Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
December 9, 2013


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry's Travel Schedule
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Middle East Peace Process / Secretary Kerry / Final Status Agreement
    • Security in the Region
  • IRAN
    • Vienna Meetings / Implementation Phase
  • ISRAEL
    • Read-out of Secretary Kerry's Meeting with Foreign Minister Lieberman
    • Read-out of Secretary Kerry's Meeting with Israeli Opposition Leader Herzog
  • IRAN
    • Additional Sanctions Counterproductive
    • Secretary Kerry's Upcoming Congressional Testimony
  • PAKISTAN
    • Secretary Hagel's Travels
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Bilateral Security Agreement
  • TURKEY
    • Internal Law / Politics
  • CHINA/SOUTH KOREA/JAPAN
    • Air Defense Identification Zone
    • Vice President Biden's Travels
  • THAILAND
    • Reduction of Violence / Peaceful Resolution
  • UKRAINE
    • Urge Government to Listen to People / Assistant Secretary Nuland's Travel
    • European Integration / Role of EU
  • RUSSIA
    • UN Human Rights Council Language on Sexual Discrimination
  • DPRK
    • Internal Politics
    • Update on U.S. Citizen Merrill Newman
    • Update on Continued Detention of U.S. Citizen Kenneth Bae
  • CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC
    • AU and French Forces / Peacekeeping Operations / Reduction of Violence Positive
    • Financial and Training Assistance from the U.S.


TRANSCRIPT:

2:43 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I know you’re looking at your watch. I blame Mother Nature for her activities yesterday for delaying the process a bit today, so thank you all for your patience.

Deb, you have a confused look on your face. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: How it could have affected the briefing, but okay. So I assume Kerry’s not going to South Africa for the Mandela funeral, right?

MS. PSAKI: Let me actually do – and thank you for your reminder here a trip announcement.

QUESTION: And then I have a question about the Middle East.

MS. PSAKI: Let me do the trip announcement first, and then we’ll get to your question, if that works.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: So Secretary Kerry will travel to Jerusalem, Ramallah, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Tacloban, and Manila, from December 11th through the 18th. In Jerusalem, he will meet with Prime Minister Netanyahu to discuss a range of issues, including Iran and the ongoing final status negotiations with the Palestinians. In Ramallah, he will meet with President Abbas. We will also discuss the ongoing final status negotiations, among other issues.

This trip to Asia, which he will be proceeding on following his trip back to Jerusalem and Ramallah, will be his fourth to the region since becoming Secretary of State. As you may all recall, he also traveled to Sunnylands, California in June with – then with the President to meet with Chinese premier – the Chinese premier.

Within the Asia-Pacific rebalance, Southeast Asia holds special importance, and the Secretary’s travel to Vietnam and the Philippines demonstrates the enduring U.S. commitment and his personal connections to the region. The Secretary’s visit to Vietnam will highlight the dramatic transformation in the bilateral relationship over the years and our growing partnership in many areas. In Ho Chi Minh City, Secretary Kerry’s meetings will underscore the growth of our bilateral trade relationship and the empowering role of education. His visit to the Mekong Delta will emphasize how Americans and Vietnamese can work together on critical issues such as climate change and renewable energy. In Hanoi, the Secretary will meet with senior Vietnamese leaders to advance the comprehensive partnership announced by President Obama and President Sang in July, and he will also discuss a wide range of bilateral and regional issues.

And finally, he will travel to the Philippines, our longtime U.S. friend and ally. You may remember we had to postpone our trip just a few weeks ago. In Manila, he will meet with senior Philippines officials to discuss ways to build on our already strong economic security and people-to-people relations. He will then visit the storm-hit city of Tacloban to witness firsthand the recovery efforts that are taking place there and discuss how the United States can continue to contribute to the relief and reconstruction work.

Go ahead, Deb.

QUESTION: So on the Middle East: The Palestinians had some things to say about Secretary Kerry. They’re saying that he’s breaking a promise, that he’s trying to negotiate – he’s breaking a promise that he would negotiate a final agreement, okay? And they say that the United States is pushing some kind of framework agreement, possibly by the end of next month, that would satisfy some of the – Israel’s security concerns, but only offer them vague concessions or vague promises that they want. And they say this seems like this is like an interim deal and it’s something that Kerry has said that he would not negotiate. So I need a reaction to that.

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. Well, I know there have been a range of reports, many that you’re referring to. Just to be absolutely clear, we are not focused on an interim deal, we are focused on a final deal. There, of course, will be a process to getting there. We remain committed – both sides, I should say, most importantly remain committed to the nine-month timeframe that they have – they committed to in the beginning. There is a, of course, security component, which is very important here and the Secretary spent a great deal – has spent a great deal of his time recently and spent a great deal – part of his trip last week discussing and briefing both the Israelis and the Palestinians on those issues.

But there should be no confusion: We are all focused on a final status agreement. That is what both sides are discussing and both sides remain committed to, and there should not be any confusion about what a framework reference is. The Secretary – and this may have caused some of the confusion – and the President both used the term, “framework,” this weekend. I think some thought – took that to mean interim. It does not mean interim. We still remain focused on a final status agreement.

QUESTION: Regardless of what you focused on, are you discussing at all any kind of a – an antecedent agreement prior to the achievement of a comprehensive final status agreement?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into all the steps that could be possible to get to a final status agreement, and I’m not going to lay out what the options are. But I know that the reports referenced a belief that we were working on and focused on an interim agreement, and that’s not what our focus is on.

QUESTION: You’re not working on an interim agreement of any sort whatsoever?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into, Arshad, any steps that could be considered or steps that may get us to a final status agreement. But that is what we’re committed to. That is what both sides desire. That is what our focus is on.

QUESTION: But that’s not a denial, ultimately, of the reports. I mean, saying that you’re not focused on them doesn’t – on an interim agreement, doesn’t mean that you’re not actually working on an interim agreement.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to outline any further what may or may not be discussed. But again, I think some of the unhappiness expressed was about a belief that we would stop short of a final status agreement. That certainly is not the case. What our focus is is getting to the end goal here, addressing all of the key issues that you all know are engaged in that – whether that’s security or borders, that’s all being discussed between both sides.

QUESTION: Do you – you’ll recall the phrase that appears in the Iran nuclear agreement where you say nothing’s agreed until everything’s agreed. Does that apply also to the Israeli – to the hoped-for Israeli-Palestinian final status agreement?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to apply that phrase to more than where we’ve applied it in Iran. Our – I think I can characterize it exactly how we’ve characterized it, which is that our commitment and our desire is to see a final status agreement between both sides that addresses all of the tough and difficult issues. That’s what we’re working toward.

