Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
May 12, 2014


Index for Today's Briefing
  • INDIA
    • Elections / U.S. Congratulations / U.S.-India Partnership
  • DEPARTMENT
    • Secretary Kerry Travel to London / London 11 / Syria / No Planned Meeting with Abbas
    • House Oversight Committee Subpoena / Ongoing Discussions
    • Meeting on Nigeria in Paris
    • Secretary Kerry Commencement Addresses
    • Secretary Kerry Travel to Mexico
  • UKRAINE/RUSSIA
    • Referendum in Donetsk / No U.S. Recognition
    • Upcoming Presidential Elections / Russian Reaction / OSCE
    • EU Sanctions
    • French Sale of Warships
    • Troop Presence
    • Election Monitors
    • Negotiated Comprehensive Settlement
    • Energy Needs
  • SYRIA
    • Secretary Kerry's Meeting with Jarba / London 11
    • Humanitarian Assistance
    • Use of Chemical Weapons / OPCW
  • INDIA
    • Elections / U.S.-India Relations
  • SYRIA
    • Elections / Assad Regime
  • NIGERIA
    • Kidnapped Girls / Release of Video / Ransom
    • U.S. Support for Nigeria / U.S. Policy on Ransom
    • U.S. Team in Nigeria
  • BENGHAZI
    • ARB / Training
  • NIGERIA
    • Kidnapped Girls / Release of Video / Authenticity
  • TURKEY
    • Freedom of the Press
  • YEMEN
    • Continued Closure of Embassy
    • Incident Involving U.S. Embassy Officers / Ongoing Investigation
  • SOUTH SUDAN
    • Ceasefire / Transitional Government
    • Negotiation Process


TRANSCRIPT:

12:25 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hi.

MS. PSAKI: Hope you all enjoyed the beautiful weekend.

QUESTION: We did.

MS. PSAKI: I just have two items for all of you at the top. We congratulate the people of India on their participation in the largest-ever free and fair democratic election in human history. Over 500 million eligible voters peacefully went to the polls over the last six weeks, often in remote or challenging locations. These elections are an inspiring example of the power of the democratic process in action, and the United States, like so many others around the world, has great admiration and respect for the vibrancy, diversity, and resilience of India’s democracy.

India continues to play a critical role in advancing prosperity, democracy, and stability across the Indo-Pacific region. Whether we’re working together to educate the next generation of engineers and entrepreneurs, or combatting global challenges like climate change and violent extremism, the U.S.-India partnership is essential to securing a brighter future for both of our peoples. We look forward to working with the leaders chosen by the Indian people to advance this important partnership and to set an ambitious agenda.

QUESTION: And on the other scale of the – of election news today?

MS. PSAKI: That’s my only election announcement today, Matt.

QUESTION: Oh.

MS. PSAKI: One other item for all of you. Secretary Kerry will travel, as I’ve mentioned a bit in here – but here’s our official announcement – will travel to London on May 15th where he will participate in the U.K.-hosted meetings of the core group of the Friends of the Syrian People, also known as the London 11. Secretary Kerry and his counterparts will discuss the international community’s efforts to ease humanitarian suffering inside Syria; support the moderate opposition on the heels, of course, of the visit of the opposition to the United States; and efforts to advance a political transition, as well as other global issues.

With that, Matt, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just had two very brief logistical things, both of which have to do with the Secretary’s schedule.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: There’s some report out there citing a Palestinian official that says that Kerry’s going to meet Abbas in London on Tuesday. So I guess that’s just wrong, yeah? Is he --

MS. PSAKI: That is incorrect.

QUESTION: Is it just the day that’s wrong? Does he plan to meet with President Abbas at all while he’s in London?

MS. PSAKI: There’s no schedule – there’s no meeting planned.

QUESTION: Okay. And then my second thing – and this is just --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- just a very logistic – very logistical: Are you aware of an accommodation that’s been reached with the House Oversight Committee on the – to subpoena? Has anything happened? Is it --

MS. PSAKI: No. There’s no new update from here. As you’ve seen in reporting, there’s obviously ongoing discussions with members of both parties in the House.

