Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 17, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Cliff Sloan Named Special Envoy for Guantanamo Closure
    • Transfer of Detainees / Moratorium on Yemen
    • Number of Detainees Remaining
  • IRAN / SYRIA
    • Aid to Assad Regime / Foreign Fighters / Path Forward in Syria
  • IRAN
    • Iranian Leadership / Election / New President / Role of Supreme Leader
    • P5+1 Proposal / Nuclear Portfolio / Sanctions
  • D.P.R.K.
    • Denuclearization / Negotiations / Six-Party Talks
    • Meeting between United States, Japan, and South Korea
  • CUBA
    • Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 / Direct Mail Service / Technical Discussions with U.S. Postal Service
  • TURKEY
    • Protests / Calls for Calm and Restraint / Reports of Excessive Force
    • Contact with Foreign Minister Davutoglu
  • SYRIA
    • Russia / G8 Discussions on Syria
    • Political Transition / Expansion of Size and Scope of Support / Chemical Weapons
    • Humanitarian Aid
    • International Humanitarian Law / Extremist Elements
  • CHINA
    • Chen Guangcheng / NYU
  • PAKISTAN
    • Secretary Kerry Call with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif


TRANSCRIPT:

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

1:33 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. We have some great colors in the second row. I love it. (Laughter.)

Okay. Before we get started, I just have one item at the top. As many of you have seen and written about, the Secretary has appointed Cliff Sloan[1] to the position of Special Envoy for Guantanamo closure. This decision or this announcement reflects the Administration’s commitment to closing the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. As the President recently stated during his speech at NDU, the continued operation of Guantanamo is not efficient, effective, or in the interests of our national security. Special Envoy Sloan brings a wealth of experience as an accomplished litigator and pragmatic problem-solver, a skillset that will prove valuable as he serves as the lead negotiator for the transfer of Guantanamo detainees abroad and manages the multitude of diplomatic issues related to the President’s directives to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, implement transfer determinations, and conduct a periodic review of those detainees who are not approved for transfer.

With that, let’s get to what’s on your minds.

QUESTION: Well, I will defer to my colleague whose last briefing is today.

MS. PSAKI: It is. It’s Brad Klapper’s last briefing today.

QUESTION: I’ll miss you.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll miss you. (Laughter.) We’ll miss the ascot.

QUESTION: Just on Guantanamo, beyond being inefficient and ineffective, what is the current feeling about the legality of holding people years and years without bringing them to a military commission or finding a new home for them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly given the President’s recent statements on how important it is to close Guantanamo, to move detainees, to take steps, this is something the Administration feels strongly about. This is one step of that process, of course. As you know, there will be other officials that Mr. Sloan will be working with across the government to accomplish this goal. But this just shows a renewed focus on this effort and renewed commitment to delivering on the President’s directive.

QUESTION: And just – I think when the first time the President said he hoped to close it was by January 23rd, 2010, I think. Is there any timeline for when you hope to accomplish this now?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a timeline for you, but I can tell you that, clearly, when the President of the United States talks about something in his speech, when we’ve taken follow-up steps like appointing this official to work here at the State Department, this is something we are committed to and we will be driving moving forward.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: On the same issue --

QUESTION: The President listed – the President lifted the moratorium on transfers to Yemen. Can you talk about what conversations either Mr. Sloan or other people in this building have had with the Yemenis about them accepting their people?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s just starting, so I don’t want to get too ahead of what he can already accomplish within just a few – I guess he started today, I believe – I’ll check on that for all of you. You know that the reason that we made the decision we did on Yemen was that, of course, its circumstances had changed on the ground from when we had put the moratorium in place to begin with. But I don’t have any updates on forward-looking action. Of course, that will be a part of his interesting portfolio moving forward.

QUESTION: Could you tell us how many or who among your Western allies actually practices administrative detention endlessly?

MS. PSAKI: I will defer to you, one of the historians in the room on that.

QUESTION: Okay, I – no, I’m not. I’m just like – England, Germany, in Europe and so on. We know Israel practices that. For years and years people are under – but any of your other Western allies do that?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I can speak to what our position is and what our approach is, but I encourage you to speak to other through the course of the afternoon.

QUESTION: All right. Just a quick follow-up. If and when Guantanamo is closed down, do you believe that the practice of administrative detention will end, will cease because everything will be done on U.S. soil?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, this is obviously a key step, something the President, the Administration is committed to, the Secretary is committed to, and Mr. Sloan and the work he’ll do, we’re very hopeful about his success in the months ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Still on Guantanamo?

QUESTION: Yes. Jen, why was it necessary to appoint Mr. Sloan? I mean, wasn’t the process underway? Weren’t there attempts going full-bore to do this? Or did it get bogged down?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you – a little bit of the history here, which I know many of you are familiar with. But Dan Fried, who was overseeing this process up until about January, and he was moved over to oversee sanctions, and kind of be the coordinator on that, which is significant and a very important role, and we had high-level professional staff, of course, working on this in the interim. But given Mr. Sloan’s background as somebody who has been a successful litigator, has been a negotiator, he’s argued before the Supreme Court, he’s worked closely with Congress and a number of the key players here, we felt, the Secretary felt, and the President certainly supported our efforts to name a high-level official like this to lead the charge moving forward.

