Background Briefing in Munich, Germany

Special Briefing
Office of the Spokesperson
Munich, Germany
February 7, 2015


SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: All right. So thank you guys for you flexibility. Just one thing for your planning. It’s possible he does a Zarif meeting tomorrow morning, like 7 a.m. early. So it’s still being set. We don’t know yet, but that was the confusion tonight, because it was like whether they meet tonight or tomorrow. So we’ll let you know as soon as we know.

So we felt we would just tick quickly through the meetings today, and then we can take some questions.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. So we’re going to talk about all the meetings that the Secretary was not in with the Vice President, because the Vice President’s office is reading out his own --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: And this is background, obviously. Senior State Department Official.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: -- meetings. This is obviously all on background.

So first meeting in the morning was with the South Korean foreign minister, Byung-se Yun. Major focus of the meeting was on sort of the general state of the U.S.-South Korean alliance. They also discussed the prospect for and conditions under which the Six-Party Talks might be reconvened and the current state of affairs with the DPRK. They talked about remaining outstanding issues related to the 1-2-3 agreement and what is required to get that completed, and both sides expressed a strong desire to do so in the near term. The Secretary also saw Foreign Minister Shoukry today, but he did that meeting almost entirely – basically he did do the meeting entirely one-on-one and I haven’t actually discussed it with him, so I can’t speak --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: And it was brief because we jammed it in in between meetings.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Roughly 15 minutes.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Fifteen minutes.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Something like that. The Secretary also saw President Ghani of Afghanistan. It was the first time he’d seen President Ghani, I think, since they saw each other in London last month. They discussed a visit that the President will make to Washington sometime in the coming months, but we don’t have a date yet to announce. They discussed the challenges and efforts related to cabinet formation. They discussed the kind of status of the unity government – what’s working, what remains challenging – and the working relationship between the president and Chief Executive Officer Abdullah. And they discussed counterterrorism and countering violent extremism efforts in Afghanistan, and also discussed a bit of the relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Secretary also saw Foreign Minister Lavrov for about, what, 90 minutes, something like that.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. Ninety minutes.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The vast majority of which was with the delegations, and then some of it one-on-one at the end. The Secretary talked about the U.S. goal of finding a diplomatic solution to the conflict in Ukraine, the goal the U.S. shares with all of its European partners. They talked about the current state of the discussions between the Ukrainians, the French, the Germans, and the Russians. They spoke fairly extensively about Syria and what possible, if any, diplomatic opportunities there might be to resolve that conflict. And the Secretary reiterated our strong desire for a political transition in Syria that can bring about an end to the bloodshed, and also described in some detail the effort that we’re making against ISIL – or Daesh as the Secretary has grown fond of calling them – inside Syria and also in Iraq; and a lot of discussion basically about the state of the bilateral relationship with Russia, including a range of bilateral issues, as they often discuss.

I guess the only other meeting was the Secretary briefly saw Omani Foreign Minister bin Alawi --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Kind of on the way out.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. Basically we’re fitting a lot these things in between and on the sort of margins of other meetings, but the discussion there basically was on the situation in Yemen. Yemen also came up, by the way, with the Russians. The discussion was on the situation in Yemen, the state of the Iran nuclear talks, and the counter-ISIL efforts in Iraq and Syria.

And I think that’s it.

QUESTION: So just to put a fine point on this: He did not see anyone from Israel?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: He did not have a meeting with anyone in Israel. I mean, there are Israelis floating around, but he did not meet with any Israelis.

QUESTION: On the talks with Lavrov, you said they talked about the current state of discussions with Germany, France, and Russia. What is that state?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: So, I mean, I think you’ve seen reports and there’s going to be more that emerges in the coming days, and the truth is I don’t think we know yet the – how successful this effort will be, but the German and the French heads of state were in Moscow yesterday for talks with the Russians. I think they – both sides left members of their team behind to continue working through some of the thornier issues. I think there is a sense that there’s still some big issues left to be resolved. The Secretary had – I didn’t read them out because they’re with the Vice President – but three big meetings today that also touched on Ukraine.

