Daily Press Briefing: June 16, 2014
Index for Today's Briefing:
- Secretary Hosting "Our Ocean" Conference
- Embassy Status / Personnel Relocations / Consular Services
- U.S. Open to Consultations with Iran / P5+1 Talks Separate
- Addressing the Threat of Terrorism
- U.S. Assistance
- Steps Forward / Call for National Unity
- Shared Concern about Security Challenges and Instability
- Role of Iran
- Encouraging Nonsectarian Governance
- Threat of ISIL
- Concerns about Iran
- Ongoing Elections Process
- Support for Pakistan's Efforts to Extend Sovereignty and Stability
- Negotiations on Natural Gas Supplies
- Concern about Russian Separatists' Steps in Donetsk and Eastern Ukraine
- Prime Minister's Efforts to Calm Protesters
- Movement of Heavy Weaponry / Russian Tanks
- Kidnapped Teenagers / Ongoing Security Cooperation / Indications of Hamas Involvement / Consul General in Jerusalem and Embassy in Tel Aviv Engaged
- Hamas / No Role in Palestinian Government
- Al-Shabaab Attack on Mpeketoni / U.S. Government Personnel Travel Restrictions / U.S. Embassy Status
- Concern about Freedom of Speech in Media
- Blocked Access to Social Media
1:16 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Monday.
QUESTION: That wasn’t quite two minutes.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, it wasn’t quite two minutes? I was eager to see all of you, so I jumped the gun.
I have one item at the top. Secretary Kerry, drawing on his long history as a leader on oceans issues, is hosting a major international conference over the next two days entitled “Our Ocean” at the State Department. And the conference will be focused on three themes: sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and ocean acidification. We’re pleased that nearly 400 government ministers, scientists, advocates, representatives of leading institutions are here for the conference. For more information or to watch the conference yourself, the main session will be live-streamed and available at 2009-2017.state.gov/ourocean.
QUESTION: Right. With that, let’s start with Iraq. One, I’m wondering if you can give us any updates as it relates to the Embassy and staffing and security and that kind of thing. And then, two, I’m wondering if you could talk a little bit or elaborate a little bit on the Secretary’s comments in this morning in this interview with Yahoo about cooperation with Iran, discussion with Iran, that kind of thing.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, on the first question, Matt, we announced yesterday through a statement as well as a Travel Warning that followed up that we would be relocating some of our personnel from Baghdad. I don’t have any updates beyond what we offered yesterday to add at this point. I know some people have asked how this would impact specific services. I can address that if that’s useful.
The ability of the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services to U.S. citizens throughout Iraq, including Baghdad, is particularly limited given the security environment. As is always the case, U.S. citizens who have emergency situations, obviously we do everything we can to address those. Due to the relocation of some of the staff, the Embassy in Baghdad has temporarily suspended routine nonimmigrant visa services. The Embassy is also temporarily restricting immigrant visa services. Immigrant visa applications with existing appointments in June and July have been notified by email of any changes in the appointments schedule. Consular services, including American citizen services, could experience delays. And U.S. citizens, of course, in need of services in Erbil must make an appointment with the consulate online.
So those are just some updates. I will update you that Ambassador Beecroft is back on the ground in Iraq and is of course leading our team there. We’ve been engaged over the course of the last several days and certainly beyond that – longer than that – a great deal of diplomatic engagement. Deputy Assistant Secretary – excuse me – McGurk remains on the ground as well, and they’ve had a series of meetings and will continue to over the coming days.
QUESTION: Is it still correct per the statement from yesterday that the substantial – I believe it was substantial majority of Embassy staffers in Baghdad are remaining at the Embassy?
MS. PSAKI: That remains – that is correct.
QUESTION: It’s not the case that a substantial number are remaining in Iraq? In other words, the Embassy – the staff at the Embassy itself might be significantly reduced, but not all of those people are leaving the country? Some of them are going to Erbil and Basra?
MS. PSAKI: That’s right. I’m not sure if I’m answering all of your questions.
QUESTION: Okay. So I’m not sure --
MS. PSAKI: Okay. One at a time, Matt.
QUESTION: I’m trying to make sure – you’re saying that the staffing at the Embassy in Baghdad itself is remaining or that the substantial majority --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- is staying in Baghdad?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: At the Embassy?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: So it doesn’t mean that the substantial majority is staying in Iraq writ large, meaning it could be Erbil and Basra where they all are, you’re saying?
MS. PSAKI: No, but staff has been --
QUESTION: And --
MS. PSAKI: Some staff have been relocated. There have been some additional staff that have been added to help boost up security. So those are the different pieces that --
QUESTION: Now does that – the additional staff you’re talking about, is that what the Pentagon was talking about yesterday, or is this State Department --
MS. PSAKI: Yes. But --
QUESTION: Okay. So the staff then is not DS, it’s not State Department staff? The additional staff for security you’re talking about are coming from the Pentagon?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. And then my second question on – can you elaborate a little bit more on what the Secretary meant when he said that you all were open to talking with the Iranians?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, as the Secretary said, we’re open to talking to Iran about the situation in Iraq, just as we’re talking to all of Iraq’s neighboring states. We put out a readout yesterday of a range of calls the Secretary made yesterday to a number of countries in the region. I would remind you that we’ve had similar conversations in the past with Iran regarding Afghanistan. These consultations would be along those lines. We’re not talking about coordinating any military action in Iraq with Iran. We would encourage Iran to push the Iraqis to act to address problems in a nonsectarian way. And the purpose here would be, as I guess I have outlined already, to consult on the situation on the ground, to encourage Iran to play a role if possible in encouraging the Iraqis to act in a responsible, nonsectarian way, and encourage the leaders to do that as well.
QUESTION: When you say that we’re not talking about coordinating any military activity, the Secretary – well, I don’t know if he used the word in his answer, but the question that he was asked was “cooperation.” Do you equate cooperation with coordination?
