Daily Press Briefing - May 19, 2014
Index for Today's Briefing:
- Condolences to Family of Legendary Soviet-era Interpreter Viktor Sukhodrev
- Support for Statements Made by Department of Justice on Announcement of Intellectual Property Stolen from U.S. Business
- U.S. Regrets China's Decision on Suspension Working Group Activities
- S&ED Meeting
- MIDDLE EAST PEACE
- Recent Political Developments
- Martin Indyk's Speech Last Week / Unhelpful Steps by Both Sides / Ambassador Shapiro and CG Ratney Remain on the Ground / Door Open to Peace
- White House Statement on Sentencing of Meriam Ibrahim
- Putin's China Visit
- U.S. Welcomes Report by NDI / Update on Preparations for the Presidential Election on May 25th / Concerns about Actions of Separatists / Alternative Voting Sites
- No Evidence of Russia Pulling Back Troops
- U.S. Focused on Helping People of Mali
- U.S. Does Not Regard Boko Haram al-Qaida Affiliate
- U.S. Condemns Violence in Tripoli and Benghazi
- Heads of Government and State are Eligible for A-1 Visa
- U.S. Looks Forward to Welcoming Mr. Modi
- Travel Warning and Staffing
- Condolences to Family of Victims Mining Blast / U.S. Urges Accountability and Rejects Unprovoked Violence against Demonstrators
- U.S. Regrets Loss of Life from Collapsed Apartment Building
- DOS Statement on Agreement between the Colombian Government and FARC
1:45 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I hope everyone had a great weekend. I have just one item for you at the top. We recognize the legendary Soviet-era interpreter Viktor Sukhodrev who passed away in Moscow last week at the age of 81. His career was distinguished by both his linguistic abilities and consummate professionalism. As a constant fixture during difficult discussions between the U.S. and Soviet leaders, he earned the respect of several U.S. presidents. We extend our condolences to his family, friends, and former colleagues.
QUESTION: Oh, so everything’s fine with Russia now, huh? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, we can all recognize the important role he played in history.
QUESTION: All right. I’m sure we’ll go back to Russia in a second --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- but I want to start with China
QUESTION: I want to start with the Justice Department’s announcement from this morning. I’ve got a couple questions about it.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: But the first one is: Have you asked the Chinese – I realize that this is a Justice Department thing, but you guys – this building is the courier, as it will – if you will – for extradition requests, that kind of thing. I don’t believe there is a treaty. But have you asked the Chinese to hand over these five guys?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you would expect and you predicted in your question, for specific questions related to this announcement I’d refer you to the Department of Justice. As you know, we don’t speak to extradition requests regardless. But you may have other questions on this issue. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, I – was the State Department involved at all or consulted at all by the Department of Justice in – or the Treasury Department that you know of?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any level of detail on that. I can check on that and see if there’s more to share.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you expect – the Justice Department says it expects – and I use that because they – I think they used the word “expect” – the Chinese to cooperate in this. Do you?
MS. PSAKI: We certainly would support the statements made by our DOJ colleagues, yes.
QUESTION: So you believe that the Chinese should turn over these guys?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we expect the Chinese Government to understand that today’s announcement relates to the law enforcement investigation of individuals who have stolen intellectual property from U.S. businesses. It does not mean – we continue to believe – and this is relevant to us, our role here at the State Department – that we can have a constructive and productive relationship with China. We’re ready to work with China to prevent these types of activities from continuing.
QUESTION: Right. But do you expect them – do you honestly think that the Chinese are going to look at the – read the indictment and say, “Wow, arrest these guys and send them over here to stand trial”? Do you really think that they’re going to do that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not sure it will play out exactly that way, Matt.
QUESTION: All right. So the point I’m --
MS. PSAKI: But we do support the statements, of course, made by our DOJ colleague.
QUESTION: All right. But the point, I guess, is it doesn’t look like this is going to have any impact at all on these guys. You’re not going to get them. They’re not going to be tried. So the impact would seem to be purely a negative one from the State Department’s point of view – at least correct me if I’m wrong. The Chinese have reacted very angrily, as you might expect. They’ve said that they’re canceling the working group on cyber --
QUESTION: Working group.
QUESTION: -- yeah, cyber working group. So if it’s clear to people that they’re not going to hand these guys over and that they’re never going to stand trial, what was the – how could this building possibility have gone along with or agreed to something that really just unnecessarily puts a major crimp in the relationship?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Matt, this was a DOJ action. Obviously --
QUESTION: So you weren’t consulted or you were?
MS. PSAKI: I will check and see if there’s more to say on that question, but this was a DOJ action. It is consistent with the concerns we’ve candidly raised with the Chinese Government on these issues. So today’s announcement reflects – is consistent with those growing concerns. At the same time we believe that dialogue around these issues is something that we should continue to have and we believe we can have with the Chinese.
QUESTION: So do you have a specific reaction? Are you disappointed that they’ve decided to suspend --
MS. PSAKI: We do. We regret China’s decision on the suspension of activities of the working group, but we continue to believe that dialogue is an essential part of resolving these and other cyber security concerns.
QUESTION: Do you agree with the Chinese that you – that the U.S. has displayed a lack of sincerity in solving issues related to cyber security?
MS. PSAKI: We certainly would not.
MS. PSAKI: We, again, believe that open and frank dialogue with – on these issues is the best way forward.
QUESTION: The Chinese statement says that it is – “It is a fact known to all that relevant U.S. institutions have long been involved on large scale and organized cyber theft, as well as wiretapping and surveillance activities against foreign political leaders, companies, and individuals. China is a victim of severe U.S. cyber theft, wiretapping, and surveillance activities.” It goes on.
Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our intelligence activities are focused on the national security interests of the United States.
QUESTION: So you --
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, again, we believe there should be a continuing dialogue on these issues with China which is why we’ve been so supportive of a working group.
QUESTION: So you cannot deny that – these allegations. Or can you? I don’t know, I’m just asking if you --
MS. PSAKI: We collect signals intelligence exclusively where there is a foreign intelligence or counterintelligence (inaudible).
