Jen Psaki
Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 2, 2014




TRANSCRIPT:

1:41 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Welcome back after the holiday. I have just two items for all of you at the top.

Tomorrow at noon, Secretary Kerry, along with five former Secretaries of State – Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, and Hillary Rodham Clinton – will participate in the groundbreaking ceremony of the – for the U.S. – United States Diplomacy Center. The center will be a new, state-of-the-art museum and education center that will bring the story of American diplomacy to life. The groundbreaking ceremony will be streamed live on state.gov.

You liked that topper. Let’s see what you think of this one.

QUESTION: I just wonder if that’s an implicit acknowledgment – that’s an implicit acknowledgement that so far the briefers in this room have failed to bring that story to life. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Maybe you failed to bring it to life for the American people.

QUESTION: That’s true.

MS. PSAKI: And this provides an opportunity.

QUESTION: We can all do better.

MS. PSAKI: We can all do more.

The second item I’d just like to flag is I’d like to welcome a group of outgoing Foreign Service officers in the back who are here as part of their information officer tradecraft course. I’m glad that all of you are here today. I’m sure there will be many topics brought up at the briefing.

With that, Matt, welcome back.

QUESTION: Outgoing as in they’re leaving the country, or outgoing that reflects their personalities? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a lot of humor --

QUESTION: Both?

MS. PSAKI: -- happening in the front of the room today. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No --

MS. PSAKI: I think you can interview them – no, just kidding. Don’t worry. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Unfortunately – yeah --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Unfortunately not a lot of humor right now. Have you seen this purported video of the beheading of Steven Sotloff?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we --

QUESTION: And if you have, are you in any position to confirm it?

MS. PSAKI: Let me share with you everything I can at this point in time. We’ve seen reports of a video that purports to be the murder of U.S. citizen Steven Sotloff by ISIL. The intelligence community will work as quickly as possible to determine its authenticity. If the video is genuine, we are sickened by this brutal act taking the life of another innocent American citizen. Our hearts go out to the Sotloff family and we will provide more information as it becomes available.

I don’t have additional information at this point, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, I don’t – I mean, I don’t want to waste everyone’s time if you don’t – if you really don’t have anything else to say about this.

MS. PSAKI: I really don’t. Should we do just a couple and see --

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. PSAKI: -- if there are other relevant – go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Well, I just wanted to ask you if you’ve determined the number of Americans that might be held by ISIL.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, as you know, we don’t get into specific numbers for the safety and security of individuals. We’ve said a few. That continues to be accurate.

QUESTION: Jen, what is your last information regarding Sotloff? Was he alive as of last week? What was your last information from him?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any other additional information to provide. Certainly understand the interest.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, you said you’ve seen reports. Does the U.S. Government actually have the video in its possession, or are you just citing media reports?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the video has been out there through many media outlets. That’s what I’m referring to.

QUESTION: Okay. So the authentication process has begun?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is obviously a process that would have to be undergone by our intelligence community. I don’t know if it’s officially started. But obviously, in any case, that would be happening rapidly.

QUESTION: Just one more on the logistic --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you know when you were made aware of this? Was it before this extremist monitoring group put it out, or do you know if the intel community was aware of it before then?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure there’s more I’m going to be able to say, Matt. I’m happy to take it and see if there’s more we can on that front.

Go ahead, James.

QUESTION: All right. I will defer to James.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Does the Obama Administration consider this an act of war?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly – I’m not going to put new labels on it, James. I would say we certainly consider this act, this reported act, the act of the killing of James Foley, as a horrific terrorist act that we certainly have – has helped – has not helped to, I should say – has been one of the motivating factors in the effort to undergo the creation of international coalition to address this threat.

QUESTION: So now we have on the books two American journalists beheaded by this group. Is there any doubt on your part or the part of this Administration that, in fact, the United States is at war with ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I want to be very careful here, just that we have not confirmed through the proper processes. And I just need to restate that as a U.S. – speaking on behalf of the U.S. Government. I know that wasn’t your intention.

I’m not going to, again, put new labels on it. I think it’s clear that we are concerned about the threat of ISIL to Western interests, to interests in the region. That’s why the Secretary, the President, Secretary Hagel are all going to be working every contact they have to continue to build a coalition to address this threat.

QUESTION: Will this event make any difference in our planning vis-a-vis airstrikes against ISIS?

MS. PSAKI: There are a range of factors, as you know, that are taken into account, including the interests of the United States. And I’m not going to read out further what the President will be looking at, but certainly, we look at a range of factors as those decisions are made.

QUESTION: I just want to try to address this one more --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- one more way. A lot of Americans sit at home and they see Americans who are not even combatants but who are journalists being beheaded by this group overseas. And from a sort of common sense point of view, the average American will say to himself, “This group is at war with us. Why does our President or our Secretary of State not recognize that and say, ‘Indeed, we are at war with this group and we will destroy them’”?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think first of all, James, our actions speak for our commitment to this. And this President has authorized more than a hundred strikes in Iraq, as has been confirmed by the Department of Defense. There are a range of reasons, but part of it is to take on the threat of ISIL. Part of the reason we are leading the effort – and the United States has done more than any country in the world, whether it’s humanitarian assistance or other military efforts to take on this threat in Iraq.

So I think any American sitting at home should sit and look at the actions that we’re taking. I don’t think it’s a useful exercise to go back and forth about new terms. What’s important is what we’re doing about it, and the President’s authorization, what the Secretary will be doing over the next couple of weeks, is action in that regard.

QUESTION: But Jen, I thought that the President’s authorization, what he authorized the airstrikes for, was not necessarily to take on the threat by ISIL except as it relates to the humanitarian situation of the minority communities like the Yezidis and these others – the Turkmen community – and then to protect U.S. military and diplomatic personnel and facilities, not – you would argue that that goes to also taking on the threat of ISIL --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think it’s --

QUESTION: -- the broader threat that they pose to Americans but also – American civilians, but Brits, but other nationalities?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, that’s only part of what our effort is. But speaking to that particular point, obviously, impacting the capabilities of ISIL in Iraq because of the concern we have about humanitarian issues, whether it’s Amirli or the communities around Erbil, as well as the national interests of the United States, including the safety and security of American citizens, there certainly is an impact on the capabilities when we take those actions.

QUESTION: Okay, fair enough. But those are actions that are being taken in Iraq or what was part of Iraq. This – I mean, the original – the Foley video and this one presumably – it looks similar, I think – I was under the impression that people were generally of the opinion that it was filmed in Syria. So --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, though I think regardless, this is – ISIL has not differentiated between geographic boundaries. That’s why, obviously, there are a range of options the President will consider. But we’ve already taken actions in Iraq to address this threat and to defend United States interests.

QUESTION: Right. But as far – but to date, the Administration has only, publicly at least, confirmed one operation inside Syria, and that was the rescue mission --

MS. PSAKI: Correct, yes.

QUESTION: -- right?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct. That hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: So the argument that you’re taking on the threat of ISIL with the President’s authorization for those two specific things, humanitarian and protection of U.S. personnel facilities, would apply only to Iraq at the moment, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Not to Syria as well?

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct, Matt. However, that’s only part of our effort, and obviously, ISIL and the threat it poses to the region has a trickle-out effect from Iraq, from Syria, from other places. But the second piece, which is also vitally important, is our effort to build an international coalition. A number of countries have taken steps – humanitarian steps, steps to provide military assistance in Iraq – as a result, and we’re going to continue those discussions.

QUESTION: Right. But again, all within Iraq and nothing within Syria, which is where this problem began, right?

MS. PSAKI: I understand, Matt, but I also think --

QUESTION: And a lot of people would suggest that the Administration’s – the President’s reluctance to do more to oppose the extremists in Syria has resulted in this situation.

MS. PSAKI: I would – in what capacity?

QUESTION: Well, I mean, they became a major fighting force and rolled over the border into --

MS. PSAKI: Well, when you say “this situation,” what are you referring to?

