Daily Press Briefing - May 29, 2014
Index for Today's Briefing:
- Readout of Secretary's Call with Lavrov
- U.S. Strongly Condemns "Honor Killing" in Pakistan
- Secretary Kerry's Remarks During Interviews
- State Department Action on the Case of Meriam Yahia Ibrahim Ishag
- Elections / Waiting for Final Results / Low Turnout
- Bilateral Relationship
- President Obama's Speech at West Point / Next Steps
- Reports of American Suicide Bomber
- Removal of Chemical Weapons
- Concern about Chechen Fighters in Ukraine
- President Speech/ Citing Successes
- Counterterrorism Partnership Fund
- Authorization to Train and Equip Syrian Opposition
- July 20th Goal
- President Speech/ Multilateral Institutions
- Cyber Hackers
- Crude Oil Exports
- IAEA Report
- Steps Taken in Response to Coup
- Scheduling of Elections
- Response to Allegations against U.S. Ambassador to Colombia
- Review Requests for Assistance
- Situation in Eastern Ukraine / Use of Force
- U.S. Represented at Inauguration
- Influence of Non-Ukrainians in Conflict
- Letter to Abbas
- Travel of Interim Government to the United States
- Concerns of Use of Force by Israeli Forces
- Reaction to Agreement between Japan and DPRK on Abductions/ Notification
- Pending Legislation
- Update to Tahmooressi Case
- Military Encounter/ Territorial Issues
- Vice President Biden Speech
1:49 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay. I have two items for all of you at the top.
During a phone call with Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday afternoon, Secretary Kerry expressed concern with the delay in the ongoing efforts to remove the remaining eight percent of declared chemical weapons material from Syria, as well as the recent detainment of OPCW inspectors. Secretary Kerry also raised concerns about reports of foreign fighters crossing the border from Russia into Ukraine, particularly reports of Chechen fighters. He pressed Foreign Minister Lavrov to end all support for separatists, denounce their actions, and call on them to lay down their arms. He also urged Russia to reach out to President-elect Poroshenko and begin working together to de-escalate the conflict.
An additional item at the top: We strongly condemn the murder of a woman outside the Lahore High Court on Tuesday. We welcome comments by senior Pakistani leaders condemning this heinous crime and calling for it to be dealt with promptly. We hope the perpetrators are quickly brought to justice in accordance with Pakistan’s law.
Tragically, this was at least the third reported so-called honor killing in Pakistan this week. We remain very concerned about violence against women and girls that takes place around the world, including in Pakistan. We are especially concerned about the violence that occurs in the name of tradition and honor such as so-called honor killings and other unjustifiable acts of violence. We have been encouraged by Pakistan’s passage of legislation protecting women’s rights, and we encourage the full implementation of such laws as well as greater public awareness about these laws, especially in Pakistan’s rural and tribal areas.
With that, Matt, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks. Before we get back to Ukraine, which I’m sure we will, and maybe even Syria too, I wanted to just ask you a couple things about the Secretary’s comments yesterday, rather strong comments yesterday about Edward Snowden in some interviews that he did. He called him a traitor, said he should man up – a traitor, a coward, said he should man up and come home to face justice.
How does the Secretary make the determination that Mr. Snowden is a traitor?
MS. PSAKI: I think what the Secretary – I don’t think I have anything to add to the Secretary’s comments. He was making clear what the Administration feels, which is that when you release classified information, when you put people at risk, that is not something that’s in line with a patriot of the United States of America.
QUESTION: He did – he mentioned the word “patriot,” and in the same sentence as “patriot,” he mentioned the name of Daniel Ellsberg. I’m wondering, does the Secretary believe that Dan Ellsberg was a patriot or is a patriot, and that Edward Snowden is a traitor? Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: I am not going to do any more analysis of the Secretary’s comments. I think he was pretty clear in how he feels about the alleged actions by Edward Snowden. He thinks he should be returned and face justice in the United States.
QUESTION: Is he convinced that he’ll be convicted? There were a lot of – the reason I’m asking this is because back in the – during the whole Pentagon Papers, there were a lot of people that felt the same way the Secretary feels about Ed Snowden, who they felt the same way about Daniel Ellsberg, that he --
MS. PSAKI: Well, and I know too, Matt, that the Secretary himself was – when he was opposing the war in Vietnam was --
MS. PSAKI: -- targeted and criticized and followed, and he believes there are other means for raising flags about issues where you have concerns.
QUESTION: Right. But Daniel Ellsberg admitted to breaking the law and yet the Secretary believes he’s a patriot, and Ed Snowden – Edward Snowden also admitted to breaking the law and he is a traitor. That’s the – I’m having a problem – I mean, I’ll ask him the next time I have the opportunity to, but have you – do you have any idea what his thinking is about this?
MS. PSAKI: I encourage you to. I think the point he was making, Matt, is --
QUESTION: Okay. I mean --
MS. PSAKI: -- about his concern and distaste for the actions of Edward Snowden.
QUESTION: Right. I understand that. But the only difference at the moment, it seems to be – well, I mean, other than what they actually leaked, is that Ellsberg was charged and went on trial, but he was never acquitted, he was never convicted. The case, you’ll recall, was thrown out by a judge because of such severe prosecutorial misconduct that he – that the judge said that was indelibly tainted, he could never get a fair trial, which is exactly what Snowden fears now. So I just --
MS. PSAKI: Well, we can assure Mr. Snowden that if he returns to the United States he will receive a fair trial. And I don’t think the Secretary was meaning to compare every component.
MS. PSAKI: He was making a broad comparison.
QUESTION: But can I just – but is your understanding that the Secretary believes that Daniel Ellsberg is a patriot? Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: I would stand by what the Secretary said yesterday.
QUESTION: But – okay. And it’s not just because Daniel Ellsberg on Vietnam held the same opinion as the Secretary did at the same time?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly not, certainly not.
QUESTION: It’s not, okay. So then the difference would be that one went to trial even though the case was thrown out of court and the other one hasn’t?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think there’s a real benefit in doing much more analysis of the comparison.
QUESTION: Okay, all right.
QUESTION: But Snowden himself said in the interview last night that he believes he’s still working for the government, that he is a patriot, because after the release of the information that he gave out, all three branches of the U.S. Administration made reforms. And so his contention is that it was something that had to be brought to the public’s attention, that there – his words – was massive constitutional abuses going on, and what he did was a patriot thing to do. He says you can’t – to do the right thing you sometimes have to break the law, and he compared his actions to the civil disobedience movement. I mean, why are his actions any different to what happened in other stages of American history where people took into their hands what they felt was the right thing to do?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know that there’s much more I can add or should add to what the Secretary said yesterday. And he addressed this extensively in several interviews and made clear that our view is that he is not a patriot and he should stay in the United States – or return to the United States to make his case, and we encourage him to do so.