QUESTION: So in fact – so you agree with the Chinese statement on this, but you don’t agree that you have shown a – that it is – displays a lack of sincerity on your part.
MS. PSAKI: I think I have made clear we believe that while this is a DOJ action, it’s consistent with our concerns we’ve expressed.
QUESTION: Okay. Last one: Do you expect the S&ED to go ahead as planned?
MS. PSAKI: We do, and we certainly think there’s a broad array of issues that can be discussed.
QUESTION: Including this one?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we again regret China’s decision, and we have two months, I believe, or about that, until the S&ED. So --
MS. PSAKI: -- we’re hopeful we’ll continue to have that discussion.
Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: In that statement, they also – the Chinese also accuse the United States of manufacturing this evidence against the five people that they have indicted. Would you like to reply to that?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Justice for any specifics on this particular case.
QUESTION: And just to follow up: The timing’s curious, because the S&ED was announced the backend – middle of last week, and now we – beginning of this week, we have this DOJ announcement. Just to follow up on Matt’s question: How in six weeks’ time, I think it is, will you be able to hold a comprehensive dialogue with your Chinese counterparts in Beijing when this – these charges have just been unveiled against five of their military?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would remind you that obviously, the S&ED is a regular meeting that we have with China, with our – the Department of Treasury and the economic counterparts in China. And there’s been a discussion about dates for several months now. So I wouldn’t relate the two, but certainly we believe that there is a robust conversation we can have about a range of issues. We regret, of course, the decision about the suspension of activities related to the cyber working group, but we continue to believe that dialogue on these important issues is the best way forward.
QUESTION: But the working group was actually launched at one of these SEDs.
MS. PSAKI: That’s true.
QUESTION: I think it was either the last year or the year before in Beijing. I don’t remember exactly which. So it’s a relatively new body that arose out of the talks that you have at this level. The fact that they’ve now suspended their participation in the cyber working group doesn’t augur very well for the outcome of S&ED talks in Beijing in July.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Jo – and I’m sure we’ll talk about this more as we get closer and preparatory meetings continue for the S&ED – but as you know, there’s a broad agenda that is discussed and focused on at the S&ED. We have some time here. Obviously, a discussion around cyber issues is one that we think is important in a range of formats.
QUESTION: Can I just ask if Secretary Kerry has been in touch with anyone, with any of his Chinese counterparts at all, and got a heads-up or warning that this was coming today?
MS. PSAKI: He has not been. This is a DOJ action, so – go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: You have mentioned the dialogue between the U.S. and the China is very important. So specifically, will you approach the U.S. – the Chinese Government to talk about this issue?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have approached and we have been working with the Chinese Government over the course of the last several months on cyber issues, concerns we have about these issues. And we think that’s the best venue for moving forward.
QUESTION: And also in the statement from the Chinese Government it says it jeopardize the U.S.-China cooperation and the mutual trust. So how will you maintain this cooperation, the mutual trust?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve consistently and candidly raised our concerns on this issue. Again, this is consistent with those concerns. We do believe that dialogue is an essential part of resolving these issues and moving the process forward. So we’re hopeful that that can continue.
QUESTION: And as you know, according to a lot of documents revealed by Snowden last year, actually China is one of the major targets of America’s surveillance program, including Chinese Government, including Chinese institution and the companies. So do you think there is – the U.S. has a double standard in criticizing for Chinese for the same thing that the U.S. is doing? How would you explain that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I would point you to what the President has said about his concerns about cyber security and cyber-crime. We remain deeply concerned about Chinese Government-sponsored cyber-enabled theft of trade secrets and other sensitive business information for commercial gain. And again, this was specific to the actions of just a few individuals, and we hope that the Chinese Government can understand that.
QUESTION: Just to follow up with --
MS. PSAKI: Do we have more on China?
QUESTION: Just to follow up – follow quickly --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: According to the press reports and also think tanks, they’re saying that this is not the first time the Chinese national had been stealing the U.S. secrets in one way or another way. So what happened in the past? Have you been talking to Chinese? Have they stopped?
MS. PSAKI: We – again, this – as I’ve said a couple of times, this has been a concern we’ve consistently and candidly expressed – expressed our concerns about.
QUESTION: Thank you. So how much impact do you think it will have on the overall U.S.-China relationship?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we remain committed to developing a constructive and productive relationship with China. We work together on a range of issues. We’re ready to work with China to prevent this activity from continuing. And we believe dialogue is the best way forward.
Go ahead, in the back.
QUESTION: As you said, you believe in dialogue, and the U.S.-China Government has been talking this.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But by having make this movement, right, announce this indictment, does that mean your effort in a diplomatic channel is simply not working?
MS. PSAKI: No. Again, this was an action by DOJ. We expect the Chinese Government to understand that today’s actions – today’s announcement, I should say, relates to a law enforcement investigation of individuals who have stolen intellectual property from U.S. businesses. But again, we’ve had an ongoing dialogue. We think that’s the right path forward, and we’re hopeful that can continue.
QUESTION: But is it effective, your dialogue? Do you see any result or achievement?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we never said that it would be an issue that would be resolved overnight. We think that it requires more work, more dialogue, and we’re hopeful that that can continue.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- a follow-up. So if this is not working – as you see the statement from the Chinese foreign ministry, they are kind of like furious. If this is not working, is sanction part of your choice in the future?
MS. PSAKI: We don’t agree that it’s not working. We believe – we regret the decision to suspend the activities of the working group, and we think that’s an effective tool.
QUESTION: Can you rule out any possibility of sanction those individuals?
MS. PSAKI: I didn’t put any on the table, and I’m not ruling anything out.
QUESTION: Sorry, just a follow-up. But can we expect similar charges against other countries?
MS. PSAKI: We don’t make predictions about law enforcement activities.
