Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 16, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Earthquake in the Philippines
    • Attack on Dutch Diplomat in Moscow
    • Cancellation of International Oceans Conference
  • IRAN
    • P5+1 Talks in Geneva / Meeting Scheduled for November 7-8 / Sanctions / Briefing Congress / Delegation Members / Technical Work and Discussion / Proposals
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Nuclear Program / International Obligations /
  • EGYPT
    • FM Remarks on U.S.-Egypt Relationship / Diversifying U.S. Aid / Long-term Strategic Relationship / Interim Government and Inclusive Process
  • SAUDI ARABIA
    • Secretary Kerry's Meeting with Saudi Ambassador / U.S.-Saudi Relationship
  • SYRIA
    • Clashes in Northern Syria / Moderate Opposition Forces / Geneva Conference / Political Solution
    • Update on James Foley and Austin Tice / Czech Protecting Power / Safety of Journalists
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Murder of Governor at Mosque
    • Strategic Agreement / Loya Jirga / Jurisdiction Issue
  • CAMBODIA
    • Deputy Secretary Burns' Meeting with President of Cambodian National Rescue Party
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Government Shutdown / Oceans Conference


TRANSCRIPT:

1:52 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Thank you for your patience. I know it’s a little late today, and I just wanted to wait to receive as much of an update from the ground in Geneva as I could. I have three items at the top for all of you.

First of all, on behalf of the U.S. Government, we wish to extend our deepest condolences for the devastation and loss of life caused by the 7.1-magnitute earthquake that struck the Philippines on October 15th.

Second, we also – the United States also strongly condemns the attack today on a senior Dutch diplomat in Moscow. We call on Russian authorities to thoroughly investigate this unacceptable attack and bring to justice those responsible. We are also disturbed by a reported anti-LGBT element to this attack. It is crucial for the Russian Government to ensure a climate of tolerance and reassure their own people and foreign visitors that Russia is a safe place for all.

And finally, yesterday, due to the government shutdown, the Secretary decided to postpone the International Oceans Conference that was planned – had been scheduled for next week, October 24th and 25th. This conference and the issues it would have addressed, including sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and ocean acidification, are priorities for Secretary Kerry and for the Department. It will be rescheduled as soon as practical.

Deb.

QUESTION: So let’s start with Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So, earlier this month, Wendy Sherman went to Congress and she said that her message for Iran was that if they didn’t come to Geneva on October 15th and 16th with a, quote/unquote, “substantive plan” that was real and verifiable, then Congress was going to take action and that the Administration would support it.

So two questions: Did they come with a substantive plan that was real and verifiable? And two, is it enough to ask Congress to hold off, or will you be asking Congress to wait until after round two in Geneva next month?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re right, we did go to Geneva looking to have a substantive discussion, to hear Iran’s proposed approach, to begin to work through some of the technical details that have proven so elusive and challenging in the past, and to underscore for Iran, of course, all of our concerns. As we’ve said many times, we went into this clear-eyed and with open eyes about the challenges. All of those things occurred.

And from talking to our team on the ground, their view is that we have never had detailed technical discussions at this level before, that Iran addressed what they saw as the objective of laying out what might be – what they might do as a first step and also what should be in a final step. But with all that being said, there is, of course, a great deal more work that needs to be done. Hence, they scheduled – as we knew there would be, and we certainly expected there would be. So as you know, and you – as you heard Representative Ashton say, there will be a meeting again here in – not here, but there in Geneva, November 7th and 8th. Then there will be a technical experts meeting prior to that.

So with all of that being said, as we talked a little bit about yesterday on the sanctions question, we’re at this point because of the impact of crippling sanctions that has contributed to the pressure that was put on Iran. It was a contributing factor, of course. And as we’ve talked about it a bit, the fact that President Rouhani ran on a platform of improving the economic conditions for Iranians and the impact of sanctions, obviously we believe there’s a connection.

Any – as you know, Under Secretary Sherman and the delegation traveled with sanctions experts who joined her for the last couple of days. And certainly, they discussed these issues. There’s not, of course, agreement on – as would be no surprise from just 36 hours or 48 hours of talks, there remain differences in what sanctions relief might be appropriate. They had specific and candid discussions about that.

I’m not going to outline for you, and I don’t have anything to outline for you, on what may happen in the future or a prediction of what may happen in the future. Anything we would do would be proportionate. And obviously, when the delegation comes back, they’ll be downloading with our team here, with the national security team, as I – as we expect the other P5+1 members would do on their end.

So that’s where we are.

QUESTION: I mean, I wouldn’t think that Congress was – you’re going to have to go to Congress and tell them what happened at some point --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and they’re going to say, okay, well, is this enough for us to hold off or not? I mean, and without getting into what they said to you, is it enough for you to ask Congress to hold off while more talks continue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have a prediction of that at this point. And part of what Under Secretary Sherman will do when she returns will be to brief Congress, to provide an update on the discussions that happened on the ground in Geneva. And as always, there’ll be a back-and-forth about appropriate steps, about what we need to do, what we need to continue to do, and what we’d consider. But we’ll – we won’t get ahead of those conversations that will happen when she gets back.

QUESTION: It would seem to me, though, that if Congress went ahead right now, in between these two meetings, in between these two rounds of diplomacy, that couldn’t be helpful.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, just to be clear, we’re not – no sanctions have been lifted. We – there was a simple ask about moving through Geneva. As you know, as I just mentioned, there will be another round of talks. As to what the recommendation will be or what that discussion will encompass, I don’t have a prediction of that quite yet.

