Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 30, 2014


Index for Today's Briefing
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Ukraine / Secretary Kerry Calls
    • Syria / Chemical Weapons / UN / OPCW
    • Secretary Kerry Upcoming Travel
  • UKRAINE
    • President Yanukovych / Respiratory Illness
    • Willing to Consider Sanctions, No Decisions Have Been Made / EU
    • Visas / Difference Between Revocation and Ban
  • SYRIA/REGION
    • Chemical Weapons / OPCW
    • Joint Special Representative Brahimi / Talks / Iran
    • Foreign Fighters / Assad a Magnet for Terrorism
    • Homs / Yarmouk
  • ECUADOR
    • Extradition Processes Confidential / Not Appropriate Agency for Arrests
  • AFGHANISTAN
    • Assistance Programs / SIGAR
  • ISRAEL/PALESTINIANS
    • Ambassador Indyk / Saeb Erekat
    • Settlements / Boycotts and Efforts to Delegitimize / Scarlet Johannson / Celebrities
  • RUSSIA
    • Sochi / Security / Foreign Minister Lavrov
  • BURMA
    • Refugees
  • RUSSIA
    • Arms Control Treaties / INF Treaty / Compliance Issues / Under Secretary Gottemoeller / Briefed NATO Allies
  • DEPARTMENT/REGION
    • Bird Flu
  • EGYPT
    • Continuous Close Contact on Ground


TRANSCRIPT:

1:01 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Thursday. I just have two items for all of you at the top. This morning, Secretary Kerry spoke by phone with political and civil society leaders in the Ukrainian opposition who have been active in the peaceful movement. The Secretary underscored the United States unwavering support for the democratic, European aspirations of the Ukrainian people, and commended these opposition leaders for speaking out against violence and for their courageous work to defend democracy and advance their goals through peaceful means and dialogue.

He praised the progress achieved in their talks with the government, notably the repeal of the January 16th laws and the commitment to government change. He urged that these talks continue and pledged continued U.S. support in coordination with the EU, the UN, the OSCE for a peaceful, political resolution to the political crisis which brings those responsible to account, restores human rights, democracy, economic health, and a path to Europe for Ukraine. The Secretary also underlined his concerns about reports of human rights violations, such as disappearances and killings, and stressed that the United States is pressing the Government of Ukraine to establish a justice commission to investigate these crimes and bring those responsible to justice.

One more item for you: The United States is deeply concerned about the failure of the Government of Syria to transport to the port of Latakia all of the chemical agents and precursors as mandated by UN Security Council Resolution 2118 and the OPCW Executive Council decisions. Today, we are one month past the December 31st completion date that the OPCW Executive Council agreed upon for the removal of the most dangerous chemicals, and just six days from the completion date for all required chemicals to be removed from Syria. In all of this time, the Syrian regime has moved less than 5 percent of the chemicals to the port. Syria must immediately take necessary steps to – the necessary actions to comply with its obligations under the Chemical Weapons Convention and the UN Security Council Resolution 2118, and ensure that the removal effort is conducted with regularity rather than after long intervals.

We all know that the Syrian regime has the capability to move these weapons since they have been moved multiple times during the conflict. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has officially noted this capability in reports. The international community is ready to go, and the international operation to remove the chemicals is fully in place and ready to proceed once Syria fulfills its obligations to transport the chemicals to Latakia.

On Monday – so that was just a couple of days ago – the USS Cape Ray set sail, and will be in the Mediterranean shortly. The delay by Syria is increasing the cost to nations that have made donations for shipping escort and other services related to the removal effort. There should be no doubt that the responsibility for the lack of progress and increasing costs rests solely with Syria. It is critical that the international community hold the regime to its commitment to rapidly eliminate its CW program.

Matt.

QUESTION: Before we go back to that, because I’m sure there will be questions on that, and I have one on that as well --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- can I – I want to start with just two very brief logistical questions.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One: Has there been a determination on Secretary Kerry’s bilats in Germany yet? Do you have any --

MS. PSAKI: They’re still being finalized. I expect we’ll have a up-to-date list either later this evening or first thing tomorrow morning.

QUESTION: All right. And then on the Ukraine, it was a conference call?

MS. PSAKI: It was a call. Yes, it was because there were a number of participants in it.

QUESTION: But were they – all the participants – the non-Secretary participants were in Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to double-check on that.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering, did they all go to the embassy or something and have a – sit around a table?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to double-check on the specific logistics of whether they were all in the same place or a call-in number was provided.

QUESTION: Do you know how many there were?

MS. PSAKI: There were – let’s see, one, two – six, I believe, opposition, political, and civil society leaders.

QUESTION: All right. And then --

MS. PSAKI: And we can provide you all the list of that, too, if that’s --

QUESTION: Also, briefly on Ukraine, do you have any thoughts on the President’s decision to call in sick?

MS. PSAKI: We, of course, have seen those reports. One moment.

QUESTION: I mean, do you --

MS. PSAKI: And our understanding is that he has a respiratory illness. We understand he’s taking a couple of days off due to a respiratory illness and fever. And that’s what the reports have been.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, so you don’t – you have no reason to doubt this? You don’t think he’s kind of trying to hide from his responsibilities as you see them?

MS. PSAKI: No. Our understanding is this is because of a – his respiratory illness.

QUESTION: Okay. But – and you have no further thoughts about it than that?

MS. PSAKI: No, I don’t have any additional --

QUESTION: All right --

QUESTION: Sorry, on Ukraine.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I mean, he also took the time, though, even though he’s on sick leave, to release a statement in which he criticized the opposition for being irresponsible in the negotiations and the protests. What’s your reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I mean, I’m not a medical doctor, of course, but I think being at home because you have a --

QUESTION: You don’t play one on TV? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I don’t even play one on TV, but --

QUESTION: But I mean specifically, his comments against the opposition of being irresponsible?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you know where we stand on the importance of the opposition and the government having – continuing their dialogue. Obviously, we support the efforts of the opposition to help the voices of the people of Ukraine be heard. That dialogue is continuing, and so as I said yesterday, that’s encouraging, but obviously, there’s more work that needs to be done. There’s more that President Yanukovych could do, including signing into law immediately the parliament’s decision to repeal the most egregious antidemocratic laws. So there’s certainly more steps that can be taken, and we’re hopeful that they will proceed.

