our embassies on the ground, yes.
QUESTION: And do you have any reaction to the news this morning from Amnesty International that, in fact, the Nigerian army was warned about – nearly five hours before the girls were snatched that this was coming and they just didn’t have enough teams on the ground – I appreciate it’s in northeastern Nigeria, but they just didn’t have enough people that they could muster to try and stop the raid happening. Is this a dereliction of the duty of the Nigerian authorities?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, given how horrific this tragedy is of the kidnapping of these girls, I think it’s only natural that people are looking back and seeing what could have been done differently or what preparations could have been made. And as you know, we’ve been working very closely with the Nigerian Government for months, if not years, on increasing their capacity building and ability to address these threats. But again, I don’t have any specific assessment from here from the U.S. Government on past reports.
QUESTION: Following on Jo’s point, the government is telling us that they had maybe two hours’ notice. Is there – and I know that you just touched on this – but how can the U.S. help the Nigerians get their arms around a security situation that has been bedeviling them for years now in terms of what sort of capacity building can be done? Is it just enough to have 50 Marines who have been training with the military? Is that enough? Do you see more proactive approaches in terms of protecting other schools in the northern part of the country?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, without getting into a too specific level of detail, part of our effort, including with this team but also that’s been ongoing, is to, as you mentioned, increase the capacity of the Nigerian Government, including helping Nigeria professionalize its military to counter threats like these, working on Nigerian law – working with them, I should say – Nigerian law enforcement so that they can better investigate and assist in hostage situations, preventing future hostage situations. We’re also helping to provide, as you know, economic assistance to help with all of these areas. And our overall effort here is to help stem the threats of extremism from Boko Haram and other groups. And certainly, as we look at this tragedy, working with the Nigerian Government to do everything we can to prevent in the future is part of our effort as well.
QUESTION: Jen, sorry, just to go back to – when you mentioned there’s three State Department people flying out today and three tomorrow, which departments are they from within State?
MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have any greater level of detail on that specifically, Jo. We have a team leader who’s going from our AF Bureau who’s going to help assist in that front. We have some communications and mid-term response support as well going. If there’s more detail I can provide, we’re happy to send that around to all of you.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. going to raise with the Nigerian Government this Amnesty report?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve been in very close contact with them, and there are a range of discussions going on. I’ll check and see if there’s more level of detail on that.
Do we have more on Nigeria?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Are you not considering or – and if not, why – like a team – requesting a team of military special ops like the folks hunting Kony?
MS. PSAKI: I think the Department of Defense has spoken to this, and I’d point you to their comments. That’s not – we’re providing a range of assistance on the ground with – as part of our interagency team, but that’s not currently what we’re discussing.
QUESTION: Does the United States believe it will be possible to get all the girls back or some of the girls back? Is there any indication yet that this is going to be possible? It’s been – I mean, it’s been three weeks and they’re going on four now, so --
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, Jo. Obviously, it’s challenging, and the Secretary answered a question on this when he did his Twitter town hall this morning. It’s challenging. Time is of the essence. It’s been, I think, 25 days now since these girls were taken. We’re going to do everything possible. But again, given the circumstances, it’s tough, and I don’t want to make any predictions about the outcome.
QUESTION: Well, what about – can I just ask also – there were eight other girls who were taken from a different part of northeastern Nigeria as well. Will your – on the weekend. Will your search extend to them? Are you going to try and bring everybody into this hunt?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check on that level of specificity. Obviously, any young girls who are taken in circumstances like these our team would be working in the capacity we can offer assistance with the government. So I’ll see how expansive this focus is.
