Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 15, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry Travel to Jordan
  • EGYPT
    • Deputy Secretary Burns Meetings
    • Process Will Take Time
    • Morsy
    • Reported Meeting of Senior Muslim Brotherhood Officials from Region
    • Secretary Kerry's Calls
    • Global Pledges of Assistance for Egypt
    • Senators McCain and Graham
  • SYRIA
    • Military Assistance to Opposition / Coordinating Closely with Congress
    • Reports of Civilians Trapped in Conflict Areas
    • Continued Influx of Foreign Fighters / Pakistani Taliban
    • Russian Base in Syria
  • GEORGIA
    • Delegation in DC
  • UNITED KINGDOM
    • Case of David McIntyre


TRANSCRIPT:

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

1:42 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon, everyone. I have one announcement at the top, so let me start there. Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Amman, Jordan, departing this afternoon – or I should say this evening. And on Wednesday, July 17th, Secretary Kerry will hold meetings with Jordanian and Arab League officials. During these meetings, Secretary Kerry will provide an update on Middle East peace, as he said he would do when he met with the Arab League delegation in Washington just this past April. In light of the new Syrian Opposition Coalition leadership elections that took place last week, we expect the group to discuss Syria as well. We are still finalizing all of the details of this trip and hope to have an update for you on any additional meetings by the end of the day.

QUESTION: Why he is visiting Jordan only? He’s not going to Israel and West Bank?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we’ll provide an update for you if there is an update to provide by the end of the day on any additional meetings.

QUESTION: Are there plans for him to meet with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders whilst he’s in Amman?

MS. PSAKI: We have no plans to visit Israel. If there are additional meetings – I expect we’ll know later this afternoon if there are additional meetings that he’ll be having while he’s there.

QUESTION: If he arrives – if he’s leaving tonight, that means he’s going to arrive sometime tomorrow.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And what’s the plan for – you said he’s going to meet on Wednesday with the Arab League, but what about Tuesday afternoon?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we’re just finalizing this. I wanted to provide an official announcement of the trip, but as we have more details we’ll get them around to all of you about the other meetings he’ll be having.

QUESTION: The plan for now is to only meet with the Syrian opposition (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: It’s not the Syrian opposition. He’s meeting with representatives of the Arab League and Jordanian officials.

QUESTION: Okay. So he’s not reinitiating or relaunching the peace talks between Palestinians and the Israelis, so this is really not connected to the peace process in any way, shape, or form?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it is in that we all are familiar with the importance of the Arab peace initiative. And the representatives of the Arab League, they’ve asked for an update or they discussed that with him in April. So he’s providing that for all of them on Wednesday, and we expect Syria and perhaps a range of topics will be discussed.

QUESTION: So just to be clear on --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Just to be --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Egypt to be discussed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, given that the events of the last two weeks, we expect there will be a range of topics, and the Secretary will certainly be prepared to provide an update on Deputy Secretary Burns’ trip to Cairo over the last couple of days.

QUESTION: And who are these Arab League representatives?

MS. PSAKI: Who are the officials?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: It’s still being finalized. I would point you to them, but I’m sure we can get you an update on our understanding of the attendance.

QUESTION: Jen, so basically, just to be clear, there are no plans for now –

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just go --

QUESTION: -- there are no plans for now to meet with any Palestinian officials or any Israeli officials?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think I said at the beginning we’re still finalizing the meetings. I wanted to provide an official announcement of the trip. Hopefully, in the next couple of hours we can provide any update on any additional meetings he’ll be having over the past couple of – next couple of days, I should say.

Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: Just one thing: Is it the – or are the Arab League representatives who he’s – you will remember when he last met them in April --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- they included most of if not all of the members of the so-called Arab League Follow-On Committee, the one that was charged specifically with following up on then-Crown Prince Abdullah’s initiative --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and the Arab League peace initiative – do you expect the states that he will meet to include those?

MS. PSAKI: A great number of them. I don’t have the final list yet, and I would, of course, point you to them, but I’m sure that’s something we can get you an update on.

QUESTION: Okay, but that’s – that would be the logical thing, given that that’s who he had discussed his thoughts with?

MS. PSAKI: Right. And had discussed having a follow-up meeting to provide them an update on. Exactly.

QUESTION: Great. Thank you.

QUESTION: And on his travel, does he has any plans to travel beyond the region? I think he had some plans for Pakistan. Is it on this trip?