MS. PSAKI: I would – to be --
QUESTION: Because --
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, the reason I’m asking is that it was pretty quick pushback from the Pentagon on any idea that there would be cooperation. But as far as I know, they didn’t use the word “cooperation.” They talked about coordination and consultation. I just want to know: Is there a difference between these things?
Because frankly, at least in the short term, immediate term in terms of ISIL, it would appear as though you and the Iranians have a common interest in stopping them just solely on that one limited thing. And it seems to me that if there was going to be military intervention from both Iran and the United States, in this instance you wouldn’t want them at cross-purposes. So when we talk about coordination and consultation, which is what the Pentagon talked about, I just want to make sure that cooperation – I mean that – do you mean – does that – does cooperation mean coordination and consultation, or is it possible that there could be some cooperation?
MS. PSAKI: It means both.
QUESTION: Both, okay.
MS. PSAKI: It means both. And I would just confirm for you that the Secretary did not say military coordination or cooperation. He did say – and I have the transcript in front of me here somewhere – that if there was a constructive – something constructive that could be contributed by Iran, if Iran is prepared to do something that is going to respect the integrity and sovereignty of Iraq and the ability of the government to reform, that that would be what we would discuss.
QUESTION: Right. But the question was cooperation and he answered it in the way you just did, which I realize he didn’t use the actual word, but I mean --
MS. PSAKI: He actually said in response to that question, “I think we need to go step by step and see what in fact might be a reality.” So --
QUESTION: Right. Suggesting that it was a possibility. But anyway, in terms of the openness to talks, where, when, what might – what would they be about if you’re not going to cooperate, coordinate, or consult?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would note, as I think was noted in a briefing this morning, that of course Deputy Secretary Burns and Under Secretary Sherman are on the ground in Vienna today. I believe they just concluded the trilateral meeting. I don’t have any update from the ground at this point in terms of whether Iran was a topic around that. We certainly expected, given the interest of all the parties that --
QUESTION: Whether Iraq? Whether Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry, Iraq. Iraq was. That it may be. But again, the role that a conversation would play would be to discuss the political component here and our interest in encouraging the Iraqi government to, the Iraqi leaders to act in a responsible, nonsectarian way. And certainly a discussion of that is something that we would be open to.
QUESTION: What on Earth makes you – well, a couple of things. One, just a simple factual question. You say you don’t have any updates on whether Iraq came up in the three-way meeting. Has the United States had any bilateral conversation with the Iranians in Vienna so far today?
MS. PSAKI: I believe from the update I had from the ground, Arshad, that it was a trilateral meeting that had taken place.
QUESTION: Right, but that’s not my question. My question is: Has there been a bilat between --
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of from the update I received on the ground.
QUESTION: Okay, okay. So then --
MS. PSAKI: And obviously things are very fluid there. That I can just --
QUESTION: Right. So it might have changed.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Okay. Then second, what makes you think that the Iranians, who for many years by your or your predecessors’ accounts supplied Iraqi insurgents with IEDs to attack U.S. soldiers and by many accounts also sought to foment sectarian warfare in Iraq – what makes you think the Iranians are now going to be likely to urge Maliki to be – to act in a less sectarian manner?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Arshad, we can’t predict, of course, what they may or may not do. But what I was conveying is what the role or what message we would be sending in any discussion that we had with them.
QUESTION: And why have you been so insistent that you don’t want to mix the nuclear file with any talks with Iran about Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly there are a lot of issues to be discussed on – in the nuclear file, and we think it’s most productive to keep those in that discussion. But certainly on the margins and separate from those negotiations we could discuss the issues in Iraq.
QUESTION: But what makes you think the Iranians wouldn’t take any conversation on Iraq, where you’re asking them to do things, and turn it around and say well yeah sure we’ll maybe do that. But can you help us a little bit in the nuclear conversation, then maybe let us have a few more centrifuges.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think that is a point on the table for us.
QUESTION: Yeah, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to try to press every possible advantage that they have in the nuclear negotiations if you’re asking for their help on other stuff, right?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s certainly one of the reasons to keep all of these conversations separate. And they have a shared interest with the United States in a stable Iraq, and they have a shared concern about the threats from ISIL.
QUESTION: Jen, now you’re saying there’s been no direct request or direct outreach to Iran to intervene in this situation in Iraq. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: From the --
QUESTION: There has been no American outreach --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --
QUESTION: -- or direct call on Iran to intervene, let’s say, to stem the --
MS. PSAKI: I think what I was laying out is what our message would be to the Iranians.
QUESTION: Right, because --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other update to provide you on that.
QUESTION: -- because the chair of the – Iran’s national security council, Ali Shamkhani, basically said we will not cooperate with the Americans. He’s basically accusing you of – or accusing the Americans and their allies of arming, supplying, financing the ISIS. So do you have any comment --
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those comments. It’s hard to see how they’re remotely credible. But again, Said, I would – I’ll take a look at those. I think more frequently we’ve seen a concern expressed about the threat that ISIL is posing to the region.
QUESTION: Okay. Just a couple more from me. Now, Qasem Suleimani is alleged to be the head of the Al-Quds Brigade, he’s alleged to lead a contingent – a very powerful contingent that is going after ISIS. Do you know anything about that in Baghdad? Do you know anything about --
MS. PSAKI: I have no confirmation. I know there have been a range of reports. I have no confirmation about whether or not there is a presence there – a new presence.
QUESTION: Okay. Can you imagine a situation where, let’s say, Al-Quds Brigade – the Iranian special force – is going after the ISIS members while the United States is giving them air cover?
MS. PSAKI: I am not going to speculate. I think I’ve made very clear that we’re not talking about military coordination or cooperation here.
QUESTION: And I have a last question on the presence of the agencies like USAID. Did they leave or are they still staying in Iraq? Are they part of the embassy compound or (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: As you know, our embassies around the world have representatives from a range of agencies. I don’t have a break down and I don’t think we’ll be offering one in terms of --
QUESTION: That’s a big presence, though.
MS. PSAKI: Certainly, as is there’s a big presence from a range of agencies there.
