Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 9, 2014


Index for Today's Briefing
  • UAE
    • Shezanne Cassim / Other Detainees
    • National Security Law / Freedom of Expression
  • IRAN
    • Talks in Geneva / Under Secretary Sherman Meetings
  • CHINA
    • Hainan Province Fisheries Law
  • JAPAN
    • Emergency Hotline with China
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Detainee Release
    • BSA
  • IRAQ
    • US Engagement
  • DPRK
    • US-South Korea Coordination on North Korea
    • Dennis Rodman
  • SOUTH SUDAN
    • Detainees
    • Talks Ongoing
  • TURKEY
    • Continuing Political Unrest
  • SYRIA
    • Chemical Weapons Removal
    • Refugee Resettlement / Humanitarian Aid / Kuwait Donor's Conference
    • Secretary Kerry Call with Foreign Minister Lavrov
  • RUSSIA
    • Security in and Near Sochi
  • SNOWDEN
    • European Parliament
  • INDIA
    • US-India Relationship


TRANSCRIPT:

1:18 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hello.

MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon. We’re 30 minutes earlier than yesterday --

QUESTION: Nice.

MS. PSAKI: -- so we’re making an effort.

QUESTION: Oh, that’s good. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything at the top, so Matt, let’s start with you.

QUESTION: Well, that’s quite a coincidence because I don’t really have anything at the top either. I do have one thing that’s kind of – that I think will be very brief.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And that was just – you had – I understand that this American who had been arrested in UAE is on his way home now --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- maybe has already arrived. Do you have anything to say about that?

MS. PSAKI: I can confirm that he has departed the UAE. He departed on January 9th, which is today, after serving his sentence and being deported. The – I also wanted to note while I don’t have an update on his exact arrival or travel plans given he is a private citizen, we did visit with him, we visited with him regularly, of course, including as recently as yesterday morning. So I can confirm that he was – he has been deported.

QUESTION: Okay. But I mean, is this a welcome development?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, absolutely. As you know, we’ve consistently raised this issue about his arrest and trial specifically with UAE officials. We have continuously pressed for a fair and expedient resolution, as we were deeply concerned by the verdict. As you know, and just to give some others some history who maybe haven’t followed this as closely, he was sentenced to one year in prison, a fine, and deportation. He was – I confirmed the deportation piece of it. But obviously, it’s a welcome development.

QUESTION: All right. And so do you believe that this was a fair and expedient resolution to his case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t say that. Obviously, we expressed concerns about the fact that he was arrested to begin with, but obviously, we’re pleased that it’s been resolved.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: But do you know what happened to – there were some other people who were UAE nationals, I believe.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you know what’s happened to them? Are they still in court? Are they – or still in jail? Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: We understand that some defendants have played – may have played different roles in the production of the video. I don’t have any other updates on them. I’m happy to check and see if there is.

QUESTION: How much does this case factor into your discussions with the UAE about its reform process and free speech and political – being able to have a political dialogue in the country? I mean, presumably these are issues in your dialogue with the UAE and --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. And we have, as I just noted, repeatedly raised this specific case, as well as any other case, where applicable, with the UAE. As you know, anywhere around the world, including in discussions with the UAE, we express any concerns we have when we don’t feel that freedom of media, freedom of speech, freedom of expression is being respected. And we certainly had significant concerns about the arrest to begin with, so we expressed those consistently through the process.

QUESTION: So that would mean that you have concerns about this national security law, for instance, that any type of media that criticizes the government is kind of not in accordance with the ideas of a free press and a free political society?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. And anywhere in the world, as you know, when there are actions that are taken, whether that’s legislation or arrests that limit freedom of media and freedom of expression, we consistently express our concern.

QUESTION: But you didn’t express your concern about this until today.

MS. PSAKI: About this specific case or --

QUESTION: About this national security law and whether this video – I mean, it sounds now that you feel a bit freer now that he’s gone.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more specifically on the law and I don’t have the details of the law, so I’d have to check with our team on that. But in general was the point I was making about how we express concerns as they come about.

QUESTION: And did you have any – and just to go back to the others who were detained with this young guy, do you have concerns about their detention and their arrests and their charges?

MS. PSAKI: Jo, I don’t have any more details on it, so let me check with our team and see if there’s more we can express on that.

QUESTION: It would just seem that – and they were all arrested around the same thing --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- charged with the same sort of thing.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So even though they’re not American nationals, I would imagine that your concern might extend to them too.

