Daily Press Briefing - January 7, 2015
Index for Today's Briefing:
1:20 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you at the top today. Obviously, you all have seen the Secretary’s statement, the President’s statement, addressing the horrific attack in France. I don’t have much new information but happy to, of course, discuss that and any other issues.
Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, do you know – has the Secretary been in touch with people about this?
MS. PSAKI: With his counterpart in France, you mean? Or other --
QUESTION: Yeah, well --
MS. PSAKI: He plans to speak with Foreign Minister Fabius later this afternoon, whenever that can be scheduled. As you saw, he was over at the White House and, of course, his meeting with the Polish foreign minister this morning.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Okay. And there was apparently a brief report or a report that appeared briefly about the embassy in Paris. You and the embassy have both said that there hasn’t been any – there are no plans to take any precautions. Has that changed? Or sorry, not to take precautions but to close or to limit access to the public. Has that changed at all or --
MS. PSAKI: It has not changed. Our embassy is operating as normal. As is true around the world, we are constantly evaluating any – the security needs of the men and women serving overseas. You saw, and our embassy I think put out that – they put out some information, a security message advising that the Government of France has elevated its threat level, that of course, the government had announced and as you know we regularly provide information in that manner. But nothing has changed in terms of our status.
QUESTION: And then I understand that the investigation – in fact, I guess the perpetrators are still at large, and so the investigation – the French investigation continues. But both this Administration and the previous Administration, since this whole – what is purported to be the motive for this attack – both this Administration and the previous Administration came out when cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad have appeared in – first in Denmark and now in this same publication that was attacked today, saying that they have found these images to be offensive but that they support the right of people to publish them as part of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Is that – that remains the position of at least this Administration? 3 1/7/2015
MS. PSAKI: That has not changed. I will say, just to reiterate, we don’t have any information at this point on the motivation. Obviously, France is in the lead on the investigation. As the President indicated, we have offered our support. We have a long history of close counterterrorism cooperation with France. We’re open to providing any additional assistance that they need. We’re in the initial stages of information sharing at this point in time, but at this point we don’t have more information.
QUESTION: And as far as you know, the French have not yet or have not asked for any help. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: We’re in a discussion with them about what we can provide.
QUESTION: Al right. Thanks.
QUESTION: What’s the initial stages of information sharing or intelligence sharing look like? I mean – or who would be involved in that, particularly, when you say that you’re in the initial stages?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I think my colleagues at the White House have indicated, obviously there are a range of officials at many levels who are in touch. So it could take place through many different counterparts. I don’t have more to spell out on that front.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on the – a very good point raised by Matt: Your former colleague at the White House, Jay Carney, in September 2012, I guess, was criticizing the decision by a French court to publish this Prophet Muhammad cartoon. So does the U.S. think that given certain contexts, there are redlines to the freedom of speech and to the freedom of the press and that there are certain cartoons which should not be published?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speak to in this particular case the motivation. I know there’s lots of speculation out there in the press; that’s understandable. But it just happened this morning and we’ll let the investigation see itself through. Bottom line is there’s no excuse for violence. Nothing justifies violence. You know our view on freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and we believe that that’s something that should be universal around the world. There have been occasions in the past over history where we have expressed concerns not about the legality but about information that’s been shared. I’m not going to express that at this point because I don’t want to speculate on the motivation in this case.
Go ahead, Ali.
QUESTION: Is there anything you scan share on what perhaps U.S. authorities have informed the French embassy here and its satellite consulates about any security measures they should take within the United States?
MS. PSAKI: So, Ali, you may have seen that the Department of Homeland Security put out a statement. Let me just reiterate that to you. I know there was a lot of information coming out this morning from different agencies. Their statement made clear that the Department of Homeland Security is closely monitoring the unfolding events in Paris, and it remains in contact 4 1/7/2015
with its counterparts in the region. DHS will not hesitate to adjust our security posture as appropriate to protect the American people. Obviously, that hasn’t happened; you would know if they’d made that announcement.
So certainly, we remain in touch with a range of counterparts, but I would refer to DHS on any changes for the homeland.
Any more on France before we continue? On France? Go ahead.
