Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 6, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • U.S. Mission Closures
  • YEMEN
    • U.S. Response to Immediate, Specific Threat
    • Status of U.S. Embassy Sana'a
    • Yemen Travel Warning in Effect since 2002
    • Reduction in Staff at Embassy Sana'a
    • U.S. Embassy Operations in Sana'a Continue
    • Concerns about Attacks against U.S. Citizens or Interests
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Embassy Closures / Decision Process / Reduction of Staff
  • YEMEN
    • Status of Embassy Staff since Departure from Sana'a
    • Close Work with the Government of Yemen / Evaluation of Situation Continues
  • USG
    • Al-Qaida / Concerns about Affiliates / Counterterrorism Remains a Primary Focus of U.S.
    • Close Cooperation with Pakistan and others on Counterterrorism
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Case-by-case Decision-making Process regarding U.S. Mission Closures and Staffing Reductions
  • YEMEN
    • Travel Warning
    • Embassy Staffing Level
    • Past Travel Warnings
    • Status of Detainee Transfers
  • INDIA / PAKISTAN
    • Fighting Along Line of Control
  • GREECE
    • Visit of Greek Prime Minister to Washington
  • RUSSIA
    • Secretaries Kerry and Hagel to meet with Russian Counterparts in Washington this Week
    • Topics to be Discussed / Snowden / Syria / Geneva Communique
  • IRAN
    • Engagement with Iran
  • EGYPT
    • Senators McCain and Graham / Engagement with members of Congress is Vital
    • Update on Deputy Secretary Burns' Meetings in Egypt
    • U. S. Goal is to Move toward Inclusive Resolution
    • Meetings with Representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood
    • Up to Egyptian People to Move the Process forward
  • IRAN
    • New President Affords Opportunity for Iran to Act Regarding their Nuclear Program
  • SYRIA
    • Ryan Crocker's Assessment of Situation in Syria
    • U.S. Remains Focused
    • Influx of Foreign Fighters / Opposition Election of Leadership
    • Secretary's Coordination with the London Eleven
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary's Meeting with Participants of the African Women's Entrepreneurship Program
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Mullah Omar Statement
    • Next Year's Election
    • Reconciliation Process / Doha Office
  • ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
    • Next Meeting
  • TURKEY
    • Trial and Sentencing
  • ISRAEL / PALESTINIANS
    • Date of Next Talks
  • ITALY
    • Bomb threat at U.S. Consulate Milan
  • RUSSIA
    • 2+2 Talks
    • Snowden, Iran, Afghanistan, Missile Defense


TRANSCRIPT:

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

1:28 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Well, happy Tuesday afternoon. I don’t have anything at the top, so let’s start with what’s on your mind.

QUESTION: Well, one – and this all has to do with the embassies. So just broadly, is there any update on the number of closures or places that have maybe have reopened or additional closures? That’s – so my question would be: Could you give us a broad overview of the situation?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And then specifically as it relates to Yemen --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- you will have seen, probably, the statement from the Yemeni Government complaining about the ordered departure saying that it serves the interest of extremists and undermines cooperation against terrorism. It also says that they have taken all necessary precautions to protect foreign diplomatic missions. So I’m wondering if – what your reaction to that is.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, let me start with the first. There are no changes since this morning, and you all saw, I’m sure, the note we put out early this morning both the Travel Warning as well as the accompanying statement. So just to reiterate, 19 posts continue to be closed to the public, but they continue to provide emergency U.S. citizen services. They are instructed to close for normal operations through Saturday, August 10th. I know there was a question yesterday about some dates related to the posts in Saudi Arabia. Their holiday is slightly extended on different days, so that was the reason for the difference.

Does that answer the first question, Matt?

QUESTION: I think so.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Just – there’s still 19. So from Sunday, from the update that was provided on Sunday, there is still – there’s no changes?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Aside from the –

QUESTION: Aside from Yemen specifically.

MS. PSAKI: -- the announcement this morning.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Exactly.

QUESTION: So then on Yemen, do you believe that the Government of Yemen has taken all necessary precaution or taken all necessary measures to protect your Embassy specifically, but also do you agree or not agree that the ordered departure serves the interest of extremists and undermines cooperation in the fight against terrorism?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we would certainly disagree with that. Let me say first that our –

QUESTION: Sorry. What do you disagree with?

MS. PSAKI: The point that it is a – I can’t remember how you phrased it exactly.

QUESTION: Well, I’m reading from them. It serves the interest of extremists and undermines – I can read the whole quote specifically if you’d like.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me start by saying that our focus is on keeping both our personnel and citizens who are traveling overseas safe. We make decisions on a daily basis. We evaluate information on a daily basis. And that was, as you saw this morning from our announcement, the reasoning for our announcement.

This is based – this decision and the announcement this morning was based – is a response to an immediate, specific threat. In terms of broadly our relationship with Yemen, despite the threat, Yemen continues to make significant progress toward the implementation of its Gulf Cooperation Council-brokered political transition initiative. We work closely with them. We have a close partnership with officials in Yemen. The Secretary actually spoke with President Hadi just last night to thank him for his efforts around this announcement.

So this was, again, just to reiterate, a response to an immediate, specific threat, but we continue to work with them on a number of issues.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I just – I just want to get – to make sure I understand what you disagree with.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The first sentence of their statement is: “Yemen has taken all necessary precautions to ensure the safety and security of foreign missions in the capital Sana’a.” Do you agree or disagree with that?

MS. PSAKI: We agree, of course, that we work with them. They’ve been a cooperative partner in addressing terrorist threats. But the point I’m making is that –

QUESTION: But in this --

MS. PSAKI: -- this was a decision related to a specific, immediate threat. That’s why we made the decision. But it doesn’t have an impact, or we don’t see it having an impact, on our larger relationship with the government.

QUESTION: Well, then the second – okay, but you clearly – or it looks like from – to an outsider it looks like you don’t think that they have taken the necessary precautions to protect the Embassy because you’ve gone ahead and done this. You would disagree with that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we take steps to protect our citizens and to protect –

QUESTION: Right. And this is –

MS. PSAKI: -- our employees.

QUESTION: Right. And this is getting them out. So you would disagree with the Yemeni Government’s assertion that it has done everything necessary to protect?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I need to make an evaluation of –

QUESTION: Okay. Well, then –

MS. PSAKI: -- the government, but we –

QUESTION: All right. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- obviously made the decision that this was a necessary step.

QUESTION: All right. So the second sentence is: “While the Government of Yemen appreciates foreign governments’ concern for the safety of their citizens, the evacuation of embassy staff serves the interests of the extremists and undermines the exceptional cooperation between Yemen and the international alliance against terrorism.”

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me –

QUESTION: That’s what I think you were disagreeing --

MS. PSAKI: Let me – let me just make clear what this is and what this is not. This is a reduction in staffing. This is – we still have a presence in Yemen. The U.S. Government does, the State Department does. We will still be able to provide some services. Obviously, some limited staff may limit that. But – and we are – will continue to evaluate. I don’t have any updates on when staff may return, but that is what this announcement is.

QUESTION: But you don’t agree that it serves the interest of extremists and undermines cooperation?

MS. PSAKI: No, we would not.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: On Yemen in particular?

QUESTION: -- you said it was in response to an immediate and specific threat. Is that a new threat since Sunday?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, we evaluate on a daily basis the best ways to keep our citizens safe, our employees safe. And we felt this was a necessary step, but it’s not a signal of something new beyond what we announced on Sunday. Obviously there’s constant evaluation of new information, which is coming in constantly.

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up?

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the report yesterday in The New York Times that this is related to specific discussions or a conversation overheard between the al-Qaida leaders in Yemen and Pakistan?

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

QUESTION: Can you share with us on Yemen in particular the last time the U.S. mission or consulate in Yemen was compromised, the security of the U.S. mission in Yemen was compromised?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that for you, Said. I can tell you – and I’m not sure if this was a question yesterday, but this may be helpful information – that there has been a Travel Warning in place since 2002 in Yemen.