QUESTION: Just to --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just to absolutely clarify, there are no – you do not have a date or any timing for when this – these talks with Iran could take place or where they might take place?
MS. PSAKI: I think clearly, because Deputy Secretary Burns and Under Secretary Sherman are on the ground – and this we expect to be a topic – that is there is a possibility and a – there, but I don’t have any update there, and beyond that I’m not going to make predictions of how else they could take place.
QUESTION: So a possibility of talks – bilateral talks between U.S. and Iran on Iraq in Vienna in the next couple days?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re open to that, but I’m not going to make a prediction about whether or not that will happen, and I haven’t received an update from the ground at this point.
QUESTION: Going back to the embassy for a second.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Would you call this an evacuation?
MS. PSAKI: No, we would not.
QUESTION: Is it just a chance to have some members of the embassy work remotely?
MS. PSAKI: It is a situation, Lucas, where we evaluate the security and – on the ground. And at our posts and embassies around the world we made a decision that the right step here was to relocate some of our staff to other parts of Iraq and to a supporting neighboring country and so that’s the step we took and that’s why we took it.
QUESTION: And --
QUESTION: -- hold on. Just to follow up --
MS. PSAKI: But let me reiterate one thing: Our embassy staff and our embassy is open and operating. Our diplomatic team at the highest levels is engaged closely with the Iraqis and that will continue.
QUESTION: But it just has a fifth of the amount of personnel as it did before.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into specific numbers, but again, a range of these employees are temporarily relocating – temporarily – to some other areas in Iraq, and again a close neighboring country.
QUESTION: And is it fair to put the rapid advance of ISIS toward Baghdad into a larger context where Islamist extremists are demonstrating more aggressiveness, they’re emboldened, say, in Karachi and Nigeria?
MS. PSAKI: Is it fair to put it in a larger context?
QUESTION: That terrorism is on the rise, and these terrorists are on the march.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I wouldn’t put it in those terms, no surprise to you, but I would point you to President Obama’s speech just a couple of weeks ago where we – he rolled out a plan for a $5 billion counterterrorism fund. Clearly, we’re taking steps to address the threat where we see the threat facing us, and that’s no different here as it is in some of the other countries that you’ve mentioned.
QUESTION: Isn’t – it’s not just the GOP critics to the Obama Administration that say that America’s terrorist enemies in various locales are on the march. After all, Senator Feinstein stated last month, quote, “Terror is not down in the world. It is up, both deaths, injuries, in many, many different places. Al-Qaida has metastasized.” Isn’t that the truth?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, we put out an annual report where we note where we have concerns, and we’ve been very clear that we’ve had concerns about the growth of some of these groups, whether it’s ISIL and our concerns about that or whether it’s al-Shabaab or other groups in Africa. So I don’t think we’ve made any secret about those concerns, and the questions is: What are we doing about it? And this counterterrorism fund is obviously one of the proposals in addressing how we can best take on the threat as part of our effort here.
QUESTION: But is a growth of some of the groups or all of these groups?
MS. PSAKI: I’d point you, Lucas -- and maybe tomorrow I’ll bring you a copy of our annual – I actually brought you one last week, and you weren’t here. So that’s too bad.
Go ahead, Catherine.
QUESTION: Jen, on the numbers, do you have any estimates or a range? Even the Pentagon was able to give us that type of range.
MS. PSAKI: We don’t provide numbers here of our personnel as a matter of policy, so I’m not going to have any update for all of you on that front.
MS. PSAKI: Do you have more on Iraq?
Jo, go ahead.
QUESTION: Can I ask – I wonder if the – the Secretary, this morning, talked about mass murders happening in Iraq, and I wondered if that was a reference to the videos that’s been released over the weekend of what’s claimed to be 1,700 Shiite soldiers having been assassinated or killed by the – by ISIL on the battlefield. Have you any confirmation independently that this is – these videos were true? Could you just speak and give us some reactions on that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new confirmation. I think we put out a statement yesterday about some of these reports, and certainly the Secretary was referring to these reports that we’re seeing from the ground and our concerns about them.
QUESTION: Jen –
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. On Iraq?
QUESTION: Yeah, are you providing more military aids to the government in Iraq at this time or not?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’re familiar with our increased assistance over the course of the last several months. In terms of anything new beyond that, the President hasn’t yet made a decision. And the national security team, including the Secretary, have provided him with a range of options, which he’s currently reviewing. So I don’t have any update on that front.
QUESTION: And politically, what are you trying to do with the Prime Minister Maliki? How are you trying to help him in this crisis?
MS. PSAKI: Well, even while the President is considering a range of options that include possible military action, our view is that this is not, primarily, a military challenge. There are several steps, I should say, that we believe the Iraqi leaders should take in conjunction with – and those include sincere effort by Iraqi leaders to govern in a nonsectarian manner, promote stability and unity among Iraq’s diverse population, build and invest in the capacity of Iraq security forces, and address the legitimate grievances of Iraq’s Sunni, Kurd, and Shia communities. So there are several steps, and I would note many we’ve been calling for for some time, and we’ve been pressing for for some time that we feel are pivotal to long-term success here.
QUESTION: Have you seen even a single example of Prime Minister Maliki taking any steps in line with that since – I mean the Secretary said this publicly on Friday –
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- so did the President.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Have you seen any evidence of that so far?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we saw a little bit last week, Arshad, of calls for national unity from both Prime Minister Maliki and a range of other leaders. Clearly we’re stating this because we think there’s more that needs to be done, including the steps that I outlined.
QUESTION: But those steps are very general, and as I recall, there were some specific things that were mentioned in the Secretary’s phone call with Foreign Minister Zebari. Are you walking back --
MS. PSAKI: No. They fall into those –
QUESTION: -- from those, recognizing the election results? I mean, there were very specific – three or four –
MS. PSAKI: You’re correct. I would –
QUESTION: -- very specific things.
MS. PSAKI: You’re correct. We stand by those. I think they all fall into a number of those categories.