QUESTION: But is it not correct that he exposed weaknesses in what was going on in the United States and that what he exposed were constitutional abuses which, in fact, a court actually said what had been happening was unconstitutional? Is that not correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President himself has addressed this. He’s given a speech – several speeches. He’s – we’ve – there have been reforms made. And the Secretary believes that would have been a discussion we would have had regardless.
QUESTION: Okay. So Snowden also said that he doesn’t believe that he would get a fair trial because he’s been charged with very heavy espionage charges and that he would not actually be able to use evidence against him because it would be classified in his defense.
MS. PSAKI: I would refer you to the Department of Justice on how the mechanics of any trial would work. That’s certainly not under our purview. But I can assure you that he would receive a fair trial, and we believe the next step is for him to return to the United States.
QUESTION: Aren’t there any negotiations going on between this building or the DOJ and Mr. Snowden and his legal team to cut a deal under which he could come back to the United States?
MS. PSAKI: I’d refer you to the Department of Justice. They have the lead.
QUESTION: What about on Russia to extradite him?
MS. PSAKI: The Department of Justice has the lead. I don’t – we don’t have anything to add from here on that.
QUESTION: So he said he’d also be willing to extend his asylum, which I believe runs out on the 1st of August. Are you in touch with your counterparts in Russia on this issue?
MS. PSAKI: You know how we feel about his return. They know how we feel. I don’t have anything further to add to it.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up to Matt real quick?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Go ahead, and then we’ll go to Catherine.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Lucas.
QUESTION: The Secretary’s remarks suggest that he believes there are some sets of classified documents that can be leaked to the news media which would make an individual a traitor, and there are other sets of class information leaked to the news that would make an individual a patriot. I know you covered this, but is this the Secretary’s view?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure it suggests that. I’m going to leave the Secretary’s statements as he made them yesterday.
Go ahead, Catherine.
QUESTION: Following up on Jo’s last question there, just to clarify, did Edward Snowden come up in the Secretary’s phone call with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning?
MS. PSAKI: No, he did not.
QUESTION: Did the Secretary watch the interview last night on NBC?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, no.
QUESTION: Does he have plans to watch it, or you’re just not aware that he might have watched it?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe he has plans to watch it, no.
QUESTION: Can I just --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The call was yesterday, right, not this morning? I just want to be sure.
MS. PSAKI: It was yesterday. Yes, the call was yesterday.
Please, go ahead.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
QUESTION: No, I have --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. Go ahead, Catherine.
QUESTION: Thanks. In the interview, Mr. Snowden says that his disclosures have not caused any damage. Does this Department agree with that assessment?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Secretary Kerry spoke to this yesterday during an interview with NBC about his view that it has caused damage, and that’s one of the reasons we’re so concerned. And a range of Administration officials have made that point as well.
QUESTION: But there hasn’t been actually – hasn’t been any proof that it’s caused damage. It’s easy for you to say it’s caused damage, but without actually providing proof that it has, how do we know that’s correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, because a countless number of Administration officials, some under oath during testimony, have stated that it has, and they have talked as extensively as they can.
QUESTION: But can you give a specific example or even a broader example of where it has compromised your counterterrorism operations, for example?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to lay out specifics along those lines. A lot of those obviously don’t happen out of this building. If there are more to share, I’m sure we will. But again, there have been a range of testimony, interviews on this issue, and there’s been broad agreement on that front.
QUESTION: And is there any possibility that Mr. Snowden could be given some kind of amnesty or a clemency by the Administration?
MS. PSAKI: Again --
QUESTION: Or is it your view that he absolutely has to go before a court and stand trial?
MS. PSAKI: I’d refer you to the Department of Justice. They have the lead on the legal procedures.
Go ahead, Catherine.
QUESTION: You mentioned that there are specific procedures for raising issues when you have concerns. Mr. Snowden says he tried to go through proper channels and whistle blow, but was actually rebuffed. If this is true, what does this say about the system for whistleblowers?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously DOJ and ODNI are the appropriate venues for that question. I will say the NSA has responded to this question today. They explained that they have found one email inquiry by Edward Snowden into the Office of General Counsel asking for an explanation of some material that was in a training course he had just completed. The email did not raise allegations or concerns about wrongdoing or abuse, but posed a legal question about the office – that the Office of General Counsel addressed. This was not – there was not an additional follow up note. And I believe they plan to release that email later today.
QUESTION: And one more, quickly.
QUESTION: His email to them, not their response to him?
MS. PSAKI: As I understand it, yes. But I’d refer to – you to them on what they specifically will release.
QUESTION: Okay. But you just -- sorry, Catherine. Just one.
QUESTION: That’s fine.
QUESTION: But the legal question that he raised – was it, I think that this whole thing is illegal and unconstitutional?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any other details.
QUESTION: All right. Then that’s a question for --
MS. PSAKI: It sounds like his characterization isn’t in line with what the email says.
QUESTION: Can I change --
MS. PSAKI: No. Go ahead, Catherine.
QUESTION: One more. Mr. Snowden says he hasn’t cooperated with Russia in any way, and that when he transited through Russia or intended to transit through Russia he didn’t have said documents on his person or have access to them. Do you believe that to be factual, given what you know about the Russian services and government?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I will just simply say that passports – and I know that’s what he was, I believe, referring to in the full context – are property of the Department of State and can be revoked by the Department or on request from the law enforcement agencies. That’s standard operating procedure in cases like this, and that was done in this case.
QUESTION: Yes. I’d like to ask about Sudan and this case of the woman in jail for refusing to convert to Islam. Her husband, Daniel Wani, did an interview in which he said that the State Department – he’s furious with the State Department. He said that the State Department has not helped him, that – told him that they would not help the family because this involved a criminal case of a non-U.S. citizen. Is that true?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, as you all know, we still don’t have a Privacy Act waiver in this case. We have raised this issue. And obviously that wouldn’t be applicable to Meriam, because she’s not a U.S. citizen and there’s no suspicion she is. We have – our consular services has done everything that they would in any normal case. I can’t go into further detail beyond that.
I will also add – and I know somebody asked this question the other day – at what level has this been raised. Under Secretary Sherman called in the charge of the Embassy of Sudan to discuss the case just last week. In addition to her meeting, Special Envoy Donald Booth this week spoke with the Sudanese foreign minister to convey our grave concerns about this case. Special Envoy Booth also called upon the Government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, including one’s rights to change one’s faiths or beliefs. We have – U.S. Embassy officials have attended public hearings to date and will closely monitor the appeals process in Khartoum, which we understand can be quite lengthy.
QUESTION: Well, what are the levers of pressure that the U.S. has here? I mean, the U.S. has given Sudan hundreds of millions of dollars over the last many years. Is there any consideration of withholding U.S. aid, considering all of your work on religious freedom and that the U.S. holds itself up as a moral authority on religious freedom?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not just the United States. Obviously a range of countries have put a significant amount of public pressure on in this case. I’m not aware of that option being considered, but we will consider – continue to press through every channel we can our concerns about this case.