QUESTION: Well, that’s about the Select Committee.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, there hasn’t been – I apologize – that’s part of the update or – lack of an update. But there’s no update I have in terms of their request.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, two substance --

QUESTION: One more on schedule --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- if possible? I don’t know if you’d seen that they’ve announced a meeting on Nigeria in Paris on Saturday. Is it at all possible that Secretary Kerry could attend that as well?

MS. PSAKI: He’s not planning to attend to that. I believe it’s at the heads of state level. So he’s not attending that meeting, no.

QUESTION: Because he’s not a head of state.

MS. PSAKI: Well, also he’s giving two commencement addresses this weekend, as you all know, at Yale and Boston College. Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: One more. Do you expect the British to arrange a meeting between Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hague, and President Abbas? Because the Palestinian ambassador to London has said that there will be a meeting between President Abbas and Secretary Kerry.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any plans for that. The Secretary will be in London on Thursday, but as you know, we’re going to Mexico next week and I don’t have any other travel plans on my book here.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: While we’re on the topic here --

MS. PSAKI: Well, why don’t we --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We can go to substance next, we’re just --

QUESTION: No problem.

MS. PSAKI: -- went around for the logistical questions. Thank – welcome back, Said. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Ukraine, given your great and wonderful welcoming of the Indian election, I’m wondering what you can tell us about what you think about the referendum in Donetsk. I’m presuming it’s slightly different.

MS. PSAKI: It is different.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We do not recognize the illegal referendum that took place in portions of Donetsk and Luhansk over the weekend. It was illegal under Ukrainian law and an attempt to create further division and disorder in the country. Its methodology was also highly suspect with reports of carousel voting, pre-marked ballots, children voting, voting for people who were absent, and even voting in Moscow and St. Petersburg.

Obviously, as you know, our focus remains on the May 25th presidential election, which is an opportunity to unite Ukraine and give its citizens a voice in the vote of their country.

QUESTION: Sorry, maybe I’m just ignorant – well, I guess I am because I’ve never heard – what’s carousel voting? What is that?

MS. PSAKI: I – the truth is I was reading that, I’m not familiar with that term either. It may be that people weren’t checking in. I’ll check and see what our team meant specifically by that term.

QUESTION: Because children voting, I mean, it’s not like they were sitting on horses going around in a circle – (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think it’s a reference to that, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: The point is there were some – the methodology and there were some irregularities we saw on the ground. Go ahead.

QUESTION: All right. Okay. So given your rather unsurprising un-endorsement of the election, what do you make of the Russian reaction to it, which has been kind of like – well, that’s really nice but we’re not interested at the moment? Are you concerned at all that – well, I’ll get to that in a second. What do you make of the Russian reaction? Because you had been very strong of saying that if they recognize this and if they went to do anything about it, you would – there would be more sanctions coming. So are you at that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what was stated on that point was that a combination of if this moved forward, if the Russian troops crossed the border – there’s a range of factors we’d obviously look at. Clearly, despite President Putin’s comments last week, we think the Russians can do far more to support the sovereignty and democratic future of Ukraine. And obviously, the referendum in our view is illegitimate. We don’t recognize it and we’re looking forward.

QUESTION: Right. But their lack of a – I don’t know, of --

QUESTION: Condemnation?

QUESTION: -- well, not lack of condemnation, but their lack of saying – doing exactly what they did after the Crimean election, at least to date. Is that a good thing, or is that something you just want to reserve judgment on?

