Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
June 20, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Opening of Political Office of the Afghan Taliban in Doha / Support for Afghan-led Dialogue
    • Call for Safe Return of Sergeant Bergdahl
    • Working to Schedule Talks
  • INDIA
    • Secretary Kerry to Discuss Broad Range of Issues while in India
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Range of Interests to Discuss with Taliban
    • Designation of Taliban / Designated Global Terrorist Entity vs. Foreign Terrorist Organization
    • Secretary Kerry Calls with President Karzai
    • Opening of Office / Focus on Moving Toward Negotiations
    • Interagency Process Regarding Detainees at Guantanamo Bay
  • SYRIA
    • Secretary Kerry's Meetings with Congress
    • Meetings with International Partners in Doha / Advance Momentum Towards Geneva 2
    • Update on Support to SMC
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Claims of Hamas Contact with U.S. Government Not True
    • Annual Human Rights Report / Concerns for Human Rights and Treatment of Children
  • RUSSIA
    • The Administration Intends to Seek Negotiated Nuclear Cuts with Russia


TRANSCRIPT:

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

1:48 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Thanks for your flexibility. I know we’re a little later today. I don’t have anything at the top, so let’s get to what’s on all of your minds.

QUESTION: Can you – you spoke a little bit on Tuesday and then again on Wednesday about Sergeant Bergdahl and the Taliban’s desire for their prisoners to be released. Can you – is there anything new to say on that, or is it the position that you expressed, that you evinced on Tuesday and Wednesday, still the Administration’s position?

MS. PSAKI: The same position. Let me just repeat. I know this has been a question of a couple of people, so bear with me here. So to be clear, as we have all discussed over the past couple of days, President Karzai and President Obama jointly called on the Government of Qatar to facilitate an office in Doha for the purpose of negotiations between the Afghan High Peace Council and the authorized representatives of the Taliban. That has been the purpose, as we’ve talked about, and there are a broad range of issues that the United States will raise in our own discussions.

So the main dialogue we want to support is among the Afghans. However, there are some issues, of course, we’ll discuss. We’ll talk with the Taliban, as I mentioned over the past couple of days, about the safe return of Sergeant Bergdahl. He has been gone far too long. We continue to call for and work towards his safe and immediate release. This is an issue, the exchange of detainees, that the Taliban has raised in the past. And we certainly expect that they will raise it, as they have publicly, as a part of these discussions. But as they have not yet commenced, we’ll wait for them to commence.

QUESTION: Right. But are you open to this idea? Or are you open to discussing it?

MS. PSAKI: We’re open to discussing this issue as part of the negotiations, and we fully expect them to raise it.

QUESTION: But open to discussing a swap?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to get --

QUESTION: Or just open to discussing the transfer of the prisoners separately from the release of Sergeant Bergdahl?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a couple different things here, which I think is why you’re asking the question, of course. One, we’ve been very clear on our feelings about Sergeant Bergdahl and the need for him to be released. We have not made a decision to transfer any Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay, though we anticipate, as I’ve said, that the Taliban will raise this issue. As we’ve long said, we’ll make any such decisions in consultation with Congress and according to U.S. law. But they have stated before, as they’ve stated again today, that this is an issue – the release of these detainees – that they would plan to raise.

QUESTION: Right, but I guess what I’m getting at is that I just – it’s not a nonstarter for the Administration, this idea, the swap idea?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Or is it a nonstarter?

MS. PSAKI: Again, it’s hard to answer that question because the negotiations haven’t started, but we expect them to raise it, anticipate it being a part of the discussions. Beyond that, I just don’t have anything else to add to it.

QUESTION: Just for clarity --

QUESTION: Can you clarify something on --

QUESTION: Just for clarity, in order for a release of Guantanamo detainees to happen, that has to be signed off by the Secretary of Defense, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d – there’s obviously an interagency process and in coordination and cooperation with Congress. I don’t have every specific piece of that in here, but you’re correct that there are every – there are several components of it.

QUESTION: I just wanted a clarification on the Taliban in custody in the field, those who are taken in battle. Are they considered prisoners of war by the United States of America? What is their classification?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think that they’re referring to – and I’ve seen different numbers.

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to speak on their behalf – let me just finish – but there have been different numbers that have put – been put out there about the number of detainees. Beyond that, I would point you to them and who they’re referring to.

