Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
October 29, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • SYRIA
    • Ambassador Ford's Meeting with former Syrian Deputy Prime Minister / Contact with Range of Officials
    • Geneva 2
    • Secretary's Call with Foreign Minister Lavrov
  • IRAN
    • P5+1 Meetings
  • SYRIA
    • No Role for Assad in Transitional Governing Body
    • Contact with Range of Officials with Connections to Regime / Focus on Political Solution
    • Polio Outbreak / Humanitarian Access / Secretary's Op-Ed
    • Humanitarian Access / Working towards Progress
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Review of Surveillance Capabilities Underway / Posture on Heads of State / Intel Gathering Needs to Reflect Our Values
    • Meetings with EU Parliamentary Delegation Tomorrow / Consultations with Range of Countries
    • TTIP Negotiations / SWIFT Program / Efforts to Continue Coordination on Range of Issues
  • KEYSTONE
    • Assistant Secretary Jones' Meeting with TransCanada
  • MEPP
    • Focus on Negotiated Two-state Solution
    • Quartet Meeting
  • CUBA
    • U.S.-Cuba Bilateral Economic Relationship / Annual UN Debate
  • GREAT LAKES REGION
    • No Plans to Deploy Ospreys / Progress in Weakening LRA's Capabilities
  • NORTH KOREA
    • Meetings with PRC Special Representative Wu Dawei / Six-Party Talks / Continue to Hold North Korea Accountable to Commitments
  • IRAN
    • P5+1 / Experts' Meeting in Vienna
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Intel Gathering / Open to Discussing Concerns about Programs / Review Ongoing
  • GULF OF GUINEA
    • Update on Kidnapped Americans
  • KUWAIT
    • Conviction of Hamad al-Naqi Upheld / U.S. Supports Online Speech and Freedom of Speech
  • PAKISTAN
    • Review of Amnesty Report of Drone Strikes Ongoing
  • AUSTRALIA
    • U.S. Embassy in Canberra Offering Free Tickets to Dirty Wars, an Anti-American Movie


TRANSCRIPT:

1:03 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon, everyone. I don’t have anything for you at the top, so let’s get started.

QUESTION: Can we start with Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Iran.

QUESTION: No? Is that all right? Syria okay with everyone?

MS. PSAKI: We could do a room vote and see. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Can we vote?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Syria. The Deputy Prime Minister has been fired for meeting with U.S. officials, and I’m wondering if you can confirm the – whether he did meet with U.S. officials, and if so, who, when, and what was the topic of conversation? And what does this say to you in terms of the Syrian Government’s willingness to enter into a Geneva 2-type discussion?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first confirm that Ambassador Ford met on October 26th in Geneva with the Syrian Deputy Prime Minister, who, as you all know, led a government-affiliated internal opposition party and who has now reportedly departed that post. We meet lots of Syrians of all political backgrounds. We’re not going to, of course, give a list, but it’s important to note that we do regularly meet with Syrians with direct contacts with the regime in Damascus.

They discussed – stressed – Ambassador Ford stressed that we must all work for a political solution on the lines of Geneva, that Assad and the inner circle have lost legitimacy and must go, and that we’re meeting with lots of Syrians to emphasize these points. He also reiterated the fact that you’ve heard the Secretary state many times that there is no military solution for either side, that there needs to be a political negotiation for a new transitional governing body chosen by mutual consent. And he reiterated our commitment in the October 22nd London 11 communique, along with other partners, where we urge – which urged the opposition to attend Geneva 2, where we reiterated that we will urge the opposition, I should say, to attend Geneva 2, and we will continue to deliver those messages.

In terms of the reasons for his reported departure, we don’t have anything to ascribe that to, and we don’t want to speculate on the details behind it. We, of course, have seen the reports, which I just spoke to.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t read anything into this as to whether the government is actually interested in the Geneva process?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t want to speculate on the meaning or the reasons behind his departure. We don’t know yet.

QUESTION: No, no. Apart from his – I mean, just in general --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- not specifically why he was removed. But does this say anything to you about the Assad regime’s willingness to enter into the kind of negotiations that you and apparently everybody else thinks are necessary?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. We continue, of course, to think they’re necessary. We don’t want to ascribe meaning of this as to what it means about the willingness to participate. The Russians, which we work closely with – the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning, actually. So they have taken responsibility for bringing the regime to the table, and we continue to work with them moving towards a Geneva process.

QUESTION: Jen, just a quick follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Syrians are saying that they let him go because of some economic corruption issues. Do you see that as authentic or perhaps because he overstepped his bounds in his meeting with Ambassador Ford?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to guess on their reasons. I know some of them have spoken to it. Again, I just outlined what Ambassador Ford spoke with the former Deputy Prime Minister about during his meeting. But beyond that, I don’t have any more speculation for you.

QUESTION: Is Mr. Jamil the kind of person that you had hoped to interlocute with as a representative of the regime?

MS. PSAKI: We discuss – we connect with a range of officials, and have, who have direct connection to the regime. Either they speak with them or they are members in some capacity, so that is – this is in that category.

QUESTION: Okay. And lastly, on this very point --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: I’m sorry, Lesley.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll go to Lesley next.

QUESTION: Are you trying to establish a – or reestablish some sort of presence in Damascus, perhaps to talk to some local oppositions like Hassan Abdul Azim and others whom Ambassador Ford knows really well? So are you trying now to reestablish some sort of a presence in Damascus?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any predictions on that front for you, Said. Obviously, we talk to a range of officials on both sides, and that will continue as we move toward a Geneva conference.

Lesley.

QUESTION: Jen, what is the – why did the meeting take place in the first instance? Was it the Ambassador who sought the meeting while the – Mr. Jamil was in town, or how did the meeting take place?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any information on that. I’m happy to check if there’s more details to share. But this meeting is in a long list of meetings of – that we’ve had with officials who have connections with the regime and, of course, with the opposition. So it was to reiterate our desire to move towards a Geneva conference while also sticking by our commitment to the London communique and what we think the agenda, et cetera, should include.

QUESTION: Do you know if Mr. Jamil is able to return to Syria after this?

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

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Oh, sorry. Go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: No, let’s go to Jo, and then we can go.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask if you could – and forgive me if you addressed this yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There have been reports recently in one or two publications of a disagreement within the State Department about how to move forward on the Syria process, with Secretary Kerry pushing very hard for Geneva 2 talks, and others – notably, apparently, reportedly Ambassador Ford – saying that it’s just not going to happen. Could you address that?

MS. PSAKI: I can. I addressed it yesterday, but let me do it again for all of you. One, it’s important to note that Ambassador Ford spoke with the same reporter who did that report and said something quite different from that. We sure do have a number of folks, including Ambassador Ford, including Acting Assistant Secretary Beth Jones, and a range of officials – Under Secretary Sherman, who’s traveling just next week to Geneva to have talks – who are working very, very hard on moving towards a Geneva conference for that to be the case, that report to be accurate.

We are – continue to work with the opposition. We continue to work with the Russians on determining when this should take place. We’re still targeting November. Any – there are a range of reports that have been out there, and we know there are a range of rumors out there. But we – but any final announcement of a date or agenda would all come from the UN.