QUESTION: Right, right.

MS. PSAKI: And that has been an advisory – obviously, a warning to U.S. citizens, so it’s been in place quite a long time. Obviously, it was updated this morning.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Because I think there was – there was --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: -- just to follow up, just let me follow up --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Go ahead, Said, you’ll do one more here.

QUESTION: Right. Yeah. Just to follow up, because I believe in 2012 there was a strong warning for the Embassy in Sana’a. But to the best of my recollection, there has never been attacks or there’s been a compromise of the security or a breach of security of the Embassy in Yemen. Do you have any –

MS. PSAKI: Well, this was an announcement about a reduction in staff, so I can look back historically as to whether there’s a comparison on this. I’m happy to do that. But I just wanted to make you aware of when the – how long the Travel Warning has been in place since it’s relevant information.

Lucas.

QUESTION: On the conversation about the intercepts, is there any frustration on behalf of the Administration that this leak has come out that we have intercepted these communications between the head of al-Qaida and the head of AQAP?

MS. PSAKI: Broadly – I would just broadly say that, obviously, when sensitive information is provided, without speaking to this specific case, obviously, that’s always a concern to us.

QUESTION: So no outrage?

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

Margaret.

QUESTION: Jen, is the Ambassador still in country? Can you explain why the evacuation didn’t happen fully until today? I mean, is it correct to say the evacuation is now complete of Sana’a?

MS. PSAKI: First, it is inaccurate to call it an evacuation. This is a reduction in staff. We are still – we have not suspended operations. Obviously, you all know that the Embassy there is closed through the date that I mentioned, and we’ll have updates on them as we have them. There also continue to be commercial flights out of Yemen, which is something that any U.S. citizen we would encourage them to undertake.

In terms of the Ambassador, he is currently in Washington, DC, due to previously scheduled official travel. As you know, the President of Yemen was here just recently. He was here for that and some other official business.

QUESTION: But so those – but is that airlift that happened this morning that was publicly disclosed, is that what we can assume to be the last in this reduction or this round of reductions?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to look into a crystal ball and predict. We obviously evaluate every day what we need to do to keep our staff safe and to keep American citizens safe. There are no immediate plans for an evacuation of private U.S. citizens from Yemen, so I can certainly tell you that. And as I mentioned a moment earlier, the airport there, of course, remains open and international air carriers continue to operate flights to and from Yemen.

QUESTION: Why wait until today?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specifics for you, other than to say that we evaluate, of course, on a daily basis. As you know, we made an announcement Sunday, which we started off with here about the closing of – the temporary closing of several embassies. And we obviously made an evaluation that this was the next necessary step.

QUESTION: Madam?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As far as this threat is concerned, so far it looks like only the Indian consulate was or allegedly was the target in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. And yesterday, Mr. Jay Carney at the White House said that core of al-Qaida are still in Afghanistan and Pakistan and they are really threat as far as (inaudible) are concerned. My question is since Secretary was there in India and Pakistan recently, have they discussed as far as those threats coming from Pakistan? And finally, as far as this Indian consulate target, have anybody spoken with Indian authorities on this issue, attack in Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say – and this was in our Travel Warning, so let me just point you to there, but just to reiterate the language – that the U.S. Government remains highly concerned about possible attacks on U.S. citizens and U.S. facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests. That’s what was stated in there. You’re familiar with the list of embassies and consulates that we originally closed, and as you know, we have reopened some of those as well in the course of time – or we announced that on Sunday. In terms of any recent conversations with officials in India, I don’t have any update for you on that.

QUESTION: Two things, two small things on this.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One, I’m curious to know why you’re quibbling with the use of the word “evacuate.”

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a technical term that implies --

QUESTION: Is it? I think it’s a pretty non-technical term. Ordered departure is the technical term.

MS. PSAKI: I think the --

QUESTION: The definition is to remove from a place of danger to a safe place or cause the occupants to leave the --

QUESTION: If you --

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re looking up in a dictionary the definition – (laughter) – and I’m talking about – I’m --

QUESTION: But what would you call it if you’re suddenly told that you have to leave and a plane is flown in and you’re forced to get on the plane and leave?

MS. PSAKI: It’s called an ordered departure, Matt.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I just think that --

MS. PSAKI: I’m glad you asked.

QUESTION: The Yemeni Government certainly sees it an evacuation, so I don’t understand why you’re --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the reason I’m clarifying – and I do think this is an important question – is because our – we have not suspended our operations there. We don’t want to leave that implication --

QUESTION: But no one has said that you are.

MS. PSAKI: We have – well, some people who read your stories that you all report may be under that impression.

QUESTION: So you’re concerned that people are going to see this as like Saigon ’75 and people are like flying off roofs in helicopters and --

MS. PSAKI: We can always count on you for a historical reference.

QUESTION: I don’t think anyone has suggested that that’s the case in this instance. Anyway --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we just want to make sure the accurate information is conveyed.

QUESTION: Is it correct that it is the same threat or threat streams that is the cause of all of these 19 that you updated us on on Sunday, it’s the same thing? It’s not like, I don’t know, in one country it’s something entirely different than what it is in – it’s all the same thing?

MS. PSAKI: It is the same stream that we have referenced in Travel Warnings since Sunday. Obviously, there’s new information that I can’t get into details about --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- that we are constantly receiving.

QUESTION: But – yeah, but it is the same threat?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Correct?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you explain, then, how it became so diffuse? How did the countries in sub-Saharan Africa and in the Indian Ocean get into this? I’m not asking for specifics, but why did you decide, say, that in Iraq, which is arguably one of the biggest terrorist targets ever, that they – that those posts should reopen, and Afghanistan, why was it that Pakistan was never closed, Morocco, which has been the site of numerous terrorist attacks in the past wasn’t ever closed, Tunis, which is undergoing a bit – it’s very much unstable or at least politically uncertain right now? Can you explain that?

MS. PSAKI: Probably not to your satisfaction.

QUESTION: Well, even not to my satisfaction, what’s your answer to that question?

MS. PSAKI: We make decisions post by post. That’s something that is constantly evaluated at a high level through the interagency process. And we make decisions on how to keep our employees safe, how to keep officials safe, and that’s the bar we use.

QUESTION: Right. But there are – you do recognize that these closures in places that have never seen any kind of a terrorist attack, like Port Louis in Mauritius, it just raises questions.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we took steps out of an abundance of caution, and that’s how we looked at each decision.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: So can you clarify that this departure, whatever you want to call it, reduction of staff, was it forced or was it voluntary? So no U.S. citizen volunteered to leave; it’s basically most of these people are staff at the Embassy?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Yes --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- it’s a reduction of staff. And as I mentioned earlier, we are not – there’s no plans at this point to undergo an evacuation of U.S. citizens. But we have had the same Travel Warning that was just updated in place --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and certainly encourage U.S. citizens to abide by that and look closely at it.

QUESTION: Do you know if any of the people who left already are dual citizens, they were Yemenis and U.S. citizens?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that for you, and I think it’s unlikely that we would provide a breakdown in that manner.

QUESTION: By the way, is the evacuation to Stateside or is it to other countries in the region?

MS. PSAKI: The ordered departure? (Laughter.) Is it – I’m sorry, can you say one more time?

QUESTION: Is it to the United States of America or is it to other countries in the region that are deemed less dangerous?

MS. PSAKI: They are en route to Germany.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Madam, can I just quickly go back --

MS. PSAKI: Goyal, let’s go back --

QUESTION: Hold on just for the answer to that. And from there, what, can they do whatever they want? I mean, do these people – and I know the answer to this but I just need – it would be helpful, I think, to have it on the record from you from the podium. What do they do once they get to this initial destination? Are they – they’re still on the clock, as it were. It’s not as if they all went on vacation and are going to head off to some Mediterranean beach, although I guess some of them could. But is there a plan for at least the State Department employees over whom you have direct control who are in these – among these people who were – who left --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What do they do?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, they’ll just be arriving this afternoon, so we will be evaluating the situation day by day and making staffing decisions accordingly.