QUESTION: Okay. What is the difference between – because this, presumably, is not the first time that we’ve had people from other countries doing cyber espionage. But what is the difference between the past and now that led you to this action right now?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Justice. This was an announcement that the Department of Justice made. They will have the specifics for you.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
QUESTION: Yes, we understand. But from the State Department’s point of view, how does this advance or help having a productive and constructive relationship with China, if even the people who are bringing the charges don’t think that they – that the people charged will ever be tried or ever be presented?
MS. PSAKI: I --
QUESTION: So how does the State Department see this as advancing the U.S.-China relationship?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, that is not a claim that I made. That is a point – that is a claim you made. Obviously, this is --
QUESTION: No, no. You just said --
MS. PSAKI: -- a Department of Justice announcement. They will see the process through. Again, what I was expressing regret about was the suspension of the dialogue.
QUESTION: Right. No, no. I’m sorry. What claim was it that I was making?
MS. PSAKI: That these – this would never be seen through.
QUESTION: I don’t – you’re telling me that there are people in this government who honestly expect the Chinese to arrest these five guys and send them over here to stand trial? That’s what you’re saying?
MS. PSAKI: We’ll let the legal process see its way through.
QUESTION: Well, if people in this government think that, then there’s a serious, serious problem. That’s not going to happen. I mean, it’s just – it’s not going to happen. And you can tell even from the – I mean, the Chinese have said take – withdraw this indictment, or it’s a mistake, or whatever. It says China launched a process with the U.S. right after this, correct its mistake and withdraw the indictment. So I think that we can all agree – I would hope, at least – that the Chinese aren’t going to turn these people over.
So I want to know, from the State Department’s perspective, if in fact you were consulted by DOJ about this, how exactly an indictment, which is essentially meaningless because it won’t produce any convictions or even a trial, advances the cause of better relations between the United States and China?
MS. PSAKI: Again, Matt, this is consistent with the concerns that we’ve been expressing about the – with the Chinese Government on these activities. That’s not new. I don’t think it’s new to the Chinese. But we think, obviously, a discussion about these issues is the best way forward.
QUESTION: All right. So can I just make a plea for you to take the question about whether or not the Justice Department was in touch with you guys in the weeks as these indictments were being prepared?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to see if there’s more to convey.
QUESTION: And whether or not you – this building expressed any concerns about the damage that it might do, not just to the upcoming S&ED, which was just announced, but also to the broader relationship? Thanks.
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to see if there’s more to convey.
QUESTION: It’s slightly reminiscent – although the scale is obviously different – of what happened with the Indian diplomat, Mrs. Khobragade, in which there was an indictment that was issued by the DOJ, and it had to be walked back several months later after a deal had been arranged between herself and the U.S. State Department. I mean, is this – following up from what Matt said, again, is this just seen as a shot against the bow of the Chinese authorities, and in the end what you’ll have to do is walk it back and withdraw the indictment, as the Chinese have asked?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on what the Department of Justice will – may or may not do in the future. Obviously, this announcement was made this morning. It’s consistent with the concerns we’ve expressed. We continue to believe from – through the diplomatic channels that there is an opportunity for dialogue, and that’s what we’re focused on in this building.
QUESTION: So it’s not just a ploy? It’s not a ploy to sort of show the Beijing authorities that you’re serious in your concerns?
MS. PSAKI: I think the Department of Justice made clear through their announcement that this is related to the law enforcement investigations of individuals who stole intellectual property from the United States businesses.
QUESTION: Madam, can we --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, do we have any more on China? China.
QUESTION: One more.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Last one on China. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Madam, if Chinese keep stealing U.S. secrets in one way or another, in not only the economics but also nuclear and cybers and all them, how can you continue do business with China, unless they pledge that they will not continue and they will stop their stealing from the U.S. businesses?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Goyal, we have – I’ve addressed the question by conveying this is consistent with the concerns we’ve expressed. And obviously, there are a range of ways that we’re addressing it.
QUESTION: New topic.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead, Said.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Are you prepared to deal with a unity government that is the PA – the PLO and Hamas? Because there are reports in the Israeli press that you are ready to deal with the government, provided that it adheres to the Quartet principles.
MS. PSAKI: Well, our position as the United States Government has been consistent about the steps that any government would need to take. Obviously, that’s premature at this point, given there’s just been an announcement about the creation of this government, and that process obviously hasn’t seen itself through at this point.
QUESTION: Was that a topic that Secretary of State Kerry discussed with PA President Abbas last week?
MS. PSAKI: I think we did a readout at that time, Said, and we made clear that they discussed a range of issues, including recent political developments. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that President Abbas would provide an update on that front.
QUESTION: Okay. Related now, there are – the Israelis are quite critical of U.S. envoy Martin Indyk, accusing him of all kinds of things, least of all is that he’s placing all the blame on the Israelis. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to Ambassador Indyk’s speech just last week --
MS. PSAKI: -- where he made clear that both sides had taken unhelpful steps. That’s his view. That’s the Secretary’s view. And I think he stated it pretty clearly in public.
QUESTION: I understand. But thereafter there were accusation that – in a private gathering or in a bar, whatever, a restaurant, he was telling his staff more vocally or more clearly that Israel bears the blame. Are you willing to step and stay that --
MS. PSAKI: I will tell you that that is – report is categorically false and there’s been no secret about what his position is on the unhelpful steps taken by both sides. He’s spoken publicly about them, and I would point people to that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Do you know what about that report is categorically false? That he – he wasn’t in the bar or he didn’t have a – what about it? He didn’t say the things? He was there but he didn’t say what was attributed to him? Or --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to go into too much detail, other than to say that he had a busy schedule that day. He was – arrived for just a few minutes and did not have the conversation that was outlined in the news reports.
QUESTION: Okay. But he was there. I mean, he gave the speech there, right? I mean, not in the bar, but he did give the talk --
MS. PSAKI: He did not have the conversation that was outlined in the reports.
QUESTION: Okay. So that’s the – okay.
QUESTION: Can I get --
QUESTION: Could you give us what the status of the team now is – I mean his team? Are they in the building? I asked you this last week, but --
MS. PSAKI: They’re in Washington. And as I think I said last week, and Ambassador Shapiro and CG Ratney remain on the ground.