QUESTION: Do you have that with you?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have it right in front of me –
QUESTION: All right. Well, it was something like this –
MS. PSAKI: -- but that continues to be the case.
QUESTION: -- recognize elections, move within the constitutional timeframe to establish a new government and one or two other things. Those are still operative?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: It’s not just this kind of --
MS. PSAKI: And we were encouraged to see on a part of one of those steps that the Iraqi supreme court today certified the results of the April election. Obviously there’s more that needs to be done. I was giving broad categories. The specific steps remain.
QUESTION: Okay. And then based on his conversations with the various foreign ministers that he had yesterday, do you, does the Secretary, does the Administration more broadly, have confidence that the Sunni neighbors are onboard with this goal that you have set out in these broad objectives?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to lay out private conversations. I know they’ll all speak for themselves about where their views are. I think there is a shared concern about the security challenges on the ground in Iraq and the instability that that could cause. That was certainly a part of the discussion. But beyond that, I don’t have anything else to read out for all of you.
QUESTION: Do you still have concerns that money, if not the governments themselves of those countries but money from those countries, is funding ISIL?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’re familiar with the concerns we’ve had in the past about Syria. Those haven’t changed. If there was evidence of that, that would be concerning. I’m not aware of specifics on that at this point.
QUESTION: All right. But money and assistance going to ISIL in Syria crosses the border relatively easily --
MS. PSAKI: You’re correct.
QUESTION: -- right? So --
MS. PSAKI: And that is an issue that we have consistently raised and we’ve seen some effort to make progress. But again, I don’t want to speak on a hypothetical because I haven’t seen incidents of that in this particular case.
QUESTION: Okay. But specifically raised with those Arab states that he spoke to yesterday? Or at least --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything further to read out from the calls, but that has been our – has been a concern we’ve raised in the past.
QUESTION: One more on this --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Maliki has said today that Arab states stand behind what’s going on in Iraq these days. Do you think the Secretary – when the Secretary called the foreign ministers yesterday, one of these states are supporting ISIL? Or why did he call these foreign ministers, not others?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he made a range of calls yesterday, he’ll make a range of calls today, and that will continue. So those were just the calls that he made yesterday. It wasn’t meant to be a definitive list of the only people he has or will speak to.
QUESTION: And are you convinced that one of the Arab states or more are supporting what’s going on in Iraq now?
MS. PSAKI: I think you’re familiar with concerns we’ve expressed in the past about this. If there was evidence of that, that would certainly be a concern, but I have nothing new to add at this point.
QUESTION: You know the Saudis just issued a statement calling on you basically not to intervene. I mean, that there should be no foreign intervention in Iraq whatsoever, meaning in this case, the Americans. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I’ll take a look at that, Said. I hadn’t seen their statement.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Samir.
QUESTION: Do you oppose Iran sending forces, troops to Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: I think our – the role that we – the message we would convey, if we would convey or I’ll convey now, is that there’s a role to play in reducing the sectarian nature of how Iraq is being governed, that that’s a role that they could play. We don’t feel it’s useful for the Iraqis to rely on the capacity of Iran’s security forces and don’t feel – and that’s a message we would convey to the Iraqis as well.
QUESTION: To the Iranians.
QUESTION: To the Iranians?
MS. PSAKI: We would convey it as well to the Iraqis that they shouldn’t – yes, to both sides is what I’m trying to say.
QUESTION: Can you repeat it?
MS. PSAKI: Hmm?
QUESTION: Can you repeat it?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. (Laughter.) Sure, I can. That our view is that Iraq will only be successful if they invest in their own political process to be more inclusive, to not govern in a sectarian manner, and that that’s the way to overcome this threat, not by allowing Iran’s security forces to be a part of this effort.
QUESTION: But Jen, given the history of Iran in Iraq since 2003, and your own – the U.S.’s own history with Iran since the revolution of ’79, I mean, is it realistic or is it just completely – I mean, is it realistic or even optimistic, too hopeful, to expect that Iran will act in a way that will help – that Iran will act in a way that will help Iran – Iraq, sorry – (laughter) – that Iran will act in a way --
MS. PSAKI: We need note cards.
QUESTION: -- that will help Iraq become less sectarian?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, again, I can’t predict what they will or won’t do. We continue to have some areas of significant concern with Iran, as you know. But this is just what message we would be conveying from the United States.
QUESTION: Iraq, one more.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Madam, as Iraq crisis escalates, many nations in the region are already worried, including India, as far as the flow of oil is concerned, including – even in some companies in the U.S. So what is the future of the oil – global oil flow from the region, and what message do you have for those nations?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe, Goyal, that the President spoke to this just a couple of days ago on Friday, so I’d point you to his comments. And nothing has changed that I’m aware of since that point in time.
QUESTION: But as per the Secretary’s discussion maybe in London when he was there, was this under discussion as far as oil flow?
MS. PSAKI: He discussed the issue of our concern about Iraq with a range of – with Foreign Secretary Hague and other officials there, but it was really focused on the security situation on the ground.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Ali.
QUESTION: During the interview today, Secretary Kerry indicated that he would leave it up to the Iraqi people to decide whether or not they believe that Prime Minister Maliki should resign. So I’m just wondering, does he leave that decision squarely in the hands of the Iraqi people, and at what point in the shift in the tide of public opinion would he get behind any decision by the Iraqi public to call for Maliki’s resignation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he leaves it in the hands of the Iraqi people, so we’ll see what happens.
QUESTION: One more on Iran. Are you concerned that Iran will use the situation to intervene in Iraq to send troops, or not?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I tried to address that, perhaps in a confusing verbal gymnastics way, in that we believe the focus should be on encouraging Iraqi leaders to govern in a non-sectarian way. That would be the focus of our discussion. And again, our discussion wouldn’t be about cooperating or coordinating on military roles.
QUESTION: Why not call clearly for – on the Iraqis to form some sort of a national salvation government that would represent everybody, at least for a transitional period? (Inaudible.)
MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to encourage Iraqi leaders to do more to be more inclusive and unified, and that’s been consistently part of our message to them.