QUESTION: And I just wonder more broadly, I mean, this is an issue where I think girls, once they reach a certain age, 12 and above, once they’re considered to have been in puberty are considered as marriageable in the culture in parts of Nigeria. I wonder more broadly what the United States can do to try and educate Nigerian society and society more broadly that these are still children; they’re not of the age of majority yet, and they should be given – girls and boys should be given the opportunity to reach maturity. And this idea of marriage as a child is actually one that’s abhorrent to many countries in the West.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. You are right. And this is another question that the Secretary answered this morning. I think obviously in his view, one of the things we can do is talk about and shine a light on these horrific and abhorrent acts that are happening around the world. And we, as you know, put out a report every year on trafficking. We do everything we can to raise concerns about child trafficking, about child marriage, about many of these issues that we consider human rights abuses. And there really is no, I think, silver lining we can look at when it comes – we can – we should be pointing to when it comes to the tragedy in Nigeria. However, we are all talking about this right now. News networks around the world are talking about this right now. And I think what people need to remember is that this isn’t a new – this is not a new unfortunate occurrence. There are children who are married around the world, there are – who are married, I should say, against their will around the world. There is trafficking that’s happening around the world, and we need to do everything we can to talk about it. And I think that’s something the Secretary will continue to be focused on.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Are we done on Nigeria? Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: On Pakistan.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: Tell me again – do you know the name of the individual, or --
QUESTION: Rashid Rehman.
MS. PSAKI: That’s right. Mm-hmm. We were deeply saddened by reports of the murder of Rashid Rehman, an attorney and human rights defender in Pakistan. He was representing a university professor accused of blasphemy and he had received death threats for his work. We encourage Pakistani authorities, as we have in similar cases in Pakistan and around the world, to swiftly investigate this crime and bring to justice those responsible. We continue to coordinate and cooperate closely with Pakistani authorities.
QUESTION: Do you see any trend in religious – increase in religious intolerance in Pakistan?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, as you know, we evaluate concerns along those lines on an annual basis through our annual report. I think that’s going to be released in – soon, in the coming weeks. So I would point you to that.
QUESTION: And was this issue brought up by Deputy Secretary Burns when he met the top Pakistani leaders today in Islamabad?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, or you may have seen, we put out an extensive statement from Deputy Secretary Burns that outlined his trip, the issues that were discussed on his trip, and I would point you to the details included there.
QUESTION: I’ve seen the statement. It also refers to that he speaks about Pakistan taking efforts for counterterrorism measures and destroying – eliminating safe havens in Pakistan, especially in the tribal regions. This kind of statement has been coming out for last one decade, last 10, 12 years. What has changed in 12 years? The same statements coming out again and again.
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are some of the same issues that we have been working with the Government of Pakistan on. And the Secretary, as you know, has met with Prime Minister Sharif a range of times. They have discussed many of these same issues. These are issues where we have worked closely on with the Pakistani Government, where we may have shared concerns on, including counterterrorism efforts and cooperation on that front. So it just indicates a continuing partnership with Pakistan and a commitment to working closely on these issues.
QUESTION: Why do you think you have not been able to convince Pakistan on cross-border terrorism and safe havens?
MS. PSAKI: Again, as was noted in Deputy Burns’s – Deputy Secretary Burns’s statement, this was an issue that was discussed. As he noted in his statement, countering cross-border militancy and shutting down safe havens is critical not only for Pakistan’s long-term peace and prosperity, but also for positive relations between Pakistan and all of its neighbors, including Afghanistan. So we appreciate the efforts, but obviously this is an issue we’ll continue to work on.
QUESTION: I have one more on --
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: -- on South Asia. You must have read news reports about the Sri Lankan national being arrested in southern Indian city of Chennai. The local police says that he was trying to trail some of the U.S. consulate officials in Chennai and also trying to look at some vacant properties in and around the consulate. Is this – is there any security concern for the U.S. consulate in Chennai?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re aware of these reports. As you know, there’s an investigation happening by Indian authorities, so I would refer you to them. I don’t have any further comment on it.
QUESTION: Have they informed you about it?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any further update on it.
QUESTION: Jen, can --
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead. Ukraine or --
MS. PSAKI: Our view is that this trip is provocative and unnecessary. Crimea belongs to Ukraine, and we don’t recognize, of course, the illegal and illegitimate steps by Russia in that regard.