QUESTION: So you can’t say now whether or not you’re going to renew what was Under Secretary Sherman’s statement the other week about how it would be helpful for there to be no additional movement on sanctions ahead of Geneva?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t, because Under Secretary Sherman will come back and she’ll meet with Congress, and they’ll have a discussion about what happened in Geneva, what that means, what more we expect. And as always, we would have – recommend any response, if any, be proportionate.

QUESTION: Okay. And then, second thing --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You said there – that we would not be surprised to know that there is not agreement on sanctions relief. Do you mean there is not agreement between the United States and Iran about what sanctions might be appropriate, or do you mean there is not agreement among the P5+1, or just agreement within the U.S. Government?

MS. PSAKI: No, the – what I meant was – and obviously, what was happening there was a discussion between the P5+1 and the Iranians. And the P5+1 has remained united, as they always have. And so it’s important to note and just to go back to the fact that, of course, we’ll – Under Secretary Sherman will come back and she’ll brief Congress and she’ll have discussions with the national security team about what happened, and we’ll make determinations about what moving – we do moving forward, as will all the other P5+1 countries, we would certainly anticipate. What I was referring to was there shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s disagreement with Iranians, and that’s one of the discussions that, of course, was undertaken.

QUESTION: And just so we’re clear, when you talk about any sanctions relief that might be provided, or any to be provided being proportionate, in other words, it would be proportionate to steps that Iran would or might take?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: And do you believe that it is possible for you to provide any sanctions relief in advance of Iran taking steps --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to make --

QUESTION: -- whatever they might be?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to make a prediction of that, because, obviously, this is a very complex, with many detailed negotiation and discussion with many different layers. And I’m sure that will be a discussion that is had when the delegation returns.

QUESTION: But why – I mean, you’ve long made the case, and many people before you have made the case, that the only reason the Iranians are willing to talk, the only reason you’ve gotten to this point, is because of the sanctions.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why would you even consider lifting a finger on sanctions before they’d done something?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to make a prediction and don’t want to get into a hypothetical, because we’re not there. But broadly speaking, obviously, we – as the Secretary said, there was a crack in the diplomatic opening here. I think he said it a little more eloquently, but – and we had a discussion that was at a level of detail that we hadn’t had in some time. I’m not trying to over-crank how positive it was or what will result from it; we don’t know yet. There’s technical discussions, there’ll be another meeting in early November, and I’m not predicting that we will do anything with sanctions, aside from the fact that, obviously, that was a part of the discussion. Obviously, that will be a part of the discussion when our delegation returns.

QUESTION: And was it – sorry, can I ask one – just one more?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, and then we’ll go to Jo.

QUESTION: I’ve got two more, I think.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Was it atypical that – I think it was, but I didn’t have time to check on Sunday – that the OFAC director attended these talks?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question. I don’t know historically what the comparison is. I’m happy to check for you, and you all have seen, of course, the list of the delegation members, and it indicates the seriousness with which we took, of course, the discussions.

QUESTION: Was he actually in the room during the negotiations, or was he there more as a resource for Under Secretary Sherman to consult with?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into details of what meetings he was or wasn’t in or what meetings anyone in the delegation were – was or wasn’t in. They were in some meetings, they were consulting in other meetings. Obviously, they were there as a resource throughout the conversation.

QUESTION: Then last one from me: You said that there will be a meeting of the technical experts prior to the November 7th and 8th talks.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When, roughly, and where? Is that Geneva or is that Vienna?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure that’s been determined yet. Obviously, this is a new announcement, so my understanding is it hasn’t been. Obviously, the discussion of timing and scheduling is the next step. Just to give you a little more specifics – and this may have been in their announcement, but those technical experts will be nuclear and scientific experts who will participate in those discussions.

QUESTION: Can I ask, just going back to what Deb asked --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Was the proposal that came from the Iranians substantive, to use the terminology from Under Secretary Sherman?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it was a substantive discussion. Obviously, by saying that we had detailed technical discussions at a level we had not had before indicates the level of the discussion. We are at a different point in this with a new government in place, and we’re having a level of conversation that is different from what we had had in the past.

QUESTION: So do you believe that the talks at Geneva have overcome some of the skepticism, perhaps, that was expressed by some of your partners that, in fact, the new government in Iran is just a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Are they serious? Do you have the impression from this that they’re – this is a serious government that you’re dealing with and not somebody or a body that’s at some point going to start dragging its feet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re serious enough that we’ve scheduled a meeting in just a couple of weeks to continue the discussion. They’re serious enough that we’re having technical experts meet before then. But we can’t make an evaluation yet because, obviously, there is a long-seated distrust of the Iranians, and that’s something that we’re all working to see if we can move past.

QUESTION: And can I ask: The next meeting – is this going to be a political directors level, or do you anticipate it could actually be at foreign minister level?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve always said that – obviously, the Secretary and the Foreign Minister met, as you all know, at UNGA. And when appropriate and if appropriate, certainly there would be an openness to that. However, there’s a lot of work to be done, a lot of technical work to be done, a lot of discussion that needs to happen. So I don’t want to make a prediction at this point, and obviously, this is a new scheduling of a meeting. But I would just caution that there’s a lot of work to be done perhaps before it may be time to have it at that level.