QUESTION: So on the appointment, does that mean that the State Department will be the sole entity that will see this thing through?

MS. PSAKI: No, there will also be an official at the Department of Defense --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- and that had been previously announced – not the individual, but the fact that there will be one – and of course they’ll be working closely with the President and the White House to deliver on his promise.

QUESTION: Jen, could you confirm or give us the figures of how many people are still left in Guantanamo --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- how many of them are Yemenis approved for transfer, and how many of them are detainees not approved for transfer?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I – what I can give you is that today, 166 detainees remain at Guantanamo, down from 242 when President Obama took office. As a reminder, prior to that during the Bush Administration, several hundred detainees were transferred. So obviously this is a process over the course of several years. I don’t have anything – let’s see – I don’t think I have anything else specific for you on Yemen and how many they have approved. I can check on that for you, or you may want to connect with them as well.

QUESTION: And how many of the 166 are not approved for transfer at all?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other specific breakdowns for you. I know there have been various reports about that.

QUESTION: And are there any particular countries that you’re in touch with? I mean, many of the countries – many countries have already taken in detainees: Palau, Albania, all those big countries on the international scene. (Laughter.) Which other countries are you trying to persuade now to take in, say, maybe around a hundred of these detainees who are approved for release, other than Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to update you on. Obviously he’s just taking his role there. Our team has been working on this, of course, as you know, over the course of years, but I expect once he’s underway we’ll have more of an update for all of you.

QUESTION: And what’s the new plan for the remaining detainees who are not approved for transfer?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think that’s something that will be discussed and worked through our Administration’s process. I mentioned that the President and, of course, an official from DOD will be working with Cliff Sloan on this effort, and they will encumber to do that in the short term.

QUESTION: And do you know how many are there from Afghanistan? Besides Yemen? Do you have --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific breakdown of numbers for all of you, no.

QUESTION: Does Mr. Sloan have a timeline to get the job done?

MS. PSAKI: I have – I don’t have any timeline for you either.

QUESTION: Does he intend to go to Guantanamo to see the hunger strike?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think he is just starting his position, so we’ll let him get his badge and figure out where everything is before we start giving an update on all of his progress.

QUESTION: The Iranian election?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know you issued the statement on the weekend, but since then, the new President, Mr. Rohani, said that President Assad should stay in power until 2014. Were you disappointed by his statement or does it fall into kind of expected kind of rhetoric from Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t say it’s a surprise. We have a number of differences with Iran and the leadership there over Syria and the path forward. We have expressed on a number of occasions our concerns about their recent aid to the regime and the influx of foreign fighters, specifically Hezbollah. So there remain a number of differences of opinion on the path forward in Syria.

QUESTION: Are you aware of anywhere where you and Iran see eye to eye on Syria?

MS. PSAKI: I am not. I should say --

QUESTION: Okay. So it’s more than just a number of differences; you basically are diametrically opposed.

MS. PSAKI: We have some – I should say, Matt, thank you for – I’ll add an adjective just for you – significant disagreements on the path forward in Syria.

QUESTION: Jen, though, on other subjects – that aside – this might be a good sign overall. Is the U.S. going to push for some type of diplomatic – or have a new diplomatic push? Do you – are you more optimistic that you can get something done?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you saw this weekend the White House Chief of Staff, Denis McDonough, say that this is a potentially hopeful sign. That’s something, of course, the Secretary agrees with. However, there are a number of steps that the leadership in Iran needs to take in order to abide by their international obligations. The P5+1 is ready to meet with Iran when Iran is ready to respond substantively to the balanced proposal put forward by the P5+1 in Almaty. We haven’t seen a substantive response yet, so – but again, I’ll just – the reason there were a number of promises that were made during this election. The question is: What happens moving forward? And we will see, but as you know, the Supreme Leader holds the nuclear portfolio and the leadership – we have not had expectations leading up to this election that that would change.

QUESTION: And on your statement – you issued a statement saying that if Iran or Mr. Rohani adheres to his international obligations then they will find a willing partner with the United States and so on. What issues will you tackle first? Is it the sanctions? Is it the nuclear file? What will you tackle first?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to negotiate here, as fun as that would be. There is a team; as you know, the P5+1 have met on three occasions. There were technical talks as part of that. Where it has left is that – oh, sorry, twice. I added one by accident – twice – they’ve met with the Iranians in recent months. That’s what I was referring to, the meetings in Almaty.

Where it is is what I just stated, which is that the – Iran, the ball is in their court to respond with a substantively balanced proposal on how to move forward. These negotiations have been private. Again, they’ll – we’re waiting for that and we’ll see what they present, and if they present something.