QUESTION: Well, I’m referring to the widespread criticism in the foreign policy community or whatever – even outside of that community – that not enough was done to fight this threat while it was relatively contained within Syria, and that’s why it has mushroomed out.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would disagree with that. And I think there’s obviously several components of this, which is why it’s a complicated issue. But one is the threat of ISIL has grown and their strength has grown over the last several months. Our assistance has also grown over that course – the course of time to the moderate opposition in Syria but also to the Iraqi security forces. We have also undergone several efforts over the course of that time to address this threat. So it’s not as if our response to this is new. Their growth is – has been increasing over the last several months, as has our assistance and our effort to combat it.

QUESTION: Jen, but if the – like some people allege, that ISIS terrorists themselves have nullified the border between Syria and Iraq, why the holdback? Why is, let’s say, their bases in Syria are not being struck, if they themselves have basically – they say that the border ceased to exist?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I’m not going to rule options in or off the table. Obviously the President has the prerogative to make decisions. You’re familiar with the fact that there are a range of contingency options. That’s always the case. But I’m not going to get ahead of where we are. We’ve been clear that the geography is not going to limit our options, but there’s no new decisions to announce for you.

QUESTION: And I know you mentioned the strikes. Do we have any kind of figure or any kind of data or guide on how much ISIS capabilities have been degraded by these strikes?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any statistics in that regard.

QUESTION: Jen, can I ask – just go back to the video. Have you been in touch with Mr. Sotloff’s family this morning?

MS. PSAKI: This – these reports just came out. I would have to check on that, Jo, and see.

QUESTION: And did you – I don’t know if you saw in the video that they are also threatening to kill a British citizen as well, which they say they are holding. Do you have any information about him or --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional information to provide.

QUESTION: And what’s --

MS. PSAKI: If that changes over the course of the afternoon or evening, we’re happy to provide it.

QUESTION: And are you – and have you been in contact – I know it’s just happening, but have you already been in contact with your counterparts in London on this or --

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, this happened in the last – the reports came out publicly in the last 30 minutes or so, so I would have to check and see if there have been contacts. I’m certain that one of the first calls we would make is to the UK, which wouldn’t be a surprise.

QUESTION: What is the legal authority under which President Obama has launched the more than 100 airstrikes that you just referenced?

MS. PSAKI: In Iraq? Well, the Iraqi Government has invited the United States in to help them address this threat, and that is the legal authority.

QUESTION: And he has reported to the Congress on this subject, has he not?

MS. PSAKI: Yep, absolutely.

QUESTION: Under what aegis? Under the aegis of what statute?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s the – he does War Powers Acts every time there is a need to notify Congress.

QUESTION: So we have a Commander in Chief who has launched more than 100 airstrikes at a given enemy who is reporting to the Congress under the aegis of the War Powers Act, who is watching our people beheaded by this enemy, but who, for some reason, feels queasy about saying that we are, in fact, at war with this enemy?

MS. PSAKI: James, I think I’m not going to put new words into the mouth of the President of the United States. My point is that his actions to authorize these strikes, his effort to send Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, any resource we have in the United States to lead the building of a coalition, speak to his commitment to taking on this threat. And of course we want to see ISIL destroyed. But that is not an overnight effort.

QUESTION: Can I just ask one more thing about the Administration’s broader thinking on ISIL/ISIS in that is it still the Administration’s position that it is President Assad who is to blame for the growth of this group and its mushrooming?

MS. PSAKI: In Syria, yes, that he’s been a magnet for terrorism. That certainly has not changed in our view.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Our position.

QUESTION: Okay. So without Assad there, you’re – you think that this would have not – this would have been different, this wouldn’t have happened? I realize it’s a hypothetical and I realize you can’t prove a negative, but you believe if Assad had been gone years ago, ISIL/ISIS would not have gained the foothold, the stronghold that it has?

MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly, Matt, obviously there are other parts of the region where ISIL has gained some strength.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: But they have been provided with a safe haven that has helped lead to the building of their strength.

QUESTION: And --

MS. PSAKI: And obviously the attraction of individuals who have aligned with them has been in part the result of the brutality and the actions the Assad regime has taken.

QUESTION: And you believe that safe haven was provided by President Assad?

MS. PSAKI: I think when --

QUESTION: Is that --

MS. PSAKI: -- you are the president of a country where some of these terrorists safe havens have --

QUESTION: Okay. Because his argument and the argument of his allies, the Russians and the Iranians, for example, has been that he has been fighting these people the entire time, and it’s not him that’s provided a safe haven, but that by supporting the – his opponents, you all have made it – turned it into this cauldron of – I don’t know what you want to call it – cauldron of instability and extremism.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I think there’s a bit of revisionist history there going on --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- when this is an individual who has brutally killed 200,000 – almost 200,000 of his own people, and certainly there has been a building of opposition to him over the course of the last several years. Now the direction that that results is, of course, we’re also concerned about the growth of ISIL.

QUESTION: But isn’t it true, though, that one of your allies, Turkey, has allowed these fires to go on almost unchecked to this area and basically congregate and create this kind of force? Isn’t that true?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’re referencing, Said --

QUESTION: My reference --

MS. PSAKI: -- if there’s a report or something --

QUESTION: Okay. Let me be –

MS. PSAKI: -- that you’d like to send to us.

QUESTION: -- more direct. Turkey is one of your allies. It’s a NATO ally. It’s a strong friend of the United States. Many of these fighters that go into Syria that have morphed into ISIS were – have actually come through their border.

MS. PSAKI: We work closely --

QUESTION: Don’t you think that they --

MS. PSAKI: -- with Turkey to address --

QUESTION: -- assume responsibility?

MS. PSAKI: -- this threat and to also address – work closely on counterterrorism efforts. I don’t think I have anything more for you, and I’m not sure --

QUESTION: Do you think that Turkey --

MS. PSAKI: -- about the accuracy of your reports.

QUESTION: -- is incapable of controlling its border, that it has become so porous that they cannot control it?

MS. PSAKI: Not at all what I said.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just follow-up from last week about the U.S. is asking Turkey to seal the border with Syria. Did you have any kind of response from Turkey or any --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new for you on that.

QUESTION: About the global coalition you have been talking about, is there any detail right now how the work of building this coalition is going on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important for everybody to note that there are already steps that a range of countries have taken to address this threat in Iraq. But still we’re talking about the threat of ISIL. I would give you just a couple of examples, which you’re familiar with, but I think it’s worth noting. Canada has pledged has – to provide humanitarian assistance, including food, hygiene kits, and tents. Australia has also pledged a great deal of money. Australia also was a partner with the United States, France, and the UK on airdropped humanitarian supplies in Amirli. There are a number of countries, including France, who have delivered military equipment to the KRG.

So the point I’m making – and obviously there’s – I could go on and on, and a range of countries have announced their own efforts – but is that there are a number of countries who are also concerned, share our concern about the threat of ISIL. We want to engage with them and build a coordinated effort to take on this threat. There are different capabilities different countries will have. It may be humanitarian, it may be military, it may be financial, but that’s what we’re undergoing to discuss. NATO is an opportunity to discuss that. The Secretary has spent time on the weekend, over the weekend, of course, talking to counterparts around the world and that effort will continue. He’s also co-hosting a meeting with Secretary Hagel in Wales. And his travel following NATO will be – in the coming weeks will be also part of this effort.

QUESTION: President Obama last week talk about also Sunni forces or Sunni states in the region that can help against the threat of ISIS. Do you have an update on the Sunni forces, including Turkey, on this coalition?

MS. PSAKI: I think clearly we’re going to be reaching out, and we are already reaching out to a range of countries have a range of backgrounds and populations to address this threat. And this is not only a threat that’s just true in Iraq, but true in the region as well, that is facing one sect over another. So I can – I think it’s safe for you to assume that we’re reaching across – reaching out to countries across Europe, across the Arab world, that have a variety of backgrounds.

QUESTION: My final question: There have been number of commentaries in – whether in the Middle East or in the U.S. and they’re asking that for three or four years the Assad regime and forces have been raping and torturing and killing and barrel-bombing. And the ISIS have been killing and doing all this stuff for two years. And the Sunni forces and states in the region asking U.S. to build this coalition, but they did not get response, and once these unfortunate incidents are happening to U.S. journalists, that U.S. comes back and asking for Sunni or regional states to help building coalition. Do you have – do you see any merits in this criticism?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I think, obviously, the events of – that happened just a couple of weeks ago with the death of James Foley put this on the front pages of newspapers and on the top of news reports around the United States and countries around the world. We have been undergoing an effort for several months now to build capacities, to discuss with our allies and partners, but the – our growing concern about Western passports has also been a motivating factor in working closely with international partners around the world.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: You have said that this won’t happen overnight, that the defeat of ISIS is a long-term commitment.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you assure the American people that President Obama will complete this mission of destroying ISIS before he leaves office?