QUESTION: And I don’t know if you managed to see the comments made by the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergei Ryabkov, who said that he believed this was nothing to – no reason to break into applause over what’s happened in Geneva, that the – that Iran and world powers, the distance between them could be measured in kilometers while the progress we are making can be measured in single steps. Would you say that was a fair characterization, that it’s tiny, tiny incremental steps that you’re making? Or is it actually bigger than that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to do too much of an analysis of another government’s analysis because it gets complicated.

QUESTION: No, your analysis, what your --

MS. PSAKI: But I can say that we didn’t expect there to be a breakthrough overnight; there wasn’t. This is very complicated. The issues are difficult. That’s why we need technical experts. That’s why there will be, as I mentioned, a series of new meetings, and we’ll see where we go from there. We’re not making a prediction, but having conversations at a technical level that we haven’t had before is a positive step, and we’ll see where we go from here. But our eyes remain open and we remain – we’re looking for more specifics and more specific discussions.

QUESTION: Can I ask one follow-up?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Just so I make sure I understand it, when you talked about – you simply – you, the Administration, have not yet made a judgment on whether to ask Congress to hold off on additional – on imposing additional sanctions, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, there’ll be a discussion, and there’ll be a discussion with Congress. So --

QUESTION: Right. But you haven’t decided yet what you’re going to ask Congress? You’re still thinking it over?

MS. PSAKI: It will be a discussion. I don’t think it will be a --

QUESTION: But she made an ask the last time in public --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- “it would be helpful if.” So in this case, you’re not going to make a request to Congress, you’re going to talk to him about it first?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a prediction yet. Obviously, there’ll be a discussion both in the interagency, there’ll be a discussion with Congress --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- so I just can’t get much ahead of where we are now.

QUESTION: But it is fair to say – I’m not trying to trap you --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, no, no. I understand. Keep going.

QUESTION: -- I’m just trying to get this. Is – has the Administration itself yet come to a view on whether or not it would be helpful for Congress to go ahead with more sanctions or not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, given that Under Secretary Sherman and the delegation still needs to return from Geneva, still needs to download with the interagency and have a discussion about that, I think there hasn’t been an official determination.

QUESTION: But do you have an inkling, then, of where you’re going?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other predictions beyond what I’ve already stated.

QUESTION: But there hasn’t been – but when you say there hasn’t been an official decision, it raises the question of whether it’s an unofficial or an informal or --

MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t – I was not trying to be too cute by half there at all --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- just to convey that --

QUESTION: You haven’t figured it out yet. It’s reasonable.

MS. PSAKI: We’re – there’ll be discussions as the delegation returns. I’m not aware of any decision that’s been made.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, to what extent you are satisfied from this first round of talks?

MS. PSAKI: To what degree?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: How do you mean?

QUESTION: How much you were satisfied from this round of talks? Are you satisfied, not satisfied? Are you happy with the results or not?

MS. PSAKI: We’re satisfied enough that we are – have scheduled a round of technical discussions in another meeting in early November to continue the conversation, and obviously the fact that it’s at a level of detail that we haven’t had before certainly speaks to that as well.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. PSAKI: Iran? Iran? Okay.

QUESTION: Can we say – I mean, I’m trying to put two pieces of puzzle together – can we say about – that yesterday was about the nuclear program and today was about the sanctions? Can you say that?

MS. PSAKI: It’s all about – the discussions in Geneva were all about the nuclear program. These were all pieces of that umbrella.

QUESTION: So the second thing we had – when you are mentioning different answers to different question, you mentioned that we got yesterday that it was a, let’s say, a PowerPoint presentation of the nuclear program. And today you are talking about discussion. So yesterday was just presentation and today was discussion?

MS. PSAKI: So just to be clear, there was a great deal of discussion yesterday. That continued last night as well. There was a presentation in the morning that was the kick-off of the discussion that continued for hours yesterday afternoon into last evening and continued into this morning.

QUESTION: So without going into analysis or political point of view, I mean, one of the --

MS. PSAKI: Whenever someone says that, it means they’re about to do that. But – (laughter) – go ahead.

QUESTION: Because we heard that from you, so I’m trying to avoid the --

MS. PSAKI: No, go ahead, go ahead.

QUESTION: -- close that door at least. So I’m trying to figure out, in one of the points of the criticism in this town is talking about that we don’t want to repeat the same thing what was done in North Korea --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- experience before 15 years. Does it say anything to the Administration, this 15 years ago, the experience of – especially with Under Secretary Sherman in this --

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly a number of people in the delegation and a number of people in the government have been through this in a variety of ways before. I can’t speak to how much they take from each circumstance, but it’s natural they would have. Any agreement that we would pursue would have to give the United States and the world every confidence that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon. That’s our bottom line. And there are a number of components that are part of that discussion.

QUESTION: So because why I’m asking, because always raise as a point of – that we don’t want to repeat the same mistake, I mean.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you consider that was a mistake that time?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to a do a historical analysis, but obviously the Secretary has said many times that no deal is better than a bad deal. That remains our marching orders here, and that is what the delegation in Geneva kept in mind as they pursued the negotiations.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, a follow-up, sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There – mentioned that that there’d be talk about – and we’ve talked about it here -- the talk about sanctions relief.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What about the issue which is the Iranian side of it – or which is the ask from the U.S. – of the Iranian side, which is the enrichment? What – was that raised? And what was the --

MS. PSAKI: There were a range of issues raised that you could certainly anticipate and expect that are the big issues around this issue. When I said that they addressed what they saw as the – as a first step, as measures that could be taken, and they talked about a final step, obviously, all of these big issues that have long been a part of the conversation were a part of the discussion.