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, we’ve expressed on many occasions concerns we have broadly, whether they’re American citizens or not, even when they’re citizens of the individual country, which isn’t applicable here. But when there are efforts to limit freedom of speech and freedom of expression, that would certainly be the case here. Obviously, if someone’s not an American citizen, we wouldn’t be as knowledgeable about the details of their arrest or their events or what was happening with their cases.

QUESTION: Jen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering what’s your understanding of this release or whatever, deported? I mean, the charges were dropped or the case was dropped, or it’s just like an – exempted from being punished?

MS. PSAKI: All the details I have is that after serving his sentence, he’s been deported. Beyond that, I don’t have any other details of the legal status.

QUESTION: So he’s not – you don’t know if he is going to be on trial again or he has to be on trial again later or whatever?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details other than what I’ve shared on this specific case.

QUESTION: Can I go to Iran --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- the talks in Geneva?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the talks began today, but we’re hearing from our team on the ground that there hasn’t been any meeting between Wendy Sherman and her Iranian counterpart. Would you be able to fill us in on exactly what happened?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, that’s incorrect. As agreed, the U.S. delegation led by Under Secretary Sherman provided Deputy General Schmid and Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Araghchi views and information that was useful to discussions to address any remaining issues to the agreement to the Joint Plan of Action. This was, of course, done fully in coordination with the EU.

On the margins, Under Secretary Sherman also had a bilateral meeting with Iran to help inform this process. As you know because we announced her travel yesterday, she is soon moving forward to the next stage of her trip. But those are the events that have happened on the ground.

QUESTION: She’s – is she still in Geneva?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have her exact location at this moment, but she, as you know, has many other stops planned. So my understanding is she’s moving on to those soon if she hasn’t already.

QUESTION: And you didn’t mention whether there was any agreement on when the implementation of the November 24th deal might go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: There’s no update on that. Obviously, there are still remaining issues, as there were. They’re working through those, and so I don’t have any update to tell you about on that front.

QUESTION: What’s the most difficult issue that you’re working through at the moment?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not going to outline that publicly, because what the – our focus is on is resolving these issues privately through these channels, and we’re working toward that. As we’ve said a few times, we – there are only a few issues we’re working through, and we’ll leave that to our teams on the ground to continue to do.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, are there fewer now than there were before this meeting? Are you aware?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to – I don’t have any other update to provide for all of you.

QUESTION: So I mean, is there some concern? Because the deal was agreed like almost six weeks ago now --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- roughly. And within that time, because there’s no actual implementation date, it’s not binding on either side yet. So you could have a situation where Iran could still be using its centrifuges, could still be enriching uranium. What is your understanding of what’s happening on the ground in Iran at the moment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think, obviously, we’re watching what’s happening closely. But until the implementation starts, technically, both sides are not tied to what was agreed to. Obviously, what happened six weeks ago was a significant step forward, a historic step forward. We knew because these issues were so complicated and complex that it would take some time to work through on the technical experts level some of the implementation pieces. We’re in the midst of that, and of course, we would like to see that timeline of the six months timeline start as soon as we can.

QUESTION: But do you know whether anything still is happening on the ground in Iran?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any updates to provide for all of you on that or anything to indicate concern. Obviously, if those come up, we’ll address them.

QUESTION: If – Jen, I mean, if it is correct that you allow, but because there is no implementation deal, neither side is bound to what was agreed to on November 24th --

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s --

QUESTION: -- why is there this big stink over at the White House about the President going to veto this Iran sanctions bill?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s important, Matt, that that’s technically. And so yes, technically. However, this is also --

QUESTION: Well, technically, you --

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. This is also a question of the spirit of the negotiations, of how to maintain things moving forward on the path toward implementation, and beyond implementation toward a comprehensive agreement. So it’s not just about the understandings surrounding the text; it’s also about what the parties thought during the negotiations, what they discussed, how to maintain and seize this opportunity that’s the best one we’ve had in a decade to move towards a diplomatic solution. And that’s the argument we’re making to Congress and why we’ve been so firm in our resolution on this.

QUESTION: So it’s not a – it’s not because you’re bound or you believe that you’re bound at this current moment in time by the agreement not to have the sanctions bill become law? It is because you believe that that is in keeping with the spirit of the negotiations and not basically a traitor. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: And obviously, putting new legislation in place, Matt, would not just be a one-day thing. It would be something that would be law moving forward. So technically – let me just mention this because somebody asked this yesterday – the understandings surrounding the text is the implementation of existing measures is permitted within the scope of the text, but creating new sanctions authorities or – as legislation or a new executive order would be not. But again, our larger point here is still that that is immaterial because this is also about our negotiating in good faith and delivering on the promise we made with the P5+1 as well as the Iranians.