QUESTION: And you think that he can sign that into law while he’s in his sick bed?

MS. PSAKI: I certainly think it’s possible, but again --

QUESTION: Even though you’re not a doctor, you think that he has the strength --

MS. PSAKI: I am not a doctor. That is true.

QUESTION: -- to lift a pen and put --

QUESTION: (Inaudible), we know you’re not a doctor, but – (laughter) – clearly, he’s able to do stuff. Is there a concern in the U.S. that this could delay the formation of a new government – I mean, that this could cause delays and then just stretch this out longer than it needs to be?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our understanding is he’s just taking a couple of days off due to a respiratory illness and a fever, so we’ll see, day by day, when he plans to return. There are, as I mentioned, steps that can be taken, and only constructive actions by the government can shift the focus of the political crisis from the streets to the negotiation table. And so we’re continuing to call for President Yanukovych, even when he’s at home, to work with the opposition to take concrete steps to reach a peaceful solution. And there are steps that have been outlined, I’ve outlined a couple of times, and certainly Vice President Biden outlined, and were outlined in his readout of his call on what those steps would be.

QUESTION: On the sanctions, could I just check – I know you addressed this a little bit yesterday, but are there active preparations going on within this Department to draw up sanctions to be ready in case you want to go ahead and impose them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re in the same position we were in yesterday, and I know there were some reports that were a little more forward than that. But we’re willing to consider sanctions. No decision has been made. Of course there has been, as you’ve seen from many members of Congress, concerns expressed and an understandable interest in what’s happening in Ukraine and what we’re doing as a government related to that. As a part of that, we’ve had consultations, of course, with members of Congress, but it is not a reflection of a decision being made about a forward step.

QUESTION: And yesterday, you said that you might be able to find us a list of some of the people – the individuals whose visas have been revoked?

MS. PSAKI: So this was a – one confusing thing that was about this in terms of what it is and what it’s not. And it’s not a visa ban, which would be different. So the United States revoked the visas of several Ukrainians implicated in violence against peaceful protestors. We have broad authority to revoke visas, which – and we do that when information comes to light indicating that a visa holder may be inadmissible to the United States or otherwise ineligible for a visa.

Obviously, that process is confidential. Individuals certainly can, of their own accord, make public if they choose to, but I just wanted to make clear the difference between revocation and a ban.

QUESTION: Sorry, can I do last one for me on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In your view, should it be surprising to anybody or newsworthy to anybody that after you announced that you’re ready to consider sanctions, you were making preparations to implement them, should a decision be made? Should the Europeans be surprised? Should members of Congress be surprised? Should the Ukrainians be surprised?

MS. PSAKI: No. I think what people shouldn’t be surprised by is that members of Congress would have an interest in discussing that and having their voices heard on what they think of that.

QUESTION: No, but I mean, should it be a surprise to anyone that there is a list of potential sanctions or people to be sanctioned floating around out there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I --

QUESTION: Is that unusual? Would that be unusual?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think so, but what I wanted to make clear is that there hasn’t been a decision made --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and consultations with Congress doesn’t mean a decision has been made.

QUESTION: Okay. On --

QUESTION: Can I just stay on Ukraine for one last one?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So if you decide to go ahead with the sanction, isn’t this kind of the calculation that it might throw them closer to Moscow, especially with bailing them out economically? So the fact that you’re imposing sanction, it just make them closer, going – looking East instead of --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t want to predict that, and I don’t want to get too far ahead because we haven’t made a decision to pursue sanctions. And obviously, we’ve made decisions like visa revocation based on actions that were taken by individuals as it related to violence and what’s happening on the ground there. We firmly believe that the dialogue should continue between the opposition and between the government. As we’ve said, we’ve been encouraged that that has been continuing.

We also firmly believe that everybody – the international community, Russia, the EU – everybody should be supportive of Ukraine being – returning to or being in a stable and secure existence and place. So we’re hopeful that everybody will do that. But we’re not – we haven’t made a decision about sanctions, so I don’t want to make a prediction about what that would mean.

QUESTION: I guess my question is: Because of – you’re hesitant to impose sanction, is this part of the calculation, that it will make them think in more of being closer to Russia than --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into what our calculations are, but obviously the consideration of it is due to the events on the ground and the actions taken by individuals on the ground.

QUESTION: Can I ask – sorry, Matt. Go.

QUESTION: No, it’s --

QUESTION: On Ukraine, yes. Just is it – how are you getting along with your --

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: -- in your talks with the Europeans? Are they on board with the idea of also imposing sanctions if necessary?

MS. PSAKI: I mean, I’ll let them speak for themselves on what they may or may not choose to do. And again, just to reiterate, we haven’t made a decision to do that. As you know, given that talks are underway, the EU and the UN have been very supportive of that. EU leaders and Europeans are engaged on the ground. EU High Representative Cathy Ashton, I know – I don’t know if she’s still there, but she was on the ground recently. So we certainly coordinate and work with them closely, but I would defer to them on what actions they may or may not be prepared to take.

QUESTION: So on Syria and the OPCW, excuse me, two things. One, given the large amount of skepticism that there was back in November when this original deal was – I’m sorry, not earlier than November – when the deal was originally reached --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- why should the Administration not have expected that this was going to be the case, that the Syrians wouldn’t live up to their end of the deal? And wasn’t it naive of the Administration to pronounce this a grand success – the grand success that it did at the time, understanding that you had put these caveats in?

And then secondly, neither in the ambassador’s remarks to the OPCW nor in yours was there any reiteration of the idea that the use of military force remains an option on the table to deal with the chemical weapons? So I’m wondering if it still is.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the Secretary himself said last week you never take a tool off the table. But obviously the reason this has been a significant process is because it’s a diplomatic process, which should always be our preferred option. That may be why it wasn’t part of what our first line of statement on this is.

There is still the possibility, and still the option here, and we’re very much hopeful that this is the path that we’ll go, that the Syrian regime can deliver on the promise of transporting the weapons to the port. What we’re highlighting today, and what the OPCW has highlighted, what Ambassador Power has highlighted, is the fact that they have to date not lived up to that. But there’s still the opportunity to do that. They have all of the tools and resources they need to do that.

