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


Index for Today's Briefing
  • SYRIA
    • Discussions Ongoing at UN / P5 and P3 Meetings
    • UN Report on Chemical Weapons Attack on August 21
    • Timeline / Way Forward / Geneva 2
  • TURKEY/SYRIA
    • Downed Syrian Helicopter
  • BRAZIL
    • State Visit
  • INDIA/PAKISTAN
    • Ongoing Dialogue / Ibrahim Dawood
  • CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
    • Upsurge in Violence
  • BENGHAZI
    • HOGR Report / Accountability Review Board
  • INDIA
    • Sentencing of Perpetrators / U.S. Supports Efforts against Gender-Based Violence
  • BURMA
    • IAEA Access
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • UNGA / Netanyahu Visit to Washington
  • JAPAN/CHINA
    • Disputed Islands
  • SYRIA
    • Ongoing Discussions
  • EGYPT
    • Arrest of Muslim Brotherhood Spokesperson
  • MEXICO
    • Close and Important Relationship with Mexico / Vice President Biden Travel


TRANSCRIPT:

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

1:22 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Well, I don’t have anything at the top for all of you.

Deb.

QUESTION: The French and the U.S. are still trying to include a military option in the UN resolution, and Russia is still insisting that there not be any kind of use of force in that resolution. So how is that standoff going to be resolved, and is it affecting the relationship between the U.S. and Russia on dismantling the chemical weapons?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, let me first give everybody just a little bit of a sense of what’s happening today, because I know there have been differing reports. Today, the P5 members of the UN Security Council will meet to discuss the joint P3 draft Security Council resolution on Syria’s chemical weapons program. Obviously, those discussions and negotiations are ongoing, so we aren’t going to read those out or predict in advance.

In addition, as you all know, Secretary Kerry, as you referenced, held high-level discussions yesterday with members of the P3, and the Turks also came, of course. And I can also tell you that a group of our technical experts from the U.S., Russia, and Europe are already in The Hague with the OPCW to discuss the international inspection mission.

Clearly, discussions about the next steps and what a resolution would look like, what it would entail are ongoing at the UN. You know that we have been clear that we want this to be – obviously want the strongest possible obligations and enforcement mechanisms included in the text, but those negotiations are – that text is still being negotiated. Clearly, the events and the agreement from this past weekend was a significant step forward. Just a week ago, the Syrians were not even admitting they had chemical weapons, the Russians were not showing a real indication that they wanted to participate or be helpful in this process. And we’re in a different place. But we’re continuing to work on this every day, and they’ll be meeting – the P5 will be meeting in New York later this afternoon.

QUESTION: Why does it have to be included in that resolution if Obama has the ability to do this on his own?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s important to note that the President reserves, of course, the right to do this on his own and has made clear that if – that he keeps that option open, as the Secretary has over the past couple of days as well. Clearly, there is a strong signal or a strong message and also a strong – can be a strong binding commitment when there is a UN resolution. That’s why we have pushed for it so strongly in the past. But you are right; the U.S. reserves the right to take military action. Clearly, diplomacy is the preferred option. That’s why we just spent several days in Geneva. But we are working with our P5 counterparts to encourage or push this to be as strong as possible. I just don’t want to predict what the end result will be.

QUESTION: But Lavrov – one thing that you’ve been wanting to get into this resolution is kind of blaming the regime for this August 21st attack --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- acknowledging that they are responsible. And Foreign Minister Lavrov said that that’s a nonstarter. So how do you square this whole idea that the Russians are willing to help dismantle the chemical program but not acknowledge that the regime was responsible, and is that – I don’t want to use the word “redline,” but is that a critical point –

MS. PSAKI: It’s used so much.

QUESTION: -- a critical point for you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first I’ll say that I’ve seen – we’ve seen, of course, Foreign Minister Lavrov’s comments. He’s swimming against the tide of international public opinion, but more importantly, the facts. We know that there was not a mandate for the UN to place blame, but let me go through a few reasons why we feel that the additional information does indicate the chemical weapons were used by the regime.

Of course, the report, as we spoke to yesterday, confirms unequivocally that chemical weapons, including the nerve agent sarin, were used in Syria. We all know that. But based on our preliminary review of information contained in the report, several crucial details confirm the Assad regime’s guilt in carrying out this attack. The United States has associated one of the munitions identified in the UN report, 122-milimeter improvised rockets, with previous Assad regime attacks over the course of the current conflict in Syria. We have no indications that the opposition has manufactured or used this style of rocket.

Equally significant, the environmental, chemical, and medical samples that the UN investigators collected provide clear and compelling evidence that the surface-to-surface rockets used in the attack contained the nerve agent sarin. We know the regime possesses sarin. We have no evidence, however, that the opposition possesses sarin.

