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State Department Briefing by Jen Psaki, April 7, 2014

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–April 7, 2014.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Court Ruling on Three Activists
    • Secretary Kerry’s Conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov
    • U.S. Concerned about Russia’s Escalatory Steps / U.S. Monitoring Situation Closely
    • Agenda for Meetings between Russia, Ukraine, European Union, and U.S.
    • Secretary Kerry’s Conversation with Foreign Minister Lavrov on Syria’s Chemical Weapons
    • Constitutional Reform in Ukraine Underway
    • Substantive Impact of Sanctions on Russia’s Economy
    • Geneva Conference on Hiatus
    • U.S. Concerned about Extremists
    • Syrian Opposition Coalition General Assembly to Convene in Turkey
    • U.S. Aware of Reports of Chemical Weapon Use
    • U.S. Condemns Violent Attacks on Christian Communities
  • MEPP
    • Continuation of Discussions between the Parties
    • Special Envoy/ Ambassador Indyk Plans to Stay in the Region
    • U.S. Focused on Moving the Process Forward
    • No Travel Announcements for Secretary Kerry in the Region
    • Local Elections
    • Twitter Unblocked
  • IRAN
    • Reports of Business Licenses for American Companies
    • Updates on P5+1
    • Deputy Secretary Burns’ Meetings on Cyprus Settlement Efforts
    • Sanctions
    • India Nuclear Policy
    • NYPD Officer Arrest
  • CUBA
    • USAID Program
    • U.S. Diplomats Meet with a Range of Officials
    • Reports of Nigerian Military and Boko Haram
    • U.S. Watching Al Jazeera Trial Closely / U.S. Calls to Release Journalists
    • Trilateral Meetings



1:43 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Welcome.

MS. PSAKI: I feel like I’ve been gone for ages. (Laughter.) I’m sure your colleagues who were on the trip feel that way as well.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Oh, how nice of you, Arshad. Two things for all of you at the top. The United States is deeply troubled by the decision today of an Egyptian court to uphold an on-appeal three-year prison sentences and substantial fines for Mohamed Adel, Ahmed Douma, and Ahmed Maher – three peaceful, pro-democracy activists. Their continued imprisonment under a law that severely restricts the universal right to peaceful assembly and expression runs counter the Egyptian Government’s commitment to fostering an open electoral environment and a transition process that protects the universal rights of all Egyptians. We urge the Egyptian Government to exercise its constitutional authority to commute these excessive sentences, which are not in line with the rights guaranteed in Egypt’s new constitution, Egypt’s international obligations, or the government’s own commitment not to return to Mubarak-era practices.

Also this morning the Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov. This was in part the reason for my delay; I wanted to make sure I had the details for all of you. He conveyed to Foreign Minister Lavrov that the United States is watching events over the last 24 hours in Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, and Mariupol with great concern, and noted that these do not appear to be a spontaneous set of events. Rather, the Secretary noted the Ukrainian Government’s assertion that this appeared to be a carefully orchestrated campaign with Russian support. He noted in particular the recent arrests of Russian intelligence operatives working in Ukraine. He noted that Ukrainian Government leaders are en route to all these cities today to try to negotiate evacuation of government buildings and a de-escalation of tensions. He called on Russia to publicly disavow the activities of separatists, saboteurs, and provocateurs, calling for de-escalation and dialogue, and called on all parties to refrain from agitation in Ukraine.

He made clear that any further Russian efforts to destabilize Ukraine will incur further costs for Russia, and the ministers all discussed convening direct talks within the next 10 days between Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the EU to try to de-escalate the tensions. Discussion about the right timing and agenda for that meeting will, of course, continue.

QUESTION: He called for that, or he actually announced that that’s going to happen within the next 10 days?

MS. PSAKI: They discussed that on the call, so the details and agenda will be discussed in —

QUESTION: So it’s going to happen or are they just talking about it?

QUESTION: So can we talk about the further efforts —

QUESTION: Just so we can be clear: It’s going to happen, or they just talked about the possibility that it might happen?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, it’s going to happen in the next 10 days.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: The details and the agenda will be worked out in the coming days.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lara.