QUESTION: I’m not talking about numbers. I’m not talking about the ones in Guantanamo. But I’m saying, as a matter of policy, does the United States consider the Taliban captured in battle – are they prisoners of war?

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s a pretty broad question, so --

QUESTION: It’s not a broad question. Are they prisoners of war or are they like terrorists, for instance?

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

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can I check, since we’re talking about the Taliban talks, have you any update for us on travel for Special Representative Dobbins?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on – as you know, and I know as has been reported, we anticipate these talks happening in the coming days. I don’t have anything specific beyond that. As I said yesterday, he is packed and ready to go with his passport and suitcase, and I anticipate he will when it’s time for those talks.

QUESTION: So could you explain what the holdup is now still to organizing these talks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re working, as I mentioned yesterday, in close coordination with the High Peace Council, and we’re working to schedule them. I wouldn’t characterize it as a delay as much as working out, around the Secretary’s trip and around some other kind of logistical components, when we can make it happen.

QUESTION: As far as this Taliban office is concerned in Qatar, how does President Karzai feel? So, is he happy from the talks with the U.S. officials or with the – I mean, I would imagine with the President because you’ll say talk to the White House – but as far as this building or Secretary is concerned, is he happy or was this his consent --

MS. PSAKI: Is the Secretary happy, or is President Karzai happy?

QUESTION: No, President Karzai.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t speak on his behalf. He did issue a statement today, which I would point all of you to. And I think that speaks for itself.

QUESTION: Can I just ask, in the answer to the last – to the question before, which was about Dobbins’ travel, you said something about it revolving around the Secretary’s trip. Can you explain why Ambassador Dobbins’s travel would be contingent upon the Secretary’s travel?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously the Secretary, as you all know, will be in Doha on Friday. I expect – he does not have any meetings, so let me just reconfirm that, with the Taliban.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: But the Ambassador will be working – we’re working to schedule his meetings kind of around when it makes sense in the coming days.

QUESTION: Okay. So is – are you hinting that Ambassador Dobbins might go with the Secretary to Doha?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re still working that out, but it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise, given this issue could be on the agenda as part of our bilateral discussions.

QUESTION: Has there been any more contact since the two phone calls the other day between the Secretary and President Karzai?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe so. I’d have to double check that I didn’t miss anything in the last couple of hours, but I don’t believe since yesterday.

QUESTION: So you’re still waiting for President Karzai to make a decision whether to go back to the security talks then?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he made a public statement that he put out, which I think speaks for itself, but I would point you to that and our – the fact that we are working to plan when the Ambassador will be going overseas and when we can proceed with the talks.

QUESTION: And are there some U.S. officials in Kabul today? We are reporting out of Kabul that there are rumors that there are U.S. officials planned to visit Kabul today or --

MS. PSAKI: I mean, there are always U.S. officials there, as you know. So I’m not sure --

QUESTION: But around this issue? But around this issue with the security talks and the Taliban snafu and --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure who that would be referring to. I’m happy to check into it with our team. As you know, the Ambassador would be the one who’s playing a leading role here, and I’ve kind of outlined where he is at this point.

QUESTION: Madam, as far as Secretary’s trip is concerned, just quickly, yesterday Assistant Secretary Blake was speaking at CSIS and he said that, like you said, that he’s ready to go, his passport is ready, and also, of course, I’m sure a visa for India. What he said as far as --

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s going with us, so that’s good. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: As far as – yes, ma’am. As far as India trip, he said that there is so much to discuss between Indian officials and the Indian Government and U.S. officials and the Secretary. What I’m asking you: What is the major agenda, his whole – of his – I mean, this trip right now in India?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I expect the trip and the conversation to be wide-ranging. As you touched on, there are a number of issues that we work on bilaterally with India, whether it’s our economic relationship or issues like climate change and energy, or even security and counterterrorism issues. So I expect this will have a broad-ranging scope. As you know, the Secretary will also be giving a speech while he’s there and he will be meeting with a range of officials, and he is really looking forward to it.

QUESTION: Including trafficking in persons, like to the – I mean, yesterday he was talking about it, because major TIP, or trafficking in persons, are from South Asia, from China or from India, Bangladesh and all that, in the name of better life in the U.S. or in the Middle East and better jobs and all that, because they are being misused – used and also exploitation, all these young girls.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Goyal, that’s exactly why we put out the report yesterday and did an extensive briefing on it, covering all of those issues. So I would point you to that.