QUESTION: Can I change topic?
QUESTION: Well, wait --
MS. PSAKI: Iraq?
QUESTION: -- I just want to ask you one thing about this. Governing in a nonsectarian way – how would you categorize the governments of Lebanon and Bosnia, say?
MS. PSAKI: Well look, Matt, I think there’s no question what has caused some of the challenges here. Obviously, Syria’s been an enormous factor, but the fact is we believe Prime Minister Maliki and other leaders could’ve done more to be more inclusive with the diverse population that is in Iraq, and that’s the message we’re conveying.
QUESTION: Right. But there are some governments that you support – Lebanon and Bosnia – that are governed in a – that are formed on a sectarian basis. Isn’t that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know you like to make sweeping generalizations --
QUESTION: I don’t think that’s so sweeping.
MS. PSAKI: -- about what our views should be, but we approach every country differently, and we’re talking about what is most useful in Iraq.
QUESTION: Can I ask you something? Just to follow up on that.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, if you were an Iraqi Sunni or an Iraqi Kurd, why would you believe that Maliki might now begin governing in an inclusive and nonsectarian manner? And even if he said he would, why would you trust him, given the history?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they have a shared enemy, and that is ISIL. And clearly that is a threat that is posing a significant challenge to not just the people of Iraq, but to people and countries in the region, and certainly to the national security interests of the United States.
Certainly, to your point, you can’t just say it. You have to follow it with actions. And there have been other steps by other leaders in Iraq who have called for national unity. Obviously, there needs to be actions to follow up those calls.
QUESTION: In the event that Iraq does break up along sectarian or confessional lines, are you prepared to recognize that reality on the ground? I mean, for all intents and purposes the Kurds are functioning as an independent country. The south is also close to Iran and functions that way. And if it happens that the west becomes sort of independent, are you prepared to deal with that reality?
MS. PSAKI: We’re familiar with the range of proposals over time. That’s not our focus. Obviously, we’re working with a sovereign, unified Iraq.
QUESTION: Jen, how can you work with a government in Iran who just a few months ago called you the Great Satan?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, I will not mince words here: We have still existing strong concerns about terrorist activity, about our detained American citizens who are there; steps they need to take even as a part of the P5+1 negotiations here. But again, this is a case where we’re open to a discussion, because we’ve done that in the past when it came to Afghanistan. We think there could be – it could be an opportunity. But beyond that it hasn’t changed our concerns about a variety of issues in Iran.
QUESTION: But there were also discussions about Iraq with Iran in the past --
MS. PSAKI: True, there were. Yes.
QUESTION: -- in Baghdad. I just wanted to make sure --
MS. PSAKI: Yes, thank you. I --
QUESTION: Can you – just one more on that --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- can you – if there were to be – and for all we know, there have been, but – U.S.-Iranian discussions about Iraq --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- is it fair to assume that those would be handled by Deputy Secretary Burns or Under Secretary Sherman, or is it conceivable, possible that they might be handled as they were in the mid-2000’s out of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad when then-Ambassador Ryan Crocker held those negotiations? So is it likely to be done at this very elevated political level that you mention – Sherman and Burns – or is it more likely to – or is it conceivable that it might happen at the ambassadorial level in Baghdad now that you have your ambassador back?
MS. PSAKI: There are a range of options. I think the question – and obviously why many people were asking was because we’re obviously in Vienna, our team is in Vienna right now. But again, I’m not going to predict kind of what might – may or may not happen there. I don’t – I haven’t received an update to suggest they have discussed it. And if there are other options and we’re still open to it, there are a range of ways we could do that.
QUESTION: Jen, do you support Prime Minister Maliki to form a new and inclusive government in Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, he’s – there’s an entire elections process that takes place in Iraq. That’s ongoing and underway, and it’s up to the Iraqi people.
QUESTION: How concerned is the U.S. about Maliki’s continued viability as prime minister?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I --
QUESTION: To put it more simply: Is the U.S. worried that the central government could fall?
MS. PSAKI: Roz, I think this is a case where we’re working with Prime Minister Maliki, we’re working with a range of officials on the ground from different parties. We believe right now the right step is for unity across those parties at this challenging time to address their shared threat. It’s up to the people of Iraq to determine what the future is for their leadership. And again, this is a case where they have a shared enemy. And that’s what we think the focus should be on, so we’re not going to – go ahead.
QUESTION: After eight years of Prime Minister – of Maliki being prime minister, do you think he’s able to lead Iraq in the future?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve expressed concerns when we’ve had them; the Secretary did this morning about more that could’ve been done. We still think there’s more that can happen, but it’s up to the Iraqi people to choose their leadership.
Go ahead, Samir.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- about the track two talks, like American and Iranian experts, non-government, that have been having, like talks. They had two meetings so far. Are you supporting these track two talks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t know anything about those meetings --
QUESTION: You don’t?
MS. PSAKI: -- and our focus is on the P5+1 negotiations.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, you say “we don’t know?”
MS. PSAKI: We’re not involved in them, we’re not engaged in them. Our focus is on the P5+1 negotiations that are happening right now in Vienna.
QUESTION: Just one more on Iran. If – you’re saying now you’re open to talks with Iran, but just a few months ago on your own State Department website you said, “Despite its pledge to support Iraq’s stabilization, Iran trained, funded, and provided guidance to Iraqi Shia militant groups.” So how do justify that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Lucas, the responsible diplomatic approach includes evaluating circumstances as they come up every day, every week, every month. And that’s what our team does. We’re open to it at this point in time. Again, not military coordination or cooperation, but there’s a shared concern about the threat of ISIL, and that’s why we would be open to that discussion.
QUESTION: Change of topic?
MS. PSAKI: More on Iraq? Should we finish Iraq? Okay.
Go ahead, Lalit.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: To begin with, from Sri Lanka.
MS. PSAKI: Sri Lanka? Okay.
QUESTION: Over the weekend, there was a big, huge violence between the Buddhists and Muslims in Sri Lanka. Have you seen that? Do you have to say anything on that?