QUESTION: Okay. So he warned Lavrov that any further efforts to destabilize would incur further costs. Could you break down how you are defining destabilize these days? I believe that President Obama a couple of weeks ago said specifically that incursion into Ukraine by Russian troops is what would trigger further costs. But now we’re talking about these coordinated efforts in eastern Ukraine, troops on the border. So are these the type of things that would incur further costs, including sanctions? Or are we still sticking to it would require troops coming in?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s never been as black and white as you laid it out. Obviously, the Administration – including the President, Secretary Kerry, and senior officials – are evaluating day by day what steps – escalatory steps is really the broad definition – would prompt responsive actions. So you’re right, yes, there are some steps taken to date in response to the illegal actions Russia’s taken in Crimea. Obviously, the steps over the last 24-48 hours are incredibly concerning to the United States, and we’ll be looking closely at those as well.

QUESTION: But you’re at this point – if some of these riots in eastern Ukraine continue, are these the type of things that would incur further sanctions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any sanctions to announce, but I can convey to you that these are certainly escalatory steps. So we look at these steps and we take a look at these steps and discuss what steps we need to take.

QUESTION: Just to put a finer point on it, you said that the Secretary noted the comments of the Ukrainian Government about what Russia was doing to destabilize. Are you saying that because you – these do not appear to be spontaneous events, that Russia is, in fact, taking steps to foment this type of separatist activity?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there are – these groups – these individuals who went into these different areas were, of course, pro-Russia separatists. There’s strong evidence suggesting that some of them were paid and were not local residents. So all of that is – has raised significant concerns for us as well. But certainly, given this is in Ukraine, that’s why he noted the comments made by the Government of Ukraine.

QUESTION: What about reports that Russian troops are now moving into kind of – we thought maybe they had been repositioning, but now they do seem to be lining up against part of the eastern Ukraine border, and that this kind of fits into Putin’s playbook in terms of you see all this activity by pro-Russian separatists that are claiming persecution by Ukraine, that this would be an instance where he would go in to protect them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously we’re watching this very closely. And the Government of Ukraine has made comments to your point, which you may be referring to, about how this follows a similar pattern that we’ve seen in the past. And clearly, Russian forces – if Russian forces move into eastern Ukraine either overtly or covertly, this would be a very serious escalation. I don’t have anything to confirm for all of you in terms of movements or numbers. We still are in the same place of tens of thousands. But this is something, of course, we’re watching closely, and additional intervention would result in additional costs.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, overt or covert movement would be escalatory is what you said?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So what we’re seeing now is, in the view of the Administration, already in that phase of escalatory steps, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly the fact that we see pro-Russian separatists taking these actions in a range of cities over the weekend – that is, of course, concerning. In terms of the connection to troops and troop movements, I don’t have anything – any independent confirmation of what that will mean. But certainly we’re concerned about these steps.

QUESTION: When you say that the – some of these pro-Russian separatists indications that they were paid and not local – are you insinuating that they crossed the border from Russia? Are they in fact Russian, or have they been paid by Russia? I mean, can you put a finer —

MS. PSAKI: Look, I don’t have that level of detail, but let me share with you one anecdote that I think has been in Ukrainian media but is still relevant. Some of these officials, separatists, armed separatists went and claimed they were taking over the mayor’s building, and it was actually the opera house. So clearly when you don’t know which one the mayor’s building is, you’re probably not a local. But obviously, this is something we’re watching closely, and we’ve seen patterns in the past.

QUESTION: Leaving aside insinuations, do you have any evidence to suggest that the events that you say do not appear to be spontaneous have been brought about by Russian citizens?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details than what I’ve shared with you, Arshad. Obviously, this has just happened over the course of the last 24 hours. But clearly, we’ve seen a pattern over the last couple of months. These were pro-Russian separatists. We’ve expressed our concern directly, the Secretary has, and we’ll continue to monitor it closely.

QUESTION: And so we’re clear: The reference to additional consequences – is that meant to refer to all kinds of consequences, or solely or predominantly economic consequences?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know – and our position hasn’t changed, so thank you for your question on – our approach is focused on political and economic approaches, whether that’s boosting the Government of Ukraine or putting in place strong economic sanctions. So that hasn’t changed.