So just to sum it up here, perhaps I can do, Secretary Kerry, his senior team, including Ambassador Ford, are working day in and day out with our counterparts at the UN, with our counterparts – with our Russian counterparts, to move forward on a Geneva conference. There is absolute belief that this is the right step forward, that there is no military solution to this conflict, that a political solution is the only path forward, and that a Geneva conference is the right vehicle and the right mechanism to do that.

QUESTION: So I guess I’d go back to the – Matt’s original question, which is: If you can’t get the opposition to come, which has been the longstanding concern over the last few months, if now Assad has gone ahead and sacked his vice premier because of his contacts with Ambassador Ford, which he said were unauthorized apparently, how are you going to get to this Geneva conference? I mean, if you’ve put all your eggs into one basket and it’s not happening, I guess, what’s Plan B?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have never been naive about the challenges of getting there. We continue to work with the opposition. Ambassador Ford was in Istanbul just last week meeting with the opposition to talk to them about this and a range of issues. So we’re continuing to work very closely on that. And as you know, we speak with them nearly every day, actually probably every day. We also speak with our Russian counterparts, and I mentioned the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning. And they are working on the regime side.

We know it’s not easy. It’s challenging to get there. But we have taken steps forward to get there, including UN Special Representative Brahimi’s trip around the region, efforts he’s undertaking to consult with a range of countries. So we feel we’re taking steps forward, but we still, of course, have a couple of challenges to overcome before we get there.

QUESTION: But it isn’t getting anywhere yet. I mean, there’s no progress. There’s nothing tangible at all that’s – there’s not a date in sight, in fact.

MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with the notion that there’s no progress. You have the Special Representative from the UN who’s running point on this traveling around the region, consulting with stakeholder countries, and talking to them about a range of issues, including the agenda and the goals here. You had the London 11 agree just last week on what should happen at a Geneva conference. You have Ambassador Ford just last week in Istanbul. We know there’s been a range of comments from different members of the opposition, but we continue to press them on the need to attend a conference. So we’re still working on it. We’re still targeting sometime in November, and that’s what we’re working toward.

QUESTION: Brahimi is supposed to be meeting with Assad on Wednesday. Has the U.S. spoken with Mr. Brahimi as he goes around on this trip and perhaps consulted with him on what he might be able to say to Assad when he has this meeting on Wednesday in Damascus?

MS. PSAKI: We – you know the Secretary’s met with him, just I think two weeks ago. I know we consult with his team and with him regularly. I don’t have any recent calls to readout for you of our contacts.

QUESTION: And then some more detail on the conversation with Mr. Lavrov. What in particular was the focus of this call? Was it trying to persuade the Russians that there can’t be a post-war Assad involvement in any way? I mean, what’s – what was the gist of this particular conversation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I understand your question. It happened just before I came down here, so we’ll venture to get you all a readout after the briefing, if that works. In general, their conversations – there’s been no secret about our position on there being no place for Assad in the future of Syria. That hasn’t changed. I don’t know that that warrants discussion, given that the Secretary has reiterated that publicly and privately a numerous number of times.

But they have been discussing and have ongoing discussions for the last couple of months about what the – what would take place at Geneva, working with the UN, how to proceed forward, steps we can take to continue to work together to encourage the opposition and the regime to participate and have representative bodies that would be acceptable to both sides. So that’s broadly what they talk about, but we will work to get you all a readout after the briefing.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Syrian opposition is considering calling the Arab League to remove Brahimi from his position because of his stance regarding Iran, Iran participation in Geneva 2. Brahimi has said that Iran must be invited to attend Geneva 2 and its participation is natural, necessary, and productive. How do you view his stance regarding the participation of Iran and the Syrian opposition call for Brahimi to step down?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our position on Iran remains the same, which is that any party that would be included in Geneva 2 must accept and publicly support the Geneva communique. As you know, next week Under Secretary Sherman will be traveling to Geneva to meet with her – our Russian and her Russian and UN counterparts. I expect participation will be a part of that discussion.

QUESTION: Do you think that that will extend – that discussion will extend to the next day or so in Geneva when she is part of a group that meets with the Iranian Foreign Minister?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the focus of that – the meeting with the P5+1 --

QUESTION: Well, I understand --

MS. PSAKI: -- in Iran last time was on Iran’s nuclear capabilities, and I expect that’s what the focus will be next week as well.

QUESTION: Well, right. But I mean, is this something that you’re – that she might raise with the Iranian Foreign Minister, or is it taboo? Is it – or is she only allowed to speak to the nuclear issue when she speaks with the Iranians?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to make a prediction of if there’s anything else that will be added to the agenda, but that certainly is not the plan at this point.

QUESTION: No, no, no, not the agenda. I mean, but people --

MS. PSAKI: To her plans for discussing --

QUESTION: -- when they’re milling about in wherever the meeting is, I mean, it’s possible that something like this could come up. And so I want to know, I mean, is it possible or is it forbidden for her to mention topics other than, I don’t know, American detainees in Iran or the nuclear program?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think anything is forbidden.

QUESTION: Okay. All right.

MS. PSAKI: But obviously, there is a great deal to discuss at the P5+1 meetings on – with the Iranians, and that will be the focus of the meetings.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead, Said. We’ll go – we’ll go to you right next.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you if you could comment on the Brahimi’s comment. He apparently gave an interview to Jeune Afrique saying that Assad can play a constructive role, or something of that effect, in a new republic in Syria. That’s what he called it. So could you comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have – I wish I did have the full context of his remarks here, but I would point you to the full context of his remarks, where he made pretty clear that his actions are not acceptable and that if there isn’t a role that he will play in the transitional governing body. So that’s our position. Our position hasn’t changed either, but we certainly agree with that sentiment of his remarks.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. Did you just say that you don’t have the full context of his remarks --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have the full remarks --

QUESTION: -- and then refer us to the full context?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have the full remarks in front of me.

QUESTION: Oh.

MS. PSAKI: I’ve obviously read them.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: I’ve obviously read them --

QUESTION: I misheard. I apologize.

MS. PSAKI: -- but I would refer you to the full context of them.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you if you still believe in sort of the mission, that it can succeed, of Mr. Brahimi, considering that today a group of Islamist extremist groups – numbering at 35 or something like that – issued a statement that is accusing everybody of treason if they go to Geneva, making all kinds of threats, physical and otherwise against them? Do you feel that this mission is still viable?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. That’s why we’re attending a meeting in Geneva next week.

Oh, I promised Samir I would go to him next.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: I don’t have a question.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay.

Hello. (Laughter.) Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, can we go back to – (laughter) --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- to Mr. Jamil and Ambassador Ford? Who requested the meeting?

MS. PSAKI: I believe that was Lesley’s question as well. I don’t have any specific information on that, but just that we meet with a range of officials and this is no different. But I will venture to check and see if there’s anything we can clarify on that.

QUESTION: But you can confirm that the U.S. is still in touch with the Syrian regime?

MS. PSAKI: That we have – we meet with a range of Syrians who have direct contacts with the regime, certainly.

QUESTION: What’s the goal?