MS. PSAKI: I have seen that. I don’t have anything new to add from here. Though, Lalit, I’m happy to talk to our team and see if they can get you a fresh comment on that.
QUESTION: And if the U.S. has taken up this issue with the Sri Lankan Government.
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check with them, and I’ll do that in the same follow-up.
QUESTION: And in the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan, the Pakistani army continues to bombard the Taliban militants. Do you have to say anything on the Pakistani operation against the militants over there?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this is a Government of Pakistan operation. We’ve long supported Pakistan efforts to extend their sovereignty throughout the country and stability throughout the country. But I would refer you to them. This is an entirely Pakistan-led and executed operation.
QUESTION: To what extent this is helpful to your efforts in Afghanistan?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to do an evaluation of that. I think this was a decision made and an operation done by the people – by the Government of Pakistan.
QUESTION: And what do you make out of the Taliban’s statement asking all the foreign companies to leave Pakistan?
MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen that. I’m not going to parse their talking points. We evaluate, as needed, our security situation in countries like Pakistan, countries around the world. We make information available on our website, but nothing has changed over the last couple of days about our position there.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Pakistan?
QUESTION: Yeah. Same subject.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: There has been nationwide political support for this big action in north Waziristan, which is tribal area bordering Afghanistan. How do you see this development in terms of country’s fight against terrorists?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I just answered that question in that this is an operation that was entirely Pakistan-led and executed. We have long supported any Pakistani efforts to extend stability and sovereignty in their own country, but beyond that I don’t have any other further analysis for you.
QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Pakistan?
QUESTION: Yes, madam. Quick one.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Secretary met with, of course, a high-level Pakistani official in London (inaudible). Is that was part of the discussion between the two leaders in London as far as this oppression in Pakistan? And other terrorist – terrorism or extremism is going on in Pakistan for a peaceful resolution – a peaceful, stable Pakistan.
MS. PSAKI: Goyal, we put out a readout on Friday. I would point you to that. I don’t have anything else to add.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: I wondered if you had a reaction to the news this morning that Russia has – that Gazprom has switched Ukraine to a prepayment system, which effectively cuts of all its gas supplies, because it hasn’t forwarded any money to pay for the bill. And also there was today in Donetsk, some pro-Russian militia seized the central bank, and I just wondered if you had reactions to either of those two events.
MS. PSAKI: Well, on the first, they also, as you know, cut off negotiations as well. So we would call on Russia to rejoin the negotiations with Ukraine on natural gas supplies, which has been hosted by the EU. The European Commission is working with both parties to broker a commercially competitive compromise that addresses a market price in payment and payments. The EU in our view has put forward a fair and reasonable compromise that Ukraine has accepted, and we urge Russia to re-engage on this basis.
The oil as I understand it – or gas, I should say, continues to flow to Europe, which of course goes through Ukraine. But again, we believe that a conclusion of these talks and a resumption of the talks is the necessary step forward.
On the second question on Donetsk, I had not – can you repeat to me again what --
QUESTION: Yeah. There were some pro-Russian militias who seized the central bank in Donetsk today, and I’m just wondering if you – how you feel that’s going to affect the efforts by the Ukrainian authorities to try and regain control.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I had not talked to our team about that specific incident. Obviously, we’ve been concerned, and I think it would be the case here about the steps by Russian separatists in Donetsk and other areas of eastern Ukraine. That would be no different here. There are steps Russia can take, including calling on separatists to lay down their arms and securing the border, and obviously we haven’t seen a great deal of progress on that front.
QUESTION: Jen, over the weekend, there were a couple instances – well, two instances that I’m aware of: One with the Ukrainian – involving the Ukrainian prime minister, who is someone who has had a great deal of interaction with the U.S., and also the foreign minister who has also had a great deal of action with the U.S., making some rather interesting, to say the least, strident comments. The prime minister referred to Russians who are – Russia and Russians who are supporting the separatists as sub-human. Is that something that you guys would agree with? Is it something that you’re concerned about?
MS. PSAKI: Well, those --
QUESTION: Is it the kind of language that you would expect from an ally of the United States? And the foreign minister called President Putin something that I can’t even say here in the briefing room.
MS. PSAKI: Come on, Matt, you want to. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: No. I’m not going to take the – I’ll let you if you’d like to.
MS. PSAKI: No, thank you. I will refrain from that.
QUESTION: But maybe you would like to repeat it. Maybe you agree with it. I don’t know.
MS. PSAKI: I will refrain from that.
QUESTION: Is this the kind of --
MS. PSAKI: Let me – let me – let me --
QUESTION: Is this the kind of language coming from – this isn’t – these are officials who you guys have supported, and I just want to know. Do you – I mean, this is something – is this kind of language acceptable?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think one piece here that’s incredibly important is to remind you and everybody what the foreign minister was doing when he made those comments. And he was – he went to the Russian Embassy, he personally went to the Russian Embassy in order to calm the protestors and succeeded in doing so. That was where he was. He’s been encouraging calm, encouraging a peaceful resolution, and I would otherwise point you to the Ukrainians on the meaning of the language used. But I think the context here of what effort he was undergoing is an incredibly important part.
QUESTION: So you don’t think that kind of language is inflammatory from the foreign minister’s – from the foreign minister’s language, his comment, you don’t think that’s inflammatory at all?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, again you’re familiar with the words we use and don’t use, but I think the context of what he was trying to accomplish there is important here.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. Well, comments made and whatever in that kind of context when you’re out, so you’re at a – trying to calm things down, if that’s, in fact, what he was doing, which I don’t have any reason to doubt, that’s one thing.
But the prime minister’s reference to Russians as being subhuman was actually posted in English on their – on the Embassy website here. One of the complaints or one of the accusations that the Russians have made about these guys in Ukraine is that they are very right-winged, that they’re fascists, that they’re Nazi kind of – and this kind of language just – it would appear to speak to it. Are you okay with them using words like “subhuman” to describe the Russians?