Actually we did leave one meeting out the Secretary did on his own – he met with the P3+ in Germany earlier today. Sorry. So with his French, UK, and German counterparts. And they focused that meeting on – largely on Syria, but also discussed the situation in Ukraine. For whatever reason, I actually don’t know the answer of Foreign Minister Fabius was not there, but I think it was a scheduling issue. His – one of his deputies did that meeting in his place.

Sorry, so there was a lot of Ukraine-related discussion and diplomacy today, but most of it took place in the context of these meetings with the Vice President. There was a trilateral meeting with the UK, the Germans, and the United States. And then there was a bilateral meeting with the Vice President, the Secretary meeting with President Poroshenko.

QUESTION: When you say we don’t know how successful this effort was going – is going to be, what is this effort?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think without getting too far into the details, because --

QUESTION: Are there any details?

QUESTION: Are there details? Is there a plan?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Sure, sure.

QUESTION: What is it?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It’s broadly consistent with Minsk --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, so --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: -- but with more specific implementation details.

QUESTION: Well, is it correct what Hollande is quoted as saying, that it gives – that it broadens this bumper zone?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think that’s basically right, from what I understand. That’s a small factor of what is kind of a multi-faceted approach.

QUESTION: Well, that’s the only detail that we know, right?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, I mean I think --

QUESTION: So what else is there?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It’s not our --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I mean, it’s not my job to confirm what President Hollande has said, but that’s consistent with my understanding of what they’re discussing.

But the truth is, Matt, if you know principles of Minsk --

QUESTION: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: -- it is – there is nothing in here that you’ll find that’s at odds with that.

QUESTION: So what I don’t understand --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: But what’s different is there’s a bit more detail around how it would be implemented, and timing – more of a sort of a roadmap on timing for implementation, that sort of thing. But in terms of the substantive sort of solution to the problem, it is broadly consistent with Minsk.

QUESTION: So when you say, “on timing,” you mean just like specific deadlines for certain things (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, or this will happen on day one, this would happen on day two. That kind of discussion.

QUESTION: And those – and is it correct to say that immediately, the first steps are what the Secretary’s been talking about; whatever else, the ceasefire, pulling back the troops, (inaudible) --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. Everything the Secretary said when he was in Ukraine, the sort of conditions that he laid down for ending the conflict, is captured is --

QUESTION: Is in that.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: -- is absolutely captured in this.

QUESTION: So can you explain why there are all these reports about this big rift?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I mean, I read one story written by --

QUESTION: By several --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: -- a colleague of yours, not at the AP but a colleague of yours in the Washington press pool. There are lots of stories that --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: A rift with who?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: -- suggest this? With the Germans, is that what you’re talking about?

QUESTION: Well, there’s – first, there’s – I’m trying to figure out – and I’ll stop and let other people ask after this – but I’m trying to figure out how big – if there is a rift between the U.S. and Europe, generally, on the whole – on your suggestion that you might give them arms. And then, specifically, U.S.-Germany.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, so I would say there is a wholly consistent diplomatic approach to this problem in the United States and in – and with our European partners, and I think that was very clear in the meetings today and it was very clearly, frankly, from the discussions in Ukraine. And that is that Minsk is going to be the, sort of, touchstone, the baseline, for all diplomatic discussions. I don’t think there’s any disagreement on that. And I don’t think, frankly – at least I haven’t seen the Russians say that they disagree with that, as a sort of general matter. When you get to the fine print and the implementation, obviously, that’s where this has run into trouble in the past. So the big – a big part of the Russian-German effort is to try to flesh that in a way that maybe more successful in terms of the implementation this time.

QUESTION: Arms?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And on the arms – what about the arms, specifically?

QUESTION: Well, has the --

QUESTION: Did you say they’re part of a Russian-German efforts, (inaudible)?

QUESTION: He meant French.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I meant French-German efforts. Sorry, that’s an entire --

QUESTION: I mean, are they up in arms because of the --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Up in arms about arms?

QUESTION: Yes.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That’s clever.

QUESTION: Or is this just a negotiating ploy, like they said, “Look, we can’t stop that crazy (inaudible).”