I think anytime you agree to – to address your first question, anytime you agree to and come to an agreement on a tough negotiation, you always have to prepare yourself that there will be ups and downs in the process, and we certainly were. But it was still significant, and that remains the case even today, that the parties agreed to move forward with the removal of chemical weapons. And we are still hopeful that it can proceed from here.

QUESTION: Well, you talk about ups and downs, but this is a pretty – this is pretty far down, isn’t it? I mean, this – nothing – none of the timelines have been met. They haven’t even come close, and I’m just – you would reject, I assume, the suggestion that the Administration was naïve going into this, and I fully expect that, but I mean, why didn’t you expect this? Why didn’t you think that this was going to be the result?

And then I just want to make sure I’m clear. The use of military force that the President had talked about in response to the chemical weapons attack is still on the table, or is it not on the table?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve never taken the option as it relates to Syria off the table, but obviously, what we’re pursuing now is the diplomatic path, both on the removal of chemical weapons and on the Geneva conference process. So that’s where our focus is.

QUESTION: Right, but the President, in his State of the Union Address the other night, said that it was diplomacy coupled with the threat of military force that got the Syrians to agree to this. Why do you not remind the Syrians today, explicitly, that the option of military force is still on the table to get them to live up to the agreement that they signed onto?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we appreciate the recommendation, but --

QUESTION: Well, it’s not a recommendation.

MS. PSAKI: Today --

QUESTION: I’m asking why – if you think that that’s what got them to agree in the first place - -

MS. PSAKI: And we continue to feel that way, and we feel the appropriate step today is to highlight the fact that they’re not meeting the obligation, that there’s more that can be done, that they have the tools and resources they need to fulfill their obligation. And so that’s what we’re highlighting today.

QUESTION: But when the Syrians have been called out in the past, like back before the whole – before the idea of military strikes came into the equation, it hasn’t done anything. So just – why do you think now that calling them out publicly for noncompliance is going to change their behavior when, as the President said the other night, what got them to agree in the first place was the threat of military force coupled with diplomacy?

MS. PSAKI: You’re right, and we still continue to believe that. Some of the statements that they have made are that they don’t have the equipment and resources necessary, and that is false, which UN --

QUESTION: Right, so they’re lying, you think.

MS. PSAKI: That is a false claim.

QUESTION: Right. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: So, Matt, where we are today is that obviously we’re a date – a month past the timeline of what we set out. We still believe that the diplomatic path that’s been laid out here is the right path forward, and so we’re going to continue to press the regime to abide by their obligations.

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up on that one? Is – yesterday Secretary Kerry and the Russian counterparts had a discussion about this.

MS. PSAKI: Yep.

QUESTION: What is the U.S. asking of Russia and the Syrian Government to do now other than speed up what’s been going on on the ground to resolve this? And is there a kind of a period of time that you think that you can still wait a little bit and be more patient so that the stuff can happen, and at what stage do you say enough’s enough?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to make a prediction of that, but the Secretary did have this discussion, as you mentioned, with Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday. And he’s asking him for his help in pressing the regime to do exactly what I’ve outlined. This is not rocket science here. They’re dragging their feet. We need them to pick up those feet and run with this and move forward in moving the chemical weapons stockpile to the port. The international community is prepared to take the steps we’ve committed to, and what we’re asking the regime to do and the Russians to put necessary pressure on them to do is to abide by their commitment that they agreed to just a couple of months ago.

QUESTION: Just to follow this --

MS. PSAKI: Syria? Okay.

QUESTION: Your ambassador to the Organization to the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said that Syria has a bargaining mentality and not a security mentality. Can you explain his words when he says they have a bargaining mentality?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to him on an explanation of his words. I mean, I think broadly speaking – I don’t want to guess too much here, but one of the issues, as I mentioned when I responded to Matt’s question, is that Syria is requesting additional equipment such as armored jackets for the shipping containers, electronic countermeasures and detectors for improvised explosive devices. We – these additional demands, in our – not just in our view but in the UN’s view, are unwarranted. And we believe – the UN believes, more importantly – that the regime has sufficient material and equipment to transport required chemical agents to Latakia, and that’s why we’ve strongly called and he strongly called as well for them to move forward.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Syria? Go ahead, Nadia.

QUESTION: I don’t know if you answered this yesterday or not, but it is also the reports indicating that Syria has a capability of developing biological weapons. Do you have any point on that?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve – I said yesterday, and it hasn’t changed today – I’ve seen those reports, but I don’t have anything new or any independent confirmation of those reports.

QUESTION: Okay. The other thing is the head of the coalition, Ahmad al-Jarba, has been invited to go to Moscow on the 3rd of February.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is this part of the consultation with the U.S., and do we expect him to come to Washington before they resume the third round of the talks?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I’m not aware of plans for him to come. I can check if there’s any plans in place. And I’m not – again, I’m happy to check on whether we had any engagement in the invitation from Moscow.

Obviously – and I don’t know if any of you saw, I think it happened right before we came down – that Joint Special Representative Brahimi did another press conference today where he talked about the hope of both the opposition and the regime returning in a week or so’s time, and he said he would have a more comprehensive announcement about that soon. He also talked about how there have been tense moments but there have also been promising moments. The opposition asked for a moment of silence to remember the people who have been lost in Syria. Both parties agreed to that. And he confirmed that there’ll be a meeting tomorrow.

So in terms of the invitation from the Russians and the opposition, I would let you talk to them and speak to the purpose of that visit.

QUESTION: And just finally, tomorrow is the last day of concluding the second round of these talks. Are you satisfied with the fact that they are both together on the same table; there is no substantial breakthrough, but at least it’s still in the same room? Was this your expectation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to feel that it is significant that the regime and the opposition are sitting down at the same table, that they’ve talked about not just humanitarian access, which is obviously a vitally important issue and there’s more that the regime can do on that front, but they’ve also talked about the creation of a transitional governing body and the Geneva communique. We don’t see this as the end of the process; we see it as the beginning stage of the process. As Joint Special Representative Brahimi mentioned, they’ll be reconvening again and we fully expected that that would be how this would transpire.