MS. PSAKI: Look, Matt. I think our view here is there are far more steps. While they have made some helpful comments we spoke to last week, there are far more concrete steps that the Russians can take to actually showcase their support for the Ukrainian people.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the last one on the referendum: Did – are you concerned at all that the Russians will – having – or having taken note, I think is what they said, taken note of the results of the referendum, are you concerned that they might be setting the stage for something after the May 25th election to say, “Hey, these people in this part, in Donetsk, voted to be independent, and the vote in the May 25th nationwide election doesn’t take account of that.” Are you worried that they’re going to use this as a pretext for some kind of future move?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the people of Crimea, the people of Donetsk and other areas in eastern Ukraine, will have the ability to vote. And there are accommodations being made by the OSCE and other observers on the ground to do that. So all Ukrainians should have the opportunity to vote in the May 25th election, and certainly we wouldn’t think that justification would be valid.

QUESTION: Right, but they will – but they – there was only one question on that vote, and that same question is that – that’s not going to be on the May 25th ballot.

MS. PSAKI: The May 25th vote is just presidential and local elections.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Not referendum.

QUESTION: Right, so – okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wondered if – the EU imposed further sanctions today on Russia against Crimean companies. Any plans by the U.S. to tighten the noose?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, of course, we welcome the European Union’s announcement adding 13 individuals and two Crimean companies to their sanctions regime. I believe that they’re still – the details of who these individuals are has not yet been announced yet. But as we’ve said all along, we’ve been working in lockstep with the EU to put in place consequences for the illegal and illegitimate actions of Russia. And we’ve been closely coordinating with them. As you know, they have a meeting that’s ongoing today. We had a number of officials, including Dan Fried from right here in the State Department, who were on the ground meeting with Europeans last week.

As we’ve said as well, the President and the Secretary both have said, if Russia continues on its current course, we have a range of tools at our disposal, including sanctions that would target those that operate in certain sectors of the Russian economy. We’re continuing to consult closely, but I don’t have any predictions to make at this point.

QUESTION: And then connected to this in some ways is that the French have said that they’re going to go ahead with their decision to – on the 1.2 billion euro contract to sell warships to Russia. Is this in any way you think is illegal, or shouldn’t be happening? Is it going to be raised in the meetings tomorrow (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have expressed our concerns to the French Government over the sale. We’ll continue to do so. As you noted, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Fabius will see each other tomorrow. They’ll discuss a range of issues. Obviously, they have a lot – we have – there’s a lot we work together on. But again, we’ve raised this with the French Government.

QUESTION: Jen?

QUESTION: Can you explain what you said to them? That you think it’s a bad idea? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. We’ve expressed our concerns about this --

QUESTION: But why? Because it – does it violate any of the sanctions that have been imposed to date?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, as you know, there are sanctions that have been put in place. I’d have to specifically check here to see if there’s a legal question or if this is just a question of whether we find this to be unhelpful. So let me do that.

QUESTION: And – okay. Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: And in response to Matt’s question, I don’t understand. On Russia’s position, President Putin’s position. So you believe them, you don’t believe them as far as their claim that they really don’t want to annex any more part – they discourage this referendum? You don’t believe them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we believe that they need to back up any rhetoric with actions. And we haven’t seen – Said, I would point you to a couple of examples here. They said there were no troops in Crimea, then we saw what happened.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: They said last week they were going to withdraw troops from the border, and they haven’t. So what we’d like to see is concrete evidence and specific steps, not just rhetoric.

QUESTION: So you discount their claim that they really cannot -- aren’t able to control the situation, it is not under their control?

MS. PSAKI: I believe – our view, Said, is that there is – they have every ability to have an impact here on the actions of the separatists.

QUESTION: I just want to clarify something –

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- because it seems to be getting, I think, lost. When you just said, as an example of them not telling the truth or being – playing with the truth, you said they had – you said that they said they had no troops in Crimea. I don’t think the Russians – I mean, they have a military base there. They’ve always acknowledged that they had troops there, right?

MS. PSAKI: I perhaps was summarizing it --

QUESTION: You’re talking about --

MS. PSAKI: -- but maybe at the time, several months ago now, that they were conveying –

QUESTION: That they had --

MS. PSAKI: -- that troops were doing – were not doing something that they actually were, and obviously it was beyond their presence on a base.