QUESTION: Then one other one: The Secretary in his remarks talked about a framework agreement that would be reached that would have to specifically address how you would fill in the details to achieve a final status agreement. That to me opened a much wider – potentially a much wider timeframe here – in other words, instead of April the 30th, nine months from the resumption of talks – or actually, the talks resume the 29th of July, so say, April the 29th – now there’s suddenly this indeterminate subsequent period when you fill in the details.

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is a very important question because nine months has never been the deadline. Nine months has been what both sides committed to, to remain engaged through tough and difficult ups and downs that we fully expected through the process. So it is a positive sign that both sides remain – have reaffirmed repeatedly their commitment to the nine-month timeframe. But certainly, if negotiations are ongoing, if they’re wrapping up final issues, if they’re continuing to work through them, what was important here was that they didn’t walk away from the table after a couple of weeks.

QUESTION: So they can – but they can – but this can slide, in other words?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not – it’s never been a deadline, so it’s not about sliding. It’s about both sides remaining committed until that point in time.

QUESTION: And how long do you think it might take to fill in the details to get a final status agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, given we are months away from the nine months, it’s colder than April, certainly, outside now, so we have several months to go between now and then. I don’t want to speculate on where we might be at that point. I think what the Secretary was pointing out is that there would be several steps, of course, in the process, and we’ll continue to work through and discuss these tough issues, and we’ll see where we are at that point.

QUESTION: Let me ask on the framework --

QUESTION: Jen, why in particular is – why is the Secretary returning so soon to Israel? What’s the purpose?

MS. PSAKI: This is an issue, as you all know, that he has been deeply engaged in, that he spent last week discussing security issues and providing an update with General Allen on our detailed, lengthy, in-depth analysis on that, both with the – for the Israelis, and he also discussed the issues with the Palestinians. But this is an important time in the negotiations, and he felt it was important to return to the region. He thought prior to Thanksgiving that he would return after Thanksgiving, and even more than once before the holiday season picks up over here.

QUESTION: Is it an indication that perhaps the Palestinians and the Israelis can’t actually do these negotiations without the heavy weight pulling of the United States?

MS. PSAKI: It is not. Both sides have been meeting. They – Ambassador Martin Indyk continues to act as a facilitator and has spent a great deal of time on the ground, as you know. So they’ve been meeting without the Secretary engaged or without the Secretary in the region, certainly. But he is continuing to work through many of these challenging issues with both sides, which just shows his own personal commitment to this issue.

QUESTION: So last week, there was some – or this week – last week, sorry – there was some discussion on the security issues which you just mentioned.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And the Palestinians have reacted rather strongly against that. And in fact, one of the Palestinian team, Yasser Abed Rabbo, is saying that the ideas presented are driving the talks to an impasse, and that the Palestinians can’t accept what’s being put forward on the table in terms of security, and these talks are going to be a total failure.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been a range of comments over the course of the last few months calling these talks over as well, but they are continuing, they’re sustained, they’re serious. It’s important to note on the security piece, we have gone through – General Allen has gone through, as I mentioned, a very detailed, lengthy, in-depth analysis of the security challenges of the region, and particularly challenges to Israel and to the creation of a viable, independent, Palestinian state.

What they did last week was brief – what General Allen and Secretary Kerry, I should say, did was brief Prime Minister Netanyahu and his team. There was also a briefing separately with President Abbas and his team. But this is – the purpose was to put some ideas forward. It wasn’t meant to be a conclusive plan or proposal. This is meant to be an ongoing conversation and back-and-forth. And there is certainly acknowledgment from both sides that security is a vitally important issue to discuss, and one the Secretary feels needs to be a part of any final status agreement.

QUESTION: And one more from me on this as well.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s some reporting out of the region and some of the Israeli newspapers that the Secretary tends to withhold the next release of Palestinian prisoners in a bid to try and put some pressure on the Palestinians to come on board more with the plans. Could you address that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of that. I would point you to the Israelis for any specifics on any timing of that.

QUESTION: Well, no, I mean, it’s not – I mean, they’re not – it’s not the – the Israeli newspapers are reporting that the Secretary is intending to delay the release of the prisoners. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we wouldn’t be delaying anything because we wouldn’t be releasing anyone. But I’m not going to get into any more specifics about discussions going on privately. I would point you to the Israelis for any specifics on the timing of when a next release might be.

QUESTION: The framework agreement that you – that you talked about. Does that include maintaining Israeli military presence along the Jordan River?

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re combining a few things in there. I know there have been reports about what has been discussed on the security front. I’m not going to outline that or go into more details. Certainly, security in the Jordan Valley would be an important part of what’s being discussed, but again, it’s not an agreement or a final proposal. It’s ongoing discussions, and I’m not going to outline that.

QUESTION: But does – does this – let’s say arrangement between Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinians – is that something that was discussed in the last couple days or in the last talks, or will be discussed again in the upcoming meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, security in the Jordan Valley is an important --

QUESTION: Right, but --

MS. PSAKI: -- part of the discussion. But again, there wasn’t a plan that was approved or denied put forward. This is a discussion that will continue.

QUESTION: Okay. The reason I ask is because your position in the past, the American position in the past that there will be early-warning, maybe, stations, or something that the U.S. will then – will make sure that Israel’s security is not compromised. But this is really quite a step back for you guys to agree to the potential of Israeli military presence along the Jordan River.

MS. PSAKI: Said, I haven’t outlined what has been or hasn’t been agreed to, and I haven’t even said if anything has been agreed to.

QUESTION: Well, is this --

MS. PSAKI: This is an ongoing discussion.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Making sure Israel is more secure, not less --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- at the conclusion of final status negotiations is certainly the goal and the plan here. I expect they will continue to discuss security issues. There are, as the Secretary said yesterday in – or two days ago in his speech at the Saban Forum, there are dozens of officials working across the government on the security issues, and that process will continue.

QUESTION: Okay. But from your point of view, should the security agreement have an Israeli military presence along the Jordan Valley?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to lay out any further what’s being discussed or what may or may not be agreed to while the process is ongoing.

QUESTION: Okay. If you allow me, just a couple more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Did Saeb Erekat meet this morning with the Secretary of State?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary did meet this morning with chief Palestinian and Israeli negotiators Saeb Erekat and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni at the State Department. They were, of course, in town, as you all know --

QUESTION: Right – for the Saban.

MS. PSAKI: -- for the Saban Forum.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: And the Secretary met with them to get an update on the negotiations.

QUESTION: Okay. Is that, like, a prelude for the upcoming talks in Ramallah and Jerusalem?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, it’s a continuation of the conversation that the Secretary had with both the Israelis and the Palestinians last week, and I expect will continue next week.

QUESTION: And are the Palestinians showing any flexibility to allowing Israeli military presence along the Jordan Valley?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I know you’ve asked this question a couple times.