QUESTION: Well, why not? I mean, do you think that the taxpayers would want their money being kind of subsidized for a government that is going to execute a woman for refusing to convert --
MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly, Elise, we’re concerned about this horrific case, and we’ve expressed that many, many, many times. There are a range of criteria that are looked at for any consideration on that level, and I’m not aware of that being under consideration at this time.
QUESTION: I understand. But on a general rule, I mean in terms of your policies on religious freedom, what are the consequences for a country that has the death penalty for a violation of religion?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I don’t want to speculate on that. You know how strongly we feel about religious freedom. We’ll continue to press for seeing the process --
QUESTION: Well, I know that you say you feel strongly about it, but I mean, what is the policy? I mean, are there sanctions that are applicable in terms of violation of human rights and specifically on the death penalty?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, there are a range of criteria that are looked to in any case. I have nothing further to speculate on this point.
QUESTION: Well, would you say that that’s being considered – any type of punitive action?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, no.
QUESTION: Jen, do you – actually, do you have the aid figure? Do you know --
MS. PSAKI: The aid figure? I do not have that. I’m happy to get that to all of you.
QUESTION: Do you know if it is, in fact, hundreds of million dollars?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t know. I don’t have the specific --
QUESTION: Sudan is still a state sponsor of terrorism, so --
QUESTION: Yeah, no, but last year they spent about --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t
QUESTION: -- a hundred and something million dollars.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So the – would you say or can you say if your efforts on behalf of this woman, who is not an American citizen, is greater than it would be in a normal – in a case where – I want to retract the word “normal” – in a case where it was a U.S. citizen? Or are you doing the same thing you would do --
MS. PSAKI: Greater than for her?
QUESTION: Well, she’s married to an American citizen, right? Or has that not been established?
QUESTION: Is that not applicable?
MS. PSAKI: We --
QUESTION: So --
QUESTION: Does that not matter?
MS. PSAKI: Broadly speaking, and we can’t – you know why we couldn’t speak to it --
QUESTION: I just – are you doing the same thing that you – for her that you would do for a – for someone who was a U.S. citizen, not just married to one?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, the circumstances of this case have warranted a greater level of engagement, which we are doing in this case.
QUESTION: Why? Because he’s a citizen, or because it’s the death penalty and a violation of religious freedom?
MS. PSAKI: Because – look at the story we’ve all been talking about about what is happening with this woman and the violation of religious freedom. And that’s something we broadly speak about across the world and we’re doing in this case for that reason.
QUESTION: But in terms of your outreach to the Sudanese authorities, is the State Department operating on the – not presumption, but on the – are you operating as if she was an American citizen who you have a – more of an obligation to defend?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it in those terms, but we’re doing everything we can to push for her release.
QUESTION: But --
QUESTION: Could – if she was an American citizen, could you do more? What I’m getting at is if – are there limits to what you can do because she is not an American citizen?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, in this case we’re attending public hearings. That’s something we would do for a U.S. citizen. I don’t know what the other specifics would be, but we’re doing everything we can possibly think of.
QUESTION: Didn’t she just have a baby as well?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So the baby would be an American citizen.
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, as we’ve spoken to a little bit in here, we can’t speak to the specifics of the case because we don’t have a Privacy Act waiver. But I would say, broadly speaking, there needs to be proof of that genetic connection in order to have the rights of an American citizen for anyone.
QUESTION: Has that proof been authenticated?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t – there are no more details I can provide on this case. We don’t have a Privacy Act waiver.
QUESTION: Why can’t you say publicly that if you go ahead and execute this woman, then our recourse of action will be 1, 2, 3, 4? Wouldn’t that --
MS. PSAKI: I --
QUESTION: Wouldn’t that have like more resonance?
MS. PSAKI: I appreciate the advice, Said. I think we’re doing everything we can through the proper channels to make clear how strongly we feel about this case.
QUESTION: Such as what? I mean, there are incentives and disincentives. What are your --
MS. PSAKI: I just outlined the range of the steps we’re taking.
QUESTION: Change of topic?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re waiting for the official results, official announcement of the results, which we often do and is pretty standard. As we’ve said before, we don’t want to get ahead of the process. We remain concerned more broadly about the continued restrictive political environment leading up to the election and its implications for inclusivity and stability in Egypt, including politicized arrests and limits on freedom of the press. Democracy is more than elections, and we will continue to press for progress on all of those areas.
QUESTION: They extended their elections for one extra day. I mean, how do you look at this? Because they – apparently, they wanted to increase the turnout of the elections which really was weak the first two days. I mean, is this a normal thing to do?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any political analysis of their steps they’ve taken in that regard specifically. Our concerns remain the ones that I just outlined.
QUESTION: Would that – with this extension and so on, sort of how would you respond to that in terms of when it comes time to saying this election was fine, up to international standards, and so on?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we’ll wait for --
QUESTION: Would that in any way compromise your position?
MS. PSAKI: Said, we’ll wait for – let me finish. We’ll wait for the results to be officially announced, and then we’ll have a comment on the results.
QUESTION: But thus far, do you feel that the elections were conducted, let’s say, in a nonviolent atmosphere or no intimidation atmosphere?
MS. PSAKI: Again, we’ll wait to do analysis until the results are announced. And as I mentioned, we still have remaining concerns about additional steps that need to be taken.
QUESTION: But the campaigns have already talked about – this one won with a 93 or a 94 percent, and that when only 4 percent --
MS. PSAKI: I understand. I mean, we’ve seen the same stories.
QUESTION: -- and the fraud votes were --
MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen the same reports, obviously, but we’ll wait for the official results to be announced.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) against him conceded defeat, too.
QUESTION: Yes, he has conceded.
QUESTION: So, I mean --
MS. PSAKI: We’ll wait for the official results to be announced.
QUESTION: Are you still sort of sticking your head in the sand that Sisi is not going to emerge as the --
MS. PSAKI: We’ll look forward to talking about that when the official results are announced.
QUESTION: Are you promising that you will have an analysis for us once the official results --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not making any promises, but I --
QUESTION: Well, you just said you would wait until – you said you would wait until the official results came out before giving your analysis.
MS. PSAKI: Let me put it this way --
QUESTION: So --
MS. PSAKI: -- we’ll look forward to a robust discussion in this very briefing room when --
QUESTION: And I just want to make --
MS. PSAKI: -- there are official results announced.
QUESTION: And I just want to make sure that I got this right: You’re not going to comment on things unrelated to the result, i.e. the conduct of the election, until – also until the official results are announced?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. And obviously, I also expressed concern about some of the lead-up to the elections; concerns we have about inclusivity, media freedoms – those remain, and we still have those leading up to the elections as well.
QUESTION: Are you concerned about the low turnout, which was less than the previous election for – when Morsi was elected?