QUESTION: Okay, but I mean, it is correct that they had troops in Crimea before the referendum, but those troops were – I mean, they --

MS. PSAKI: Sure, but as we --

QUESTION: -- were supposed to be.

MS. PSAKI: -- as we all know, there’s a difference between a base and having your troops on a base and taking escalatory actions beyond that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: You raised the question of troops on the border between Ukraine and Russia.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The U.S. Mission to NATO released some satellite imagery late on Friday ostensibly showing that the number of Russian troops hasn’t changed appreciably in the past couple of months.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Why the release of the images now? Is that another way of putting pressure? What else is the U.S. prepared to do in order to check Russia’s veracity?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the photos are consistent with what we’ve been stating every day, as all of you have been asking, justifiably, for updates on what we’re seeing, which is that despite the comments of President Putin last week, we haven’t seen the troops move from the border. So those satellite images, which were open-sourced and available in that capacity, that we also tweeted out, as did NATO, just showed – was consistent with what we’ve been stating.

QUESTION: What – in terms of troops, in terms of equipment, what has the U.S. been able to determine has actually been positioned, I believe, near Rostov?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to give updates on – from what we’re seeing on the ground beyond what I’ve already stated, which is that we haven’t seen the troops that have been present there. As you know, we’ve expressed – long expressed concerns about the numbers that are along the border, and we haven’t seen a change that was promised.

QUESTION: But the U.S.’ assessment is that the Ukrainian army would not be able to withstand any sort of offensive should the Russians decide that they wanted to protect the ethnic Russians inside Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, I would disagree with the notion that they need to have a military presence in order to support – protect ethnic Russians. As you know, there’s an entire OSCE process that they have been – not been consistently supportive of to do just that, and we’ve also expressed our concern about Russian troops moving in any capacity across the border.

QUESTION: No, but my question was the relative strength – end-strength of the Ukrainian army, its ability to defend that part of the country from any potential Russian incursion.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, nothing has changed about our view, and that’s one of the reasons that we’re very focused on the economic and political pressure that we can be impactful with here.

QUESTION: There is a massive boycott by ethnic Russians --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- of the May 25th elections. How is that likely to impact the election, in your view?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re certainly not predicting that, Said. So we will continue to support the Ukrainian efforts. They’re very much on track with preparations for the elections. I mentioned last week the number of monitors who were on the ground and all of the steps they’re taking to prepare.

Ukraine, in the back? Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin was barred from Romanian airspace this weekend, and then he tweeted that next time he will return with a strategic bomber. What’s your reaction on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly we don’t find any of that inflammatory rhetoric to be helpful. I know he was on a trip, I believe, to Moldova at the time, and obviously that’s an area where we support and continue to support a negotiated, comprehensive settlement of the conflict that guarantees the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova while providing for special status for Transnistria. But again, that type of inflammatory rhetoric is not helpful.

QUESTION: But this started a back-and-forth with Romanian officials. What kind of a reaction you think would be helpful for Romanian officials in this situation?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not speaking to Romanian officials. I’m speaking to the deputy foreign minister – or deputy prime minister’s comments.

QUESTION: But was there any – did the U.S. have any role in the denial of that overflight?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Matt, no. I can – I’m happy to check, but I don’t – I think unlikely. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Regarding – more reports are coming that it’s going to be obvious that Moscow is going to use the energy weapon to kind of blockading Ukraine or highering the price from the – what kind of steps you are taking in this regard in your coordination with Europeans?

MS. PSAKI: In terms of assisting the Ukrainians --

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: -- with their energy needs?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve talked about it a bit in here, but obviously, in addition to working with the EU and through the IMF process to ensure the legitimate Government of Ukraine has the economic assistance they need, we’ve also been working with the Ukrainians directly, and we’ve had teams on the ground to work with them on both energy reforms, but also to ensure that they have the access that they need. And we’ve seen a range of threats from the Russians. Obviously, we don’t think energy should be used – access to energy should be used as a tool, a threatening tool. But we’ve been working with the Ukrainians for months now, as have many of our EU partners, given the circumstances.