QUESTION: Is there any kind of – given the escalating tensions and some – and fighting in Ukraine and around it, what are the plans for – I think there was talk about getting together with – on a discussion next week in Europe on Ukraine. Anything further on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary will be in London next week, meeting with the London 11 to discuss the ongoing crisis in Syria. There are a number of members of the London 11 who certainly have an interest in what is happening in Ukraine, and I’m certain that there will be an opportunity to discuss on the sidelines. Beyond that, there’s no – I don’t have any additional announcements or plans to outline for you.
QUESTION: So the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov today, and apparently Lavrov discussed or raised the possibility of having the U.S., Russia, the EU, and the OSCE come together to talk about how to resolve the crisis in Ukraine. One, can you confirm that such a phone call did take place? And two, if this idea was floated, where is Ukraine at the table?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary did speak with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning. He also spoke with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk. In the phone call with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk, they talked about continued steps to support de-escalation. The Secretary – or Prime Minister Yatsenyuk provided an update on the security situation on the ground, efforts to maintain calm, and preparations for the election. During the call with Foreign Minister Lavrov, they spoke about Ukraine and ongoing efforts to work with the OSCE and others on the ground. They also spoke about Syria and the process of removing chemical weapons and the remaining work that needs to be done on that front. You know our view on any proposal of discussions, and that is that Ukraine would have to have a seat at the table. And we are in discussions with our European partners, with the Ukrainians, about the next step forward, and obviously the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning about it, but I don’t have any meetings or planned meetings to announce.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary tell Lavrov the U.S. view that you just stated, that Putin’s visit to Crimea was provocative and unnecessary? Did he put it that plainly to him?
MS. PSAKI: That wasn’t a part of the discussion. They really were discussing the situation on the ground in terms of what steps we need to take moving forward.
QUESTION: And what about the people in Donetsk and Luhansk who said that their referenda are going ahead regardless of what President Putin had to say? Did that come up at all?
MS. PSAKI: What I read out is the focus of the meeting, but we can talk about – or was the focus of the conversation, but we can talk about other questions you have as it relates to Ukraine.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- second call, because they spoke yesterday by telephone. What prompted the call today?
MS. PSAKI: They have been speaking every couple of days and pretty regularly throughout this crisis, so it wasn’t anything other than continued conversations.
QUESTION: But at the moment, just to go back to the question that you were asked previously, there’s no plans for the – during the trip to London, for Foreign Minister Lavrov to come to London to meet with Secretary Kerry?
MS. PSAKI: Our plans are to go to London and have a meeting with the London 11 on Syria.
QUESTION: Okay. And I just wondered if I could ask you if you were aware of reports that there’s been fighting between Ukrainian troops and these militias in the southeastern city of Mariupol --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- in which 21 people apparently have been killed, which is – seems to me a worrying escalation of the violence.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we condemn the outbreak of violence caused by pro-Russia separatists this morning in Mariupol, which has resulted in multiple deaths. We continue to call for groups who have jeopardized public order by taking up arms and seizing public buildings in violation of Ukrainian law to disarm and leave the buildings they have seized. So certainly, we are aware of that. We’re watching it very closely.
I would also say, in relation to your other question, we would welcome any steps Russia would be willing to take to defuse tensions in accordance with its Geneva commitments. We’ve seen their words before. What we’re waiting for is actions, and if this crisis is going to end, we need their words to be made real. So if they are serious about what they’re saying, they need to tell separatists to lay down their arms, to release those who are being held, and that, obviously, we have not seen happen.
QUESTION: Yes, please.
QUESTION: No --
MS. PSAKI: No, Ukraine. Ukraine? Go ahead.
QUESTION: The two factors that they are – all the world is watching these days are the movement, or the absence of the movement, of Russian troops from the borders of Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What’s your understanding of – is there any withdrawal or shrinking in the number?
MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed since yesterday. We have not seen the movement that they spoke about (inaudible).