MS. PSAKI: I think – Matt, look, I think the prime minister’s behavior and his leadership has been pretty consistently in support of a peaceful resolution to the circumstances on the ground, protections for individuals including Russians across eastern Ukraine, and I think I would encourage anyone to look at that as evidence of how he feels.
QUESTION: So you’re not – you don’t think that it warrants any kind of condemnation or any kind of – you don’t think he should rethink – not use that kind of language? Because it is inflammatory, I mean – right?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Ukrainians for that, but again, I would remind everyone of the behavior and the support for a peaceful and calm resolution to the conflict.
QUESTION: Okay. So now quite apart from those two – those things, the Secretary had a phone call with Foreign Minister Lavrov on Saturday, or was it Sunday? I can’t remember now.
MS. PSAKI: It was on Saturday.
QUESTION: On Saturday.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Since that conversation in which he basically repeated the kinds of things that you guys have said before – stop supporting the separatists; stop the flows of heavy weaponry, including tanks – have you seen anything to suggest that they are heeding that advice or those calls, or do you still see movement of heavy weapons – the Stalin’s organs and tanks across –
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen – there’s been movement that’s been on a daily basis for some time, but we haven’t seen a new incident that is as significant as the one on Friday over the course of the last couple of days.
QUESTION: Okay. So do you think that that is – I mean, is that a positive sign? Is that encouraging or --
MS. PSAKI: Again, I think there have been movements over the border on nearly a daily basis, so there’s more that can be done to put an end to that.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: And are you aware of any recent contact between – more recent than Saturday between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov or other senior people?
MS. PSAKI: No, they haven’t – they have not – the Secretary has not spoken with the foreign minister since then unless it’s happened in the last 45 minutes, which I don’t think it was planned to, so --
QUESTION: Hey, Jen, one more on the tanks. Do you – is it your understanding – and you may not know, in which case I would ask if you could take the question --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- but the – fundamentally the question is the Russian tanks that you’ve seen cross from Russia into Ukraine, do you believe those tanks to be staffed by Russian military, or do you believe that they are staffed by somebody else and they’ve sort of been given or lent to the pro-Russian forces on the other side?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you all saw our statement we put out on Friday about the fact that we believe these are Russian tanks. I don’t have that level of detail. I’m happy to follow up and see if we do.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: But when you say --
QUESTION: Can we go to --
QUESTION: When you said that they were Russian tanks that are no longer used by the Russian army, but they were housed in southwestern Russia and moved somehow, driven by --
QUESTION: -- someone into Ukraine, and that the reports of them having been stolen from the Ukrainians by the separatists are incorrect, as far as you know?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: That’s correct, yes.
QUESTION: That stays the same?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, absolutely.
QUESTION: Can we go to another topic?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Now over the weekend, there was three teenage settlers kidnapped, and the Israelis have, in return, clamped down on the West Bank, arrested some 120 people. They killed two people, they injured like five others and so on. Do you have any comment on this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we put out a comment from Secretary Kerry --
MS. PSAKI: -- yesterday, and I would certainly point you to that. We are in close contact with both the Israelis and Palestinians. We’re offering assistance to try and find the kidnapped teenagers as swiftly as possible and return them unharmed to their families. We understand that President Abbas initiated a phone call to Prime Minister Netanyahu in which President Abbas condemned the crime of the kidnapping and committed to continued security cooperation to ensure that the Israeli teenagers are found and returned. And as you know, there’s an ongoing investigation about what exactly happened here.
QUESTION: Now, the Israelis maintain total security control, especially in the Hebron area. Did you speak with them about allowing, perhaps, Palestinian security, since they probably know the population a little better, to sort of coordinate with them on --
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken with them about the importance of ongoing security cooperation, and we’ve seen that continue.
QUESTION: And did you call on the Israelis to sort of tone down their repression of the peaceful – the civilian population of the Palestinians in their pursuit to see where these guys are?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think we’ve conveyed our concerns to both sides. But I would – there’s obviously a great deal of emotion in Israel given the fact that we have three missing teenagers, and the Secretary has also expressed his strong concern and condemnation of that action as well.
QUESTION: Well, Prime Minister Netanyahu is saying that the kidnapping occurred as a result of the national unity government, and in a way, that you supported that national unity government. Do you have a comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as we noted in our statement yesterday, there’s obviously an ongoing investigation into these circumstances. We’ve seen similar tactics taken in the past by Hamas, but I don’t want to jump to a conclusion at this point in time.
QUESTION: So does that mean that you do not at the moment agree or accept the Israeli claim that this was the work of Hamas?
MS. PSAKI: We’re going to let the investigation see itself through. We’ve seen similar tactics in the past, but I don’t have anything to update since yesterday.
QUESTION: Right. But that statement from yesterday also said that there were numerous signs that pointed to Hamas involvement.
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Is that still correct?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, remains the case. Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. But you are not convinced 100 percent that they are?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not conveying that. I’m conveying that we’re not, at this point, making a conclusion. We’re going to let the investigation see itself through.
QUESTION: Other than the capture of Sergeant Shalit back a long time ago during a military incursion, what other similar activities Hamas has done in kidnapping Israelis?
MS. PSAKI: I think what we’re talking about is a broad range of tactics, Said. I don’t think I need to outline those from here.
QUESTION: So the – one of his earlier questions was Prime Minister Netanyahu’s comments about the – about support, countries that support the unity government. The tourism minister of Israel has actually said that U.S. – the U.S. decision to work with and to fund the new Palestinian government makes – actually encourages terrorism of the kind that they say that this kidnapping is. I’m assuming you would reject that. If that’s correct, why? Why are they wrong?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say a few things. Our position remains unchanged that Hamas is a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Based on what we know now, we do not believe that Hamas plays a role in the government. We clearly believe that adhering to the Quartet principles that were outlined – have been outlined for some time but were reaffirmed several weeks ago is an essential component, and any government entity that does not abide them we would not work with. So we will continue to evaluate. But I would certainly disagree with that comment.