QUESTION: In view of the attack in Paris, have you reviewed the security of other U.S. embassies in other parts of the world?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re constantly reviewing that, as you know, Lalit. But in this case we haven’t changed our posture in France and there hasn’t been changes other places as a result of this either.
QUESTION: Also, did you have any prior intel information about this attack? You always get lots of information.
MS. PSAKI: Prior information about the attack?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure even what you’d be referring to.
QUESTION: Is there any additional guidance that’s going to be sent out to Americans living in Paris, Europe, or elsewhere, in response to this attack about safety and that sort of thing?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the truth is we’re constantly updating that. And so, as you know, whenever information becomes available, whether it’s because the local government puts out new information or there’s just information that would be relevant to American citizens, we put that out. And if that’s warranted, we certainly will. There are different categories, as you all know. There are security messages, which are just new information and making sure people have access to that; and then there are Travel Warnings and things along those lines. So we typically don’t make predictions of that, but I can assure the American people living in France and any other place that if there’s information that we think they should receive, we will make that broadly available.
Any more on France or should we move on?
QUESTION: I have just one more. 5 1/7/2015
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: What is the likelihood – I realize you said that you don’t – still early days on who’s responsible. But what do you think the likelihood is of an involvement by the AQAP?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a lot of rumors out there – online, on Twitter – and we just don’t speculate on those from the podium or from the United States Government for obvious reasons. There will be an investigation. As I mentioned, we’ve offered our assistance in any way that we can be helpful, but I don’t want to speculate on that at this point in time.
QUESTION: So you don’t have reason to believe that especially the editor-in-chief of Charlie Hebdo was a target of al-Qaida? Because he was on the list published in 2013.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we know the history here, right, and we under – and we know the events that took place about three years ago, if I’m remembering the dates correctly, as well. But again, I think all of the factors are looked at by the appropriate law enforcement authorities. We’ll work with them, and as we have more information available we’ll certainly let France have the lead but we’ll provide that to all of you.
Any more on France or should we move on? Okay. Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: Well, just before we get there --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- and this will be very brief because you put a statement out about it just before.
QUESTION: But there was a – yeah – there was a – what happened in Paris today was not the only terrorist attack there was, and in fact, three times as many people, as far as I understand, were killed in the suicide bombing in Yemen at the police academy. I’m wondering, one, if you have anything more to say about it than in the statement that you just put out; and two, if there’s been any contact with Yemeni officials about this.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we put out a statement for exactly that reason, obviously. And in the statement we made clear we strongly condemn this attack. I don’t have any updates on our contacts. We’re certainly in regular contact on the ground, but we can – I certainly am happy to take that, Matt, and see if there’s contact with them on the ground.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Does that raise any questions about the Hadi government’s ability to maintain security in Yemen? 6 1/7/2015
MS. PSAKI: Well, as we all know, Roz, there have been a range of challenging security incidents in Yemen. It’s a country that we work closely with to boost their counterterrorism capacity. There are several incidents they’ve fought back against, so no, I wouldn’t say our evaluation has changed on that front. It’s an issue we continue to work closely with the government on.
QUESTION: Uganda. The Ugandan army has confirmed that the person who turned themselves into American forces in the Central African Republic yesterday is indeed Dominic Ongwen, from the LRA. I wondered if this is what you now believe as well because you were seeking to verify that information yesterday. And if it is in fact him, he’s under an ICC warrant for crimes against humanity and war crimes. Is it your intention to turn him over to the ICC for trial?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I noted yesterday, obviously, this is a situation where the AURTF and certainly our military forces would have the lead on, so I will point you to them on any confirmation of more details.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
QUESTION: But – yeah.
QUESTION: Go for it --
QUESTION: Well, I mean, what about the surrendering though, if it’s him?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get ahead of where we are. I haven’t seen them put out anything new in terms of confirmation of details.
QUESTION: So you don’t have from the American side yet confirmation that it is this guy?
MS. PSAKI: Again, the Department of Defense has the lead on this so I would point you to them. I haven’t seen anything new that they’ve come out with this morning in terms of confirming details, so I would point you or your colleagues to them for more specifics.
QUESTION: Well, they actually just didn’t even confirm it yesterday. So the question now is: In whose hands is he at the moment and where is he?
MS. PSAKI: I just am not going to have more details to offer from here. It’s – the military has the lead on this particular case.