QUESTION: Tell us what the first step might be?

MS. PSAKI: I cannot. The discussion is ongoing. Otherwise we could negotiate here.

QUESTION: And how many steps towards getting to a final step that --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any numbers of steps for you.

QUESTION: What sort of timeframe are we looking at?

MS. PSAKI: Don’t have a timeframe for you. We’re taking this every meeting as it comes.

QUESTION: What is the – can you say what is the final step that they outlined? I mean, you guys have – is it sort of denuclearization a la Libya where you take all the equipment --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to outline on their behalf.

QUESTION: -- to Fort Knox and cut it up and --

MS. PSAKI: I just wanted to give you that explanation as a little more detail on what we felt we heard from them.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: So there’s – sorry. There’s a step-by-step process that was outlined to you by the Iranians in Geneva?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to go into more detail. Obviously, the discussions are continuing. They’re at a technical level. If it was all set and done, we wouldn’t be having another set of meetings. So they’re still discussing it. I wouldn’t think of this as something tied with a bow at this point.

QUESTION: No, sure. But they must have taken you – it sounds like maybe, unless I’m wrong, that they took you through a process by which they believe they could get to whatever the final step might be. Whether that’s – I mean, obviously the Americans will be looking for denuclearization.

MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand why you’re asking. I just don’t have any more level of detail than what I just provided.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, just a quick --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s minor, but you gave us some detail yesterday. Is it correct that they’re all speaking in English, all these discussions?

MS. PSAKI: They were yesterday. I’d have to check on today. I’m happy to do that for you. I --

QUESTION: Yeah, just any detail that you had would be helpful.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Jen, can you say that the Iranians’ actions during this meeting met their words?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I’m just going to leave it at what I already said about our view, that what our goal was going in, what we were expecting going in, and what came out of it. I don’t think I need to outline it any further than that.

QUESTION: But you were --

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: You were waiting before the meeting? You were waiting the Iranians to deliver what they promised before this --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we came in looking for a substantive discussion. We wanted to hear Iran’s proposed approach. We wanted to begin working through the technical details. We did that. But we’re still having discussions because there’s more talk to be had. There’s more work to be done. So I don’t have any further analysis at this point.

QUESTION: But have they taken any actions as yet? I mean, have they taken – because it’s a reasonable question. You keep saying their actions seem to meet their words. I’m not aware that they’ve taken any actions other than showing up at the talks, right? So have they taken any actions in terms of restricting or constraining their nuclear program so far?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, obviously the talks just finished a couple of hours ago. And I think what we were conveying by actions was also having a substantive proposal and having a discussion about technical details. Obviously, that began. That’s an action. But it will continue.

QUESTION: But it’s not like they’ve actually yet taken concrete, physical steps to, I don’t know, spin fewer centrifuges, or --

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. And obviously I’m not going to go into details of the discussion.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: That will continue. But taking --

QUESTION: But you’re not aware of any.

MS. PSAKI: -- having a substantive discussion with technical details is an action.

QUESTION: Got it.

QUESTION: Did the negotiators feel like they need one more round? Or is this just the beginning of many rounds, do you think?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. It’s a good question. I’m not sure they know yet, because they’ll see how the technical discussions go. They’ll see how the meeting in November went. When they had the discussions last spring, I believe there were three meetings and a technical meeting. So I don’t think they’re going to make a prediction about how many meetings. They’ll keep meeting as long as it’s productive and constructive and they’re continuing the conversation.

QUESTION: And can I just ask a question I asked yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Is this a response to the Almaty proposal or is this a totally new beginning for you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, with the new government we have begun anew at the P5+1. So we’re of course conscious of all that has come before. That has been informative and is on our minds, in the minds of the delegation. But all of this – and all at this meeting of course understood, and still understand as we continue to pursue these, the stakes. But I would look at this as a – as I said, a more substantive discussion of technical details and we’re going to pursue this road moving forward.

QUESTION: So they didn’t actually formally respond to the Almaty proposal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, remember the Almaty proposal was our proposal. Obviously, they had their own proposal they talked about. What – whether there were overlapping details, I’m not going to get into the specifics of that. But what’s important here is that we see a new opening, as we’ve talked about a bit, with the new government, and we saw a level of discussion and a level of technical discussion we haven’t seen before. So we’re moving on that road.

QUESTION: So regardless of whether they have finally produced the response to the Almaty proposal, which you never had previously gotten, whatever it is they put on the table was sufficiently substantive as a basis for you to move forward?

MS. PSAKI: To continue the discussion.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Jen, how is their approach? I mean, when you sit around the table negotiating with these issues, I’m sure that you have plenty of questions, for example, on this matter.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are they answering the questions? Or how is their approach? Did you realize any difference that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, because I’m here, I was not actually in the negotiations. But, look, there’s a back-and-forth. There’s a – certainly questions that are asked and raised by all sides. As you know, we work very closely with our P5+1 partners. High Representative Ashton was leading this process. So certainly I would say it’s accurate to say that that’s part of the discussion and part of what happens in the negotiating room.

QUESTION: Would you say that it’s different from the other – I mean, the previous meetings? Their approach?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I said before and I’ll just go back to, there was a level of technical discussion that was different.

QUESTION: Jen, to what extent did Iranian Foreign Minister back pain affected the discussions?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any analysis on that for you. I would point you to them to give you any specifics on that and how it impacted.