MS. PSAKI: What is the goal?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been – we have been doing this for some time. The goal at this point is to move towards a political solution, and that’s what we’re – a big focus, as I just mentioned, of Ambassador Ford’s meeting is on – was on.

QUESTION: Can I ask --

QUESTION: So one of the topics of the discussion was humanitarian access, correct? You said that?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I’m worried that in the context that the United States is concerned about humanitarian access, I’m wondering what you make of this – reports of polio outbreak in the north. And does this – how, if at all, do you – does the United States intend to respond if it does, and whether you think that this bodes ill for just the larger humanitarian situation?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. We are extremely concerned by the outbreak of polio, especially in view of the decline of medical services and the humanitarian crisis in Syria. We call on all parties to allow access for polio and other needed vaccinations, and other humanitarian assistance to those in need in Syria, no matter where they reside. Vaccines, of course, are the most effective tool available to prevent the spread of polio. This is something the Secretary is very concerned about. I know he’s – plans to discuss and raise it. I will check and see if there’s any updates on that, anything he’s been able to do over the last 24 hours.

QUESTION: This question isn’t intended to suggest that you should blame anyone in particular, other than the virus, for the virus’s outbreak --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- but given the location of where this outbreak is, who bears – who does the United States think bears the responsibility for this happening --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- or this – the conditions existing in which polio can fester, or reemerge and then start infecting people?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not a doctor. So it is hard for me as you already predicted to ascribe the reasons. However, humanitarian access has been a huge concern of ours. That is one of the reasons that the Secretary, in order to raise the focus on the issue, did an op-ed just at the end of last week. This falls into that category of allowing doctors and individuals from global health organizations to have access to provide the proper medicine and materials. So the individuals or the entity that is responsible for blocking access, as we know, is the regime.

QUESTION: It is. Even in this area where the outbreak has happened. I’m just wondering if you know --

MS. PSAKI: I have not looked closely at that, Matt. I’m happy to check in terms of the geography. But broadly speaking, the root cause of our concern has been the regime’s unwillingness to provide humanitarian access.

QUESTION: Can I follow up --

QUESTION: By the way, on this issue – on this, the polio issue --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It was eradicated from Syria and they’re saying they’re tracing it back to Taliban associated fighters that came from Afghanistan and so on. That’s the allegation. But I wanted to ask you about another thing that Mr. Brahimi said he – said that the negotiations on the chemical weapons thing gave Assad back a limit of credibility and ability to become involved in whatever process concerning Syria’s future. Do you agree?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look more closely at his remarks, Said. You know our view has not changed despite what the investigators have been doing on the ground, and despite the fact that the investigators’ success has surpassed most people’s expectations six weeks ago. But our position on Assad and his legitimacy hasn’t changed.

Lesley.

QUESTION: I was going to follow up on the polio thing. Is the U.S. aware of – well, have countries like Jordan asked for any additional aid to vaccinate the refugees against the polio?

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t I --

QUESTION: Because we are concerned that in Lebanon --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and in Jordan, it could be spreading.

MS. PSAKI: In the neighboring countries.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t I take it and see if there’s more we can report on anything we’re providing, if there have been specific asks, along those lines, to get back to all of you.

QUESTION: If I could just follow up – you said that Secretary Kerry was going to raise and discuss this today. With whom, exactly?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I was broadly speaking that this is an issue that is, of course, of great concern. I wasn’t predicting or reading out any time he’s raised it, but more, this is an issue that’s on his mind.

QUESTION: So he’s not meeting with USAID or anybody today on this particular issue?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, but this is on his mind. So let me, along with the question that I will follow up with on for Lesley, we’ll see if we can follow up on any specific meetings he’s had, or others about this issue, as well as specific requests.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to Ambassador Ford’s meeting in Geneva --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- on Saturday with Vice Premier Jamil?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: According to a political source in Syria, they’re telling us that the Vice Premier had actually proposed joining the opposition delegation to the peace talks, and Ford had told him he couldn’t represent both sides at once. Would you characterize that as correct? Is that a --

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that for you. I don’t have any more than what I’ve just provided in terms of the focus of their meeting. It wasn’t – we didn’t have advance notice of, of course, the decision or the circumstances around his departure from the regime either, though. So --

QUESTION: Right, but I mean, if it would – if that’s the case, I mean, maybe he was actually planning to turn over to the other side or something, and that might explain perhaps a bit more what the – Assad’s decision-making process was behind this.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information than I’ve provided at this moment, so let me check back with him and see if there’s more we can provide.

QUESTION: Because the other – one – an opposition National Coalition spokesperson is saying that the whole incident actually just shows that the regime is in the process of falling apart. Is that a correct assessment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think that’s something that --

QUESTION: Is (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: -- we have stated, and you’re familiar with what we stated about the strength on the ground and the ups and downs that are going on in the ground game. So I’d have to take a closer look at that report, but that isn’t something we’ve stated, as you know.

QUESTION: Can we go back to humanitarian aid for a second?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: When you say that it’s the regime, are you saying that government troops are preventing NGOs from bringing medical care, bringing emergency food and shelter supplies to people who are displaced within Syria? Are there other groups that are interfering with these groups’ ability to provide humanitarian assistance? And then because the country is in the middle of a civil war, how difficult is it for these groups to be able to move about? Are there capable roads, for example, for them to use? I mean, how difficult is this situation? Because it’s nice to say, “Oh, it’s Assad’s fault,” and --

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of difficulties, many of which you’ve touched on. We’ve talked a little bit over the past couple of weeks of, even before these polio reports, issues like winterization and preparing refugees in the country for winter and the oncoming of the cold. We’ve talked about how, in the suburbs of Damascus – and this is a specific example – but there are women, children – innocent men, women, and children who are literally starving.

So there are a range of issues. It isn’t just one category of challenges. Of course, what we’ve seen a great deal of is the regime is responsible. Of course, we’d be concerned about anyone who would be responsible for cutting off or preventing humanitarian access, and this is a big issue that we talk about with the UN and with other neighboring countries.

QUESTION: How much of a problem or how frustrating is it for this Administration to say, “We’re providing hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian relief,” and then we hear of people who have escaped from Syria saying, “We were reduced to eating grass,” that we’re now hearing of confirmed cases of polio, that people are still selling off their daughters to try to bring in needed money to buy food and shelter? How worried is this Administration that, for all the money that’s been set aside, it hasn’t seemed to make any difference in the lives of Syrians?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t say it hasn’t. I would dispute that notion. But the Secretary wrote an op-ed that was in Foreign Policy just last week for this reason, that he feels – and the Administration feels – there is not enough attention, there needs to be greater attention focused on humanitarian access, and that this is an alarming part of the crisis that doesn’t receive as much attention as it warrants, even while we’re working toward a political solution and even while we’re working to eliminate chemical weapons.

QUESTION: Does the Assad regime earn any credibility if it makes it possible for humanitarian groups to do the work that’s necessary, or does it even matter at this point?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I’m not going to ascribe capability to a regime that has killed tens of thousands of people, but obviously, calling for humanitarian access is something that we’ve been calling for, we’ve been communicating directly with Russians and other counterparts about the need to make progress on this issue.