QUESTION: Several times, but --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any further details now for you than I did two minutes ago.

QUESTION: And I promise that my – I just wanted to ask you, in terms of timeframe --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- now the Secretary will be in Jerusalem and Ramallah on what dates? The 12th and the 13th, he will --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I said 11th, so we would leave on the 11th.

QUESTION: He – the 11th, okay.

MS. PSAKI: So we would be there at some point on the 12th. And the schedule and the details of what he’ll – I outlined what he’ll do, but in terms of the timing of that, that’s obviously still being worked through.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary, on his upcoming trip back to the region, plan to put forward any additional U.S. ideas or thoughts, as he did on the last trip?

MS. PSAKI: On the security front --

QUESTION: On the security fort or anything else.

MS. PSAKI: I believe that this will just be an ongoing discussion on – picking up on where they left off last week. I’m not aware of any other specific proposals that would be put forward or ideas.

QUESTION: And was the Secretary’s meeting with the chief Palestinian and Israeli negotiators on the public schedule today?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to double-check that, and I’d have to double-check when it was added as well for you.

QUESTION: That’s kind of – I’m trying to check right now, and I just can’t find it --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- but I don’t – I know it wasn’t on the Week Ahead, and I don’t believe it was on the schedule. And that’s the kind of thing that, given the interest in the subject --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- I think we ought to know about.

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. I’m happy to check when it was added. And obviously, I just told you all about it, so we’re certainly not hiding it.

QUESTION: But in response to a question.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Well, normally, you guys, when there are important meetings – and maybe this was not an important meeting, but when they’re important meetings, normally you tell us about it.

MS. PSAKI: You’re right, we do. I will check and see the backstory, Arshad.

QUESTION: Okay. And then one other one on this. Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Did he meet with them separately, together with the two of them at the same time, or both, perhaps?

MS. PSAKI: I believe he met with them together. I can double-check that for you. I’m not sure of the length of time. I can also check on that as well.

QUESTION: Is General Allen in the region or is he here still?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure where General Allen is at this particular moment. He was there, of course, late last week.

QUESTION: But he wasn’t in this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: No.

QUESTION: Was Martin Indyk in this with him?

MS. PSAKI: In all likelihood, yes, but I would have to check --

QUESTION: Well, I think then it becomes more of a – not – it’s not just a hello, shake hands. It becomes actually more of a sit-down discussion and possible negotiation. So it’s interesting to know who was in the meeting, how long it lasted.

MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand that. I didn’t get an update on how long it lasted or – I will check on that for you and see if we can get you all an update on that.

QUESTION: Do you know if this is the first meeting that the Israeli and Palestinian negotiators meet in, like, couple of weeks?

MS. PSAKI: They have met since several weeks ago when the --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- when there was the whole process of --

QUESTION: Right, when they resigned and so on.

MS. PSAKI: -- resigning and not resigning. They have met since then.

QUESTION: So this would be – or they have met since then --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- or this is the first?

MS. PSAKI: They have met since then.

QUESTION: Okay. So this is not the first resumption of talks?

MS. PSAKI: No. Does anyone have any more on Middle East peace?

QUESTION: Yeah. I have just – want to ask you very quickly.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Mr. Netanyahu said that the agreement with Iran is – actually jeopardizes potential peace with the Palestinians. Do you – could you comment on this?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t – are you referring to his speech yesterday?

QUESTION: The Saban, yeah, his – in his video address to the Saban Forum.

MS. PSAKI: I did not see that specific comment in his remarks, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. But in principle, you don’t agree that any agreement with Iran should jeopardize Palestinian-Israeli peace?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not. And you heard the Secretary say just late last week and you heard Prime Minister Netanyahu say late last week that they’re certainly in a pursuit of a comprehensive agreement that the threat of a nuclear weapon from Iran is his hope for that to be prevented. I think also in his remarks, if I read them correctly, he talked about the need to keep the threat of military action out there while also pursuing a diplomatic path, and the diplomatic path was something that certainly we could pursue. So I’d have to – I didn’t see the reference you refer to --

QUESTION: Okay. And if he --

MS. PSAKI: -- but our belief, Said, just so you understand it, is that we believe that the Middle East peace negotiations, the P5+1 negotiations with Iran should be separate, and that both – the link between them is that both we are pursuing in part because of our own concern, our own commitment to Israel’s security, and we think both will make Israel safer. And that’s something the Secretary said late last week as well.

QUESTION: Okay. One last thing on the Palestinian --

MS. PSAKI: On Iran, sure.

QUESTION: No, before we go to Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you: The Palestinian Authority arrested a person named Bilal Ibrahim Efendi (ph) because he posted on Facebook some sort of a criticism of the governor of Bethlehem. I just wanted you – if you are aware of that or if you would demand that he be released.

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that, Said. I’d have to look into – more closely into that. I’m happy to do that.

Okay.

QUESTION: On Iran – one more staying on Iran, Israel as well.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- today accused Iran of using its embassies abroad to – as terror bases and to transfer guns and bombs and weapons through diplomatic pouches, particularly embassies in South American countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia. Is this something you’re aware of, or is it something you can confirm?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of that. I’m happy to check in with our team and see if we have more to offer. Obviously, broadly speaking, it’s important to note here that while the negotiations and the discussion with Iran have been focused on the nuclear program, and obviously we have the first step agreement that we’re – and we’re working toward a comprehensive agreement, there still are remaining concerns we have, of course, about Iran and whether its human rights abuses or its other activities that they engage in around the world, but I don’t have any confirmation of that. I can see if there’s more we can say.

QUESTION: I mean, he didn’t provide any evidence, and I’m just wondering if his comments are actually feeding into more the Israeli narrative against the Iran nuclear deal.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe he will be here this week and be participating in a briefing on Iran and on the negotiations, so I’m sure we’ll discuss issues and concerns he has as well as where we stand and where we think things are going.

QUESTION: Jen, can I follow up on Iran? Just – I guess the French and the British were here meeting bilaterally with the State Department last week on the Vienna talks that started today. Do you have a readout from those meetings? I understand they were going to try to figure out the process for implementing the joint plan of action --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- and then decide on the – how they go into comprehensive negotiations.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that, of course, is the purpose, as you know, of the meetings that are happening in Geneva – Vienna, pardon me, there’s too much Geneva – in Vienna. My understanding is that they have just started, so I don’t have a readout of any form of those. As you know, they’re talks between technical experts, and of course, the focus is, as you referenced, on determining the implementation phase of the first-step agreement. So certainly, we expect that would be the focus of these meetings.

I don’t have any specific readout from last week, although my assumption is that they were preliminary meetings also discussing on the technical level the implementation phase. I can check and see if there’s more that we can add about the meetings that happened last week in advance of the Vienna meetings.