QUESTION: Jen, we’ve talked about the delays in getting weapons to the ports previously. This isn’t the first instance --

MS. PSAKI: Chemical weapons.

QUESTION: Yeah, sorry, the chemical weapons to – getting rid of them. And in the past, the delays and citing security problems has been cited in this room as a legitimate reason for those delays - that it doesn’t matter if they’re meeting the specific dates but that these are all part of milestones. So what was the turning point in going from saying that these security concerns that the Syrians were citing were legitimate problems to now, today, we’re saying, no, they’re lying, this isn’t true? I mean, what was the turning point there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve also consistently said that it’s the responsibility of the regime to provide security for the transportation of the material, as well as international inspectors while inside Syria. So the onus still remains on the regime.

What I was referring to, which is slightly different from security concerns, which, obviously, we knew would be a challenge from the beginning, was requests for additional equipment, which we don’t feel is necessary. And it’s not the United States making that evaluation, it’s the UN and the OPCW and the international governing bodies that are evaluating what the needs are and what the circumstances are on the ground.

QUESTION: Sure. And then one other question: In the ambassador’s statement he also cited the Syrian Government’s offer of like barring the doors of these production facilities and like soldering the entrances, easily reversible options that the United States and the OPCW has rejected. But was that just never tied down? Was there never a – that was a stipulation that wasn’t confirmed between the two parties before we’ve gotten to this point? Was it just never established?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not my understanding. But again, I’d point you to the OPCW on what their agreement was specifically, but I think it’s fair to say there was a comprehensive document that outlined how this would proceed. The UN was – the U.S. was involved in the negotiations to get there, but this is being implemented by the OPCW and the UN.

QUESTION: Jen, sorry for being late. I wonder if you addressed this, but Israeli intelligence reports and European intelligence reports point to tens of thousands – maybe 30-40,000 foreign jihadi that are in Syria that are being financed, equipped, and trained by your allies in the Gulf Cooperation Council. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve consistently stated, Said, that we are concerned about not just the influx of foreign fighters but the funding of foreign fighters. That remains the case today. And it’s an issue that comes up very frequently as we talk about Syria.

QUESTION: But do you see the situation as getting out of hand? A lot of these fighters, they are – they come from Europe, from other countries, and so on, and then they go back and they probably initiate the same thing in their home countries.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that our European partners and allies have expressed concerns about that. We share those concerns, and we share the concern about extremism and the growth of that as it relates to the conflict in Syria.

QUESTION: So do you concur with calls by people like Leslie Gelb and others who are saying that now is the time really to work with the regime and to work with the moderates and so on to fight these extremist jihadists. Would that like be in the offing?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve been pretty consistent on our view on that, that Assad is a magnet for terrorism. That’s not a path we’re pursuing. Our focus is on working towards a transitional governing body, and removing him from the picture, we feel, will be a deterrent factor.

QUESTION: And lastly, on the Brahimi – he said that – he didn’t really give a specific date for resumption of talks. Do you know anything beyond that? Do you know whether they are going to resume talks, let’s say in a week or 10 days?

MS. PSAKI: He said in his press conference --

QUESTION: Right. I saw that.

MS. PSAKI: -- today they would be resuming --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and that he’d have announcement about the timing.

Lucas.

QUESTION: Is there a plan for the Administration to put another redline in place to remove the chemical weapons from Syria?

MS. PSAKI: None that I’m aware of. I think what we’re focused on now is how we can continue down the path of the plan that’s in place that the international community is ready to deliver on.

Jo.

QUESTION: Can I ask about a statement put out earlier today from the Elders who visited – the group known as the Elders who visited Iran last – this week, I think --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and are now in London. And they say that Iran needs to be part of discussions for any solution to find peace in Syria. Is – what is your comment to that? So far you’ve excluded them from the Geneva II process --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- but there must be a recognition within this building that Iran is going to be vital to any kind of solution that’s found down the line --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s no question that Iran feels they have a stake. Some in the international community feel they have a stake. That’s an understandable point. Our view has not changed in terms of the parties that should be engaged in this process should be supportive of an outcome that involves transitional governing body, that involves the end to the bloodshed and the brutality in Syria. So we have never closed the door, but there hasn’t been an opening that, in our view, made sense to date.

QUESTION: Do you believe you can get some kind of political solution in Syria without engaging the Iranians at some point down the road?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re taking it here one day, one week at a time. Obviously, Brahimi is serving as the facilitator for the negotiations, and we’ll see if it’s an appropriate time and if appropriate steps are taken that would warrant Iran’s participation in some capacity.

QUESTION: Jen, yesterday there were reports of a meeting with U.S., Russia, and the Iranians in Berne. Do you have any idea where a Berne meeting came into --

MS. PSAKI: No. And I actually – my understanding is that Brahimi denied reports of an alternative track on this, specific to Berne.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know if there was a confusion with – and the Iranians aren’t there.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: So with the G8 meeting, which obviously Under Secretary Sherman is attending and the Russians are as well, but --

QUESTION: And then, Mr. Brahimi is talking about when the sides can’t reconvene is to have a more structured discussion.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is that what the U.S. is pushing for? I mean, how do you see these talks moving forward so that you don’t have all the chaos of who’s meeting who at what time and people boycotting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve really been deferring to Joint Special Representative Brahimi. Obviously, we’re in close touch with him. I think the Secretary will be in touch with him soon. And obviously, we’re consulting on it, but we defer to him and his team on the appropriate process. And I don’t think anybody would be opposed to – certainly we would not be opposed to structure or agendas moving forward.

QUESTION: Is it – am I correct in thinking from your comments thus far about the Geneva II talks that there have been two accomplishments here – one is that they both sat down in the same room at the same time, and second is that they agreed on – to have a moment of silence? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: I would not leave it at that. I thought the moment of silence was an interesting moment from what happened today that Joint Special Representative Brahimi referenced. So that’s why I repeated it.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe that the people that each side were remembering or commemorating with this moment of silence were the same?

MS. PSAKI: It’s hard for me --

QUESTION: I just – I --

MS. PSAKI: -- to get into any of their minds --

QUESTION: Exactly, which is what --

MS. PSAKI: -- and who they were thinking of during that moment.