QUESTION: The other factor which is – all the people or most of the people who are in the area are watching the referendum, or the expected referendum, on Sunday.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What’s your understanding or what’s your observation of what’s happening? Is it going to happen? And if it’s happened, what you are going to do?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as we’ve made clear, the referendums are illegal under Ukrainian law. Our view is that they’re an attempt to create further division and disorder in the country. I’m not going to make a prediction of what we’ll do. Obviously, we believe that these should not be held and they’re not legitimate, and we don’t plan to recognize them. Our focus remains on the May 25th elections.
QUESTION: Yes. The other thing, which is – this issue was raised in the hearing when Victoria Nuland was on the Hill and it was mentioned that – or there were hints about the possibility of more sanctions if this referendum took place – take place, I mean.
MS. PSAKI: I think I answered this the other day, but just to reiterate: Obviously, there are a range of factors we look at. We have a range of tools because of the executive order – the executive orders, I should say, the President has signed – and we’re looking at a range of steps. We want Russia to take de-escalatory steps. We believe they can influence the actions of separatists on the ground. There’s more they can do, and obviously, President Putin’s trip to Crimea is not in the direction we’re looking for.
QUESTION: And you mentioned in your previous answers that the target is the elections of May 25th.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Today we are 9th of May.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: I mean, at least there are two weeks.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What you are trying to do in these two weeks beside the preparations of the elections? When you are saying there are meetings with the EU, and next week, the possibility of discussing, what will be the target? Just for – to reach that point of 25th of May or what?
MS. PSAKI: Well obviously, there are a couple of tracks here. The elections and preparations for the elections are very much on track. I outlined some of the details on that just yesterday, and I mentioned – just to give a quick summary – the election monitoring agency ODIHR has already deployed 100 long-term observers. There are a number of organizations who’ll be observing the elections as well. The Government of Ukraine has modified the presidential election law to allow domestic monitoring organizations to participate. We have provided a total of $11.4 million to support free and fair elections.
So that’s a process that’s ongoing, and it’s important to remember that in most – the vast majority of the Ukraine, things are calm on the ground. The Ukrainian Government, as is evidenced by the Secretary’s discussion with Prime Minister Yatsenyuk this morning, is doing everything possible to maintain that calm.
Separately from that, clearly we want to see an end to the escalatory acts taken by the Russians. If there isn’t, there will be consequences, or there will be continued consequences. And that’s what the discussions are about. I mentioned yesterday – or somebody asked, I should say, yesterday – about the proposed draft road map developed by the OSCE chairman – OSCE’s chairman in office. We’re discussing now with the Ukrainian Government, our European allies, and the OSCE. There are a range of ideas from a range of parties that have been out there, but that’s the focus of those discussions with our international partners.
QUESTION: And if – let me ask, from the beginning of this crisis, there was the issue of supporting Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What’s the latest with supporting Ukraine financially? Is still the flowing is on or just --
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. We’ve provided a range of economic assistance, technical assistance, assistance in terms of experts, and that’s been ongoing.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Syria, sure.
QUESTION: News reports have said that U.S., Britain, and France have raised suspicions at the UN yesterday of possible undeclared Syrian chemical agents. And diplomats have said that the three countries believe that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad never came clean about the full extent of his chemical arsenal. To what extent do – you are concerned about this issue?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Michel, we have never taken the Assad regime at its word, and neither have those partners that you mentioned, and we continue to approach this process with our eyes wide open. It’s important to remember that the removal process is not the end of the OPCW’s work. The OPCW’s inspection and verification efforts will continue to ensure the accuracy and completeness of Syria’s declarations, that its CW production facilities are dismantled, and that the entire CW program has been completely eliminated. And obviously, the OPCW will have our full support in that ongoing effort.
QUESTION: And the OPCW head of mission in Syria has said that 92 percent of Syria’s chemical weapons have been removed or destroyed in the country so far. The remaining 8 percent is currently inaccessible due to the security conditions, mentioning that they are in an area controlled by the opposition. Are you in contacts with the opposition about the --
MS. PSAKI: Well, to be clear, and I think there was some confusion about the remarks made, there’s only one area remaining where the additional 8 percent is being held. It’s not opposition controlled; it’s regime controlled. There have been areas where chemicals have been removed from that have been opposition controlled. Our view, and I think the UN representative said this in her comments, is that we need to continue to look for ways to get there regardless, that the regime has the responsibility to remove these weapons, and we are – while we regret that they did not empty the final site when the environment was more secure than it is today, we still continue to believe we can and we’re going to do everything possible – the OPCW, I should say – to ensure the additional chemicals are removed.
