Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
November 27, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • IRAN
    • Arak Reactor / Iran Agreement
    • Joint Action Plan / Technical Discussions
    • Video for Congress
  • SYRIA
    • Geneva Conference / Goal is Transitional Government / Representation from Both Sides is Key Component
  • IRAN
    • U.S.-Iran Relationship Has Not Changed / Focus on Technical Discussions
  • CHINA
    • East China Sea Air Defense Zone / Consulting with Affected Partners throughout the Region
    • Deputy Secretary Burns' Meeting with Foreign Minister Liu / Range of Issues Discussed
  • SYRIA
    • Geneva Conference / Continue to Work with SOC
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Bilateral Security Agreement
  • TURKEY/IRAQ
    • Oil Exports
  • PAKISTAN
    • Range of Security Dialogues with Pakistan
    • Appointment of New Chief of Army Staff
  • EGYPT
    • Concern about Demonstrations Law / Remain Committed to Long-standing Partnership with Egypt
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Team Remains Closely Engaged
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary's Travel
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Committed to Diplomatic Path Forward with Iran NW


TRANSCRIPT:

12:08 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hello, everyone.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Deb has requested at least an hour – (laughter) – but others have voted differently, given it’s the night before Thanksgiving. So hopefully we can address your questions.

QUESTION: Let’s drag Deb away right now. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Let’s do the world in 20 minutes.

QUESTION: Less.

QUESTION: Can we do that? Okay.

QUESTION: And I wish to insert that I’d like to make this as brief a briefing as possible.

MS. PSAKI: Arshad, I’m happy to abide by your request as --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) or can we ask questions now?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Deb. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. The Iranian foreign minister – you know?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: He keeps saying that construction is continuing at the heavy-water reactor facility.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why is that not a breaking of the deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen his comments where he said – and just so in case folks have not seen them – what he said specifically was: “The capacity of the Arak site is not going to increase. It means no nuclear fuel will be produced and no installations will be installed. But construction will continue there.” We’re not sure exactly what he means by construction in the comments that he makes, but there will be no work on the reactor – in the comments he made – but there will be no work on the reactor itself, no work to prepare fuel for the reactor, or do additional testing of the reactor.

As you all know, the Iranians need fuel to make Arak operational. That is why one of our immediate goals was to halt fuel production related to Arak. Without sufficient fuel production, they cannot start up the reactor. So whether he meant a road here or an out-building there, we don’t have a – more clarity on that. But there are specific requirements and agreements made regarding Arak – I’m happy to outline them if it’s helpful – that certainly we have the expectation they will abide by. And if they don’t, they would be violating the agreement.

QUESTION: So have you asked for clarification?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check if there’s been more specific follow-up on that in the last couple of hours, but --

QUESTION: Could you check?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: I mean, he said that yesterday, too, I think. I mean, surely they’re in touch with the people already, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what I said was while we don’t – if he’s referring to a road here or an out-building there, that’s something different. Obviously, there are specific requirements. He repeated many of them in his public comments as well, as in that no nuclear fuel will be produced and no installations will be installed. The reason we put specific requirements in place is because we wanted to ensure that Arak would not be operational in this timeframe.

QUESTION: Can I follow up, please?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I mean, would it be fair to say that you are not convinced that anything he said necessarily implies that they are or are planning to violate the agreement? Correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: And that fundamentally you draw a distinction between construction, which could include just building buildings and the specific things that they committed not to do, including commissioning the reactor, installing components --

MS. PSAKI: Right. And just to add a little bit more to that, it’s those but it’s also commissioning the reactor; transfueling – transferring fuel or heavy water to the reactor for the duration of the agreement; not testing any additional fuel or producing more fuel for the reactor; not install on the instrumentation and control systems, among other components; and not undertaking reprocessing or constructing a facility capable of processing spent fuel.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So the specific requirements in there are what our expectation is they will meet.

QUESTION: Right. Got it. Good.

QUESTION: So when you said that you’re seeking clarity or clarification --

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t imply that. I mean, I think Deb asked that.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MS. PSAKI: I said I wasn’t aware of a specific ask. And I can check if there has been a specific ask.

QUESTION: I mean, how would you do that?

MS. PSAKI: How would we do that?