We will continue to press this argument publicly and privately in terms of the – not only the clear confirmation we saw yesterday of the use, but that the regime is behind it. And those discussions will be ongoing, and I’m certain they will be a part of what the P-5 talks about today as well.

QUESTION: How do you explain this doubt from the Russian part?

MS. PSAKI: I certainly wouldn’t venture to explain it, but what we – what came from yesterday was even more specifics, even more – even more backup from that report that indicates that the regime was behind the attack.

QUESTION: Did the Russians provide any evidence that the opposition used the chemical weapons?

MS. PSAKI: I’m certainly not going to get into specifics back and forth, but I just outlined for you what information was provided in the UN report that was very public that indicated to us through our own analysis that the regime used the report. I’m not aware of any public information or any information that indicates the opposition.

QUESTION: Because they keep rejecting and not accepting the evidence that the U.S. made and now the UN is providing. I mean, do they have an evidence on their own?

MS. PSAKI: I would certainly point you to ask them that question.

QUESTION: On the issue of the resolution –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the UN resolution, you said that you want the strongest possible language. Okay. Do you want to say that it should – the word “should” as in the paragraph or it will use the --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to negotiate that with you here. That is what our friends and partners are doing at the UN this afternoon.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: What I would like to remind everyone of is the language that was in the framework. I know you’ve all seen some of this, but there was some rumor or some claim that there wasn’t a reference to Chapter 7, and there certainly was. It said that the, “UN Security Council resolution should provide for review on a regular basis the implementation in Syria of the decision of the Executive Council of the OPCW, and in the event of noncompliance, including unauthorized transfer or any use of chemical weapons by anyone in Syria, the UN Security Council should impose measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter.”

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: This discussion and this debate is ongoing. You know where we stand as the United States, but obviously, we’re working with our P5 partners, as is a important and natural part of the process.

QUESTION: Okay. I understand, but if you’ll allow me, Michele. I understand, because Mr. Lavrov came out yesterday and basically disputed that argument. He said this does not clearly call for the use of force if they are noncompliant.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a number of consequences under Section 7. I don’t want to predict or get ahead of discussions that will happen at the UN, and I’m sure they will release the text and make an announcement as those discussions continue.

QUESTION: Okay. And you can --

QUESTION: The French text --

QUESTION: And you can make, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that now it is 100 percent certain that it was the regime that used these rockets and fired these --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we’ve had little doubt in this – throughout this process for all the reasons I outlined.

QUESTION: So the French introduced this text last week. This is before the agreement between U.S. and Russia. Is that – is there a new text that’s being worked upon, or is it in the kind of drafting stages, or is that old text forming the basis for an updated text?

MS. PSAKI: Well, part of the discussion yesterday that the Secretary had with his P3 partners was about the text and their views on that and how to move this forward. And obviously, that conversation is continuing today up in New York. I don’t remember viewing myself the last version of the text, so I can’t tell you the comparison. But obviously, we have from the beginning been working closely with them on the text and that’s continuing.

QUESTION: Jen, you need a Chapter 7 resolution to be voted on in the Security Council; that’s true?

MS. PSAKI: Do we need a Chapter 7 resolution?

QUESTION: Yeah. You’re working on a Chapter 7 resolution --

MS. PSAKI: There has been no announcement for the UN on what form – from the United Nations on what form a resolution would take. Obviously, there are a range of options and you know what we’re pressing for.

QUESTION: And --

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: But Minister Lavrov has said that there is no Chapter 7 resolution in the Security Council.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I just read out from the framework that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov agreed to. That, of course, forms the basis of the discussions that are happening at the UN as well as efforts that have been underway working with our P3 partners to develop text. So I don’t want to predict what will come out of discussion and debate in the days ahead.

QUESTION: But are you still on the same page with the Russians regarding this resolution or not?

MS. PSAKI: We are. I just read out for you what the text said, and we’re working with our UN partners on the – on a final text for – of the framework, I should say, and we’re working with our UN partners on text of any resolution.

QUESTION: Madam --

QUESTION: Jennifer, should in the framework --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- would mean for you that it should trigger automatically military action or should trigger another meeting of the Security Council to take another resolution under Chapter 7?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, that – I read out what the framework said specifically, what the framework that’s been agreed to. That’s part of the discussion that’s happening at the UN this afternoon and I expect in the days ahead. We want the strongest possible obligations and enforcement mechanisms included in any resolution, but of course, that discussion will happen through our UN partners up in New York.

QUESTION: So that’s the difference between your interpretation and the Russians’?

MS. PSAKI: No --

QUESTION: You want it to automatically trigger military action?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not predicting what the UN resolution will say. I think it’s very clear what the framework says, but the discussion --

QUESTION: No, I’m asking what you want it to say.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to predict for you what the UN discussion will be or will – what will come out of it. That’s something that’s happening in New York.