QUESTION: And why they are not delivered yet, since they are under the regime control?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, obviously they were citing some concerns about security on the paths, but we’re going to look into that – not us, specifically – the OPCW, which we fully support. And again, they said they’re going to do everything possible to get there regardless.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Gottemoeller made the same point this morning about what’s known as Site 2, or (inaudible). What can be done if these facilities and these tunnels have to be destroyed in order for Syria to be in compliance with this agreement? What can the U.S. do to actually push this process along? Or is this --
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not --
QUESTION: Or is it clear – or is this solely under OPCW control at this point?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the U.S. supports this effort. But as you know, it’s not the U.S. that is running this process or the U.S. that has been specifically implementing it throughout the process. So it is the OPCW with the support of the U.S. and the support of many other countries. We still continue to believe that the Assad regime can and must begin to take the necessary steps, including the packaging and destruction of certain materials on the site to demonstrate it is determined to fulfill its obligation. And again, I would point you to the comments of – that were made that made clear that they’re going to continue to look into every way possible to get access to this site.
QUESTION: And how long is the U.S. – as well as others, how long is the U.S. willing to wait for this destruction to actually take place, given that you believe that there are undeclared weapons stores across Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we want it to happen as quickly as possible, but you’re familiar with the deadlines, which is – I believe the next one is June 30th. And again, let’s not forget that we’ve now removed 92 percent of the 100 percent of the declared. That is a significant step forward. Does more work need to be done? Yes. But these are chemical weapons that the Assad regime will never again be able to use against their own people.
QUESTION: Would the U.S. be willing to just let the 92 percent removed stand?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I think by saying we clearly need to continue our efforts to remove the remaining weapons answers that question.
QUESTION: Yeah. By the delivery of the 8 percent, will you be confident that the whole arsenal, chemical arsenal, will be removed?
MS. PSAKI: I think I answered question when I said we don’t take the Assad regime at its word, and obviously the OPCW’s efforts will be ongoing to ensure that they are – that the removal process has been verified in terms of the accuracy and completeness of the declared stockpile.
QUESTION: That means you will ask for renewing the OPCW --
MS. PSAKI: It’s not a renewing because – as a part of what was agreed to last September, that’s included as a part of that agreement.
QUESTION: Well, given that this site apparently contains precursors for both sarin and for VX, is there any particular urgency in getting this final facility cleared and then destroyed?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Roz, I said we want this to happen as quickly as possible, and the Assad regime needs to begin now to take steps to assure the international community that they are – remain committed to fulfilling their obligations.
QUESTION: Are you suggesting that there might be other chemicals and other agents across the country that could be combined with what is at Site 2? Does that --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I suggested that. I’m not going into any – what I conveyed, I think, Roz, a couple of times now, is that the OPCW’s work will continue. We don’t take the Assad regime at its word, and they will continue to take steps to ensure that the removal process and the inspection efforts are verified and they’re verified to be accurate and complete, but their efforts will continue.
QUESTION: Can we change the subject, please?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Do you have one more on Syria? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Different subject.
MS. PSAKI: Different subject, okay.
QUESTION: Just – Syria.
MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: When you talk about updating the stockpile list, should OPCW should seek the – for example, other chemical agents like chlorine to include to the stockpile? I mean, what is the U.S. Administration position on that? You remember the debate on this (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve answered this a number of times in the briefing room about chlorine, so I’d point you to past comments.
Go ahead. It’s a new topic?
QUESTION: Yes. Sorry --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you know if the Secretary briefed Mr. Lavrov about his talks with Mr. al-Jarba, the head of the Syrian Coalition?
MS. PSAKI: Everything that I read out to you is the extent of the readout, so I don’t have anything further to add.