QUESTION: It’s not meant to suggest military consequences?

MS. PSAKI: It’s not meant to, no.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: I had a quick —

MS. PSAKI: Said.

QUESTION: — follow-up. So you are relying on the Ukrainian Government in terms of what is going on, or do you have any independent sources?

MS. PSAKI: Well, of course we remain very closely in touch with the Ukrainian Government, and that’s who we work closely with, and of course, they are on the ground, so their information is often very relevant and current.

QUESTION: Okay, so when the Secretary talks to Mr. Lavrov —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — does he tell him one, two, three, four, or does Mr. Lavrov in return say, look, the situation is not like this; this is what we have, this is not true, these are Russian – Ukrainian citizens and so on?

MS. PSAKI: Said, he told him exactly what I just conveyed to all of you, and you can certainly reach out to the Russians for any readout from their end.


QUESTION: I have a question about the talks you referenced happening in the next 10 days. Is that just going to be a bilateral U.S.-Russian meeting? Will the Ukrainians participate in that at all? Do you know?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, they would. They would be a part of it as well.

QUESTION: So it’s U.S.-Russia-Ukraine in that?



MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And what is the purpose or the intent? I mean, obviously de-escalation more broadly, but there had been the feeling that there was some diplomatic momentum. I mean, they just met face to face, Lavrov and Kerry, a few days ago. These kinds of actions on the ground seem to contradict that. This window of diplomacy is still wide open?

MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with that premise. I think clearly, when we have concerns about actions we express them. And we’ve taken very strong steps in response, as you’ve seen in the range of sanctions that we’ve taken in coordination with the international community. At the same time, we’ve consistently said that there’s always an off ramp, that we’re looking for a diplomatic approach, that Russia and Ukraine need to sit at the same table and discuss all of the myriad of issues that they’ve all raised. And so that would be the purpose of this, and we have a responsibility to continue to pursue that diplomatic path even when there are concerning steps that have been taken.

QUESTION: But the agreement to talk is not in and of itself an off ramp? The hope is that in the course of these meetings the Russians will change course?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. An off ramp requires specific actions by the Russians. It’s not just talking. But certainly talking with the Ukrainians as a part of mechanism of doing that would be a step that we think could be useful.

QUESTION: So if the Ukrainians are going to be there, can we assume that constitutional reform is going to be a large part of that conversation?

MS. PSAKI: They’re still working through, obviously, the agenda. I mean, it’s important to note that constitutional reform has been underway. It’s been something that the Ukrainians have strongly supported and they’ve been moving forward on. So – but I don’t to get too ahead of the process in terms of what will specifically be on the agenda, and we can keep talking about it day by day leading up to the meeting.


MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm?

QUESTION: Last week there were reports that the Russians pulled back a division. This information turned out to be wrong in terms of deescalation?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, we saw those reports, too. I don’t have any update on you for that – on that for you. Sorry, that was a tongue-twister. Do we have more on Ukraine? Ukraine?

QUESTION: No. Secretary Kerry – did Secretary Kerry talk to Minister Lavrov about Syria, about Geneva III this time?

MS. PSAKI: This meeting – this phone call, I should say, was really focused on Ukraine. But he – when he met with him last Monday – that was only a week ago – they did talk about Syria and did talk about the need to continue to move forward with the removal of chemical weapons, and the Secretary expressed his ongoing concerns about the brutality of the Assad regime. So they talked about that just a week ago.


QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Sorry. The opposition is – the Syrian opposition is —

MS. PSAKI: Can we just finish Ukraine and then we can go to you on Syria next? Do we have any Ukraine? Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wanted to clarify one last thing.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I’m sure you said this, but just all four parties to this four-way talk have agreed to do this? This – correct?

MS. PSAKI: Let me check on that for you.


MS. PSAKI: Obviously, it’s something that the Secretary has spoken with Foreign Minister Lavrov about it. I’m fairly certain he’s spoken with the Ukrainians about it. We’ve been communicating with them constantly. But in terms of whether all are confirmed, let me check on that and just make sure.