MS. PSAKI: Well, without doing political analysis, I will say that our view is that they also need to keep in mind – the new officials – that democracy is more than elections, and there are a number of steps they need to – they’ll need to take when things --
QUESTION: But if the turnout was only 47 percent, and given that he may have won by 96 percent according to state television – but we’ll go along with the game of waiting for the official results – then does that give him a credibility? Does that give him legitimacy as the leader of all of Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: We will wait until the official results are announced.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: During the --
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Go ahead. Ladies first, Said.
QUESTION: Of course.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks, Jen. Okay. Thank you, Said.
So during the election process, a lot of Egyptians were complaining that they were asked – they were told that if they do not end vote on the third day, 500 Egyptian pounds will be taken out of their paychecks. I mean – and this is not only 10 or 50 Egyptians. This is what thousands of Egyptians are saying on Twitter. Just put hashtag Egypt and you will see all this.
What do you make of this? This is a way of intimidation, because the turnout the first two days were apparently not more than 20 percent, the semi-official – and then all of a sudden we are hearing numbers in 40s and 47 percent and all this. What do you make of all this, I mean, watching from a distance?
MS. PSAKI: Broadly speaking, we’d be concerned about any reports of intimidation, and we are certainly concerned about reports of lack of inclusivity, of a crackdown on media that has been ongoing.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask just to follow up on --
QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait. Specifically on this, there are countries in the world that you regard as democracies where voting is required and not voting is punishable by being fined. I can think of a large one. It’s an island. It’s also a continent. If you say you have concerns with this in Egypt, are you concerned about --
MS. PSAKI: I just said “broadly speaking,” but we don’t have any confirmation of that. I understand that there are reports out there on Twitter, but we’ll wait until we have the final results.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask about your relationship with Egypt. The fact that the President yesterday only mentioned Egypt in passing and really reduced the whole relationship to a security arrangement, does that indicate that your relationship with Egypt at the present time is probably at its lowest point since the signing of the Camp David Accord?
MS. PSAKI: No, it does not. It was a 30-minute or 40-minute speech. It did not talk about every issue we work on in the world, because it would’ve been five hours and the West Point Cadets may’ve been ready to celebrate their graduation at that point. So I wouldn’t analyze how many lines or words as to meaning of the importance.
QUESTION: Only five hours?
QUESTION: Do you agree with the President that it is only a security arrangement?
MS. PSAKI: Three hours?
QUESTION: No, no, I think it’d have been longer.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead (inaudible).
QUESTION: Do you agree with the President that it’s basically a security arrangement and nothing else?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve been pretty clear we have an extensive relationship. We want to work with Egypt over the long term.
QUESTION: But – well, hold on. Since you brought up the speech, I just have one – I think just one question about it.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: And that is: Given the fact that the idea of this speech was for the President to lay out what his vision – foreign policy vision is for the next two years of his presidency, and given that this is the building that is in charge of doing most of the foreign policy, can you – is there anything that this building is going – or that people who work for this building are going to do any differently today than they would have before this speech was given? In other words, was there – did the speech identify to people here, people in the foreign policy apparatus of the Administration, any change in direction in any policy? Or was it just an explanation of what has been happening and – what has been happening and that what has been happening is going to continue to happen?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I’d hope not given that we are – we’re fully consulting on the content of the speech. And part of the speech was efforts that have been ongoing, that are of vital importance to the United States, and certainly priorities to the Administration – Iran negotiations, for example. But there was broad agreement, which was a central part of the speech, about addressing terrorism and how we need to do that differently, given how threats have changed, given in a post – in a post-Iraq and Afghanistan world. That’s been an ongoing discussion and certainly that was a big – not just message from the speech, but that was a path laid out for moving forward.
QUESTION: So – okay. So how is – asking you to speak to this building, which is where your expertise is – how is the State Department’s counterterrorism operation or efforts going to change as a result of the new ideas – or however you want to describe them – that the President laid out yesterday?
MS. PSAKI: Well, in one way, we’re going to work with the Administration and with Congress and with our international partners on determining the best way to move forward with the counterterrorism partnership fund that the President announced yesterday – how do we use that to help address the threats we’re facing around the world. So we’ll certainly be an active partner in that.
QUESTION: Well – right. But that’s my question, is what the one you just said.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: How do you do that? So how is it going to change?
MS. PSAKI: Well, how it --
QUESTION: How is it going to – how – I’ll try to be more specific.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: How is it going to be any different than what you were doing on Monday?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Matt, a part of any announcement as a part – is a result of an ongoing discussion internally about what’s needed, so there’s more work that needs to be done to determine how this will be spent and where and what the best way to do it, and obviously it needs to go through Congress. But that’s an item we’re working on.
QUESTION: Okay. But leaving Congress aside --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- the Executive Branch runs the foreign policy with the advice and the consent of the --
MS. PSAKI: Yes, correct.
QUESTION: -- of Congress. What is the Administration writ large, but specifically the State Department which runs foreign policy, or which carries out foreign policy on behalf of the President, what are you doing – going to do differently now or in the next two years than you haven’t been doing now – I mean, than you haven’t been doing already?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure, one, that that was the question that the speech was attempting to address. Obviously, the change in counterterrorism approach was part of it. Another piece that the speech touched on was boosting support for the moderate opposition in Syria and what we’re going to do more on that front. So that’s another piece that --
QUESTION: Well, he didn’t say --
MS. PSAKI: -- we will certainly continue to work on. He did talk about --
QUESTION: He didn’t say – he said maybe like one sentence about boosting the opposition, but he didn’t talk about how he was going to do that. Maybe you could do that.
MS. PSAKI: Well, one of the areas, ways – and he did talk about it in the speech. That was one of the things that --
QUESTION: He glossed over it.
MS. PSAKI: It was an important component of the speech. I’m giving you some insight here in terms of what it was telling you about what our path is moving forward, Elise, is that that is a priority to the President, it’s a priority to the Secretary. As we talked about – well, in a range of briefings and folks who were on TV, including National Security Advisor Rice, said yesterday there is some attractive language that we are going to work with Congress on – I know this is a reference to Congress, but it’s relevant – that’s in the NDAA, approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee that would authorize the Secretary of Defense to provide equipment and training to vetted members of the Syrian opposition. That’s obviously a step that we will work with them and our international partners on. So that’s one component, certainly, we will be involved in from this building.
QUESTION: But the – I guess my point is that – I mean, this speech – one of the reasons this speech was given, I think – and I know this is a question better addressed to the White House, but I think that it’s accepted among everyone in – across the Administration was that the President has been criticized for having an uncertain or unclear – right? I mean, he has been. You can’t deny that he hasn’t been criticized, right? All right. Whether you think that --
MS. PSAKI: I have seen the critics.