Do we have more on this or should we move on?
QUESTION: Another subject? 7 1/7/2015
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: First of all, madam, Happy New Year to you and all of my colleagues.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you. Happy New Year to you.
QUESTION: My question is that, one, what role you think State Department will play as far as upcoming visit of President Obama to India to be the first U.S. official, U.S. president, special guest on the Republic Day of India?
And second, can you review the India-U.S. relation in the future? I mean, what – we are going from 2014 to 2015.
MS. PSAKI: You’re right, we are. That’s why we said Happy New Year.
QUESTION: Yes, madam.
MS. PSAKI: So I would say that the President, as you noted, is going to be traveling to India later this month. The Secretary is traveling this weekend to India. He’ll be attending a very important event that Prime Minister Modi will play a prominent role at as well, and the Secretary will be speaking there. And while he’s there, he’ll have meetings with a range of officials. We’ll have more as we get closer to the trip. Certainly, they’ll be discussing the President’s upcoming trip as well as our economic relationship, our strategic relationship, our relationship on issues like energy. And so the Secretary is looking forward to having those discussions and he’ll certainly be briefing the President in between trips.
QUESTION: And just to follow – since now, finally, U.S. has a new ambassador, Mr. Richard Verma or Rahul Verma. What do you think he will play the role as the U.S. ambassador to India, since we didn’t have any ambassador in India for the last number of months?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as is true with any important country with an important relationship, certainly we wanted to find the right person – or the Administration did – and he obviously is somebody we felt was a strong choice to be our ambassador to a country where we’re continuing to grow our relationship with. He’s just been on the ground for a couple of weeks. I know he has an ambitious agenda there, so we’ll look forward to seeing him this weekend.
QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.
MS. PSAKI: Should we move on?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: The statement released yesterday about the Secretary’s trip mentioned that part of the trip would be to highlight the role U.S. technology plays in supporting sustainable economic growth in India and the region. Can you elaborate exactly on what that is? 8 1/7/2015
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the Vibrant Gujarat Global Innovators Summit – the – part of the role of that summit that the Secretary will be speaking on is to be – is to talk about a range of these issues. And certainly innovation, our energy cooperation and partnership, our economic relationship are central to the focus of the dialogue between the Secretary and his counterparts when he visits India this weekend.
India, or move on?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: As much – as big as India is, I know you’re – on Middle East. The UN says that the Palestinians will become members of the International Criminal Court on April 1st. I know – and I don’t expect you to go through your entire policy about what this means and how you feel about the prospect of the Palestinians joining the court, but I’m wondering what the American position – the Administration’s position is on whether the Palestinians even qualify to be a member of – to be a signatory either of the Rome Statute or to be a member of the court, and whether or not that will play into any aid funding decisions, given the fact that there’s now legislation on the Hill that would bar the Palestinians from getting any U.S. aid, even – it’s stronger than the existing legislation, which does not bar aid – which requires – sorry, which only bars aid if the Palestinians pursue the a case against Israel or support one.
MS. PSAKI: Well, a couple – let me try to answer your questions, all of them. One is the UN spokesperson issued a statement you may have seen earlier today making clear that the steps taken in fulfilling the Secretary-General’s role as depository for the ICC Rome Statute are purely administrative. So they are therefore not a judgment on eligibility; they’re accepting the documents. Obviously, they can clarify more what his role is and how that will specifically work.
From our point of view, there are – well, you asked me – did you ask me about UN funding, or you asked me, I’m sorry, about – there were a couple questions in there. I just want to make sure I get them all.
QUESTION: Well, I want to know what the – if the Administration believes that the Palestinians have the standing to even become a member of the court. And then I was going to ask you about the legislation.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, let me give you a short answer and then let me take part of this, because there’s a legal answer to this that we can provide to all of you in a more extensive way after the briefing. The United States does not believe that the state of Palestine qualifies as a sovereign state and does not recognize it as such and does not believe that it is eligible to accede to the Rome Statute. There are obviously legal parts of that, so we will send that out to all of you after.