QUESTION: Okay. What are they doing in terms of pushing the peace process further or keeping it alive, so to speak?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re here because this remains a priority of the United States Government. I don’t have any other details on their daily work plans.
QUESTION: And how is the – just to stay on --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask – there’s reports out there that the Quartet is about to release a statement. Is that – on the Palestinian Government, on the idea --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not – I would point you to them. I’m not aware of that.
QUESTION: Well, just because United States is actually one of the four members of the Quartet.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I’m not aware of that statement that’s coming out, so I don’t know the details.
QUESTION: And I wanted to go back to the talks between Tzipi Livni and President Abbas last week in London. At whose request did those talks happen?
MS. PSAKI: Between Livni and Abbas?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the parties. I can tell you that the United States played no part in either arranging or participating in this meeting, but I would point you to the parties.
QUESTION: Because apparently, according to the timeline, Minister Livni met with President Abbas after she had had spoken with – on Thursday with Secretary Kerry.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Again, the United States played no role in organizing the meeting or arranging it, so I’d point you to the parties.
QUESTION: So in the readout from the meeting between Secretary Kerry and Livni, there was no mention of the fact that she was planning to meet with President Abbas. It was a pretty anodyne statement that they’d --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- “both sides must take helpful steps,” et cetera, et cetera.
QUESTION: You’re agreeing that the statement was anodyne? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I’m just listening to what Jo is saying.
QUESTION: Got you.
QUESTION: So was this raised? Did the minister raise this with the Secretary, with Secretary Kerry during their talks in London, that she was planning to meet with President Abbas?
MS. PSAKI: Secretary Kerry was aware in advance, but again, played no role. The United States played no role, and I’m not going to get into any other level of detail. And I don’t think it should come as a surprise that we wouldn’t announce a meeting we weren’t involved in on behalf of the parties who were involved in it.
QUESTION: Sure. And then prior – on the evening before, on Wednesday night when he met with President Abbas, was this something that he suggested to President Abbas at the time?
MS. PSAKI: Again, we weren’t involved in any way in arranging the meeting or putting the meeting together. I don’t have any more details.
QUESTION: But it wasn’t raised on the Wednesday night?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details about their meeting.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: Are you disappointed in the prime minister’s reaction to the meeting, where he said that Livni could have the meeting, but she was going to represent herself, not the government. Is that a concern to you?
MS. PSAKI: Well obviously, Matt, we believe – I don’t have any particular comment in response to the prime minister’s comments, but we continue to believe, as we’ve said, there’s a door open to peace. It’s up to the parties to determine that path.
QUESTION: I’ve got two that are very – extremely brief. One, do you know anything about Israel denying permission for Oxfam workers to go to Gaza?
MS. PSAKI: I do not. I can check and see if we know any more about that.
QUESTION: All right. And just the other one is that the housing minister – Mr. Bennett, I believe – not the housing minister. Whatever he – Mr. Bennett, the member of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cabinet, has suggested a formal annexation of Area C and is pushing this forward. I’m presuming, given your past statements about this area, that that’s something that you would oppose. But I just wanted to make sure as I --
MS. PSAKI: That is a safe assumption. I haven’t discussed that specifically with our team, but that is a safe assumption.
QUESTION: Okay. Could you ask them to just find out if this is a concern, the possibility that he might push this idea forward, if this is a concern of the U.S.? And if it is, have you raised it with Prime Minister Netanyahu or –
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to see if there’s more to share on that front.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: More on the peace process?
QUESTION: One follow – yeah, just a quick follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The Israeli Foreign Minister Mr. Leiberman said that the Israelis must look elsewhere other than the PLO and the PA as Palestinian counterparts. Do you agree that the PA is no longer a partner in this process?
MS. PSAKI: Again, this is a process where there’s only been – I shouldn’t say “a process.” There’s only been an announcement about a process moving forward. We’re going to see that play its way through, so I don’t have any further comment than that.
QUESTION: Yeah, I’d like to ask --
QUESTION: If in fact they do – if in fact they go – if it’s tomorrow or if it’s whenever, will you have some kind of reaction to --
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, which piece?
QUESTION: A unity government.
MS. PSAKI: Oh. If there’s an announcement, I’m sure we’ll have a comment from here. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, I’d like to ask a few questions about the situation of Meriam Ibrahim, the Sudanese woman who was sentenced to death for Christianity. The Morning Star News, which is a Christian news site, reported that Daniel Wani, her husband – she’s in prison with her 20-month-old son Martin. They reported – Wani said U.S. embassy officials in Khartoum have told him he must prove he is the father with a DNA test before they would try to help. They quote him as saying, “I will have to take a DNA sample in Khartoum and send it to the USA for testing. I provided wedding documents and the baby’s birth certificate,” and doors were closed on his face. He continues to say, “I’ve tried to apply for papers to travel to the USA with my wife and child, but the American Embassy in Sudan did not help me. My son is an American citizen living in a different – difficult situation in prison.”
First, is Meriam Ibrahim’s husband, Daniel Wani, a U.S. citizen? And is that 20-month-old boy in prison, by virtue of being his son, also a U.S. citizen?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any more details on this than what the White – the statement the White House put out. Typically we don’t confirm those type of details, but I’m happy to check and see if there’s more to share.
QUESTION: You don’t know whether that little boy in prison is a U.S. citizen?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details to share.
QUESTION: Did the embassy in Khartoum ask Mr. Wani to provide DNA evidence that that was his son?
MS. PSAKI: We’re happy to check and see if there’s more to share.
QUESTION: You don’t know whether that’s the case?
MS. PSAKI: Happy to check and see if there’s more to share.
QUESTION: So as of this moment, the U.S. Government does not know whether that 20-month-old boy in prison in Sudan is an American citizen imprisoned because he’s a Christian?
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve addressed your questions, and I’m happy to follow up with you after the briefing.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Do you know, Jen, is there a Privacy Act issue here?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check and see. I know we’ve issued a statement from the White House just yesterday on this issue.