QUESTION: Fair enough. But you’re not actually bound by that agreement until there is an implementation deal done, no?

MS. PSAKI: Technically, no. But also we want to move --

QUESTION: Is it the --

MS. PSAKI: -- continue to move forward, keep going.

QUESTION: I understand that. I understand it. So is it then the Administration’s position that Iran in its actions since November 24th has also been keeping in the spirit of the negotiation and in the spirit of going forward and making progress?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to report you that that hasn’t been the case. Obviously, if that were, we could speak to that at the time.

QUESTION: And just a clarification. Was there a three-way meeting and the bilateral?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Iran? Okay, Scott.

QUESTION: The Chinese seem to have significantly expanded the area in the South China Sea in which they say that commercial fishermen must receive permission from the Chinese Government to fish.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there any reaction from the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I believe you’re referring to the Hainan provincial restrictions. The passing of these restrictions on other countries’ fishing activities in disputed portions of the South China Sea is a provocative and potentially dangerous act. These regulations appear to apply to the maritime space within China’s so-called nine-dash line. China has not offered any explanation or basis under international law for these extensive maritime claims.

QUESTION: In general, the United States has counseled that these maritime disputes in the South China Sea not be decided unilaterally, but --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- worked through ASEAN. So is it your view that this is a unilateral decision that is against your advice to those involved to settle this through ASEAN?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly. I think to your point, our longstanding position has been that all concerned parties should avoid any unilateral action that raises tensions and undermines the prospects for a diplomatic or other peaceful resolution of differences. And clearly, passing legislation that claims ownership over territory in a disputed area would certainly be of concern to us, as I expressed.

QUESTION: Can I move the subject to Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Do we have any more on China? Go ahead.

QUESTION: So, do you have any thoughts on Japan’s willingness and calls to establish an emergency hotline with China, given the uptick in maritime tensions?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen that specifically. As we’ve long said, we support efforts by either country to resolve differences through dialogue. So if that’s an effort toward that, that would be positive, but I’d have to check with our team and see if there’s more specific reaction to that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) follow up on the Hainan province announcement?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How are you going to advise your United States commercial vessels or whatever trying to do activities in the area?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that. Obviously, this announcement just came out, but beyond that, I’ll see if there’s more we have to add on that front.

Afghanistan?

QUESTION: Yes, Afghan --

QUESTION: Sorry. Just – do you know if you have raised this directly to the Chinese?

MS. PSAKI: We have. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: That would be there?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Afghanistan. The announcement by the Afghans that they are going to release a large majority --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- of the detainees. I’m just wondering if you have any reaction to that, if you’re in discussions about possible – if they are going to do it, about possible monitoring measures of these individuals to make sure they don’t --

MS. PSAKI: Well, as would come as no surprise, I expect a statement will be coming out from DOD, but let me just reiterate some of the – some of our views from here. We have expressed our concerns over the possible release of these detainees without their cases being referred to the Afghan criminal justice system. We’ve seen reports, as you noted, that President Karzai has approved the release of 72 of the 80 detainees under review.

As you may also know, these 72 detainees are dangerous criminals against whom there is strong evidence linking them to terror-related crimes, including the use of improvised explosive devices, the largest killer of Afghan civilians. These insurgents who pose threats to the safety and security of the Afghan people and the state are being released without an investigation and without the use of criminal justice system in accordance with Afghan law. Among – their release also undermines Afghanistan’s court system and rule of law, because the Afghan people do not get their day in court.

In terms of any other pieces in terms of how it would be dealt with, I would refer you to DOD.

QUESTION: Well, but I mean you’ve – the State Department has in large part been dealing with the Afghan Government –

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- on the larger issues --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- about some stuff. I mean, what about any type of monitoring measures of these individuals when they – I mean that’s something that this Department was involved in, for instance, when you sent Guantanamo detainees back (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that. My understanding is that would probably fall under the purview of DOD, but I can check and see if there’s anything we have or any involvement from here in that piece.

QUESTION: How do you view this decision? Do you view this decision – is it impacting the relationship or negotiations on the BSA?