MS. PSAKI: Look, I think, James, obviously, destroying ISIL is the goal that not just the United States but many countries around the world have. But I’m not in a position to put a deadline or a timeline on that. We want to do it as quickly as possible, but we’re not naive about their capabilities, about the growth of their support, about their efforts around the world, so I’m not going to put a timeline on it.

QUESTION: Jen, can I ask – you mentioned just now about Western passports, and earlier this week, British Prime Minister David Cameron said that they would --

QUESTION: It was on Tuesday.

QUESTION: Oh, was it last week? Sorry, excuse me. Coming back up holiday.

QUESTION: She was not inaccurate. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: That they would – they’re looking at possibly temporary suspension of passports for those people who’ve been proven to have gone and fought abroad for these groups in Syria or Iraq or in foreign terrorist organizations. Is this something that – I know you were asked about this previously, but is this something that the United States will start considering? Is it something that’s within your remit?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we --

QUESTION: Obviously, the State Department hands out passports.

MS. PSAKI: The United States, including the State Department, has long had the authority to revoke passports. Obviously, there are different reasons for that, including fraud but also pending legal charges, which would be more applicable in some of these cases that we’re discussing. Clearly, we wouldn’t make those decisions on our own. We would make them in coordination with law enforcement authorities.

There are also capabilities that the United States has, including putting individuals on a no-fly list. So that, of course, doesn’t take place necessarily at all out of the State Department, but these are efforts we work through the interagency on.

So I think, obviously, there are a range of steps and ways that we can prevent individuals who pose harm to us from either returning to the United States or being allowed to stay – or not stay, but being allowed to operate as private citizens in the United States. And that’s – we’ve long had those capabilities.

QUESTION: Are there any such maneuvers actually in – underway at the moment, in the works, to revoke passports from people who you believe to be fighting with ISIS, for instance?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve long had those capabilities and we’ve long been able to implement them, so it’s not a new effort by the United States. But I’m not going to be able to confirm numbers or any specifics.

QUESTION: But is there anyone specifically related to, for instance, ISIL, who you are in the process – without naming names, because I understand that provides a difficulty for you – but is there anybody who you are currently looking at?

MS. PSAKI: Those just are not details that I can confirm from here.

QUESTION: Is joining or fighting for a designated terrorist organization something for which you can automatically lose your – your passport can be revoked? Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, this is information that we would have to consult with --

QUESTION: I understand, but --

MS. PSAKI: -- legal authorities on. It’s not as black and white as that.

QUESTION: It’s not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, Matt, in order to confirm specifics, there’s more that needs to happen. I’m not going to go much further down on this, but --

QUESTION: Okay. But as far as – well, maybe you could take the question and ask the lawyers if it is possible to revoke someone – the passport of a U.S. citizen, or even revoke their citizenship perhaps, if they join or become a member of, fight for, however you want to define it, a foreign – an organization that the U.S. Government has designated to be a terrorist organization.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will check with the lawyers and see if there’s more to say. It’s unlikely there will be more, but I’m happy to check with them and see.

QUESTION: Actually, what I would prefer you to check with the lawyers and see if there’s any way an individual, having been confirmed to have gone and fought for an entity designated by our government as a foreign terrorist organization, could somehow be allowed to keep their passport.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, James --

QUESTION: I’d be more shocked if they could keep their passport than if it were somehow – measures could be taken to revoke it.

QUESTION: I don’t know what the law is.

MS. PSAKI: We can revoke passports for a range of reasons. I think revoking one and not allowing them to keep it is a very similar term, or they’re synonyms, I guess I should say. I will see if there’s more to say. I think it’s important for people to understand that the State Department has the prerogative to do that for a range of a reasons. There are a broad range of reasons. I will see if there’s more we can add.

QUESTION: But this – we’re talking about something that’s less than an actual legal conviction of a crime, something for which might be in the statutes or in the regulations.

QUESTION: As an administrative matter, is what you’re saying.

QUESTION: Exactly. Can you go ahead and just do it? So if one of these guys gets on a plane in wherever and pulls his passport out, they’ll say, “Well, sorry, your passport’s been revoked,” and they don’t even know it’s happened?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned, broadly speaking, there are also a range of steps we can take, including putting individuals on a no-fly list. So every country has different capabilities and different tools at their disposal.

Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: I just wanted to move to another topic, the raid on the Shabaab last night or the night before.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you confirm whether the head of al-Shabaab, Mukhtar al-Zubeyr, was killed in that raid? Mukhtar al-Zubeyr.

QUESTION: Anything (inaudible) State Department assets were used in this raid?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I don’t have any information to confirm at this point in time. I can tell you, and I think it’s worth repeating for all of you, that obviously al-Shabaab was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2008. There, of course, have been efforts underway to take on the threat posed by this group. We have a range of ways we can do that, including designations, but including other actions. I don’t have any more at this point in time to confirm for you, though.

Go ahead. Do we have any more on this?

QUESTION: Could we stay on Somalia --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- writ larger? And that is a while ago, there was discussion about reopening the Embassy in Mogadishu. Do you have --

MS. PSAKI: I think it was having a representative of the embassy. I’m not sure it was --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Well, can you look into – I realize you probably don’t have it there, but --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- how – what’s the status of --

MS. PSAKI: We will see if there’s anything more to say on that.

Go ahead, and then we’ll go to you. Let’s just – go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we go to Kazakhstan?

QUESTION: No, I have a couple more on Somalia.

MS. PSAKI: On Somalia. Okay.

QUESTION: I mean, we just heard the Pentagon confirm the operation was carried out on Monday, and saying that it was assessing the results. I mean, are you in the position to be able to give us any details at all about – I mean, I know you said that --

MS. PSAKI: Not at this point.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: No, I know.

MS. PSAKI: Not at this point. Nothing from here at the podium.

QUESTION: Sorry, just one more on the same topic.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The justification for going after Godane, was that that he’s the leader of al-Shabaab and they’re affiliated with al-Qaida, or that he himself is affiliated with al-Qaida?

MS. PSAKI: Well, both of those – I mean, he is the leader and both – and he is the – they are affiliated with al-Qaida. But I’m not going to have anything more to offer for you at this point in time. I hope we will have more over the course of the next 24 hours.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Last week, President Putin was attending a youth forum in Russia, and he was asked by one of the students if there was a potential for separatism in the rising nationalism in Kazakhstan, just like in Ukraine, to which he replied that under the current president, Nursultan Nazarbaev, there is no such a chance. And he said that, quote, he created a state where there was no state. The Kazakhs never had a statehood. And later on this caused an outrage in Kazakhstan, and in fact, the president himself actually was quoted saying that he may pull out of the Eurasian Union if the independence of Kazakhstan is under threat. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I had not seen those reports. I will see if there’s more we have to add.

QUESTION: I have another one.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On August 27th, the California state senate adopted a resolution calling the federal government to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to have any comment on this. I promise you. It’s a state issue.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I go back to President Putin and his comments?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I don’t think that anyone in this government, in this Administration, has commented on these – this “I can be in Kyiv in two days” – those comments.

QUESTION: Two weeks.

QUESTION: Two weeks, sorry, not two days – although maybe two days is more accurate; who knows – in two weeks. So do you have any – do you regard these comments by the Russian president as provocative? How do you see these, especially given what’s going on right now with the Ukrainian allegations that the Russians have actually invaded?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is hardly the language of a statesman seeking peace and prosperity for people, for people in the region. I understand that there have been some explanations about language being taken out of context from the Kremlin. I’ll let them speak to that.

QUESTION: And which should sound familiar to denizens of this building who have seen remarks reported.

MS. PSAKI: Well, James, I think it would be more useful, of course, for – to hear President Putin say that in two weeks he will remove all Russian troops and pull back the assistance, financial and military, that he’s providing to the separatists. That certainly is --

QUESTION: So you’re giving him two weeks? Is that the deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --

QUESTION: Wouldn’t you like to see it happen sooner rather than later?