QUESTION: Right, exactly. Which is why I wonder whether in fact it really accounts – can be counted as any kind of accomplishment if both sides use the moment of silence to pray for the death of their enemies and commemorate the people who died on their side, but not – but don’t look at them all as Syrian victims.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think where we view the accomplishments are here are – where we view the accomplishments are that, yes, both sides sat down together, that’s important; they discussed not just humanitarian access, which is vitally important, but also the Geneva communique, also the creation of a transitional governing body. They have agreed they’re going to come back and meet again. We’ve always thought this would be a long process, and this is certainly playing out in that way.

QUESTION: All right. But they have not agreed on humanitarian access, nor have they agreed on the formation of a transition government. Correct?

MS. PSAKI: No, that’s right. They’ve discussed those issues.

QUESTION: So in fact, there are three big achievements here out of a very expensive week in Geneva: one, that they actually sat down in a room at the same time; two, that they had a moment of silence; and three, that they decided that after a week, they would go back to a luxury hotel, while people are still dying in Syria, to have more talks. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we always thought this would be a beginning of a process, and that’s what it is.

Do we have any more on Syria?

QUESTION: Yes. Regarding the situation in Homs, do you have anything to add to what Mr. Brahimi said? It seems that nothing is really happening as far as relieving the horrible conditions.

MS. PSAKI: Unfortunately, Said, I don’t have an update on Homs. I do have an update, which you asked about the other day --

QUESTION: On Yarmouk.

MS. PSAKI: -- on Yarmouk. Earlier today, a UN convoy of desperately needed aid reached the residents of Yarmouk. While today’s convoy will not end the suffering of the 18,000 civilians trapped there, this aid helps to alleviate and address urgent needs. So that is one quick update for all of you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: New topic? Scott.

QUESTION: Ecuador.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is the former police commander Edgar Vaca under arrest in the United States, and is the United States considering his extradition to Quito, as requested by Ecuadorian authorities, to face allegations of human rights abuses?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly I’m familiar with the case you are referencing, Scott. Any extradition processes are confidential. Also, any arrests – we certainly wouldn’t be the appropriate agency for, so unfortunately, I don’t have much to tell you on this today.

QUESTION: Change of topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: We have so many here.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. All right. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. That’s the point.

The – there was a report today – you probably saw it – on the U.S. aid being misused in Afghanistan. Any comment from this building on that report? And does this mean that going forward with uncertainty with the security agreement that the U.S. is going to scale back significantly until you have more certainty and can make sure that this money is going to places that it needs to?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the reports that you referenced today bears virtually no resemblance to the actual assistance programs that we run in Afghanistan. There are not billions of U.S. assistance dollars going straight into Afghan Government coffers, as the report claims. On the contrary, we have disbursed less than $300 million through rigorous accountable mechanisms that maintain U.S. Government control of funds throughout the process. All of our programs are managed by U.S. officials, whether they use Afghan Government systems or not. The SIGAR report suggests that we should attempt to fix every problem in each ministry before we set up programs regardless of whether the deficiencies in question have any bearing on the program we envision. And our view is that this is not prudent use of U.S. Government resources.

Also, the report reiterates our own review that we did in advance of the report. So that is our view on the report.

QUESTION: Well – so this – what is it, SIGAR, the inspector general --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- right. They’ve come up with a report that basically has nothing to do with what you’re – with what you’re actually doing on the ground? I mean, that would seem to me to smack of incredible – or at least, you’re accusing them of incredible incompetence. Why don’t you just come out and say that? So you believe that SIGAR is --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I was referring not to the SIGAR – there was a report in The New York Times today that I’m referring to, which Lesley asked about --

QUESTION: Oh. Not the SIGAR report.

MS. PSAKI: -- based, in part, on the SIGAR report.

QUESTION: Based on that, yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. But does that not mean that the SIGAR report is completely wrong, in your view?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what I reiterated here is that we had already acknowledged and referenced some of the – many of the points that were in the SIGAR report, and so it was a repetition of issues that we were already aware of.

QUESTION: So – but the SIGAR report, the inspector general report, you don’t have a quibble with? It’s the New York Times? I don’t understand.

QUESTION: No, I’m quoting from the SIGAR report.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there was a story on it that --

QUESTION: The report says a billion dollars cannot be accounted for by the Afghan – a billion dollars in U.S. assistance to Afghanistan cannot be accounted for by the Afghan --

MS. PSAKI: Well, right. And I’m stating that that is false. So that’s --

QUESTION: So SIGAR doesn’t know what it’s talking about; is that right?

MS. PSAKI: I will let you draw your own conclusions.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, but when you say the report bears virtually no resemblance, which report are you talking to? About the story in the newspaper or the SIGAR report?

MS. PSAKI: There’s a newspaper story on the report.

QUESTION: But does that report – so that refers to the New York Times report or to the SIGAR report, or to both?

MS. PSAKI: They’re both – I suppose it’s both.

QUESTION: And so – okay. So in other words, SIGAR doesn’t know what it’s talking about. Are you concerned at all that there might be some kind of political motivation going on here? This inspector general routinely comes out with very harshly critical reports not only of the State Department but – a lot of times with the State Department, but of the Pentagon as well. Do you think that they’re – that this office is doing the job that it was established to do?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other analysis here, Matt, other than to convey what the facts are, which are inaccurate, which I think I clearly outlined.

QUESTION: All right. But if you say, though, that the facts are inaccurate in the report, but you also at the same time say that they reiterate what you already have found, I don’t – I can’t – I’m having a hard time squaring that.

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re combining a couple of things, and I apologize if I’ve been confusing. There was a New York Times story on a report.

QUESTION: Got it.