Do we have a new topic?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is the U.S. kind of concerned about China and Russia cooperation at this time?
MS. PSAKI: I know – I’m aware of the meeting – or the planned visit. I don’t have anything in particular to comment on it.
QUESTION: And to follow up, what will the U.S. do to overpass this diplomatic fallout with China about the cyber security issue?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we continue to believe that having a productive working relationship is in both of our interests, and we have the upcoming S&ED, which, of course, the Secretary will be traveling for. As you know, we have a range of issues we work on, including concerns about the threat from DPRK, including concerns about climate change, and we hope they will continue.
QUESTION: Given President Putin’s trip – upcoming trip to China, is it still the Administration’s view – or the – this building’s view that there is some kind of rift between the Chinese and the Russians over what the Russians have been doing or not doing in Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, what we’ve said in the past is obviously that China has not been supportive, traditionally, of the type of actions that has occurred in eastern Ukraine, so we’ll let them speak for themselves.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- about the electoral atmosphere – or the atmosphere, saying that it would be – it’s favorable, that it’s okay. I – do you agree with that? Would you agree with it, or is it something that OSCE does and then you sign off on it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there was a --
QUESTION: What’s the official --
MS. PSAKI: The OSCE put out a report that was similar --
MS. PSAKI: -- in its findings last week. We certainly welcome today’s report by NDI, reconfirming that the Ukrainian Government’s preparations for the presidential election on May 25th are proceeding well. We’ve talked a little bit about the preparations in here. I can give a little update if that’s helpful.
MS. PSAKI: There are approximately 900 short-term observers, seconded to – that are on the ground as a part of the ODIHR mission. They will be arriving today and tomorrow. Nationwide, 93 percent of district election commissions are functioning normally and are on track to conduct their elections for the May 25th election. And obviously, as we’ve said a little bit – or given a little bit of an update, but this continues – there are efforts underway to ensure or take every step possible that those in the limited areas where there are disruptions by separatists are – have opportunities to vote.
QUESTION: So it’s – you said 93 percent. So your view is that 7 – only 7 percent of the country is problematic – or there’s only problems in 7 percent of Ukraine. That 7 percent does not include Crimea, right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly there are parts of eastern Ukraine, including parts of Crimea where there are challenges. But most of Ukraine is calm and prepared to vote.
QUESTION: Right. But it’s 7 – it’s 93 percent of Ukraine minus Crimea, right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, in what – I’m not sure what you mean.
QUESTION: Well, you guys have refused to accept the Russian annexation of Crimea.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You still say it’s part of Ukraine. So what I want to know is that – whether you or the OSCE, when you look at a hundred percent of Ukraine right now as it prepares for the May 25th election, does the 100 percent include Crimea, or is it – is it de facto no longer part of the calculation? So when you say that it’s --
MS. PSAKI: I believe it includes Crimea, Matt, but we’ll check and see if those numbers are --
QUESTION: Okay. All right. And then --
MS. PSAKI: -- statistically accurate.
QUESTION: So the 7 percent – the 7 percent includes eastern Ukraine and Crimea?
MS. PSAKI: A handful of – there are a handful of cities, as you know, where we’ve been concerned about the actions of separatists, but the majority of Ukraine remains calm and prepared for the elections.
QUESTION: And those are mostly in eastern Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Those are – they’re the ones that you’re aware of that we’ve all been talking about.
QUESTION: Are you --
QUESTION: So are you convinced that there will actually be any kind of representative elections that will happen in eastern Ukraine? I think the fear is coming out of many bodies at the moment is that it’s just not going to be possible because of the situation on the ground there.
MS. PSAKI: Well, given the number of observers on the ground and the preparations that are being made, and again, the reports that have been put out, not just by OSCE but by NDI today, there are preparations being made to allow for alternative voting sites for those living in some areas where it would be more challenging.
QUESTION: Such as where? Will they be able to --
MS. PSAKI: I’ve talked about this a little bit in here, but in some of the areas like Slovyansk and Donetsk where there have been more actions by the separatists. There are steps being taken by the election monitors and the OSCE.
QUESTION: It’s a certain percent of the population or area?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other detail on the statistics, but we will see if there’s more we can provide.
QUESTION: Are you aware of these reports that – about some Russian journalists who have been detained by the Kiev authorities? Are you aware of this?
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen those specific reports.
QUESTION: Okay. There’s a – there is concern in Russia from many Russians that these guys have been detained and they’re not being released. And I would like to know, one, if you’re not aware of it, can you look into it and tell us what you think about it?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: And two, if in fact you do look into it and you find that they have been detained, will you say anything or will you push the authorities in Kiev to release them?
MS. PSAKI: Well, why don’t I start by looking into the facts --
MS. PSAKI: -- and we’ll go from there.
Ukraine? Ali? Or --
QUESTION: The region.
MS. PSAKI: -- wherever. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: The region. I know that the White House just commented on this, but in the interest of getting a response from this building --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- Putin’s remarks today that he’ll be pulling back the troops – wanted to know if anything’s changed in the past 20 minutes between what the White House said --
MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed. We have still seen no evidence of such movement. I would remind you that this isn’t – a similar announcement was made last week, and we didn’t see any evidence of movement at that time. And again, just to reiterate the fact that Russia has been maintaining significant forces in recently constructed – in areas along Ukraine’s borders remains of great concern to the United States, and we haven’t seen any change, despite the public comments.
Do we have any more on Ukraine? If not, we’ll go to Scott. Go ahead, Scott.
MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen, of course, the reports and the public comments, I guess, by some of the officials there. We don’t have any information to confirm that at this point. Our focus, of course, at this point, is to help the people of Mali, particularly in this incident in this long-suffering community, who seek the restoration of peace. But we don’t have any confirmation of those statements that were made on the ground.
QUESTION: In connection with a meeting that was in Paris on Saturday, the Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said it was his opinion that Boko Haram is backed by al-Qaida. Now is that – does the United States share that assessment, and if so, what is the nature of that assistance?