MS. PSAKI: I referenced two weeks. Of course we’d want it to happen sooner, but the reference to two weeks was in the two weeks in the quote.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to doubt any of the allegations being made by the Ukrainians that they’re actually now fighting? It’s not just – it’s not just pro – there’s a pro-Russian separatists they’re fighting, it is the Russian army itself. And do you have any comments – since you did have a comment on President Putin and his “two week” remark, do you have any comment on the Ukrainian defense minister talking about this conflict as a great patriotic war?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the first question, Matt – I think Russia has certainly continued to increase its intervention in eastern Ukraine and is responsible for the escalating violence. We know it’s encouraged by Russia. It’s funded by Russia. The separatists are trained by Russia. And obviously, we’ve seen over the course of the last several weeks an escalating level of aggression from the Russian-backed separatists, and obviously, Russia has been fully engaged in that effort.

In terms of the specific comments of the defense minister, I’m happy to take a look at them if you want to send them over.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, do you have any reason to believe that the Ukrainians are incorrect or are correct when they say that Russia has invaded their country?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen – and I don’t want to make a sweeping term because there are reports we have that are unconfirmed, and we speak to the ones that we have that are more confirmed, but --

QUESTION: Okay – that are more confirmed? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: That are confirmed.

QUESTION: So, okay, can you speak – so speaking to the confirmed reports, are there Russian troops in Ukraine right now fighting the Ukrainian army, as the Ukrainians claim?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, I don’t have anything new to confirm for you independently from the United States. Obviously, we’ve seen an increasing level of aggression from the Russians. That includes the movement of troops across the border, which NATO and others have certainly spoken to and confirmed over the course of the last week. That includes continued – the continued effort to provide military assistance and the financing.

QUESTION: That means movement of troops across the – movement of Russian troops across the Ukrainian border into Ukraine. Is that what you’re talking about?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s been confirmed – I mean, last week.

QUESTION: Okay. So why is that not an invasion? Why do you shy away from this? I mean, the NATO commander said last week that if this was happening in a NATO member, it would invoke – Article 5 would be invoked, because it would be something that – it requires a military response. If one member is attacked, they’re all attacked. So why not call it the way you see it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think in our view it doesn’t matter what we call it. We’re calling it an illegal incursion. We’re saying they’re violating the sovereignty of Ukraine. We’ve obviously increased not only the number of sanctions and the kind of sanctions we’re putting in place, but we continue to consider a range of requests that the Ukrainians have issued. So our actions, in our view, and what we’re going to do about it is more important than what we call it.

QUESTION: All right. I have two more very, very brief ones. One – well, what do you think then – since you’re convinced that the Ukrainians and NATO and everyone else is right, that there is an incursion, that the Russian troops are there – what do you make of the Russian denials that they’re not?

MS. PSAKI: I think that contradicts the facts on the ground and what we’ve all seen, not just the United States, but a range of countries, and certainly NATO as they’ve spoken to over the last week.

QUESTION: So President Putin and Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Churkin, and Russian defense ministry people, they’re all lying when they say no, we don’t have anyone – we don’t have any troops --

MS. PSAKI: I’ll let you put labels on it, but I think the facts are the facts.

QUESTION: All right. And then my last one: I believe that the Secretary was supposed to swear in Ambassador Tefft today.

MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.

QUESTION: Did it happen?

MS. PSAKI: I believe so.

QUESTION: It was supposed to happen at 1:00.

MS. PSAKI: I think it was happening as I was preparing to come out here, so --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- no reason that it didn’t happen.

QUESTION: So the given the fact that you’ve essentially just accused the Russian leadership of not telling the truth and lying, what is Ambassador Tefft going to Moscow – well, one, do you know if he’s going to be welcomed in Moscow? And two – by the Russians – and two, what’s he going to go there to do, if you’ve -- if you think that the Russian Government as a whole, or at least the top echelons of it, are just lying?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think it’s important to remember here that there are a range of issues we work with Russia on. It’s not just Ukraine and our efforts to pursue a diplomatic path forward. Certainly, that’s one of the issues that the Secretary discusses with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and I expect the Ambassador will certainly as well. And obviously, having an ambassador-level diplomat in place is something we think is important in a place like Russia.

But we work with on them – we work with them on other issues, and that will continue, and that will be a part of the dialogue he has as ambassador to the country.

QUESTION: Did you see where President Putin, in published remarks, said that he wanted to remind his listeners that Russia is a very powerful nuclear nation? You saw those reported comments?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’ve seen them, and they happened over the course of the weekend, James.

QUESTION: Friday.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And it was interpreted by many – including our colleagues at The Daily Beast, who put a large headline on it – as escalating the situation, and a kind of a veiled threat from Mr. Putin that he is prepared to take this localized conflict and inflate it to the level of a nuclear conflict. Is that something that concerns you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been a series of escalatory remarks made by President Putin. I don’t want to judge or predict what his remark meant. I don’t have any assessment of that, so I would ask you to ask them that question.

QUESTION: Should we be concerned when the spokesperson for the State Department, three days or four days after the president of the Russian Federation invokes the nuclear threat, hasn’t heard about it?

MS. PSAKI: I think I would hardly ascribe it as exactly that, James. I think you are leading to a conclusion about what it meant, but I’m happy to give you a test of what happened over the weekend and see how you do on that test. (Laughter.)

Go ahead, Ali.

QUESTION: The --

QUESTION: Wait, I’d want to see that.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Please --

QUESTION: I’ll take it alongside you, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. We’ll both do it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Do it together.

QUESTION: We’ll do it together.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Ali.

QUESTION: The UN Human Rights Office released a report about violence in eastern Ukraine and civilian deaths. They say that between the beginning of the conflict there and mid-August, the civilian death toll is at 2,600. Does the State Department share that belief in that number is correct, and is there – do you have any comment on that report?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any verification of the exact numbers, but I will say that, obviously, the impact on civilian casualties is an area that we certainly are concerned about, and we have been encouraging both sides to take steps to reduce and prevent the deaths of civilians. Obviously, there are certain areas where there is fighting back and forth, and Ukraine is defending the sovereignty of their own country, so that’s important context. But we’ve seen throughout this conflict over the last several months that, unfortunately, there have been civilians who have been victims of what’s – of the back and forth.

QUESTION: And this report also cites the fact that the death toll has increased between – there is now 36 people killed each day in fighting between July – mid-July and mid-August. That’s versus 11 people killed a day between mid-May and mid-July. This building has frequently cited the Ukrainian military’s restraint in fighting. Is that escalation that the UN report cites an example of restraint being shown by the Ukrainian military?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Ali, I think, one, we don’t want to see civilian casualties anywhere in Ukraine or any country, of course. And this is a case, though, of the Ukrainian Government defending the sovereignty of their own country. This wouldn’t be the case at all if Russian separatists moved out of Ukraine, if Russian – if Russia moved their supplies, their military equipment, their financing out of Ukraine. And I think we have to remember what the source is here. But with that all being said, we certainly continue to encourage both sides to act in a way that reduces the impact on civilians.

QUESTION: Jen, have you already – sorry if you’ve addressed this already – responded to the idea from President Putin that Kyiv should be discussing statehood for the rebel eastern districts? Is this something that – where does the United States stand on that idea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, we support the territorial integrity of Ukraine, as we have from the beginning, and that wouldn’t be consistent with that. But it’s disingenuous, in our view, for people – including the Russians – to – who have ignored a range of proposals by President Poroshenko, including those that would offer greater autonomy – to be putting out new proposals when there can be a discussion about what’s been in place and what’s been on the table for months now.

QUESTION: Can I ask (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s Ukraine-related. Going back to the air disaster that a lot of people seem to have forgotten about as it goes off the front pages and off the top of the news – but what’s the latest on the investigation into the MA17 crash?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you. I’m happy to check with our team, and if there’s more --

QUESTION: Can you check? There had been some discussion from the Dutch, I think, that there was going to be some kind of a preliminary report on the black boxes, what the flight recorders said in the first --

MS. PSAKI: I know that’s the next step.

QUESTION: -- in the first week of this month.

MS. PSAKI: I know that’s the next step. Let me see if there’s any updates on the timing of that coming out.