QUESTION: I remember I asked you about the possibility for Mr. Rohani last week, before – a day or two before the elections --

MS. PSAKI: When you wanted me to endorse a candidate. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, no, I didn’t want you to endorse, but I wanted to see – to gauge your reaction if, in fact, Mr. Rohani gets elected, and your response was that actually there would be no change; they are basically all cut of the same cloth. I mean, those were not your words, but basically. So is there now, like, a backtrack and perhaps looking at it from a broader prism?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he doesn’t take office until August.

QUESTION: She’s not allowed to use the word prism. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: That’s what I – I take that from a different perspective. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: He does not take office until August, so it’s too early to say what his policies will be. We look forward to him and are hopeful that he will fulfill the campaign promises he made to the Iranian people, such as expanding personal freedoms, releasing political prisoners and improving Iran’s relations with the international community. But time will tell.

QUESTION: But you do see this as really a surprise. I mean, a great number of Iranians went out to the polls and voted for him, basically in a show of defiance. Do you see it that way?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly congratulate – and I know we said this in – the Secretary said this in his statement this weekend – the Iranian people for demonstrating the courage to make their voices heard in this election. And reports from Iran indicate that the voting was calm and orderly, and the indications of fraud that marked previous Iranian presidential elections were not immediately evident. But again, time will tell, and we have a couple of months before the new President takes office. And as you know, and as I mentioned, there are a number of dynamics at play here, including the role of the Supreme Leader, and we’ll see what happens moving forward.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you -- a logistic?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: We said – well, many officials said before the elections that it would be difficult to really get a process going with Iran on the nuclear issue. Now the elections have happened and we have another delay of maybe six, eight weeks, until the president – the new president takes office. Would you like to have talks immediately when he and his leadership team is installed, because this time – this is a lot of months we’re losing here in the process. How fast do you want to do this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been open for months, even before the election, to continuing the discussions as a part of the P5+1 process if they were to respond with a balanced proposal, substantively with a balanced proposal to the proposal that was put forward. So we’ll see if that is something that happens. But in terms of the timeline, I don’t have any – if that happens in a couple of weeks, great. If – but again, they know what they need to do, the ball’s in their court, and we’re waiting for that.

QUESTION: But if the ball’s in their court and nothing is happening, that’s essentially to their advantage, correct? They’re not stopping with their nuclear program in the meantime, so the longer they drag this interregnum out and then this period where you’re waiting for a response, they get closer and closer to their goal.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are some stakes, as we all know, for the Iranians as well, including the impact of sanctions on the economy. You’ve seen the comments that Mr. Rouhani has made about that. You’ve seen him talk about his focus on the economy. All these are tests, and we’ll see what their response is.

QUESTION: But you’re not going to be offering any amended offer to the new Iranian leadership; your old offer stands and now when he gets in, he can respond to it and hopefully in a better way; is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. Nothing new on that front that I can report.

QUESTION: So do you have, or will you have maybe in August, any parting comments for your friend President Ahmadinejad?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know. You’ll have to talk to us in August, Matt.

QUESTION: You’ll wait until August? Okay. So nothing today?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll wait till August. It’ll be something to get excited about in the hot summer month here in Washington.

QUESTION: Excellent.

QUESTION: Jen, what do you say about the reports today in The Wall Street Journal that the negotiations could resume by August?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not sure if that was hooked to the fact that he’s taking office in August. Our conditions, or what we’re waiting for, remain the same and what I just outlined. So the ball is in their court, we’re waiting for a substantive response to the balanced proposal put forward in Almaty, and we’ll see what happens.

QUESTION: But Jen, if you believe that the Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, calls the shot, what makes you hopeful that any change or any progress is going to happen on the nuclear file?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, it’s a new president. It is a new – he has made – talked about a number of aspirations. We’ll see if he delivers on those when he takes office. But you’re right, the Supreme Leader does have control over the nuclear portfolio, and beyond that we’ll just see if this is an opportunity for a reset there.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. --

MS. PSAKI: Internally I mean, not with us.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. intend to write to him and/or extend a invitation, formal invitation saying we’re keen to talk about this?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. As you know, our policy has been very consistent on this. We’ve been open to talks, open to negotiations in coordination with our P5+1 partners. But there have been a number of meetings in recent months, and we’re in the same place where we were, which is we’re waiting for a substantive response to our proposal.

QUESTION: Other subject?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, Iran? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. From what Mr. Rouhani was saying today in his press conference, it doesn’t seem like much has changed in the stance. He was saying – he was asked whether he would be willing to suspend uranium enrichment. He said the time for that has passed, referring to the – the question was related to the 2005, when he was involved in that. And he also basically set out some conditions for talks, which is the same as before – respect for Iran’s rights and that the West has to recognize Iran’s rights openly – and a lot of the same. So do you see this – do you think we’re going to get anywhere, and how much of a time are you going to give this new president?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, our position remains the same: The ball is in Iran’s court; they know what they need to do, which I’ve outlined a little bit here. So I can’t predict whether they’re going to do that or not. I can just point to the fact that Mr. Rouhani has talked about his own aspirations for Iran. You’re right, he has talked about – his position has been very similar and consistent on the nuclear program. But again, we’re waiting for a substantive response, our position hasn’t changed, and certainly we’re not responding to new conditions.