QUESTION: Okay. I mean, what – so you – one of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s – I don’t want to say favorite, but he uses this expression a lot about the front office and the back office, kind of like the mob. There’s the front office that is all fine and acceptable, and then there’s the back office that really controls everything and is run off the books and incredibly illegal. You don’t have any concern that the new Palestinian government is being operated in this way?
MS. PSAKI: Based on what we know, we don’t believe Hamas plays a role in the government.
QUESTION: But is that in the front office or is – do you not even accept the possibility that there’s a back office that you – that is not a public face of the government?
MS. PSAKI: I think, Matt, if we again were to find that an entity that we work with does not abide by the principles, we would re-evaluate our support and relationship.
QUESTION: Okay. And when you – on the kidnapees themselves, one of them is American or has American – holds an American passport. His family has spoken publicly about this. I believe they have publicly thanked the embassy in – the U.S. Embassy in Israel for whatever assistance is being offered. Can you confirm that he does hold an American passport?
MS. PSAKI: I cannot confirm at this point in time. I can confirm that our Consul General in Jerusalem as well as our Embassy in Tel Aviv have been in touch the family of one of the kidnapped boys.
QUESTION: Is that – and the reason that you can’t confirm is because he, who is in the hands of God knows who, hasn’t signed a Privacy Act waiver?
MS. PSAKI: Correct. And there are a range of ways that we can confirm in similar circumstances, but we don’t have those at this point in time.
QUESTION: For a minor, is it possible for a parent to sign a Privacy Act waiver?
MS. HARF: Technically it is possible, yes.
QUESTION: Do you know if the parents who have spoken publicly or the family who has spoken publicly have been given the opportunity to sign a Privacy Act waiver and declined? Or can’t you discuss that because they haven’t signed it?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details to discuss at this point in time. Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: If it is proven that Hamas actually gave the orders to do this, would you demand that Mahmoud Abbas dissolve this unity government?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead, Said, of where we are in the process.
Do we have a new topic? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Wait, wait, I have one more on this. A lot of people in the Palestinian community or pro-Palestinian community are upset that – or think that a lot of being made out of three Israeli teenagers being kidnapped when there are – I think the number is close to 170 or so Palestinian children who are held by the – in Israeli detention. Now given that clearly there are some differences here, is the – between a kidnapping and an actual governmental detention, has the issue of Palestinian children in detention by Israel, quite apart from this kidnapping incident, come – is that something that you guys raised with the Israelis?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any readout of that being a part of the conversation. I can check and see if --
QUESTION: No, not as it relates to the kidnapping but just in general.
MS. PSAKI: In general, have we raised it?
MS. PSAKI: Have they raised it?
QUESTION: No. Have you raised it with the Israelis?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, but I can check and see if there’s more to tell on that front. Go ahead, Catherine, and we’ll go to you next.
QUESTION: Can I ask you about the al-Shabaab attack on coastal, I guess, resort towns and first reaction on that, and then if there’s any new restrictions being placed on U.S. diplomats or any heightened security being taken?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we condemn in the strongest terms the heinous attack by al-Shabaab on the coastal town of Mpeketoni, Kenya yesterday and early this morning that killed dozens. We offer our deepest condolences to the families that have lost loved ones and to those injured in the attacks. Information on those killed and injured are preliminary, and we understand that no U.S. citizens were affected. There can be no place for appalling acts of violence such as this in any society.
We continue to work with Kenya to address security in Kenya and the region. The U.S. Embassy already has restricted travel for U.S. Government personnel to the Nairobi neighborhood of Eastleigh and to all coastal counties prior to this. Travel to these areas for U.S. Government personnel is limited to mission essential trips. The Embassy continues to be open for normal operations. As you know, we evaluate day by day security and any changes that need to take place.
QUESTION: How long have those restrictions been in place?
MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we can get you the date for the last Travel Warning that we put out from – on Kenya.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: I had seen that. I don’t have anything here, but why don’t we venture to get you something after the briefing.
QUESTION: All right. Great, thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely, absolutely. Go ahead, Jo.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I don’t know if you saw this morning that the frontrunner presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has suggested there could be some serious fraud and is calling for the sacking of the head of the independent election commission. Do you have a reaction to this? Do you believe that he’s correct? Was there serious fraud in the second round of this runoff?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it is far too early, in our view, to make pronouncements regarding this election. We continue to feel that it’s important to give the Afghan electoral bodies the time they need to do their work in processing the outcome of these elections. As you know, there are a couple of different entities that are responsible for doing that. Afghan and Afghan institutions must ensure the quality of the elections and the acceptability of its outcomes and adjudicate the complaints that emerge before, during, and after election days. Candidates have avenues of pursuing allegation of fraud through the IEC and the ECC, and we encourage them to work through those bodies to address their concerns.
QUESTION: Can you --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates. I’m not aware – I know obviously we’re looking forward to welcoming him this fall, but I don’t have any updates on the timing.
QUESTION: And any names for the next U.S. ambassador to India?
MS. PSAKI: I would refer to my friends over at the White House for any announcements on that front.
QUESTION: Do you – this is just relatively recent, but I don’t know if you might have something on it.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: I had not seen that. Did it just happen? We’d certainly welcome that. As you know, this is an issue that we’ve been raising at the highest levels. We’ve been very concerned about the crackdown on freedom of speech and media, and certainly specifically these journalists who have been held, but --
QUESTION: Well, it’s not all of them.
MS. PSAKI: Just one. So let me check on that. But certainly there are more who are being held that we would continue to have concerns about.
QUESTION: One more.
MS. PSAKI: Last one, okay.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to update beyond the readouts we provided last week.
QUESTION: Quick one?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead, Lucas.
MS. PSAKI: We have seen reports that the Government of Iraq has taken steps to block access to a wide range of social media in the country. While we understand Iraqi concerns about the spread of terrorist activity-related messaging on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, we’re strongly urging the Iraqi Government to continue to allow Iraqi citizens access to these sites.
Thank you, everyone.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:13 p.m.)
DPB # 106