QUESTION: Do you – are you in a position to offer anything – any additional or – any additional information or any additional evidence to back up what the U.S. and others have said about the cause of the crash, or is it – are we still in the place that we were?

MS. PSAKI: We’re still in the same place. Obviously, we offered a range of information at the time, and as information has become available, we will continue to make that available. But I have nothing new today.

QUESTION: Does – okay. Does that mean that, though – that no new information is going to be forthcoming, or does it mean simply that you’re not sure that --

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t draw that conclusion. Obviously, there was a range of information that was rapidly available in the short – in the days following the crash. I’m not aware of new information. I can see if there’s any more to provide to all of you.

QUESTION: Okay. It’s just that usually, as you go along in a – as an investigation progresses, you get more information rather than none.

MS. PSAKI: There’s also been an investigation ongoing, so perhaps we’ll have more from the United States.

QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but I mean, usually, there’s more that comes out as it progresses rather than all of a sudden it being shut down and there’s nothing. But anyway, your understanding is that the preliminary – the recording – the cockpit recorders, that’s the next step?

MS. PSAKI: That’s my understanding – the initial report, yes.

QUESTION: And the timing of it, sometime in the first week of September?

MS. PSAKI: That was my understanding. I can see if there’s more that we can provide and the exact timing.

QUESTION: Where are you on sanctions --

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue and the settlement – oh.

QUESTION: No --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lesley.

QUESTION: The Europeans have said they’re considering additional sanctions and you kind of pointed to that last week.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How soon would you know or how soon would you be moving on those sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are discussing with our European allies and other allies and partners what additional steps we could take. Of course, that includes sanctions, but I don’t have any prediction for you on the timing or the content of those (inaudible).

QUESTION: So you’re not looking at any specific move within the next few – on a timeline whether Putin moves by a certain time or whether the – I mean, it’s very obvious the tensions are escalating rather than de-escalating.

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, Russia’s actions – and if they were to make a decision to de-escalate, would impact, and our response would be correlated. But of course, we look at the actions that have been taken, and certainly the actions they may take in the future will impact what we may do in the future.

QUESTION: So do you know, maybe, when the Europeans are considering this?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to them for that. It’s a discussion that’s ongoing. I expect it will be a big topic at NATO.

QUESTION: But (inaudible) – you and the Europeans have been in gridlock, kind of up-step – increasing sanctions over the last few months. And so far, there’s been very little to show for it in terms of concrete actions on the part of the Russians. They’ve just continued on the way that they wanted to go. Isn’t it really futile to impose a new round of sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would disagree with that. One, I would say there has been – I know this isn’t your exact question, but there has been both immediate impact on capital markets, investment confidence, result in investment being cancelled or deferred, but there are also longer-term implications that certainly deepen over time. In terms of that, what we mean by that is the isolation of Russia from the international community, the isolation from Russia even through their investments and how they can attract investment from companies.

So those efforts are ongoing. We still feel this is a very effective tool to use and to continue to ratchet up if that’s needed. Ukraine has also made a variety of requests for different types of aid, and we’re reviewing all of them to see how we can further support Ukraine in that regard as well.

QUESTION: But none of that has actually seemed to deter President Putin from his course. I mean, he’s still doing exactly what he was doing, and if not, he’s actually escalating sending in truckloads of equipment and stuff. It doesn’t seem to be working, to be honest.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say that the impact on the economy is certainly working, so the question is: Does President Putin care about the economy that is impacting people across his country, or does he care about continuing to take illegal actions in Ukraine? The impact is only going to increase over the course of time on his economy, both from steps we’ve already taken and steps we could certainly continue to take.

QUESTION: But this is not only affecting the Russian economy; it’s affecting the economies of emerging markets that are aligned with this kind of thing. You saw currencies of a lot of emerging markets fall today. So it’s not just that. Surely, the longer this escalates and the longer it drags on, it worsens for everybody. So – I mean, I know you’re saying it’s going to be discussed at NATO, but how quickly – again, how quickly do you want to see this resolved?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, we wanted to see it resolved yesterday or long before that. And our preference is not to put new sanctions in place, but obviously, what I mean by that is we’d prefer that President Putin take de-escalatory actions and that the Russians take steps to dial back what they’ve done over the course of the last several months. We’re not doing it just because putting new sanctions in place is a fun effort. It’s one that we feel is effective and will be effective over the short, medium, and long term, so that’s why we continue to work with our European allies on it. I don’t have any prediction on the timing because we typically don’t predict those with that level of days and certainty.

QUESTION: So what are you hoping to come from – out of NATO that would change that equilibrium?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’ll be a discussion there, which is a rare opportunity to have a discussion with 28 countries to talk about what should be done, what are the tools that can be utilized, what should we do about the requests Ukraine has, how do we address this moving forward. There are – for many of the points you referenced, there are concerns, of course, by all of these countries about what we can do from here, and that’s what they’ll discuss, and we’ll see what comes out of it in a couple of days.

QUESTION: NATO Chief Fogh Rasmussen is saying that one of the things that the alliance is going to endorse is an establishment of a force of several thousand troops, which would be like a rapid-action force that could be deployed within a few days to meet any kind of perceived military movements by the Russians towards – into other places in Eastern Europe.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is this something that the United States is supporting, and would there be any kind of United States involvement in this force of several thousand troops?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ll be discussing a range of issues that look at the needs of NATO member states, including what we can do to deal with everything from hybrid warfare to other different threats. This will involve training exercises and discussions about infrastructure the alliance needs in the Baltics and Poland and Romania and other states on the eastern frontier to deal with the world in which they face now.

As you know, the President is in Estonia or will be on his way to Estonia soon. We – Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, and many other Administration officials have taken trips to a number of NATO ally countries, and sometimes we’ve introduced or announced increased aid or assistance or military training or exercises, so there are a range of components that will be discussed.

QUESTION: So we could see some concrete pledges made by the President in Estonia?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to get ahead of the President of the United States.

QUESTION: I just want to go back to your answer, I think, a little while ago, to Leslie. Did you say we’re not just imposing sanctions because it’s some kind of a fun exercise?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I did.

QUESTION: You did? I mean, are you saying that it is a fun exercise as well as also a punishment for Crimea and for their --

MS. PSAKI: I’m saying that we’re not --

QUESTION: A little skipping through the tulips --

MS. PSAKI: -- doing it for the sake of doing it.

QUESTION: -- throwing out sanctions left and right?

MS. PSAKI: We think it’s an impactful tool.

QUESTION: Okay. And – but thus far, again, although officials in this building and Treasury and the White House --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- all speak about this damage that is supposedly being done to the Russian economy, it hasn’t done anything that you want it to do in terms of de-escalating the situation in Ukraine. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think there have been fits and starts of that, and there have been discussions that have taken place at various times through the diplomatic – through diplomatic channels with – between Russia and Ukraine, with the separatists at times. As you know, there was a meeting just yesterday. But obviously, we feel that continuing to put these consequences in place is necessary given the circumstances.

QUESTION: Right, but just in – let’s just take a time period of, say, the last week. All of the sanctions to date imposed by the United States and Europe and your other allies, the Japanese, the Australians, whoever else, have not made a – any difference in the Russian tactical or strategic thinking as it relates to Ukraine according to you, right?

MS. PSAKI: They have had an impact dramatically on the economy.

QUESTION: No, no. I’m talking about --

MS. PSAKI: That’s not going away. Obviously, this situation will need to continue to be addressed in the coming days and weeks. So we still feel this is an effective tool and one that we will continue to consider additional actions on.

QUESTION: Okay. I just – I don’t understand how it’s effective if it’s not producing the desired result, or not – in fact, the desired result is getting further away in your – from what you’ve told us than --

MS. PSAKI: Because, Matt, the impact on the economy will only grow over the course of time as all of these sanctions are implemented.

QUESTION: Right, but it’s now been – I mean, when the first sanctions were imposed was in – after February, right? Was it March? Right after the annex --

MS. PSAKI: On individuals and they have increased --

QUESTION: Right. Right, right, right.