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: You read what Chancellor Merkel said in her speech – you heard it maybe – something to the effect of: the conflict’s not going to be solved by adding arms to it or something – I’m paraphrasing, not quoting. Look, I think that is consistent with our view. We have said all along that there is not a military solution to this conflict.

We’ve also said that we’ve not made yet a decision about the provision of defensive weapons, which would be provided in response to a very offensive, aggressive situation and the provision of material and weapons by the Russians to the separatists. We’ve not made a policy decision on that.

So given that right now neither side is providing weapons to the – neither the – sorry, the European – neither our European partners nor the United States is providing weapons to the Ukrainians. There is not a rift about this. There will – they will continue to discuss that question, I’m sure, when Chancellor Merkel comes to Washington, and we’ll see where we end up policy-wise, and whether everyone’s on the same page. But as of now with the diplomatic approach and with the situation regarding the provision of weapons, we are all in the same place.

QUESTION: [Senior State Department Official One], one thing. As [Senior State Department Official Two] has explained it, you have the Minsk approach and a lot of this is a sequencing as --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes.

QUESTION: -- laying out a sequencing for implementation of the Minsk approach.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That’s right.

QUESTION: And obviously, if one was to do this the ceasefire would be at the front end, and would be something you would want to do right away.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: You would hope. Yes.

QUESTION: And some of the more contentious elements from the Russian perspective might be at the other end of the sequencing, such as the closing of the border. Is that the logic of this plan? Is the closing of the border down the road in terms of the sequencing of this place?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m not going to get into the details of the plan except to say that these are all issues that are captured in it, but it’s not in our interest to negotiate this in public. I will say that our position, the U.S. position, all along has been that the international border in particular should not be a question that is sort of deferred further down into the implementation phase because what we don’t want is a situation where we have a partially implemented deal that leaves that question unresolved.

QUESTION: So is there a written plan yet, or this still something that’s going to be vaguely coalescing? I mean, is there actually words written out yet?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, there’s already the Minsk principles, right?

QUESTION: Minsk, yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: And so part of their discussion is about the specific implementation pieces --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: -- which is they’re going to have this call tomorrow, as you all know, and they’ll continue to discuss it. But I think it’s accurate to say it’s still --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It’s still very much in flux and in evolution. So yes, I’m sure at various points they’ve written down the snapshot version of where the discussions stand, and then a few hours later they probably have to revise it – and that’s probably happening sort of consistently in real time. I don’t want to overstate the saying that there’s some sort of document that everybody’s working off of. But I’m sure they’re writing down ideas and running them past each other.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, the call tomorrow is what, again, please?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It’s the four-way call that’s been out there.

QUESTION: The four-way phone.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do we know what time it is?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I don’t know the time. We’re not on it, as you know.

QUESTION: This is a four-way call --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We’ll send you the dial-in.

QUESTION: Not on it, but he’ll be listening in.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) (Laughter.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The Germans, French, Ukrainians, and Russians.

QUESTION: Is it like a conference call?

QUESTION: 800-number, I hope.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yes.

QUESTION: So given what you’ve been hearing over the last days, how do you think this will fare in the President’s deliberations over defensive weapons, other kinds of weapons, how do you go forward on a strategy here?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I think one of the things that’s clear is throughout this process, whether it comes to sort of our diplomatic approach, whether it comes to sanctions and other sort of pressure that we’ve used to put on the Russians, whether it comes to the discussional round, the provision of defensive weapons, we have wanted to move consistently and in coordination with key partners. And that’s, I think, very much the case for this latest question, which is why this opportunity to be here in Germany, in Munich, where everybody was gathered, was quite useful in terms of keeping people kind of on the same page. And the meetings in Washington Monday and Tuesday will also be very useful in that regard.

QUESTION: What’s on Tuesday?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And Merkel, I guess, is --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Merkel’s in D.C.

QUESTION: Again?

QUESTION: I thought that was Monday.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: She’s there. I think she leaves Tuesday a.m.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: She may stay overnight. Check with her. (Laughter.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The bulk of the meetings will be on Monday in Washington.