QUESTION: I wanted to turn to a speech that was given by Ambassador Indyk last night at the Washington Institute. There were a couple of comments in there that struck me as interesting, apart from the fact that he actually seemed to put us into the negotiations a little bit more than we’ve heard so far over the last nine months. But I wanted to ask: He mentioned that he’s – that Secretary Kerry believes that drawing up the borders of a future Palestinian state and agreeing to security arrangements will be essential if these talks ever resume. Is that correct? Is he reflecting the correct position of the Secretary?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, addressing and discussing in great detail and agreeing on borders and what they will look like and security arrangements is part of what we’ve long said is central to any final status agreement.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how far you got in the negotiations on doing this?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any further details to outline on that today.
QUESTION: And he mentioned that he believes that one of the problems with the settlement was that it – if it – he says that one day he fears the settlement movement could drive Israel into an irreversible binational reality. What did he mean by that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think his words speak for themselves, but if you – I think that his view and as is evidenced by his words and the Secretary’s view is that if you care about Israel’s future, you should understand that settlement activity – rampant settlement activity, especially in the midst of negotiations, doesn’t just undermine Palestinian trust in the purpose of the negotiations, it also can undermine Israel’s Jewish future and --
QUESTION: But what did he mean by the use of the word “binational”? Did he mean that there would be a state of Israel plus territory belonging to Israel, which would be outside of Israel? Is that what he was trying to convey?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m going to detail it further than what he conveyed last night.
QUESTION: It just – it doesn’t really make much sense, the word “binational.” He used a word that --
MS. PSAKI: I will follow up with him and see if there’s more to clarify on that specific word.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: As you know, there were dozens, if not more, officials interviewed by the ARB. And we – it was done by an independent – independent leaders, where they had access to everybody they wanted to have access to. I don’t have the list in front of me. We can follow up with that if you need that level of detail. I’m sure it’s public as well.
QUESTION: Yeah, that would be great if I could get a follow-up. And do you have any reaction to the creation of the Select Committee?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I would point you to comments that’ve been made by members on the Hill, and I don’t have any update for all of you today.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Actually, it’s a question from our CNN colleague --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- who can’t be here.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. How kind of you. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
MS. PSAKI: I do not have anything on that.
QUESTION: Do you also know what’s behind, or – the North Korea state news agency’s (inaudible) of racist insults against Barack Obama? What’s behind this? Have you any reaction to it?
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that. Obviously, there’s a long line of outrageous comments that have come from North Korea, and outrageous and threatening rhetoric. But I have not seen those specific reports.
QUESTION: Talking about the drones, Foreign Policy has reported today that Iraqi Government is actively seeking armed drones from the U.S. to combat al-Qaida in Anbar, and it would welcome American military drone operators back in the country to target those militants. Are you in discussions with the Iraqi about having American troops going back to Iraq with the drones?
MS. PSAKI: We are – we have seen, of course, this report. It does not reflect discussions we are having with the Government of Iraq. We are not in discussion with the Iraqi Government about the use of armed, unmanned aerial systems, nor are we considering such options. So it sounds like they need some better sources on that one.
QUESTION: Are you ready to discuss this option in case the Government of Iraq asked for?
MS. PSAKI: We’re not in discussion with it, so I’m not going to – about it, and I’m not going to predict or answer a hypothetical.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. discussing the return of any troops to Iraq to help with its ongoing security challenges?
MS. PSAKI: You’re familiar with the steps we’ve taken. That’s what we’re continuing to implement. As you know, we remain deeply concerned about the increased levels of violence in Iraq and the situation in Anbar. Our assistance has not been limited to the security sphere; we’ve worked on a consistent basis to develop a holistic approach and – with a focus on recruiting local tribal fighters, insuring resources are reaching areas that need them.