In the funding part – can you just repeat that one more time? 9 1/7/2015
QUESTION: Well, Senator Paul has introduced a bill that would strip – that makes – that would bar the Administration from giving aid to the Palestinians, should they become a member of the court. That legislation is more – is tougher than the existing legislation that would – that bans aid only in the case of the Palestinians joining and then filing a case or supporting a case against Israel; in order words, it does not say that membership precludes – only membership precludes it. Does the Administration support this legislation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speak to proposed legislation. I will say that obviously there are – we’re taking a look at the law. There’s no question that we will be complying with all laws as it relates to our assistance, of course. So we’re consulting with Congress; we’re looking at the law. I don’t have any other analysis at this point in time about what the impact will be.
QUESTION: All right. And then your answer on the first question, when you say the U.S. does not believe that Palestine is a sovereign state and therefore it does not qualify for membership in the ICC, does that mean that you also do not believe it qualifies for membership in the other UN organizations to which it has signed up to? Particularly, I’m thinking of UNESCO.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as you know, there are certain triggers as it relates to funding that --
QUESTION: Well, I’m not – forget about the funding for the moment. I just wonder if – I’m just wondering if you think the – that Palestine or the Palestinians, to make it easier, are qualified to be even observer members of UN organizations. I mean, they are recognized by the General Assembly as a state. When they sit down at the UN, they have a sign in front of them that says “State of Palestine.” So, I mean, --
MS. PSAKI: Well, you know our view on their desire to not only become a state, which we certainly support, but their interest or efforts to accede to UN organizations, which we feel, of course, is counterproductive to the stated goal of achieving peace in the region. In terms of the legal implications, I’d have to look at each case and talk to our lawyers about it.
QUESTION: The U.S. has long supported Taiwanese membership in certain UN organizations – World Health Organization, ICAO, other things. Is that in any – I’m finding it hard to understand that – I mean, Taiwan, you do not regard as a sovereign state. You regard it as part of China. And I realize the situations are different, but in this case the Palestinians – you do not believe the Palestinians have the standing to become a member of any UN organization or just the ICC?
MS. PSAKI: I said as it relates to the Rome Statute. I’m happy to take the question and see if there’s something more specific we can offer from a legal standpoint.
QUESTION: Jen, can I follow up on that? On Monday when we were talking about this, you said that you were going to try and find out some more information about whether Secretary Kerry had a waiver on any of these. Now obviously the Paul – Rand Paul legislation would be different, and that’s not completely completed yet. But under the cromnibus that was passed at 10 1/7/2015
the end of December, there were two sections. One was about the UN agencies and one was about the ICC. And specifically on going to the ICC, have you managed to clarify whether Secretary Kerry has a waiver on any move to freeze aid or not?
MS. PSAKI: Our lawyers are still looking at what the implications are. I think it’s unlikely we’ll have analysis on it right now. It’s something we’re looking closely at and we’re consulting with Congress on, but I can follow up with them and see if there’s anything new to update on on that front.
QUESTION: And just so – because it’s complicated, to clarify, at the moment you have said that there are implications for U.S. aid.
MS. PSAKI: There could be implications.
QUESTION: There could be. Sorry, there could be implications for U.S. aid under the legislation that’s already existing, under the law that already exists.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But separately, as the U.S. Administration, are you reviewing the aid that’s currently going to the Palestinians and are you informing them of any moves to freeze part of that if they – if this – if they continue with this ICC bid?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s obviously different implications if things are continued, so I’m not going to speculate on that. Right now what our focus is on is working with Congress in determining what the implications will be and working through the legal process of determining what the impact would be. Beyond that, that’s how we’re looking at this. We do, obviously, see benefits of the assistance that we’ve been providing to the Palestinians. There’s no question about that. But certainly, we’re going to abide by the law as well.
QUESTION: So any freezing of any aid would most likely come from Congress, not from the U.S. Administration separately as a --
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s something we’re in close contact with Congress about. And you all are familiar, I think, with the history here of times where aid has been frozen for a variety of reasons. But we’ll continue that discussion and – with them, and I’m sure we’ll keep talking about it in here as things develop.
QUESTION: Sorry, I just have one more on --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- on the idea that Palestine is ineligible or not eligible to join the ICC. Is there anything you can do to prevent them from joining?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that and see. Obviously, it’s the UN and member countries that look at it, of which we’re one. But I don’t have anything more on the process for you. 11 1/7/2015
QUESTION: Well, I mean, there’s no way – I mean, you have no – you’re not a member of the ICC.