QUESTION: Do you have any --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) that you need to wait, that before any rash decisions are taken on anything, that you need to – there needs to be some – you need to wait and see how this pans out?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I don’t think anybody is making a rash decision. And people think that this is imminent; we don’t know that any decision is imminent. And obviously, this is an ongoing discussion and it has never been off the table, right? But part of it is also implementation. There’s been paper before and been deal agreements before. So it’s also what happens with that. But as you will know, there’s a range of factors that you weigh as – and that’s obviously what the national security team is doing.

QUESTION: I was actually referring to sanctions.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Oh, sorry. Sanctions. Oh.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) sanctions. I mean, has this sort of taken the wind out of it – the sail of the sanctions push, which we heard on the way over was going to be in days?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, I mean, I don’t think – I think – I know it’s a different question, but the question is also the implementation, right? I mean, if they agree to something, they still have Minsk; they could implement Minsk. If they implement Minsk, then that will have an impact on sanctions. If they implement steps that de-escalate, then we’ve long said it would have an impact. But I mean, we’re clearly not at that point at this point.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah. I mean, I’m not sure these are related questions, and I don’t think “wind out of the sails” is quite right. The EU just announced a round of new designations two days ago.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah. And they have another meeting in --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And they’ll be meeting again soon to discuss further.

QUESTION: But does the sequencing that you’re talking of the French and Germans envision, does any of that sequencing involve sanctions relief?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No. This – our – to be honest, I’m not sure if sanctions relief has been part of the discussion that they’ve been having, because we’re not part of those talks. But what I’m focused on and what I was referring to was the sequence of steps that would lead to the de-escalation of violence.

QUESTION: Such as ceasefires (inaudible) --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Steps related to the borders, steps related to pulling back of heavy weapons and troops.

QUESTION: Closing the border?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes, those sorts of steps the Secretary laid out in pretty good detail in Ukraine.

QUESTION: Do the Russian --

QUESTION: Do you have any sense what the initial Russian reaction is to this? Maybe you got a hint from the discussions with Lavrov or from --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I don’t think we’re going to read that out. I mean, they did talk about the fact that there’s a call tomorrow, obviously, and he’s – President Putin’s on that call, not Foreign Minister Lavrov. So --

QUESTION: So it’s all the leaders tomorrow.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Right, exactly. Exactly.

QUESTION: Did the Russians put out a --

QUESTION: Any reaction – sorry – Ukrainian that you feel comfortable giving us? Because there does seem to be some hesitation. They sort of say – they’ve said publicly: We have Minsk already; do we really need something else? So do you think they have in the last day, after meeting with the French and German leaders and yourselves today, do they feel a little bit more confident or --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I mean, I would say that they’re broadly supportive of the effort to try to de-escalate the conflict and find a resolution. But I don’t think I want to characterize their position as to kind of how this is – what the prospects are given the discussions that have taken place. I think you’d have to go to them to get that reaction.

QUESTION: Why is it that these efforts leave out one of the two parties to the conflict, that Ukraine is not involved? And yes, Poroshenko --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Ukraine’s on the --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: What do you mean, Ukraine’s not involved?

QUESTION: The discussions are all happening in Moscow. I mean, the Ukrainians aren’t there.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: They were – hold on. They – that’s --

QUESTION: And they’re saying that things are being relayed to them.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Wait, wait, wait, wait. So they spent the day in Ukraine, had extensive discussions with the Ukrainians, then spent the day in Moscow and had extensive discussions with the Russians. So I mean, I don’t understand how --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: And then again with the Ukrainians today.

QUESTION: President Poroshenko just came out and said, we don’t know the details of what’s being discussed.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I don’t know the context of everything, but he – obviously, there’s an ongoing discussion, as we were saying. So it’s not like there’s a final --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Right. And – but the notion that the Ukrainians are somehow being left out of this just doesn’t – it doesn’t fit the sort of facts of how the diplomacy has proceeded. They went to Ukraine first, and now after having gone to Russia, they’re here meeting with the Ukrainians again. So I – they’re deeply, deeply involved in the discussions as well.

QUESTION: So this is the – the implementation, it’s everything; it’s not just a ceasefire like Michael is talking about, but it’s everything.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Sure. There are – there have always been many components, right. It’s the – that – and that’s what Minsk is as well, many different pieces.