QUESTION: When you mentioned you welcome the EU decision regarding the sanctions for people and some Crimean companies, are these in coordination with United States? Do they have these people – businesses in United States, or it’s something separate?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think they’ve announced the specific details of the individuals or the entities, so I’ll let them announce that. And yes, we have been coordinating and working very closely behind the scenes with the Europeans throughout this process, so that’s what I was referring to.

Should we go to a new topic? Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: No, just on your comment about the energy, you’ve seen that the Russians have said that they’re going to – they want to be paid up front by the Ukrainians from – is that – you say that you don’t believe access to energy should be used as a threatening tool. Is that use of energy as a threatening tool?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Matt, they’ve had agreements in the past. They’ve made a range of threats in the past, including this one. So we’ll watch to see what happens here.

QUESTION: But is that – do you regard that – saying that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, the end goal there would seem to be to --

QUESTION: To get paid.

MS. PSAKI: -- prevent them from having access to energy resources.

QUESTION: So you don’t believe that they’re – I mean, they would say that they just want to be paid for products delivered, which presumably, you do agree in the whole buying and selling as the commodities, right?

MS. PSAKI: I understand what they’re saying, but obviously, there are a range of agreements that have been made between them in the past. And I think the back context of the situation on the ground means that this is not just business as usual, obviously.

QUESTION: But broadly speaking, you do think that the Russians have a right to demand to be paid for a product which they are selling to --

MS. PSAKI: Again, Matt, I’m happy to pull this up when I get back to my desk, but there’s a range of details involved in their agreement in the past, and they’ve made threats around them before.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can we talk about Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. In the aftermath of the visit of Jarba, can you tell us where things stand now? I know you are preparing for the London 11 meeting. First of all, is this going to be focused on humanitarian aid, or is it going to go beyond that into, let’s say, military aid or a type of military aid?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, obviously – and let me just go back to when we gave an extensive readout of the meeting the Secretary had with Jarba --

QUESTION: Right, right.

MS. PSAKI: -- just last week. And as you know, he’s still in town and has a variety of meetings still left on his schedule.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: The meeting with the London 11 will certainly cover humanitarian – the importance of access to humanitarian assistance. But as you know, we’re also committed to building the capacity of the moderate opposition, including through the provision of assistance to vetted members of the moderate armed opposition. I’m certain that will also be a part of that conversation as well. And this is an opportunity on the heels of the Secretary’s meeting with the opposition here in Washington and a variety of other meetings that other attendees have had to coordinate and determine what the path forward is.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you see eye to eye with your other allies, like Saudi Arabia in particular, in providing aid – military aid in this case – to the rebels and which group of rebels that are receiving that aid? Are you in tandem with them?

MS. PSAKI: That’s obviously an issue that’s discussed at virtually every one of these meetings, and we continue to believe that, obviously, assistance should go through the vetted members of the moderate opposition.

QUESTION: And you believe the aid that goes to these moderate rebels will also work in a negative way in the flow of arms to the bad guys?

MS. PSAKI: You’re familiar, Said, with our view about – concerns about any assistance getting into the wrong hands.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Last week, senior Israeli IDF officer stated that from the day Assad signed the chemical weapon deal in August he has used chemical weapons over 30 times, and every single time Assad regime used chemical weapons he has killed the citizens. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we take any allegations seriously. Obviously, the OPCW is looking into recent reports. We support them in that effort, and we’re still at the same – in the same place in terms of the removal of 92 percent of the weapons. And we continue to raise this issue and the need to remove the remaining as quickly as possible.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on that remaining part?

MS. PSAKI: I do not have any update other than the fact that we continue to press this issue and we will in the coming days. We believe they have the tools necessary.