QUESTION: Whether you think the criticism is valid or not, he has been criticized. And this speech was supposed to address that. I’m just – and presumably in doing that, in addressing the criticism, you point out, you clarify, you define what your vision, what your goal for the rest of your presidency is. And so I think that you agree that he did that in this speech. Is that not right?
MS. PSAKI: I do, but --
QUESTION: So how has the – how will the State Department, acting on this new directive from the President to fulfil his foreign policy vision over the next two years – how will you be doing things differently? Because the – what you have been doing has been criticized. Whether or not the criticism is valid or not, it has been criticized.
QUESTION: He wasn’t offering new policy; he was just explaining his existing one.
MS. PSAKI: Correct. But also --
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: So you won’t be doing anything different?
QUESTION: So this was an explanation – so that’s not what you said for my answer the first time.
MS. PSAKI: No, no, no. Let me continue. No, no, no. It is what I said. He was laying out where we’ve come from and what we’ve done and where we’re going to go moving forward. There --
QUESTION: But where --
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. There are several components of that that are ongoing, whether that’s Iran, whether that’s leading off of the successful elections in Ukraine. But there are areas, like addressing counterterrorism, that we are going to take a new approach to.
QUESTION: But – so my question is: How is where we’re going now post-speech different from where we were going a week ago?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been a post-Iraq and almost post-Afghanistan engagement world – almost – for some time. So there have been discussions about the best way to approach the threats of terrorism. And that was part of what was reflected in the speech. That’s part of what we’ll be working on. Obviously, the threats from Syria are a part of that, and that will be another area that the Secretary will continue to play a prominent role in the Administration.
QUESTION: But those are ongoing discussions. They’re not – they didn’t get – there’s no shift at the moment. There isn’t anything – this building isn’t doing anything differently today than it was doing on Monday, is it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re working actively now on moving these agenda items forward. So we’re continuing to do that.
QUESTION: Speaking on Syria, the threats – there have been reports – I think corroborated by some officials around town – that there is an American suicide bomber in Syria. Can you tell us what you know about that?
MS. PSAKI: We are, of course, looking into those reports but cannot confirm anything at this time.
QUESTION: Jen, back to the speech real quick.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Two points the President made --
QUESTION: No, I want to --
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Elise.
QUESTION: But – so is he – do – you cannot confirm that he’s American, or is he believed to be American?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the reports have said “believe to be,” but we don’t have any additional confirmation to offer at this time.
QUESTION: On the issue of the chemical weapons, did you say at the top that Mr. Kerry expressed concern to Lavrov that 8 percent remain?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. So reports that indicate that they are actually moving and the Syrians are meeting their obligations are not true?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been steps that have been taken to contain the materials. They need to be moved. Obviously, that’s what the next step is, and that’s what they discussed on that front.
QUESTION: And I just wanted you to clarify. You said something about the phone call at the very top, that – did I hear you correctly? You said that he expressed his concern that Chechen fighters are going through Ukraine or through Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Ukraine.
QUESTION: Okay. So the Russians are aiding Chechen fighters to go to Ukraine? Is that the suggestion?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he expressed concern about what we’ve seen along those lines. There have been a range of reports, so that’s what he was expressing concern about.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to the speech real quick?
MS. PSAKI: Can we finish that, and then we’ll go – go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, no, I just wanted to go back to the – Elise’s question. You said – sorry – just about this alleged American guy – you don’t – one, you can’t confirm that he’s American, and two, you can’t confirm that the person who is pictured in this was involved in any kind of attack or suicide bombing? Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Correct. I don’t have any other details to confirm.
MS. PSAKI: I would argue the President doesn’t give himself enough credit for what he’s done around the world, and that’s how the Secretary feels, too. We would not be engaged in comprehensive negotiations with Iran, which is where the program is stalled and is rolling back, if it were not for the role of the United States, along with the P5+1 partners, certainly. Ukraine – we’ve been engaged more or as much as any other country in the world in supporting the elections process, in supporting the government, in supporting their efforts moving forward. Yes, there’s more work that needs to be done. The point is we need to continue to stay at it.
QUESTION: But isn’t this a potential “Mission Accomplished” situation?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not.
QUESTION: Jen --
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: You would argue the President doesn’t give himself enough credit? How much credit would you give him?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what I’m – I would give him more than he has given himself. That’s what I just said.
QUESTION: What, like, 200 percent credit? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: So would the Secretary.
QUESTION: For – and for --
QUESTION: Credit for what? I’m sorry. Credit for what?
QUESTION: -- for what? Yes, exactly. That’s
QUESTION: No, I mean, I don’t – I don’t mean, like, he doesn’t deserve credit.
QUESTION: For the Iran negotiations? For --
QUESTION: I mean – I’m talking, what specifically are you talking he doesn’t get enough credit for? That’s what I’m saying.
MS. PSAKI: For engagement in issues like Iran, what we’ve done on Ukraine, efforts to dive in and engage around the world.
QUESTION: Can we just stay on --
QUESTION: I mean, Russia has still annexed Crimea. I mean, Iran – there’s ongoing negotiations, but is that the success here that you’re talking?
MS. PSAKI: We’re talking about engagement in the world and taking on tough issues that present themselves. And the United States continues to play a prominent role doing that.
QUESTION: I just had a quick – I had – on two points that you made, one of which was you said that there was going to be a new approach on counterterrorism.
MS. PSAKI: Well, what I’m talking about is the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund that was announced --
MS. PSAKI: -- in the President’s speech yesterday.
QUESTION: Right. That --
MS. PSAKI: And his speech, where he outlined that the threats we’re facing are different than they were in a Iraq and – a pre-Iraq and a pre-Afghanistan period, where we were focusing on decimating core al-Qaida. We know that these threats are scattered, and we need to adjust our approach accordingly.
QUESTION: Right. But can you tell us how? I mean --
MS. PSAKI: That’s what we are going to continue to --
QUESTION: So --
MS. PSAKI: -- work through. But the fund --
QUESTION: That’s what I was trying to figure --
QUESTION: As Matt was saying, these are not things that have already happened. These are things you’re now working out.
MS. PSAKI: He announced – obviously, we’ve taken --
QUESTION: That’s a fund, yeah.
MS. PSAKI: -- a range of steps to address over the course of the last months and years. But again, this fund was just announced yesterday. We need to work through Congress, we need to work with our international partners, and we will be focused on that.
QUESTION: So can we expect at some point in the coming months you will then roll this out for us, so we actually have some concrete details?
MS. PSAKI: I am sure there’ll be more to share about where the funding would go and how it would be used. There’s a great deal of flexibility, which we see as a benefit. And I’m sure there’ll be more to say in the coming months.
QUESTION: Okay. Just to pick up on one other thing you mentioned, you said that you’re going to be working on Syria and helping the moderate opposition. You said there was some attractive language --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- in the bill or the draft bill in front of Congress. Could you point us to the attractive language?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. What I was referring to is there is language that Senator Levin offered to the NDAA. That language, a provision in the NDAA which – or has already been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, would authorize the Secretary of Defense to provide equipment and training to vetted members of the Syrian opposition. And we look forward to continuing to work with Congress on that list.