QUESTION: And who is representing the U.S. in Vienna at these meetings, and how long is that supposed to go?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see where we are with the delegation list. As you know, it’s technical experts, so that is the level that these meetings are taking place at. But I will see if there’s more we can provide on specific names.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Iran?

QUESTION: Well, actually, I was just going back to Israel. There was a meeting yesterday between Secretary Kerry and his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: We haven’t had a readout of that. I just wanted --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, let me give you one. Secretary Kerry had a working breakfast with Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman yesterday at the Willard Hotel on the margins on the Saban Forum. He was also in town for that, of course. They discussed a range of bilateral and regional issues, including Iran’s nuclear program, ongoing final status negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians, and the U.S. Government’s strong and ongoing support for Israel and the United Nations system. Secretary Kerry looks forward to working with Foreign Minister Lieberman and engaging on all issues, of course, of mutual interest.

Do you want me to give you the meeting with Israeli opposition leader Herzog as well?

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. He met with him on Saturday at the Willard Hotel as well on the margins also of the Saban Forum. He congratulated Herzog on his recent election as opposition leader, and the two discussed a range of issues related to the U.S.-Israel relationship, including our strong commitment to Israel’s security and the ongoing final status negotiations. Secretary Kerry provided an update on the negotiations and underscored the U.S. commitment to these efforts.

QUESTION: And was this the first meeting, bilateral meeting, between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lieberman since he returned to his post?

MS. PSAKI: I believe so. Let me double-check on that just to make sure with all of our trips I haven’t missed anything, but --

QUESTION: They didn’t meet last week in Israel?

MS. PSAKI: They did not because he was here.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: So they knew they were going to meet this weekend.

QUESTION: So – well, I think it may be --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- because it was the time before when we were in Israel he hadn’t yet returned to his post.

MS. PSAKI: That’s right. I think that’s correct. If there’s anything that conflicts that, I will let you all know.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: A quick one on Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is quoted in a lengthy interview with Time Magazine as saying – and I’m going to read the exact quote because I think it’s interesting. He was asked, “What happens if Congress imposes new sanctions even if they don’t go into effect for six months?” And he is quoted as replying, quote, “The entire deal is dead. We do not like to negotiate under duress. And if Congress adopts sanctions, it shows a lack of seriousness and a lack of a desire to achieve a resolution on the part of the United States. I know the domestic complications and various issues inside the United States, but for me, that is no justification. I have a parliament. My parliament can also adopt various legislation that can go into effect if negotiations fail, but if we start doing that, I don’t think we will be getting anywhere.” Close quote.

I know that the White House last week made clear that it does not want Congress to pass additional sanctions.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does the Administration concur with Foreign Minister Zarif’s view that if the U.S. Congress passes sanctions, even those that are delayed – whose implementation would be delayed six months, that the deal is dead?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it takes several partners for a deal to be dead. But I will say --

QUESTION: I thought it only took one.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I should say there are several partners that participate in this, so it’s not up to the United States to decide, is probably the more accurate way of saying it. We have – we do feel that putting new sanctions in place during the course of negotiations, even those that are delayed, would be counterproductive. It could unravel the unity of the P5+1. It could certainly put the negotiations that we have all worked so hard on that we believe is the best chance we’ve had in a decade to achieve a peaceful outcome at risk. And that’s why, as you all know, the Secretary is going to be going up to Capitol Hill tomorrow to testify before the House, and he will certainly be making that point.

Now, on the flip side, he will also be conveying that if the Iranians fall back on any part of their – of the agreement, if they don’t abide by the agreement or they violate it, then we would certainly be leading the charge to put more sanctions in place. So the ask here is to hold off on putting new sanctions in place while we’re pursuing a comprehensive agreement because we feel this is the best chance to pursue a diplomatic outcome.

QUESTION: Have the Iranians not lived up to the agreement thus far? I mean, it’s been like three or four weeks since the agreement.

MS. PSAKI: I have not stated they haven’t, and I don’t believe anyone has claimed they haven’t.

QUESTION: No, I’m not asking you to state it. I’m saying, as far as you know, have they broken any of the commitments that they made?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Said. As you know, because we just talked about --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- the implementation phase, we also have not officially begun the implementation phase. That’s what the technical experts are meeting about now. Now, at the same time, there is a spirit of the agreement and negotiating in good faith, and that’s why for us not putting sanctions in place is certainly a step that we are encouraging Congress not to take – to take.

QUESTION: Okay. When the Secretary goes to Capitol Hill tomorrow and he – you said that the flip side he’s going to tell them that if they break and so on – will he also tell them that so far Iran has stuck to its commitments and this is really a show of goodwill?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll see what questions come up. As you know, there certainly is a back and forth. There – the Secretary himself is not and will never be the monitor of --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- of this process. That’s why we have – that’s why we have an entire system in place to monitor. But certainly, being able to monitor the facilities that are in Iran and ensure that, to the degree possible, they’re not violating any step, is an important component of the agreement.

QUESTION: How do you talk to people who are your allies on Capitol, like Steny Hoyers and others who are really pushing for sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: You will hear the Secretary convey to them that he has been a tremendous advocate of sanctions and the effectiveness of them in the past, as has the President. But no one has ever thought that we were putting sanctions in place just for the purpose of putting sanctions in place. Part of the goal was to put necessary pressure on to bring Iran to the negotiating table. That’s a point we’re at. We still have more work to do. There is implementation to do. We need to work towards a comprehensive agreement, but we need to give this process an opportunity to succeed.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Arshad. Let’s finish Iran and then we’ll go to the next topic. Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: So there’s actually a relevant sentence in the agreement, which I’m trying to pull up – here it is. The agreement commits the United States, keeping in mind the different responsibilities of the U.S. Congress and the President, not to impose additional sanctions.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the Executive Branch committed not to impose additional sanctions. Does that mean that if the Congress were to impose additional sanctions, the President would be obliged to veto them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m certainly not going to predict a veto. I’ve learned – been in this town long enough not to ever do that. But this is the reason why we are making such a strong – one of the reasons why we are making such a strong case about our part of the agreement, our part of the negotiations, keeping the P5+1 unified. As you noted, it’s not just the United States; it’s other countries as well who have committed to that. And we are hopeful and – that Congress will take the – will not put in place new sanctions because, as we’ve discussed, it would certainly put the entire process at risk.

QUESTION: But I think it’s important here, because the Administration made a commitment, and it says here: “The U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.” So, I mean, even if Congress were to pass sanctions – and I know you want to forestall that – it’s hard to understand that sentence except by understanding it to mean that the President, whose negotiators reached and signed this agreement, has already committed himself to veto any additional nuclear-related sanctions.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t believe that’s a statement the White House has made, and it’s a hypothetical at this point. There’s not a bill on the President’s desk. So that’s why the Secretary’s going up to the Hill tomorrow, Under Secretary Sherman is going up later this week, and we’re continuing to make the case.