MS. PSAKI: Not on this trip. He is still eager to visit Pakistan and is hopeful to do that soon, but I don’t have an update on the timing of when that will be.

QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: One more. Can we expect any Palestinian-Israeli meeting in Jordan during this trip?

MS. PSAKI: As soon as we have an update – and I realize this is sort of a not-complete trip announcement, but I wanted to provide you everything that I had. So as soon as we have an update on any other meetings, we’ll provide that to all of you.

QUESTION: One last one --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: An Israeli newspaper, Yediot, is claiming that Mr. Kerry threatened Abbas on the last trip in his last – during his last visit to cut off aid if they don’t acquiesce, and in fact, that Abbas has come around to accept whatever conditions that are placed on him. Could you comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I haven’t seen that report. As you know, to the frustration of all of you, I’m not going to get into any private conversations, but certainly that’s not something I could confirm or reiterate from here.

QUESTION: Do you know who is going to be from Syrian opposition?

MS. PSAKI: Who is --

QUESTION: Yeah --

MS. PSAKI: It is not a meeting with the Syrian opposition. It’s a meeting to – that’s one of the topics that could come up as part of the discussion. But it’s with representatives of the Arab League and Jordanian officials.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m going to go to Egypt --

MS. PSAKI: Egypt?

QUESTION: But first, I just want to underscore something. This secrecy, this incessant secrecy that the most transparent administration in history has surrounding this that prevents you from denying a report that you were just asked about, makes the situation on the ground worse. Do you not see that? If the Palestinian – if there’s a Palestinian report, a report in the region that says the U.S. is threatening the Palestinians with something, and it’s not true, you should be able to come out and say that it’s not true, because otherwise the Palestinians get upset. It makes your job harder, it makes the Secretary’s job harder, it makes everyone’s job harder. The last thing you should be worried about is our frustration. But I hope that you recognize that. Do you?

MS. PSAKI: I – your point is noted.

QUESTION: All right. Let’s go to --

QUESTION: Well, wait a minute, wait a minute. I mean, but you can’t deny that you’re threatening the Palestinians?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, we’re just not going to get in, as a policy, into whack-a-mole about every single report that’s out there. So that’s been our policy.

QUESTION: That’s a pretty – but it’s not a whack-a-mole. I mean, some – it’s not that you refer – there are plenty of questions from this podium where you’re asked about a report and you say that’s totally inaccurate.

MS. PSAKI: That’s true. And obviously --

QUESTION: In fact, one of mine that actually was totally accurate, but plenty of times you shoot down reports. So if this one isn’t true, why can’t you say whether it’s true?

MS. PSAKI: Because, Elise, we’ve made a decision, the Secretary’s made the decision, that these discussions, the details around them, are going to be private, and that’s the best way to move them forward.

QUESTION: But --

QUESTION: Can we just go to Egypt for a second?

QUESTION: No, can I just go back one more on this thing, Matt?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just – sorry, I just missed – I just came in a bit late. Are you expecting to announce a resumption of negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: I just outlined what the details are. The Secretary would not be going back to the region if he did not feel there was an opportunity to keep making steps forward and providing an update to representatives of the Arab League as part of that. But beyond that, I don’t have any announcements or predictions to make for all of you.

QUESTION: Well, okay, I do want to go to Egypt, but now that you just said that.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: If you can’t tell us that he’s planning to meet with officials from either Israel or the PA, how can you – how do you square that with saying that he wouldn’t be going back unless he felt there was an opportunity to make progress? If he’s going to go all the way out there to Jordan, which is right next door, and he’s not – and you can’t say that he’s going to meet either side, I don’t understand how you can say --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we won’t be there – it’s a long trip to Jordan it turns out –

QUESTION: Right. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- so we won’t be there until tomorrow afternoon. I may even have an update --

QUESTION: Lots could change.

MS. PSAKI: -- in the next two hours for all of you.

QUESTION: Okay, cool. On Egypt, Deputy Secretary Burns is there.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you – his press conference was not particularly revelatory in terms of who he met with. Can you offer us any specifics on who he saw or --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me give you an outline of the meetings that I’m aware of. He’s still on the ground, as you mentioned, so there could be more I’m not.

QUESTION: No, I mean thus far.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Interim President Mansour, Interim Vice President for International Relations ElBaradei, Defense Minister al-Sisi. He met with a group of business leaders, a group of human rights activists, a group of Coptic bishops. And as I mentioned, he’s still on the ground, of course, so that’s the last update I received.