QUESTION: Yeah, I know. But what do they do? Do they work while in Germany?

MS. PSAKI: I’ll have to check on that for you.

QUESTION: Two years ago, there was another departure or removal of non-essential staff from Sana’a and they ended up here in corporate housing for several weeks having to work.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that within the realm of possibility this time, given what seems to be the enormity of this particular threat in the region?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to make a prediction. We’re evaluating day by day and I’m happy to provide you updates day by day, but as of now all I can tell you is that they’ll be arriving in Germany this afternoon.

QUESTION: What is the likelihood of other embassies having some of their staff removed because of this ongoing threat?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to make a prediction. You know the list of embassies and consulates that are closed, of course, temporarily. We evaluate on a day-by-day basis, but I don’t have any new information or new announcements to make today.

QUESTION: Jen, does this threat at all compromise the ongoing review and thinking around the release of Guantanamo prisoners, since the majority of them come from Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I think I reiterated our – obviously, there’s a process that’s ongoing. I don’t have any updates on that for you today. I’ll just have to check back with our team. But again, we work closely with the Government of Yemen on a range of issues. This is very new information, but – we’re constantly evaluating, but I don’t have a further update on other next steps.

Yes --

QUESTION: And would it be right --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead. One more for Lesley.

QUESTION: Would it be right to say that the main worry here is Yemen in this threat? It seems to be the main target of your concerns, of your abundance of concerns. Would it be right to say that Yemen is the main area that you’re worried about?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, we’ve made an announcement about the reduction of staff in Yemen, and we’ve talked in our travel warnings about our concerns about the threat of al-Qaida from the Arabian Peninsula. And we all know where that is based, and that’s been talked about quite a bit in the past. Beyond that, we’re evaluating on a daily basis, and our focus is on keeping our employees and personnel safe around the world.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any plans for an ordered departure at embassies or consulates outside of Yemen? And where do you see this – the – where do you see the U.S. being in the midst of this threat? Is it sort of halfway through? Do you see it escalating? Do you see it maintaining? And do you have any indication of when you might able, after Saturday, to issue a sort of new assessment?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have many predictions for you in response to your questions. We’re evaluating on a day-by-day basis. You’ve seen us make announcements several days – over the course of the last few days. I can’t predict for you whether there will be more, but I can assure you that the safety of our personnel around the world is of utmost importance to the President, to the Secretary of State, to personnel inside and outside of this building. That’s our focus. But again, I don’t have any other predictions for all of you.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How do you respond to critics that say the Administration’s overall terror strategy is wrong, that al-Qaida – the core, you’ve said repeatedly, has been decimated, is the lexicon from the White House. But here they are, planning another attack, and we have this big – excuse me – ordered departure. And here it is supposedly led by Usama bin Ladin’s protege, Nasir Wuhayshi.

MS. PSAKI: I do. I would point you to a couple of things. One, the leadership of the al-Qaida core has been weakened, decimated. And I would point you to the President’s speech that he gave just a few months ago where he talked about that, how the core of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan is on the path to defeat, but we have consistently expressed a concern about affiliates – and this is an example of that – and the fact that they continue to present a serious threat to the United States and its interests. And we consider this to be one of the foremost national security challenges we face. But again, we have – we point to the successes – the President pointed to the successes, including the decimation of the core of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but we remain concerned about the threat from affiliates, and that’s been our consistent viewpoint.

QUESTION: But Jen, there’s been success, but a ship does not sail on yesterday’s winds. I mean, today there’s this – a major ordered departure, and what do you say to people that disagree with that?

MS. PSAKI: That’s very lyrical. (Laughter.) I would say that the United States Government and the State Department, we continue to devote considerable resources to the ongoing effort to – on counterterrorism. That is a primary focus and something that the President, the Secretary, Secretary Hagel, and many in the government are very focused on. And – but we’re not naive about the challenges we face, and that’s why we continue to take them head-on.

QUESTION: And lastly, you call the al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula an affiliate, but it looks like this is a fairly linear organization to their parent, al-Qaida. I mean, these communications went from the top to this guy, Wuhayshi, so --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have anything more for you on that. What I’m referring to is the core of al-Qaida that we’ve talked about in the past, that, as we all know, was based in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We’ve referred to that, but remain concerned about the threat from affiliates around the world.

QUESTION: On the issue of --

QUESTION: Your answer to the first question, though, is – leaves a little bit to be desired. The question was: Critics, what do you say to critics who say that the claims that core al-Qaida are decimated are perhaps called into question by this?

And your response was: Look at what the President said; he said that al-Qaida, core al-Qaida, was on the path to defeat. And that doesn’t prove anything.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s a --

QUESTION: Just because someone says --

MS. PSAKI: That is a fact.

QUESTION: Just because someone says something doesn’t make it true, necessarily.

MS. PSAKI: I was reiterating --

QUESTION: I think --

MS. PSAKI: -- the fact that that is.

QUESTION: Well, if you’re going to point – people who are criticizing the Administration about this are not going to be satisfied with an answer that just – and, in fact, no one should be satisfied with an answer that – well, the President said it, so it’s true.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Well, I will reiterate --

QUESTION: Okay. So, can – what can you –

MS. PSAKI: -- our policy, our view --

QUESTION: -- tell those – so what can you tell --

MS. PSAKI: -- is that the core of al-Qaida in Pakistan and Afghanistan is on the path to defeat. We remain concerned about --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- affiliates. That has been our consistent view.

QUESTION: Okay. But that view is not necessarily a fact, and you have to support it with something. And so I presume you would say, well, bin Ladin is dead, many others --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- have been killed. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I would.

QUESTION: Okay. So that’s your response to the critics, not, “The President said it, so it’s true.”

MS. PSAKI: That – Matt, I was not inferring that by any means.

QUESTION: Okay. Good.

MS. PSAKI: I was repeating what is a fact, and there’s been some confusion about the points that have been made.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to ask you --

QUESTION: Just to follow up on this, I mean, if --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry. So, just to follow up on the point before, so if the affiliate’s still coordinating with Ayman al-Zawahiri, with al-Qaida central --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So what’s the difference if you kill five of them and you still have one central figure that coordinating with the affiliates in the region, so they’re still able and potent and they can pose serious threat as have – we have seen in the last few days?

MS. PSAKI: And we remain concerned about the affiliates, and that’s why we are focused on counterterrorism every single day.

QUESTION: But the affiliates are linked to the – what my point is, they still take an order from al-Qaida central. They’re not operating separately. That’s my point.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s just been some confusion about what point we’re making and what the facts are. We have always consistently said – we’ve consistently said we’ve been concerned about the threat of al-Qaida’s affiliate in the Arabian Peninsula. And I was just reiterating that this is not a new concern; this is something that we have expressed concern about. This is not a statement of fact, but I referred to the President’s speech as an example of that.

QUESTION: But Jen --

QUESTION: Zawahiri is still giving orders to al-Qaida in Yemen, has given orders to al-Qaida in Iraq, and to a certain extent in Syria, over this recent split. So he’s still calling the shot. Ayman al-Zawahiri was al-Qaida central still giving order to all these affiliates to operate on his behalf.

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve stated our view here. I don’t have anything further for you on specifics.

QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to follow up on the point on endurance and sustainability of the closure.

MS. PSAKI: Mm.-hmm.