QUESTION: And Lavrov – the Russians will be there for sure?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.


QUESTION: Do you feel that the Russians —

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more —

QUESTION: It’s on Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: One moment, Said.


MS. PSAKI: Ukraine, in the back? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. First of all, my name is Barbara Plett Usher. I’m just introducing myself because I haven’t been here before.

MS. PSAKI: Hi Barbara.

QUESTION: And I’m filling in for Kim Ghattas.

MS. PSAKI: Welcome. I like the red blazer.

QUESTION: Oh, thank you. There have been some reported comments from the Russian foreign ministry in response to the activity of the past 24 hours, quoting Lavrov that the need is for federalization and that Ukraine needs international assistance to help carry out such constitutional reform. Does that reinforce your concerns about this being a harbinger of Russian intervention?

MS. PSAKI: Well, federalization is an issue that Foreign Minister Lavrov has consistently raised, whether it’s publicly or privately, so it’s not a new issue.

QUESTION: No, the international assistance for carrying out constitutional – that’s – I mean, that’s what he said just a few hours ago that to carry out this constitutional reform Ukraine would need international assistance, which then makes one wonder what sort of assistance the Russians have in mind.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, I’m not sure actually what that means. The constitutional reform process has been underway and the Ukrainian Government has been very supportive of it and they’ve been implementing it. So I’m not sure. I’d probably need a little more clarification on what they were referring to. In terms of their claims or their calls for federalization, this is an issue where we feel the Ukrainian Government, the legitimate Government of Ukraine needs to be at the table to discuss any issues, whether it’s autonomy or any way – any ways that the country would be governed moving forward. But I don’t have any clarity on what they mean by international assistance, so I can check with our team and see if they’ve heard that as well.

QUESTION: Do you feel that Mr. Lavrov seems to be receptive to all the meetings, but on the other hand Russia seems to be consolidating its position? Do you see like a duplicity there in their actions?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, look – obviously, there are steps that Russia has taken that have raised significant concerns, which is why we have taken our own responsive steps to their actions. So that hasn’t changed on our part either. But you can have processes happening at the same time, and that’s what we’re talking about here.

QUESTION: Just my point is the following: He goes to all of these meetings, he will go to this four-party meeting and so on, and in the meantime, the Russians seem to be consolidating their position. What is hoped to achieve through these meetings?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I mean, obviously, we’d like to see an end to this conflict, and we’ve put in place a range of sanctions. At the same time, while we’ve been having these conversations, those have had a significant impact, the World Bank has warned that Russia’s economy could shrink by 1.8 percent this year even without additional economic sanctions. The Russian currency has experienced sharp volatility between March 3rd and April 7th. The Central Bank of Russia spent $25.8 billion to prop up the ruble. All of these are specific impacts that we’re seeing in the Russian economy. And whether – regardless of what they say, there’s no question that that’s having a substantive impact.

Do we have more on Ukraine or —

QUESTION: Yeah. Can I just follow up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: We also saw reports over the weekend that some in key sectors of the Russian economy have taken steps to insulate themselves from transactions in foreign currencies like dollars and euros. But are you taking that as a sign that they’re somehow, like, hunkering down for a further round of sanctions that could be triggered by military action?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure why they’ve taken those specific steps and I don’t even have any confirmation of that. Obviously, we’ve been very clear that if they continue to take escalatory steps, then we are open to taking additional sanctions steps. And the executive order the President signed gives us broad authority and flexibility to sanction industries. And so again, I can’t calculate for you why they’re taking certain steps, but we haven’t made a secret about our willingness to take additional steps if they do.

More on Ukraine or Syria? You want to go to Syria?


MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Syrian opposition has received confirmations that Geneva III will be convening soon. Do you have anything on this?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what that would be referring to. Obviously, we’re in – remain in close touch with the opposition. Our new envoy, of course, was meeting with them over the course of the last two weeks. I think he’s back in Washington. We’re in close touch with the opposition. We’re in close touch with Joint Special Representative Brahimi, and of course, our European and international counterparts. But again, the Geneva conference has been on hiatus. I’ve not heard anything to indicate that that has changed.