QUESTION: Were any of those, like, group meetings, like the human rights leaders and Coptic --

MS. PSAKI: I believe the last couple I mentioned were groups, yes.

QUESTION: Business --

MS. PSAKI: Business leaders. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Business leaders, human rights, and the Coptic?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, exactly.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the first three – Mansour, ElBaradei and al-Sisi – were separate?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Or were they --

MS. PSAKI: I believe that’s correct.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I can just double-check this to make absolutely certain, but – and I’m not sure of the other attendees in the meeting.

QUESTION: Did he or does he plan or is he hoping to arrange a meeting with anyone from the Brotherhood?

MS. PSAKI: He has not met with a member or a representative from the Muslim Brotherhood. Again, I don’t have an update beyond what he’s done to date. As you know, we are in very regular contact with all groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood. But as of now, he has not met with.

QUESTION: Do you know, has he tried to? Has he sought a meeting with the Brothers? And is he – when is he going to finish his Egypt trip and will he go to Amman to brief the Secretary?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of plans to travel to Amman. They, of course, regularly speak on the phone, so I would bet that will happen.

QUESTION: Yeah, but you never know who’s listening on these phone calls.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: So has he sought a meeting with the Brotherhood?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any other update beyond --

QUESTION: So he has not met with them just yet?

MS. PSAKI: He has not.

QUESTION: When does he plan to leave Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Later today, I believe. I’ll have to double-check that for you.

QUESTION: Can I – a couple of things on that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why wouldn’t – if you’re urging – and he urged in his press conference an inclusive process which takes into account all parties and all Egyptians, and presumably your message is for the government to include the Muslim Brotherhood in that --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and you’ve been in touch with them, why wouldn’t he meet with members of the Muslim Brotherhood? Did they not want to meet with him?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more beyond that, Elise. Obviously, we’re in close contact with them, as I said last week. That remains the case. He hasn’t had a meeting with them. And you’re right; the message that he has been communicating to all of the officials is about the importance of having an inclusive process and the steps that they take from here toward that.

QUESTION: So you don’t think it’s important to kind of – to walk the walk on what he’s telling them in his meetings?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe we’re walking the walk by being in touch with all sides, so I don’t have a further update on other meetings on his schedule.

QUESTION: Can you say anything about leaders of the Tamarod movement and others maybe in the Nour Party declining an invitation to meet with Ambassador Burns for this roundtable hosted by the Ambassador?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he did not have a meeting with them. Beyond that, I don’t have an update on --

QUESTION: The roundtable didn’t take place?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he did not have a meeting with Al-Nour, no.

QUESTION: But I mean, the Ambassador hosted a roundtable --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- for Deputy Secretary Burns --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and members of the Tamarod movement were invited, declined the invitation, because they have problems with the way the U.S. has been approaching this. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I don’t have any --

QUESTION: Was the Muslim Brotherhood invited to this roundtable?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know who the invites were issued to.

QUESTION: Can you check and see whether the Muslim Brotherhood was invited?

MS. PSAKI: We’ll see if there’s more to say on that.

QUESTION: Yes --

MS. PSAKI: Egypt? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Egypt, yeah. Did he met or anybody from the new government, as much as I know he met the prime minister? Did he --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe I listed a couple of newly – new leaders from the new government.

QUESTION: Another question related to the details of the meetings you announced?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is the policy or the attitude, it’s – or the approach is that to keep it secret the same way as the Palestinian-Israeli negotiations, or what?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just told you who he’s met with and he had a press conference there.

QUESTION: No, I mean the content of the – the content. I mean, the Egyptians, as usually, they are not speaking about these things or is speaking different whatever they say in English they say in Arabic. But I’m trying to figure out what were the topics discussed or raised by the Assistant Secretary Burns in these meetings.

MS. PSAKI: Well, he did a press conference that just finished about two hours ago, and I know many are looking for the transcript. He made some opening remarks where he said only Egyptians can determine their future, he didn’t come with American solutions, nor did he come to lecture anyone, and he reiterated the fact that we know that Egyptians must forge their own path to democracy. And he did say that despite our concerns about the developments of the past two weeks, we believe that the ongoing transition is another opportunity, following the January 25th revolution, to create a democratic state that protects human rights and the rule of law and that enables economic prosperity among all of its citizens. And he encouraged the interim government to continue to take steps to be inclusive of all sides as they work towards the process moving forward.