QUESTION: Okay. So you’re talking about – are you now getting into details about talking about specific equipment with Congress?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, you need to have authorization in order to train and equip. This would provide that authorization. That’s what we’re working them – with them on.
QUESTION: About this fund, the procedure about this fund that you mentioned – so you said that you are talking with the partners on this fund.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Who will be in charge for the allocations of this fund? The Pentagon, DOD, or the State Department, or there will be another body?
MS. PSAKI: It’s a Pentagon – the Pentagon would be in charge, but obviously the State Department would work with them, the White House. It’s an – would be an interagency process, as I understand it.
QUESTION: So what kind of draft that you are working on for the approval in the Congress? Are you going to, for example, present the breakdown of this plan within the partners? Or what kind of details are we to expect?
MS. PSAKI: It’s only 24 hours old, so we’ll continue the discussions and consultations. And as more information is available, we will make that available to you when possible.
QUESTION: Jen, on the bill, you and officials speaking on background yesterday, quite a bit about this – about the attractive language that you just – this is in the Defense authorization bill, which could take months to get through. Would the Administration or would the State Department be in favor of perhaps taking Senator Levin’s language out of that bill and making it a standalone item that could potentially get through the legislative process more quickly?
MS. PSAKI: It is a good question. Obviously, we’re discussing a range of mechanisms with Congress. I don’t want to speculate on those publicly. But I’m happy to check with our Hill team and see if there’s more we want to say on that front.
QUESTION: Okay. And is it correct that train-and-equip programs, like the one being considered, require congressional authorization?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this type of a program, where this is provided, would require, yes.
QUESTION: You said that – so you said that there’s attractive language, that you look forward to working with Congress. I mean, you could have proposed this language to Congress at any point. You could have said, “We want to train and equip,” to Congress. “Can you give us the authorization to do that?”
I mean, it seems now like Congress is giving you the push to do it.
MS. PSAKI: I think there have been discussions in the Administration for months, as you know, about a range of options and mechanisms to support. The President’s speech was a reflection of that yesterday. Support for this language is a reflection of that. I would remind you that we have ongoing discussions with Congress all the time, so --
QUESTION: Can I ask about Iran? It was briefly mentioned in the speech. Drafting was scheduled to begin this month. It’s now the end of May. Clearly, we’re somewhat behind schedule. I’m sure you agree with that characterization. When is drafting set to actually begin? And do you have enough time given the deadline is July 20th?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re continuing to target July 20th and working towards that goal. Nothing has changed on that front. Our team will have another round of meetings coming up in a couple of weeks, so I don’t have anything new to update you on.
QUESTION: No concern over the fact that you had said that May was the month that you would begin drafting, and drafting has not --
MS. PSAKI: I think we did extensive briefings around the last round of negotiations. We remain – made clear that gaps remained and this is challenging, but we will keep at it.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The President said that multilateralism – that international institutions enforce international norms when it comes to Ukraine, when it comes to Iran, when it comes to Syria. He also said he acknowledged that these institutions have infrastructural problems. He didn’t specifically say that NATO is in crisis. He didn’t specifically say that the UN Security Council has problems. But he did acknowledge that – I mean, he didn’t propose any fixes to these institutions. Does the State Department plan on proposing any solutions to these problems?
MS. PSAKI: I have no new proposals to offer for you today. Obviously --
MS. PSAKI: -- we’ve expressed frustrations consistently over a range of issues, including the blocking of Syria – of security resolution – Syria resolutions in the Security Council. So that’s consistent with those frustrations, but I don’t have anything new to offer on that today.
QUESTION: One more on Iran?
QUESTION: I suppose --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Just one more, Elise. I just --
QUESTION: I have to go, but --
MS. PSAKI: Changing of the view. Go ahead.
QUESTION: No, go ahead. It’s okay.
QUESTION: Finish your thought.
QUESTION: Only because if the message --
MS. PSAKI: You scared the young men in the third row there. Go ahead.
QUESTION: If the message of the speech was to lay out this broader vision, and the broader vision was multilateralism and that these institutions are a force multiplier for American power, and then he says that these institutions have problems and then lays out no fixes whatsoever, what is the vision there?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think acknowledging that it’s – there have been challenges, but they have still been a force that has been effective. I mean, look at what’s – what NATO has done around Ukraine in boosting countries in the Eastern bloc. That has been a very effective step that they have taken.
This is – but the speech was not meant to, as I mentioned, be a – raising every question we have in the world and providing every answer. You could have had a speech – I will make it now 72 hours if you were doing that piece. So we’ll continue these discussions. As the President mentioned, Secretary Hagel and Secretary Kerry, NSA – National Security Advisor Rice will all be giving speeches to follow up on this speech. There’ll be more that we’ll continue to talk about on the issues he talked about yesterday.
QUESTION: Just one quick one on Iran. There’s a new report coming out – that just came out that looks at Iranian cyber hackers. I was wondering if you have anything at that. It said that it targeted foreign policy officials. I’m wondering if you have been notified that anybody in the State Department has been targeted by this scheme.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail. I’m happy to check, Elise. I can say that the use of fake personas for malicious purposes is well known to the United States Government. We are aware that hackers in Iran and elsewhere often use social media to gain information or make connections with targets of interest, including U.S. Government and private entities. To defend against these threats, the United States is committed to helping the public and private sector protect itself in cyberspace by sharing actionable information. And as a part of that, on a daily basis the FBI and DHS notify individual victims or potential victims of specific cyber threats and incidents that affect them.
This report did not seek U.S. Government analytical or technical support in developing their conclusions. They were independently developed. But obviously, as I noted, we’ve had concerns about this issue and have been taking steps to address.
QUESTION: Are you aware specifically of this particular scheme where these fake journalists tried to target U.S., Israeli, British officials? I mean, when you talk about Iranian hackers and social media, are you saying that you have actual knowledge of this particular campaign?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail. Again, I’m happy to check. I mean, we are certainly aware of the use of fake personas in a range of manners to try to access this type of information, but I can check and see if there’s more we can offer on this.
QUESTION: On Iran, did you give – I believe you did. Do you have the answer to the oil question I asked the other day? Or maybe it’s not in your book in front of you.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of press reports that Iran’s crude oil exports have at times exceeded the target, but there’s a range of data that’s looked at. We would disagree with the findings that you referenced that suggested it’s mathematically impossible. We disagree with that. We’ll continue to track, as we have been, for the upcoming months.
QUESTION: Mathematically impossible for the average to go below what it --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, yes.
QUESTION: -- what it was set out in the joint agreement? Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Our view is it’s way too early to make that conclusion.