MS. PSAKI: -- and the –

QUESTION: And since then, instead of withdrawing from Crimea and reversing its annexation of Crimea and instead of, according to you, withdrawing troops or – they put more troops in, they’ve done more to destabilize eastern Ukraine rather than less and Crimea – the Crimea situation is still the same. So I don’t understand by what calculus you’re saying that the sanctions have been effective. Okay, sure, there might be some damage to the Russian economy right now, but that hasn’t done what it’s – what you want it to do, which is to change the Russian actions. Isn’t that not correct?

MS. PSAKI: Our view, Matt, is that the impact --

QUESTION: That’s a triple negative. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Our view is that the impact on the Russian economy will only continue to increase while we’ve already seen a dramatic impact on both the capital flights, on the economic growth projections, and we feel that will continue to have – or will have an increasing impact on the Russian leadership.

QUESTION: But – an increasing impact? It doesn’t seem to have had any impact at all so far. So an impact may be more – I mean, the capital flights and what you talk about, the growth – the negative growth projections have not, have they yet, changed the calculus in Ukraine or –

MS. PSAKI: Well, there --

QUESTION: -- changed the situation on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: As I referenced a few minutes ago. There have been fits and starts of discussions, of negotiations, of efforts.

QUESTION: Yes, but things right now today are demonstrably worse than they were a week ago. Right?

MS. PSAKI: They’re not – certainly not where we want them to be, Matt. That’s why we will continue to consider additional requests from the Ukrainian Government, and why we’ll continue to consult with our European counterparts on additional steps we can take.

QUESTION: Just one more quick on NATO?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: So we’re not ruling out the idea that American troops could be included in the NATO rapid response force that’s going to include some 4,000 troops that was debuted --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more on that specific announcement by NATO, and I’m sure there’ll be more on the coming days. I’m not ruling anything in or out.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: First of all, can you confirm whether the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat actually is in town and meeting with the Secretary of State?

MS. PSAKI: I can, Said. Erekat and Faraj will be in town tomorrow meeting with Secretary Kerry. I’m not sure when they’re arriving in town, so I’m not – and I’m not going to speculate on what issues they may or may not raise with the Secretary, but --

QUESTION: Okay. Now, Palestinian sources say that Erekat is bringing with him a proposal, a request, or a demand, whatever you want to call it, that there be some sort of a timetable to end the occupation. Would you the United States of America support such a thing?

MS. PSAKI: Again, they can raise a range of issues that they’re – of course, that they would like to raise. That’s why the Secretary’s meeting with them. Our position hasn’t changed on this. Neither has it changed on our opposition to actions by the Palestinians at the ICC.

QUESTION: But you certainly believe that the sooner the occupation ends, the better. Correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, again, I think you’re familiar with our positions on this. Nothing has changed, so – go ahead.

QUESTION: Let me ask you about the settlement. There was an announcement on a huge settlement this weekend --

MS. PSAKI: We put out a statement today.

QUESTION: Yeah, you put out the statement, and to use Matt’s words, do you think that had some sort of an impact on the tactical and strategic thinking of the Israeli Government or on Mr. Netanyahu?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t speak to that, Said. I think obviously, the United States and Israel has an important strategic relationship, one the United States values and one that Israel values. But it’s important for us to also note when we have concerns about steps that are taken.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: So the concerns that you expressed in your – in the statement that came out just before the briefing are – they’re pretty much a standard recitation of what you say every time the Israelis announce new settlement construction or new construction in East Jerusalem or whatever, which, frankly, over the years is lost – kind of lost track of the number of critical statements that the State Department has put out. Is there any reason that this time it’s going to be different? I mean, this is a pretty big swath of land, almost a thousand acres. The Europeans have used a little bit stronger – in the roulette game of which word do we use – condemn, deplore, we’re deeply concerned, that kind of thing, yours is a concern – or troubled, or whatever it was, concerned – they use deplore. I’m just wondering, what – is there going to be any consequence to this if they keep – continue to defy what you think is – not only what you want but what you think is also best for a two-state solution, which is what everyone says they want?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, Ambassador Shapiro relayed our concerns over the weekend. Secretary Kerry is speaking with Prime Minister Netanyahu today, and certainly this will be a topic of discussion. Beyond that, I’m not going to, of course, read out our diplomatic engagement on issues like this. I’m not – I think expressing our concern about actions that are taken is still an important message that we’re sending about how we view these actions. In terms of other components and the impact on a two-state solution, obviously two-state solution requires two parties to agree, and we’re all familiar with the view of the Palestinians about this continued settlement activity and the impact it has on their interest in pursuing that.

QUESTION: Well, do you believe that either the Israelis or the Palestinians at the moment have a partner for peace, that either side does?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think if both sides were willing to make the tough choices required that perhaps the negotiations would be ongoing.

QUESTION: Right, but --

MS. PSAKI: They’re not, as you know by now.

QUESTION: Okay, so neither side is a partner for peace at the moment. Is that --

MS. PSAKI: Well, there aren’t active negotiations.

QUESTION: All right. And do you know, has the Secretary actually already spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu? Or is that something that was supposed to be happening --

MS. PSAKI: It’s planned for this afternoon. I don’t have an exact time for it.

QUESTION: Jen --

QUESTION: Do you have any reason to believe, based on the conversation that Ambassador Shapiro had and whatever other conversations there have had – the American officials have had with the Israelis, that they intend to do what you or that they’re even considering what you want them to do, what you said in the statement, which is to reverse this decision?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make a prediction of that, Matt.

QUESTION: So you don’t have any reason to believe that they might?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more to lay out for you in terms of their plans.

QUESTION: Can I go --

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to them.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the meeting tomorrow with --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- Saeb Erekat?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: When was the last time that the Secretary met with any of the Palestinian negotiators or President Abbas? Was that the London meeting in May?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that for you, Jo. I think it’s been more recently than that. He’s certainly spoken with a range of officials over the course of that time. But I can check for you over the summer.

QUESTION: Okay. And who requested the meeting? Was it the Palestinians or was it the Secretary?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have other details on the Palestinians meeting – or visit to Washington and what else they’ll be doing here. I can see if there’s more we can lay out in that regard.

QUESTION: Do you know what the topic of the – can you tell us what the topic of the conversation is going to be?

MS. PSAKI: I think they’ll talk about a range of issues. There’s obviously an ongoing cease-fire discussion and upcoming negotiations that will take place. There’s a range of longer-term issues. But beyond that, I don’t have anything to predict for you.

QUESTION: And Hanan Ashrawi yesterday – one of the Palestinian negotiators – said at the UN that the Palestinians are – picking up on Said’s questions – the Palestinians are actually putting – trying to put forward a UN resolution to set a three-year deadline to end the Israeli occupation. She said for you that the United States will certainly veto it. Is that correct? Is she correct in her assumption that the United States would veto such a resolution?

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re familiar with our history. I don’t think anything will change in that regard.

QUESTION: But a three-year deadline would be – would give you three years to work out a comprehensive peace treaty, no?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve – our view has long been that there are a range of productive ways to have discussions about how to achieve a two-state solution, and typically that’s not through international governing bodies.

QUESTION: Jen, at a time when you are leading a posse, an international posse to impose sanctions on Russia for allegedly or invading Ukraine and so on --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Now we have an occupation that have gone on for a very long time where the occupying power keeps stealing land and building settlements and so on. Why can’t you lead a posse to impose sanctions on Israel in this case? Wouldn’t it make sense?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not an option being considered, Said.

QUESTION: Why is it not an option? Why is it not --

MS. PSAKI: I think I --

QUESTION: -- because it was --

MS. PSAKI: Said, I think we need to move on because I don’t have unlimited time here.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Very briefly --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- about your statement. You said you’re very concerned about possibility of new settlement in East Jerusalem construction may be – that announcements may be – come at any time. Can you be more specific? Can you elaborate on that, or is that just something that’s kind of in the ether that you’re concerned about?

MS. PSAKI: It’s – there have been news reports about in the region, so that’s why we addressed it.

QUESTION: All right. And then you said that if the appropriation in the West Bank and if these rumored or reported new announcements go ahead, it would send a very troubling message – it would send a very troubling message if they proceed.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there any consequence to that --

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: -- if they proceed?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any consequences to lay out for you, Matt. I think it’s important for us – not just the United States but there are a range of countries in the international community that have been clear about not only their opposition but their own intentions. I’m not going to speak to those. I speak for the United States.