QUESTION: Jen, can you tell us if Ambassador Ford or other U.S. officials have met with other Syrian officials than Jamil in the last few weeks?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not going to give a list, but we do regularly meet with Syrians with direct contacts with the regime.

QUESTION: Any reaction to the Washington Post op-ed today, “Mr. Kerry’s Empty Words on Syria”?

MS. PSAKI: I talked about it just a bit, I think, but let me reiterate that it just does not correspond with all of the work that we’re doing. There’s no question there are challenges. There are challenges on the ground, which we certainly acknowledge, but not only is the United States the largest humanitarian donor, something the Secretary, the President, others in the Administration have been stalwart advocates for, but he – we also – he also – we also put the op-ed out there because he feels so strongly that there needs to be greater attention to this exact issue, and we need to highlight the need to focus on it. So it was actually quite contrary to what was written in that editorial.

QUESTION: Well, you put the op-ed out there. You’re talking about the Secretary’s op-ed?

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary’s op-ed.

QUESTION: So – and so your feeling is that The Washington Post doesn’t know what it’s talking about?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I --

QUESTION: Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: The points raised were contrary to the fact that we are the largest humanitarian donor, that we wanted to raise the specter of this issue by putting out an op-ed in the Secretary’s name.

QUESTION: But with respect, I don’t think that’s what they were taking issue with. I don’t think they’re taking issue with – the United States has actually done an awful lot to try and help the humanitarian situation on the ground. I think what they were taking issue with, that there’s no action going on to back up those – that – the humanitarian help, plus Secretary Kerry’s insistence that there has to be some kind of – that there can’t be a military solution; there has to be a political solution.

That goes back to what I was saying earlier, that despite all the words and despite all the work you’ve been doing behind the scenes, three – 31 months on, we’ve got 150,000 people who are dead in Syria, millions of refugees, things like polio happening, and there is nothing happening from the United States that is pushing towards any kind of solution, or seems to be pushing towards any solution. Perhaps it’s all happening behind the scenes; we don’t know about it.

But the reality is Assad is still in power even though his days were supposed to be numbered two years ago. And there is no movement for any kind of negotiations on the ground to end the war.

MS. PSAKI: I would dispute completely what you just said because six weeks ago, no one thought that there would be – we would be moving towards the elimination of chemical weapons. We’ve seen steps that have been announced. We’re still evaluating the report. Obviously, more work needs to be done. But we’re far – much farther than we thought we could be.

Six weeks ago, we never thought we would be moving toward a Geneva conference. We’re still targeting for November. Brahimi is traveling around the region meeting with people, meeting with countries who have a stake in that effort. Yes, it’s challenging. Yes, we’re talking with the opposition. Yes, the Russians are working on the regime. But we are moving towards a conference.

And the third piece on the humanitarian access, there was a statement which is not the same – no one is saying as a binding resolution in the UN, but there was a statement that was signed off on on humanitarian access, the need to raise the issue, following the OPCW-UNSCR step. That’s a small step forward. Raising this issue, continuing to provide aid, publicly pressing on the need to provide access, is part of our effort to make progress. But yes, there’s challenges on the ground, but that’s why we’re continuing to press on it.

QUESTION: But Jen, the problem is that you can’t – what Jo said, and the run up to her question, is not – you can’t dispute that. Those are all facts. You can dispute what may be the premise of the question that somehow all of this is the fault of the United States --

MS. PSAKI: I’m disputing that we’re not making progress.

QUESTION: -- or the fault of the United States for not acting.

MS. PSAKI: I’m disputing we’re not making progress on the different categories.

QUESTION: But it is a fact that the situation on the ground has gotten worse, not better. Is that not correct? Whether or not it’s your fault, and I – it may very well be unfair to blame everything that goes wrong in the world on the United States, but the basic fact – the premise – the basic facts behind the question, I’m not sure that you can dispute them.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re combining a lot of things here. One was an editorial in a newspaper that we spoke to. Two was progress we’re making towards all of these goals, which I just laid out and we feel we are taking steps. Yes, our – is the situation on the ground dire in terms of humanitarian access and issues? Absolutely. That’s why we’re talking about it. So I wouldn’t dispute that. But I’m just laying out the steps we’re attempting to take.

QUESTION: But the situation on the ground remains dire because there is no progress in ending the war.

MS. PSAKI: And we’re working towards making progress by working towards a Geneva conference, by eliminating chemical weapons, and taking steps on that front, by raising the issue of humanitarian access, and putting public pressure on. Those are the steps we’re taking.

QUESTION: Sorry, but when we talk about working towards progress – to go back for a second to the other question --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So six weeks ago there was no chemical weapons deal, which meant that 30 and a half months into it, there was no weapons deal. Six weeks later, maybe there is. But we talk about working towards progress on Geneva, you still don’t have the opposition groups saying they’re going to come. So where is the progress in terms of actually being able to deliver these groups, instead of saying we’re working towards it, we’re working towards it, we’re working towards it. How do we know that they’re going to come? What progress can you point to that says they’ve changed their minds and are going to suddenly show up?

MS. PSAKI: Well, President Jarba has said in the past that he would attend. We have Ambassador Ford, as I’ve mentioned, who’s been on the ground working closely with the opposition groups. This is a – of vital importance for the opposition to attend. Obviously, the negotiations would happen between them and the regime. That’s – we continue to work towards a November date. That’s what our focus is, and we’re waking up every day and working on it.

QUESTION: Right, but you still have opposition groups saying we are not going to come. So, I mean, Jarba has gone back and forth. He’s been a little bit vague. The other opposition groups haven’t been. They’ve said they’re not coming.

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re referring to some individuals who have signed a letter. We’ve talked about this a little bit in here. Some of them are field commanders. What we need to have is a representative body from the opposition attending a Geneva conference. That’s what our focus is on. As to what the relevance to that effort is of these individuals who have signed the letter, that’s up for debate.

QUESTION: Which groups can you say are coming?

MS. PSAKI: Well, President Jarba, who’s head of the overarching umbrella of the opposition, has said that he would attend. We continue to work with him, to strengthen the opposition, have a representative body. I think we’re done here.

Next?

QUESTION: Jen, a follow up on this? The op-ed says that the United States is probably the only nation that could rescue Syria’s civilians. It could do so by offering Mr. Assad the same choice on humanitarian access that it gave him on giving up chemical weapons. Do it or face a campaign of airstrikes. Are you considering this option?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen those reports. I have nothing to predict that we’re considering, other than to focus on raising the issue of humanitarian access, continuing to press along with the international community for the need to make progress on that.

QUESTION: Can we move to your other favorite topic of the week – during the last week?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The NSA?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Recognizing that this building is not – well, assuming, not recognizing – assuming that this building is not playing the lead role or is not responsible for the out – what has been alleged directly responsible --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But recognizing that this building is a voracious consumer of intelligence that is collected on behalf of the entire government, I’m wondering if the Department has any thoughts or concerns about this proposal that seems to have been floated late yesterday about a ban on the collection of – or monitoring of foreign – of allied foreign leaders?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know there have been a range of reports. I don’t believe that they’ve been confirmed or validated by the Administration in any official capacity. As you know, there’s a review that’s underway which we certainly support, the Secretary supports, and we’re eager to see completed by December. There were – the President did speak yesterday to these programs, and made clear that just because technology has progressed, it doesn’t mean that our intel gathering needs to keep up with that. And that would a part of the review as well. But in terms of those reports, I don’t have anything specific for you.