QUESTION: Now this closure came as the result of a conversation between two --

MS. PSAKI: All of the closures? Or are you referring to a specific --

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah, all of the closures.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: It came as a result of a conversation between two top terrorists. Now what would prevent – what would guard against this happening time and again in the future, just to keep you off balance? I mean, two major terrorists could have a conversation just to actually have that kind of result.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, unfortunately I can’t peel back the curtain on why decisions are made in the Administration, I can just reiterate what our focus is on, which is keeping our personnel, keeping citizens around the world safe, and that’s the bar we try to jump over.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: You mentioned using resources and I know that the 5th Fleet is on the Nimitz in the North Arabian Sea and the Truman is in Naples right now; I’m not really sure where the George Washington is. I know that was one of the criticisms with Benghazi, that there wasn’t enough emergency personnel and nobody was close enough to help if there was an emergency. Have any of these ships been moved? And are there any plans to move people closer to help?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Defense on that question.

QUESTION: Can I just go back quickly – al-Qaida and Pakistan? My – Secretary was there recently, and drone attacks are still going on against al-Qaida inside Pakistan, and Pakistani authorities asked the Secretary to stop these attacks. My question is: How effective are these drone attacks against al-Qaida inside Pakistan?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more to tell you, aside from the fact that we cooperate closely with Pakistan and others on counterterrorism, and I know my colleague Marie discussed this at length with all of you just last week.

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, in the front.

QUESTION: I want to change subjects. On --

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s make sure – and I’ll come right back to you – but that we’ve just covered all of the questions on this specific issue.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Embassy in Yemen released a press release yesterday concerning 25 of the most wanted terrorists in Yemen. Did this have anything to do with the threat, or was it just a coincidence they happened to issue that right before part of the people were reduced in staff?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that release. I am not aware of any connection.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you find out?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Happy to check if there’s any connection for you.

Ros, did you have another?

QUESTION: Yeah, when you said – or when the warning said that U.S. citizens should leave the country right now, is that something that Americans who happened to be in other countries where the embassies or consulates are closed, should they be prepared for any sort of imminent departure as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are country by country, when warranted, travel warnings or travel advisories depending, so I would point you to each individual country. I don’t have any predictions for you beyond that. But in Yemen, it’s important to note that there’s been a Travel Warning in place for about 11 years. So it was in place before this morning as much as it was updated this morning.

QUESTION: I guess what I’m trying to get at is that what is the point of telling Americans in Yemen to leave if a similar urging isn’t going to be made to the Americans who happen to be in the other 18 countries where these facilities are also closed, again, because of this original threat?

MS. PSAKI: Well, if the circumstances warrant it, we certainly would make that warning – would provide that information. But each post, each country, is evaluated case by case, and it is certainly possible that, and likely, that in some of these other countries there are travel warnings. I don’t know off the top of my head, but I think it’s important for you to note that the Travel Warning in Yemen is not new as of this morning. It’s been around for over a decade.

QUESTION: But it doesn’t make sense to have a travel warning for Americans in a place where a facility is going to be open for normal operations and then to suddenly draw down that embassy or that consulate’s operations. Usually it seems to work the other way and basically makes – everything that has been coming out of this building makes it look as if the problem is in Yemen, the problem isn’t in these other countries, and that the U.S. Government may be unduly frightening people just for the sake of trying to hone in on where they think this threat could possibly happen.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would certainly refute the notion of that claim. We make decisions on a post-by-post, country-by-country basis, focused on how to keep our citizens, how to keep our personnel safe. We’ve made decisions in the last 48 hours about temporarily closing embassies as well, as you know, because we announced it on Sunday.

I don’t have any further announcements to make. The point I’m trying to get across to you is that this Travel Warning, which is an indication to whether or not U.S. citizens should travel to Yemen, has been in place for over a decade, and there are other places in the world, as you know, where there are travel warnings also in place, sending the same signal. So I wouldn’t focus it just on one. I would look into the other locations where that is before you make kind of a sweeping judgment.

QUESTION: But it does beg the question: If there is information at the beginning that says there is a threat, and you can basically draw a line, or draw an arc on that map behind you, it seems like overkill. And that’s what I’m trying to get some clarification on. Is this overkill or is the problem just in Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: I would refute both of the things you suggested. It is a decision to reduce staff in Yemen. They are currently, as I mentioned, en route to Germany. We are going to make a decision on a day-to-day basis about staffing and when people may return. I don’t have any predictions for you on that. And each country and each post decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. So we made the decision to close several embassies, as you know. We will provide updates on that as they become available.

But again, it is case-by-case, and our goal is to keep citizens, keep our personnel safe, just like the work that the consular affairs officers do around the world and do outside of – from this building every day, which is to provide updates on advisories and warnings and where people should travel or not travel that have nothing to do with reducing personnel. There are several levels of this, and it impacts many places around the world.

QUESTION: While the Travel Warning may have been – a Travel Warning may have been in place since 2002, prior to 4 o’clock this morning, the most recent version of the Travel Warning did not include an ordered departure, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Did it – did the last version also say that Americans currently in Yemen should leave?

MS. PSAKI: I think I actually happen to have it with me. Let me check.

QUESTION: Or did it – I don’t know. I don’t know, as I’m just asking. Or did it just strongly advise people to – or tell them to advise them to defer travel there? Or did it say leave?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have the exact language, and if not, I’m sure we can provide that to all of you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: So just give me about 15 seconds here to see and then we’ll move on to the next. Let’s see here.

So I do have one here from July 16th, 2013, which you can find on our website and we’re happy to provide to all of you, which the first sentence is: “The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the high security threat level in Yemen due to terrorist activities and civil unrest. The Department urges U.S. citizens not to travel to Yemen.”

QUESTION: Yeah. It doesn’t tell them to leave if they’re already there, so the two --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we provided an update to that.

QUESTION: Right, exactly. So there are two very important updates to the new travel warnings and – which makes it a lot different than just “Don’t go there,” right?

MS. PSAKI: U.S. citizens currently in Yemen should depart.

QUESTION: It says that?

MS. PSAKI: That’s the next sentence.

QUESTION: Okay. Okay. Well, why didn’t you say that? It was a real --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I was – I wanted to let you just get it out.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) All right. Cool.

QUESTION: That was July? That was July, you said?

MS. PSAKI: That was July, mm-hmm. That was July.

QUESTION: Do you hear --

QUESTION: So what’s new, then?

MS. PSAKI: The --

QUESTION: The ordered departure is new.

MS. PSAKI: The departure, the reduction of personnel, is new.

QUESTION: They should leave, okay.

QUESTION: Apologies if you mentioned this detail --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- how many embassy personnel are either en route or in Germany, and how many remain behind in Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t, as a matter of policy, provide numbers for our own security purposes.

QUESTION: Can you ballpark it?

MS. PSAKI: I cannot.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I wanted to follow up on a question that was posed to you just a little bit earlier --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- by Reuters, and it had to do with Guantanamo.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The White House has confirmed to me that the President’s order to lift the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen is still in effect.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I read the language that the State Department put out in the Travel Warning earlier this morning. It indicated that, quote, “The security threat level in Yemen is extremely high.”

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It also indicated that terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, continue to be active throughout Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I was hoping that you could explain, now that you know that the White House has indicated that the President’s order to lift the moratorium on detainee transfers to Yemen is still in effect, even on a case-by-case basis --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- why that would be.

MS. PSAKI: I don't know that I have anything further for you on it. I’m happy to check with our team and check with the White House on what more we can tell you.

Go ahead in the back. Lalit.

QUESTION: Where –do you know where al-Zawahiri is now because they stopped his messages? Is he in Af-Pak region, has he moved to the Middle East?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, who did you say?

QUESTION: Al-Zawahiri.

QUESTION: Zawahiri.

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

QUESTION: Where is he? Can you indicate which part of the world he is now?

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

QUESTION: Is he still in Afghanistan, Pakistan region?

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

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Said, we’ll go to you next. He hasn’t asked a question yet.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any thoughts on the LOC fightings on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir where five Indian soldiers were killed today?

MS. PSAKI: We are aware of these unconfirmed reports and are concerned about any violence along the Line of Control. The policy on Kashmir has not changed. We still believe that the pace, scope, and character of India and Pakistan’s dialogue on Kashmir is for those two countries to determine.