MS. PSAKI: Well, on the BSA, as you know, our view continues to be, despite these reports, that it’s not only desired by the United States for the Afghans to sign the BSA, but it’s in the interests of the Afghan people. And it’s in the interests of the Afghan Government to sign the BSA. So time will tell whether there is an impact, but obviously, this is a report that we have concerns about. At the same time, we continue to work toward and make our case for why it’s important to sign the BSA as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Afghanistan? Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yes, please. In general, usually it’s in the military side we are – you are, like, putting on the table the option – zero option.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And is there an equivalent to it in the nation-building option?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure I understand your question.

QUESTION: I mean, I’m trying to say if, like – if you don’t come to an agreement regarding the military --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- or security arrangements --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- how it’s going to affect the other project that over those years that are most in 10 – more than 10 years now all this nation building project, and I assume there is a diplomatic and economic relation.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are these things are going to be affected or not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, if we can’t conclude a BSA promptly, we will initiate planning for a post-2014 future in which there’s no U.S. or NATO troop presence in Afghanistan. Obviously, those troops would not be playing a role, a combat role. They’d be playing a train, advise, and assist role. There are a range of programs, to your point, that would be part of that, certainly. I don’t have an outline or detail of that, as in we’re not in that stage at this point. But it would be challenging. And this is an important point we perhaps haven’t made enough, which is that it’s not just about the United States and NATO planning, it’s also about Congress planning and even asked for funding or assistance for a variety of programs. It makes it more challenging for Congress to plan when there isn’t certainty about what the future will be either.

So the answer is we don’t know yet. But obviously there are a range of interests we have in Afghanistan. I don’t have any predictions for you on what the impact would be because we’re not at that point yet.

QUESTION: Speaking of the Hill, there was quite a lot of chatter up there this morning, and I think right now going on Senators McCain and Graham and also Speaker Boehner are talking about Iraq and the need for the Administration to get more engaged. Is there any – is there anything new on that support for the Maliki government in its fight that you can offer us today?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, one, let me just refute some of that criticism, or all of that criticism I suspect, which is that the United States, the State Department, the White House, the Administration writ large has been very deeply and closely engaged in Iraq consistently. We’ve talked a bit in here about Deputy Assistant Secretary Brett McGurk’s work to push for unity in the region, our efforts to work with – in recent days, I should say, to work with the Iraqi Government to develop strategies, our efforts to accelerate assistance. But this has been consistent, and it would be inaccurate to assume that this is just a recent effort on behalf of the United States. Obviously, we’re talking about it in the news these days.

I can – did you have any specific pieces --

QUESTION: Well, I mean, Chairman Menendez has been talking about how he’s willing to allow certain – the provision of certain things that were blocked before to go through now. There were, I believe, helicopters --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- there were fighter jets – planes that were stopped. Does the Administration see any way of getting that stuff to the Iraqis?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, and we’ve talked a bit in here about accelerating assistance, and as part of our FMS program, we would certainly support – the Administration would certainly support providing Apaches, especially given the situation on the ground. Obviously, that’s something that we are working with Congress on, we’re in close contact with Congress on, and we’ll continue that – those consultations. But we would support that.

QUESTION: Just to put a finer point on it --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- you said you would support it. But are you lobbying Congress to get them to approve it?

MS. PSAKI: We wouldn’t call it lobbying. We support it --

QUESTION: Maybe not lobbying – not – I know you support the idea --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- but do you want to provide them and are you trying to get Congress to say yes?

MS. PSAKI: We are working with Congress on that exactly.

QUESTION: Yes. I’ll take that as a “yes.”

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: Iraq? Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yes, please. What is your assessment of what’s going on in Iraq? Because you are – now some people are critical of your involvement or not being involved in anything. I mean, because at the end, I don’t know if you think it’s a civil war is going on or what.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a lot in there, so let me try and see if I can address it. We – with just an update on where things stand today, and obviously we’re monitoring it closely day by day, and we’re in very close contact with the Government of Iraq. We continue to follow of course events in Iraq’s Anbar province very closely as the situation remain volatile. Iraqi tribes and Iraqi security forces continue to consult on options to confront extremists in the city of Fallujah. The situation in Ramadi remains more stable as it has for the past couple of days with the advances Iraqi tribes have made with the support of Iraqi security forces in regaining control of the city.

As I mentioned earlier, we remain in close contact both – from both Washington and in Baghdad with all of Iraq’s political leaders at the highest levels. I know the White House has read out a couple of calls that the Vice President has done. I read out a call that the Secretary did. We note the recent Iraqi council of ministers confirmation that the Iraqi army will continue to support police and local tribes in Anbar as they combat al-Qaida. The council of ministers also decided that Anbar tribesmen killed in the fight against al-Qaida will be granted the same benefits and compensation as Iraqi soldiers and that the government will cover the medical expenses of tribesmen wounded in the fight.