MS. PSAKI: Well, at this point, we do not share that. At this point, the United States does not see Boko Haram as an affiliate or an official arm of al-Qaida. Obviously, it goes without saying that it does not take – does not – you don’t have to be an AQ affiliate in order to carry out terrorist activities. And as you know, Boko Haram is designated. But we don’t see that affiliation.
But I’m sorry, what was your second question?
QUESTION: The Americans who were in Abuja – are they specifically working on this rescuing the girls, or is there a larger AQIM, Boko Haram look at the – to please Matt again – trans-Sahelian terrorism?
MS. PSAKI: He does love that word. (Laughter.)
It is both. There is – naturally, we’ve been working with the Nigerian Government, as you know, for months now on the threat of Boko Haram, and our concerns have risen, as is evidenced by our designation last November. But there are some who are part of this team who are responsible for steps like consultations for those who return and preparing for – preparing law enforcement or strengthening law enforcement officials to prepare for future events.
So there’s – it’s both. This team that’s on the ground is focused on getting the girls back, but there are a range of steps and support that this team is also offering as it relates to the overall threat of Boko Haram.
Go ahead, Michael.
QUESTION: Jen, just to clarify, I – my memory may not be perfect, but I thought that when Boko Haram was designated as a foreign terrorist organization it was asserted that it had links with AQIM, al-Qaida from the Islamic Maghreb. So are you drawing a distinction between an organization that has links to al-Qaida in north – in the Islamic Maghreb and an organization that’s an affiliate, and what is that distinction?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look back, Michael, and see what we said at the time. Obviously, this was a specific question some have understandably asked, given the comments over the weekend. But I’d have to check with our counterterrorism team.
QUESTION: I’m pretty sure, because an issue arose the other week about the designation process, and I recall reading the backgrounder from that period. And I’m pretty sure that that – the link between Boko Haram and AQIM, or at least among leadership in the organization AQIM, was asserted by the State Department as --
MS. PSAKI: I believe back in – and we put out an extensive Fact Sheet, which you may be referring to too, and I believe it’s back some time ago there was that connection drawn, or there was a belief. But this is not – in this case we don’t believe there is a connection here.
QUESTION: In this specific case of the girls?
MS. PSAKI: I believe now, but let me check with our CT team and make sure we can be very clear on that point.
QUESTION: If you could, because I think maybe they’re saying there is a link between – with AQIM, but they’re drawing a distinction between that and being an affiliate. So if you could clarify that at some point.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. And obviously, affiliate is different, which is your point. So let me take that and we’ll put out some clarifying language.
Go ahead, Nicolas.
QUESTION: A follow-up to Nigeria. So your team on the ground has made no progress in trying to locate the schoolgirls?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, as you know, this is Nigeria-led, led by the Nigerian Government. We’re playing a supportive role. We’re doing everything we can. But there’s no challenge – there’s no question it’s difficult. Obviously, if there was new information, I’m sure you would be aware of it.
QUESTION: And can – just on that?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Wendy Sherman said in Paris after the meeting that there were discussions about the – about possible sanctions against – UN sanctions, sorry – against the leaders of Boko Haram. And she said these could come as early as this week. I wonder if you could enlighten us on a specific date and what sort of sanctions they could look like.
MS. PSAKI: We have been in discussions, but there’s nothing I have to announce today. And obviously, any announcement would come from the UN if that decision is made.
MS. PSAKI: Libya. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Just starting first very micro with the embassy. There were some rumors over the weekend that there was a drawdown in staff, given the situation. Can you explain to us what happened, if anything?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, of course, that we are closely monitoring developments in Libya. We remain very concerned about the violence over the weekend in Tripoli and Benghazi. We reiterate our call for all parties to refrain from violence and to seek resolution through peaceful means.
As you know, the safety and security of American citizens and U.S. personnel overseas is our highest priority. The President and Secretary have both been receiving regular updates – as they would in any case because we constantly monitor the security of our men and women serving overseas – on the situation in Libya and our diplomatic mission. We have made no decisions to move on any of our – move any of our personnel out of Libya. The situation on the ground, obviously, could change quickly, and so we’ll continue to evaluate and update our posture as needed.
QUESTION: So on the macro part of it then, what is your – what are your thoughts on the actual situation and this rebel leader who apparently was living in the U.S. for many years?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that we, of course, don’t comment on where people were – our citizens are – were living. But --
QUESTION: You don’t?
MS. PSAKI: Typically. But in terms of the situation on the ground, I stated that, obviously, we’re watching the situation closely. Libya has many challenges, and we’re aware of that. We believe they cannot be overcome if its leaders don’t settle differences through dialogue and work together. Clearly, there have been a range of events over the weekend. I’m not in a position to analyze those from the podium. But we remain in close touch and we’ll be watching it closely in the coming days.
QUESTION: Well, so you do not condemn the actions of Hiftar and group of people?
MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly, any violence we would condemn. And we don’t believe it brings about a positive or the best outcome.
QUESTION: Do you have any – are there any discussions between the U.S. and him?
MS. PSAKI: We’re watching it closely. I don’t have any other updates.
QUESTION: Do you know if there is a channel of communication to him?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other updates for you, Matt. We’ll see if there is more to provide.
QUESTION: Are you aware on --
QUESTION: Can I just ask about the status of the embassy?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Could you just tell us what the status of the embassy in Tripoli is now? Is it still on – is it closed or is it on emergency staff?
MS. PSAKI: We haven’t made any changes about the status of the embassy or a decision --
QUESTION: So what was it operating under then following Benghazi?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to --
QUESTION: Was it still under emergency staffing only?
MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed. I’d have to check and see what the exact definition of the embassy on the ground is.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: I just wanted to bring your attention to an air base in Tobruk that just announced its allegiance with Khelifa Hiftar. Potentially you have jets or airplanes --
MS. PSAKI: Airbus? As in the company?
QUESTION: An air base. An air base.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, an air base. Okay, I’m sorry.