QUESTION: Is it fair to say that the Iranians came with a proposal, even though you can’t say what – discuss any of the details? Is it fair to say that they actually came with a new proposal?

MS. PSAKI: They came with a proposed approach. Obviously, they’re – because they’ve been talking over the last day and a half, and those will continue, there’s a lot more work to do to flesh that out and get into specific details. But that’s what they came with and that’s why the discussion is continuing.

QUESTION: So it wasn’t just a response to the Almaty thing, it was – again, it was a new approach?

MS. PSAKI: A proposed approach, yes. Obviously, the issues, which you’re all familiar with, are --

QUESTION: Overlapping.

MS. PSAKI: -- similar and overlapping, so --

QUESTION: But it wasn’t with reference to Almaty, it wasn’t like, “Well, you guys said, A, B, C, D, and we’re going to offer this for A and that for B and that for C and that for D”? It was more, “Here are our ideas.”

MS. PSAKI: As I understand it, Arshad, as a new proposed approach, that’s going to be the discussion moving forward.

QUESTION: Without reference to Almaty, though?

MS. PSAKI: I don't know if it had any reference to Almaty or not, and I’m not even sure I would confirm that for you if I did know. But I would look at it more as this proposed approach with the new government is what will be the basis of discussion and technical discussion moving forward.

QUESTION: Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Oh.

QUESTION: Do you know when they’re going to be briefing Congress? Is it – will it be right away or --

MS. PSAKI: I assume it will be pretty quickly. Obviously, you have to work through the schedule and the shutdown and other agenda items, but – I don’t have a date or anything, but certainly that’s something we’d like to do soon.

QUESTION: Sometime next week, probably next week or this week?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a date set yet.

QUESTION: And is that likely to be closed doors, actually? Like, would it be a hearing?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we have that level of detail quite yet. I’m sure we’ll discuss with them what would be helpful.

QUESTION: Can we go to – oh, sorry.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry.

QUESTION: On – change of subject?

QUESTION: On Iran and the United States?

QUESTION: On North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: On North Korea?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you do Iran?

QUESTION: Yeah, this --

MS. PSAKI: We’ll go to Egypt next.

QUESTION: Yeah, we’ll finish Iran.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Can you continue on Iran and --

MS. PSAKI: Oh, Iran. Okay.

QUESTION: Does this addresses your concerns on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the new --

MS. PSAKI: On, I’m sorry?

QUESTION: The new proposals, have they – gives a fresh opening, they are serious. But does this addresses your concerns fully on Iran’s nuclear weapons program?

MS. PSAKI: There’s obviously more work to be done. Our bottom line remains that Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon. We’re united with the P5+1. There will be ongoing discussions. So that will continue, and I’m not going to give an evaluation or a prediction of how we’ll feel at the end.

QUESTION: On North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Can we go to Egypt first?

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, and then we’ll go to --

QUESTION: She can --

MS. PSAKI: Are you sure? Okay, okay.

QUESTION: Okay. North Korea: Recently, North Korean Ambassador to United Nations Sin Son-ho has mentioned that North Korea want peace treaty talks with the United States. How does the United States respond to this peace treaty they --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I haven’t seen those remarks, but our position remains the same, and I think if I remember correctly, on a long trip to Asia, the Secretary talked about this when we were in Asia, which is that North Korea needs to abide by its international obligations, including the 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks. The ball is in their court. If they take those steps and move toward the objective of a verifiable, denuclearized Korea, then that is something we would be open to discussing. But that has not changed, so our position has not changed.

QUESTION: So what is the United States resumption of Six-Party Talks, North Korea want – before they want a peace treaty talks, before the resumption of Six-Party Talks --

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are steps that North Korea needs to take, and the ball remains in their court, and we’ll see what happens.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Egypt?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So the Egyptian Foreign Minister, who is well known around Washington given his long service here --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- says that relations between the United States and Egypt are now in turmoil. Do you agree?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I certainly saw his remarks. I’m not going to do an analysis of what they mean. But I would encourage anybody to read the full context of his remarks where he also said that he was, quote, “not worried about this turmoil in relations,” because it’s also a chance for the two to, quote, “better evaluate their relationship in the future.” Secretary Kerry, as you all know, knows the Foreign Minister quite well, has known him for a number of years, and met with him as recently as UNGA in New York just a couple of weeks ago.

We will be working constructively with the interim government as we move forward with our relationship. We want to see Egypt succeed. That’s something he conveyed to the Foreign Minister and conveys – and we convey at every level to the Egyptians. And we know that there have been some bumps in the road over the past couple of months, but our objective remains a successful, thriving Egypt, and that’s what we’ll continue to work with the interim government on.

QUESTION: Another thing he said is that, quote, “The truth is that the problem goes back much earlier, and is caused by the dependence of Egypt on the U.S. aid for 30 years. (The aid) made us choose the easy option and not diversify our options,” closed quote.

That sounds like the Egyptian Government, as some Egyptian officials suggested last week, is looking at diversifying their alliances. Last week, I know you’re aware of comments suggesting that they could go to Russia. Does this suggest to you that both the comment about turmoil and the comments about diversifying suggest to you that you may have a less close relationship with the Egyptian Government and you will have less of an ally in the current Egyptian Government?

MS. PSAKI: It would not. Our relationship with Egypt and the Egyptian Government, as you know, goes back decades. We have a strategic and a security relationship. Even in our recent decision, we continued aid that was vital to those interests. And we also know that Egypt has gone through a tremendous transition over the past couple of years, and we want them to succeed over the long term. So we have confidence in our relationship. We believe, long term, this will continue to be an important strategic relationship from both sides, and that’s the message we’re sending to the government and the people there.