QUESTION: Yes, but you are working towards a resolution that would automatically, on a report from the --

MS. PSAKI: Well, when I say we would want --

QUESTION: -- OPCW, trigger automatically --

MS. PSAKI: -- the strongest possible – let me finish. When we want the strongest possible obligations and enforcement mechanisms, that’s obviously what we are pressing toward. But we are working with several partners, so what I’m conveying to you is that I can’t predict for you what the text that will come out of the discussion between the P3 – between the P5 partners will be.

QUESTION: No, I’m asking what you want from it, not what’s going to come out.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more. I think I’ve addressed your question.

QUESTION: So the word “obligation” does not mean it triggers an automatic response?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to get ahead of where the UN is and the discussion is. We obviously want this to be as strong as possible.

QUESTION: Okay, just a quick follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Since the agreement was signed on Saturday, there has been reports of some movement of chemical weapons. Are you sure that those movements are consistent with the agreement signed?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look at those reports, Said. I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

QUESTION: Okay. And on Syria, I’d just wanted to follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There was an interview with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- with a major news network. And he said that, actually, the departure of Assad may not be a good thing, that it will actually usher in a period of chaos and fighting and all that. Do you concur with the former Secretary of State?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s had a tremendous career and is incredibly well-respected --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- but our position hasn’t changed that we don’t see a future for Assad in – a future in Syria with – that includes Assad. And that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: No, but certainly, he’s someone that knows Syria, considering that he was the last person to ever negotiate an agreement --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- with Syria. So do you take what he says as in the context in which it was seen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d have to take a closer look at his interview. Obviously, you know, I’m sure, that the Secretary and former Secretary have had a close working relationship for a number of years and they’ve met on a regular basis and are in regular contact. But our position hasn’t changed on Assad.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, though, but --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: But I just can’t understand how that is – I mean, I understand that you want that to happen, but this agreement pretty much gives Assad job security, don’t you agree?

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: I mean, he is the one that is being tasked with implementing this agreement, so until the agreement is implemented, I mean, he’s the person that will be implementing it.

MS. PSAKI: No, I don’t agree. Our view and how we have – would press this and what we’ve discussed with our partners is that any individual, any government that is in place, whether that’s a transitional government, whatever it may be, would be in charge of implementing this. And that is the part – the body that would work through this.

QUESTION: Madam, as far as this UN report is concerned --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- as far as this – they were in Syria, what does it mean, this report, and how this report will impact? It will hurt or help, as far as the agreement between Russia and U.S. and whatever is going on to bring those weapons and all – so forth? And at the same time, you’re saying that Assad has no future. So is Assad getting this message from the UN report? And from Russia and U.S. special --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, every single data point in this report – the types of munitions and launchers used, their origins, their trajectory, their markings, and the confirmation of sarin – every single bit confirms what we already knew. And that’s what we’re bringing to the attention of Congress – the Secretary will be there doing a closed door briefing this afternoon – the American people, and, of course, the world. As you know, the Secretary’s been doing consultations for the last several days.

We feel it strengthens the argument that this – that certainly not only was – were chemical weapons used, but they were used by the regime. And it’s important that we take steps to eliminate chemical weapons and hold them accountable.

QUESTION: And finally, is that views or minds have changed – the Russian or Chinese, as far as after this report? Because they’ve been waiting, I think, for the UN report to come out.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t speak on behalf of either of them. Obviously, it makes a very strong case and confirms what we already know. And I can assure you that in conversations with any of his counterparts that may not support exactly our position, that the Secretary will be making those points and he’ll be making them publicly.

And as you can see from the commentary from the international community yesterday, there is strong backup and strong coalescing behind the idea that this was done, this was significant, and this was done by the Assad regime.

QUESTION: Jen.

QUESTION: And finally, in the coming days, world leaders are going to get together at the United Nations --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and we don’t know if Assad is going to be there or not. What I’m asking you is that if tomorrow Assad decides to step down --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- anything will change?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s obviously part of our goal, so we would certainly welcome that.

QUESTION: Jen, Jen --

QUESTION: Talking about the – what he mentioned about the United Nations --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- it will be a very interesting week because maybe we will have the General Assembly and, at the same time, we will have the Security Council meeting on the sidelines, right? What is the timetable of all this? This is something that we don’t understand, because we thought there was going to be one week --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- on the timeline in the agreement. And where we are now, if you can give us a little bit of timeline?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me try to tick through some of the time pieces, full well knowing that diplomacy is happening before your eyes here, so some of this is – may change.

As you know, the Secretary was in – meeting in Paris with the P3 yesterday. I mentioned the meetings of UN counterparts and some at the working level, to be clear, this morning with the P3 and with the P5. And I also mentioned the fact that U.S., Russian, and Europeans are already supplying experts to The Hague to begin consultations on the international inspection mission; that’s happening now.