So we are – and finally, last point I’ll make, is we are encouraged by Prime Minister Maliki’s call in his weekly address for unity and political dialogue in the face of the terrorist threat and by his commitment to the democratic process and to – holding of elections as scheduled. As I mentioned a little bit earlier, obviously, we’re continuing to work with the Government of Iraq to develop strategies and, as we’ve noted a couple of times, we continue to provide military equipment as well.

QUESTION: So just to be – clarify – I mean, for sure you know that now is al-Qaida in Iraq, right? This is – I mean, they are taking positions, Fallujah and other places.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think there’s been a question about that, but --

QUESTION: No, I mean, like, it’s not affiliates or alumns or whatever that Lucas was trying to say about Libya yesterday. Iraq is – al-Qaida is – we are facing --

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, I think he was asking a separate question about a separate issue.

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. I know. I’m just – we are – I mean, U.S. is facing al-Qaida now – or Iraq is facing al-Qaida --

MS. PSAKI: Iraq. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Any more on Iraq?

QUESTION: Jen, are you considering sending in more military advisors to Iraq, given the situation? Or just --

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to DOD. I don’t have any information to suggest that. But obviously, we’re evaluating day by day.

QUESTION: On North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s finish Iraq. Do you have Iraq or something else?

QUESTION: No, not Iraq.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Iraq, Scott, or no? Okay.

North Korea, and we’ll go to you next, Jo – Jill.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: North Korea? Okay. United States and South Korea agreed North Korea-related consultation on building in case of North Korea – sudden collapse of Kim Jong-un’s regime. Do you have any specific information on that?

MS. PSAKI: Can you – I’m sorry. Can you say the beginning part one more time? Consultation on which – what?

QUESTION: U.S. and South Korea agreed North Korea-related consultation on building.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know if this answers your question, but as you may know, the South Korean foreign minister was here yesterday. I gave a read out of that yesterday, which I’d point you to. And a big focus of the meeting was certainly coordination and consultation as it relates to the threat from North Korea.

QUESTION: But do you have anything on the sudden collapse of North Korean regime? So do you have any scenario of what – any detail of the --

MS. PSAKI: I don't have anything beyond what I provided yesterday in terms of our consultation, which was pretty recent.

QUESTION: Thank you. About Mr. Rodman, as you know that yesterday Mr. Rodman celebrate Kim Jong-un’s birthday, and Mr. Rodman became North Korean dictator propaganda. How do United States respond to his actions in North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’ve spoken about this quite a bit in the last couple of days, but let me just say that sports exchanges, as you may know, we view as valuable and are something that can be pursued in many places. And, of course, the U.S. Government supports that, and we work with many countries on those programs. But I’d point you to the statement issued a couple of days ago about – from NBA Commissioner Stern that said that there’s an appropriate time and place for such sports diplomacy, and obviously this is not an example of that.

QUESTION: But North Korea paid all his group’s expenses --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- like air tickets and everything. But he also bring in too expensive whiskies, mink coat to Kim Jung-un. That’s a lot – $10,000 – over $10,000 give to them and dictators.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. He’s a private citizen. I just don't think I’ll have any more comments on it.

QUESTION: Is that legal, though?

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Are there any type of U.S. sanctions that would prohibit anything like that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Can you – can you, because I --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of what the sanctions would be.

QUESTION: Well, I know that there is --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There are – under the UN sanctions, there are certain sanctions against luxury goods.

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Providing gifts of --

QUESTION: I think that’s for sale.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Okay.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: We’ll check.

QUESTION: Yeah, can you check and see --

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check and see if there’s more to report on that.

QUESTION: Yeah. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Scott?

QUESTION: On Sudan.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: We heard the Linda Thomas-Greenfield testimony today and she answered some of the questions that we have here about the coup or not coup. But to the question of these Riek Machar detainees in Juba, from the podium this week you’ve called for their release.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Kiir government says, well, they’re alleged coup plotters, and South Sudan has a system of justice that will carry on as it should. So what are you doing there about that?

MS. PSAKI: We’re continuing to press that we believe that these detainees should be released as quickly as possible. We’re disappointed that they have not been released. To Jo’s question yesterday, we don't believe that the detainees – the release of the detainees should be a precondition for a halt to the fighting, which I think is a really important point. And the role that they could play is, some of them would be participating in the negotiations, and that’s the importance – one of the important components of their release.