QUESTION: All right. Well, then let’s talk about what Senator Feinstein said.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: She said, on the record, presumably confirmable if one would go – if one asked her, that she thinks that it is wrong in any circumstance to spy on friendly foreign presidents and prime ministers. Does the State Department agree with that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the review that’s underway is looking at, in part, whether we have the appropriate posture when it comes to heads of state. So certainly that’s part of the review and part of the discussion.

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS. PSAKI: And as we talk to countries, they’ll make their views clear as well.

QUESTION: So pending the review, the State Department has no opinion?

MS. PSAKI: Well, if we need to make changes in the way we do business, we will do that. But the review is underway.

QUESTION: Well, yesterday you wouldn’t – yesterday you couldn’t say if you shared the sentiment that Foreign Minister Westerwelle said he very much hoped you shared that it is wrong to spy on friends and – or eavesdrop on friends and partners. So – and I assume from your answer that that would – you wouldn’t come to any kind of an opinion until this review is completed. Is it the case that – in terms of what Senator Feinstein said also that your judgment will be determined by this review on whether – on what she was talking about?

MS. PSAKI: Well, a big impact on that review will be our consultations, of course, with our foreign counterparts and foreign leaders, which is a role the State Department will play. But yes, we will let that review move forward before we proceed.

QUESTION: So apart from what comes out of the review, the State Department essentially has no opinion whatsoever on the rightness or wrongness or the – well, I’ll leave it at that – on the rightness or wrongness of collecting this kind of surveillance on allied heads of state.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, we’ve talked about this quite a bit in here, as you know. We believe, as the President believes, that any intel gathering needs to reflect our values, needs to reflect our foreign policy priorities. All of that is being reviewed and discussed while at the same time we are working with our counterparts, hearing from them. We’re open to meeting with them in a range of capacities, and that’s underway.

QUESTION: So do you believe then – and I’ll drop it after this – that – when you said that it needs to reflect our values, do you believe – does the State Department believe that up until this point, or up until the point that the review was initiated that intelligence – that the intelligence gathering we’re talking about reflects U.S. values.

MS. PSAKI: If we didn’t think it warranted taking a look at, we wouldn’t be undergoing a review. So that’s what we’re doing now.

QUESTION: Can we move to --

QUESTION: Can I ask you what the State Department’s --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- role is in the review, and who’s leading the State Department’s response to the review or work on the review?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the review is led by the White House, of course, as you know. It includes agencies from across the government, including the State Department. Our role in that is providing input, of course, on how we coordinate with our closest allies and partners. Obviously, there’ll be discussions at a high level as this is underway.

QUESTION: So are you drawing up, like, a list of names of who your allies are?

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re familiar with our range of allies, but I’m sure we will be providing input from our consultations and discussions we have as a part of any process that the Administration is undergoing.

QUESTION: Well, I’m just wondering if the review comes down on the side of the fact that you shouldn’t be spying on the heads of state of your allies. There will have to be an agreed list, presumably, of who is an ally and who is not an ally.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other predictions of what the review will conclude, so I’m sure we’ll talk about it more as we have more to say.

QUESTION: Can I just ask – I think – I believe Secretary Kerry is meeting tomorrow with – the EU parliamentary delegation is in town. Can you – no, no, sorry, I believe – let me start again. I believe the EU parliamentary delegation is coming to the State Department tomorrow.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, they are. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you tell us who they’re meeting with? Because I believe it’s not on the plans for Secretary Kerry to meet with them at the moment.

MS. PSAKI: I know they’re meeting with a range of officials. I don’t have the list of individuals. I can venture to get that for you after the briefing.

QUESTION: There are – am I right there are no plans for Secretary Kerry to meet with the delegation?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Would it not be appropriate, do you think, given the level of anger that’s been expressed across Europe that he, as the head of this Department --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- should meet with them?

MS. PSAKI: Secretary Kerry has not shied away from meeting with his counterparts to discuss this or any issue they have concerns about. I am certain that will continue. I don’t know all the details in front of me on what’s on his schedule tomorrow, but I’m certain they’re meeting with high-level officials.

QUESTION: Because --

QUESTION: Well, I think they’re meeting – the list I – the name I’ve seen is a deputy assistant secretary who works in – is a gentlemen who’s – I’m just forgetting his name now – who works in a department which isn’t even European Affairs.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s not even Assistant Secretary Nuland’s department, which would seem as being relegated to a relatively low level within the State Department.

MS. PSAKI: This is not the – I mean, I think it’s an important context – this is not the only delegation of representatives from European countries who will be here in the coming weeks. As you know, the German delegation will be here as early as next week. I believe there is another, smaller delegation of Germans who will be here over the next two days. There are delegations from a range of countries who will meet with a range of officials here. But I can check for you if there’s others from the – who are meeting with the EU parliamentarians.

QUESTION: So we shouldn’t read anything into it if Secretary Kerry has no plans to meet with them?

MS. PSAKI: I certainly would not, given Secretary Kerry met with his counterparts, his French and Italian counterparts and talked about this issue just last week. And he’s certainly open to engaging in these discussions as appropriate moving forward.

QUESTION: Can we move to --

QUESTION: Hasn’t Under Secretary Sherman been tasked with this as part of her portfolio? And if so, with whom has she already spoken and what has she told them about what the U.S. has been doing?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware that that’s been officially added in any capacity. Obviously, there are a range of individuals who are focused on this issue given how many countries it touches. We are continuing to consult with a range of countries, as you know. Many of them have spoken publicly about it. But we’re also expanding that to include others who have expressed a desire to talk, so that includes the U.K., Spain, Italy, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, South Korea, India. It’s not limited to that group, but we are in touch with a range of countries, and that obviously touches a range of bureaus.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up quickly?

QUESTION: Are those countries that you just listed countries that have asked to speak with you about this?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t characterize it that way. There are – there is an effort to do more work explaining and connecting with countries.

QUESTION: But you said that – I think you said that they had expressed an interest in – is that --

MS. PSAKI: I would have to double-check on kind of how these interactions came about, but it’s fair to say a number of our ambassadors on the ground and officials have been in touch with a range of countries. I’ll see if there’s more clarification.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up – I’m sorry. Quickly, did this issue came up when the prime ministers of India and Pakistan, they were here in the State Department, they met – the Secretary met with them?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of whether it did or it didn’t. I can check if there’s more to clarify on that.

Nicole.

QUESTION: Or did they brought up this issue?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more for you on those specific meetings.

Nicole.

QUESTION: New topic, if that’s okay?

QUESTION: I had a question on this.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Some of the comments coming out from the various leaders in Germany and Spain – some of the anger appears to be that they learned about it from press reports in their own country. Is the Department making the effort to try to get ahead of this by reaching out to countries where the press reports have not yet come out about operations within those countries?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you should know – and I’ve said this a few times in here, but it’s an important point – that long before Edward Snowden entered all of our lives, there were discussions about intel gathering and efforts around that with a lot of these countries. And those have continued, but they preceded this as well.