QUESTION: It’s not broader than that; it doesn’t bring in Crimea --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, but it – Minsk does talk about various steps towards sort of political reform. It talks about dialogue, it talks about --

QUESTION: It doesn’t talk about Crimea.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: What’s that? Minsk does not talk about Crimea.

QUESTION: And this one doesn’t either. Right? Right?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The current discussions – to be honest, I don’t know whether they are – Crimea is mentioned. But I don’t know that it has been.

QUESTION: What about the issue of broader autonomy?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, that’s what I talk about in sort of political reform and issues around that. That’s – I mean, that’s part of Minsk, right. Minsk talks about the special status law --

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: -- which would grant a degree of greater sort of political and economic and other rights to municipalities and other organizations in the east. So that’s very much on the table.

QUESTION: So that’s part of the sequencing to the political steps as well as the kind of --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: It’s part of the same discussion.

QUESTION: How --

QUESTION: But one question: Does it work with the same demarcation lines as the Minsk agreement between the separatists and Ukraine --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, I think that --

QUESTION: -- or does it try to set different demarcation lines?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think that’s one of the issues that’s got to be negotiated.

QUESTION: Well, so can you explain that? What do you mean by that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: By – they’re going to talk again tomorrow, so there’s still some issues to be worked through. And he – I think what you’re saying --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: -- is you expect that that’s one of them that still needs to be – as many of them do still need to be worked through.

QUESTION: Right. But what you’re saying in effect is that the – this initiative, this German/French initiative, does not assume that the demarcation line established in the Minsk agreement should be the demarcation line; that this is an issue that needs to be negotiated.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I’m not saying that. I’m not actually going to get into the details of what the German/French initiative says. What I’m saying is that there may not be 100 percent consensus between the Russians and the Ukrainians as to which line is relevant for discussion in these talks.

QUESTION: Well, but that – I mean, if they can’t agree on that, then there’s no point, right?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Not that --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Well, we said we’re not sure what the outcome will be, and they’re have another discussion tomorrow.

QUESTION: Right. But it sounds as though the Ukrainians are going to be asked to cede – maybe cede is the wrong word, but to accept lines --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, I mean --

QUESTION: -- that give the separatists at least some of the territory that they’ve gained since Minsk --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No, I wouldn’t say that.

QUESTION: No?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: What I would say is --

QUESTION: Okay. If that’s not true, then --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: -- this is an issue that continues to be under discussion.

QUESTION: Well, yeah; so it’s possible.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Well, it’s possible that the separatists would request all kinds of things, but that --

QUESTION: Well, isn’t it possible that Putin demands that? Isn’t it true that he demands that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: There’s no real value in going into all kinds of things that are possible or not possible.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It’s not our plan, so we’re not going to get into laying out the specifics of it, for obvious reasons.

QUESTION: But what do you think about that? I mean, [a senior State Department official] on the way over said Minsk shouldn’t be relitigated, but --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That’s --

QUESTION: -- (inaudible) relitigate the lines?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The – our – I mean, our position is that we support Minsk in --

QUESTION: I’m so old I remember when the French negotiated the Georgia deal. Boy, what a classic --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: The Georgia deal in 2008?

QUESTION: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: That doesn’t make you very old, by the way. (Laughter.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I covered that war, for the record.

QUESTION: Yeah, did you?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yes. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Well, I did too, and I was with (inaudible) on the way, and we went to what’s-her-face’s family’s house on the south of France. Anyway, they were furious (inaudible) French screwing up.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Lesley wants to know more. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: They screwed it up.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And guys, I really, unfortunately, have to go or I may get fired.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible) question?

QUESTION: All right. Can I ask something that’s non-Ukraine-related?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Sure.

QUESTION: You talked about the first meeting of the day, you said that it was the South Korean – they talked about the prospects for and the conditions under which the Six-Party Talks might be resumed.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What are the prospects for and conditions under which the Six-Party Talks can be resumed?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I don’t really have a characterization of the prospects. I mean, I think we’ve been clear about the conditions previously.

QUESTION: So there hasn’t been any movement or --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: There’s – nothing’s changed.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: There’s not a new movement.