QUESTION: Yeah, how would you do it? Would it be between the Secretary and Minister Zarif? Would it be between Wendy Sherman and her interlocutor?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to go too far down this because I’m not – I didn’t state proactively that we were seeking clarity. Obviously, there is an expectation that they’re going to abide by the specific agreement. But obviously, there are a range of discussions that happen at the technical level as well as the higher level. I would expect technical clarification might happen at the technical level.

QUESTION: Okay. And on those technical discussions that you say are going to take place first as a next – as a first step before you start implementing the agreement, do you know yet where they’ll be held, whether it’ll be Geneva or Vienna?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that yet. We talked about this a little bit yesterday. But obviously, a next step here is technical discussions at a working level to tee up the implementation of the joint action plan that’s going to involve logistics around the joint commission, to work with IAEA to monitor implementation, address issues. I think you’re all aware of what they need to figure out in the coming weeks, but I don’t have a specific next step or date or location at this point.

QUESTION: Do those technical discussions also include discussions about the sanctions relief that is envisaged under the first-step agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, the implementation of all of these components would be a part of that discussion; but of course, in terms of next steps on sanctions, obviously, every country will have their own set of discussions about them. So we’re working through the implementation steps required on our end. We’re discussing these steps first internally and then with Congress as appropriate, and the timing of that will – remains to be determined through negotiations with the Iranians and the P5+1.

QUESTION: But will that come up – sorry. Will that come up in the first set of technical discussions that you have with the Iranians on implementing it or not?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an agenda in terms of what will be discussed each meeting, but certainly that will be part of the discussion of the implementation and how we move forward.

QUESTION: But do you expect – I’m not looking for an agenda. I’m just trying to understand if in the first technical discussions you have it’s going to be all about all the stuff they have to do in terms of restricting their program, or if it’s also going to include in that very first discussion some of the stuff that you and the others in the P5+1 have to do.

MS. PSAKI: That’s still being determined --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- in terms of what will be discussed in each stage.

QUESTION: And is it next week?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have a date at this point. It’s still being worked through.

QUESTION: And are the – there was also a question from Brad yesterday about how with the sanctions relief come to be more in the form of executive orders from the President rather than from Congress lifting anything that they’ve put in place.

MS. PSAKI: That’s also – and I said at the time it’s a good question. It really is. It’s part of what will be discussed, and as appropriate, we’ll be discussing that with Congress. And obviously, we’ll have to follow what is possible and legal on our ends, of course.

QUESTION: Could you update us on who the Secretary has spoken with on the Hill since yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: He is not in the office today, so as far – when I came down here, he had not made calls this morning. That certainly will change over the course of the weekend, and we will venture to get you all updates as those occur.

QUESTION: And has there been any reaction from any of his former colleagues to the video that he put out yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: Aside from pure bliss at how informative – (laughter) – and creative it was? I would point you to them on that. I know, obviously, because many members are at home, it went clearly to staff on the Hill. And the goal there was to provide a description of the deal and a description of where we stand and why this was important. And so we’re hopeful that that can be a small component of our efforts.

QUESTION: Because I think yesterday you mentioned that he would also be giving a warning to the lawmakers that it wasn’t felt to be very helpful to impose new sanctions, but he actually doesn’t say that in the --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wasn’t implying --

QUESTION: It’s more of a description of the deal.

MS. PSAKI: -- that would necessarily be through the video.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: I think the audience of the video is not just members. It’s also people out there in the country who are trying to understand what exactly this deal and agreement involve this weekend, what exactly the issues are as it relates to Iran developing a nuclear weapon. So that was the focus of it. What I meant was as he talks to members of Congress.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can we do Syria first?

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just to try to get this done very quickly.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: So – I’m going to defer to my colleague here. Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Tongue-tied. It’s a first. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Sleepy. Sleepy. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, actually, I’ll ask a Syria question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And it’s probably the one that he was looking at, is that the Syrian authorities have said that they will attend the talks in January, but it’s not going to lead to them – to President Assad leaving. How does one resolve this if the president decides that he does not – he will not step down but will attend, and if he’s going to negotiate perhaps something that includes him, I mean, is that a no-go for the conference? Can you see a conference going ahead where the president will not – refuses to step down?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, the end goal here is to create a transitional governing body by mutual consent. I saw the extent of the comments, I believe, and there was also a reference in there to foreign demands. And to be clear, the goal of Geneva has nothing to do with foreign demands; it has to do with bringing an end to the bloodshed and suffering of the Syrian people by implementing the Geneva communique.