QUESTION: And do you think that long-term strategic relationship that you expect to continue

is sustainable even with the current military-backed, unelected government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly, as we talked about – or as Marie talked about last week with the announcement that we made last week – we want to see the interim government’s political roadmap result in a constitution that protects universal human rights and civil liberties and is in an inclusive, democratically elected government. And those are steps that we’re strongly encouraging them to take, and we have been for the last couple of months. And so that is what we will – we feel will lead to a long-term, successful, sustainable democracy in Egypt, and we’re hopeful that that’s what we will see over the coming months.

QUESTION: But without that, you can still have a good long-term strategic relationship?

MS. PSAKI: That – those are the steps we’re focused on. I’m not going to get into a hypothetical if those steps are not taken. That’s obviously what we’re continuing to press.

QUESTION: No, but you said that you’re confident that you’ll have a long-term strategic relationship with Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You don’t know and you don’t control whether it becomes democratic, whether it becomes inclusive of minorities, whether it treats its political opponents with fairness and under the rule of law and under a justly applied rule of law.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You do not control any of that. So --

MS. PSAKI: You’re right. We don’t. Those are steps that the interim government needs to take themselves.

QUESTION: So my fundamental question is whether a long-term strategic relationship is possible absent all of those things, or if a long-term strategic relationship really is contingent on the progress toward democracy and human rights and respect for rule of law that you want.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we feel those steps are vital not just for global interests, but for Egypt itself to be successful and flourish over the long term. So those are steps that not only the United States, but other countries certainly are encouraging them to take. You’re right. They are in control of taking their own steps and we can’t take those steps for them. We do have shared security interests, of course, in the Sinai and other places, and those will continue.

But what we’re focused on now and what we’re pressing on now is for the interim government to take steps. We’re continuing to review the aid in our relationship that’s – well, the aid that’s been put on hold, not our relationship – and we’ll take this week by week. But I’m not going to make a prediction of what evaluation we’ll make, whether they do or don’t take the steps that we’ve been encouraging them to take.

QUESTION: But you’re confident you’re going to have a good, close strategic relationship regardless of what steps they take?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I didn’t mean to imply that we didn’t care what happened on the ground. Of course we care what happens on the ground.

QUESTION: I’m not saying that. I’m not saying that you don’t care. I’m saying that you’re suggesting you’re going to have a close strategic relationship regardless of what happens on the ground.

MS. PSAKI: I was not attempting – I was not trying to imply that, so let me be clear. There are steps Egypt needs to take. We have confidence in the history of our relationship and that we can move past and have a long-term strategic and security relationship. There are obviously interests you all know that are – the security in the Sinai and other areas. But of course we want them to take these steps on the ground, of course we’re encouraging them to, and we feel that will contribute to a long-term, sustainable Egypt.

QUESTION: And one other broader one. Why isn’t the U.S. – and I’m well aware of the details of the decision that was passed last week --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: -- and the continuation of some aid and the withholding of other aid that could go forward, pending what they do in terms of democracy and so on. Why shouldn’t someone looking at this from the outside say the United States has sacrificed its values in the service of its interests? It’s often-stated values are democracy, people getting a say in their governance, rule of law, respect for human rights – not much of which has been very visible in Egypt since July 3rd. The mass arrests of Muslim Brotherhood members, the arrests of the top leadership, the killings of people, some of whom at least were clearly engaged in peaceful protests, the attacks on Coptic churches --

MS. PSAKI: All of which we’ve spoken out against.

QUESTION: I know. No, no. I know. So – but the question is if somebody is looking at this saying, well, the United States is still giving the Egyptians some money and doing some things that it believes are in its strategic interests, like counterterrorism in Sinai and so on --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- why shouldn’t someone look at this and say, well, gee, U.S. values have taken a backseat here to U.S. strategic interests, and that’s just how it is?

MS. PSAKI: Because we made clear at the time that there was a review underway given we couldn’t continue business as usual because of all of those violations you mentioned, whether it was violence on the ground or against targeted groups, and that we found that completely unacceptable and we condemned it time and time again. At the same time, there is a broad, long-term strategic relationship we’ve had with Egypt and we continued some of the aid for security reasons and for those strategic reasons.

But I think it would be clear to anyone that we did take steps because we didn’t feel we could continue business as usual, and we put aid on hold and we’ll continue to review and evaluate the steps that happen on the ground to see where we go moving forward.

QUESTION: But because of your strategic interests, you were not going to simply cut them off entirely.

MS. PSAKI: Well, remember, some of the aid, Arshad, as you know through the ESF program goes to actually help with education programs and programs that are vital to the Egyptian people, so of course we wanted to continue that.

And then certainly, as we talked about – or as Marie talked about last week, there are programs that we felt we needed to continue as we reviewed the process because of the strategic and security interests.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Jen, can – sorry, can I ask about security --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- to – related to Egypt. I just wondered if you’d heard anything about a Dutch charter airline which has canceled flights to Sharm el-Sheikh on the – which is on the Sinai peninsula --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- because of a – apparently some kind of threat of a possible rocket attack from militants. Is it something you’re aware of? Could you tell us about it?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen those reports. Let me – did they just come out this morning?

QUESTION: It was today, yes. It was today.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let me check in and see what we know about that with our team.