Do we have any more on Afghanistan before – oh, go ahead, Leslie.

QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you. Given that the U.S. has said it wants to discuss Sergeant Bergdahl’s release and the Taliban have indicated they want to talk about their commanders in Guantanamo, would – early on in the talks, could that be a make-and-break of the talks? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me go back to what I said yesterday, and I think the day before, which is that the U.S. has a range of interests that we want to discuss with the Taliban, including the importance of the Taliban renouncing terrorism and violence, and certainly the issue of Sergeant Bergdahl and the fact that he has been gone too long will be a part of the discussion. And as I mentioned, we anticipate that the Taliban will also bring up, as they stated publicly, their own issues with detainees. But I don’t want to get ahead of where we are in the process, given we’re planning the talks and we’re looking forward to that, but they haven’t commenced quite yet.

QUESTION: And we got reports out of Qatar this morning that the talks would probably take place after Secretary Kerry leaves, probably Monday. Can you confirm that?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have a confirmed time, but again, in the coming days, and we’re keeping some options open for his travel and what time works on both sides.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Jill.

QUESTION: Jen, yesterday we were talking to an official who said that the Taliban are not a foreign terrorist organization; they are a specially designated global terrorist entity. Could you just – I know there’s plenty on the website, but it’s a little dense. Would you be able to just give us the high points, what is the difference between those?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d probably have to get you a kind of technical written readout of the differences between them, but to just reiterate what you said, the Taliban are a specially designated global terrorist entity. They have not been designated as a foreign terrorist organization. Beyond that, I can see if we can get something a little simpler to lay out for you the contrast between the two.

QUESTION: Has there been any phone calls with President Karzai in the last 24 hours?

MS. PSAKI: With President Karzai?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there was the one yesterday afternoon. I’d have to double-check if there was anything this morning that I wasn’t aware of before I came down.

QUESTION: So there were three phone calls from Secretary to the President?

MS. PSAKI: There were two. There was one Tuesday night, and there was one Wednesday right before I came down to the briefing.

QUESTION: And the kind of statement, the first statement which Taliban issued from Doha after opening their office, and the reaction from the Afghan President – do you believe the Taliban has broken the promise of the kind of statement they issued and tried to derail the peace process itself from the very beginning?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we talked about this pretty extensively yesterday, so let me just give maybe a redux version of that, which is that we were disappointed by how the office was opened. The Secretary was in close touch, as you just mentioned, with President Karzai and with other officials about this. There were steps that were taken, including taking down the banner and the sign yesterday, that were positive steps. And we remain focused on moving towards negotiations because we feel it’s the best path to a political solution and a political reconciliation here.

QUESTION: Are you aware that Qatar may have given the personnel, the Taliban personnel that are manning the office, diplomatic status?

MS. PSAKI: I am not. Our statement and what was required about the --

QUESTION: No, no. Not – no. (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: -- rollout was – has been very clear, and the Qataris also took steps to help make the changes happen yesterday, but I would point you to that government for questions about that.

Go ahead, Deb.

QUESTION: Do you have any specific reaction to the Taliban saying that they are willing to release Bergdahl? Is that something that the Administration believes is --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to speculate on whether we believe it or not. Obviously, it’s a priority for us. And I believe in the same statement, they said that they want some of their detainees as well. So we knew they would raise this issue. We expected them to. We’re happy to discuss it. But again, there are a number of items on the agenda, and I just don’t want to get ahead of the process before we begin the discussions.

QUESTION: Can you tell us if Cliff Sloan has had any – even though he’s just the brand new envoy --

MS. PSAKI: He’s starting July 1st, so he’d be very hardworking at home if he had made any decisions quite yet.

QUESTION: Jen, you said that you are ready to discuss this release issue. Who will be responsible for the legal process? Because I talked to one of the lawyers of the detainees that they want to release Mullah Hairullah and the lawyer told me yesterday that the U.S. – one of the U.S. courts in Washington rejected his demand last December. So U.S. courts are responsible for this process. How you will discuss this --

MS. PSAKI: Are you referring to detainees in Guantanamo?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I covered that in terms of the fact that it’s an interagency process. As Dana mentioned, there’s a DOD component. There are several components here. But we also work closely with Congress in coordinating these decisions as well. So in terms of the legal components, of course that’s a part of it. But I don’t have anything specific to lay out for you.