QUESTION: It’s all right. An air base in Tobruk announced its allegiance to Hiftar. So potentially you could have, like, fighter jets and so on involved in the battle. Are you prepared to take them out or --
MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to speculate. I haven’t seen those reports. Obviously, there’s a lot of fluidity on the ground. We’re watching it closely, but I don’t have any other analysis.
Go ahead, Nicolas.
QUESTION: Yeah. Speaking about the status of your embassy, do you have an update on your embassy in Kenya? After the bombings last week, there were rumors of reducing the staff and closing part of the embassy?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates. I can check with our team and see if there’s more we can convey on that front.
QUESTION: On Libya, would you characterize what happened in Libya as a coup?
MS. PSAKI: Again, this is a case where we feel there’s a lot happening on the ground. We’re still gathering information on a very fluid situation. We’re focused on helping to resolve the differences. We support, as you know, a democratic and peaceful means to bringing about stability in Libya, but there’s a great deal of fluidity on the ground so I don’t have any other analysis today.
QUESTION: And one other related question. Last week when he was in London, Secretary Kerry said during his avail with the foreign minister: The U.S. will be doing all it can do to help the Libyans in these next days – and this was before all the violence occurred – but to be able to be able to gain control over their revenues and begin to forge the kind of coalition that can actually begin to build the offices of governances that are necessary. What specifically was he referring to? Were there going to be stepped up efforts in the days to come? And would any of those efforts be hampered by what has now happened?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously part of the discussion that the Quintet or Quint meeting had was on stepping up efforts on coordination, as it related to both security and supporting a political process there. So certainly he was indicating, as others who participated, that there would be a stepped up effort, that there’s dire concern about the situation on the ground. And so we’ll continue to coordinate with our partners, and we’ve had a range of meetings with the UK and last Thursday as an opportunity to continue that discussion.
MS. PSAKI: Let’s go to the back. Go ahead. India.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The White House told us that there’s going to be no person – no announcement about the new ambassador. But our ambassador is supposed to come back in May. Do you have a date when she’s coming back?
And then the question – the second question is that, after she leaves, as soon as the Modi government takes over, who is the point person who will be dealing with the Modi government?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we again have an extensive team on the ground, a very large presence in India, given the importance of our relationship. So I suspect there will be a range of officials on the ground who will be in contact and run point with the new government. I don’t have a specific date on her departure. We can check and see if there’s more we can update.
QUESTION: So after she leaves she said there’ll be a – there’s a large – yeah, I agree on that. So it will be a continent – contingent, but headless.
MS. PSAKI: Endless?
QUESTION: Headless. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Oh. No, I thought endless. No, what I was conveying is that just as is true with many, many governments where they have – we have a very important strategic relationship, there are a range of officials that interact with the government depending on the issue, whether it’s the economic counselor or the political counselor, communications officials – so I expect there will be a range of officials who will be in touch with the new government and be working with them.
QUESTION: And just a technical --
MS. PSAKI: So many heads, not headless.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: So I saw your statement about that Mr. Modi as prime minister is eligible for A-1 visa. So how does it work? He has been invited by the President Obama, and so does he have to go and stand in a queue at your embassy and apply for the visa? How it works?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into the tick-tock, but heads of government and heads of state are eligible for an A-1 visa and must travel to the United States on an A-1 visa regardless of the purpose of the trip. As prime minister of India, obviously Modi would be a head of state, and you saw the announcement from the White House this weekend, after the President’s call, that they have invited him and would welcome him to the United States.
QUESTION: No, but he has to apply for the visa.
MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to get into the tick-tock of the logistics, but obviously heads of state come to the United States on A-1 visas.
QUESTION: Jen, can I ask on this, there’s a technical question. I don’t expect you to have the answer to it.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure.
QUESTION: Now when the Taiwanese president flies through the United States, does he need – does he get a visa? Does he get an A-1 visa? Or do you just allow him in without --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail, as you expected. We’ll see if there’s more we can share.
Go ahead. Turkey?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay. One more on India. Go ahead.
QUESTION: My question is simple: Since you had many hats or many people on the ground talking with – to be the Prime Minister Mr. Modi’s team in Delhi --
MS. PSAKI: Hats, not heads.
QUESTION: -- since the new guard – guard of change will be taking place this week from the Congress to BJP, from Dr. Manmohan Singh to Narendra Modi. My question is that since he – can you confirm he was – was he on a U.S. visa blacklist for 13 years? If he was, have you taken off him – has Mr. Narendra Modi no more on the blacklist of visa – U.S. visas?
MS. PSAKI: Again, as a head of state, he would be applying on an A-1 visa, so I don’t have any other details for visas for you.
QUESTION: And finally, what will be the future of U.S.-India relations under Mr. Modi’s government? Because since – for the last 10 years, all these things have been going on. I am sure Mr. Modi also is feeling that everybody was allowed in the U.S. to visit, but even his own party’s chief, Mr. Rajnath, was here, but not him. So how you think that he will care because you will be dealing with him in this – in the future?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you saw the statement from the White House where the President invited him to visit. Obviously, we have a long, enduring partnership with India. That will continue and hopefully only grow in the future.
QUESTION: But finally, are you talking with his team about this issue?
MS. PSAKI: About which specific issue?
QUESTION: This visa issue problem, to forget the past but let’s move in the future and --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details on our conversations.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: One on this?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, one on India? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Apparently, Mr. Modi is quite a tweeter and re-tweeter, and he’s tweeted his thanks --
MS. PSAKI: Social media.
QUESTION: -- to many of the heads of state who congratulated him on his victory. President Obama was one of those people who congratulated him, but somehow he didn’t get around to tweeting his thanks to President Obama’s congratulations. Do you ascribe anything to that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any Twitter analysis today to share. We look forward to welcoming him to the United States when that schedule – when that visit is scheduled.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, he has now mentioned it, but it was very, very late and it came after a whole bunch of people that you consider at the moment to be rogues, like President Putin, and others. Does it bother you at all that the President of the United States was so far down on the list of Mr. Modi’s priorities to thank?