QUESTION: Do you think this is going to affect --

QUESTION: Jen, what do you feel about --

MS. PSAKI: One second, Goyal. Let’s let Lalit finish.

QUESTION: Do you think this is going to have any effect on the peace process which the two countries are now trying to resume?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we hope that India and Pakistan will continue to – the steps they’ve recently taken to improve their bilateral relations.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Jennifer, I have a question on Greece. As you maybe know, the Prime Minister of Greece is in town.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On Thursday, he’s going to meet with Secretary here at the State Department.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is on the agenda if you can tell us, and what are the expectations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first let me just tell you that my last name is Greek, so I’m especially excited about this. But I will have to get you something more specific on the agenda. And I can confirm it, of course, know – I believe we’ve put out the plans for the meeting. But let me venture to do that, and we can get you an update offline or we can talk about it again tomorrow.

QUESTION: Another meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is the 2+2 with Russia taking place on Friday?

MS. PSAKI: I do have an update on that for all of you. So I can confirm that Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel will meet with their Russian counterparts in Washington on Friday, August 9th. This revives the 2+2 meeting format with Russia last held in 2007. The group will discuss a number of pressing bilateral and global issues, including strategic stability, political-military cooperation, and regional issues.

QUESTION: Where does Syria figure in this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Where does Syria figure into the Russia 2 and 2?

QUESTION: Syria. Yes, in particular the prospects for Geneva 2.

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, Syria will be a part of the conversation and discussion on Friday, and they – we also expect they will continue to discuss issues of cooperation, including the ratification and implementation of the New START Treaty, cooperation on the transit of personnel and material to and from Afghanistan, and working together to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

QUESTION: Has there been any sort of one-on-one conversation with the Russians pre the 2+2 meeting next Friday on --

MS. PSAKI: Pre-Friday?

QUESTION: Yeah, before Friday. I mean, in the lead-up to that point, has there been any one-on-one conversation regarding Geneva 2 or when it could happen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it in September or thereafter?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates for you on conversations over the last couple of days. I’m happy to check on that. Are you asking about the Secretary specifically?

QUESTION: Yes, yes, yes, the Secretary specifically.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I don’t have any updates for you on recent conversations he’s had with Foreign Minister Lavrov. I’m happy to check on that for you and see if there’s more to report.

QUESTION: Where’s the meeting to be held?

QUESTION: Your list did not include Mr. Snowden. Does that mean that they’re going to ignore him?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Matt, we have raised Mr. Snowden with Russian officials many times in recent weeks --

QUESTION: So --

MS. PSAKI: -- and expect to do so again. We continue to press --

QUESTION: On Friday?

MS. PSAKI: I expect so. But again, there’s a lot to discuss, a lot of issues we work together on, and I expect those to be the thrust of the conversation.

QUESTION: But they’re – the issues that you work together on seem to be fewer and fewer, and the issues that you don’t work together on seem to be getting greater and greater. So does it really make sense to talk about things that you agree on --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would --

QUESTION: -- or isn’t this an opportunity to perhaps try and talk about things that you disagree on and try to find some common ground on them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think it will be a combination. We certainly have our share of disagreements with Russia over a number of issues, and I’m sure they will be part of the conversation as well.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, specifically on Mr. Snowden, would you like the Russians to revoke this status that he has been given now?

MS. PSAKI: We would like to see Mr. Snowden returned to the United States. I don’t know technically what that requires, but we know they have the capability to do that.

QUESTION: Right. So you would like them to revoke this status, correct, and put him --

MS. PSAKI: If that --

QUESTION: -- on a plane back to the States?

MS. PSAKI: If that is what it requires, we would like him to be – our position has remained the same.

QUESTION: Russia?

QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Russia? Let’s just finish with --

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Where are they meeting?

MS. PSAKI: No, it needs just – no, we’ll go to everyone. I promise.

QUESTION: Where are they meeting?

MS. PSAKI: The meetings are taking place here.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: At the State Department or at DOD?

MS. PSAKI: I’ll have to check that for you, Matt. We’ll get an update for you all on the schedule.

QUESTION: One more quickly, Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Madam, as far as these leaks are concerned, many diplomats and many countries were angry at the U.S., and they were saying that U.S. cannot keep any secrets. My question is that – and of course, there are human rights activists and among other people working for democracy on those countries – have you worked out – have you satisfied those countries as far as leaks are concerned for the future that it will not happen again?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you’re referring to the focus on our NSA programs, if I’m correct.

QUESTION: Yes, ma’am.

MS. PSAKI: And we do remain in close contact with a number of countries who have expressed concerns. I’m not going to read out those diplomatic conversations for you, but we will continue to endeavor to have those. And I would refer you to them on whether they are satisfied.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Margaret. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You said Syria was among the topics to be discussed with the Russians here.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Assad gave a speech this week saying that military response is really the only solution to the conflict and that the opposition needs to be crushed. Doesn’t seem like he’s leaving room for peace talks or Geneva. Will the prospect of Geneva be raised with Lavrov on Friday?

MS. PSAKI: They will discuss, of course, their agreement and long-standing agreement that a political solution is the best process forward. And you’ve heard the Secretary say a number of times that he doesn’t believe a military solution is the right way to end the bloodshed in Syria.

We, of course, saw Assad’s speech this weekend. We believe it’s the latest demonstration that the regime publicly rejects the goals of the Geneva communique and is willing to thwart any possibility of a negotiated transition. This is an issue that we will, of course, continue to discuss, not only with the Russians, but we will continue to discuss with our regional counterparts and others who have been – have had great stakes in the outcome and share our concern about the suffering of the Syrian people.

QUESTION: So regardless of those comments, it is still the belief that the Russians can deliver Assad to a peace conference?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe it will be an issue discussed. Again, we certainly were concerned about his comments. We believe that it’s the latest demonstration of rejecting the goals of the Geneva communique. But the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov have talked many times about their agreement that a political solution is the best path forward, and that remains our goal.

QUESTION: In --

QUESTION: Well, doesn’t this call into question you guys believing Lavrov’s claim that he could get Assad to the table? Doesn’t this raise questions in your mind about whether he was being entirely forthright, or maybe raises questions that Assad may have been convinced earlier but recent successes on the battlefield have led him to believe that he can win?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t begin to get into Assad’s head, and Foreign Minister Lavrov has said that publicly. But I can just reiterate that they will discuss – this will be one of many topics discussed when they meet later this week.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just wondering – the reason I ask the question is that you guys seem to buy pretty much everything that the Russians say hook, line, and sinker, and then get – continually get let down, disappointed by them. Putin said he didn’t want the Snowden thing to become a thorn, to become an issue in relations with the United States. It clearly has, regardless of the fact that this meeting is going ahead on Friday. And if the Russians tell you that they can deliver Assad, or at least members of his regime, and then Assad gets on TV and gives a speech, which you say means that he’s – that he disagrees with the entire idea of what the Russians said that he – they could bring him in on, it would seem to me that that might raise some concerns about whether the Russians are actually telling you the truth or not when they speak to you.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt --

QUESTION: Well, does it?

MS. PSAKI: -- our goal and our focus remains the same. I would point you to the Russians on that. But they will discuss this as – among many topics on Friday. And we know that this won’t be an easy road forward. But that remains our focus and that remains our goal, is a political transition.

QUESTION: Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in Rome that he agreed with the new Iranian President’s view that the dispute over its nuclear program can be solved via dialogue, not ultimatums. “Now it is critical” – and I’m quoting here – “to support the constructive approach of the Iranian leadership.” Is the U.S. going to be interested to find out why Russia thinks this would be a constructive presidency?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve talked about this quite a bit. Our position has been consistent. We obviously work with our P-5+1 partners. We’ve also expressed an openness to having direct discussions with Iran, but the ball is in their court. We still feel that they need to take steps to abide by their international obligations, and we’re not at that point.