Now, as we all are very familiar because the Secretary and many of us have talked about this quite a bit, the Geneva communique calls for the creation of a transitional governing body through mutual consent, which means Syrians talking to Syrians, representatives from both sides about how to put that body together. That is the agreement that anybody would be coming to the Geneva conference with in mind, and certainly what we still anticipate will be the goal and agenda for the conference.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding from the Russians that President Assad – that he has told the Russians that he would – that he’s ready to discuss a transition?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t venture to speak on their behalf, certainly, and there’s been a range of comments in the past couple of months about what they’ve agreed to and what they’ve committed to. But certainly, working through what the agenda is and the shared goal and – goals of the outcome of the Geneva conference would be part of what we’ll continue to discuss in the coming weeks, as well as December 20th when there’s the next trilateral meeting.

QUESTION: Can I ask something in just a simple way?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are you happy that the Syrian Government says they’re gonna come, and are you unhappy that they say they are not interested in the president stepping down?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t characterize it in exactly those words, but I would say that certainly having a representative delegation from both the regime and from the opposition is a key component of a successful Geneva conference, so having both sides committed to attend is certainly an important step forward. But ensuring that there is an agreement that discussing – that implementing the Geneva communique, that putting in place a transitional governing body is part of the agenda, is also something we will obviously have to continue to work toward.

QUESTION: Jen, on the (inaudible) participation of Saudi Arabia, first, are you having conversations with them on how they would like to be represented? The reason I’m asking is because there is a great deal of noise out there --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- between the Saudis, whether they should be represented as a member of a delegation representing all the GCC countries, or on their own, or how they – how would you like to see that happen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, it’s not up to us, as you know. This is a discussion that the UN will make the decision. We’re part of the discussion, as are the Russians. They haven’t made a decision about the attendees, including Saudi Arabia, including Iran and other countries that I know there have been questions about. So that will be a topic of discussion in just a couple of weeks. But beyond that, I don’t have any analysis for what role they would or wouldn’t play. I think it’s something we have to discuss and determine.

QUESTION: But if you were to advise him, wouldn’t they be more effective sort of representing the GCC rather than have, let’s say, seven different foreign ministers present?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to debate this publicly. Obviously, there are a lot of discussions that are being – that are happening diplomatically with the Russians and with the UN, and I’ll let that play out. And I’m sure when thy have something to announce about attendance, they will announce it.

QUESTION: Okay. I’m sure that you’re having some sort of conversation with them. Are they more inclined to participate in Geneva now after Geneva Iranian deal than they were before?

MS. PSAKI: I will let them speak for themselves.

QUESTION: But are you not having any conversations with them on the necessary --

MS. PSAKI: We speak with them all the time, Said. I don’t have anything more to read out for you on it.

Arshad.

QUESTION: Do you continue to stick to the position that you have had for a very long time now – what, a year and a half – that from your point of view, a transitional governing authority formed by mutual consent of the opposition and the current government could not include President Assad because the opposition would never give its consent to that?

MS. PSAKI: That’s right, and it’s their choice to make. However, it’s worth adding that our view continues to be that a leader who kills over 100,000 of his own people has no legitimacy. And we’ve also seen horrific reports that the regime is intentionally blocking the delivery of food and medicine to rebel-held areas, resulting in the starving of women and children. So it’s hard to see how he would have a role in the future of Syria.

Nicolas. Another on Syria?

QUESTION: No. Can we go back to Iran for one minute?

QUESTION: Oh, sure.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: If the Geneva process is successful, if you get a comprehensive agreement in six months, would the U.S. consider resuming its diplomatic relationship with Iran?

MS. PSAKI: That is far ahead of where we are at this point, and we can certainly continue to have this conversation. But right now, we are focused on the stage, as I just mentioned, of the technical discussions to start the implementation stage of six months and moving towards a comprehensive agreement. Obviously, there remains a distrust with Iran about a range of issues. That hasn’t changed. And our relationship on other levels outside of this first step agreement has not changed either.

QUESTION: By the way, on the six-months issue – on the six-month issue, how was that chosen, I mean, versus, let’s say, nine months with the Palestinians? You seem to like things that divide on threes. But how was that arrived at?

QUESTION: One other thing: Technically, it’s not six months. I mean, I think this is a widely held misconception about the agreement. The agreement actually provides for trying to reach a comprehensive agreement within one year, and the initial implementation and the sanctions relief and the steps that they have to take are all supposed to be done in six months.