QUESTION: In the last few days, you raised more than once – one time the issue of the inclusiveness or the necessity of – or the importance of inclusiveness.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Or this was your call for the Egyptian Government or the rulers of Egypt. And it seems that in the last days, more crackdown on the Islamists is taking place.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In the same time, parallel to this, you ask for, I mean, less incitement for violence, and more in cycle of violence is taking place. How do you see these two factors that you are calling for? I mean, even it’s not finding deaf ears.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we know that the process will take time. And what’s important is seeing steps that the interim government is taking and hopefully will take to be more inclusive. There’s no question they need to reduce the current political polarization and take steps to do that. We remain concerned about violence on the ground, but we’ll take it day by day and communicate our concerns and our urgings as needed.

QUESTION: Will he be visiting any other country in the region? I mean, the Secretary – the Secretary will be visiting any other country in the region?

MS. PSAKI: Secretary Kerry?

QUESTION: Not – sorry. Deputy Secretary Burns will be visiting any other country in the region after Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: No, I don’t believe so.

QUESTION: Do you have any expectation, even for example given the close relationship between Turkish Government and the Muslim Brotherhood, the Turkish Government is disappointed with the reaction of Western worlds to this incident, not calling it as a coup, and they’re expecting something from the Western world, but what is your expectation from Turks and the countries in the region who have relationship between --

MS. PSAKI: Well, look, every country and every government is going to make their own choices. I know you asked me this question last week. Our focus is, of course, on encouraging an inclusive process moving forward. We’re certainly hopeful others will do the same. But beyond that I’m not going to place expectations on other countries on their involvement here.

QUESTION: Jen, from this podium last week you called for the – or said the U.S. would like to see the release of Mohamed Morsy from detention. Is there any update? I mean, did the Deputy Secretary find out the whereabouts, discuss this on the ground in Cairo?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other update beyond that. I addressed it, as you mentioned, last week, and our position’s the same.

QUESTION: But would it be reasonable to assume that if you’re saying in public that you’re urging the release of the former president and others of the Muslim Brotherhood that you would be doing it privately?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I just don’t, Elise, have an update on the conversations that Deputy Secretary Burns had beyond the comments he made this morning.

QUESTION: Does the U.S. know the whereabouts of Mohamed Morsy at this time?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any information on that.

QUESTION: But you still are calling for him to be released.

MS. PSAKI: My – our position’s the same.

QUESTION: Can you say that, you are still calling – “we urge the authorities of Egypt to -- ”

MS. PSAKI: I think our position is pretty clear and the same, and from the beginning we’ve expressed concerns about the --

QUESTION: Well, the reason --

MS. PSAKI: -- politically motivated detentions.

QUESTION: Including of President Morsy.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Can you say that?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just said it, Matt.

QUESTION: No. Can you say that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we need to play this game.

QUESTION: Can you use his name, please? Because Deputy Secretary Burns was very careful not to mention his name. And so I would like to know – I mean, can you just say – if your position is the same as last week when you said, “We think that he should be released,” can you say the same thing today?

MS. PSAKI: Do you need – do you just enjoy the sound of my voice?

QUESTION: I do.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: What -- (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I do. This is a serious question. I realize it --

QUESTION: Well, she didn’t say it last week. She just nodded and said yes.

QUESTION: What do you think should happen to --

QUESTION: You call – do you --

QUESTION: -- the president?

QUESTION: Can I just finish? Hold on, please. Can you say from the podium --

MS. PSAKI: The question last week was, do we agree with the call of the Germans, and I said yes.

QUESTION: Can you --

MS. PSAKI: Our position is the same.

QUESTION: Why can you not say --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I’m not playing this game. Dana? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: It’s not really a game. Can I ask you --

QUESTION: No, I mean, it’s just – it’s off of what Matt’s saying --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Which is, like, well, what do you think should happen to the former president of Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not for us to decide. It’s for the Egyptian people to decide what his role will be moving forward.

QUESTION: Will you take the question as to why uttering President Morsy – Mohamed Morsy’s name is taboo? I would like to know that answer.