Still Iran? Another subject. Okay.

QUESTION: Yes. As far as the statement – as the State Department knows, did Vladimir Putin steal the Super Bowl ring? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I think this is an issue between him and the team or the – I guess it is the president of the team or the owner of the team.

QUESTION: The owner.

MS. PSAKI: Not something I’m going to wade into. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: But it is the team from the Secretary’s home state and city.

MS. PSAKI: It is. It is. Well, he --

QUESTION: Does he have an opinion on it?

MS. PSAKI: I can confirm he was rooting for them when they won. But beyond that --

QUESTION: Really? Hmm.

MS. PSAKI: Hmm. Surprising, I know. It’s a breaking news alert on the wire.

QUESTION: Uh, no. Yeah, it’s just that the Patriots aren’t exactly the most loved team. Can we go to --

MS. PSAKI: Not if you’re in Boston.

QUESTION: Right. But if you’re from Buffalo, it’s --

MS. PSAKI: Fair enough, fair enough.

QUESTION: Listen, can I ask you about this North Korea --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you see anything different about this than the other – the hundreds of other times that they have said, hey, let’s get together for high-level talks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been a number of times, as you reference, so – but you’re right, our position --

QUESTION: Dozens if not hundreds.

MS. PSAKI: And the – dozens if not hundreds. So if – depending on how far you go back. So the international community has been very consistent and clear that North Korea must verifiably end its nuclear problem, and to achieve the goal of denuclearization North Korea must engage in authentic and credible negotiations that produce concrete denuclearization actions. So is it different than that? No, we haven’t seen evidence of that. And that is what we’re waiting for.

QUESTION: And is it still the U.S. position that you’re open to bilateral talks with the North Koreans but only as part of the Six-Party process?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. But the key piece here is that they need to take credible steps to move towards concrete denuclearization.

QUESTION: But – so you’re saying you’re willing to meet them --

MS. PSAKI: We’re working in --

QUESTION: You’re willing to meet them --

MS. PSAKI: We’ve always said --

QUESTION: You’re willing to see them outside the Six-Party process?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve always said, Matt, that in coordination --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- with our partners of the Six-Party Talks we would be open to that, but they need to take those steps first. And as you know, and I mentioned this on Friday but now there’s a different context, that the United States, Japan and South Korea are, of course, meeting later this week in talks led by Glyn Davies and will – this will, of course, be a big topic of conversation.

QUESTION: All right. And then if there’s nothing else on North Korea, I just want to nail down the postal talks with Cuba.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you expect anything out of this round or is this really not – is this just – in other words, if these two days of talks are a success, there won’t be direct mail service immediately, I presume, but maybe I’m wrong, so could you --

MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question on the timeline. Just to give you a little bit of history here, the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992 states that, quote, “The United States Postal Service shall take such actions as are necessary to provide direct mail service to and from Cuba.” So this is – as you mentioned, on June 18th and 19th – well, you didn’t mention the dates, but so everybody knows, representatives from the Department of State and the United States Postal Service will meet with representatives from the Government of Cuba for a technical discussion on reestablishing direct transportation of mail. The reason we’re doing this is because it’s, of course, good for the Cuban people. This is something we feel is good for us. But it’s not meant to be a signal of anything or indicate a change in policy.

QUESTION: Syria?

QUESTION: Are those talks here or in --

MS. PSAKI: In terms of the exact location, I’m not sure if they’re at the Department of State or if they’re just somewhere else in the --

QUESTION: Could we go to Syria?

QUESTION: Well, can we --

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s finish Cuba.

QUESTION: Are those talks exclusively on the mail service?

MS. PSAKI: That is with the United States Postal Service. That’s their purview.

QUESTION: But I’m saying is it mainly about the – is there anything going to come up about Mr. Gross?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to predict. There are issues that are, of course, raised on both sides. As you know, this is an issue that has been raised at the highest levels from the United States, but given these are talks with the Postal Service, I would expect that will be the focus.

QUESTION: You don’t consider that the highest level?

MS. PSAKI: Well – Brad, having fun on your last day? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Just one more. I mean, is the U.S. Postal Service in any kind of position to make any kind of deals or agreements with Cuba? I mean, this is an organization that is essentially going broke, and I’m just curious. Is --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that’s combining two different things, in my opinion. This has been – we have had – I read off the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So they’re simply allowing mail to travel, which is – I would assume provides them with more revenue, with more stamps used.

QUESTION: Considering that – well, all right, exactly. So in other words, this could actually help the Postal Union’s budget if they are able to --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to go too far on it, but – I don’t want to go too far, Matt, but it’s more people using their services.

Jill.

QUESTION: Jen, a clarification on that too. What is the genesis of this? I mean, how did these talks actually come about? Who asked for them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is something that the U.S. has felt would be a positive step for the Cuban people. We felt it was in our interests. In terms of who specifically asked for it, I don’t have that level of detail, but it’s just something that we felt it was – it would be positive moving forward.