MS. PSAKI: Correct, we’re not.
QUESTION: So I don’t understand what – I mean, what’s the practical effect of you thinking that the Palestinians aren’t eligible to join?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that people are interested in the view of the United States on this issue.
QUESTION: They are. I asked about it. But I mean --
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: -- is there a practical effect to that?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check and see in terms of the impact of it. And obviously, there’s a whole process that I’d point anyone to the UN on in determining whether or not they’d be eligible or they’d be accepted.
QUESTION: But apparently – well, they think they are eligible.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think again, I’d point you to the spokesperson’s statement where they made clear that this was administrative and doesn’t determine what the outcome is.
QUESTION: Do you have anything on Israeli reports that Khaled Meshaal, the head of Hamas, may have been kicked out of Qatar?
MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen the reports, Roz. I obviously don’t have any confirmation of details. I would just reiterate that our position on Hamas has not changed. Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization that continues to engage in terrorist activity and demonstrated its intentions during the summer’s conflict with Israel. We continue to raise our concerns about their relationship with a range of countries, but that hasn’t changed. I don’t have anything new in terms of Meshaal’s whereabouts or the status of that.
QUESTION: Have there been any conversations between this building and the Qatari Government about Meshaal’s status in their country?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as I mentioned, we’ve raised in the past our concerns about Hamas. We have not made a secret about that, and that hasn’t changed either.
QUESTION: Let me rephrase. Since these reports have come out, has the U.S. Government talked to Qatar about his status?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the reports are suggesting – which I don’t have any confirmation of – that he’s no longer or won’t be in Qatar. I don’t have any confirmation of that. We’ve had 12 1/7/2015
conversations in the past. I don’t have anything to read out for you in terms of recent conversations.
MS. PSAKI: Any more on this or --
QUESTION: Do you support the Qatari Government in case they take this decision?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on it. We – I don’t have any confirmation about it. Our view on Hamas is very clear.
QUESTION: Back to the Palestinians for a minute?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Does the Secretary still believe that he could restart the direct dialogue between the Palestinians and the Israelis after the elections?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Nicolas, I think the Secretary will never give up on the prospect of looking for an opportunity for the parties to make the necessary decisions to return to negotiations and ultimately come to an agreement on a two-state solution. Obviously, that needs to be up to the parties. There’s no questions there’s tensions between them at this point in time, to put it mildly. But he remains engaged with the Israelis and we remain closely engaged with the Palestinians as well, and I expect that will continue through the course of the coming months.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: There have been reports that the Cuban Government is resisting the release of some of the 53 prisoners, especially some who have committed acts of violence. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think to be clear, what you’re referring to is a report with an anonymous congressional source, just so everybody knows what that is.
QUESTION: Are you are of more than one? Is it reports plural, or is it just one report?
MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen one report. There may be others.
QUESTION: Have you seen another one?
QUESTION: I have not. 13 1/7/2015
MS. PSAKI: Okay, I’ve seen one report. We understand many in Congress and elsewhere in Washington and across the country feel very strongly about our Cuba policy. That’s why we’re going to have a discussion about it with members and why that’s ongoing now. We continue to believe that this was the right policy and the right change, not just for the Cuban people but for the United States, our relationships in the region, and to provide new economic opportunities in the region as well.
On the specific question, we fully expect the Cubans to release all 53. They’ve already released some, as I mentioned yesterday. We’ve not heard anything different from the Cuban Government, period.
QUESTION: Sorry --
QUESTION: Do you expect them to release all 53 before the discussions?
MS. PSAKI: I didn’t give a timeline on that, just like I didn’t yesterday, but we do expect them to release all 53.
QUESTION: So when – the last bit of that, you have heard nothing, what, different from the Cubans?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: So that means that the Cubans have not told you that some – that the releases of some – of some subset of the 53 are problematic and might take more time, or that they might not --
MS. PSAKI: I think the congressional source that she was asking about conveyed they wouldn’t be released.
QUESTION: And you – and so you say you have heard nothing from the Cubans that they --
MS. PSAKI: That suggests they’re not releasing the 53.