MS. PSAKI: There would have to be mutual consent to extend, which is --

QUESTION: Right, but in terms --

MS. PSAKI: You’re right. It’s important, though, because there have to be --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- mutual agreement on all sides to extend.

QUESTION: Right. I get that. But the fundamental point is that the final part of it – talking about the comprehensive solution – says final step of a comprehensive solution, which the parties aim to conclude negotiating and commence implementing no more than one year after the adoption of this document. So I’m sure you would be happy to get a comprehensive agreement within six months, but the document itself gives you a year if you were to renew --

MS. PSAKI: By mutual consent.

QUESTION: -- the first step.

MS. PSAKI: By mutual agreement --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- which, obviously, is a step that we’d have to proactively take.

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: So what happens at the six-months mark? I mean, what should happen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’d have to evaluate whether the steps have been abided by – to by both sides, but there’s clearly going to be ongoing monitoring of that. And beyond that, that’s the timeframe that we’re aiming to have agreement on a comprehensive agreement. As Arshad mentioned, there could be agreement by mutual consent to extend, but there are clearly a number of components that we’d be working through over the long term.

QUESTION: Are there, like, definite milestones that they have to accomplish within that six months?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m going to lay out for you. Obviously, I’d encourage you to read the agreement which is online, and we have an extensive fact sheet which has a lot of details on it. And we’re in the implementation – we’re in the technical discussions about the implementation phase, so we’re working through a number of these steps now.

QUESTION: Going back to Nicolas’ question, the Brits have decided that they’re going to have some kind of exchange of diplomatic advisors or something between the two countries, and they obviously haven’t had relations for quite some time either. Do you think there will --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. And I think they announced that, if I’m correct, several weeks ago.

QUESTION: They did, yeah. Yeah, they did. Yes, that’s not new. But I’m just wondering, though, if that would be something that perhaps the Americans would think about doing as well, that kind of very cautious opening up and rapprochement?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of that at this stage. Obviously, we evaluate our relationships with every country all the time, but I don’t have any prediction of that at this point.

QUESTION: Was there an ask at all from the Iranian side about broader diplomatic relations with the Americans?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on that. If there’s more I can share, I’m happy to.

QUESTION: Can we talk about China?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There’s a meeting today between Bill Burns and China’s vice minister of foreign affairs. I’m just wondering, what have our conversations with the Chinese been like about ADIZ? What have we told them and what have they told us about the B-52s?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I talked about this a little bit yesterday, and obviously, some of the conversation about the B-52s would be happening over at DOD and not at the State Department. But Assistant Secretary Russel had raised concerns with the ambassador on November 23rd, and also Ambassador Locke had also raised concerns on the ground. You saw the statement issued by Secretary Kerry, and Secretary Hagel also issued a separate statement.

Deputy Secretary Burns does have a meeting today. It’s been long scheduled, long before this. There’ll be a range of issues discussed during that meeting, of course, including this, but it will likely – it will definitely be broader than that.

QUESTION: I think you may have touched on this yesterday too, but the Vice President is going to Asia, and I’m wondering what you think this will do to his trip. Will this prevent him from accomplishing other things in other areas?

MS. PSAKI: I would let my colleagues over at the White House speak to that. I know they’re doing briefings preparing for the trip. But clearly, our relationship with China, our relationship with Japan, are both wide-ranging relationships that cross a number of issues, whether it’s security issues, economic issues, political issues, and that his trip has also, I know, has been long planned as well.

QUESTION: May I follow on that?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The thing is the Chinese Defense Ministry responds on Wednesday that China monitored the flights of U.S. B-52 over its newly created Air Defense Identification Zone. Any kind of update on that?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to DOD on that. I know they’ve spoken publicly about it as well and conveyed that this is – has been a military exercise that they had planned. But I would point you to them for any more specific comment.

QUESTION: As we know that – from 1970s, we know that Japan has extended its Air Defense Identification Zone several times, and there is a report that Japan extends ADIZ into Taiwan space. Does the U.S. Government worry about this issue? Are you going to communicate it with Japan regarding this?

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

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Just to follow up on that, you don’t see this as some kind of implicit threat, then, that the Beijing authorities monitored the two planes that overflew the islands yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I mean, I would point you to DOD on specifics on that. They were their planes, part of a military exercise, but I don’t have any more specifics on it for you from here.

QUESTION: Jen, to get to the – back to the question on the meeting this morning, just to probe a little bit more deeply --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- is it your understanding that U.S. officials will be conveying to Vice Minister Liu that the U.S. is concerned about the destabilizing effects this action has?