But I also have another question on what Deputy Secretary Burns said --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- both in his press conference and presumably, he said, I think, in his private meetings. You would say that the message was roughly similar.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So he said in his press conference that the U.S. Government doesn’t take any sides, it doesn’t side with any particular personality or political party. He said, “The only side we take is the side of fundamental democratic principles,” okay. You took civics when you were --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, are we doing a civics lesson now?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: When he talks about fundamental democratic principles, what do you understand those fundamental democratic principles to be?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to parse his words --

QUESTION: Well, I’m --

MS. PSAKI: -- but clearly from the beginning here, if look back at President Obama’s statement, we’ve expressed concerns about both steps that were taken initially, the need for an inclusive process, the need for a process that involves all sides and all parties. I’m not going to define democracy up here for you, but --

QUESTION: Okay. Well, if you --

MS. PSAKI: -- his point he was making is that we’re – our focus is on where things go from here and that the interim government take steps to include all sides and all parties moving forward.

QUESTION: Okay. I wouldn’t be raising this at all if he hadn’t said that the only side you take is of the side of fundamental democratic principles. If you look at the definition of democracy, it is rule of the consent of the governed by majority expressing its will in a free and fair election, all of which Egypt had a month ago, none of which it has now. So I’m just curious as to which fundamental democratic principles you’re on the side of.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I think the point he was making is that we’re on the side of the Egyptian people and we support an inclusive process moving forward.

QUESTION: Do you --

MS. PSAKI: He also talked in his opening remarks about how we hope it will be a chance to learn some of the lessons and correct some of the mistakes of the last two years. I’m sure you saw that as well.

QUESTION: Yes. But you do accept that democracy is a majority rule situation, correct?

MS. PSAKI: We believe that –

QUESTION: And you --

MS. PSAKI: -- President Morsy – there you go – was democratically elected. The question is, the steps that were taken from there – and we have talked about --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- quite a bit – the voices of 22 million people.

QUESTION: Yes. Jen, back to Turkey for a second. As you know --

MS. PSAKI: Turkey?

QUESTION: Well, on the same subject, but --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- something that took place in Turkey. As you know, Sky News Arabia recently aired a report about an emergency meeting that apparently took place in Turkey in which senior Muslim Brotherhood officials from Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, and Hamas plotted to restore President Morsy’s government and how the Muslim Brotherhood can restore its political fortunes. Can the State Department confirm that such a strategic offsite took place?

MS. PSAKI: It was not a meeting, if it occurred, that the United States was involved in. So I just don’t have any more information on it.

QUESTION: Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Regarding Secretary Kerry trip to Amman and the meeting with the representatives of the Arab League --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I’m just trying to know if Egypt will be part of this discussion. And I have a follow-up for that, because as a matter of fact, the last meeting which took place in the Blair House, I mean, it was including Egypt --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- but different person, and even Qatar foreign minister was different. So it’s – the composition of those Arab League --

MS. PSAKI: So you’re asking about the foreign minister, you’re not asking about the topic?

QUESTION: That the Egypt issue is going to be discussed somehow.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think Lesley asked this – I believe you asked this question --

QUESTION: Or no, she – Arshad. Arshad.

MS. PSAKI: -- it hasn’t been that long since we started this briefing but --

QUESTION: It was that direction.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, Arshad. Sorry. It was in that seat. (Laughter.) They don’t look at all alike. (Laughter.) At the beginning, and what I said then – so just to make sure you heard this – was that clearly the events of the last two weeks are on the minds of the Secretary and others. He’ll be prepared to provide an update on Deputy Secretary Burns’s visit if that’s of interest. Beyond that, as you know, and as you kind of noted here in your question, Egypt is a member of the Arab League. In terms of attendees and participants, I would refer you to the Arab League, and I’m sure we’ll have a final list on who will attend in the next 24 hours.

QUESTION: You guys have – you have a – has the Secretary made any calls or over the weekend on Egypt specifically?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check for you, Matt, and see if I have his call list here. Let’s see. Looks like he had a range of calls – and obviously, the topic can certainly come up. I don’t have any specifically --

QUESTION: With --

MS. PSAKI: -- with any interim government officials in Egypt, though, to update you on from the weekend.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Jen, when you are reviewing the aids to Egypt, Russia has said that it’s ready to provide any help or any assistance to Egypt. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, a number of other countries last week made announcements. I don't know how much they pledged to provide. And obviously, this assistance is helpful from several regional friends of Egypt. It’ll help provide some space for them. I would just reiterate that this is a short-term solution and Egypt still needs to put in place – and we encourage them to put in place – reforms to be – to lead to a vibrant economic path longer-term. And that’s something the Secretary has spoken with officials about in the past, and we continue to encourage.

QUESTION: You have no problem that – if Russia provides any assistance to Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, different countries are going to make their own decisions. Others have announced aid in the past. That is something that, given the economic situation in Egypt, can help them and be a short-term solution, but we still believe they need to take longer-term reform steps.