QUESTION: Yeah, but have you heard anything from the Cubans that says that, “Well, we’ll do it, but it’s really kind of problematic”?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we all need to remember here this is a congressional source that likely has their own objectives in making the statements they made, so --
QUESTION: As do you, though. I mean --
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been negotiating the deal and in touch with the Cuban Government about the agreement, so --
QUESTION: But have they – so -- 14 1/7/2015
MS. PSAKI: -- I think we have a little more information.
QUESTION: Well, if the Cubans haven’t told you anything negative in terms of the release of the 53, have they told you anything positive, that “Yes, don’t worry, we’re still going to do it, we’re going to keep our word to both President Obama and the Pope”?
MS. PSAKI: That wasn’t warranted based on one anonymous congressional source. They have committed to releasing the 53, we believe they will, and we’re encouraging them to do that rapidly.
QUESTION: I know, but have you – but clearly, look, you say that they haven’t all been released. This is an issue that you think is important and that you think that they should be released, all of them.
MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You’re saying that some have, so that means, by extension, that some haven’t.
MS. PSAKI: Right.
QUESTION: So one would assume – but I don’t want to assume, so I’ll ask the question: Have you been in touch with the Cubans and told them, “Hey, you got to release the rest of these people, as you said you would do”?
MS. PSAKI: Of course we have been, but not in response to this one report.
QUESTION: Okay. And – I understand. And when you have said that to the Cubans, have the Cubans come back and said, “No problem, we’re on it, we’re going to do it, all 53 will be released”? Or have they said, “We’ve already done some and – but there’s another – there’s a small group in there who are a bit more problematic for us and that it seems like it’s going to take some more time”?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I’m not going to read out any conversations that hasn’t even been in any of the reporting suggested out there.
QUESTION: Well, I’m asking about it right now.
MS. PSAKI: They have committed to releasing the 53, we believe they will release the 53, and we continue to encourage them to do that rapidly.
QUESTION: Do you know when the last time it was that the Cubans told you, in a positive way, that all 53 would be released? Was it way back in December or has there been a conversation, say, this week since the questions --
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to read out that more specifically in terms of our discussion.
QUESTION: Jen? 15 1/7/2015
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just to follow up with what he was saying, how – is it true that the State Department has been briefing people on the Hill --
MS. PSAKI: Has been briefing?
QUESTION: -- on Cuba?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve been in touch with some officials on the Hill, certainly, as we were around the announcement.
QUESTION: So if this person was briefed – I don’t know who read the report, but if this person – and if you are briefing people on the Hill, why would they then just make it.
MS. PSAKI: That wasn’t a briefing we provided, so I don't know where their information came from.
QUESTION: Number two --
MS. PSAKI: And I don't know that they were briefed, since they were an anonymous source.
QUESTION: So number two, how do you know? Do you just take the Cubans at their word that they have released these people, or is there a way of the U.S. ensuring that they actually have left the prison?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are some names that have been publicly released on the ground. I’d certainly point you to that, and certainly, we are confident that some have been released.
QUESTION: And one more question. What – when was the last time that you believe – when was the last prisoner released? In the last few days, in the last few hours?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more specific readout of that. I think it’s unlikely I will, but I can see if we have more we can convey on that point.
QUESTION: Can I – just on Cuba?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: You were asked the other day – I can’t remember if it was Monday or Tuesday – whether you guys had raised with the Cubans, not – separate from the 53 – the case – the issues of the detentions post-December 17th.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more specific on that. I’m happy to follow up and see if there’s more we can share.
QUESTION: Just to – with regards to those detentions, or detentions in general, the Cubans have a practice of short-term arrests, so they’ll pick up 53 one day and let 53 go after two days, 16 1/7/2015
pick up another 53, that sort of thing. Are these 53 all long-term prisoners, like people who are not sort of in and out of the gates?
MS. PSAKI: Well, these were 53 individuals who were agreed to – I would note before we announced it, naturally – that the United States provided them a list of. I’m not going to categorize them further, other than to also convey that Cuba has a human rights record that clearly we find totally unacceptable, regardless of our agreement to open up diplomatic relations. It’s one of the reasons why we felt we needed to take a different approach, because we need to provide opportunities for civil society; we need to find a different way forward, because it’s not working. What that also means is that if there are additional arrests, if there is a need to raise the need to release additional people, we’ll do that. It’s not – the 53 is not a set in stone, we’re not going to ask for other people to be released.