QUESTION: And how do you think Geneva III will be different than Geneva II if it would be held soon?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, the purpose of this process, I should say, has been to convene the opposition and the regime to have a discussion about creating a transitional governing body. But again, I haven’t heard reports or details of what you’re referring to.

QUESTION: What are you doing in terms of certain opposition groups that you may be working with to counterbalance, apparently, the spread of extremism and so on, to the point where Russian President Putin said today that those who are trained in Syria can find their way to Russia? And he is expressing concerns that many of your allies are —

MS. PSAKI: Well —

QUESTION: — taking arms and —

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen his specific comments, Said, but I will say that we’ve expressed the same concerns about the growth of extremism. We’ve – that’s why we’ve taken several steps to make sure assistance is provided through the moderate opposition. So we also have concerns about the growth of extremists, and that’s something that the Secretary speaks about regularly with his allies around the world.

I will note – and I can’t imagine this is what you’re referring to, but just to be clear, the SOC General Assembly is going to be taking place in Turkey soon. I’m not sure if that’s —

QUESTION: It will be done today at the meeting.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, okay. So I don’t know if that would be confused with that, but again, as Joint Special Representative Brahimi has said, they had to go on hiatus because of a lack of progress, a lack of opening to moving things forward on the decided agenda. So there’s no news that I’ve heard to reconvene at this moment.

QUESTION: So Jen, would you say that Mr. Jarba remains your primary interlocutor?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of officials, Said, that we rely on as interlocutors, and obviously, when our new special envoy was there, he met with a range of officials as well, so —

QUESTION: Okay. Because there are reports that what they call the internal opposition, like Abdul Azim and others and so on, in the capital city of Damascus, that they are completely – you are not in touch with them in any capacity. Could you confirm or – that you are or you’re not?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think the fact that our new special envoy was just on the ground in Turkey meeting with a range of officials from the opposition speaks to that.

Do we have more on Syria?


MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Today in Israeli press, there were reports that there were two chemical weapon attacks in – around Damascus, in Harasta and eastern Ghouta. That happened two weeks ago. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve certainly seen those reports. We’re not in a position to confirm or corroborate those reports, and we take every allegation or report seriously, and we’ll certainly look into it.

QUESTION: I’m just curious, if these allegations were to be true, was the redline or is the redline still there? I mean, would this trigger any kind of military —

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I’m not going to speculate on that, because we don’t have any information to corroborate the reports.

QUESTION: Today, or yesterday, there was an article written by Seymour Hersh, and one of the main allegations in the piece that Turkey – Turkish intelligence was behind of the 21st August of chemical attacks in Damascus. Do you have any comment on that? White House already denied that.

MS. PSAKI: I know they did, and I would just echo what they said. We stand by our own reports, our own intel gathering, the view of the international community that was widespread that this is – there’s no question that this was – these attacks last August 21st were done by the Syrian regime.

QUESTION: Israeli-Palestinian?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: One more on Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Any reaction to the assassination of Father Francis Van Der Lugt in Homs today?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I do have that. One moment. We are saddened by the news that Father Francis Van Der Lugt has been killed by a gunman in Homs. We condemn this violent attack and all attacks against innocent civilians and minority communities. As we have said throughout this conflict, we deplore continued threats against Christians in Syria, and we reiterate that we stand on the side of the Syrian people, who are fighting for a Syria that is inclusive and pluralistic and respects all faiths. We commend Father Van Der Lugt for his support of the Syrian people and the Christian community throughout his life, and especially in the past three years of conflict. And for example, he repeatedly advocated for the people of Homs when they were being starved by the regime, and worked to mitigate the immense suffering in the city.

Middle East peace?

QUESTION: Yeah. So this morning in your statement you said that last night’s three-way meeting was serious and constructive.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.


MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to outline it further, but that was the evaluation of the parties and by our facilitators who participated in the meeting. They also agreed to reconvene today. So they’ll be reconvening today to continue this effort and these discussions.

QUESTION: Has that happened yet, the reconvening?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check with our team. Obviously, there’s a time change issue, so I would suspect it’s happening soon, if not already.