So we’re continuing to press that on the ground. The talks are ongoing. The mediators returned from Juba last night. Special Envoy Booth met with them last night, and they also were able to see the detainees. They reported that the detainees are in good health and continue to be willing to participate in a political dialogue.

QUESTION: Are you coming down more on the side of the former Vice President Machar by calling for the release of these detainees? There was a statement from Linda Thomas-Greenfield today that the United States has no evidence that there was a coup attempt. It would seem to suggest that you might be supporting more the side of the former vice president than the side of the president.

MS. PSAKI: I don't – it’s not from the United States – it’s not an effort on behalf the – by the United States to take one side. Our goal here is not where this started – to focus on where this started, but where it’s going to end. And the important piece here is the one I just touched on, which is that these detainees could play a role in the discussions and negotiations, and what we’re trying to do here is get to a point where there’s an end to the violence and the hostilities.

Any more on South Sudan? Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: No. I’ve got one on Turkey, though.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Can we go to the situation in Turkey where there’s been a building political crisis since Erdogan sacked – Prime Minister Erdogan sacked about 700 police officers?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday there were moves to try and curb some of the powers of the country’s leading independent judicial body, and today there’s more moves to impose strict controls on the internet. I wondered if you could give us a broad kind of overview of the U.S. position on this.

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re right, and as you pointed to, it’s been ongoing and there have been different developments each day. In our conversations with all stakeholders in Turkey, we continue to make clear that the United States supports the desire of the Turkish people for a legal system that meets the highest standards of fairness, timeliness, and transparency in civil and criminal matters, where no one is above the law and where allegations against public figures are investigated impartially. You are familiar with our view on freedom of speech and freedom of media, which we’ve expressed as needed and express annually in our report as well. And we’re certainly communicating that directly to the government.

QUESTION: At what level? From whom in this building?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any readouts or updates on calls from Washington, but certainly it’s being communicated on the ground.

QUESTION: So are there concerns that this could lead to instability in what is a key U.S. ally in that region?

MS. PSAKI: You’re right that Turkey is and remains a key U.S. ally. We’re not going to get ahead of where we are now. We’ve expressed our concerns about some of the events that are happening on the ground directly, publicly and privately, and we’ll continue to do that.

QUESTION: But I mean, this – there’s been since the summer, really, all this political unrest and a lot of violence related to how Prime Minister Erdogan has been treating the opposition. Do you think that this makes Turkey a less reliable ally if there’s so much chaos in the country and they’re diverted dealing with this domestic instability?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, certainly I would not qualify it that way from the United States Government. We express concerns when we have them, as I just did in this case. We’ve had them in the past, and when we’ve had them in the past, we’ve expressed them. But Turkey remains an important ally, remains a country we work closely with on a range of issues, and when we have concerns, we’ll make those known.

QUESTION: I didn’t say it wasn’t an important ally. I’m asking about the reliability in terms of the stability of the government, the security of the government, whether they are too preoccupied with their own domestic chaos to be a reliable and productive partner with you in other arenas.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we want to make a prediction of that. As you know, Turkey is – will be participating in a range of discussions about Syria and the crisis in Syria. They’re obviously an important partner on that. We work with them on other issues, so --

QUESTION: So you haven’t seen over the last, what, six months that this political instability and chaos and periodic violence in Turkey has not affected your business with them?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve continued to work closely with Turkey, and obviously, we’ve expressed concerns about issues going on domestically as we see fit.

QUESTION: Yes, on Turkey: Do you consider Mr. Erdogan a leader who respects democracy since he dismissed judges and prosecutors, since he put more than 1,000 journalists in jail? Is he a leader that (inaudible) democracy, you think?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say that when we have concerns about his actions, we express those. And that’s something I have just done today.

Do we have any more on Turkey?

QUESTION: No. I had a quick one on Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Syria. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any response to Germany’s announcement that they are willing to help in the disposal of Syria’s chemical weapons?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we’ve said for several months now, fortunately, we certainly support the efforts of – and the engagement of countries around the world to play a contributing role. I would point you to the OPCW on specifically what part they would play or what part it would be appropriate to play. But we’ve been having discussions, as has the OPCW, about – with a range of countries for months about how to contribute to this effort.