MS. PSAKI: I just conveyed what is inaccurate about that, which includes both. There are pieces – we’ve done our own review. We had done our own review in advance, so the report reiterates many of the things that we are – were already aware of and acknowledged and we’re determining how to address. There are false numbers that were reported in here that I also referenced. So --

QUESTION: Okay. So --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, I just want to make sure. You are then not taking issue with the entire – entirety of the two, of the newspaper report and the SIGAR report; you are taking issue with the numbers? I’m really not trying to be a jerk about this. I just want to figure out – because if, in fact, the SIGAR report contains things that you say you already know – knew about and acknowledged and have remedied, then it would seem to me at that at least some of it is – was correct, at least at some – at some point in time.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I was referencing the report in there that does not bear resemblance to our programs. I will see if there’s more of a briefing we can provide to you if that’s of interest.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Can we go to another topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Yes, Palestinian-Israeli talks.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So now that the talks between the Palestinian negotiator and Mr. Indyk and Secretary Kerry have ended, what is next? What is on the horizon? Are there any scheduled talks, let’s say, in the West Bank and in Israel? Is Ambassador Indyk planning to go back? What is next?

MS. PSAKI: Ambassador Indyk is in Washington. I don’t have anything to report on his scheduled travel. As you asked yesterday, Saeb Erekat was here for meetings with Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Indyk both Tuesday and Wednesday. There are no additional meetings planned in Washington at this time.

We continue to work intensively with both sides. And as we have said throughout the negotiations, that can happen on several levels, whether it’s phone conversations or meetings in person. All of those are proceeding, and beyond that we’re not going to provide updates on a daily basis.

QUESTION: So you are conduct – can you confirm that you are conducting really bilateral talks, that you meet with the Palestinians, then you meet with the Israelis, but there are no trilateral talks?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to confirm what kinds of talks are happening now or not. But you are aware of the bilateral talks that have happened that we – as I said yesterday, we feel this is an appropriate time in the process given that we’re working towards a framework for negotiations, we’re working to narrow the gaps between the parties. And that’s what our focus is on at this time.

QUESTION: Has there been any, let’s say, Palestinian-Israeli face-to-face talks, let’s say, since December or November? Can you tell us?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to confirm for you the timing or dates of talks.

QUESTION: Okay, and one last question on this.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There were reports that Secretary Kerry is planning to make a trip or go to Jerusalem and Ramallah. Could you – but you said no yesterday --

MS. PSAKI: I think I answered this question yesterday, right?

QUESTION: Yeah, right.

MS. PSAKI: When you asked it?

QUESTION: Right. But today there was a story that says --

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed since yesterday.

QUESTION: Nothing has changed, so he’s not planning?

QUESTION: Jen, on – yesterday, I brought up this issue with the SodaStream and Scarlett Johansson.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’m assuming that you don’t have any opinion one way or the other on Ms. Johansson’s – who she works for? Is that – I just want to make sure before we go on to --

MS. PSAKI: Right. I’m not going to speak to the Super Bowl commercial, and certainly --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- she’s a private citizen.

QUESTION: Okay. So on the broader issue, which is really what I’m more interested in --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- can you restate – is it – am I correct that your policy on settlements and things that are produced within settlements has – is essentially – or is the same, it has not changed, and that that policy is – although you regard settlement activity as illegitimate, you do not think that there’s anything illegitimate about goods or products that are produced on that territory for – to sell – to import into the United States or to anywhere else. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: That is – our policy is that we believe that settlements are illegitimate, as we’ve said; that we reject efforts to boycott or delegitimize Israel; that any notion or reports or rumors that the Secretary or anyone in this building is encouraging anyone to do that are inaccurate.

QUESTION: Encouraging anyone to do what, to boycott?

MS. PSAKI: To boycott or delegitimize.

QUESTION: Okay. So if the settlements are illegitimate, in your view, why is it – also, you’re – let me start this again. You regard the settlements as illegitimate, but you also regard boycotts of products produced in settlements as delegitimizing of Israel. Is that right?

MS. PSAKI: Boycotts of products produced by Israel, yes.

QUESTION: On – within settlements?

MS. PSAKI: Well, produced by Israel. They’re produced in a range of places. Obviously, Matt --

QUESTION: Okay. So there’s a lot of illegitimacy here, right?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, obviously --

QUESTION: Efforts to boycott, you think, are attempts really not to go after the companies or to – but they’re to delegitimize Israel, not to express a dissatisfaction with their policies on settlements. Is that right?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, obviously, this is incredibly complex, as you’ve outlined here today.

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MS. PSAKI: One of the reasons we’re talking about all of these issues is because we want to resolve them, we want to put an end to disputes over borders and settlements and all of these issues. That is our position. Obviously, this is a company based in Israel. Beyond that, I don’t have any further analysis for you.

QUESTION: Okay. But you do believe that efforts by groups or countries or groups of countries, like the European Union, which has talked about boycotts and that kind of thing, those in themselves are delegitimizing of Israel, which is engaged in illegitimate settlement activity on land that the Palestinians claim. Is that right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve not been supportive, Matt, of boycotts or efforts to delegitimize Israel.

QUESTION: Can you take the question – and I don’t know if it’s possible because I’m not sure that anyone can answer it --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- how is it that the – how does the Administration square those two positions, the – one, that the settlements are illegitimate, but that the products made there on – as a result of this illegitimacy – that boycotts of those products are, in themselves, delegitimizing of Israel? I just – I’m having a hard time understanding how that works. It would seem to me that if you regard settlements as illegitimate, you would not be opposed to efforts or to campaigns that would – that agree with that position.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, we will see if there’s more to provide.

QUESTION: But you know there are – from this end, that we’re a bit confused on this issue that Matt is raising, because you seem to be on both sides of legitimate/illegitimate kind of a thing. Can you clarify that?

MS. PSAKI: It’s two separate issues.

QUESTION: They’re two separate issues?

MS. PSAKI: That’s why I gave you our policy positions.

QUESTION: So if a settlement is illegal, and that land on the settlement produces peaches or olives and so on and gets imported, that is legitimate?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into a hypothetical --

QUESTION: No, it’s not hypothetical. These are real things. I mean, that’s why --

MS. PSAKI: -- road race with you here, Said.

QUESTION: -- there is a boycott.

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve answered our question. Go ahead – or Ali.