QUESTION: And that will be Ambassador Indyk, plus the lead negotiator Tzipi Livni and Erekat?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are there now any plans for Ambassador Indyk to return to the United States for consultations or to do briefings?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we have discussions. The Secretary has discussions with Ambassador Indyk and with the parties every single day and evaluates what is most useful and productive. At this point, he’ll still be in the region and we’ll make a decision day by day.

QUESTION: And are you giving any thought – this is something that came up last week – to mitigating the potential negative consequences of a collapse in the talks? When you’re reevaluating, as the Secretary said on Friday —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — are you looking at what you could, would, should perhaps do if your reevaluation comes to the conclusion that this is not a fruitful course to pursue?

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity do you mean?

QUESTION: Well, there are a lot of potential negative costs from a collapse in the negotiations, right? I mean, 2014 is real different from 2000, but there was a significant eruption of violence. The main negotiating partner is the Palestinian Authority, which really only controls to some degree the West Bank, but not Gaza. So there are potential negative consequences if Hamas decides to up its rocket attacks or other things. There – it would strike me that if you’re reevaluating, you’re probably thinking about what you can do to try to tamp down the effects of a collapse. But perhaps you’re not, which is why I’m asking the question.

MS. PSAKI: Well, our focus at this point, Arshad, is really on evaluating where we are and where we might go and what’s possible in that capacity. So of course, as we’ve said many times, it’s up to the parties and they need to determine whether they’re going to take steps that will allow this process to continue, so that’s really the focus of our discussions.

QUESTION: So you’re not at a point where looking at negative consequences to their collapse is something that’s high on your agenda?

MS. PSAKI: We’re focused on determining whether these – the process can move forward.

QUESTION: Are you convinced that the parties are not just kind of running out the clock and allowing – committing to talking through the end of the month, through the deadline, but not really engaging meaningfully to make progress? I mean, there have been some comments by officials on both sides saying, well, we’ve committed to the end of the month, but after that we’re free to do whatever we want.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So I mean, is – are you still at the point where you think you might be able to get some kind of extension or some kind of, if not framework agreement, then some agreement which can keep this going, or are they just kind of humoring you at this point?

MS. PSAKI: Look, the talks are ongoing. The parties have indicated themselves – the negotiators, I should say, have indicated themselves that they want them to continue. Obviously, that needs to be an agreement that the parties make, and we can’t make those decisions for them. So – because I would point you to the public statements of a number of the actual negotiators. There are certainly people on both sides who don’t support a peace effort and have never supported a peace effort. But those who have been closely engaged have not indicated to us that they want to end this process or end the negotiation, and they’ve spent several hours together over the past several days, so that’s an indication of their seriousness.

QUESTION: Jen, those who are negotiating with one another are basically at each other’s throats. I mean, Livni and Saeb Erekat are calling each other names and so on and threatening each other. So – and in fact, in response to your statement today, the Palestinians denied that it was constructive and – or serious, as you said, because it seemed that everybody was sort of entrenched in their own position.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, these are tough issues and there are tough decisions that need to be made. And again, it’s up to the parties to decide whether they want to make them. So obviously, our view is that there are many positive benefits of moving forward, continuing to move forward on a peace process, and we’re pursuing that now. But it’s going to be up to the parties to take the steps that are necessary.

QUESTION: So would you say that we are getting to a point where you’re going to say we are – we cannot want it more than the parties do. Are we at that point yet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I would point you to what the Secretary said on Friday. We have a big agenda, whether that’s addressing the events in Ukraine, or the ongoing process with Iran and the P5+1, or the crisis in Syria, and I could go on and on. And certainly, we see incredible benefits of a positive outcome of a peace process, but the parties have to want to pursue that. They have to want to take the necessary steps and that’s what we’re discussing with them now.

QUESTION: And my last question: Tomorrow, the Israel foreign minister Mr. Lieberman will be in town visiting. Do you expect, like, a Palestinian counterpart to come also and meet with you anytime soon?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Foreign Minister Lieberman is the Secretary’s counterpart, as you know. So he’ll be here tomorrow, as you mentioned. I don’t have any meetings with the Palestinians to announce for you at this point.