QUESTION: Turkey next, please?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s – go ahead. Go ahead, Elliot.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So there are reports that Kang Sok-ju, who is the secretary of the Central Committee, and a former – I guess still current diplomat who was involved in missile – or nuclear negotiations will be going to Europe. Are there any plans for him to meet with U.S. officials while he’s there?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to take that. I don’t have any --

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: -- plans in front of me. But I’ll ask our team and see.

QUESTION: Thank you. Sorry, just have a couple more. On Ri Su-yong, the foreign minister, is scheduled to go to the UNGA this year. It’s the first time in 15 years that a North Korean foreign minister will go. Do you have any confirmation or comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of it. I will wait till there’s confirmation before we comment.

QUESTION: Okay. Presumably, he would need to be granted a visa so you’ll know when the application is received and when it’s granted, yes?

MS. PSAKI: Which unlikely – we wouldn’t speak to.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But certainly, those are things with anyone we would know as the State Department.

QUESTION: Okay. And then just finally on this, how do you see the aggressive sort of diplomacy that North Korea is embarking on taken together with reports of a secret visit by U.S. officials to North Korea earlier this month? Should we be – or last month now.

MS. PSAKI: Are you speaking to the interviews, or what are you speaking to specifically?

QUESTION: There were reports – and I don’t think it’s been confirmed, but there were reports that U.S. officials made a visit to North Korea to engage in talks with officials there.

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

QUESTION: But taken together with these reports of North Korean officials interacting with Western governments, with Japan, supposedly with the U.S., do you see any kind of positive sign from that?

MS. PSAKI: None that I have to outline here. We have remaining concerns about the aggressive rhetoric and tests by North Korea. Obviously, the ball remains in their court. That hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, do you have anything regarding the protest in Hong Kong against Chinese ruling on the selection of --

MS. PSAKI: Can we do one North Korea and we’ll go right back to you? Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: I have another one as well.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, sure.

QUESTION: Yeah. On North Korea, beyond the – what you said yesterday, do you have any more reaction to the interviews that were carried out by CNN yesterday of the three Americans being held in North Korea? Were – have you been in touch with the families? Were they in some ways relieved to at least see that their loved ones looked in reasonable health? Do you have any indications about whether they were under any pressure, whether they were reading from prepared statements? Can you give us an evaluation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are in regular contact with the families, and that has been the case long before this weekend, as has been our efforts to do everything we can to bring these three U.S. citizens detained in North Korea home. There’s no greater priority to all – to us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad. So we will leave no stone unturned in that regard. As has been the case in this incident and unfortunately other incidents of Americans detained, given our objective is seeing them returned home, we’re not going to outline all of our efforts publicly or analyze media interviews from here.

QUESTION: And can I just ask, there was some issue a few weeks ago about whether your contact authority – sorry, that’s not the right word. I can’t think of it at the moment.

MS. PSAKI: Our protecting power?

QUESTION: Your protecting power had been in touch with Jeffrey Fowle and Matthew Miller. Are you able to confirm whether they’ve had any consular visits from them yet?

MS. PSAKI: I can. The embassy of Sweden, which is our protecting power, visited Mr. Fowle on June 20th, Mr. Miller on May 9th and June 21st, and Kenneth Bae 12 times since his detention, most recently on August 11th.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you --

QUESTION: Korea?

QUESTION: DPRK, on DPRK.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. DPRK and then we’ll go.

QUESTION: Yes. Just two quick ones, following up on Jo’s question. So during the interview, these detainees asked the U.S. Government to send a high-ranking representative to negotiate their release, and the United States has proposed Ambassador King previously, which had been rejected. And I was wondering, do you have another representative in mind by any chance?

MS. PSAKI: I think as I said in response to Jo’s question, obviously we’re going to leave no stone unturned in doing everything we can to see these individuals returned home. We’re not going to outline all of our efforts from here.

QUESTION: Okay. And I’m sorry, one last question. I’m not quite sure if this is the visit that Elliot was referring to, but U.S. officials visited Pyongyang in middle of August on a military aircraft. And I wondered if you could confirm that report. And if so, if you could let us know what the objective is.

MS. PSAKI: I believe that report is what Elliot was asking about --

QUESTION: Is that what Eliott was asking about?

MS. PSAKI: -- but I don’t have anything for you on that.

QUESTION: Okay. Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Turkey.

QUESTION: On Hong Kong, please.

MS. PSAKI: I can just do a couple more here.

QUESTION: Japan.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Hong Kong.

QUESTION: Do you have anything on the protest in Hong Kong against the Chinese ruling for the selection of the executive chief?

MS. PSAKI: I do, I believe. Hold on one moment. I believe I do. And if I don’t have it in front of me, we will make sure we get it to you right after the briefing. The United States supports universal suffrage in Hong Kong, in accordance with the basic law and the aspirations of the Hong Kong people. We believe that an open society with the highest possible degree of autonomy and governed by rule of law is essential for Hong Kong’s stability and prosperity. And we believe that the legitimacy of the chief executive will be greatly enhanced if the basic law’s ultimate aim of selection of the chief executive by universal suffrage is fulfilled.

QUESTION: The great ally of United States, Britain, has inquired a progress report on Hong Kong’s political reform. Do you plan to follow suit of your ally?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry. Who had requested that?

QUESTION: Britain.

MS. PSAKI: The UK has --

QUESTION: UK has requested.

MS. PSAKI: -- has requested of the United States?

QUESTION: No, no. UK has inquired a progress report on Hong Kong’s political reform.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve consistently raised our concerns. Obviously we have a range of reporting mechanisms we do from here. I can check and see if that’s something that we are also pursuing.

QUESTION: How would you respond to the criticism from the Chinese Government that the United States has no position to meddle in the domestic affairs?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly we wouldn’t view it as meddling in domestic affairs. Obviously it’s up to the people of Hong Kong – that’s how universal suffrage and voting works – to determine their leadership. But we view this as – just as a principle, an important component of strengthening their society.

QUESTION: Another related follow-up: The Chinese policy toward Hong Kong is often seen as indication or has great implication of Chinese policy toward Taiwan. As we were speaking, I understand Deputy Secretary William Burns is meeting with Zhang Zhijun, who is the head of China’s Taiwan affairs this afternoon. Do you have anything more to give substance on that meeting?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on that. We can see if there’s more to convey to all of you on that meeting.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) here though, right?

MS. PSAKI: I believe so. I’d have to check. I don't have any confirmation of --

QUESTION: No, no. I mean, have you seen him at all today?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen him this morning; that’s true.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I will check and see --

QUESTION: Well, it’s no longer morning, so --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, this – I did not see him this morning or early afternoon.

Okay, I have time for just a couple of more, so let’s just do some --

QUESTION: Turkey? Turkey? Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve done a couple. Let’s do – go ahead.

QUESTION: Two quick ones.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: First of all, with Bahrain, the foreign ministry is denying a U.S. report that a senior U.S. diplomat, Malinowski, who had been expelled, will be allowed to return to the country. Do you have any reaction?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d first note that Secretary Kerry and Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalifa agreed on the importance of rescheduling this meeting during their July 14th call. And so we continue to work with the MFA in finding a mutually agreeable time. We’ve of course seen the press release by the MFA, but we’re continuing to work to reschedule the visit.

QUESTION: And one more on a different topic, Cuba.

QUESTION: Hold on a second. Hold on a second. Wait. Rescheduled the visit? He was expelled and declare persona non grata. What is this rescheduling the meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, since he was there and obviously he did not complete his visit, I think rescheduling is still the appropriate (inaudible), Matt.

QUESTION: So he might be let back --

QUESTION: He got thrown out of the country, which --

MS. PSAKI: I’m familiar with the events, and we obviously expressed concern about them at the time.

QUESTION: I mean, it was like – well, I understand that. But I mean – so – when you said the Secretary and the foreign minister spoke about this, they said that they would un-PNG him and allow him back in?

MS. PSAKI: They would – they discussed --

QUESTION: They did?

MS. PSAKI: -- the importance of rescheduling the visit.

QUESTION: Okay. And still on Bahrain, do you have anything about the arrest of this human rights activist, this woman who went back and has now been thrown in jail?