The timeline for Syria to submit their information we provided was, of course, a week’s time. The OPCW will review that --

QUESTION: That might take – that keeps the – exactly. We’re still in that framework, in that time – one week? The time is running? This is the question.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. The time is running in that we have given them a week, approximately, to provide the requested information.

QUESTION: Started when? The week starts when? The resolution.

MS. PSAKI: Well, this was – this announcement was made last Saturday, so roughly that time period is a week.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MS. PSAKI: Okay? Let’s see. As we continue with the timeline, we have made clear that in October international inspections of Syria’s declared sites would begin. International inspections of Syria’s declared sites should begin to be completed by the end of October, November. And our timeline for the elimination of all CW materiel and equipment is by June 30th of 2014. So that’s overall the timeline that we’re looking at here.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: And at the – one more thing – at the same time, the UN Security Council is considering and working through the process of developing a resolution, and that process is a parallel process that will be ongoing.

QUESTION: Jen, why do you think the Russians are working on disarming the Syrian regime from the chemical weapons if they are convinced that the regime didn’t use these weapons?

MS. PSAKI: Say that one more time. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Why the Russians are working on disarming the Syrian regime from the chemical weapons, since they are convinced that the regime didn’t use the chemical weapons?

MS. PSAKI: That is a good question. I suggest you point to your Russian friends.

QUESTION: But you’re talking to them and you have a deal with them and you agreed on disarming the Syrian regime. You didn’t have any --

MS. PSAKI: To eliminate chemical weapons in Syria --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- so that obviously is the shared goal that we have. Beyond that, I think I spoke to the question of where we believe – who we believe used the chemical weapons, and the backup and proof we saw in the report for that.

QUESTION: Do you anticipate – because it does seem that you’re going to – the UNGA meeting is going to coincide with the negotiations over a resolution, do you see at some point the foreign ministers of the Security Council kind of taking this up in a meeting on Syria? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the schedule is still being planned. There’s no question this is a top priority not only for the Secretary, but all of the foreign ministers of the Security Council. There’s not a meeting like that that I’m aware of at this point, but we’re still planning the schedule. And clearly, as actions warrant it, I’m sure additional meetings will be considered.

QUESTION: Okay. But the Lavrov-Kerry meeting is taking place on the 28th, correct?

MS. PSAKI: That, I believe, is the plan. Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: I believe with Brahimi.

QUESTION: And with Brahimi. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Which is important because, as you know, they met over the last several days when they were in Geneva, and part of this effort is to move towards that – a political solution to talk about plans for a Geneva conference and bringing both sides to the table as well.

QUESTION: So do you see this as an opportunity for Brahimi to actually have a role again after his role was sort of put way back on the back burner?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the fact that the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov both met with him, and they had a meeting together, makes clear that he certainly has an important role to play.

QUESTION: So this could actually work as a prelude for a much grander agreement regarding Geneva 2, could it?

MS. PSAKI: That is what they’ll be discussing, I expect, on the 28th when they meet.

QUESTION: Jen, is the framework indicating anything about the detail of demolition of this stockpile? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: The detail or – the timeline or the detail?

QUESTION: No, detail. OPCW will take care of it --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- as I understand, but will U.S. take a role in this process, play a role on this demolition process?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the U.S. doesn’t have a plan to take chemical weapons, per se, but obviously, the U.S. will be engaged, and I’m certain will be discussing resources needed as well.

QUESTION: Because the head of OPCW gave an interview to Hurriyet --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- this Monday, and he said it seems very optimistic to guess about the one-year timeline for the demolition of this stockpile --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- while, especially, there is an ongoing civil war in Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it realistic to think that the – within a year, all this stockpile will be destroyed?

MS. PSAKI: We wouldn’t be agreeing to timelines if we didn’t think they were achievable, but the other component of this is one you just referenced, which is there is an ongoing civil war here, there is great concern about these chemical weapons remaining in Syria given the events of August 21st. And so we felt it was important to exert pressure, put in place an ambitious timeline that we can all work toward, but we wouldn’t have this timeline if we didn’t think it was achievable.

QUESTION: But Russians will be on the field during this process, right? They’re – I mean, the Russians’ expert who will work on this demolition process?

MS. PSAKI: The Russians – we will all be engaged in the process, but you’re right, the OPCW as a governing body will certainly be leading the process, and of course, we’re working, as you know, towards a resolution with the UN that addresses this as well.

QUESTION: Because the director said that since the Russians will be there, probably Americans will be on the field too. They are expecting and request (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: This is all what we’re working through now, and I’m certain will be a part of the discussion when the experts meet, as I mentioned, in the coming weeks.

QUESTION: And the last one.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Will you have a direct talk with the Syrian regime in this process, or before this? For example, next week, there will be a General Assembly in UN. Will you have any direct talk with the regime?