QUESTION: I fully grant you that there’s no bill on his desk, and I fully understand your reluctance to commit the President to a veto.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But I don’t see how you can read that statement if it is to have any meaning, right, without it meaning that he has to veto nuclear-related sanctions.

MS. PSAKI: Again, Arshad, I’m not going to get into a hypothetical. Of course, this is the reason why – one of the reasons why we are making such a strong case, is to abide by our part of the agreement, our part of the negotiation, which is – part of it is not putting new sanctions in place during this time period.

QUESTION: And if the President didn’t veto, could you plausibly argue that he had abided by the agreement?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into a hypothetical further. We can keep having this conversation. I look – very much look forward to it over the coming weeks.

QUESTION: Can we (inaudible) Iran?

QUESTION: My understanding of --

MS. PSAKI: Do we – one moment. Do we have any more on Iran?

QUESTION: My --

MS. PSAKI: Iran. Iran. Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can you confirm privately Iranians are asking the U.S. easing of sanctions because of economic problems back home? And also, they are putting pressures on those countries who are, in fact, on the list of sanctions, including India, like, to have an influence on the U.S. as far as their economic problems back home?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Goyal, as we’ve long said, certainly the strong impact – the devastating impact on Iran’s economy that sanctions have had is part of the reason we believe that we are at the point we were at, because they put the necessary pressure on, because President Rouhani felt that – ran on a platform of helping grow and reinvigorate the economy, and that’s an important piece of that. In terms of communications they’re having with other countries, I would point you to them.

Do you have one on Iran?

QUESTION: Yeah. My understanding of what is being proposed in the Senate is the new sanctions that wouldn’t go into effect until after this six-month period is over.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What is the rationale for not allowing that to go forward, or for being against that? And would that contradict what Arshad is asking about, the agreement that the Americans made to not institute new sanctions during this time period, since that would go into effect after that time period is over?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe I referenced, but let me reiterate in response to Arshad’s question, that that includes, in our view, any sanctions that even would be – include the six-month delay. Part of the issue here, the justification or the argument, is that we know and agree that sanctions have been effective. The President feels that way. He has been a strong proponent of them, as has Secretary Kerry when he was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

The issue now is what can we do to help the next six months – how to proceed over the next six months toward a comprehensive agreement. It doesn’t prevent us from putting new sanctions in place at any point if Iran violates an agreement, if at the end of it we don’t come to a comprehensive agreement. And we reserve that right, and the Secretary will be leading the charge toward that. But the issue now is how can we keep the P5+1 united, how can we abide by the spirit of the agreement, and that’s why he’ll be making that case tomorrow.

QUESTION: So the Administration doesn’t feel that additional pressure that would go into effect six months from now would help it convince the Iranians?

MS. PSAKI: We always have the option of putting new sanctions in place, whether that’s eight months from now, four months from now, or whenever we deem. There is support for sanctions. They’ve been effective. The question is what we can do now to create the best environment to moving this diplomatic process forward.

QUESTION: And one follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Why, in your view, would the – I understand why the imposition of additional sanctions, even those delayed for six months, would annoy the Iranians.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What I don’t understand is why you are convinced that the United States imposition of additional sanctions would shatter the unity of the P5+1. Why would it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think part of it, Arshad, is that this is also the nature of the agreement, the spirit of the agreement. And so would some country characterize that as putting new sanctions in place? Certainly, that’s possible. And the question for us is: What’s the need and what’s the purpose? We could put new sanctions in place very quickly at the end of six months if we wanted to. And if we are at that point because Iran has not abided by the agreement, we haven’t made – we haven’t moved the process forward, certainly the Secretary would be supportive of that.

But the question is: What is the need right now? We’re working towards a comprehensive agreement, and we believe that this is – the best step to take is not to put new sanctions in place.

QUESTION: A new subject?

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

QUESTION: Just one last – if you would take it: Who did the UK nonresident charge to Iran, Ajay Sharma, see from State last week?

MS. PSAKI: I will see if there’s more we can share, absolutely.

QUESTION: Thanks, thanks, thanks.

QUESTION: Defense Secretary Hagel was in Afghanistan and also in Pakistan. In Pakistan, he met with the high-level official, including prime minister.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Was he carrying any message from the Secretary of State – of course, Mr. John Kerry – as far as tensions in the region are concerned, including China and Pakistan, India, and among others?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel speak frequently, and they’re old friends, in fact, and so oftentimes they’re communicating similar messages. In terms of a specific message taken, I’m not aware of that. The Secretary, of course, has his own discussions and chain of contact as well, but I would point you to DOD for any more specifics on Secretary Hagel’s visit to Islamabad.

QUESTION: The major tension is now China because of a new zone and also --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that – can you confirm because Chinese behavior is because of the U.S. announcement of focusing on Asia Pacific?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t confirm that. I’d point you to the Chinese and the Pakistanis on that.

Do we have a new topic?

QUESTION: Can we stay on Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Afghanistan. Okay, go ahead, Lalit.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on BSA negotiations, BSA talks, when it’s going to be signed? Have you heard anything from President Karzai?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific update in terms of timing or anything along those lines. Let me just say, because it’s important to, of course, reiterate that in our view, we have concluded negotiations. A prompt signature of the agreement is necessary to provide Afghans with the certainty they deserve regarding their future in the critical months preceding the elections. That’s a message we’re continuing to convey on the ground, and we’ll keep working at it.

QUESTION: And has Secretary called President Karzai in the last few days?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a call for him in the last few days.

QUESTION: And you haven’t heard anything fresh from President Karzai on BSA signing --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new update from his end.

QUESTION: East China Sea?

QUESTION: On Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let’s do Turkey first, and then we’ll go to East China Sea. Does that work? Go ahead, Turkey.

QUESTION: Two quick questions, one on freedom of press.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The current government in Turkey and the Turkish intelligence and the military all together sued one newspaper and the reporter because of the national security leak, and the prime minister accusing the journalist as – what he did was treason. Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: I certainly don’t have all the details on it, so I’d point you to the Government of Turkey for any specifics on the case.

QUESTION: Okay. There is – another law is a draft about the assembly, a freedom of assembly.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And it basically – protesters can be sentenced anywhere from two to five years in prison if they are found illegally disrupting public services. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a draft law in Turkey. I’m happy to talk to our team and see if there’s more we can add. Of course, broadly speaking, you know how we feel about media freedom and freedom of expression, but I don’t have all the details of this law specifically.