MS. PSAKI: I do. We are concerned about the arrest – the reports of the detention of Maryam al-Khawaja and are closely following developments. As we do with countries around the world, we urge the Government of Bahrain to protect the universal rights of freedom of expression and assembly. Just as we urge all elements of Bahraini society to engage in peaceful expressions of political opinion, the Government of Bahrain must abide by its obligations to respect freedom of expression and assembly, and we again urge the government to take steps to build confidence across Bahraini society.

QUESTION: Well, given just these two cases, the one with your assistant secretary and this woman, how is the Government of Bahrain doing on its commitment to upholding universal values?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have consistently said the Government of Bahrain must do more to meet its own commitments to reform, and certainly rescheduling the visit is only a component of that. Obviously, as we have concerns, as is the case of this arrest, we will express them.

QUESTION: Okay. They must do more and rescheduling the visit is – the Malinowski visit is a component of that. What about the --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think broadly speaking, not just this --

QUESTION: Well, what about the release of the – this woman?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly I think when we express concerns about individuals who are detained, I think it is evidence of our --

QUESTION: All right. And just the – or what? They must do more, and if they don’t, what are you going to – what is the U.S. going to do about it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I know you’re on a big consequences theme today, but I think there are times --

QUESTION: Truth or consequences.

MS. PSAKI: -- where you can work through diplomatic channels to convey when things – there is more that needs to be done, and sometimes you can successfully accomplish that.

QUESTION: Just to be crystal clear, by saying they talked about the importance of rescheduling the visit, your understanding is that he will be – Malinowski will be allowed into Bahrain when he goes next time?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly I think when you discuss that with the counterpart of another country and there’s agreement on that, that is the assumption, yes.

QUESTION: So the agreement is he can go back?

MS. PSAKI: I think the agreement is rescheduling it and all the things that requires is – was – is an important thing. And that was part of their call in July.

Okay. Let’s do three more here.

QUESTION: Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Let’s just do people who haven’t – we haven’t got to. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Pakistan, the situation --

MS. PSAKI: I think the young lady in front of you. Ladies first. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Saudi Arabia?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia has arrested 88 people accused of plotting attacks inside and outside the country. Can you comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’d have to – I’d have to look at the details of those arrests. Let me do that and we can see if we can get you a comment.

QUESTION: Can you comment on counterterrorism efforts within the region?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, part of our effort to build this international coalition, which Saudi Arabia is certainly – sorry – an important partner in that, is to address threats where they are and where they’re coming from. And certainly, we’ve seen – well, in the United States it’s up to 100 individuals with passports that we have concerns about. There are greater numbers when it comes to some of the European countries, and I think many countries in the region are trying to take on this threat, and we’re working with them to do just that.

QUESTION: Sorry, Jen. But on this, the Saudis also sentenced a human rights activist, Raif Badawi, for 100 lashes or 1,000 lashes, plus two years in prison, for criticizing their virtue police. Do you have anything to say on that?

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re talking about two very different things, Said, but we can get you a comment on that after the briefing.

Let’s just do two more here. Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: The situation in Pakistan?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Today opposition parties in the parliament, they got together and they said that they will back the prime minister and they will resist any move to remove him through violent or extra-constitutional measures. Your comments on that? And also, the former U.S. ambassador to Islamabad, Ambassador Munter, said that he believed that there is a military coup, the U.S. will impose sanctions on Pakistan. Also your comments towards that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, we’ve obviously been closely watching the situation in Pakistan and we’ve been in touch with appropriate counterparts there. I don’t have any predictions for you on an outcome. We typically do not do that. But I will just reiterate that we’re in no way involved in the process or discussions between parties and can offer no real analysis of what’s happening there beyond just reiterating our belief that the parties should work together to resolve differences through peaceful dialogue and ways to strengthen Pakistan’s democracy and rule of law.

QUESTION: But --

QUESTION: I have the same question --

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) from (inaudible), Pakistan.

MS. PSAKI: Hello.

QUESTION: Yeah. There are a few reports that ISIS is distributing pamphlets and brochures in Pakistan, asking people to join them and kind of start campaigning against the Shia community in Pakistan. So what really the United State is doing to prevent the expansion of this terrorist organization? And second question is about the closure of U.S. Embassy in Islamabad. How long it going to be closed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any prediction for you on the second question. Obviously, there are steps that we take as the United States Government in order to ensure the security and safety of our personnel. We make every effort to reopen or make services available as soon as we possibly can, because that’s an important role that we can play around the world.

What was your first question again? Can you just repeat it again? Sorry.

QUESTION: ISIL --

QUESTION: ISIS distributing brochures in Pakistan, asking people to join --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of this. Obviously, I’m sure you’re watching events like this closely. I think, again, part of our effort underway is not limited to a specific part of the world to take on this threat. That’s why the Secretary is speaking to a range of counterparts, not just in countries that are directly next to Iraq or Syria, but countries that are around the world that may be concerned about the threat that ISIL is posing.

QUESTION: But can you be a little more expressive on – a little more – on what you said? Could you say that you will oppose any means to change the government through violent means or political --

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m going to add to what I just said.

Okay, let’s just do two more here. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just on Japan, do you have any comment on Prime Minister’s Abe’s plan to shake up his cabinet?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we do from here. Often, those are domestic issues that are dealt with from country to country. If there’s more, I’m sure we can follow up directly with you following the briefing.

QUESTION: Okay. Great. All right. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Can I do Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Over the weekend, some publication in Germany show – published some documents that the American NSA have been eavesdropping on Turkey for years now and there are many details in it. Is there any way you can comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: As a matter of policy, we don’t comment publicly on alleged intelligence activities. I can confirm for you that we have discussed these allegations with Turkish officials. As a friend and ally of Turkey, we remain committed to strengthening our close partnership and continuing our cooperation in key areas, and certainly that discussion will continue.

QUESTION: As you mentioned, American DA – DCM in Ankara, Mr. Bailey, was invited – Turkish foreign ministry, and Turkish deputy foreign – prime minister said that U.S. is expected to investigate and end its activities directed at our state. Would you able to promise that if these allegations are true, is – the U.S. Government is going to end its activities on Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the President’s speech earlier this year where he talked about our own efforts to review our intelligence gathering. He announced a series of reforms. I don’t have anything more than that to offer to you.

QUESTION: And one last question.

QUESTION: Hold on. On Turkey, on the inauguration --

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the – has – do you know – it was a relatively – I wouldn’t say – not relatively. It was an extremely small delegation of one person to go to President Erdogan’s swearing-in ceremony. Do you know if there’s been any contact between Washington and his administration since then?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, we’ve been in contact with the Turkish Government, absolutely, on the ground through our Embassy.

QUESTION: Right, but the charge – your charge has been? The same person who led the delegation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, if the United States Senate would like to confirm --

QUESTION: I’m not casting aspersions on him. I’m just --

MS. PSAKI: -- our ambassador, he could have also attended.

QUESTION: Fair enough. But I’m just wondering if – has there been any discussion between the U.S. – U.S. officials and Turkish officials from – U.S. officials here in Washington since the charge went to the inauguration and then got hauled into the foreign ministry to talk about these espionage allegations?

MS. PSAKI: From the State Department building, there is --

QUESTION: Yes. Specifically, has Secretary Kerry talked with his new --

MS. PSAKI: Secretary Kerry has not spoken with his counterpart since then.

Okay, one more. I think we have to finish it off right here. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The Secretary is meeting with Panama’s vice president. Panama recently extended an invitation to Cuba to attend the Americas Summit in 2015, and this is the first such invitation for Cuba in a number of years. Does the State Department have any response?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I understand it, it was an announcement of intention to invite. I would refer you to the Government of Panama for any questions regarding formal invitations.

We – from here, our view is that at the 2001 Summit of the Americas, all participating governments agreed to consensus that “The maintenance and strengthening of the rule of law and strict respect for the democratic system are at the same time a goal and a shared commitment and are an essential condition of our presence at this and future summits.” So we should not undermine commitments previously made, but should instead encourage – and this is certainly our effort – the democratic changes necessary for Cuba to meet the basic qualifications. But of course, we look forward to the day when all 35 countries in the region can participate in the summit process.

Okay. Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:00 p.m.)

DPB # 151