QUESTION: But basically, the U.S. asked for it?

MS. PSAKI: I would have to check on that for you, but it’s something, again, that we are very supportive of and we are, of course, helping direct here.

QUESTION: Isn’t it a continuation of the talks from 2009 that were on the same subject?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know if I’d call it a continuation because it’s been a number of years, but yes, it’s on the same subject, and we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to move things forward.

QUESTION: Syria?

QUESTION: Can we just do Turkey very quickly before we go to Syria? Because I think Syria’s going to take a lot --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, absolutely.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary been in touch with Davutoglu or anyone else? Can you just sort of update us on what the Department’s been saying, who they’ve been talking to about --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- Gezi Park? And more specifically, how concerned are you, is the Secretary, about Turkey’s ability to be helpful in Syria given their own internal problems at the moment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me say that the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Davutoglu on Saturday. As you all know, they speak regularly. Often the thrust of their conversations is about Syria and their close cooperation, our close coordination on that issue. That was the same with this call as well.

In terms of where we are, we remain focused on calling on all parties to ease tensions and to resolve the situation through dialogue, taking into account views from across the political spectrum. We also continue to urge all sides to exercise restraint and avoid violence. On the ground, of course, our Ambassador and high-level Embassy officials are in very regular contact with Turkish officials about this issue and our concerns, but also how we can move forward.

In terms of how it will impact, the Secretary speaks with Foreign Minister Davutoglu regularly, as you know, because I think there’s at least one or more calls a week I end up mentioning in here. And that’s an issue that they are a close partner on, they’re a close ally on. The Secretary and the Foreign Minister have actually also become close friends. And we remain confident that they can continue to work with us on that issue, and they have indicated that they have every desire to do that.

QUESTION: Jen, on Turkey --

QUESTION: The Deputy Prime Minister today said that they might bring in the army to bring calm back. Are you aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen those reports, but I should – I would be remiss if I didn’t add that of course, we remain concerned about any reports of activity including police brutality, including violence. There were some reports over the weekend about the prosecution of medical professionals who were treating injured people. All of these are great – all of these reports are greatly concerning and we’re very focused on monitoring closely.

QUESTION: Do you – you said that the conversation was largely about Syria, but did the protest come up and did he – did the Secretary speak about your calls for restraint?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s spoken about them publicly and privately in the past. I’d have to look closer at the content of the call, but it was really focused on Syria, and specifically calling him to give him an overview of the announcement we made last week.

QUESTION: Okay. But I – well, I am curious because it would seem that immediately or in the hours after this phone call happened, the Turks launched another huge crackdown and arrested a couple hundred other people with more violence. So if it did come up, it would seem that it didn’t really have any impact on how the government is responding to this.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a number of officials, including the Foreign Minister, who have called for calm in this case, which we’ve continued to encourage. He has provided in the past his overview or his view of what’s going on on the ground. The Secretary has shared his opinion in response. But of course, we’ve seen the reports this weekend. I referenced some of the reports of medical professionals being arrested. I talked a little bit last week about media professionals being detained. All of this is very concerning. And we, of course, deplore the use of excessive force in any of these cases.

QUESTION: How this perception of U.S. Administration on Turkey has been because of this – all this mass demonstration?

MS. PSAKI: How has our perception of --

QUESTION: Yes, about – in terms of both government and the society.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know if I can speak to all of society. I can say that we, of course, as we’ve said many times here over the past couple of weeks, have been concerned about the reports of excessive force. It’s unfortunate that in the past couple of days, or over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen reports, as I mentioned, of medical professionals, of media officials being detained, and that’s something that we’re greatly concerned about.

But there are – Turkey is a NATO ally. We work with them on a number of issues. We’re in close contact at the highest levels, as I mentioned the call from this weekend. And we’re hopeful that we can – this can be resolved with calm and by an encouragement of restraint in Turkey.

QUESTION: I want to give a statistic about the incident, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: During – over the last 18 days since the clashes has began in Turkey, you made 17 different statements on the incident: three written statement from White House, NSS spokesperson; three major remarks, one, I mean, Vice President Biden, the other one by the Secretary Kerry; and 12 Q&As in the daily briefs in White House and State.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’re one of the people who’s asked me questions that I’ve answered.

QUESTION: Are you disappointed with the reaction of Turkish Government?

MS. PSAKI: Of the government? I’m not going to speak to that. Look, we are focused on calling for calm, on calling for restraint. We remain a close ally of Turkey, of course. I’ve outlined and spoken in a number of those occasions, when you and others have asked, about concerns we have had. And we haven’t held back in that regard in any way.

QUESTION: Are you a close partner --

QUESTION: One more, please. And also, these statements are actually – are – I mean, the Turkish (inaudible) are troubled with these statements, and they are accusing, especially European Union and other foreigners, to interfering the domestic policy. What are the limits of a U.S. Ambassador, for example, who is working abroad, in terms of this interference within the domestic policy of other country?