MS. PSAKI: I expect that the same message that has been conveyed through Ambassador Locke, through Assistant Secretary Russel, through Secretary Kerry’s own public statement, would be conveyed in any part of the discussion during this meeting, but it is important just to reiterate that this meeting has been long planned. It will cover a range of topics.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. And then, also just one more – I’m sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The Japanese commercial airliners today – I think it was today – announced that they were reversing their decision to abide by the rules of the ADIZ and they will not – no longer convey flight plans to the Chinese. Does this concern you in any way, as far as like a travel risk for U.S. citizens who might be on those flights?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Japanese for any comment on that. We’re attempting to determine whether the new rules apply to civil aviation, commercial air flight. In the meantime, U.S. air carriers are being advised to take all steps they consider necessary to operate safely in the East China Sea region.

QUESTION: But --

QUESTION: (Inaudible) apply to commercial aircraft even --

MS. PSAKI: To civil aircraft.

QUESTION: -- to civil aircraft even though the U.S. Government has taken the position that they don’t apply to U.S. military aircraft?

MS. PSAKI: That it – we’re still looking at all of it, Arshad.

QUESTION: So you --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, the safety of airplanes is key.

QUESTION: But --

QUESTION: So your advice --

QUESTION: But – can I follow-up just for – on this one? I mean, but if the Chinese say yeah, they apply to civil aircraft, is it not caving to their assertion --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t support any efforts, as I said yesterday, to apply these procedures. So --

QUESTION: Including to civil aircraft?

MS. PSAKI: That is clear, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But we’re still looking into and evaluating, obviously, how – what this means. And obviously, we want to advise accordingly.

QUESTION: Have the Chinese --

QUESTION: So your advice is that U.S. airlines should operate – do what they think is necessary to operate safely?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Which would suggest that they should, in that case, be telling the Chinese authorities of their flight plans.

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t go that far. We’re still looking at it. Obviously, we’re in touch as is needed, but I don’t have any other further analysis on it.

QUESTION: So are you advising them whether to – advise the Chinese of their flight plans or not?

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

QUESTION: But that – I mean, that’s the key to – it’s the whole crux of the issue, isn’t it?

MS. PSAKI: If there is more to share --

QUESTION: I mean, it’s a vague --

MS. PSAKI: -- I’m happy to share it. Obviously, it’s something that could impact a range of flights, but I don’t have any more to share with all of you publicly at this point.

QUESTION: China’s Defense Ministry said yesterday that China is capable of exercising effective control over the Air Defense Identification Zone. And what is your response?

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

QUESTION: China’s Defense Ministry said yesterday that China is capable of exercising effective control over the Air Defense Identification Zone. And what is your response?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve extensively responded to this publicly. I’m happy to reiterate that when China announced the ADIZ without – they did so without prior consultations with parts of the Japanese, and – even though it overlaps with parts of the Japanese and Korean ADIZs, and the Japanese administer to Senkaku Islands. We’ve expressed publicly and privately our concerns, and we have urged and continue to urge Chinese to exercise – the Chinese to exercise caution and restraint. And as you know, we’re consulting with Japan and other affected parties throughout the region.

QUESTION: And at the same time, the Chinese spokesperson of foreign – Ministry of Foreign Affairs Qin Gang announced they also – they’re preparing for another ADIZ in different area. Do you have – do you concerned about that?

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

QUESTION: Just a logistic question --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- on the meeting of the Chinese vice foreign minister.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Who else is he meeting in this building? And will you be able to provide any readout between his meeting with Deputy Secretary Burns?

MS. PSAKI: I – he met with Deputy Secretary Burns this morning. I’m not going to have much more of a readout other than to convey that they talked about a range of issues, including, of course, this issue. But it’s been a long-planned meeting. I will check and see if there’s more from our team that they’d like to read out.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) I want to check one thing. And I apologize if I --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- if I missed this. I think it would’ve happened when we were either traveling or getting ready to travel, but you said that Assistant Secretary Russel had discussed this matter with the Chinese ambassador to the United States on November the 3rd, so last Friday.

MS. PSAKI: 23rd.

QUESTION: 23rd, excuse me. Had that been previously disclosed?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. I talked about it yesterday.

QUESTION: Sorry. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: And I think we may have this weekend as well, but --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I can check that. I know I talked about it yesterday.