QUESTION: Yeah. Recently, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un has mentioned that North Korea want normalization of relationship with South Korea. What is the impact of South and North Korea in dialogue – sanctions on North Korea?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly encouraged dialogue between North and South Korea. There have been occasions where that has happened, as you know, in the last several months or years. Our sanctions are put in place as a result of a range of factors, including their human rights record, including their nuclear aspirations. Beyond that, I don’t have any speculation on what the impact would be. There are changes that need to be made on those issues in order to impact sanctions.
QUESTION: On North Korea?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Tomorrow is Kim Jong-un’s birthday. Do you have any message to convey to him from the podium?
MS. PSAKI: I do not.
QUESTION: Do you – generally speaking, do you have any message on human rights and nuclear issue that you want to see improvement on?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, broadly speaking, we’ve long said on the nuclear issue that the ball is in North Korea’s court. They need to abide by their international obligations, including the September 2005 joint statement. We haven’t seen any indication they have plans to do that. On human rights, they have the most – one of the most abysmal records in the world. It’s resulting in the suffering of the North Korean people, and certainly we would encourage any leader to take a look at that.
QUESTION: Thank you. 17 1/7/2015
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lalit.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Sri Lanka is headed for presidential elections tomorrow.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And before the elections, there have been large-scale violence in parts of the country. Several human rights organizations have expressed concern about it. Have you seen those reports and what are your thoughts on --
MS. PSAKI: Well, we – of course, the United States supports a free and fair electoral process in Sri Lanka that is credible, peaceful, and inclusive. To that end, Secretary Kerry called the Sri Lankan president yesterday to underscore the government’s responsibility to ensure the January 8th elections will be free from violence and intimidation and that the vote counting is carried out credibly and transparently. Of course, he and we all had seen the reports that you referenced.
We will continue to monitor the situation in Sri Lanka. We urge the government, its election officials and police, all political parties and actors to ensure access to all vote centers for the voters to vote and counting centers for all international and domestic observers. We’re concerned about reports of violence and urge the government to ensure a transparent and credible investigation into any allegation of fraud or violence.
QUESTION: So the call was yesterday?
MS. PSAKI: Was the – let’s see, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th. I think the 8th actually is – yes, it was yesterday. He called him yesterday and the 8th is today, yes.
QUESTION: And has the – is the U.S. sending any election observers in Sri Lanka?
MS. PSAKI: I can check on that for you. I’m not aware of observers we’re planning to send, but we’ll check on that for you as well.
QUESTION: Okay. I have one more from South Asia --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: The Pakistani parliament today passed and approved for a military court for trying the terrorist suspects. Have you seen that and what are your thoughts? How do you view this? 18 1/7/2015
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen the reports and we’re seeking additional information as the Pakistani Government adopts measures necessary to institute them. We support efforts to counter terrorism and bring perpetrators to justice, believe – but we believe it’s important efforts be consistent with principles of due process. We will continue to engage with the Government of Pakistan on a range of these issues and seek information on these – on this vote, as I mentioned.
QUESTION: So you have concerns, basically, that in these courts due process of law might not be followed?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we just want to – we’re exploring and looking to receive a little bit more information so we can address or explore that question.
QUESTION: But again, it would seem to me, this Administration, at least for its own – the terrorism suspects that it has – has pushed – has wanted to get away from the military tribunal --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- aspect of it. Why would you then need to even think twice about a Pakistani move to move to military tribunals? Wouldn’t – I mean, away from a civilian court.
MS. PSAKI: Matt, we just don’t have more details on what exactly this is, so we’re looking – seeking those, and I expect we’ll have more to say once we do.
Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: Jen, do you have any update on the flag-raising controversy at Twin Oaks? You said yesterday that Twin Oaks is the representative’s compound, not a private person’s home. But nevertheless, it is a piece of property that belongs to the Taiwanese Government and is in the control of Representative Shen. That’s probably why he insists in Taipei that it is within his right to hold an internal private flag-raising ceremony. And also he said it’s not unprecedented. Last October during the national day celebration flags were raised and AIT officials were present and they made addresses. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on that. I’m happy to look into it. I don’t have anything to add to what I offered yesterday. I think the point you mentioned is that it’s an official government facility, it’s not a private individual’s home, and that’s what I was referencing yesterday. And the question was: What is the United States’ view? I offered the United States’ view.