MS. PSAKI: I think our relationship between the United States and India is so strong and enduring we won’t worry about the Twitter rank order.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: On Friday – or on Saturday, was it, that you put out the new Travel Warning talking about how --
MS. PSAKI: Friday or Saturday, yes.
QUESTION: Well, whenever it was, talking about looking at the staffing with an eye toward reducing the staff. Has that begun, the reduction?
MS. PSAKI: Nicolas asked the same question, so let me --
MS. PSAKI: Let me take it and we’ll check with our team.
QUESTION: Sorry. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: No, it’s okay. It’s a good question. I didn’t have a chance to talk to them about Kenya.
QUESTION: I’m sorry. I don’t know where I was.
MS. PSAKI: We will talk to them and see if we can get all of you an update.
MS. PSAKI: Thinking of Twitter question, calculating it. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I’m sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Turkey.
QUESTION: It has been six days that the mining blast happened, you issued statement. You also stated that United States is ready to assist if there is a need. Have you been asked for any help?
MS. PSAKI: We have not. To our knowledge, the Government of Turkey has not requested international assistance at this point. We stand ready to provide assistance to Turkey should it be requested. As we noted in our statement, we of course – and let me reiterate our heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of those who lost their lives in the tragic mining accident last week.
QUESTION: There have been protests going on in various cities in Turkey, including Soma, where this mining accident happened. And they all were confronted by the police force. Do you have any comment on these events are going on for few days now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are following, of course, the reports of protests in the wake of this terrible tragedy. We support, as you know, freedom of expression and assembly, including the right to peaceful protest, as fundamental to any democracy. So we will continue to watch that, but those are our views.
QUESTION: I have one more.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: The prime minister went to visit Soma a few days ago, and there were a couple of videos surfaced that went viral. One of them apparently – or I’d like to get your take on that. He was – he appeared to be slapping a citizen in Soma. Did you see that? If you saw that, what is your take on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we saw the range of videos that have been out there. Of course, we reject the apparent use of unprovoked violence against demonstrators and urge accountability according to Turkey’s rule of law.
QUESTION: And the last question: There was another video. It was very much clear that our Prime Minister Erdogan heard saying if you boo or protest a leader of a country, you deserve a slap. This was pretty clear. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen the reports of them. I don’t have the specific language. Obviously, if there were offensive comments made, we’d of course condemn those. But I think there’s some confusion on that front.
QUESTION: This goes to the allegedly anti-Semitic comments that he made?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: That’s what you’re talking about?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You don’t know that he actually said them? Is that what you’re saying?
MS. PSAKI: No. We’ve seen them. If that is the actual language that was used, we’d of course condemn that language, but I believe there’s some confusion over the --
QUESTION: All right. And I just wanted to – do you have a – broader thoughts on the Turkish response? Is it – the Turkish response, particularly to the protests?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s --
QUESTION: Is it --
MS. PSAKI: To the protests, I think I made clear that we reject the apparent use of unprovoked violence against demonstrators and protesters and urged accountability according to Turkey’s rule of law.
QUESTION: Okay. So you think that they overreacted? Is that --
MS. PSAKI: There were some incidents, certainly, we are concerned about.
QUESTION: When you say unprovoked force, you also – I know you talk about the police force respond, but you also mention or signal about the prime minister’s apparent slap to the citizen or --
MS. PSAKI: The – I’m sorry. I couldn’t – say that one more time?
QUESTION: The question was: When you say unprovoked force, you also talk about prime minister apparent slap to the citizen?
MS. PSAKI: To the citizen?
QUESTION: Yeah. One of the citizens in Soma.
QUESTION: He’s asking if, when you say – you don’t like unprovoked violence, if that includes what the prime minister did to this protester. I think that’s what he’s asking.
MS. PSAKI: I think we’re referring to a range of videos that have been out.
QUESTION: And --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have to get more specific. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Did you ask Ankara about these anti-Semitic slurs?
MS. PSAKI: Reports?
QUESTION: Yeah, reports. Or --
MS. PSAKI: Again, we’re in close touch. I’m not aware of a conversation about that, but --
QUESTION: Can I just ask about another incident that happened, but this time in North Korea? There are reports that last week some time there had been apartment building that collapsed, 23-story. And although it wasn’t finished, there were some families, about 100 families, 92 to 100 families were already living in there. I mean, the details are very sketchy, obviously; this is North Korea. And I just wondered if by any chance you had heard any reports from – via the Swedish Embassy or any more details via your own kind of intelligence about what may or may not have happened.
MS. PSAKI: We don’t have anything new to share or report. Of course, we would regret the loss of life. We regret any loss of life in an apparent tragedy like this, but we don’t have any more details.
QUESTION: And as far as you know, there’s been no reaching out by the North Korean authorities for any help in this, to any of the embassies that might be in --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not – not that I’m aware of. I’m sure – there’s a range of embassies around the world, so I would point you to them.
Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) North Korea?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What do you – do you have any reaction to the fact that the North Korean Government came out with an apology about this? This is very unusual for them to apologize for something.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional comment aside from what I’ve offered.
Go ahead, Scott.
QUESTION: Colombia. Do you have anything on the reports by Colombian authorities that they’re working on a deal with the FARC to give up their drug trafficking operations if they can come to a broader agreement in Havana?
MS. PSAKI: I hadn’t seen those, so let me talk to our team and see if we can get all of you a comment.
QUESTION: Well, wait. Aside from – there was a statement that came out of this building yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we put out a statement yesterday. I don’t have anything new to add, I should say.
QUESTION: Can you explain why that statement completely neglected to mention the fact that the Cubans are hosting these talks? Do you not --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any particular analysis for you.
QUESTION: Do you not think that Cuba deserves any props for hosting this?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that was the motivation here, Matt. But again, we’ll see if there’s more to offer on these particular talks.
QUESTION: Well it’s just – okay, I mean, you do – but you do recognize that the Cubans are taking – have taken the lead, and that’s where the talks are going on, right? Is that --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more to offer on this particular issue, Matt. We’ll see if there’s any update to Scott’s question beyond the statement we issued yesterday.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:39 p.m.)
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