We can’t make a prediction about information that may or may not come out in the future, but it is fair to say that we are continuing to discuss with a range of countries. I listed many of them here, but that will only continue to expand. As we’ve made the effort to reach out, they have asked questions, and we’re open to doing that with any country that raises an issue.

QUESTION: But Chancellor Merkel, I mean, she said fairly explicitly that this came as a surprise to her. Her government at multiple levels said that this came as a surprise to her to find out that her phone had been tapped. So – I mean, that being the case, if these conversations were happening before the Snowden revelations, why was she surprised?

MS. PSAKI: Broadly speaking, they were happening in terms of intel gathering and that discussion was happening with a range of these countries. Beyond that, I don’t think I have anything else to spell out for you.

QUESTION: One more quickly --

QUESTION: Can you say how much of the information that the intelligence community has been providing to the State Department, how much of that is related to national security matters and how much of that is related to economic matters?

MS. PSAKI: How – can you say that one more time? How much of the --

QUESTION: How much of the intelligence that’s been provided to people in this building has been about national security matters, terrorism, political instability, human rights violations? How much of it has been related to economic issues, business development, economic – macro economic growth, that sort of thing?

MS. PSAKI: No, I’m not going to break down any information in that capacity.

QUESTION: But you’re not going to rule it out, that that covers --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think there’s anything to rule out. I don’t have anything specific in response to your question.

QUESTION: One more quickly. This issue is much lighter in India, in the media and in the public and also in the government, than in Pakistan is every day of the issue. Is that – one, what is the reason that Pakistanis are much more angry than the Indians? And second, is that because of Pakistan never told U.S. that they had knowledge of Osama bin Laden and among other things?

MS. PSAKI: Goyal, that is a good question, something you should write an article about. I don’t have anything specific.

QUESTION: I am writing this now.

MS. PSAKI: All right.

QUESTION: Editorial.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything specific for you on that question or any analysis of it.

Gus.

QUESTION: I have another one on the same topic.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Is the State Department concerned about the risk that the negotiations with Europe on the free trade agreement could be compromised by these tensions between Europe and America?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that they were delayed – or they were postponed, I should say, during the shutdown. They’re in the process of being rescheduled, which my understanding is that will happen soon. And I – you’ve seen officials, European officials, speak to a similar sentiment that we’ve made, which is that while we address these issues, while we try to alleviate their concerns and hope to strengthen our intelligence relationship in the process, there are a range of issues that we work together on, that includes – that are of vital importance. That includes the TTIP negotiations and efforts to move forward on a trade agreement that would create jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. That includes counterterrorism operations. That includes a range of global issues that we think it would be mistake to not proceed on. But those are being rescheduled, and I don’t have a date yet, but presumably they’ll have one hopefully soon.

QUESTION: Can I just ask --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- one of the proposals that came out of the EU meeting last week was that the Europeans should consider cutting off American access to programs --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- such as the SWIFT program. How would that compromise your work, counterintelligence, and counterterrorism work?

MS. PSAKI: I did see that. Give me a moment here. So one thing to note is this was a nonbinding resolution passed, which is just an important point.

But to your point, the Terrorist Financing Tracking Program is a critical element of our counterterrorist finance efforts. It’s provided and continues to provide distinctive value in detecting, preventing, disrupting, and prosecuting terrorism and its financing both in the United States and the European Union and other regions around the world. It’s been used to investigate many of the most significant terrorist attacks and plots of the last decade, including the Boston Marathon bombings this year and the threats to the 2012 London Olympics.

So clearly, there is great importance in this program. It’s one that we feel is important to continue. I noted it’s a nonbinding resolution, but it goes to the larger point I was just making about our efforts to continue to coordinate on a range of issues, including this program, while we work to alleviate concerns and hopefully strengthen our intelligence cooperation moving forward.

QUESTION: So in your discussions with your European allies, are you trying to persuade them not to adopt this nonbinding resolution?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure how much time this has come up. I’m happy to check and see if it’s been a prominent part of the conversation. But obviously, we saw the reports and have expressed it where needed – our view.

QUESTION: So this is – it would be of concern to you then if they went ahead, if countries went ahead and --

MS. PSAKI: Well, given it’s a nonbinding resolution, you all know what that means. But it’s important to note the effectiveness of the program and kind of the terrorist attacks and plots that it’s touched. So we’ll continue to communicate that.

QUESTION: So --

QUESTION: But it would be a bad thing if they did this, if there was a disruption, correct?

MS. PSAKI: If there was a disruption, sure. But it’s a nonbinding resolution, so --

QUESTION: All right. Okay. So why isn’t that a hypothetical question that you wouldn’t – that you would refuse to answer?

MS. PSAKI: It was passed by the European Parliament, the nonbinding resolution.

QUESTION: No, no. I understand. So I’m – so you routinely refuse to answer questions that begin with “if.” I just – I’m just trying to make the point that when a response to a hypothetical question suits your needs, you, meaning the Administration, will answer it. And it is inconsistent --

MS. PSAKI: I like to keep you on your toes, Matt.

QUESTION: -- to argue --

MS. PSAKI: I was not attempting to answer a hypothetical. The nonbinding --

QUESTION: But you were. If it was --

MS. PSAKI: The nonbinding resolution passed.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: So it passed. It’s in the past.

QUESTION: Yes, but it’s nonbinding. So if there was actually a disruption, other than just a nonbinding resolution to disrupt, you would think it would be a bad thing, right?

MS. PSAKI: I would say it would be a bad thing if we didn’t have a program in place that was tracking threats to the Olympics.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, that’s true.

QUESTION: Jen, can I just ask one small question?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Change of topic.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: But the CEO of TransCanada --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- is in the building today to meet with Assistant Secretary Jones. What can you tell us about that meeting --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- topic-wise? And can we get a readout once it’s done?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me check with them on that. I believe she’s met with the CEO of TransCanada in the past. So Assistant Secretary Jones and other State Department officials, of course, regularly meet with interested parties at their request. As you know, she’s previously met with TransCanada as well as with other interested parties, NGOs, groups of concerned landowners, Native American tribes. We’re continuing to review the Presidential Permit application for the proposed Keystone pipeline. There isn’t any update on that. This is just one of many consultations with a range of interested parties.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS. PSAKI: And I’ll check with them on a readout as well, if there’s something --

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) a date though? Just to ask you again, any date?

MS. PSAKI: You can keep asking.

QUESTION: Yep.

MS. PSAKI: We can keep talking about it.

QUESTION: Could have changed from the last time we asked.

MS. PSAKI: That’s fine. We can keep talking about it.

Oh, Catherine. Hi.

QUESTION: Hi. I’m sorry I’m a little bit late. Can I just go back to the phone issue?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’m wondering if you’ve seen the Wall Street Journal article. I think it might have been posted when you were in here. Basically, the thrust of it is that U.S. officials are now saying that the phone data collection in France and Spain that ignited this firestorm was actually carried out by their own countries’ intelligence services and then subsequently passed onto the NSA, which is why it would be in the Snowden dumps. Is that something you can confirm or shed any light on?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any light on that now. I wish I had some sort of capability to see reports. But even if I did, I don’t think that’s something I would speak to. I’m happy to circle the wagons and see if there’s anything to add to it.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

QUESTION: I have another question.