QUESTION: So about the first question, that freedom of press, you have not heard about the prime minister’s reaction and calling it treason and launching investigation of spies or --

MS. PSAKI: I certainly have seen the reports, but I don’t have any particular comment on it.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: East China Sea?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. South Korea has announced the expansion of the ADIZ yesterday. And I know you released a statement – I think it’s yesterday – the United States appreciated South Korea’s effort and action, which is in a responsible and deliberate fashion. Could you explain in more detail what’s the difference between Chinese action and the South Koreans’ in more detail?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, one, the South Koreans – you referenced this, but we appreciate their efforts to pursue the action that they took, which is adjusting their ADIZ – not creating a new one, but adjusting it. Two, pursuing this action in a responsible, deliberate fashion by prior consultations with not just the United States, but also, very importantly, with Japan and China. That was not a step, as you know, that was taken by China. We also appreciate their commitment to implement this adjustment in a manner consistent with international practice and respect for the freedom of overflight and other internationally lawful uses of international airspace.

So one of our concerns, as you know, because we’ve talked about this a bit, was about confusion created, the different signals and messages that could come from different governments, related to the China announcement. So this helps avoid that confusion because of the cooperation and coordination in advance.

But in terms of specifics, they – South Korea’s announcement made an adjustment to a longstanding ADIZ, so that’s an important component; it keeps within its recognized flight information region – FIR is another way that it’s referred to. It also, importantly, doesn’t encompass territory administered by another country, which was another area that had drawn some concern from our end related to the China ADIZ.

QUESTION: But at the same time, a Chinese spokesman of foreign – minister of foreign affairs, has also announced the regret, deep concern, against South Korean ADIZ.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have some comment about – toward this?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any comment specific to that comment. I gave our comment as it relates to South Korea’s announcement.

QUESTION: It’s not actually – I’m sorry, go ahead. Go, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Then before the Chinese announcements, the air security could be sustained (inaudible) control because the ADIZ of Japan and South Korea and in Taiwan was not overlapped, but after the announcements of Chinese ADIZ – as you know now, the ADIZ of Japan and China and South Korea and Taiwan was overlapped. So what do you – how do you analysis this condition, and are you concerned about the miscalculation about this?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure I completely understand your question. Are you asking why – what we were concerned about? Or can you try --

QUESTION: Yeah. Concerned about the overlapping of these four country in the regions.

QUESTION: I think your question, then, is the same one I wanted to ask, which is exactly that, which is to say you now have ADIZs from different countries that overlap. Could that not in and of it – does that not raise concerns to the United States, and could that not in and of itself cause confusion, accident?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that was one of our concerns that we spoke about as it related to China’s announcement of the ADIZ. It was done without prior consultation; there was overlap with other areas including territory – disputed territory, which of course is concerning. It also meant that airliners could receive different conflicting information from different countries, which makes it very, very confusing. South Korea consulted with Japan, with China, with neighbors, before they updated, revised their – made an adjustment to their longstanding ADIZ. So that’s one of the differences because there was communication and cooperation in advance.

QUESTION: But --

MS. PSAKI: But that’s – let me – I’m getting there.

QUESTION: Good. Please.

MS. PSAKI: There – but that is one of the reasons why we are continuing to convey – and as you know, the Vice President was just there – that China should not make any moves to implement the ADIZ – the ADIZ they announced last week or the week before because of that confusion that it causes.

QUESTION: But the basic point is that, I mean, you named three concerns that you had, of which only one was the lack of prior consultation, right?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: But the other two still would obtain for the South Korean act because it does overlap with other ADIZs and you could end up --

MS. PSAKI: But it doesn’t overlap with disputed territory.

QUESTION: I know. But that’s not the point. It --

MS. PSAKI: It’s an important point because --

QUESTION: I get that. But that’s not the one I’m addressing.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The one I’m addressing is it overlaps with other ADIZs and therefore you could end up with two different control towers issuing instructions to the same aircraft. I mean, why is it – so why don’t you have a stronger reaction to the South Korean act given that it raises some of the same concerns that you cited from the Chinese act, albeit not the one about prior – about the lack of prior consultation.

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, the prior consultation piece is an incredibly important piece because it – one of our concerns about China was doing – was the fact that they made their announcement without prior coordination, consultation, in a unilateral way.

QUESTION: I get that.

MS. PSAKI: And the fact that it’s not addressing – it’s not South Korea’s adjustment to their longstanding ADIZ is not addressing disputed territory, also an important point. I have to check, Arshad, on the overlap. If China’s not implementing their ADIZ, which is obviously an ask that we have made and the Vice President has made, I would have to check on what the exact overlap would be. But that continues to be a concern about their announced ADIZ.

QUESTION: But – and also, whether not just the South Korean having an overlapping ADIZ but then the concern that you raised that because of that you can get conflicting instructions.

MS. PSAKI: Right. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you check on both of those?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. But what I’m checking on, which I think also addresses the second question, is whether there would be an overlap if China’s not implementing theirs.

QUESTION: But isn’t the issue – I mean, first of all, we don’t know whether or not China will or won’t implement, right?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So that’s a hypothetical. The point is that they have asserted an ADIZ whose boundaries are known. The South Koreans have asserted an ADIZ whose boundaries are known.

MS. PSAKI: Which is also within their flight information region, which is important and different from the Chinese.

QUESTION: Whatever that means, still you have overlap, as I understand it. And that’s the thing that I’m interested in, why that doesn’t concern you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. This is the last thing I say and then I’ll follow – and will happy to follow up on it and see if there’s more specifics. If China’s implementation of their ADIZ for that exact reason is what our concern is. South Korea went about it in a different way. There are different components of it. It was adjusting and updating. It was done with consultation. That’s the difference. So – but I will follow up and see if there’s more to tell.

QUESTION: But Jen, I mean, clearly the South Korean ADIZ was done in response to what China has done. And I think you’re being slightly disingenuous when you say it’s an adjusting. It’s actually quite a large swath of territory that it’s kind of expanded into. I believe there is one small isolated little rock which is actually disputed, so that’s – I believe.

MS. PSAKI: Submerged.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: The rock is submerged.

QUESTION: A submerged rock. So I mean, it’s not quite that it’s this nice little thing that it’s just (inaudible) decided to do it. But the question – it goes back to Arshad’s question and it was asked on Friday of Marie as well. What are you telling – what is the FAA telling commercial aircraft if they’re getting three or even maybe four different instructions from different control towers? Who should they follow?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more for you than Marie had about what the FAA is or isn’t telling anyone. I know there was confusion last week about – because there were initial reports that they were conveying to abide by – abide by the China ADIZ, which we refuted and made clear it was not correct. There’s a whole set of regulations that the FAA recommends with airlines, but I would point you to the FAA on that. I don’t have anything more specific.