QUESTION: One more question. During the meeting with Mr. Jarba here, have they presented any new proofs or documents with regard to chemical --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details to read out than what I read out last week. I have a limited about of time here, so I just want to make sure we get to every topic that’s on your minds. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Back to India --

MS. PSAKI: India? Sure.

QUESTION: The elections. Mm-hmm. The frontrunner for the – to be India’s next prime minister, Narendra Modi – does he have the support of the United States?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we don’t take positions in domestic politics in India or anywhere else. As this has been election season in a large, pluralistic, multiparty democracy, it’s not a surprise that it’s going to take some time to, obviously, process the voting and we look forward to working with the next leader.

QUESTION: Are you aware that Mr. Modi was denied a visa in 2005 based on what happened --

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we don’t speak to visa acceptances, applications, et cetera. So I don’t have anything for you on that.

QUESTION: Does the United States view a successful election in India and successful relations with India as a counterweight to the Chinese?

MS. PSAKI: We view our relationship with India as one that’s vitally important for economic, strategic reasons, and one that we look forward to continuing to grow in the future.

QUESTION: Could I get to Nigeria, please?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Hold on a second.

QUESTION: Sorry.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, but I have to take issue with your – well, not issue. I want to ask you: We don’t take positions on domestic politics in India or anywhere else? The whole top of this briefing was about a referendum in Ukraine, which is domestic politics, which you took a huge position on.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s a different category, Matt.

QUESTION: Well --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously --

QUESTION: -- but you take positions on domestic --

MS. PSAKI: -- the legitimate --

QUESTION: In Egypt, you took positions on --

QUESTION: Syria.

QUESTION: Syria, exactly. You say that Assad is no longer fit to lead.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Assad killed tens of thousands of his own people.

QUESTION: But that’s involving --

MS. PSAKI: So that’s a slightly different circumstance.

QUESTION: So it’s not – so it’s – you think that their – and you say that their election coming up is a farce as well, so --

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. When it --

QUESTION: But that is a position on domestic politics. All right.

MS. PSAKI: When there are brutal dictators involved who killed tens of thousands of their people --

QUESTION: Which --

MS. PSAKI: -- then we do take position, sure.

QUESTION: Okay. All right.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, good. So – of course, that goes to Lucas’s question as well on Modi, because he’s accused of being – having some responsibility for massacres.

But anyway, on the Syrian election: There are some – there are complaints from the Syrian Government about countries in Europe not helping or not allowing expatriate Syrians in those countries to vote in the June 3rd election. Given the fact that you think that this thing is a farce and whatever, and the fact that you suspended the operations of the Syrian Embassy here, does the U.S. have a position on whether Syrian expats – Syrians in the United States should vote? Can they – would you facilitate it at the UN mission, for example?

MS. PSAKI: I’ll have to check with our team on that specifically.

Nigeria? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Nigeria. I wondered if you’d seen the new video that’s out this morning, in which it purports to show about 130 of the girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram four weeks ago – whether you’d been able to independently verify it and what you made of the assertions from Abubakar Shekau that the girls would be released in return for the release of Boko Haram members who are being held by the Nigerian Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, in the video – we have seen the video. We have no reason to question its authenticity. Our intelligence experts are combing through every detail of the video for clues that might help in ongoing efforts to secure the release of the girls. Obviously, it was just released, so we don’t have any specific update on that.

In terms of the question you had about the reports of a trade offer, as you know, Nigeria is in the lead. We are simply supporting their efforts. We, as you know – also, our policy is to deny – the United States policy, I should say, is to deny kidnappers the benefits of their criminal acts, including ransoms or concessions, so I don’t have any other particular update on this report.

QUESTION: But if the Nigerians decide to go ahead with this swap, you would then support them in this, would you, because --

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that. It’s – you’re familiar with our position. Obviously, again, the Nigerian Government has the lead here.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Is there a concern --

QUESTION: The U.S. has certain assets on the ground in Nigeria now in terms of data collecting or intelligence collecting and so on. The U.S. does have assets, correct? And it is aiding the government?