MS. PSAKI: What are the limits?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Ambassador is calling for the same things publicly and privately that we and the Vice President and the Secretary and others up and down the government have been calling for. Now, being on the ground is something entirely different. Working closely with counterparts he’s known for a number of years is certainly different. But one individual can’t change what’s happening on the ground. He can just continue to add to the chorus of people who are calling for restraint and calling for calm in handling this moving forward.

QUESTION: His argument was that calling for – that his suggestion was that Turks feel that calling for restraint is an interference in their domestic affairs. Do you see it that way or not?

MS. PSAKI: We do not. We would reject – and I’ve seen some of these reports – the accusations that U.S. groups or individuals are responsible for the protests or responsible for elevating them in Turkey in any way. We are consistent about calling for freedom of speech and freedom of expression and acceptance of that, as well as expressing concern when there is – there are reports of excessive force used, and the need to look into that and to encourage common restraint in anywhere – anywhere, whether it’s Turkey or whether it’s another country.

So this is an issue, you’re right, that has been ongoing. But we remain in close contact with Turkey at several levels. We remain focused on working on issues with them that we can, including Syria. But again, we would like to see an ease of tensions and a resolution of what’s happening on the ground.

QUESTION: Can I ask you --

QUESTION: The Secretary has talked about Turkey being an admirable example of both a democracy and a Muslim-majority nation, kind of that that’s the future he would like to see for other nations. Does he believe that Turkey is acting in an exemplary fashion?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen – he doesn’t group everybody into one grouping here. We’ve seen a number of officials come out and call for calm and call for restraint. He’s still hopeful that this can be resolved through a dialogue, which the Prime Minister and others have called for and have met with people, and we’ll see what happens moving forward. Of course, we have been concerned; the Secretary’s been concerned about reports on the ground. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are a close ally. We work closely with them, and we will continue to moving forward.

QUESTION: So based on your last couple of answers, I’m going to – I presume, and please tell me if I am presuming correctly or incorrectly, that you do not share the Prime Minister’s view that this is the result of some outside conspiracy of terrorists and people trying to overthrow the government. And I would also – tell me if that’s right – and I would also presume that you would not share his view that international news organizations are giving his country a bad rap or ruining the country’s image abroad. Would you agree with that, or do you think the government itself is doing a pretty good job of giving itself a bad image abroad?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, let me specifically take the second one; I’ll speak to all of it. But I’ve said in here a couple times, but let me just reiterate: We’re very troubled by any pressure being placed on journalists or media organizations, public statements that are made criticizing the freedom of the press. That’s something that – and as well as journalists being detained. We’ve seen reports of that as well in Turkey.

We believe and still believe – and we said this, I think, on the first day – that the vast majority of people here are peacefully protesting, expressing their rights to freedom of speech. We are not on the ground. There will be investigations into what happened on the ground. So we don’t know all of the entities of it, but that’s how it started, and we still feel the vast majority of people are doing just that.

QUESTION: Okay. And you’re confident that the Turkish authorities have the political will to do a thorough and complete investigation? And I ask this fully cognizant of the fact that the – their – Turks’ investigation into the flotilla, Gaza flotilla incident, was not met with joy and rapture from this building or anywhere else in Washington.

MS. PSAKI: We do.

QUESTION: You do?

MS. PSAKI: And we’ll have them look into it. And if we need to speak to anything, I’m sure we will.

Still on Turkey?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: A follow-up. A pro-government newspaper suggested that this whole thing was planned in American Enterprise Institute with the help of Jewish lobby and the Armenians, of course. Would you care to comment on that? Do you believe that this is possible at all?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I’ve already commented on it, maybe not that specific. I did see the report, and we absolutely reject the accusations that U.S. groups or individuals are responsible for or have elevated – or escalated, I should actually say, the protests in Turkey.

QUESTION: You keep urging calm to both sides. Is your official position – do you think that both sides are using equal amount of violence?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’ve said to all sides. I think I’ve said we urge calm moving forward. There’s clearly cases where – when journalists are detained or doctors are detained or there are reports of brutality. That’s not coming from the side of the people who are peacefully protesting. We have seen some incidents or some reports of violence or escalation from all sides. So certainly we would encourage that from all sides, but I’m not equating them.

QUESTION: President Putin said today that he rejected the option of no-fly zone for in Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, we’re on Syria now. I said, oh, he’s speaking to Turkey.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s relevant, all in the region. Is this something that falls into your options? Because you still now did not articulate the vision actually of no-fly zone. Is this something that you agree or disagree with him on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, nothing has changed since Friday when I said that all options remain on the table, aside from no boots on the ground. I’m not going to outline what that means, but I’ll just repeat – because it’s still accurate – that reports that the President has decided on a no-fly zone or there’s an imminent announcement would be inaccurate.