QUESTION: If it’s – I don’t know if it’s – it’s not very specific whether it was just against the Dutch --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- for some reason or whether it was a more general kind of threat to attack planes – any planes passing it.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Obviously, Sharm el-Sheikh’s a very popular tourist area, so --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Right. Mm-hmm. Let me check in after the briefing and we’ll get back to you.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. PSAKI: We can just do a couple more here. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. Egypt, please.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I have still Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I hate to ask more question – already, one question.

MS. PSAKI: It’s okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: But it seems from your answer, I mean, what you answer to Arshad question that it’s – that you are trying to minimize the turmoil, although – I mean, from the – what was said by Nabil Fahmy, the Foreign Minister of Egypt, definitely is reflecting there is some problem – there is a problem, and there is, if not in the message, in the messenger or whatever. So how do you justify that there is no – yet, in the one of the sentences that he mentioned in turmoil, he said something. I had to read it but I – it is there. I have to say that who says otherwise that there is no turmoil is not speaking honestly. He said that. So how do you see that there is no turmoil and he’s saying that there is a turmoil?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to evaluate or judge what he said. That may be --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: But I think the point I was making is that we have a long-term relationship with Egypt. There have been bumps in the road. However, we want Egypt to succeed, we want them to have a thriving economy, a thriving democracy in a thriving society, and that’s the message that we’ve continued to send.

As the Secretary said last week when this news announcement of recalibrating our assistance came out – and this is something that he continues to convey to the Egyptians, which is that – and we continue to convey through many sources – by no means is this a withdrawal from our relationship or a severing of our serious commitment to helping the government, and we want them to succeed long-term. So we will continue to communicate closely with them both on the ground and through senior officials here, and hope that we will work through.

QUESTION: Yesterday and somehow today there was a – the issue of the perception about the decision made last week. And definitely one of the things that it’s – that was raised yesterday that the issue of taking sides or at least taking the perception there or the perception in the neighborhood of the Middle East, that why United States is saying that somehow justifying the violence of Muslim Brothers in the street saying that as long as there are two sides fighting each other for the legitimacy, whatever.

MS. PSAKI: I think I answered this a bit yesterday, and I’m certain that Marie talked about it last week. The message that we’re sending publicly and privately is that we want Egypt to succeed, that we’re not taking sides, that this is about – to be successful long term it must be an inclusive process that includes all parties and representatives of all parties, and that’s consistently been our message. Now over the last several months, the interim government has certainly had the preponderance of power, and so given events on the ground, the President and the national security team made the decision because we felt business couldn’t continue as usual.

But you heard the Secretary say last week, and many officials, that this isn’t a withdrawal from our relationship or a severing of our commitment. This is a decision that was made about recalibrating our assistance and we’ll continue to review it.

QUESTION: Jen --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: What was the purpose of Secretary’s meeting with Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.?

MS. PSAKI: The Saudi Ambassador to the United States?

QUESTION: Adel al-Jubeir.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of issues we obviously work with the Saudis on whether it’s Syria – I’m sure they’ll have a discussion about other issues including Iran and Egypt but I don’t have a readout of it. I can venture to get you something after the briefing or all of you if you like.

QUESTION: Is the U.S.-Saudi relations in turmoil too, as some Saudi commentators say?

MS. PSAKI: We work very closely with the Saudis on a range of issues. The Secretary had a dinner scheduled just last week with the Foreign Minister, and we’re working to reschedule that. And we expect we’ll continue to work closely with them in the future.

QUESTION: As long as you’re on the meetings --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: He’s got a meeting this evening apparently with the President?

MS. PSAKI: President Obama?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: He regularly meets with him.

QUESTION: Yes, I’m sure he does. Will he be – will he have enough information to fully brief the President on what happened in Geneva or is he still going to have to wait until the team gets back to get the full download?

MS. PSAKI: They have regular meetings, as you know, weekly meetings, as the President has had traditionally with members of the cabinet, and I expect they’ll talk about a range of issues. But I’ll see if there’s more to read out for you. I’m not sure – I don’t think it was planned as specifically linked to Geneva.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Quick question on Turkey, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Wall Street Journal published an article last week about the chief intelligence service of Turkey. It was (inaudible) actually. And it’s treated still a debating, that you’re debating Turkey, and that some unnamed U.S. officials were very critical of the Turkish Government and the chief of intelligence service, according to the piece.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And the Vice Prime Minister of Turkey also accepted these comments. And he said that the U.S. and western countries are troubled with the independent foreign policy of Turkey. Did you discuss this issue with Turkish officials? And do you have any comment on (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t, not – I don’t have any update for you on that. I will see if there’s any update from our team on the ground.

QUESTION: And another question about Syria. There are some press reports arguing that there are some clashes in northern Syria --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- between Turkish army and al-Qaida-affiliated groups.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And Turkish artillery shot hit the – a region which is controlled by the ISIS. Do you have any update on clashes (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are, of course, aware of the reports of continued clashes. Moderate opposition forces, as we’ve said before, are now fighting on two fronts – against the regime on the front lines, and against al-Qaida-affiliated groups like ISIS who are staying on the back lines, trying to establish Sharia courts and seeking to advance their extremist agenda. This remains a concern of ours, and is, of course, an additional challenge for the opposition.

QUESTION: How are you going to help with that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Arshad, we’re in very close touch with the moderate opposition, whether that’s General Idris or whether that is President Jarba and other leaders in the opposition. We’re working on two fronts both to continue to help them on the ground, but as you know, we’re working towards a Geneva conference and continue to feel, as the Secretary said just two days ago, that a political solution is the only way out of the civil war.