QUESTION: One follow-up?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. 19 1/7/2015
QUESTION: There are those in Taipei who say that the U.S. disappointment with the ceremony has more to do with China’s strong protest and representation rather than with real U.S. displeasure. Is there any truth to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it has to do with our consistent policy. That’s what it has to do with.
QUESTION: So on this issue, I don’t want to belabor it, but yesterday I asked: Is there any repercussion? Is there any consequence for --
MS. PSAKI: We’re in discussions. We continue to be in discussions with Taiwan authorities on this matter, but I don’t have any updates on that.
QUESTION: And the other thing is --
MS. PSAKI: I believe the flag has actually been taken down regardless.
QUESTION: And is that – in your view, that’s a good thing that the flag was taken down?
MS. PSAKI: It wasn’t an ask we made, is my understanding.
QUESTION: It was not?
MS. PSAKI: But it has been. I don’t have any other update beyond that.
QUESTION: Well, I’m just curious as to why – why shouldn’t – you just said – just went through a long discussion, we did, about how the Palestinians are not a sovereign state, and yet you have no objection to them at their representative office here putting up the Palestinian flag. In fact, there was a big deal made out of it when they did do it. It may or may not still be there, but there are other places that are not – are other geographic entities that are perhaps not countries that are allowed to raise flags at their offices. Why such a – why take the stand that you’re taking now with Taiwan?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned yesterday, Matt, we have strong cultural ties with Taiwan. That hasn’t changed. Obviously, we look at every situation and every relationship differently, and I think that’s what every country, what every entity, what every relation – relationship we have in the world expects.
QUESTION: But what you’re saying – it seems to me what you’re saying is that beyond expressing disappointment with the decision to go ahead to raise the flag in the first place, there isn’t any other consequence?
MS. PSAKI: There are ongoing discussions. I have nothing else to read out for you.
QUESTION: Could I ask one more on this? 20 1/7/2015
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I believe the Taiwanese representative made some remarks to the effect that – confirming that the Taiwanese side hadn’t informed the U.S. in advance, and that was specifically to give the U.S. deniability vis-a-vis China. Would you have preferred to have been notified in advance, or was it preferable that you weren’t?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’re kind of 40 questions past where I have something to offer you on this particular line of questioning. I would just convey that people were asking whether we knew in advance. We did not know in advance. I don’t have any speculation for you on what we would have preferred either way.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Will there be any consequences on the use of Twin Oaks in the future, or will this incident cause new restrictions on the usage of Twin Oaks?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t make a prediction of that. We’re in discussions with authorities both in Taipei and in Washington. I don’t have anything to read out about those discussions. We continue to have an important cultural relationship, a relationship that I think both sides enjoy. And obviously, we expressed our view on this particular incident.
QUESTION: Can I have one more on Tibet? There are reports --
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, on what?
QUESTION: On Tibet?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: There are reports of exchange of emissaries between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese Government about possibility of talks between the two. Have you seen those, and do you support those talks?
MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen the reports. I don’t have any confirmation, but I can convey that we’ve long encouraged the Chinese Government to hold direct and substantive discussions with the Dalai Lama or his representatives without preconditions aimed at resolving differences. We believe that all people in the PRC would benefit from the fruits of dialogue and urge the Chinese Government to seize the opportunity to further engage with the Dalai Lama.
QUESTION: I have one more. 21 1/7/2015
MS. PSAKI: Sure, okay.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: You were in the meeting, I presume?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Good, then you’ll know the answer to this question.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: It’s a bit offbeat, but there is a story from Warsaw this morning that says that prosecutors in Los Angeles have asked Poland once again to extradite Roman Polanski when he goes there for some event later this year. I know you don’t talk about extradition requests, and so I’m not going to ask about that, but I just want to know: Did the name Roman Polanski come up at all in the meeting between --
MS. PSAKI: It was not a topic of discussion in the meeting.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)