QUESTION: Another subject?

QUESTION: Still on the topic of aid?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Senators McCain and Graham had proposed maintaining portions of military aid while suspending all aid that comes through State Department authority.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is this plausible? Would this be helpful? Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to – what I can tell you is that we’re still reviewing. There’s not an update on that. We’re going to take the time to do that. I know that a number of different officials are calling for different things. Obviously, Secretary Kerry, as I said last week, and others are in touch with members of Congress. But beyond that, I don’t have any particular analysis on that proposal.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary talked to those two senators, McCain and Graham?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check. I believe he may have spoken with one of them last week, but I’d have to check on his recent calls.

QUESTION: Jen, as a follow-up to this --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- question about the arming – I mean, the resolution prepared in the Senate to allow to the – to the Administration to arm the rebels. There was a bill, there was a resolution, but there is still no any vote in the floor.

MS. PSAKI: I believe Margaret was asking – just so you know – about aid to Egypt.

QUESTION: No, on Syrian --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: On the Syrian --

MS. PSAKI: You’re talking about Syria?

QUESTION: Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I just wanted to make sure.

QUESTION: I’m so sorry.

MS. PSAKI: No, no, no, no, no. That’s okay.

QUESTION: It was a change of topic, but – go ahead.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I know the U.S. Government is not committed to helping or hurting any particular political party or figure in Egypt, and as you’ve made clear, you stand with the people of Egypt and you want – you advocate democracy and so on, but our government does routinely say when it thinks a particular party figure or government is not playing a constructive role in international affairs. Does the U.S. Government view the Muslim Brotherhood as being – playing a constructive role in the Mideast right now?

MS. PSAKI: I would just say we’ve expressed concerns about the actions of any party when warranted, but our focus right now, the focus of Deputy Secretary Burns’ trip, is on encouraging all sides to work together and encouraging the interim government to move forward with an inclusive process that includes the Muslim Brotherhood.

QUESTION: Okay. And a few more: Does the U.S. see a direct relationship between Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’re --

QUESTION: Does the U.S. think that Iran is trying to exert any influence in Egypt, and – roughly analogous to the way we thought Iran was trying to shape operations in Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any analysis of that.

QUESTION: New subject?

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Egypt?

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, Syria, I mean, the resolution that I mentioned.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Sorry, say it one more time.

QUESTION: There was a bill, I mean, the resolution prepared in Senate allowing the Administration to arm the rebels in Syria, but there is still no vote in floor on this. Is there any hold on this bill? Do you – are you aware of it? Do you have anything to share on this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we remain in very close contact and consultation with our friends and partners in Congress, and obviously, we’re eager to get every component of aid out as soon as possible. You’ve heard the Secretary say that. But beyond that, I don’t have any specific update. I’d refer you to members of Congress on that.

QUESTION: Did you brief some members, some senators in Congress on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: We have briefed over a period of time, and the Secretary has certainly played an important role in this, many members of Congress from different committees, two different individuals, and leading members. And I expect that will continue in the weeks ahead – weeks, months, the course of his tenure.

QUESTION: And the – can you comment on the report in The Wall Street Journal today of a tentative agreement between – a tentative agreement with Congress to fund the arming of the Syrian rebels?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we’ve been briefing Congress on all kinds of aid. I still cannot outline for you the scale and scope of that, but I would point you to members of Congress on where they are in their approval process.

QUESTION: General Idris has said today that the opposition or the FSA was promised to receive arms from the West and the Arab states, but they didn’t receive anything yet. And the regime, Syrian regime, is in the offense now and they take – or they took some areas in Damascus from the opposition. How can you comment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say we remain deeply concerned by reports of Syrian civilians trapped by fighting in the Damascus suburbs, which is, I believe, what you’re referring to, as well as in the cities of Homs and Aleppo. We call again on the Syrian Government to allow for the protection and immediate departure of civilians trapped in conflict areas.

We remain – and I know we’ve talked about this quite a bit, but we – as we announced, we continue to consider additional options. Part of our process that follows the President’s announcement just a few weeks ago – or the Administration’s announcement, I should say – as well as announcements that Secretary Kerry has made, is to work closely with Congress and coordinate that aid.