MS. PSAKI: There are no meetings scheduled or planned. We, of course, have been working – the Russians have been working on behalf of the Syrian regime. You’ve seen some of the public comments the Syrian regime has made. But there’s no question that implementation is a pivotal part of this, and the international community should be and will be, and the Secretary will be pressing that they continue to be pressing the Syrian regime to deliver. But in terms of direct meetings or anything along those lines, there’s no plans.

QUESTION: And last one, technical one?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The President Assad can come to U.S. to join the General Assembly technically?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any plans for him to.

QUESTION: But technically, I mean, is it – he’s allowed to come?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s always a visa application process that would need to take place, and we of course abide by our obligations as a host country. There are restrictions that can be put in place for any individual who applies, but it’s a hypothetical at this point.

QUESTION: The clock that started --

QUESTION: Just a --

QUESTION: The clock that started running on Saturday the 14th --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and runs out presumably on the 21st, what is it exactly? What do the Syrians have to do during that time?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that is when the Syrian regime will be delivering on their kind of reports of the content, the locations of their chemical weapons stockpile.

QUESTION: Okay. So they have to submit a list – complete list – of locations, content, quantities, types, and all these things?

MS. PSAKI: There are some specific OPCW requirements. I don’t have them in front of me. I’m sure we can provide them to anyone who’s interested.

QUESTION: Jen, yesterday Marie was clear that the U.S. is working on a Chapter 7 resolution, and that has multiple consequences, and one of them, the military option. Today, you’re not clear, or very clear, that the U.S. wants a Chapter 7 resolution from the Security Council. Why?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I read Marie’s briefing. I don’t think that’s an accurate reading of it.

QUESTION: That’s what we understood.

MS. PSAKI: But let me just repeat, what I’m conveying is, of course, we want as strong of obligations, as strong requirements as possible. This is being litigated through our partners at the Security Council. There isn’t a difference in what we’ve said, so you shouldn’t read it as a difference of opinion or a difference in view from yesterday.

QUESTION: How can a resolution be strong if it’s not under Chapter 7 resolution?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re still discussing it. Obviously, we’ve made quite a bit of progress. We’re continuing to discuss it with the UN, and we’ll talk about it when they come out with a draft text.

QUESTION: Can I change --

QUESTION: Just couple more questions on Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: What will be the consequences if the Syrian regime would not submit the locations and the necessary information about their chemical weapons this week?

MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly, that would be a part of – violating the agreement and the framework. We certainly don’t anticipate that. They’ve indicated publicly they would, and the international community expects they will. But in the event of noncompliance, certainly the framework includes language that the UN Security Council should impose measures under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. There’s a range of options that are included in there, but I’m not going to get ahead of something that hasn’t yet happened.

QUESTION: So there’s no military strike on the table if they are not abiding by the rules by the weekend?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just outlined what our options are.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But remember the United States has our own set of options. Of course, diplomacy is our preferred path. That’s why we spent several days in Geneva. But the President, of course, retains his ability to act militarily.

QUESTION: So in this chemical deal, obviously, international community relies on the Assad regime, at least the – meet 2014 when they are supposedly overturning the whole chemical weapon issue. Would you consider supporting the Assad regime staying in power till then, since we basically need the regime in power?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think this is similar to the question that Elise asked earlier, which – you may not have been here before.

QUESTION: I wasn’t. Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: So I’ll repeat it. This would be – we – our position has not changed, that there’s no place in a future Syria for President Assad. He’s brutalized his people. More than 100,000 men, women, and children have died while he’s been president of the country. There is, of course, a goal we have in place, to put in place a transitional governing body. The Secretary, Foreign Minister Lavrov, Special – UN Special Representative Brahimi have been talking about a Geneva conference. They’ll be meeting about it again in October. If a transitional governing body is put in place, they would be implementing this. The goal here is to eliminate all chemical weapons from Syria. That’s what we’re working towards.

QUESTION: Yesterday, you were asked – or this podium was asked about the Turkey shooting down helicopters --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- (inaudible). You did not have an update about that. Do you have any reaction to that incident?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We, of course, are following the issue closely and we remain in close contact with our Turkish counterparts regarding the incident. As you know, Turkey is a friend and NATO ally, and we are committed to Turkey’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We note that the Turkish Government has been fully transparent about the rules of engagement it is operating under since the Syrian Government shot down a Turkish aircraft last year, and said its forces only fired after the Syrian military aircraft violated Turkish airspace and ignored repeated warnings from the Turkish authorities.

QUESTION: On reports on – across Syria, it looks like the regime strikes are increasing, have been increasing. Over 1,000 people have been killed since the deal first announced. So looking at the picture, would you consider still having this deal on the table? Is it helpful for the situation on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: Well, remember that one of our goals from the beginning that the Secretary has been speaking with Foreign Minister Lavrov about since his trip to Moscow earlier this spring, since President Putin and President Obama talked about last year, is to eliminate chemical weapons, take that tool off the battlefield. So we certainly see this as a beneficial framework and as a basis for moving forward, and wasn’t something that looked possible even just a week ago. At the same time, we are continuing – we have been in continuous contact with Syrian opposition leaders and have been updating them not only on the process but continuing to support them politically and support the military opposition as well. So that hasn’t changed.