QUESTION: Including Germany, presumably?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific for you, but it’s safe to say that the OPCW has been broadly reaching out, as has the UN, as has the State Department. So I don’t have any qualification for you on who’s called whom, but we’ve all made a range of contacts.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Another question. It’s related to the refugees. I mean, UN, a while ago they put the numbers, which is – has to be completed by, like, asking for many dozens of countries to least – to at least 30 or 40 thousand refugees to be resettled. Do you have anything about what U.S. is --

MS. PSAKI: The United States is doing?

QUESTION: -- is doing in that regard?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, let me give you a little background here, because this is a complicated issue and there are a lot of steps that it has to go through. You mentioned, which is certainly true, is that we’ve gone from – Syria has gone from about 200,000 refugees in 2012 to 2.3 million over the course of a year. Obviously, that’s one of the reasons why this has been raised at the decibel it’s been raised. It typically takes about five years before a crisis triggers mechanisms for the UNHCR – before they believe resettlement should play a significant role in its response. They’ve decided that this humanitarian crisis – and this has been the prompter of their recent statements – already meets that threshold. So that’s a unique case.

Only a small percentage of all refugees typically, regardless of the crisis, are resettled in a third country. Our primary goal, and the primary goal of the UN, has been typically to provide humanitarian assistance and protection in the place to which they have fled. But also, most refugees want to return back. That’s typically how it goes.

Right now there are currently 112 Syrian nationals in the pipeline in the United States. We expect many more referrals in 2014. We have historically accepted the majority of the UNHCR’s total number of referrals for resettlement worldwide. We admit more refugees to the United States each year than the rest of the world combined. That – it was about 70,000 in 2013, which is obviously a large number.

So, getting back to your point – I just wanted to provide the context – UNHCR has announced it intends to refer up to 30,000 Syrians to a number of partner countries for temporary or permanent resettlement by the end of 2014. The United States stands ready to fully participate in this effort. The process here that is mandated by Congress is deliberate. It takes some time. It ensures that valid, bona fide applications come through, which is, of course, necessary.

So given the deliberate nature of our process, we expect relatively few of the individuals will actually arrive in 2014. The process typically takes between 18 and 24 months. So that’s a bit of a summary of where things stand here.

QUESTION: Yeah, it’s interesting. I’m just trying to help – ask another question regarding Syria and the humanitarian aid which is --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, sure.

QUESTION: -- going to be discussed, I assume, in Kuwait --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in the Secretary visit. What is – what are the main points that they – are going to be discussed, I mean, in that Kuwait meeting? I assume not the refugee issues. I mean, like the settlement of the refugees, or it’s a part of it --

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is --

QUESTION: -- or it’s just, like, to feed them and give them blanket, or all these things?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is the second annual, as I understand it, donors conference. So obviously, they’ll discuss ways to provide aid and assistance. That’s the primary focus of it. Clearly, on the margins of that, they can discuss a range of issues about humanitarian access and the needs on the ground. This will also be a discussion at the London 11. The Secretary feels very strongly, as do many countries around the world, that raising the focus on humanitarian access is a step that we need to continue to take.

One thing, actually – well, you’ve asked about this – he actually spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov as well this morning in preparations for the Geneva conference in a week and a half. He emphasized with him the importance of humanitarian assistance. He briefed him on his engagement recent – in recent days with regional players on Syria. As you know, they’re meeting on Monday, so they’ll have a longer discussion then. But certainly, it will be a part of the discussion through the course of the events this weekend.

QUESTION: Of the 30,000 refugees you mentioned which have been identified by the UNHCR, how many of those have they identified for the United States particularly?

MS. PSAKI: They’re not at that stage in the process yet, so we’re waiting for the referrals, which is the next stage in the process.

QUESTION: And do you have a ballpark number, then, of how many you would be willing to accept?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t at this point. I think that’s part of the process that we would work through, but it’s important to note that we are the largest recipient – we were last year the largest recipient of refugees. Our process just takes some time.

Do we have any more on Syria? Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, it’s a different topic. This has to do with a security incident in southern Russia. It’s about --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- 150 miles from Sochi. Do you have any details about these incidents where some individuals – I guess some individuals were killed and found in cars?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional details from here. I would refer you to the Russian Government.