At the same time, and I mentioned this on Friday, we’re in touch on a daily basis with General Idris and other leaders of the opposition about their needs on the ground and the status of events on the ground, and that will continue. And certainly, we’re concerned about actions we’ve seen on the ground, including the continued influx of foreign fighters and the fact that civilians are trapped across all the cities I referenced, and that’s a point we continue to make. And as I mentioned, this will be a topic of discussion later this week.

QUESTION: The opposition is saying that the time is very sensitive for them to receive arms. What do you think?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we can’t detail every single type of support that we have announced, or – I still can’t provide you any more details on that. We have provided a significant amount of aid. We continue to consider additional options. We remain very focused on strengthening the opposition and are in close contact with them about their needs on the ground.

QUESTION: Jen, is the U.S. concerned that the Pakistani Taliban has allied itself with the al-Nusrah Front? There was a report about this recently about that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. We have seen that report. We’re seeking more details. We’ve been very clear about our longstanding concerns over the influx of foreign fighters into Syria who seek to capitalize on the situation in Syria and foment violence for their own benefit. The Pakistani Taliban – I know everybody’s aware of this, but – has been designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, has conducted numerous terrorist attacks in Pakistan. The people of Pakistan have suffered greatly from terrorism, including at the hands of TTP. But beyond that, we’re looking into the reports and determining the facts on the ground.

QUESTION: And would this change your calculus about arming the rebels and the opposition forces?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, in this particular case, we’re seeking more information. We’ll take a closer look at that as we have more information. But all options remain on the table, aside from boots on the ground. That’s something the President has been clear about and the Secretary certainly supports.

QUESTION: Follow up on this. Is the U.S. seeking more information from – including Pakistan also?

MS. PSAKI: I’d – I don’t have any outlines for you on the specific lines of communication, but it is something we’re certainly looking into.

QUESTION: And just on another topic?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up. There are reports on – that on the ground some of the FSA groups are either declared a war or they are going to fight with the al-Qaida affiliated groups. Do you have any information on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I mean, last week we talked about the death of one of the FSA commanders, but beyond that I don’t have any additional information.

QUESTION: Can you just follow – oh, sorry.

QUESTION: Do you think that if these were to be true, this is something that you would like to see? I think you have been encouraging Syrian opposition to take a fight against al-Qaida affiliated groups.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been focused more – just to clarify, so I would refute the notion of your question – on providing aid directly to the moderate opposition, and that is something we’re certainly focused on. We’ve taken several steps to do just that. But beyond that, I expressed concern about certainly the violence and the death of the FSA commander, and I don’t think we’re – it’s in our – we encourage violence around these parts, so --

QUESTION: Do you have any kind of timetable that when this – your promises of the military aid would arrive – Syrian opposition?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any update on any further details on that.

QUESTION: Would you still be able to confirm that your help is going to, indeed, change any of the factors on the ground, as the President --

MS. PSAKI: Well, strengthening the opposition on the ground certainly remains our goal, but the Secretary has said many times this is not about a military victory or a military solution. It’s about moving towards a political solution. And that is what we have our eyes on.

QUESTION: Is it correct that there is concern inside the Administration that arming the rebels might somehow violate international law? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me detail for you what – and I believe you’re referring to a story that came out today, so let me detail for you kind of what our justification is. The United States is providing, as we all know, a broad range of assistance to the Syrian opposition, including nonlethal assistance, to its Supreme Military Council, such as vehicles, communications equipment, medical supplies, and consultation with the SMC leadership. The assistance is being provided consistent with applicable U.S. law, including the Foreign Assistance Act. A number of factors have informed our decision to provide this assistance, and we’ve calibrated the nature and extent of the assistance to reflect these factors.

QUESTION: And what are those factors?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the United States is gravely concerned, as you all know, by the Assad regime’s continuing brutality against the Syrian people, which has resulted in the death of more than 93,000 people. This brutality has included excessive and indiscriminate use of force in populated areas and what appears to be deliberate targeting of medical facilities, all in violation of international humanitarian law.

We are also concerned that these abuses are being enabled by the continued flow of arms and foreign fighters to the Assad regime from outside Syria, including weapons shipments from Iran in violation of sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council.

In addition, we are conscious of the increasing threat the conflict in Syria is posing to the interests of neighboring states, including the serious risk of the proliferation of Syria’s chemical weapons to non-state actors in violation of UN Security Resolution 1540.

Our assistance to the opposition is intended to address this range of concerns and to promote a Syrian-led political solution to the conflict in Syria.