QUESTION: Then this whole (inaudible)?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: But obviously, this is a prominent --

QUESTION: -- talks and all that kind of thing --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: It’s obviously a prominent of their – on their minds, right. Every time we meet with them.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: And on ours.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: As you can imagine, yeah. One random thing the South Korean minister did say is that they --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Which we can’t substantiate, but --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: -- which we don’t know for sure, but --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: -- we like it.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: -- was that the Secretary and the foreign minister of South Korea met more times last year than any time in history between the United States and the South Korean foreign minister. Don’t know if that’s true, but thought it was interesting.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Pam?

QUESTION: It is Ukraine.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Okay.

QUESTION: Can you shed light on how Lavrov characterized the Russian position privately in the talks with Kerry today, and --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: No. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: You can’t?

QUESTION: But how does Kerry deal with it, though, when he --

QUESTION: Because publicly, even --

QUESTION: -- when they say they have no --

QUESTION: -- in his statement today – the accusations went back to the U.S. to Europe back to post-Cold-War-era stuff. Is there any indication of movement, acknowledgement, in private talks --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Acknowledgment of what particular piece?

QUESTION: Of backing the separatists. I mean, how do you negotiate if Russia is saying, “We’re not there”?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I would just say that their public – his public comments don’t always reflect the private discussions you have. Obviously, they talked about Ukraine, they talked about Syria, they talked about a range of issues. And certainly the Secretary also, when they talked about their relationship, reiterated the fact that there are lots of things we want to continue to work on. And we don’t see it the way that his public comments reflected. And this is why. So there was a part of the conversation related to that, certainly.

QUESTION: So either Senator McCain or Senator Graham told (inaudible) us that the starting point --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: One or the other.

QUESTION: -- is that the Russians are the liar – number one, the Russians are liars.

QUESTION: The Russians are liars.

QUESTION: Is that where the Secretary starts from his – when he goes into these (inaudible) with Foreign Minister Lavrov?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: No.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: I don’t think he’d put it in the same terms, no.

QUESTION: No? It was audible – did you watch Lavrov’s speech?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Yeah, I heard people laughed.

QUESTION: Laughing, snickers, (inaudible) Secretary when Lavrov comes in and says “I don’t know what’s going on here,” and the Secretary – does he call bullshit on him?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: He has a good sense of humor. Well, I think it’s safe to say that they sort of debate aspects of each other’s public presentations that they take issue with behind closed doors, absolutely.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: All right.

QUESTION: Syria? Can I just ask on Syria?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Sure.

QUESTION: Did they decide that there was anything --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Did --

QUESTION: Did – sorry, I had – I did – after the talks in Moscow, did Lavrov say or put anything forward to the Secretary about a new diplomatic initiative?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I – Foreign Minister Lavrov did not spend a ton of time characterizing the talks in Moscow, and you can draw whatever conclusion you want from that, but that’s the facts.

QUESTION: Didn’t? Okay.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Did not spend extensive time.

QUESTION: Well, that’s interesting then. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: How much does the results of tomorrow or this whole initiative – France, Germany, all that – impact your decision to --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: (Laughter.) Self-destruct button?

QUESTION: -- your decision to give arms or not give arms?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: The call tomorrow will have a result, right. It could be an ongoing – a part of an ongoing discussion. So we don’t know. And it doesn’t mean that there is a deadline for when a decision will be made about whether we will provide defensive weapons.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: Right, but --

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: So we don’t see it as tomorrow there’s a call and it’ll be conclusive, and then the next day there’ll be a decision, in any way, shape, or form.

QUESTION: Well, Kerry said he’ll wait until Merkel (inaudible).

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: He said that will be part of the consultations, and then the President will take the time to make a decision. That remains the case.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: I think the way to think about it is everything related to the diplomacy or the situation on the ground is an input, and what we’ve said all along is that we’re going to calibrate our decisions about assistance to those sorts of factors. So sure, things that happens in diplomatic developments will be part of any decision-making process. But as [Senior State Department Official Two] said, it’s not as if the decision comes on X day and we decide then and get on with our lives. I mean, this is going to be an ongoing discussion.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: News happening before your eyes – potentially. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL TWO: Yeah.