QUESTION: Yeah, it’s on – if we can digress?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Different point of that same topic.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Not speaking directly to Scarlett Johansson or whoever the celebrity happens to be, but the fact is that these famous people, when they get kind of embroiled in these international issues, they are very prominent public faces of America. So is there any – broadly speaking, I mean, we have Dennis Rodman, I could go on with different examples, but is there a concern that whenever these celebrities get entangled in these issues that it complicates the United States official relationship with these countries, or diplomatic efforts and the like?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, every circumstance is different. I’m sure Scarlett Johansson would not appreciate being in the same category as Dennis Rodman, but beyond that, we look at every situation differently. I think we’ve been clear on Dennis Rodman. He’s a private citizen. He’s not representing the United States. And we do need to convey that publicly and to governments as needed. So – but beyond that, I don’t know that I have much of an analysis for you.

Do we have any --

QUESTION: Can I just ask one more question on --

MS. PSAKI: Oh. Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask, also on Israel, today the Israelis’ intelligence minister has called Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas the world’s most anti-Semitic leader after the departure from office by Iranian President Ahmadinejad last year. Do comments like this – I mean, you expect people to trade insults --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and we’re in a situation which is obviously very tense. But do comments like this help or hinder the United States in its bid to try and bring the two sides together?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think provocative rhetoric has no place in the region, but also there’s no question that comments from either side that seek to provoke tensions are unhelpful. At the same time, as you mentioned, this has happened a bit and we take it as it comes, and both sides remain committed to the negotiations moving forward. We’re in touch with both sides, as is evidenced by the fact that they’ve both been here in the last couple of weeks about a framework for negotiations. And so that’s where our focus remains.

QUESTION: And I wonder if there’s a sense perhaps that with – we’re now six months into the process of that Secretary Kerry started.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There’s obviously plans to try and put forward at some point his framework agreement that is perhaps creating some of these tensions that we’re seeing flaring into the media. Is there a feeling that perhaps the push from the United States is putting an undue pressure on Prime Minister Netanyahu and this could actually threaten his coalition?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think anyone believes that Prime Minister Netanyahu or President Abbas are participating in these talks as a favor to the United States. There are reasons for both sides to participate, whether it is the importance of security in Israel and securing the future of the Israeli people in the next generations, or fears of a de-legitimization campaign that we’ve seen unfortunately in some parts of the world, or the desire by the Palestinian people to have their own state and concerns about the impact of the expansion of settlements and how that’s impacting that.

So Secretary Kerry is certainly committed to this effort because he has a long history on these issues, he has a long history with these leaders. And he firmly believes, as do many people in the international community, that if you can achieve peace between these parties, that will have a positive impact on the region, it will increase security, it will help economic prosperity. And that’s the reason he’s committed, but also why it comes up in virtually every meeting he does with any world leader.

QUESTION: But if you push too hard and if the Israeli coalition government, which is very fragile, collapses, then that leaves you perhaps almost starting from the beginning.

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, we’re not going to get into reports of political issues that are happening on the ground, and at this point that's a hypothetical. But clearly, the reason why we are playing a role in facilitating this is, as I just outlined, because of the positive future that it could have for people in Israel and the Palestinian people as well.

QUESTION: Do you know – or perhaps, does the Secretary believe that it is possible to get a comprehensive peace deal if both sides insist on claiming the mantle of victim?

MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary, given his history on these issues, is not surprised that at this time when everybody knows the core issues are being discussed, that there is more rhetoric and more language that is out there, but that is not a surprise to him.

QUESTION: But both sides insist that they have been victimized here, and I’m just wondering if you think that it is possible for them to overcome that to get to a point where they can really sit down and talk about these core issues. Because it doesn’t seem – it just seems that as long as they continue to do this, and both talk about being oppressed and put upon, that you can’t get into the discussion of what really – of these hard choices that the Secretary and everyone else have been talking about for decades. So I’m wondering: Does he have any plan to try to calm them down or bring them down from these claims, the victimhood claims?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the Secretary knows, as we all know, that there are decades and more – longer than decades of history here, that these are sensitive issues, and he’s not surprised that it’s tough and challenging and the politics are difficult on all of these issues. The parties are talking about the core issues, so that is happening now, but I don’t know that he can prevent them from feeling the challenge of facing the prospect of making decisions.

QUESTION: Jen, could I just quickly follow up --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- on a question that I asked you yesterday? On the framework agreement, I mean that is not the same --

MS. PSAKI: A framework for negotiations.

QUESTION: A framework for negotiations --

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: -- but everybody talks about these ideas that are being thrown around and so on. That is not an interim agreement. The Secretary is not wanting to push for any kind of an interim agreement, correct?

MS. PSAKI: No, it would be the basis for negotiations moving forward.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, if and when this framework is to be announced, in what form would it be announced? Is it going to be like in a press conference, in a meeting between the two? What do you --

MS. PSAKI: I do not have any update on the communications rollout plan from yesterday.

QUESTION: And I promise this is my last question on this issue.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Now, if this fails, I mean, do you have like a plan B? Will there come a time, with both sides feeling the essence of victimhood and so on that was raised just a minute ago, that you would actually propose your own plan – the way the United States of America sees what should happen on the ground? Is that ever likely to happen?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re all familiar with the issues --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: -- what the core issues are. Obviously, the parties and the ideas of the parties is what we’re focused on, and I’m not going to get ahead of where we are in the process.

QUESTION: Sochi?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, and then we’ll go to Scott. Go ahead.

QUESTION: In light of the arrests yesterday in Russia, is the U.S. satisfied with Russia’s terrorism prevention plan in Sochi?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know – and we did an extensive briefing on this last Friday, Lucas – we’re working closely with the Russian Government. They’re in the lead on threats and on information sharing. We are providing securities for – security for our athletes and for the delegations, and providing American citizens with consular services and access. And we have offered assistance to the Russians, and the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday about a range of other issues, but they briefly touched on this too.

So I’m not going to give a public evaluation other than to say then the coordination and the cooperation is ongoing, and certainly will be in the days leading up to the Olympics in 10 days or so from now.

QUESTION: And would you say the United States is satisfied with Russia’s level of participation and preparation?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to give an evaluation, Lucas. This is an ongoing cooperation, ongoing coordination. Obviously, given it’s related to security, a lot of it will remain private. But we have offered services, and again, Russia, of course, is in the lead on that.

QUESTION: But to this point, you are satisfied that they’re --

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve addressed the question. Scott.