QUESTION: But the fact he rejected it, that means he shooted down already one option of yours. I mean, you don’t have room for maneuvering if he already rejected --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have some disagreements with the Russians about how to handle things moving forward. We also have some agreements with the Russians. But the President, as you know, is at the G-8 in Northern Ireland. Part of the agenda there is – and part of the discussion – it will be certainly about Syria. And he’ll be discussing with his counterparts at the highest levels, so I don’t want to get ahead of that and the White House reading out of those discussions.

QUESTION: And one last thing on Syria. President Assad gave an interview to a German newspaper, and he said that Europe will pay the price for arming the rebels, and I guess by implication that will go to United States. Do you take his threat seriously, or is this part of the ongoing rhetoric that the President has been giving?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just say first that there is one area that I believe we continue to agree with President Putin on, which is that a political solution, a political transition, is the preferred outcome here. So there is – and I believe he also made comments this weekend around that issue. So that remains our focus. We’re still working with the Russians on that. And obviously Foreign Minister Lavrov is the main point person on that.

In terms of the other component of this, which is of course the ground game, as you know, we made the decision to – or the President made the decision, of course supported by the Secretary, to expand the size and scope of support for the opposition and, of course, consider additional options moving forward, in part because of the incident of CW use, but also what has happened on the ground in recent days. And we know we need to strengthen the opposition. We need to make sure that they are in a place where they are able to defend themselves on the ground and also to stand up for the Syrian people. So that’s the reason why those decisions were made. We’re also working with them on the political path, as you know. And I would defer to the Europeans, but I believe they’ve spoken to it in the same regard.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, my question is do you take his threat seriously, when he said they will pay the price for that. I guess by implication he’s saying that they funded some terrorist organizations that will go back and --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not sure what he meant by it. I would – I don’t want to speculate on what he meant and respond to that, so I would suggest you ask them what he meant by that. But that’s just our decision-making process here.

QUESTION: On the no-fly zone, did you find out for us whether it requires a United Nations Security Council resolution?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t get an update on that.

QUESTION: I – more than likely it would require a UN Security Council resolution, which the Russians are certain to veto.

On the aid to Mr. Salim Idris --

QUESTION: You didn’t answer --

MS. PSAKI: I know. He’s answering his own questions. It’s a Q&A. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, I mean, because I asked you – you would like to know --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) invading Iraq doesn’t require a UN Security Council resolution, but that --

QUESTION: That’s true. I take it back. Okay. So on the military aid – now that General Salim Idris is the focal point for dispensing the military aid, will he also be the focus point for dispensing all types of aid, including financial and humanitarian and all that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to get ahead of future aid we’ll provide, but just so you understand, aid is provided to a range of resources in Syria. A lot of it is done through the coordinating body that worked underneath the SOC. That’s where it’s gone. Now, the next tranche of aid, the 123 million that’s been in the process of being notified to Congress, part of that will go to the SMC directly. The size of how much will go to the SMC directly is part of what is being discussed with Congress.

QUESTION: Could you comment on a report in the Washington Post that there are already two secret bases, one in Turkey and one in Jordan, to train and to funnel through the military aid as quickly as possible, perhaps in a matter of like six weeks or so?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on that.

QUESTION: On the SMC – part that 123 going to the SMC, will that – some of that now go towards direct military – or to --

MS. PSAKI: It always had. So I would separate that. You should separate that from the announcement last week. That was announced in Istanbul, when the Secretary announced we were doubling our aid, so to 250. The 123 is the second half. 127 is already in train on the ground. So the 123 is being notified. I think some people – Matt and others – asked last week how long it takes. It really varies, but Congress has a certain amount of time to respond and review, typically a couple of weeks once they’ve been through the notification process. There are different components of this that are being notified progressively over time.

QUESTION: Were you able to find out what the break – kind of the breakdown was of the 123 and what – in terms of what is actually being notified? Like is it 60 and X and 30 and Y and --

MS. PSAKI: It’s being discussed and the exact breakdown with Congress right now, so it’s not as if they’re saying here’s exactly how it will be broken down. It’s being discussed, and there are different components of it that are being notified at different times. So as soon as that’s through that process, we’ll be able to – and it’s decided – we’ll be able to announce that.

QUESTION: And you think that will take still a couple weeks?

MS. PSAKI: The process typically is that once they’re notified of each component they typically have a couple of weeks to review it.

QUESTION: All right. Can we move on?

QUESTION: I have one.

MS. PSAKI: Syria.

QUESTION: President Putin made a very strong comment about the opposition. And it’s different hearing from Lavrov and hearing from Putin. You’re hearing from the man himself, and he’s talking about the flesh-eating opposition. It would appear that he has a completely different view of the opposition than the United States does. Isn’t that the case?

MS. PSAKI: That is true, but let me just lay out for you here what he’s talking about. We expressed our strong condemnation at the time of that appalling behavior he referred to and have been very clear that all sides in this conflict must abide by international humanitarian law. In fact, we also have raised this – had raised this, of course, with the opposition, and in fact, an SMC unit had previously ejected this individual that he was referring to because of his history of brutality even before that video came out.