QUESTION: Well, I think Marie was going to try and get somebody from the FAA to come and brief us about it, because it seems to me that there goes – that goes to the essential point.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Who should they follow? And three of the four are U.S. – are within your kind of – they’re the good guys, if you like. I don’t know whether – that’s one way of saying it. But I mean, they have recognized ADIZs which you recognize.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So who are they supposed to follow?

MS. PSAKI: I will venture to follow up on that and see if there’s more to tell all of you.

On China?

QUESTION: No. Can we stay in Asia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can I ask one more China question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On the consultations that you mentioned that have played such an important role to the U.S. in this announcement, can you give us a little more information on what those consultations consisted of?

MS. PSAKI: How so?

QUESTION: In terms of where – was it telephone calls? Was it face to face? When did it start? How many --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Vice – Vice President Biden was just in the region. He met with President Park. They discussed China’s attempt to unilaterally change the status quo by announcing their ADIZ. They discussed, certainly, South Korea’s announcement, as I believe the Vice President’s team has read out.

QUESTION: Were there other contacts made between the State Department and counterparts in South Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, well, we’ve been in close contact with them, certainly. But I think the most important and most relevant update is that the Vice President was there recently and they certainly discussed these issues.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Nicolas.

QUESTION: Can we go to Thailand?

MS. PSAKI: Thailand. Sure.

QUESTION: You have put out a statement expressing your strong support for the democratic institutions and the democratic process in Thailand. Given your close military alliance with Bangkok, is the U.S. in close contact with the Thai military to make sure that they have no intention to stage a coup d’etat, as they did 18 times in 80 years?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you on contacts with their military. I’m happy to talk to our team about that. I think that would also probably come through DOD and not the State Department. You’re aware of our role here, which has been continuing to – and you saw the statement because you just referenced it – that we put out, which is continuing to call on all sides to reduce violence. And we made a statement about the calls for new elections and which I think the effort there is to see whether things can be resolved peacefully, so we’ll see where things go.

QUESTION: One more on that.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Should the U.S. oppose or try to support an opposition if they wanted to contest the elections?

MS. PSAKI: That wouldn’t be a role the United States would play. Our focus here is on continuing to encourage a peaceful resolution of what’s happening on the ground in Thailand, and certainly we’ve been watching closely as is evidenced by our statement. But there’s no implication there of any support for any side or anything along those lines. We’re just closely monitoring the situation on the ground.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Oh --

QUESTION: Africa? Central Africa or Ukraine issue?

MS. PSAKI: Can we go to Jill next and then we’ll come to Central Africa? Go ahead. Ukraine?

QUESTION: Thank you. Obviously, there’s a lot of concern. You have Toria Nuland in Moscow; now she’s going to Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You have the call by the Vice President to Yanukovich. You have Cathy Ashton going there. It sounds as if – I mean, there is a lot of very specific and concerned – expression of concern about potential violence.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But is there anything more that the U.S. right now is looking at, proposing, thinking about that would actually help Ukraine? I know she mentioned – Toria mentioned the IMF. What specifically could the West now offer to Ukraine economically, which Russia is more than happy to do right now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, just as a reminder, this is not about the United States versus Russia. This is about the Ukraine – the people of the Ukraine. We’ve continued to encourage the government to listen to the people, and that’s something that Assistant Secretary Nuland did in her remarks that she made when she was there. And we continue to believe that it’s long past time for the leadership to not only listen to the voices of its people, but we continue to encourage them to restore a path to European integration and economic health. That is a step that Ukraine would have to take.

There are – to answer your question on the economic piece, the EU has, of course, been in almost continuous discussions with Ukraine and has said that the door is still open to signing an association agreement. We don’t have details of any specific proposals. I would point you to them on that, given it’s about EU – European integration or Russia. It’s not about United States integration. And – but I would point you to them.

There are – for specifically the United States, many products of Ukraine are eligible for duty-free entry into the United States under the generalized system of preferences-- trade preference program, though the current – though that program is currently without legal authorization and hasn’t been passed yet by Congress. And we, of course – the United States and Ukraine are also members of the World Trade Organization and subject to those rules. But that is a specific piece that Ukraine is eligible for but it’s not yet been passed.

QUESTION: And then just one other thing: The – let me see where – oh yes. The voice of the people.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Some of the people want an interim government. They want Yanukovich to step down. Does the U.S. support that?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a decision for the people of Ukraine to make. What we are encouraging is a reduction in violence, no place for violence in a democratic state. We are encouraging the government to restore a path, of course, to European integration and economic health. We believe they need to respect the right to peacefully protest. And beyond that, this is something that obviously we’re very closely engaged with, given the Vice President’s call, given the fact that Assistant Secretary Nuland is going back on the ground. But we are as engaged as we can be and we continue to remind them that there is an ongoing path opened to European integration.

QUESTION: What kind of products are eligible for duty-free entry?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question, Jo. I’d have to check on what would qualify in that category. So let me take that and see if there’s more we can provide.

QUESTION: But this is – you said it’s not been passed by Congress.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: So would that be something that you would encourage Congress to pass?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I’d have to check on specifically what our role would be. I mean, it would be run – it’s a USTR initiative, so it would be one that they would be certainly advocating for.

QUESTION: And do you know how long it’s been stuck or held up in Congress?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail, though it’s a good question. So let me see if we can get more for you. And of course, you can always go to USTR for details as well.

QUESTION: Jen, have you seen George Clooney’s video? I know he’s been previously involved in places like the Sudan. Has he been in touch with State on some sort of role in the Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen his video.

QUESTION: No? Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I’ll have to take a look at that and see what he has to say about events in Ukraine and on the ground.

QUESTION: One other Russian one?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Russians are now responding to a proposal by the U.S. apparently to lobby at the UN Human Rights Council for language about nondiscrimination based on sexual minorities or sexual orientation. And the Russians are saying they’re going to oppose that. And they’re specifically today commenting on what the United States wants. So what does the U.S. think about the Russian decision to oppose attempts to include sexual orientation?

MS. PSAKI: This is language before the UN?

QUESTION: Yeah, I think in the Human Rights Council.

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that, Jill. Let me talk to our – my – our UN colleagues.

QUESTION: Could you? It’s a direct answer to what the State Department is saying.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me check on that and we’ll see if there’s more we can share with all of you.

QUESTION: A small one?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: North Korea. North Korea has confirmed that Kim Jong-un’s uncle has been dismissed and it accuses him of a great many criminal acts, among other things mismanagement of the economy, corruption, womanizing, drug-taking. Do you have any comment on the latest shakeup within the senior echelons of the North Korean Government?

MS. PSAKI: We do not. I know you asked Marie about this. I asked our team about it. We still do not have anything more to offer from here.