QUESTION: On Burma.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There are reports from the Thai-Burmese border that a program that was resettling some Karen and Hmong refugees – displaced – to the United States ended last Friday the 24th. Is that your understanding? And if so, why was that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me give you all just a little more historical context here. So, since 2005 the United States has resettled more than 73,000 Burmese refugees. The United States resettles more refugees than any other resettlement country combined. We’ve welcomed more than 3 million refugees to this country since 1975. With our robust resettlement program, the number of eligible Burmese refugees has been reduced significantly. And not all Burmese who are eligible for resettlement consideration are interested in permanent resettlement.

So refugees are now being – are not being asked to make a decision about returning to Burma, but at this point refugees – the – sorry – refugees are being asked to decide if they want to pursue this opportunity at this point. So the resettlement program will continue as long as – until we’ve completed the processing of every application received by the deadline, but we are – I guess the right way to say it is winding down the program while still receiving applications of those who are interested in. But we’re making that well known that if those who are interested – if those who are eligible are interested, they should apply now, and we will see the process through for all those who apply.

QUESTION: Winding down because of a lack of demand from --

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re reaching the natural conclusion of it, given the specific eligibility requirements and given it’s been around since 2005. So throughout 2013 – so throughout last year, we actually set deadlines for eligible Burmese refugees to apply, and at this point we’re just trying to provide information to all those who are eligible that they should get their applications in now.

QUESTION: Another topic --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Actually, a Russia question.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You’ve probably seen the reports on – that Russia has deployed short-range ballistic missiles. The question is whether that contravenes or violates any international standards and laws. Were you informed? And there’s concern, of course, that – in the region because of this move. There have been questions by Russia over the U.S.’s missile defense shield or proposed extension of that over Eastern Europe. Any comment on any of these allegations?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I’ve not seen – only seen the report. I think I’m quoted in the report --

QUESTION: Are you?

MS. PSAKI: -- so I’m familiar with it. We do, of course, take questions about compliance with arms control treaties, including the INF treaty, very seriously. The treaty compliance assessment process for all treaties is a continuous, ongoing activity, taking into account all available information as it arises.

So in the report – in the story, I guess I should say; there’s been a confusion about story versus report – it referenced the fact that we have raised this issue with the Russians. That is true. I can certainly confirm that. When compliance questions arise, we work to resolve them with our treaty partners, and we will, of course, continue to do so.

In this case – and many of you may be aware of this, but since this came up, I thought it was important to note, that we report regularly to Congress on arms control compliance matters through our annual report called Adherence to and Compliance with Arms Control Nonproliferation and Related Agreements and Commitments. That report was issued last – the last report covers up to December of 2012. There’ll be another report issued this year on the past year. I don’t have a prediction of timing for that. But this is an ongoing process. It’s an intensive interagency review process. As part of that, we consult with our treaty partners and allies, and there hasn’t been a conclusion made, nor would I want to make a prediction of what the outcome of that review process will be.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: When you say, “We have raised this issue with the Russians” --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- can you spell out for us what “this issue” is?

MS. PSAKI: The possibility of – as included in the report – of a violation.

QUESTION: That – so the report specifically says that the United States has informed NATO allies that Russia tested a ground-launch cruise missile. This is – that is what you have raised with the Russian side?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. And I should say, just to be clear, the Secretary has broadly raised compliance issues. This particular specific issue has been handled at the level of Under Secretary Gottemoeller, which is the appropriate level. That’s where the discussions have been. As the story notes, we have briefed our NATO allies, so that is also correct.

QUESTION: So the facts of the report that – sorry, Matt – that they began conducting these flight tests as early as 2008, that’s correct, too?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to repute – to refute the facts in the report. But the important note here is that there’s still an ongoing review, an interagency review, determining if there was a violation.

QUESTION: So you have not – so there is no determination on whether – you think that those – or you say that those are facts, that they did, in fact, launch this thing, but you haven’t determined whether it’s a violation?

MS. PSAKI: Let me be clear. We have not – there has been – I have nothing to refute in the report – in the New York Times story. But there is a review, an intensive interagency review, as to whether this is a violation of the treaty. That is a process that is ongoing. It has been ongoing. There have been consultations for months on this.

QUESTION: So you’re saying the launch itself is not in question, but whether it is a violation of the treaty is – has yet to be determined?

MS. PSAKI: It has yet to be determined, yes.

QUESTION: But you don’t have any reason to doubt that there was a – that they did do this?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have all the details of it, but I don’t have anything to refute in the report.

QUESTION: Well, let me put it this way: When you said – when – you said you raised this issue with the Russians. Did you go to the Russians and say, hey, we know that you did this on such-and-such a day or in such-and-such a time period, and we want an explanation because we think that it possibly violates the treaty? Is that what it is that you --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to outline what the diplomatic conversations were. Obviously, when there are reports of or views of or thoughts that there may have been a violation, that is raised. It was raised in this case.

QUESTION: At the moment, you do not regard this treaty to be in any kind of serious jeopardy, do you?

MS. PSAKI: We do not. As you know, this is an ongoing commitment of not just the President, but the State Department to this, and a priority of the Administration.

QUESTION: And the New York Times refers to tests, the missile tests. Are you in a position to say how many you believe have happened?

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

QUESTION: I have one on bird flu. So I raised the question last week --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- but there are – recently have been cases discovered in Hong Kong, in Taiwan.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So there haven’t been any humans – human cases yet, but is the State Department concerned about the spread of the flu, of the bird flu virus? And are you prepared to issue any warnings to U.S. citizens abroad?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on this for all of you. If we were going to issue a warning, we would issue that warning very publicly and probably wouldn’t predict that. But let me check with our team and see if there is anything we can update you on. Okay.

QUESTION: Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let’s make this the last one.

QUESTION: Yesterday you issued – yeah – you issued a very terse and blunt statement against the repression --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- against journalists and so on.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Has there been a follow-up on that? Have you – has anyone spoken to any Egyptian official or – what kind of follow-up to that statement?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well --

QUESTION: Or does it still stand on its own?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re in continuous, close contact on the ground. I don’t have any updates for you on calls over the last 24 hours. But I can assure you that as we raise these issues publicly, we’re certainly raising them privately.

QUESTION: Did the Egyptians respond to you in any fashion?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other readout for you.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

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

DPB # 19

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing - January 30, 2014]