QUESTION: Wait, wait. Did you comment on the IAEA report?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t --
QUESTION: I mean, I know that the issue was raised by Matt last week, last Friday. But after that, hence, have you commented on the report?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we’ve offered an additional comment.
Should we do a new topic? Nicolas.
MS. PSAKI: And then we’ll go to Scott in the back. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. Can we move to Southeast Asia?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Your friend, the European Union, said this morning that they are extremely concerned, but the Thai military doesn’t seem to listen to all of you. So what is the U.S. leverage on the Thai military? Do you have conversation with the new regime, even with the Royal Palace? And are sanctions one of the options the U.S. could consider?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to outline anything being considered. I’m not announcing we’re being – considering that either. I can check and see if there’s more to say on that front. But our steps we’ve taken, as you know, are to take steps to suspend assistance. We have been in touch with the military, as we’ve consistently been throughout the process. We continue to call for elections. We don’t believe there is a legitimate reason to delay elections. And we will continue to work with our international partners to use every political lever, economic lever, where applicable, to put the necessary pressure on.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Today, Thai military officials said that – or they hinted that it would be a while before they schedule elections. Do you have any response to those particular --
MS. PSAKI: I do. We don’t believe there is a legitimate reason to delay. We believe – and so we would urge the military council to facilitate an inclusive and transparent electoral process, and we encourage them to do that soon.
QUESTION: So earlier, you said that democracy is not only about elections, but would you say that currently the conditions are right for Thailand to have an election --
MS. PSAKI: We --
QUESTION: -- as soon as it can feasibly take place?
MS. PSAKI: We would, but I would also say the meaning of that is not what you think it is. The meaning of that is media freedoms, which we’ve also expressed concerns about in Thailand. It’s inclusivity. Every country is different, but that was the broad meaning.
Scott, go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Venezuelan Government says the U.S. Envoy to Colombia, Kevin Whitaker, is helping the opposition leader, Maria Corina Machado, plan a series of coup plots. Is that true?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not. Let’s be clear: These allegations are absolutely false and baseless. We’ve seen many times the Venezuelan Government try to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela. The real issues are ones that must be the subject of serious, inclusive dialogue among Venezuelans with actions to address the legitimate grievances of the Venezuelan people.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- just for a second?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The president-elect has called for direct U.S. military assistance. Is that something the Obama Administration is considering?
MS. PSAKI: Again, this President has approved three tranches of assistance. We’ll continue to review their requests, but nothing has changed, in our view, of lethal assistance.
QUESTION: So on Ukraine. Do you have any comment or concern about the situation in the east right now in the wake of this helicopter being downed? And there’s photographs that appear to show innocent civilians, including children, lying dead in the streets. The other day you said that you didn’t have any particular concerns about the Ukrainian authorities’ use of force, but you did have concerns about the separatists and you were urging the Russians to rein them in. Do you now – do you have concerns about the Ukrainian authority – the use of force by the Ukrainian authorities, or is it still the – are you still the same – in the same spot you were?
MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed. Our broad view, as you know, is that de-escalation is the proper path forward, but many challenges remain on the ground. There’s no question about that. As you noted, today heavily armed separatists in Slovyansk shot down a military transport helicopter, killing 14 people. Four OSCE observers that were abducted on May 26 have –continue to be held. Separatists reportedly, including many from Russia, attempted to seize the airport in Donetsk on Monday. So there are obviously a range of recent events in isolated areas that we remain concerned about and challenges remain.
QUESTION: But you still believe that the Ukrainian authorities are acting within their – they’re acting appropriately within their right to maintain order in these clashes that are going on in the east?
MS. PSAKI: We still believe Ukrainian authorities have the right uphold law and order in their own country, yes.
QUESTION: And you don’t believe that they’re using disproportionate force or attacking civilians?
MS. PSAKI: That is not a concern I’m aware of.
QUESTION: Jen, the --
QUESTION: North Korea?
MS. PSAKI: Ukraine?
QUESTION: Yes, still on Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I think the Ukrainian authorities have announced that the inauguration for Poroshenko is going to be on June 7th. Do you have any indication as to whom might represent the United States at that?
MS. PSAKI: Not at this point. We do plan to be represented, but I don’t have any announcements to make.
QUESTION: You wouldn’t, would you?
MS. PSAKI: Hmm?
QUESTION: Wouldn’t the White House make that announcement? Is there a presidential --
MS. PSAKI: You’re so tied up with protocol, Matt. That is true. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: More on Ukraine.
QUESTION: Speaking of protocol, though, on Ukraine. A couple Russian publications but also The Washington Post have published cables that were released by – came out from WikiLeaks about U.S. diplomats’ rather unfavorable view of the president-elect back when he was – before he was the foreign minister. Do you know if those – if the concerns expressed by people like Ambassador Herbst about Mr. Poroshenko still exist?
MS. PSAKI: I have not heard those concerns expressed, nor have I discussed those cables with people currently in the Administration.
QUESTION: On Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you believe whatever the Ukrainian Government’s strategy is, is working? I was there. I just came back. I saw how Crimea was – I was there for two months. I saw how was Crimea was taken away and the world was watching. And I saw how the east, people in the east wanted to vote. A lot of people in eastern Ukraine wanted to vote, and they couldn’t. I was in Slovyansk and I saw how the army was suffering, trying to get back that city. But apparently they had no good strategy because they were bombing checkpoints and going instead of seizing them. So the separatists would come back. There was a lot of chaos there on the ground among people. And it’s been going on for a long time. And it seems like the more it goes, the worse it gets and the more likely it is like a civil war instead of just whatever you --
MS. PSAKI: You can’t have a civil war when it’s Ukrainians supporting Ukraine, and you have Russian separatists from the outside coming in and wreaking havoc in some parts eastern Ukraine.
QUESTION: But they’re using the insider – the separatists that are Ukrainian separatists. They don’t --
MS. PSAKI: I think there’s some argument about that question.
QUESTION: As human shields.
MS. PSAKI: Let – our view here is that there was a successful election with a high turnout. There were certainly some challenges --
QUESTION: In the west, not in the east.
MS. PSAKI: There were some challenges. There was – even in some areas where Russian separatists were attempting to prevent people from voting, they still voted. But across the country, 60 percent – there was a 60 percent turnout, which is a high level of turnout. Where we are now is we’re focused on moving forward. And president-elect Poroshenko has announced that his number one priority will be to restore order in eastern Ukraine by increasing dialogues with citizens of the region. He’s going to be traveling to the area soon after the inauguration, and we’re hopeful that that will be – lead to a positive path forward.
QUESTION: This is a Middle East peace --
QUESTION: Hold on (inaudible).
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Your view is that everyone – that all Ukrainians in all of Ukraine excluding Crimea are for the president elect, and that anyone who is opposed and is conducting --
MS. PSAKI: No, that is --
QUESTION: -- is doing – creating mayhem, is --
MS. PSAKI: That is not at all what I was suggesting. But I --
QUESTION: But you seem to be suggesting that all the separatists are actually Russian and not Ukrainians. That’s what I thought I heard, at least. Correct me if I’m wrong.