MS. PSAKI: Are there any? Oh, go ahead, Catherine.

QUESTION: And today on the public schedule Wendy Sherman met at 10:30 with the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee delegation.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout of that and the members who she met with?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t in front of me, but we can circle back and see if there’s more to provide on that for you. We did expect, of course, this issue to be discussed there.

QUESTION: Jen, I want to move to the --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- Palestinian-Israel negotiations --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- very quickly. Today, a PLO official Yasser Abed Rabbo said is the worst negotiating session in 20 years. Do you have any comment on this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, we know there’s a range of comments and reports out there. We’re not going to speak to every one of them. We’re still continuing to pursue, of course, a negotiated two-state solution. Our focus remains on that. And there have been also a range of reports recently about Prime Minister Netanyahu’s decision to release prisoners and President Abbas’s decision to put aside efforts to upgrade the status of the Palestinians in international organizations. We consider those to be conducive to creating a positive environment for the negotiations. But they’re ongoing. I don’t have an update for you. And beyond that – go ahead.

QUESTION: What would compel someone of the stature of Yasser Abed Rabbo to come out and say this publicly, that these are the worst negotiating sessions in 20 years? What would compel him to do that? I mean, you are the only one endowed with the ability to comment on these negotiations as they take place. They have already taken place for three months. We have six months to go, so the clock is ticking. So I want your comment on why would he say this if things were moving in the right direction.

MS. PSAKI: I can’t ascribe for you a reason. Obviously, you know the negotiators and who they are and who the parties are who are participating. Both parties have committed to a nine-month timeframe. That has remained the case. So they’re continuing to work through a range of issues that are on the table.

QUESTION: He’s accusing the Israelis of sticking to one point, which is basically maintaining a – some sort of a military presence along the Jordan Valley, and they will not move beyond that. Is that your reading of the negotiations as you are --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to --

QUESTION: -- as you supervise --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to that. You know that every significant issue is on the table, so certainly security is a part of that.

QUESTION: Did you know anything about the Quartet meeting today?

MS. PSAKI: I do. So they – the Quartet envoys will be meeting in Jerusalem today to discuss the ongoing final status negotiations, and Ambassador Indyk will be representing the United States in that meeting.

QUESTION: Can we move on?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Up in New York earlier today, there was the annual vote in the General Assembly on the U.S. embargo on Cuba.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm

QUESTION: This year the vote was 188 to 2, with 3 abstentions, the 2 being you and Israel. Last year, you had a – you had support from Palau, but Palau moved from the – voting no to abstaining, while Micronesia, which last year voted – sorry, abstained, they voted against you. Recognizing the fact that you’re going to defend the policy and say it’s your right to do it, I’m wondering if you will acknowledge at least that the rest of the world, with the exception of Israel, thinks that your policy towards Cuba as it relates to this is really misguided and stupid.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to acknowledge anything of the sort.

QUESTION: No?

MS. PSAKI: You just laid out the votes. But --

QUESTION: So one hundred --

MS. PSAKI: -- our belief, Matt --

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: -- is that the United States has the sovereign right to conduct its bilateral economic relationship with another country in accordance with our own interests. We don’t feel that this annual debate in the United Nations does anything to add to or advance a constructive discussion about these issues. And it also obscures the fact that the United States is a leading supplier of food and humanitarian aid and humanitarian relief to Cuba, and that’s something we remain committed to.

QUESTION: So the fact that out of 193 members of the General Assembly, 188 of them, or 191 of them if you include abstentions, voted – didn’t vote with you doesn’t give anyone in the Administration pause? It doesn’t suggest to you or you’re not willing to – it doesn’t suggest to you that the rest of the world think this policy is wrong, and you’re not even willing to recognize the – what the vote would strongly imply that they don’t like your policy?

MS. PSAKI: If we have an update on our Cuba policy, I’m happy to provide that.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: But I don’t have one for you today.

QUESTION: So I had a – part of the embargo – as part of the embargo, it appears that you guys blocked this – the transfer of some buses that were being made in India but which have American components in their engines. This – these were buses that were going to be used for civilian transportation, were basically like commuter buses.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’m wondering if you can explain how that fits in with the stated goal of the embargo, which is to prevent the transfer of things that the regime – that the Cuban Government might use to repress its own people.

MS. PSAKI: That is our goal. I don’t have any details on the buses. I’m happy to check back and get more for you.

QUESTION: Actually, I asked about it last week --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- and was told that an answer was forthcoming last Thursday.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will – we will press harder on the answer, make it more forthcoming.

QUESTION: Okay. But do you – so you don’t know if civilian transport – if this was blocked because you think that somehow the government is going to use metro buses to repress dissidents?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on the buses. But I am happy to check on it, and we’ll circle back for you today.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Scott.

QUESTION: The Post is reporting today that the Obama Administration is considering basing Osprey in Uganda to expand the search for Joseph Kony. Can you tell us anything about that?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, there are no plans at this time to deploy Osprey to support the counter-LRA mission. I did see the report, of course. We do continue to consult with our African partners and look for ways that we can enhance our support. But again, at this time, no plans to deploy Osprey.

QUESTION: That operation goes on despite the instability in the Central African Republic, where that operation is based and where most people believe Mr. Kony is?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s been – we have – our view is that we’ve made demonstrable progress in weakening and degrading the LRA’s capabilities. And I know you’re familiar with some of these facts, but it’s worth mentioning that over the past year, two of the top five LRA commanders have been removed from the battlefield and defections have increased significantly. However, it is challenging, and finding a way to apprehend the top leaders is challenging, given that it operates in, as you referenced, some of the world’s poorest, least governed, and most inaccessible regions.

So we are still pressing to take steps that we’ve had underway for some time, which is supporting governments in the region in their efforts to end the LRA threat. We’ve authorized, as you all know, a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Joseph Kony. We’ve also provided assistance to local communities affected by the LRA, and we’re continuing to consult with our African partners in ways we can up that. But it is challenging given the conditions on the ground, to your point.

QUESTION: Can we stay in Africa?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I have one on Somalia.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Somali Government is saying today that a suicide bomb maker for the Shabaab was killed, and there are reports that it was a U.S. drone strike. Can you give us any more information on that?

MS. PSAKI: I cannot. I have nothing for you on that, Jo. Any more on Africa?

Okay. Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. I understand that you wrapped up a two-day meeting with Wu Dawei. He stepped out of the meeting saying that he’s pretty optimistic that the Six-Party Talks would resume in the near future, and I was wondering if you shared that optimism.

MS. PSAKI: I believe we did a short readout to the bullpen yesterday on where things stood, but let me see if I have any more for you on that.

So, as you mentioned, Wu Dawei was here meeting with Assistant Secretary Danny Russel, as well as Special Representative for North Korea Glyn Davies. They had a productive set of discussions on North Korea yesterday. He met again today, or may be still meeting again today, with Ambassador Glyn Davies and also with Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman. We – and as well as with NSS Senior Director for Asian Affairs Evan Medeiros.