QUESTION: It’s up to the decision of courts, right, at the end of the day?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, it’s a process that we work through with Congress and others. The laws around this certainly are – well, they’re part of the process, but beyond that it’s – I don’t want to get ahead of where we are. This is just something that we expect to be discussed, not something that is in the process of being decided.

QUESTION: So Congress can prepare a deal to ease --

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we consult with Congress. I’m not going to get ahead of where are in the process.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Deb.

QUESTION: Real quick on that point, I think the DOD has to notify Congress that they might want to release one of these guys or more of these guys. Has that notification process started?

MS. PSAKI: Again, we’re in a preliminary stage, where the discussions have not even started. So there’s not any decision that has been made. This has not even yet even been discussed. So there certainly wouldn’t be a process underway at this stage.

QUESTION: So where are these Talibans are going to take the detainees from Guantanamo Bay? Where are they going to take them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s about 12 steps past where we are in the process. So we’ve gone – we’ve been eight steps past, but you took it a few more steps.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, of course. Jill, do you have one more on Afghanistan?

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I – Secretary Kerry this morning was a little late for the ceremony on – for World Refugees Day. And he said that’d he’d been up on the Hill talking about Syria. Could you fill us in as to whom he was talking to and what the discussions were about?

MS. PSAKI: This is part of our regular briefings with --

QUESTION: Wasn’t it on the schedule?

QUESTION: It wasn’t on the schedule, Matt.

QUESTION: I think it was.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s part of our regular briefings with Capitol Hill. I will check if it was on the schedule, but it’s something that he feels is important to do, coordinating with the Hill on what our process and what our strategy is. He’s been doing that a lot over the past couple of months and certainly in the past week.

QUESTION: So it was a closed meeting with the --

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Exactly.

QUESTION: And he’s going back this afternoon. Isn’t that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. He is going back this afternoon.

QUESTION: And he’s talking about Syria. What is he filling them in, specifically, on?

MS. PSAKI: He’s updating them on the decisions that have been made and where we go from here. And beyond that, they’re closed-door conversations.

QUESTION: So the Secretary’s going to be attending the meeting in Doha at the weekend. And I believe on the agenda is an appeal from the rebel – from the SMC for some arms. They need – they say they need some ground-to-air missiles and anti-tank missiles, mortars, ammunition. Anything you can update us on what the Secretary’s going to be telling his counterparts from the 11 core ministers of the Friends of Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just make a larger point about this meeting. As you know, they have had several of these meetings over the past couple of months. The last one was in Amman just a couple of weeks ago. There was one, of course, in Istanbul before that. This is an opportunity to discuss and coordinate on how to advance momentum, both towards Geneva 2, and also discuss additional steps being taken by the international community and certainly individual countries, like the United States, to support the opposition and change the balance on the ground.

So just as the President has been in close contact this week with the G-8 and not only briefing but discussing with his counterparts, the Secretary will be discussing with his counterparts decisions that the Administration has made, options that we’re considering moving forward, and how we can better coordinate to help change the situation on the ground, help provide aid to the SMC, and where we go from here.

QUESTION: Is he going to be outlining concrete examples of aid to the SMC from the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t expect, beyond consulting with counterparts, as he’s been doing in the past week, since last week, what – where we go from here and what is most helpful in terms of changing the calculation on the ground. And as you know, as part of our decision-making process, the President, the Secretary, many members of the Administration consult with our international partners as well. So expect this more to be a discussion in person about that and how we can all work together to better coordinate.

QUESTION: But there will be – this will be the first meeting since the President last week said that the United States is now prepared to start supplying direct military aid to the rebels. You would expect that he would be telling his counterparts exactly what that means, considering that there was quite a lot of confusion about exactly what it means.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m sure he will be discussing, to the degree he can, what that means, how to coordinate that, and where other options that we’re considering moving forward, as the President has been doing and as the Secretary has been doing in the past week. And we have extensively briefed our counterparts over the phone as well over – since that decision was made and even before.

QUESTION: On the issue of refugees, the Jordanians are reporting that for the first time we have more refugees going back than coming in. Is that a good thing?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen that report, so I couldn’t independently confirm it. Obviously, there are still a significant outflow of refugees into Jordan, into Turkey, and other countries. That’s why we’ve provided a significant amount of aid to those countries to help with that. But I’d have to check on the accuracy of that specific report.