MS. PSAKI: I think the Russian separatists – Russian-supported separatists, however you want to refer to it – are – I wasn’t suggesting that. I don’t think we know the origin of a lot of these individuals. We’ve seen people cross borders; there’s a lot of questions that have been raised.
QUESTION: So – okay. So is it correct then that you are concerned that people from outside Ukraine, people who are not Ukrainian citizens, are going into Ukraine and fighting on the separatist side. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, look at the reports of Chechnyans coming across the border.
QUESTION: That’s what I just wanted to make sure.
QUESTION: (Inaudible.) I was there. I saw them.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. No, sure, absolutely.
MS. PSAKI: Do we – just – do we have any more on Ukraine just before – Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Ukraine. Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, just a brief question. This is probably for the White House, but I’m here, not there. Apparently, the President sent a letter to Abbas, according to Palestinian media, committing – recommitting the U.S. to the establishment of a Palestinian state, thanking him for his visit and for the gifts and the like. Do you know if there was a similar letter sent to Netanyahu?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the White House on that.
QUESTION: To the White House.
MS. PSAKI: Sorry about that.
QUESTION: Don’t worry.
MS. PSAKI: I just have time for a few more here, so go ahead.
QUESTION: Still on Middle East peace. Apparently, the Palestinian – the next Palestinian prime minister, Rami Hamdallah, who will be the head of this technocratic government, the Palestinian technocratic government, has been invited to come to Washington next month. Is that something that you’re aware of? Is that something you could confirm?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of that. Obviously, we’ll make decisions, broadly speaking, when we see the final formation of the interim government. That hasn’t been officially announced in any capacity, but I’m happy to check and see if that individual has been invited.
QUESTION: Have you gotten an update from the Israelis on their investigation into the deaths of these two Palestinian teenagers?
MS. PSAKI: I have not received an update, no.
QUESTION: Well not – I mean, not you personally.
MS. PSAKI: We. We. Collective we.
QUESTION: You have not. Do you know if this has been raised again with the Israelis?
MS. PSAKI: It’s been raised. I’m not aware of it being raised again this week, no.
QUESTION: All right. Does it remain a concern that disproportionate --
MS. PSAKI: Certainly, certainly.
QUESTION: -- disproportionate use of force may have been used?
MS. PSAKI: The same concerns we had last week.
QUESTION: On North Korea.
MS. PSAKI: But it’s up to them to determine.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) region.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: A Turkish court decided to request a red notice for former Israeli commanders who were in charge in the – in Mavi Marmara raid in 2010. And Israel immediately appealed it, but – and also the Israeli defense minister said that it was a political decision rather than a legal one. What is the comment on this decision, and how this verdict will impact the rapprochement between Turkey and Israel?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check. I don’t have any details on that specific court finding.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, let’s just do a couple. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Japan and North Korea has reached an agreement that North Korea accepted to re-open the investigation into the fate of Japanese citizens it kidnapped a couple of decades ago. And Japan also agreed to ease some sanctions. First of all, you have some comment on this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we would refer you to the Government of Japan for more information on the announcement that North Korea will re-open the investigation of all missing Japanese citizens. We continue to support Japanese efforts to resolve the abductions issue in a transparent manner, and of course we’re closely coordinating with our allies and partners, including Japan, on a range of issues, so we’ll remain in touch with them.
QUESTION: Do you – what do you think of the – particularly the sanction, ease of sanction, as one of the partner of the Six-Party Talk?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other particular comment on it.
QUESTION: On Mexico, real quick.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Did you get any notice from Japanese Government in advance about this agreement?
MS. PSAKI: We were notified in advance and we remain in regular contact, yes.
QUESTION: Quick one --
QUESTION: Just to clarify the question on sanctions.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: It doesn’t concern you that the Japanese are willing to ease sanctions against North Korea, considering that you are trying to maintain a sanctions regime on North Korea?
MS. PSAKI: Well again, I don’t have any confirmation of those plans. We were alerted that they are planning to engage in these discussions, or the discussion was offered. But I’ll check and see if there’s more we would like to add on that front.
QUESTION: On Mexico, real quick.
MS. PSAKI: I think can do three more. Go ahead.
QUESTION: North Korea sanctions question. The House Foreign Affairs Committee today passed a resolution that would strengthen those questions by, among other things, mandating that the President designate officials once they’ve been found to be in violation. Is the State Department supportive of this initiative, this bill?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any particular comment on legislation going through Congress on that front.
MS. PSAKI: Well, a consular officer attended his hearing just yesterday. The proceedings were postponed, as he requested a change in legal representation. We don’t have any additional information at this point regarding the further scheduling of the legal proceedings. Obviously, that’s something that would be determined on the ground.
QUESTION: If Mexico is such a close ally of the United States, why has it taken two months to spring this guy?
MS. PSAKI: Well again, we raised these issues, as you know. We have been very clear about our concerns. I don’t think we’ve made any secret of them, and we’ve made every consular tool available to him. Beyond that, I don’t have any speculation on the length of time for legal proceedings, which can take some time, depending on the country.
QUESTION: So the onus is on the Mexican Government.
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly they would be the ones overseeing any legal process. But we’re going to be available and attending the proceedings going moving forward.
Let’s see. Last one. Anyone? Go ahead. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, actually I asked you about this on Monday, I believe – not Monday but Tuesday – about the encounter between the Japanese and the Chinese fighter jets, and I just wanted to give you a chance to elaborate on your comments from earlier this week. Could you make a comment about the territoriality of the water they were in? Was it international waters or just --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t. Well, I appreciate the opportunity.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything to add to what I said the other day. You know where we stand on territorial – these territorial issues and where we don’t take positions. So I don’t know that I have anything to add to the other day.
MS. PSAKI: I do closely watch the Vice President’s speaking engagements. Go ahead.
QUESTION: One of the things he said was that he challenged his audience to name one innovation produced by China, suggesting that the Chinese are not an innovative country, that they don’t produce anything that’s revolutionary or that would – I’m just wondering if people in the State Department think that this is an appropriate description of China, which is after all the inventor of quite a few things – gunpowder, printing press, the compass --
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I’m happy to go take a look at the full context of comments.
QUESTION: You haven’t heard any complaints from the Chinese about this?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of.
MS. PSAKI: And I will say the Vice President has a great deal of pride in American innovation. So perhaps that’s what he was speaking to.
QUESTION: One more.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Sorry, sorry. So the question which I asked a couple days ago --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The Chinese assistants of Nikkei newspaper has detained two weeks ago. It’s about – she tried to have a contact with Pu Zhiqiang (inaudible). Do you have – did you ask some --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to add. Thanks everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:51 p.m.)
DPB # 94