One just update I want to give for all of you, too, is that Ambassador Ford spoke today with SOC President Jarba about our efforts to rid Syrian – this – Syria of chemical weapons, such as those used to kill so many civilians on August 21st, and about how to use the Geneva 2 process to move Syria towards a transitional governing body. He also spoke yesterday with SOC Secretary General – with the SOC Secretary General. They discussed next steps on the framework reached in Geneva and the SOC election of Prime Minister Tumeh. Ambassador Ford said the United States welcomes the election of the Prime Minister and that we support the temporary government’s goal of helping the Syrian people on the ground in liberated areas.

And finally, today in Istanbul, the SOC is working to develop a comprehensive transition plan that includes preservation of state institutions and guarantees for all citizens following the end of the Assad regime. And that’s important to note – I know that was quite a few updates – but because we are working – continuing to work on a process of ending the civil war and ending the bloodshed that has been – that has impacted, greatly impacted the Syrian people for two years now. And that’s a conversation that’s ongoing, but there’s no question that moving toward a path of eliminating chemical weapons is a positive step forward for Syria.

QUESTION: Jen, on one point that you just mentioned, the liberated areas – now, all intelligence reports point that these liberated areas are by and large governed by Jabhat al-Nusrah and Ahrar al-Sham, who are al-Qaida affiliates. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those reports. As you know, we actually do feel that a great percentage of the opposition are moderates that we’re working with, and clearly, the Prime Minister and the Secretary General and President Jarba are all individuals working to help the innocent men, women, and children of Syria who have been impacted.

QUESTION: Change of topic? On Turkey --

MS. PSAKI: Change topic? Go ahead, Lesley.

QUESTION: On --

MS. PSAKI: Or do we have any more on Syria?

QUESTION: On Turkey, actually, related to this helicopter incident.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Foreign Minister – Turkish foreign minister just telled that this – it was a violation of NATO border, too, at the same time. So in case of another incident like that, will you take any other additional measure in terms of NATO allies?

MS. PSAKI: Well, NATO is, of course, committed to the security of all allies, but otherwise, I’d refer you to the Government of Turkey for more information on their plans moving forward.

QUESTION: Jen, can I – sorry, can I just do one more on Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just wanted to go back really quickly to what you were saying about Foreign Minister Lavrov swimming against the tide of international public opinion.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What’s your basis for making that statement?

MS. PSAKI: My basis is that there was a – an extensive UN report that made clear that chemical weapons were used, and I outlined through our own analysis reasons why we feel it pointed to the Syrian regime. I point you to the fact that countless countries have come out and said – been clear that they believe the Assad regime is behind this. But clearly, the UN report that came out yesterday, the analysis that I went through at the top to – in our view, is clear evidence that the regime was behind this.

QUESTION: But wouldn’t – I mean, your statement was referring to Secretary – or Foreign Minister Lavrov’s statements against the – preserving the U.S. use of force in the event of noncompliance, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the answer I was giving was in response to a point made that he was saying that the opposition was behind the use of chemical weapons.

QUESTION: Ah. Okay. But – so you didn’t have any kind of international public opinion polls or anything like that when you say global public opinion? You were talking about --

MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t referring to any global public opinion polls. I can assure you of that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: More to the fact that the response from the international community to the report yesterday, the specifics that were in there, detail and clearly point to not only the use but the use by the Assad regime.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: The Brazilian President has cancelled – postponed her – well, it says “canceled” – her state visit to Washington --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- over the U.S. spying reports. The White House has confirmed it --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and said it’s going to work through diplomatic channels to try to fix it. Do you see this issue causing any tensions between the two countries? For how long? And what efforts are being made to reschedule that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to the White House for the vast majority of comment on this, given this is – this was a state visit. I know they, I believe, released a comment as well as in addition to that. Of course, we have a long relationship with Brazil. We work through many channels. The Secretary was just there. But beyond that, I don’t have any real update since it just happened.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Has this ever happened before?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I’d have to look at the history. I don’t have any historical analysis.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: New subject?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s – are there any more on this subject? Okay, new subject.

QUESTION: India. India-Pakistan.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: In the upcoming days, of course, India and Pakistan will be also at the United Nations General Assembly meetings, including Indian Prime Minister and Pakistani Prime Minister.

My question is that – what India is saying, that before India and Pakistan can have peace talks, Pakistan should deliver Ibrahim Dawood, who is running a – terrorist activities from the Pakistani soil against India, terrorism and also murders, and he’s wanted by the Indian Government. And now, recently, the Home Minister of India, Mr. Shinde, also made a request to the U.S. to help to bring him to justice in India.