QUESTION: Can I have another Syria question as well?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I think it’s on Friday, American journalist James Foley will mark his 40th birthday somewhere in captivity, presumably somewhere inside Syria still --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- where he was kidnapped nearly a year ago. I just wondered if you had any update on his whereabouts, on efforts to get him released, as well as Austin Tice as well, who has been held for over a year now --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- with no news, really, filtering out about where they are, what their fate might be.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, we are certainly, of course, aware of the upcoming anniversary, and we’re concerned – remain concerned about James Foley’s well-being, as well as, of course, Austin Tice’s well-being. We’re working through our Czech protecting power in Syria to get information on his welfare and whereabouts, and we, of course, appreciate the efforts of the Czech mission on behalf of our citizens.

We are in regular contact with both families. I don’t have an update on the last contact. I’m happy to check on that for you if that’s helpful. And we have long expressed, of course, our great concern about the safety of journalists and certainly the well-being of both of them on the ground. I don’t have any updates in terms of more information other than to express that we’re continuing to work with the Czech protecting – our Czech protecting power on both cases.

QUESTION: So you still don’t know who’s holding him, where --

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t --

QUESTION: -- he or Austin Tice might be?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more specifics on it.

QUESTION: Okay. And I didn’t realize you had – the Czech mission’s the protecting power, is it?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. Thank you very much.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Last one.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There was a series of terrorist attack inside Afghanistan, including the killing of the Logar Province governor, Arsallah Jamal.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on this?

MS. PSAKI: I do for you. One moment.

Well, there was a statement that was put out by Ambassador Cunningham on the ground yesterday, so I’d point all of you to that. And if it’s of interest, we can certainly send it around. But just to reiterate, we of course strongly condemn the murder of Logar provincial governor Arsallah Jamal and others at a mosque during yesterday morning’s observation of Eid. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and the families of those killed or injured in the attack. An attack on a place of worship during one of the holiest times of the Islamic year is truly reprehensible. The Eid should be a time of celebration, reflection, and peace, and we’re happy to send that to you if you haven’t seen that statement as well.

The actual last one. Go ahead.

QUESTION: A follow-up on Afghanistan, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Would you say that you left Kabul on Saturday with a complete and comprehensive bilateral security agreement, or that there are remaining outstanding issues, including the issue of immunity?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we left Kabul on Saturday with an understanding with President Karzai of his intention to take the text as it currently stands, with language agreed with Secretary Kerry, to the Loya Jirga to seek support for the agreement. There’s obviously a process that they will undergo. We’ll undergo our own technical review here, which will be happening on this end. But the language, the text that will be presented to the Loya Jirga, is what we left Afghanistan with on Saturday.

QUESTION: But the immunity question is addressed in that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the immunity question – as the Secretary said on Saturday, it’s not about immunity. I said the jurisdiction issue is of great importance. That’s one that, in our view, must be a part of an agreement, and that language that will be taken to the Loya Jirga we’re certainly comfortable with, and we’ll see how their process proceeds.

QUESTION: What does the language actually say with regards to this issue?

MS. PSAKI: Stay tuned. It will be made public at some point. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Do you have anything on Cambodia, on the – Deputy Secretary Burns --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I do.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I think this is happening later this afternoon, but today Deputy Secretary Burns will meet with Sam Rainsy, president of the Cambodian National Rescue Party. Their meeting will include a discussion on the ongoing dispute over results of the Cambodian election. The United States continues to urge both parties to seek resolution of electoral disputes through peaceful dialogue that serves the best interests of the Cambodian people and promotes reforms. We also strongly support an open and democratic process and do not support one political party or candidate over another, and meetings of this kind with political party leaders do not signify an endorsement. We’re looking forward to listening and hearing more about what’s happening on the ground.

QUESTION: So the U.S. still supports his demand for some kind of a independent inquiry into the election?

MS. PSAKI: Well, independent observers have noted serious election irregularities. We do believe and continue to believe that a credible and transparent review of the election would help efforts moving forward.

QUESTION: Did Sam Rainsy ask for this meeting, or was it a meeting at the request of the State Department?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question. I’ll check on it and see if there’s more specifics on that.

QUESTION: Has he been before? I just wondered if --

MS. PSAKI: Has he been here before?

QUESTION: Has he been here before? Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I will check. I’m not sure off the top of my head.

Okay, actual last one.

QUESTION: Actual last one. (Laughter.) On the shutdown, it looks like we might be heading for a deal sometime today, possibly very late tonight.

MS. PSAKI: You better be knocking on wood right now. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Looking at the way things are going, it looks like – being highly optimistic – but do you have any statement in general on the possibility of a plan being reached tonight? And if a plan is reached, would the Secretary consider reinstating the Oceans Conference for the original dates that it was scheduled?

MS. PSAKI: I will leave it to my old friends and colleagues at the White House to give you an analysis of what it means. As I spoke about a little bit yesterday, in our experience here at the State Department and the Secretary’s experience, there’s no question that having the government shut down sends a message to the world that we don’t want to be sending. So certainly, it would be a positive development if that were to happen.

In terms of the Oceans Conference, I don’t have any prediction of that. Obviously, part of the factor in postponing it was the ability of some key members from the Administration to be able to attend and participate. So we’ll see if something happens. We can talk more about it tomorrow.

Thank you, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:44 p.m.)

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - October 16, 2013]