QUESTION: One more on North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Is there any late plans to debrief Mr. Newman, and whose job would that be?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, he was – we often do and always do briefings – I should say we often do briefings when a U.S. citizen returns home. I understand there was an opportunity to do that. Certainly, we always are open to having further discussions. But of course, he just returned home and is with his family, and it’s the holidays, so I don’t have any prediction or update of future briefings.

QUESTION: So they have already talked to him, or someone has?

MS. PSAKI: Well, of course, they did. As you know, also the – our officials, our U.S. embassy officials met him in Beijing and were a part of that process as well.

QUESTION: So wait a minute. U.S. embassy officials in Beijing saw him –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and talked to him. Has anybody else talked to him or seen him from the U.S. Government?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details on that, but we’re certainly open to discussing – having briefings with him in the future, but I don’t have any prediction of that --

QUESTION: No, no. But what I don’t understand is: Has anybody talked to – what you said earlier, in response to Deb’s question, implied that there were two conversations with him.

MS. PSAKI: No, I didn’t mean to imply that. I apologize.

QUESTION: So it’s just at the Embassy – just at the airport by the Embassy officials in Beijing?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have the – I can check and see if that was – who had the discussion with him, if there were any other officials (inaudible).

QUESTION: None of them were asked? Has someone asked to have additional discussion with him? And he said yes, no, or --

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. Again, I think this is an issue – just as a reminder, this is someone who was in North Korea for a couple of months. He’s returning to his family. We’re always open to having these discussions and briefings if – there are none planned at this point that I’m aware of. And of course, it’s the holiday season, but I will check on Arshad’s question. If there’s more granularity, I can (inaudible).

QUESTION: If there was any other official spoke to him other than the U.S. --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- Embassy officials in Beijing?

QUESTION: And when you’ve asked to talk to him again.

QUESTION: And what did he – also, what did he tell them? I mean, was he treated well, was he treated badly, was he tortured, was he --

MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s spoken himself about this --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: -- so I would point you to the public comments he made. And certainly, as a standard, we wouldn’t give a reading-out of private conversations we had with him.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea why he was freed?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t. I’m not going to speculate on North Korea’s motivations.

QUESTION: And do you have any sense of whether this might presage – or presage; I’ve never known how you pronounce that – (laughter) – any movement on the case of Mr. Kenneth Bae?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we noted in the statement that we released, it of course throws into sharper focus the continuing detention of him. It’s an issue that we remain vigilant about, and we continue to work with the Swedish – our Swedish protecting power on that. I don’t have any update, unfortunately. The last visit that they were able to make was on October 11th. State Department officials last spoke to Mr. Bae’s family on December 4th, and we continue to communicate very closely with them. But no update to report today, unfortunately.

Go ahead. Oh (inaudible).

QUESTION: Yes. (Inaudible.) It’s probably more a DOD question, but let’s try. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I like your spirit.

QUESTION: U.S. officials traveling with Secretary Hagel have just announced that the U.S. military will fly African Union troops to Central African Republic. Is there any plan to do the same with French troops? I mean, U.S. military flying French troops to this country?

And politically, are you okay with dealing with the president who is in place in Bangui, or are you calling for regime change?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d certainly point you to DOD on the specifics – you are right – of the reports of an airlift. We are – I think we have not called for anything along the lines of a regime change. We have – it is important to note that since we all – you visited with my colleague, Marie, I should say, on Friday, that the French deployment of 1,600 troops, combined with the efforts of the African forces already in the Central African Republic, led to a reduction in the violence over the past weekend. That was a positive step. Greater security is permitting UN and other humanitarian organizations to expand their assistance efforts.

You’re also familiar with – and I know that you talked about this a little bit last week, but the $40 million we have pledged to support the AU-led MISCA, we are already starting to plan local procurement of vehicles to fill gaps of underequipped forces. We plan to provide that money in support to MISCA pending congressional notification. And we’re also in the process of identifying additional resources to support MISCA, including pre-deployment training for countries through ACOTA if requested.

So we’re working on a number of fronts. Obviously, there were some positive developments over the weekend, but we continue to remain vigilant on this issue, working with our colleagues.

QUESTION: You have – sorry – you said you are identifying pre-deployment training through ACOTA. Did you say if requested?

MS. PSAKI: We are – yes, if requested.

QUESTION: So you have not yet had a request for any assistance of that nature?

MS. PSAKI: That is my understanding as far as coming down here, yes.

QUESTION: And I can I just ask also: There was over the weekend, or maybe today – the French president said that the African Union was in fact planning to expand the MISCA forces from 3,600 initially planned to around 6,000.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that something that fits in with your understanding of the situation?

MS. PSAKI: I am not aware of the specific numbers of boots on the ground. I can check that and see if we have any independent confirmation of the numbers. As you know, our focus has been on the importance of needing boots on the ground to stabilize the region, to enforce – to get to a point of peace enforcement. So, certainly, the effort of the 1,600 troops has been effective. Whether there are more planned, I don’t have any specific details on that.

QUESTION: And no plans for any U.S. boots on the ground, I’m assuming.

MS. PSAKI: Right now, this is – none to report, obviously. That would be a DOD announcement or effort underway if there was one. Not that I’m aware of, but – mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On the – related to this, what is the – among those African Union troops are troops from Uganda.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I was wondering, what is the – how important is the Ugandan contingent to the effort there?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t actually have the specific breakdown of numbers from different countries. Obviously, as you mentioned, it’s an African-led mission, and there are troops from a range of countries. That’s obviously an important coordinated, cooperative effort, but I don’t think have anything specific on the Uganda troops. I can see if there’s something to convey on that.

QUESTION: Now, there are issues in Uganda apparently related to governance, and there’s a lot of frustration there with the Ugandan president --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- being there for 27 years, and there have been some crackdowns on – related to democracy issues. Is the State Department following that or concerned about those issues?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve talked about this in here in the past. I haven’t received a briefing recently on this, and I can see if there’s more we can report on it – on the events on the ground there.

QUESTION: Okay. All right.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.) So I have a slight announcement for you. That is that Miss Catherine – Ms. Catherine Chomiak of NBC has gotten engaged.

MS. PSAKI: Woo-hoo. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I can hear heart – foreign policy wonk hearts breaking all over town and possibly all over the world. (Laughter.) And we have a small box of chocolates to celebrate --

MS. PSAKI: She’s turning red right now. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- for anybody who’s actually in the room who did not think to propose to her first. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Congratulations, Catherine. Very exciting. Very lucky, lucky guy. So – (applause).

QUESTION: Here, here.

QUESTION: Thank you all.

MS. PSAKI: Always good to have happy news in here, I have to say. (Laughter.) Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:50 p.m.)

DPB # 201

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - December 9, 2013]