So where do we stand? Is the U.S. helping India? Because both countries are cooperating on terrorism and on many issues, but this is the main issue, as long as he is using the Pakistani soil against India, and that is also going to against other countries, including the U.S.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Goyal, I’d have to look into that a little more closely for you. Obviously, we always feel that dialogue between India and Pakistan is important for continuing the relationship between the two countries.

Scott?

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the fighting in Central African Republic --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and the dissolution of the Seleka rebel group that took power there?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

The United States is gravely concerned about the recent upsurge in violence in the northwestern part of the Central African Republic that has resulted in the death of civilians, including two humanitarian actors; the destruction of homes and places of worship; and the displacement of over 21,000 people internally and as refugees into Chad. We call on all actors, particularly those who belong to the now disbanded Seleka rebel alliance, to refrain from attacks on civilians, and call on the interim government in Bangui to establish security throughout the Central African Republic.

We also welcome the decree issued by the Central African Republic Government that dissolved the Seleka rebel alliance, and the conviction by a Bangui court of 16 members of Seleka for pillaging. However, we remain concerned about continuing violations of international humanitarian law and reports of widespread human rights abuses by these rebels. All perpetrators of these crimes must be held accountable.

QUESTION: On Japan and China?

QUESTION: Over to Benghazi real quick?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, what is the State Department response to the Oversight Committee’s criticism of the ARB report that’s going to be released?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have seen reports of a report released by Chairman Issa in advance of his hearing on Thursday. For many months, the House Oversight Committee and Chairman Issa have been criticizing the work of the Accountability Review Board, so we are pleased that Ambassador Pickering and Admiral Mullen will have the opportunity on Thursday to directly answer Chairman Issa’s questions regarding the Accountability Review Board’s procedures, findings, and recommendations.

As you know, we’ve cooperated extensively with Congress, extensively with the House Oversight Committee, we’ve made available 12 State Department officials who sat for lengthy transcribed interviews with the committee, participated in more than 50 briefings and nine congressional hearings, and given the Congress access to more than 25,000 pages of documents.

QUESTION: I’m not sure the criticism was just with the ARB. I think it was the person responsible for choosing the members of the ARB, and that’s Under Secretary Kennedy. And I had a question: Was his decision to maintain a substandard mission and send home a 16-man security team, did he get those orders from Under Secretary Nides – or Deputy Nides, or Mrs. Clinton?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to discuss internal deliberations, as you know, from the podium. But it is important to note that Under Secretary Kennedy was thoroughly interviewed by the ARB, testified before two Congressional hearings, provided more than 20 briefings to members and staff. As he testified under oath, he was not involved in the day-to-day decision-making on security in Benghazi.

QUESTION: So who was?

QUESTION: Jen, one more quick --

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to discuss internal deliberations.

QUESTION: -- on Benghazi?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the report that suggests that the consulate in Benghazi was, in fact, a CIA center, a clearinghouse for gathering espionage and disseminating information and so on?

MS. PSAKI: I do not.

QUESTION: One more quickly on India?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: As Secretary must be aware of this, for the first time ever in the Indian history that those gang-rapers were put to death order – Supreme Court --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: My question is also – I was upstairs and when Secretary honored those who were victims of rapes and other things. My question is: Is the Secretary aware of this, and if U.S. has played any role in this helping India?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t say – we of course are heartened to see that the Indian justice system has spoken and the perpetrators of these heinous attacks have been convicted and sentenced in a court of law. Like so many people around the world and in India, we were saddened by this horrific act of violence yet moved by civil society’s response. As you know and you’ve referenced, Secretary Kerry honored Nirbhaya at the International Women of Courage Awards this spring, citing her bravery and fight for justice.

QUESTION: And don’t you think the time has come, and many people in India and many countries are calling now, especially women, that this issue – not this particular issue, but the rapes issue should be brought to the UN attention and should be international law against – rapes against women?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly support – the United States certainly supports comprehensive efforts to strengthen India’s and the world’s ability to address and prevent gender-based violence and assist survivors of crime and their families.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Change topic --

MS. PSAKI: Deb.

QUESTION: Hi, a quick one on Burma.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to Burma having agreed to take steps to let the IAEA greater access to its nuclear facilities? And is this going to help allay concerns that Burma’s working with North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Let me touch base with our team right after the briefing. I’m happy to take the question and get it around and answer – around to all of you.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, on --

QUESTION: Palestinian-Israeli talks?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are there any plans to meet with the Prime Minister of Israel and the President of the Palestinian Authority next week on the periphery of the – of UNGA?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are still working through the schedule. As you know, the Secretary met with the Prime Minister for several hours just two days ago, but I don’t have any meetings at this point to announce.