QUESTION: But Mr. Rouhani in his – sorry. Mr. Rouhani in his conference today just talked extensively about nuclear issue, and he said he thinks that U.S. actions and words, they don’t exactly match here. So is U.S. ready to offer Iran not to increase sanctions at least for the time being?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new announcements to make. I think the answer I just provided is a statement of our position, and that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: I mean, what’s the plan here? They say they are ready for you to take the first step, and you’re saying the same thing. It seems like a kind of a dead --

MS. PSAKI: Well, he was just inaugurated, if I’m getting my days here correct. Should the new government choose to engage substantively and seriously to meet its international obligations and find a peaceful solution to the issue, it will find a willing partner in the United States. That’s not where we are.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: A question about Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Senator McCain in Cairo today repeated his assertion that what took place there last month was a coup. I was curious if you had any reaction to his comments. And also since he and Senator Graham are there at the behest of the Administration, has the Administration’s position on this, whether or not it’s a coup, evolved in the last --

MS. PSAKI: Our position has not changed. Senator McCain and Senator Graham are certainly entitled to their opinions, just as any member of Congress is. The U.S. Government has stated what our position is. But the Secretary, as you know, and I’ve talked about a bit in here, does feel that engagement and discussion with members of Congress of both parties is vitally important on all of our foreign policy issues. I believe this has been public, but Deputy Secretary Burns met with Senator McCain and Senator Graham while he was in Egypt, and we plan to continue that level of engagement.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Egyptian presidency, what they call the presidency council, seemed to reject what appeared to be an offer for a grand bargain, and they counteroffered on their own sort of to release some of the top prisoners and so on and give safe passage for those in Rabaa al-Adawiya. Could you confirm or comment on this?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any confirmation or specifics for you on discussions through many – that many parties may or may not be having. I can tell you that, of course, Deputy Secretary Burns has been on the ground for a couple of days.

Let me just provide a quick update for you on some additional meetings, just so you have all of this. I mentioned Senator McCain and Senator Graham. He also met with U.A.E. Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed, and he also met with EU Special Envoy Leon and Interim President Mansour, as well as another meeting with EU Special Envoy Leon and Interim Vice President ElBaradei just today.

QUESTION: Okay. It seems that during his meeting with Khairat Shater, that Khairat Shater said that the legitimate leader of Egypt is Mohamed Morsy, and if they want to talk with anyone, they should be talking with him. Would that be something that you would contemplate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, our goal here is to work with international partners to help the Egyptian people reduce tensions, prevent violence, and move towards an inclusive political process. When the Deputy Secretary – in the days he’s been in Egypt, he’s made it a priority to meet with a range of officials representing many different sides. We don’t take a side. His goal is to help move forward, to reduce the violence, to end the bloodshed, and to move towards an inclusive process.

QUESTION: And finally, the spokesman for the military, the Egyptian military, said that they will not allow any foreign dignitary from visiting with Morsy. Have you been told that officially by the Egyptians?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that. Obviously, EU special – High Representative, I should say, Ashton, met with him, as you all know, just last week.

QUESTION: That was last week.

MS. PSAKI: And we provided an – we received an update on that. I have not seen those recent comments.

QUESTION: Jen, the U.S. came under heavy criticism from both the Tamarod movement and from a spokesman for the President Mansour today.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How do you balance the fact that trying to solve a crisis for an important country that’s considered an ally and not being seen as interfering in Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think all we can do is reiterate what our goal is here, which is to move towards a peaceful resolution that is inclusive, that includes all sides. That is the message that Deputy Secretary Burns has been conveying while he’s been on the ground. He has been meeting with all sides and all parties, as is evidenced by the list that I know my colleague provided yesterday. And that’s what our focus continues to be in all of our conversations with partners in the region and with officials in Egypt.

QUESTION: Do you believe that President Morsy should be released for any settlement to any resolution to the conflict?

MS. PSAKI: Our position hasn’t changed on this, which we’ve stated a number of times. But I don’t have any other specifics for you on discussions going on in Egypt.

QUESTION: In response to the first question about Senator McCain’s comments, you gave – you said “our position has not changed,” as you just did with Morsy.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On McCain’s comments, though, “our position has not changed,” then you said, “the U.S. Government has stated what our position is.” Could you remind us all what your position actually is? Because as I recall, your position was that you don’t have a position, and that’s not quite – is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I think you know our position, which is that --

QUESTION: I – tell me.

MS. PSAKI: -- there was a determination made that we need to need – not need to make a designation.

QUESTION: So then – so your position is that you do not have a position. Correct?

MS. PSAKI: Our position is that we do not need to make a designation.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Oh, go ahead, Nicolas.

QUESTION: Yeah. Does Deputy Secretary Burns plan to meet with President Morsy? We talk about it yesterday, but --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other plans for that on his schedule.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- your answer to my question?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: You do understand that you don’t have a position on this, don’t you?

MS. PSAKI: We have not made a determination.

QUESTION: But don’t – you go and say, “our position has not changed,” but you don’t have a position. You don’t have a position that could’ve – a position means taking a side, or taking a stance, or making a determination. And since you didn’t do that, you do not, by definition, have a position.

MS. PSAKI: We have --

QUESTION: Correct?

MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with you, Matt.

QUESTION: You have a position on whether what happened in Egypt was a coup?

MS. PSAKI: We have determined that we do not need to make a determination.

QUESTION: Isn’t that the same as not having a position?

MS. PSAKI: I will let you parse yourself.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Now that Deputy Secretary is in Cairo --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- was there any meeting with the Muslim Brothers? Because it was reported yesterday – I think it was with Saad el-Katatni, the former parliament speaker, he met him.

MS. PSAKI: I think my colleague read out a number of his meetings that he had, including representatives of. So I’m happy – we’re happy to send that over to you if you didn’t receive the full list.

QUESTION: Yeah, I – yesterday I was here and I listened to the list. Because I was just asking if there is any addition from the Muslim Brothers --

MS. PSAKI: Not beyond the meetings I just listed.

QUESTION: Regarding the presence or the visit of Senators McCain and Graham --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the messages that they are – they – Egyptians are receiving from them, you see any conflict between those messages? Set aside the core issue, I mean, other issues. Because at the end of the day, they are two American messengers are received by Egyptians --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And whom speaking to whom? I mean, it’s – is this going to be an issue of – needs to be clarified, or you think it’s okay?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can only speak for what our goal is on the ground and what Deputy Secretary Burns has been doing. I’m not aware if you’re talking about a specific conflict, but beyond that, I don’t know that I have more for you on your question.

QUESTION: Yes. Regarding the issue of this – always said that it’s like – of course, it’s – the main issue is to ease the tension and the confrontation and the bloodshed, whatever. Is there any proposal – not I’m just talking about how to take away Morsy or return him back – is there any proposal regarding the process itself? I mean, which is like – because, it’s like, it’s always – the message is like – or the people saying constitution before election, or election before constitution. Do you have any point of view about that, or still up in the air?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I’ve stated what our goals are. It’s up to the Egyptian people to move the process forward, and we’re there to provide whatever helpful, supporting role there is to play.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that real quick?

QUESTION: Jen, can you clarify the messages --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one – let’s just do one at a time.

QUESTION: -- clarify the messages --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- that – now, the representative of the Administration is Secretary Burns, not Senators McCain and Lindsey Graham.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Right. Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) other than who the Ambassador’s met and who he hasn’t met, does he – do you feel – I mean, has he given some readout that he’s making progress in this, that he feels that there has been some kind of understanding --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- with the Brotherhood or the interim government that the violence needs to stop? I mean, beyond just meetings --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- surely he has an outcome here.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, he extended his trip, and that’s why he’s still on the ground today. I don’t expect I’ll have much more to read out for you in terms of his evaluation until he returns, and we’ll venture to talk about that when he does.

QUESTION: Do you know when that is currently planned?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update as of now.