QUESTION: Right, but – okay, but I didn’t hear international law as one – any of those factors. Is that not part of the thinking here? I mean, the only time you mentioned international law was you said that the Syrian Government was acting in violation of international humanitarian law. So is international law one of the factors that informs your policy here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, Matt. But I’m not a lawyer --

QUESTION: It is.

MS. PSAKI: -- so I don’t have any other details for you.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just surprised that if – I mean, my question was pretty specific: Is the Administration concerned that providing weapons or any kind of assistance to the opposition might be a violation of international law? Do you know?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I just outlined what our legal justification is. Beyond that, I just don’t have any further details.

QUESTION: But that doesn’t mention --

QUESTION: You said the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act, though, but that’s not international law, last time I checked.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more on the legal piece. I’m happy to follow up with our folks if there’s more to say on this.

QUESTION: Please, because if it is a concern, I would be interested in why it would be a concern, considering this building, and particularly – in particular has made the case that drone strikes, for example, are consistent with international law. So I’m – if international law is a concern of the Administration, I’m not quite sure how you square this or why you would be concerned if you are able to justify drone strikes, why would providing weapons to the Syrian opposition be problematic within – in terms of international law? So --

MS. PSAKI: Well, given we haven’t confirmed any specific types of assistance, I just outlined our U.S. law justification --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and I will check with our lawyers and see what else we can get back to all of you.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Before my question --

QUESTION: One more on Syria?

QUESTION: Yeah, Syria. If I can go back on the foreign fighters --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- one, can you clarify these foreign fighters, Talibans, are there now based in Pakistan? Because in the past, we have been known that Talibans are in Pakistan and they are terrorizing Pakistani people there inside Pakistan, also maybe outside. My clarification that – are they based now in Pakistan?

And second, if it is true, so they’ve been there for a long time, so what is the reaction from Pakistan in the past not to let (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the original question was about reports of fighters from the Pakistan – from the Taliban going to fight in Syria. That’s something we’re looking more closely into. But beyond that, I don’t think I have any further new information for you.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I mean, what’s Pakistan Government --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- telling you about these foreign fighters sitting inside Pakistan?

MS. PSAKI: I know we’re in regular contact. I just don’t have any new information to read out for all of you.

Let’s – you’ve been very patient. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’ve been – I was wanting to ask, the story you referred to earlier, it was also highlighting some concerns within the Administration that arming the rebels in a more sort of concrete way might put American lives at risk on the ground. But can you comment on the veracity of that?

MS. PSAKI: I know there were a number of sources that were not actually in the Administration but were commenting on their view of the Administration. I’d have to take a closer look at the story. But that certainly isn’t something that we have said from here.

QUESTION: So the State Department doesn’t – does it share those concerns?

MS. PSAKI: I just would have to take a closer look at the story.

QUESTION: News reports have quoted the U.S. officials confirming that Israel has attacked Russian missiles and a military base in Latakia, Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on this?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I have nothing for you on that.

QUESTION: Have you read the report?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen the reports. I don’t have anything for you on it.

Let’s do --

QUESTION: Just one more Syria.

QUESTION: You cannot confirm it or deny it?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s do just a few more. I have nothing for you.

QUESTION: Just one more Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Scott.

QUESTION: Housekeeping.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: There’s a delegation from the Georgian Government in town this week.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Can you tell us who they’ve meeting with and what their plans --

MS. PSAKI: Scott, I don’t have anything for that – on that for you. But let me check into it, and I’m sure we’ll have some – let me see if we have some details we can share.

Let’s do the last one here. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we do U.K. and the extradition of former British soldier David McIntyre? Why is the U.S. Government proceeding with this extradition?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one moment, please. Bear with me. We, of course, appreciate our strong law enforcement relationship with the United Kingdom. This, of course, is a Department of Justice issue, so I would refer you to them as well as, of course, the Homeland Security Department. So I really have nothing for you on it beyond that.

QUESTION: Why couldn’t he be put on trial in the UK?

MS. PSAKI: I would refer you to the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Oh. Wait, wait.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Snowden. Do you have any update on contacts with the Russians?

MS. PSAKI: I do not, beyond the President – President Obama’s call with President Putin on Friday.

QUESTION: Friday, that was the last one that you’re aware of?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any further updates on other calls or contacts.

QUESTION: Does that mean that that was the last one that you’re aware of?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check, Matt --

QUESTION: Can you check please?

MS. PSAKI: -- if there have been any I can report to you on. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:21 p.m.)

DPB # 118

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - July 15, 2013]