QUESTION: Okay. And the opposition is also saying that the reason that this is happening is because there has been a call for jihad and for people to return so they can carry on the fight against Assad. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look at those specific comments and the context, Said. Obviously, the goal of most refugees who have left a country is to return back when it’s safe, but I have not seen that specific report that you mentioned.

QUESTION: On that aid – sorry – on that aid, today Secretary Kerry announced that the United States was doubling its aid to UNHCR at $415 million. Is that specifically for Syria, or is it to UNHCR in general?

MS. PSAKI: Are you referring to a closed meeting or – I’m not sure --

QUESTION: No, I’m talking about his event this morning.

MS. PSAKI: Oh. I wouldn’t tie it all with Syria. I mean, I can tell you --

QUESTION: I mean, he talked about Syria with it and --

MS. PSAKI: I can tell you exactly where we are on Syria and the specifics of aid there. Beyond that, I mean, we announced – the President announced, as you know, an additional 300 million in humanitarian aid. That is – now brings us up to 815 million, specifically to Syria. That is already in process through the UN, through the Red Cross, and through all of our partners that would be distributing that aid. I don’t think his intention was to announce additional aid beyond what has been announced to Syria, but I’m happy to look back at what – the part of the announcement from this morning.

QUESTION: He did say they were doubling – there was $450 million from the United States to UNHCR, the body, which would double to almost 890 million the U.S. commitment to UNHCR, which would make it the single largest contributor. So, I mean, I think the question is: Is that separate to the Syria aid or does the Syria aid --

QUESTION: Or some of that --

QUESTION: Is some of it going – is some of that in the --

MS. PSAKI: We’ll check on that for all of you. I’m sure we can get you a breakdown of what’s going where, but there wasn’t an announcement of new Syria aid. That’s just the piece that I wanted to be clear on.

QUESTION: Right. So this would be – it would suggest that this is just UNHCR aid.

MS. PSAKI: But what I would just want to check is whether any of that was including what was just announced this week. So let us do that, and we’ll make sure that you have the accurate breakdown.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On Syria, you know that Senator McCain would like bigger weapons to go to Syria. But does the Secretary feel that part of his meetings with Congress this morning was also about convincing them that this is the right thing to do? We understand that there’s a lot of pushback on the Hill, and I guess – and of course a lot of concern. But is that part of what he’s trying to do?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just make a broad point here. The Secretary as somebody who’s served in the Senate for 28 years, very much believes in the importance of briefing, cooperating, staying in close contact with Congress. This is an effort to do that. As you know, Administration officials provide briefings, classified and unclassified, on a frequent basis about a variety of issues. But beyond that, he also believes that it’s important to communicate directly with senators and members of Congress what our strategy and what our long-term view is here. So I expect the conversation will be wide-ranging. But again, as we all know, because we’ve talked about it in here, there were some announcements last week. There’s an ongoing discussion and need to brief on those announcements, and that’s part of this process.

QUESTION: On refugees?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Pakistan, Afghan refugees. There are still more than 2 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan. Can you tell us how is the U.S. helping Pakistan to cope with them, to look after them, the refugees?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to get you an update on aid or anything along those lines. I’m happy to do that.

QUESTION: And on Ambassador’s – Special Representative’s visit to – will be he be visiting Afghanistan and Pakistan as well? When he goes to --

MS. PSAKI: Ambassador Dobbins?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a trip schedule yet for him. The focus, of course, will be on the reconciliation efforts. As soon as we do, we’re happy to provide that.

Let me just do one thing that’s actually a question you asked the other day and give you all an update on where we are with congressional notification. Is that what you were going to ask? No?

QUESTION: No. I was going to ask you about the – no. No. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I just didn’t want to – I’m getting the hook here shortly, so let me just do this so all of you --

QUESTION: Can I ask you two brief --

MS. PSAKI: Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: No, go ahead. Go ahead on that.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. So on the breakdown on the planned 123, we have determined that 16.6 million in nonlethal combat support assistance – trucks, communications gear, medical kits – will go to the SMC of the 123. Furthermore, we are in active discussion with the SMC to determine the next batch of equipment. In addition, we notified Congress last week about 40 million in planned programs as part of this tranche in 123. So that includes the 16.6 I just mentioned but also 15 million for contribution to the Syria reconstruction trust fund, 5 million in university scholarships, 750,000 in civil society activist training, 2 million to promote inclusive and democratic engagement in Syria. That obviously does not add up to 123. That’s 40 of it, but it is in process. And because it’s been notified, I wanted to make sure all of you also had that information.