QUESTION: Jen, just a follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has the President – has President Obama agreed to meet with representatives from the Muslim Brotherhood at the White House in order to break the impasse in Egypt, as reported today in the Jerusalem Post?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the White House for that question.

QUESTION: What kind of message do you think that would send if --

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a hypothetical. I don’t even know if it’s true, so I’d point you to them for that question.

QUESTION: I mean, just to follow up to the question of the readouts, in the last two days, mainly principles are mentioned more than details of the talks.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, we stand by or we stand for, and these things.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I understand the possibility, but it’s definitely – it seems that it gives a lot of vacuum to rumors or whatever --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- stories, tweets, whatever, come out.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So – and – so, you think it’s a good way to (inaudible) what you are, or to explain so in order to – not to give a chance to – especially, it’s a fertile soil for different understandings of what’s Americans are trying to do or not.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve tried to provide to all of you an update on his meetings, an update on what he’s trying to accomplish and what our goals are there. But obviously, he’s still on the ground, the situation is evolving and fluid, and I just don’t expect we’ll have more of an update for you today reading out the meetings.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

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

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So a follow-up question: Did you receive any – the State Department, I mean, did you receive and requests from foreign diplomats to arrange meetings between leaders from the Muslim Brotherhood and U.S. officials here in DC? Did you receive any kind of requests?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. But I don’t know that we would read out private diplomatic requests or conversations regardless.

QUESTION: Jen, can I just go back to Iran, please?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I know what you say, but do you at least find that the – that President Rouhani’s remarks were encouraging? They were made outside Iran. I mean, they at least some signal to the U.S. that he is willing to consider or at least take some steps to mend ties?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve said consistently since his election, and certainly I’ll repeat since his inauguration, that it presents an opportunity for Iran to act quickly, to resolve the international community’s deep concerns over their nuclear program. But as I stated a little bit earlier, there are steps they need to take to meet their international obligations and find a peaceful solution to this issue, and the ball is in their court.

QUESTION: What step would be important or would show the U.S. that it is – that there is change?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think it is a peaceful solution to their kind of nuclear development. We want to see credible steps taken – I can’t really define those for you – but it’s something the international community is very focused on, obviously, we work closely with our P-5+1 partners on. As you know, there have been several meetings earlier this year in Almaty where there were discussions back and forth. And if there’s a credible proposal and actions that are taken, again the United States will be a willing partner. But we’re not quite there yet.

QUESTION: Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The U.S. – or former U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker has said that Assad will prevail in Syria yard by bloody yard. Do you agree on this assessment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of his comments, of course. Let me remind you that he is a private citizen; he’s entitled, of course, to his own views. We feel that we must not lose sight of the significant progress the opposition has made over the past two years, despite the fact that they’ve been faced with tremendously disproportionate force from the regime and its proxies, including chemical weapons, Scuds, attack helicopters, heavy artillery, and barrel and cluster bombs. As you know, they’ve recently elected leadership. We’re working with them to strengthen and expand and continue that process, and we’re also taking steps to help them on the ground.

We continue to seriously doubt the regime’s ability to reassert control over the entirety of the Syrian territory, and our position remains that Assad has lost all legitimacy and must step aside. That has not changed. So we remain focused.

QUESTION: I missed in there, in your recitation of the standard line – is that still correct – Assad’s days are numbered?

MS. PSAKI: They are, Matt.

QUESTION: They are? Okay. Because it’s not in there. So are you just adding that on your own, or are you freelancing that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to repeat it or if you want to quote your quote, we can do that too.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the proposition for forming another government in exile by the Syrian opposition under (inaudible)? Are you aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: I am not aware of that, Said. I’d have to look a little more closely into that.

QUESTION: Just one more thing on what you said there talking about how the opposition had made significant progress despite facing disproportionate force. Would you agree that one of the reasons that the force that’s being used against them is disproportionate is because of countries like the United States have not provided any significant military equipment to them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think we would not agree. We would – our view, let me say, is that proxies of the regime, including Iran, including Hezbollah and others, have strengthened the regime. We’ve talked about that before. You’re familiar with the aid that we’ve provided --

QUESTION: Is that – Russia would be included there?

MS. PSAKI: Iran and Hezbollah as well; there are others who have provided assistance to the regime. You’re familiar with the aid we’ve provided and continue to provide. As I’ve said before, we’re not the only piece in the pie here. There are a number of countries in the region who have provided assistance and we’re continuing to work to strengthen the opposition on the ground.

QUESTION: To make up for the fact that they are – that the force – to try to re-proportion the amount of force that each side has? Is that what you were working --

MS. PSAKI: What I was referring to, Matt, in my state – in my comments there was the influx of foreign fighters we’ve talked about a great deal --

QUESTION: Right. You talked about Scuds, and did you talk about --

MS. PSAKI: -- and the progress I was referring to was the fact that they’ve elected leadership. They did not even exist as an entity two years ago.

QUESTION: Saudi National Security Advisor Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a friend of the United States, was here for like 30 years and so on, today vowed that they will change the balance on the ground. Is – meaning that they will send them more arms, perhaps more volunteers, and so on. Is he coordinating this separate with the United States of America?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on this specific announcement, Said, and I’d have to take a closer to look at his announcement. But as you know, the Secretary coordinates closely with members of the London 11 and other foreign ministers and he was just in Saudi Arabia, as you know, last month.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Change subject?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Secretary Kerry met with members of the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program today. Our Africa services would love for you to talk about how that went.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I’d be happy to. Secretary Kerry met with the 30 African Women Entrepreneurs in the United States as part of the African Women’s Entrepreneurship Program – AWEP, also known as – and shared how they are important as both drivers of their economies and as leaders who can inspire women in their countries.

The Secretary addressed the women in French and English, noting that he had read their bios and was impressed by the number of people they employed and the products they created. He encouraged them to continue to network and find new ways to build relationships, and the women thanked him for meeting with them, noting that it shows the U.S. is committed to empowering women and business ideas in Africa. And I was right outside of his office, and it sounded like they were having a good time.

QUESTION: About how many women were –

MS. PSAKI: I believe it was 20. Let me just double-check here.

QUESTION: What does that mean, it sounded like they were having a good time?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they were –

QUESTION: Was there music? (Laughter.) Like –

MS. PSAKI: They were having an enjoyable conversation and he enjoyed meeting them –

QUESTION: And you heard it through the door – a closed door?

MS. PSAKI: I have great ears.

QUESTION: Well, they weren’t yelling at each other, were they?

MS. PSAKI: A number of people who were in the meeting came out and conveyed –

QUESTION: I see.

MS. PSAKI: -- that to me. I believe – it was 30. It was 30 women.

QUESTION: Thirty? Thank you.

QUESTION: Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Has the State Department seen the lengthy statement issued by Mullah Omar of the Taliban, and what do you make of it?

MS. PSAKI: We have seen that statement. We are aware of Mullah Omar’s recent message to the Afghan people commenting on elections. As you know, the United States supports transparent, credible, and inclusive Afghan elections and has a strong interest in providing technical support to help achieve this outcome. We encourage all Afghans, men and women, to participate as candidates, voters, and elections administrators, observers to ensure their representation in these important democratic institutions.

QUESTION: He also gives a reference saying that the Taliban is winning the offensive Khalid bin Walid, their code name for the military action. Do you agree with his assessment of the ground situation there that the Taliban is winning the ground offensive there?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly would not. He also said in his message that the Taliban believe in reaching understanding with the Afghans regarding an Afghan-inclusive government. That’s obviously the goal we have long had.

QUESTION: And he also says about that Taliban would not allow the use of Afghan soil for any other country, like foreign countries. Is this a good, positive signal coming out of them?

MS. PSAKI: Can you say that one more time?

QUESTION: He also says that the Taliban would not allow the use – let the Afghanistan soil be used for – against any other country.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that has certainly been our view in the past, but again, I think our focus here is on encouraging steps toward the elections next year. We’re very supportive of those, and we hope all will participate.