QUESTION: But it’s announced that the 30th of September, Netanyahu will come to Washington this --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- just in this moment?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, that’s right. I believe that it was announced that he’ll be – he’ll have a meeting at the White House.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Jen, on Japan and China.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s a report by Kyodo of Japan that says that last week, when Deputy Secretary William Burns was meeting with Japan’s new Komeito party chief Natsuo Yamaguchi, that Deputy Secretary Burns reiterated, and I’m quoting here, a “reaffirmed U.S. backing with Japan in its dispute with China over the Japan-administrated” Diaoyu Islands, do you have – can you confirm such exchange taking place? And can you clarify the U.S. position on the Diaoyu Islands?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I promise you there is no clarification needed. Our policy is longstanding and has not changed. We don’t take a position on the ultimate question of sovereignty, and I’m certain that that was the message that was conveyed privately as well as publicly, as I’m doing now.

QUESTION: Jen, can we go back to your statement on Foreign Minister Lavrov?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: If you said that he swims against the tide, how do you trust him to fulfill the agreement that you signed on last week?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there is shared agreement and shared belief that we need to not only move toward a process of eliminating chemical weapons, but of bringing an end to the civil war in Syria. And that is a conversation that has been ongoing between Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov. We don’t agree on everything. You referenced one of the pieces where we don’t agree, but we do agree on those two principles. We worked hard to come to an agreement on a framework, and, as you saw Foreign Minister Lavrov do this weekend, he is committed to seeing this through and to pressing the Syrian regime to deliver on their promises.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There were reports today that some of the chemical weapons had been moved to Lebanon or other countries. Do you have any information to confirm or deny?

MS. PSAKI: I have no confirmation of those reports.

QUESTION: So you have no heard anything about this? Or you just don’t find the reports credible?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve read the reports. I don’t have any confirmation of them.

Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you --

MS. PSAKI: Should we finish up here with Nicolas, or anyone else?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: A quick one on Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the arrests of the Muslim Brotherhood spokesman and do you still hope for the release of political figures in Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, as we have consistently said, we are opposed to all politicized arrests, of course, including this one and detention, and remain focused on encouraging the interim government to move forward on an inclusive process that brings representatives from all sides into the process.

I would also reiterate that the Egyptian Government has a responsibility to protect all Egyptians and create an atmosphere that supports a process of political transition that is inclusive and has maximum participation from the Egyptian people. So our position has been consistently the same.

QUESTION: Just – can I follow up?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Because it seems that there is no communication or channels of communication between the two sides, simply because I’m trying differently – the Government of Egypt has its own spokespeople – spokesperson, and this government spokesperson they talk whatever – I’m trying to figure out how it is – how is the perception that this cases of arrest is not – it’s politicized. Meanwhile, Egypt Government saying that these things are like legal cases, or there is a case of legal – I mean, it’s like based on legal factors or whatever. So – and we in between, we are confused. I mean, are you not talking to each other or talking and not understand? Or you don’t accept their – or their explanation, I mean – the Egyptian Government explanation of what’s going on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can assure you that the same message we’re conveying publicly is being conveyed privately, and we certainly remain in touch as we have been for months with many representatives in all parties from Egypt.

QUESTION: Is that a good practice to convey the same message publicly that you convey privately? I’m just trying to understand --

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) Well, Said, there are many more things we may add privately that I don’t read out for all of you. But in terms of these specific points, that is a message we convey privately.

QUESTION: Can I conclude with a question of Mexico?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Vice President is going to Mexico and Panama.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It seems that there were a lot of trips from the U.S. to Mexico – Obama have been there two times, the Vice President, I think this is the second time. Roberta Jacobson also is going to Mexico. But at the same time, when there are problems in the world, it seems that Mexico is very quiet. For example, in Syria they didn’t speak much. They said they would wait for the United Nations to have a report --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- although I know that the Secretary called Meade, the Foreign Secretary of Mexico. Is there – you’re thinking that Mexico is a real ally in this – in all the international world problems only as a neighbor? That’s the --

MS. PSAKI: We certainly have a close and important relationship with Mexico, otherwise the Vice President wouldn’t be going there. And I would also add to your list, since we are in the State Department, the fact that the Secretary went to Colombia and Brazil just a few weeks ago as well. It just emphasizes the importance of the Western Hemisphere and the broad number of issues that we work with range of countries.

QUESTION: Because I did this question last week, and I said that when all this Syria situation came and we were counting which were all the allies speaking for the U.S., and we are counting 10, 11, 12, we didn’t see any Latin America. And that – although we see a lot of trips and movement between the U.S. and some important Latin American countries, that’s why I was asking.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we work with a range of Latin American countries on a number of important global issues. And for the Vice President’s agenda, I would certainly point you to them for answers on that.

Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:09 p.m.)

DPB # 155

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