QUESTION: Oh, no. Good. Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we go back to Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you very quickly: On – how do you envisage the opposition to be present in this conference? Because now we’re getting confused signals. Some say that the coalition, which is Jarba, and then some say that Idris, Salim Idris, the Free Syrian Army. But now they’re opening the – sort of, the door to other militant groups. How do you envisage their participation?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those specific comments you’re referring to, Said. But I know there have been a range over the past couple of days from General Idris and others. We’ve long urged the opposition to send a delegation to Geneva that is representative of the Syrian people. So we, of course, want that delegation to include key Syrian actors in this crisis. And we continue that discussion with them. You heard Brahimi say he hopes to have that by the end of the year. We’ll see. That’s his goal and we continue to work and consult with them as appropriate.

QUESTION: But you do expect the opposition to speak in one voice, correct? I mean, they --

MS. PSAKI: One delegation, certainly.

QUESTION: One delegation – I mean, to speak in one voice, not only one delegation.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what that means.

QUESTION: Well, what that means – I mean, not every member of the opposition would have their own or his own plan, so to speak.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to get too far ahead of where we are. I’m sure that in a conference like this, there will be a range of opinions expressed from both sides. But – and certainly we would welcome that conversation. But we do – we would like to see the delegation be representative of the Syrian people.

QUESTION: Okay. I guess my question is: How do you prepare for a conference like this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, we’re continuing to --

QUESTION: I’m serious – I mean, a serious question.

MS. PSAKI: They’re continuing trilateral meetings. We’re continuing to work with the opposition. The Russians remain in touch with the regime. We’re all taking steps forward to determine the agenda and the invites, and we’ll go from there. And we have about two months until we would have a conference.

QUESTION: Okay. The reason I ask this is because General Idris, as you, I’m sure, are aware, said that they will continue fighting even during the conference.

MS. PSAKI: Well, negotiations in Geneva may result in a ceasefire, but there’s no expectation that the fighting will stop while the talks are ongoing in Geneva. So we’ve seen his comments, but that has not been the expectation, and there certainly isn’t a regime commitment to stop fighting during the time.

QUESTION: So you don’t – you will not demand that a ceasefire be in place for Geneva II to be held?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we ever have had that expectation. We, of course, believe it’s important to get both sides to the table.

QUESTION: Turkey.

QUESTION: Sorry. (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s go to Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Syria.

MS. PSAKI: And we’re just going to work through a couple of the issues, and then if we have time to answer follow-ups, we will do that.

QUESTION: I wondered if there was any follow-up to the delay in signing the BSA. And I’m seeing some reports out there somewhere that you’re trying, perhaps, to get somebody other than President Karzai to sign the BSA.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I have seen those comments. And just to be clear, this would be a document that would need to be signed by President Karzai or his designee.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: So that’s not a process that we are actively working through. I think that statement was --

QUESTION: That’s not --

MS. PSAKI: -- what is factually possible. But in terms of an update, there’s not anything new to report from this end from yesterday other than to reiterate that agreed text went to the Loya Jirga, and our view is that it’s time to sign the text and move forward. So that’s what we’re working toward.

QUESTION: So, but President Karzai could designate somebody else to sign it in his place.

MS. PSAKI: Factually, but it’s not – that is not something that we are actively working toward at this point.

QUESTION: So the reports that you’re possibly looking to the foreign minister to sign it, is – that’s incorrect, is it?

MS. PSAKI: I would not – I’ve seen some of the reports you said. I took them to mean what is factually possible, but not what we are intending to pursue.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. So you still believe it needs to be signed by President Karzai or his designee as soon as possible. That’s where we stand.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

Do we have more on Afghanistan, just before – okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: About the energy deal between Turkey and KRG: The KRG Prime Minister Barzani, Nechirvan Barzani, was in Turkey yesterday and he told to the Turkish reporters there that the pipeline between Irbil and Turkey will start to carry all the oil next month, before the Christmas. So I know that you raised this – your concern on this issue with the Turks when Mr. Davutoglu was here, but what is the latest situation and what is your view on the latest arrangement of this --

MS. PSAKI: Our view has not changed. We don’t support oil exports from any part of Iraq without approval of the Iraqi federal government. We continue to urge the federal government of Iraq and Kurdistan Regional Government to reach a constitutional solution, and that has consistently been our position. And it also has not changed.