QUESTION: Do you have any concerns, though, that this is the latest incident that heightens security concerns potentially for American athletes as the Sochi Olympics get underway in a couple of weeks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we – the – I think we’ve stated this before, but it’s important to reiterate here – we’ve had discussions on counterterrorism cooperation in a number of venues with the Russians, including in working groups, of the Bilateral Presidential Commission. We’ve also been working with the Russian Government through the International Security Events Group on preparations for the Olympics, as we do with any host country. And our counterterrorism cooperation increased, of course, around the terrorist attack at the Boston Marathon, and we welcome any efforts and willingness and openness to cooperate around the Olympics.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, Secretary Hagel had a phone call with his Russian counterpart. He expressed condolences for the terror incidents in Volgograd and he also offered assistance – U.S. military assistance – if requested. Has such a request come through to the State Department from Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Well, any assistance coming from the U.S. Government would be coordinated, and it sounds like it may be more appropriate to come through the Department of Defense. The focus of the conversation today was on the preparations for a Geneva conference, which would be the appropriate conversation the Secretary would have. So I would just point you to any more details DOD has to provide.

QUESTION: So you don’t have anything specific or any details about these incidents that have taken place in Russia?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more. I would refer you to the Russian Government.

QUESTION: And are they of concern that this might be a pattern that’s taken place? Because this Volgograd – obviously, you have the Secretary of Defense expressing condolences for something that’s happened in – 600 miles away, and then you have something in Stavropol which is 150 miles away.

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to outline detailed private conversations we’re having on counterterrorism efforts with the Russians, but obviously, we’re engaged with that with them. It’s in everybody’s interest to do everything possible to keep the athletes safe and the attendees safe, and – but beyond that, I don’t have anything I can read out for you.

QUESTION: What exactly is the U.S. Government doing to protect American athletes for the Sochi Olympics?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just outlined the efforts we’re undertaking, as we would with any host country, as we prepare for the Olympics.

QUESTION: I had one more on Snowden if that’s okay.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, sure.

QUESTION: And this might have been too late for you to have anything on, but there’s – the Civil Liberties Committee of the European Parliament has approved a hearing for Edward Snowden to be held presumably somewhere in Brussels or Strasbourg – I’m not sure – at some date to be determined as yet. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any particular comment other than to say it hasn’t changed what our view is, which is that he should be returned to the United States. But beyond that, I don’t have anything further on it.

QUESTION: But is it appropriate for an international body like the European Parliament to be holding an audition with Edward Snowden – I don’t know how they would do it – but whereas you, presumably, the United States would actually like him to be giving his testimony here?

MS. PSAKI: That is true, although I don’t have any other particular commentary on this step.

QUESTION: Are you going to – do you think you’ll make contact with the European Parliament to see if you could at least be present or --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that. I’ll see if there’s any plans to do that. None that I’m aware of, though, Jo.

QUESTION: “Giving his testimony here”? That’s quite a generous way to put it. (Laughter.)

Can I ask you, going to back to yesterday and India --

MS. PSAKI: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Has the situation deteriorated to the point where you’re ready to start calling them out on this?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update to the comments I made yesterday, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re still hoping that you’re going to be able to resolve this quietly behind the scenes? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t put it that way. I would put it that our relationship with India is so important that we want to work through issues as they come up. We’ll do that through diplomatic channels.

QUESTION: All right. Well, then can I just follow – are you disappointed by the fact that they have chosen the route that they have chosen?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to address that. I – any disappointment we have we express privately. And we’re addressing their concerns as they come up.

QUESTION: All right. Well, perhaps publicly you could say – are you happy with the way that they have handled this situation?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more commentary than what I offered yesterday.

QUESTION: Do you believe that it is worthy or becoming of a country that aspires to be a great diplomatic power?

MS. PSAKI: As we have concerns, Matt, we’ll express those privately.

Go ahead, Elise.

QUESTION: But do you think that they’re holding the relationship hostage to this one issue? I mean, it seems as if --

MS. PSAKI: They have said they’re not. And we have worked with them and we’re working with them on other issues, so certainly we don’t.

QUESTION: Like what?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: Space exploration.

MS. PSAKI: We remain in dialogue with them about all the issues we typically work on together, whether that’s strategic interests or economic interests, and that remains the case.

QUESTION: Did they cancel the visit of the energy secretary because of this diplomatic issue?

MS. PSAKI: It was agreed that we would do this at a later time when both sides – hopefully in the coming months – where both sides could better deliver a more comprehensive package.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that it had nothing to do with this diplomatic row? It was because of other types of --

MS. PSAKI: I’m saying the decision was made because we want to make sure it’s under the best conditions and at the time where it can be most productive. Obviously, energy coordination and cooperation is an important issue we work with the Indians on.


Great. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:01 p.m.)

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - January 9, 2014]