We also acknowledge that Iraq will not succeed unless its security forces are well supplied, trained, and equipped. And as you know in here, because we’ve talked about it a bit, we’ve also provided additional assistance, including the delivery of 300 Hellfire missiles, thousands of rounds of tank ammunition, helicopter-fired rockets, machine guns, grenades, flares, sniper rifles, M-16s and M-4 rifles. We also delivered additional Bell IA-407 helicopters late last year, and 10 ScanEagle surveillance platforms. So obviously, our assistance is expansive. I don’t have anything else to predict for you about the future, but that’s not something we’re considering, no.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. expedited the delivery of F-16 to Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: We have talked about that a little bit in here in the past. I don’t think I have any additional specific update for you today.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I know that you were asked about this yesterday, but the Vietnamese have released more photos that they say is evidence that the Chinese were the ones who indeed instigated the clash that occurred last week. I wanted to know if the State Department has seen those photos and if you make anything of them.
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve spoken pretty extensively to this and our concerns about the provocative actions. I don’t have anything new to add today.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I did have one more follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I don’t think you have a comment on this, but the – China’s Foreign Ministry did have a rebuttal to something you said from the podium here a couple days ago, essentially saying that the U.S. should butt out of this conflict because it doesn’t specifically involve the U.S. I just wanted to know if you could comment on why the U.S. should not butt out.
MS. PSAKI: Well again, we don’t take a position on the sovereignty, as you know, of these – these are disputed waters, and obviously, they have a difference of view on who has control over those waters or who has ownership over those waters. So I think we were speaking to – in response to a range of questions.
Our concerns about – any time there are provocative or unhelpful actions taken that put the maintenance of peace and stability at risk, and I think that’s something that any country has the right to have concerns about.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: And also, the foreign ministry spokeswoman this morning said that the United States was making irresponsible statements on this, and that you’ve ignored the facts and made a whole series of wrong remarks.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would stand by our statements we’ve made and our views on this specific issue.
QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. South Korean foreign minister visit to the United Nations New York now. Is there any significance that can tell of resumption of Six-Party Talks within this year or whatever time?
MS. PSAKI: We remain – nothing has changed about our view. We remain committed to credible negotiations to implement the September 2005 Joint Statement and bring North Korea into compliance. The ball remains in North Korea’s court. North Korea must be the ones to first take meaningful actions toward denuclearization and refrain from provocations. Obviously, we haven’t seen evidence of their willingness to do that.
QUESTION: So what is the U.S. position of resumption of Six-Party Talks currently if – even if Chinese convincing to United States, it come out Six-Party Talks table. What is your real position? Do you think the Six-Party Talks are really useful or productive, or nothing else?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we remain engaged and work closely with a range of partners in the Six-Party process and across the international community to urge North Korea to take concrete steps to enable the conditions that would facilitate a return to Six-Party negotiations leading toward complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization. But again, the ball is in North Korea’s court. We have not seen them take the necessary steps.
All right, let’s just do a few more. Any other topics?
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Yemen? Sure.
MS. PSAKI: We strongly condemn – I know there was also an assassination attempt, so let me address that, too.
QUESTION: Yeah. The defense minister.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. We strongly condemn assassination and kidnapping attempts in Yemen, including today’s attack by suspected al-Qaida militants on a convoy carrying the minister of defense and other Yemeni officials. At the same time, we commend Yemen on its ongoing military offensive against al-Qaida on the Arabian Peninsula. AQAP is a grave threat to both Yemeni and American security, and the U.S. Government welcomes the actions of Yemen’s brave forces to counter this group. We continue to support the Yemeni Government, military and people in their efforts to counter violent extremism and terrorism, and commend the president and the Yemeni Government’s progress against threats of this nature.
QUESTION: What kind of support are you providing?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve provided a range of support. I don’t have that in front of me. I’m sure we can get back to you with some specifics.
Go ahead, (inaudible).
QUESTION: I have one on China.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Have you seen this news report a senior Chinese official being quoted as saying China is planning to build a railroad of more than 8,000 miles which criss-cross China, Russia, Alaska through the Pacific to the U.S.?
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that report, no. We can check on it for you. I’m happy to.
QUESTION: Fine, thank you.
MS. PSAKI: All right. Thank you, everyone. Have a great weekend.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:17 p.m.)