QUESTION: There is a plan on the table that Turks are arguing that they’re going to accumulate the revenue, oil revenue, in a Turkish bank in Turkey, and then they gonna split the spoils arising from this energy resources between KRG and Baghdad. So 70 percent will be going to the Kurds, and the rest will be Baghdad. Are you okay with that plan?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on that for you. Our position remains the same on this specific issue.

QUESTION: Did you raise this issue with Mr. Davutoglu when was in town?

MS. PSAKI: I will check and see if there’s more to report on our meeting with Foreign Minister Davutoglu.

QUESTION: So, just so I understand correctly, you do stick to the principle that the central governments was responsible for the export of oil from Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: That’s right, without approval of the Iraqi federal government.

Chris.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the reported outing of the CIA station chief in Pakistan?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we, of course, have seen those reports. I don’t have any specific comment on them other than to say that, obviously, we have a range of security dialogues with the Pakistanis about a range of issues. And as you know, we, as a standard process, don’t speak to them.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the appointment of the new general in Pakistan, Raheel? Is his --

MS. PSAKI: The new --

QUESTION: He is presumed to be a moderate and is likely to work with you a lot better than his predecessor.

MS. PSAKI: Other than to say that we’ve worked closely with General Kayani on a range of issues over the course of his time in that position, as you know, he is moving on about and we look forward to working with the new – his replacement.

Yes, in the back. Oh, go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: One thing I did note today: You said you – obviously, we have a variety of security dialogues with the Pakistanis and we – you just don’t talk about those.

MS. PSAKI: We just don’t speak to them, exactly.

QUESTION: Okay, yeah.

QUESTION: Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Egypt. Yesterday, the State Department made the statement that – voiced its concern on the law of demonstrations.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And yesterday, the – there were many protests, and there were – the American press today reported about the crackdown on these protests yesterday. At the same time, there are some calls for the government to backtrack on this law while others say that this will be a betrayal step to take it. So do you have any now contacts with the Egyptian Government about this law or something?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve remained in close touch on the ground, as usual, as would be expected. We are concerned, as I expressed yesterday, about the potential effects of the new demonstrations law on peaceful assembly in Egypt. Those troubling effects were illustrated yesterday and today when the Egyptian authorities used tear gas and water cannons to disperse peaceful protests and arrested activists. We share the concerns of civil society representatives and activists inside Egypt that the law is restrictive and does not meet international standards. And that is something we continue to express both publicly and privately.

QUESTION: So do you think that they can – if they backtrack on this law, is this will be a positive step?

MS. PSAKI: Well, given we’ve expressed concerns about the law, you would be safe to venture that if they didn’t have the law, that that would be a positive step.

QUESTION: Doesn’t this law make it harder for the U.S. Government to restore the assistance that has been suspended on October the 9th, given your statement at the time that whether you will go forward with such assistance depends on Egypt’s progress on a whole host of democratic and rights-related matters?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, events on the ground are a part of that factor – are part of that analysis, and it’s – but it’s not something that we have daily or weekly updates on. So, clearly, we look events that are happening on the ground, but I don’t have any particular analysis in terms of the impact of this particular law on that.

QUESTION: But surely this is not going in a direction that is helpful to your stated desire to resume assistance when they have made progress on rights and democracy.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to analyze the impact of this one law on what it means for our assistance publicly. Clearly, as we stated at the time, the important factor here is Egypt continuing to make progress in all of the areas, which includes inclusivity, includes taking steps forward on their constitutional referendum. We continue to encourage them to do that, but --

QUESTION: So it’s conceivable that you could restore the assistance even though they tear gas and --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not making a prediction of that.

QUESTION: -- water cannon peaceful protestors.

MS. PSAKI: I’m just conveying that I’m not going to analysis of – over a law and what it means for assistance, because I’m not in a position to do that.

QUESTION: Jen, did you say that they are making progress? Is that what you just said? The Egyptians are making progress towards this (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: I said it’s important that they make progress.

QUESTION: It’s important that they make – but they haven’t made any.

MS. PSAKI: We’ve talked about individual instances, Said, but obviously, while our relationship is longstanding and we remain committed to that relationship and to seeing the transition in Egypt succeed, we also express when we have concerns about activities, which we did over the last 48 hours, and we continue to urge the interim government to take steps forward.

QUESTION: So the statements made by the Secretary of State regarding how the Muslim Brotherhood stole the revolution and so on is really not finding resonance with the current authority?