QUESTION: And finally, he says that the Doha office was mainly for discussion about withdrawal of foreign forces. Was it the only issue being discussed during the Doha office talks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we’ve talked in the past about the purpose of that office, and – but the goal of the office was, of course, to play a role in the reconciliation process, and that was why – a very important factor leading up to it. And we all know the history.

QUESTION: And there was a related news item yesterday saying that U.S. and Pakistan are planning to shift this Doha office to some other country. Is this something you’re working on?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that report. I’m not aware of that, but I’m happy to check into it.

QUESTION: I’ve got two things that –

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- are briefly just to –

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- because I’ve been away for a couple days. So I’m sure that since Wednesday, since I left, there’s been some kind of an announcement about the next round of Israeli-Palestinian talks, which is supposed to happen – so when is that going to be and where?

MS. PSAKI: I – we have said that, of course, they would meet in the region, but we have not made an announcement about an exact date yet. I can tell you that the parties have agreed – they remain engaged in sustained, continuous, and substantive negotiations. They’ll be meeting soon, but beyond that, I don’t have a date to announce quite yet. And I’ll just reiterate, of course, that Ambassador Indyk is in regular and close contact with each of the parties and intends to meet with them soon in the region.

QUESTION: Sorry. They remain engaged in serious, substantive negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But they haven’t met again? How exactly are they doing that?

MS. PSAKI: The telephone is a wonderful tool.

QUESTION: Are they? They are actually speaking by phone in –

MS. PSAKI: He’s in – Ambassador Indyk is in regular and close contact.

QUESTION: No, no, no, no. I’m talking about the two sides.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything specific on that, but –

QUESTION: Has the – do – are you aware of any contact between the two sides since they went their separate ways from Washington last week?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on it for you, Matt.

QUESTION: It was exactly a week ago, correct?

MS. PSAKI: And at the time, we said that we were –

QUESTION: Within two weeks.

MS. PSAKI: -- planning to –

QUESTION: So –

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- one would think –

MS. PSAKI: Soon. I don’t have an announcement today, though, for you.

QUESTION: Okay. Does that two-week timeline – which now means one week from today, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I just want to make sure we’re right on the – that stands, correct?

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s the timeline the Secretary –

QUESTION: So there will be –

MS. PSAKI: -- laid out.

QUESTION: There will be a meeting between the Israelis and the Palestinians either in or – either in the PA or in Israel by next Tuesday? That is correct?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update for you –

QUESTION: Well, it hasn’t changed --

MS. PSAKI: -- but that is what –

QUESTION: What I’m trying to get at is –

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary’s announcement has not changed, and as we have an update on additional meetings, I’m happy to provide that.

QUESTION: Okay. And then this –

QUESTION: Could I just follow up on that issue?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: And I – just to follow up on my question yesterday, I mean, since Sunday, there has been a breathless announcement of expansion of settlements and so on. Has the Secretary taken a point of speaking to the Israeli officials that this is – may not be a good – in the good faith that he was hoping for to get the talks going?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our position and his position remains unchanged.

QUESTION: Yeah, but –

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any calls to read out for you in the last 24 hours.

QUESTION: Okay. So your position has not changed, although the dynamics have changed. Now we have talks ongoing, that did not engender any kind of sort of outrage, perhaps, of the expansion of settlements or the announcement – expansion of settlements, so – such a wide range of settlements, actually?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I know Marie talked about this yesterday –

QUESTION: Right, but –

MS. PSAKI: -- and I don’t think I have anything new for you on it.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: This was raised yesterday, but I want to see if it’s – your position remains the same. It’s on the verdict in these trials in Turkey. So when Marie was asked about it yesterday, she essentially said you don’t have any comment on it and you won’t until the appeals process is finished, but she also noted that I think it was many people in Turkey –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- have expressed concerns about it. So do you share those concerns that have been expressed by many Turkish people? I think that was the right word.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we believe it’s up to the Turkish people. I – you are right, that is what Marie pointed to yesterday. I don’t have anything new for all of you on it today.

QUESTION: Well, I understand, but she said: Many Turkish citizens have expressed serious concerns regarding the length – regarding the sentences – the trial. Does the United States – does the Administration share those concerns – serious concerns?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we think it’s for the Turkish people to decide, Matt. We do note the severity of the sentences, certainly. That is something the Turkish people –

QUESTION: You do note that?

MS. PSAKI: We do note that. That is something the Turkish – many Turkish people have expressed concern about. We’ve seen that. But as Marie mentioned yesterday, we’re not going to comment on the outcome until there’s an eventual appeal, which we understand is part of the process.

QUESTION: So once there is an appeal, you will have a comment; is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: We will – I will look forward to discussing it further.

QUESTION: All right. Can you explain to me why it is that you would mention the fact that many Turks have expressed serious concern – so serious – yeah, serious concerns about this if you did not agree with them?

MS. PSAKI: Because it’s relevant given that it’s something happening in Turkey. We’re talking about the Turkish people. We believe it’s for them to make an evaluation, but we’re going to see –

QUESTION: But you share concerns of –

MS. PSAKI: -- the process through.

QUESTION: -- many people in other countries often, like in Egypt for example, but you don’t share –

MS. PSAKI: We did not take sides in Egypt. We noted the millions of people who –

QUESTION: You said that –

MS. PSAKI: -- spoke out.

QUESTION: -- democracy was not just an election. But I just want to make sure that I understand in this case in Turkey that you’re not taking a position, that your position is not to take a position on the verdicts.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you today, and we’ll look forward to discussing it in the future.

QUESTION: Can I just – I’m sorry for interrupting. Can I just come back to the Israeli-Palestinian talks?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Israelis are saying the talks will be August 13th in Jerusalem. Should we not believe that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: As we mentioned before, there are some that Ambassador Indyk will be participating in and some that he will not. He’s looking forward to going to the region very soon, but I’ll check with our team and see if there’s more of an update.

QUESTION: So we shouldn’t think that he’s going to lead the talks that would be next week then?

MS. PSAKI: Again, it’s an easy flight over there, so I don’t have anything to update you on right now, but I’m happy to check with our team and check on those specific reports you mentioned.

Margaret.

QUESTION: Jen, any detail on this bomb scare at the Italian consulate and whether it was in any way related to the threat stream we’re concerned about elsewhere?

MS. PSAKI: I can tell you that following receipt of a bomb threat, the U.S. consulate in Milan was briefly evacuated while Italian authorities conducted further investigations, in accordance with standing protocols. The U.S. consulate has reopened and is operating normally. And we’re, of course, grateful for the prompt and professional response by Italian authorities. I’m not aware of any connection. I’m happy to – this has just happened, as you know, so if there’s any update on that I’m happy to provide that to all of you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: All right. One last one.

QUESTION: Can I go back to 2+2 with Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: When the Russian gave Mr. Snowden one year asylum, you said you guys have to reevaluate the necessity of the 2+2 talk. How did reevaluation go?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of issues that we work with Russia on. We seek cooperation in a range of those, and we are not – we have no – we don’t hesitate to speak frankly about the issues where we disagree. Certainly, Snowden and our desire to have him returned to the United States is one of those. But there are also a number of very important issues, including working together to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and working together on the transitive personnel and material to – from – to and from Afghanistan, missile defense, that we do agree on and we’ll continue to cooperate and discuss – have discussions on. But I expect, as I mentioned earlier, that there’ll be a range of topics addressed as part of the discussion on Friday.

QUESTION: Jen, if you and the Russians agree on missile defense, something rather strange has happened over the course of recent – very recently. You’ve --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we’ve worked together, as you know, on the implementation of the New START Treaty. There are --

QUESTION: START Treaty? No, you said missile defense. That’s not – that’s not an area of disagreement – I mean, agreement.

MS. PSAKI: There are issues we agree on and issues we disagree on, Matt. I’m sure they’ll both be part of the discussion.

Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:43 p.m.)

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DPB # 133

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - August 6, 2013]