And we, the United States and China, agree on a fundamental importance of a denuclearized Korea. They had, as I mentioned, a productive set of discussions, and they may be, I think, still underway at this point.

QUESTION: He said that he is optimistic, or he said he is confident, that Six-Party Talks would resume in the near future. So I was wondering what the U.S. assessment, or how your message was conveyed to the Chinese side.

MS. PSAKI: Our position on this hasn’t changed. North Korea has committed on numerous occasions, including in the September 2005 joint statement on the Six-Party Talks, to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs. We’re continuing to hold them accountable to these commitments, hold them to these commitments. The ball is in their court. Obviously, those steps have not been taken, so our position has not changed on the resumption.

It doesn’t mean that we aren’t at the same time continuing to work on these issues with our counterparts, as is evidenced by the meetings today and by a variety of meetings Glyn Davies and Under – and Assistant Secretary Russel have had in recent weeks and months.

QUESTION: Quick one on Iran, as well.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The talks in Geneva open next week, at the end of next week.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There was also the news that there would be technical discussions ahead of time.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you able to tell us where and when those technical discussions would be held and between whom?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I don’t have a list of our delegation. We may as we get closer. But the experts meeting will be held in Vienna October 30th and 31st, which is tomorrow and Thursday.

QUESTION: And it’s the Iranians and the Americans together?

MS. PSAKI: I believe that’s correct. Yes, I believe and other P5 experts as well. I can double-check on this --

QUESTION: And those --

MS. PSAKI: -- but that’s my understanding.

QUESTION: And if it’s in Vienna, does – will there be some IAEA involvement as well?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. I will check and see if there’s any clarification I can get on that front.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MS. PSAKI: Let me go right here to this patient lady in the back.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Back to the NSA and Europe reports, do you have any reaction to the information that an eavesdropping hub was being operated from the rooftop of the U.S. Embassy in Athens and other – another 18 locations in Europe, including Berlin, of course? And did you have any reaction from the Greek authorities on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: Other than what I’ve said, broadly speaking, which certainly applies to our friends in Greece, in that we are open to engaging and discussing any concerns about these programs as they come up. That certainly applies to Greece. And I don’t have any updates on specific meetings, but we’re open to that engagement. I don’t have anything specific for you on different reports of U.S. Embassy operations.

QUESTION: Okay. And may I follow up with a clarification? I mean, can you lay out for your international allies which restrictions and oversight is the U.S. currently enforcing on the NSA international intelligence operations – we know there are checks and balances for the domestic intelligence operations – especially the ones who have targeted foreign leaders?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I spoke about this a bit at the beginning, so I’m not sure I have too much to add, other than to say that there’s a review ongoing. The review is looking at whether we have the appropriate posture when it comes to heads of state and how we coordinate with our closest allies and partners and what further guiding principles or constraints might be appropriate for our efforts. That of course is looking at both our domestic and as well as foreign operations. So all of that is being looked at, and if we need to make changes, we will make changes. But that’s underway and we expect it to be concluded by the end of the year.

QUESTION: Right, but that’s a very similar question to one that I think I asked last week, which was the current restrictions, the ones that are in place right now, do they apply domestically as – I mean, internationally as well as domestically?

MS. PSAKI: There are restrictions that apply internationally. I don’t have a breakdown for – of that for you.

QUESTION: And the restriction is, essentially, don’t get caught? Or what is it?

MS. PSAKI: If there’s a legal breakdown for you that we can provide, I’m happy to do that. I don’t have that in front of me, though.

QUESTION: Is this a question that’s better addressed in – to another building? Or is it something that you would be able to answer? You would be able to answer --

MS. PSAKI: I will check and see through our interagency coordination whether there’s anything we can add to your question – in response to your question.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Elise.

QUESTION: One more?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’m sorry if this came up.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Did you – can you give an update on the Americans being held in Africa by the pirates?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe I have an update from when we last spoke about it, which was, I think, maybe two days ago. Just confirming, as you know, and as you’ve all reported, that two citizens were kidnapped. We’re obviously in close touch with our Nigerian authorities in a range of levels, but beyond that, I don’t have an update. I can circle back and see if there’s anything new today. I don’t think there is because I probably would have heard about it.

So, thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: No, wait, wait.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: I’ve got two quick – very quick follow-ups.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I – unless I missed it, I didn’t see a response to the Kuwaiti blogger question.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure.

QUESTION: Do you have that?

MS. PSAKI: I have that, actually. We’ve seen reports that an appeals court in Kuwait has upheld the conviction and prison sentence of Hamad al-Naqi for postings on his Twitter account. We believe that when speech, including online speech, is deemed offensive, the issue is best addressed through open dialogue and honest debate. We will continue to promote such dialogue and debate around the world, including in Kuwait and other countries. Our understanding is that this process is ongoing and there’s a possibility for other appeals.

QUESTION: So, but – I mean, you had expressed concern, I believe, when he was first arrested --

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: -- and your concerns remain the same? You think that this is not -- the appropriate place to address this is not in the judicial system? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. We believe in, yes, online speech, freedom of speech.

QUESTION: All right. And then I’m not really holding my breath for an answer, but I’m going to keep asking the question, and that is --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- is the review of the Amnesty drone report done yet?

MS. PSAKI: It is ongoing, Matt.

QUESTION: Should I hold my breath or should I just not, because --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know if you can hold your breath longer than a minute, so --

QUESTION: (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: -- I wouldn’t hold your breath.

QUESTION: I mean, why do you have to review it? What – I mean, how long does it take to read the report? It’s not that long.

MS. PSAKI: A review isn’t just reading. A review is taking a look at the contents, it’s looking at – having our legal team look at it. Yesterday, I mentioned that Administration officials had met with representatives from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

QUESTION: Is it the review of the drone policy in general or --

MS. PSAKI: It’s a review of --

QUESTION: -- an examination of their concerns and whether they’re applicable?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a review of the reports. So they’re still taking a look at it.

Okay.

QUESTION: And I just have one more.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: I don’t really think that you’ll – you might – well, I have no confidence that you’ll know about this, yes, but --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- apparently, the U.S. Embassy in Canberra is offering free tickets to see the movie Dirty Wars at the Canberra Film Festival. Are you – or is the building – is the Embassy aware of what the film – the documentary Dirty Wars is about?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not even aware of this report, so we’ll take a look at it.

QUESTION: Okay, well, they’re advertising free tickets to this. They’re trying to give them away on their Twitter account apparently. Dirty Wars is a documentary about U.S. military undercover JSOC operations around the world and it is not exactly the kind of movie that portrays the U.S. Government in a positive light.

And I’m just wondering if people in Canberra know what the movie is about. Are they trying to sabotage the film festival by giving away free tickets when most people would have to buy them? Or is this part of just the Administration’s or the government’s view that freedom of expression and entertainment and documentaries and that kind of thing is a good thing? So, that’s my question.

MS. PSAKI: Let me look into the Twitter reports and get back to you. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:12 p.m.)

DPB # 179

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - October 29, 2013]