QUESTION: Is there a – 16.6 out of a 123 in the combat support assistance doesn’t seem like a huge amount.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve notified 40 so far, so it’s 16.6 of the 40.

QUESTION: Of the 40. Okay. And then the rest of it is still up in the air as to what it goes to?

MS. PSAKI: We’re still working through the notification process.

QUESTION: All right. My two brief things are on different subjects.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One is on – both have to do with the Mideast, though. One is on whether you have any thoughts, concerns, or praise or otherwise – anything otherwise – any comment at all on the resignation of the Palestinian Prime Minister? And the second one is: There are some claims by some officials in Hamas that U.S. joined European officials in meetings with them two weeks ago. Do you know anything about this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me make absolutely clear on the second. First, claims of a Hamas contact with the U.S. Government are not true. We, of course, seen those reports. In terms of – you asked me about the Prime Minister. We don’t have any independent confirmation of these reports at this time.

QUESTION: He tweeted it out himself.

MS. PSAKI: We have seen them, of course. If we have more to say and more to add – and when we do have independent confirmation – I would suggest we’ll have more of a comment than that.

QUESTION: Wait. Wait. What do you mean independent – does he have to resign to you, too? (Laughter.) I mean, what kind of independent confirmation do you want? The guy said it himself.

MS. PSAKI: Again, Matt, I don’t have anything further at this moment, but as we do and if that’s today, we’re happy to get that.

QUESTION: So does that mean that if I say that I resigned, you don’t believe me until you have your own independent confirmation? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know if Reuters will ask me about your resignation if you resign, so we’ll see. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: For his resignation, he cited --

MS. PSAKI: Okay, let me just do --

QUESTION: On the issue of resignation, he cited that it’s because he had no real authority, that actually President Abbas put two deputies for him that are intended really to usurp his authority, so to speak, and that’s why he resigned. Do you understand his beef with the President of the Palestinian Authority?

MS. PSAKI: His beef. I don’t have anything further, Said. I understand the interest in this, and as we do, I’m happy to provide that to all of you.

QUESTION: Let me ask you a couple of other things on the Palestinian issue. Today, the protection of the child organization, part of UNICEF, issued a report saying that Israel not only incarcerates minors, but it also tortures them, uses them as human shields, and so on. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of these press reports and are concerned --

QUESTION: It’s not a press report. It’s a report by the United Nations.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, Said, let me continue. You may be satisfied with what I offer here. You don’t know yet.

QUESTION: Okay. (Laughter.) I may be.

MS. PSAKI: Our concerns about human rights and the treatment of children are well-known and documented, of course, in our Annual Human Rights Report. Our report on Israel and the Occupied Territories contains information on this exact topic.

Let me just go to Nicolas and Jill here, and then unfortunately we have to – I have to run.

QUESTION: Yeah, a quick one on Gaza.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Catherine Ashton was in Gaza this morning. She didn’t meet with any Hamas official, but she called for an easing of the Israeli blockades from Gaza. Did you raise your concern with your European partners?

MS. PSAKI: About?

QUESTION: About her visit in Gaza this morning?

MS. PSAKI: I would have to check on that for you. I’m not sure of our last – I know we are in close contact, but I’d have to check on that.

Go ahead, Jill.

QUESTION: Jen, I just wanted to bring up that nuclear question that we were discussing before.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Senator Kerry’s understanding of, should there be some type of agreement with Russia, whether it would be just an agreement between the two countries, not a formal treaty, or should it be a formal treaty? Where does he stand on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just say that, as President Obama said in Berlin, Secretary Kerry informed Senator Corker that the Administration – I think this is what you’re asking about – intends to seek negotiated cuts with Russia. We are working through this process. This is a new announcement. We are in close contact with our Russian counterparts and will be in the days and weeks and months ahead. But at this point, it’s premature to speculate on precisely what such agreement – what such an agreement might encompass or how it would be established. And we’ll work that through as part of our discussions.

QUESTION: All right. Because that could be a confrontation with your friends up on Capitol Hill.

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we’re discussing it, and as we have updates I’m sure we’ll provide them.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:18 p.m.)

DPB # 103

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - June 20, 2013]