MS. PSAKI: We are providing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance support. We do have a team on the ground, as I spoke about a little bit on Friday. Of that team, 26 of the 27 members – that includes some who have come in and some who are already on the ground – are on the ground in Nigeria digging in on the search and coordinating closely with the Nigerian Government as well as international partners and allies. So we are, as you’ve heard the President and the Secretary say, doing everything possible to assist in their effort.

QUESTION: Are you doing enough?

MS. PSAKI: I just have a few more minutes, because I have to go to this bilateral meeting.

QUESTION: Are you doing enough? You believe that you’re doing --

MS. PSAKI: Let’s go to the next. Go ahead, Lucas.

QUESTION: One more back to Benghazi for a second. In the ARB, it was recommended by a panel of senior special agents that Diplomatic Security revisit their high-threat training, and I was wondering if there’s any update on that.

MS. PSAKI: On whether we are --

QUESTION: Updating your training for special agents.

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we are implementing – we are implementing every aspect of the ARB. There have been trainings. I can see if there’s a specific update we can get you offline, Lucas.

QUESTION: Because Diplomatic Security agents have reported there’s not been any changes to the training.

MS. PSAKI: Well, why don’t we get you a briefing offline.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Turkey, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I just – I got two --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- extremely brief ones on Nigeria. One, how would the United States be in any position to authenticate a video, this video?

MS. PSAKI: I said we have no reason to question the authenticity. There’s a difference.

QUESTION: I know. Do you have any way to authenticate it, short of if you have a photograph of every single one of these girls and then could match them – do you have a photograph of --

MS. PSAKI: It would be challenging to do --

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: -- but regardless, we use every clue possible to see how it can contribute to finding the girls.

QUESTION: Right, no. But I mean, you don’t know if these girls are, in fact, those – the ones that are abducted. And I’m wondering if you have any way, if you do have a way to authenticate, if you have photographs of those who have been reported missing, that you could compare with the pictures with the video. Do you?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details on how we’re looking into the video.

QUESTION: Okay. And one that you corrected yourself – you said we oppose or “our policy is to deny” kidnappers the benefits of their actions, but then you changed that to say “the United States policy” is --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I thought I was saying it in a confusing manner, so that’s why I said “the United States.”

QUESTION: Okay. Do you have concerns that other countries do not necessarily share your feelings about the benefits of paying ransom for people who have been abducted?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have to speak to what the policies of other countries are on this front.

QUESTION: Well, you speak to people’s policies on lots of other things. Do you have concerns that other countries are actually going around and paying ransoms to Boko Haram or to other terrorist groups?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything for you on that, Matt.

QUESTION: Would the United States Government consider kidnapping Boko Haram members and doing a prisoner exchange?

MS. PSAKI: That’s quite a line of conspiracy theory there, Lucas.

But go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Turkey.

QUESTION: Yeah. (Inaudible) Turkey. I have a short question.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan yesterday openly declared that he has launched a witch hunt against Gulen movement. And what’s your reaction about this statement?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any particular comment for you on it.

QUESTION: On Turkey, one more?

MS. PSAKI: One more on Turkey. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Over the weekend, OSCE spokesman made a comment regarding press freedom in Turkey, and he said that for the new intel law that just passed the parliament, signed by the president, now it’s at the constitutional court, and he said that this bill would send any journalist to 10 years in prison just for doing their job. Do you have any comment on this new bill?

MS. PSAKI: Oh, well, we continue to urge the Turkish Government to uphold freedom of the press and permit unfettered public access to information. An independent and unfettered media is an essential element of democratic, open societies, so any effort to hinder that would certainly be of concern to us.

Go ahead in the middle.

QUESTION: Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do we know how much longer the embassy there is going to be closed to the public, and what is your assessment of the threat level there currently?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any particular update on it. As I noted last week – or as we noted in our statement, I should say – we said we’d open it when it was practical to do that. So we continue to evaluate on a daily basis.