MS. PSAKI: I spoke extensively to this last week, Said --

QUESTION: You did, but --

MS. PSAKI: -- and I would point you to that. In the back.

QUESTION: Jen, is – a follow-up on this.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have anything about the crisis between Egypt and Turkey since the Egyptian government declared the --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you. I’d point you to both of their governments. In the back.

QUESTION: Maybe I lost my right when I chose my --

MS. PSAKI: No. I got confused as to where you were sitting.

QUESTION: That's why I’m trying to raise my hand.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Anyway, happy Thanksgiving, first.

MS. PSAKI: Happy Thanksgiving.

QUESTION: So my question is related to this story of what’s going on --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- in the last few – 20 – 48 hours. Your counterpart in the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs raised the issue which, when they ask him about this statement that came out Monday evening, he said that it’s an interference in the internal affairs of Egypt, and he said that it’s not welcome or even not acceptable. Without using your term, without debate publicly, what you can say about this?

MS. PSAKI: I would just reiterate that we remain committed to our decades-long partnership with Egypt, and we’ll continue to work with the Egyptian Government and people to support Egypt's democratic transition. We’ve long expressed a concern about these types of laws, and that’s exactly what we did over the last 48 hours.

QUESTION: Yes, I mean – there is another question related to State Department and the assistant secretaries who are working mainly in democracy – regarding the democracy --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs Patterson and others, all these number of people who are in higher position at this Department and they are not confirmed yet. Do you think that this is affecting the work is done by State Department or not?

MS. PSAKI: This is a different question.

QUESTION: Yeah. I mean, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: We’ve long said that it’s important for the Secretary and for our diplomatic efforts around the world to have a full team in place, and that’s why we’ve continued to work with Congress to get as many as these positions confirmed as possible.

Go ahead, Allie.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the CIA program that’s now defunct but that was turning detainees into double agents, known as Penny Lane?

MS. PSAKI: I have seen those reports. I do not have anything on that for you guys.

QUESTION: Can I ask another intelligence-related question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have a response to the Huffington Post piece that was posted late last night, alleging that the NSA spied on the activities of certain extremists, specifically their visits to sexually-explicit websites, in order to undermine their further radicalization efforts?

MS. PSAKI: I do not.

QUESTION: Does the State Department think this is an effective way to combat Muslim extremist --

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen this story.

Said.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question on the peace process?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yes. Could you update us on any ongoing meetings or potential meetings in – on today or tomorrow or the day after?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you on that today. Maybe I will next week. It’s – again, our team remains closely engaged. We still feel this is – both parties have reaffirmed their commitment to the nine-month timeframe and, as you – as the Secretary has mentioned, he hopes to return next week.

Actually, before I forget – you cued me here, Said.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: I actually can announce the next trip here.

QUESTION: Excellent. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Brussels – Chisinau – I am sure I butchered that name – Jerusalem and Ramallah from December 3rd to the 6th, then Brussels. He will attend the North – the NATO foreign ministerial and associated meetings December 3rd and 4th.

In Moldova, he will meet with senior Moldovan officials, he will discuss bilateral issues as well as Moldova’s path toward European integration.

In Jerusalem, Secretary Kerry will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss a range of issues, including Iran and negotiations with the Palestinians.

In Ramallah, he will meet with President Abbas, where he will also discuss the ongoing final status negotiations, among other issues.

So he will be back in the region right after Thanksgiving to continue the discussions.

QUESTION: Excellent. I just have one more question.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The prime minister of Israel tweeted a few days back – three days ago – that the deal with Iran actually make them reluctant to pursue peace with the Palestinians.

MS. PSAKI: I have not --

QUESTION: Do you have any comment? You have not seen that?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that tweet. What I will say is that we remain in close contact with the Israelis. The Secretary has spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu a number of times. He will speak with him again next week.

It’s important also to note that there are concerns that the Israelis have expressed in the past about a possible diplomatic path forward with Iran, and we feel that this agreement meets a number of those concerns. So we will continue this discussion. The reason we’re so committed to a diplomatic path forward with Iran and the reason we’re so committed to direct negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians is because we’re so concerned about Israel’s security, and we feel both would be very constructive in helping that.

QUESTION: Do you caution the Israeli Government not to take it out on the Palestinians as a result of their anger over the deal with Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I haven’t even seen that tweet, but I think the Secretary himself has said that the two should be unrelated. There are interests for both parties to continue the negotiation.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:50 p.m.)

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - November 27, 2013]