So that’s an important context about his comments. And we remain – we do feel, as we’ve spoken about many times, there are extremist elements of the opposition, which is why we’ve decided to direct military aid through the SMC and why we’re so focused on working with the moderate components.

QUESTION: Right. But in your talks with the Russians, I mean, do they see that division that there are, let’s say, good opposition and bad opposition? Because it would appear that they think the opposition are pretty bad.

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re referring to some extremist components of this. I am not aware of a conversation about this specific case we’ve had, but it was well publicized and well talked about at the time.

QUESTION: I thought he was a moderate.

MS. PSAKI: So it seems he was referring back to – hmm?

QUESTION: I thought he was a moderate, this – the flesh-eater?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the individual may have been, but he was ejected --

QUESTION: I mean, he’s not in – he’s not al-Nusrah.

MS. PSAKI: He was – but he was ejected from the SMC prior to the video even being released.

QUESTION: Right. Are you aware that eating human flesh or human organs from a dead body is a violation of international humanitarian law? Is it? I don’t know, but you seemed to say – you suggest that it was. And there were – there are cases where a cannibal has not been prosecuted. I know that. If you look at "Alive in the Andes" and that kind of thing, sometimes --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, you are testing my international law knowledge, but I think anybody who saw --

QUESTION: I’m sure the Legal Adviser’s Office would love to weigh in.

MS. PSAKI: -- anybody who saw that video --

QUESTION: I’m not suggesting it wasn’t disgusting. I’m just wondering if it was an act – if that is actually a violation of humanitarian law.

QUESTION: Whatever it is, is very disgusting. But I want to ask you about the weapons. So the 123 is all nonlethal?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, that’s what the Secretary announced in Istanbul – communications equipment, trucks, things along those lines. And a portion of it will go the SMC.

QUESTION: And then going forward on the weapons, does that all have to get congressional approval every time something gets sent?

MS. PSAKI: I still have nothing more to add for you on that, but I can tell you that we work closely with Congress in every aspect of aid we would provide. I have to go very shortly here, so --

QUESTION: All right, I’ve got two really brief ones.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One on China and Chen Guangcheng.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any pressure the Chinese put on NYU or even on the – or if there was a – there were conversations between this government, this Administration, and the Chinese about his NYU stint?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know NYU has spoken to this. Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: I’m asking if there was any government or --

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Matt. I mean, as you know – and Matt’s referring, I think, as we all have seen, to Chen Guangcheng, who it was announced would no longer be at NYU. He was on a one-year fellowship there. Just as a reminder, NYU provided generous temporary support, including housing and a host of other support, to him. But I know NYU has spoken to this, and I would otherwise refer to them on conversations or other specifics.

You said you had one other?

QUESTION: Yeah, one other one briefly.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There were reports in the Pakistani media yesterday or maybe today about a phone call between the Secretary and Prime Minister Sharif or Prime Minister-elect Sharif.

MS. PSAKI: Yep.

QUESTION: Can you tell us about that?

MS. PSAKI: Yep, I can. Secretary Kerry called Prime Minister Sharif yesterday to congratulate him on his party’s success and his election as prime minister. They’ve, of course, spoken about that before. The Secretary noted that he looks forward to working with the Prime Minister and his government as we continue our cooperation in support of a more stable, secure, and prosperous future for Pakistan and the region. And they discussed how they share a strong commitment to further consolidate and strengthen relations between our two countries on the basis of mutual trust and respect.

QUESTION: Did they talk about any upcoming visits?

QUESTION: Or non-visits?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that for you. But the Secretary has said, and I’ve said on his behalf, he’s very much looking forward to traveling to Pakistan, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he mentioned that to the Prime Minister as well.

QUESTION: And did they talk about energy issues, anyone --

MS. PSAKI: That’s the range of topics I have. They certainly may have. I know that’s a big issue, of course, for the Pakistanis. If there’s anything else to update you on, I’m happy to provide that.

Let me just do the one in the back here.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, I just wanted to go back to North Korea very, very quickly. I’m wondering if they had reached out to the United States about meeting before they had made their public announcement and if you had already made a formal response to them.

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. They made a very public statement and a public announcement, so not that I’m aware of beyond that.

I have one thing before we go. So since this is Brad’s last briefing, we got him a little something here just to embarrass him. This is a two-parter, so hold, please. Brad’s already embarrassed and he’s, like, trying to think about how to escape. So just so he doesn’t forget his roots, we want him – (laughter) – it doesn’t have to be us, it can be any of you, too. (Laughter.) So this is --

QUESTION: The cameras are off, right? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Oh, I don’t know. This is for you, Brad.

QUESTION: No, they’re still rolling.

MS. PSAKI: And then I have one other piece. So when I checked with your colleague on this – but as you may or may not know, Brad’s going to be a dad soon and so we got a little something for the baby, too. (Applause.) This is not partisan or biased; it’s super – (laughter). So thanks, everyone. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:24 p.m.)

DPB # 100


[1] Mr. Sloan will begin work at the State Department on July 1.

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - June 17, 2013]