QUESTION: And then also following up on that, these two Americans who were involved in a shooting at, it seems, a barber shop, there’s some reports out there that they were U.S. Embassy. Do you have any more to say on exactly who they were, what they were doing there for?

MS. PSAKI: I just have a few details that you may have all seen out there, but I’m happy to reiterate for all of you. We can confirm that last month two U.S. Embassy officers in Yemen fired their weapons after being confronted by armed individuals in an attempted kidnapping at a small commercial business in Sana’a. Two of the armed individuals were killed. The embassy officers are no longer in Yemen, and per standard procedure, of course, such – for any such incident involving embassy officers overseas, this is – this matter is under review.

QUESTION: Do you --

QUESTION: Given the security situation inside Sana’a, why were these two men allowed to leave the compound and go to this business district?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I don’t have anything to report to you on that. Obviously, there’s an investigation into it. But I wouldn’t link the two.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Can I have a quick follow-up on –

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can I have one quick follow on the peace process?

MS. PSAKI: I think we have time for about two more here, so why don’t we give Hannah – go ahead, Hannah.

QUESTION: One more on Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the expulsion of accredited U.S. journalist Adam Baron from Sana’a last week? And I think there was also another journalist turned away who had – who tried to enter Yemen. Is this something you’ve raised with the Yemeni authorities?

MS. PSAKI: Hannah, let me check on that for you. We’ve seen the reports, but I haven’t had a chance to talk to our team about it, so let me do and we’ll get back – right back to you.

Okay, go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Can I go to South Sudan?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I wondered if you’d seen the reports of renewed fighting yesterday and today, even though they apparently signed a ceasefire on Friday? Did you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you noted, on Friday President Kiir and former Vice President Machar agreed to immediate stop the fighting in South Sudan and to negotiate a transitional government that could mark a breakthrough for the future of South Sudan. As part of that, and as was in the Secretary’s statement, this is just – our view is that this is just the first step of a long, long journey. And we – obviously, there have been reports over the weekend. We’ll continue to look at those. But both parties came to the table and left the table with an agreement about how to proceed forward, including opening of humanitarian corridors, an agreement to talk about a transitional government in principle. So our team will continue to remain in touch with them about how to move forward.

QUESTION: Well, do you have anything to say about Salva Kiir apparently saying that he won’t – there won’t be elections for three – at least three more years?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. Again, part of their effort was an agreement to discuss a transitional governing government. There’s obviously much more work to do, so our team will continue to work on that.

QUESTION: Or complaints by Riek Machar that he was threatened, that he had to sign --

MS. PSAKI: We actually – we’ve seen those reports. We can’t confirm that he has lodged any formal complaint. Obviously, either party has the right and the ability to lodge complaints for review at any time, but – go ahead.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Monitors --

QUESTION: With who? Who would he lodge a complaint with?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the body – the Ethiopian Government --

QUESTION: IGAD?

MS. PSAKI: -- and IGAD have been overseeing this negotiation process. Yes.

QUESTION: I mean, is this a case of where they’re saying one thing in public and doing something else on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Jo, this is just a couple of days old, and there are a number of components they’ve agreed to. So implementation and taking continued steps forward is an essential part of determining whether this is successful or not.

QUESTION: Could I have one about the peace process?

MS. PSAKI: I have to go to the --

QUESTION: Can I just slip one in about the peace process?

MS. PSAKI: Okay, one on the peace process.

QUESTION: The Palestinian press today is saying that there’s been some secret sessions held in Jerusalem and Amman in which it’s been agreed to have an extension of the negotiations under the sponsorship of the United States. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I am not a – there – it’s possible the parties may be meeting. I’m not aware of any details of that. I can check with our team and see if there’s any evidence to that.

QUESTION: So you’re not confirming or denying --

MS. PSAKI: That is the first I have heard of that report.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 12:59 p.m.)

DPB # 85

[This is a mobile copy of Daily Press Briefing: May 12, 2014]