Any – oh. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Has the Secretary discussed the peace process with the President since he came back?

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary is still in Boston, so he has been certainly in touch with the White House over the weekend and has been working closely, as we have at every point in this process. But he’s been in Boston since we ended the trip on Friday.

QUESTION: Is he planning to go back to the region, or he’s done?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any plans to announce for you at this point. We’ll certainly evaluate day by day.

QUESTION: Can we go back to that question? You said he’s been in touch with the White House, but has he talked to the President about this?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to confirm details of who he’s talked to. I can just convey that he’s communicated with the national security team, and there’s a range of officials involved in that, and I expect that will continue and has been the case for months through the course of this process.

QUESTION: Someone —

QUESTION: We’re still looking at an April 29th deadline for this process, correct?

MS. PSAKI: That hasn’t changed. Obviously, we’re discussing with the parties what’s possible at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. And you saw —

QUESTION: Possible about – sorry. Possible about an extension, you mean?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s been part of the discussion, but obviously there are a range of issues that are being discussed now, so —

QUESTION: And you saw the news out of Ramallah today, I’m sure, with one of the negotiators saying that he was preparing more steps – signing more treaties toward statehood?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How does the U.S. square those actions against the negotiator saying that they want to continue these talks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, both parties have taken unhelpful steps. There’s no question about that. And there are a range of politics that are at play here as well. But both parties have also indicated that they want to see if there’s a path forward, so that’s what we’re discussing. Certainly, things have been challenging over the past several days, but we’re going to continue to discuss with the parties as long as we feel that they are interested in pursuing a path forward.

QUESTION: But how can they – how can they be – either side really – be taken credibly in saying they want to continue the talks or they’re interested in a path forward when both sides have taken these unhelpful steps?

MS. PSAKI: Well, both sides have taken unhelpful steps, yes. And both sides have indicated they don’t want to end the conversation. So all of these issues are being discussed in the meetings.

QUESTION: But I mean – but just to follow up on Lara’s point —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — it’s one thing to sit in a room and say you want to continue talking.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It’s another totally different thing, as you’ve said all along —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — that actions speak louder than words, and their actions are certainly not creating a climate that’s inducive to either (a) these talks to continue and (b) making progress on the talks.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think both parties – it’s been them. They need to determine whether they both want to pursue a longer-term path forward. So yes, there were actions that were announced last week that were unhelpful. Some of them are being implemented now. But again, both parties are meeting again this evening, and we’ll see where we land.

QUESTION: The Secretary said last week we’re not going to sit here indefinitely, like he’s not gonna continue to put all his effort in if the parties are going to continue to take steps that are antithetical to wanting to produce an agreement. So what – at what point do you take them not at their word or the fact that they’re sitting in a room with you, and you take them on their actions, which are clearly, as you say, unhelpful?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And at what point does that end? Do you just say you can’t do both, it’s either one or the other?

MS. PSAKI: Well, those are conversations we’re having with the parties, so I have nothing more to lay out for you in terms of what the details of that is. But we’re continuing to convey with them – to communicate with them about the process moving forward. And as the Secretary said, we’re not in this forever, but we certainly see a positive benefit of continuing the process if we think we have viable partners.

QUESTION: But the bottom line is they won’t be able to do both forever, right? I mean, they’re going to have to decide one avenue of action or the other. They can’t —

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, the parties would need to determine how – what the conditions would be for moving the process forward.

QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to get you to comment on an idea that is being floated around town. It’s called 431 and it’s the 30 prisoners that were supposed to be released on the 29th plus an additional 400 Palestinian prisoners that is recent, plus Jonathan Pollard. Could you comment on this idea?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak to that, Said, no.


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Are there immediate or measurable consequences for the expiration of the talks on the 29th? Like in other words, is there any tie to aid, any tie of sweeteners, things that change the climate beyond, of course, not having peace?

MS. PSAKI: From the United States standpoint?

QUESTION: From the United States.

MS. PSAKI: No, not that I’m aware of. No.

QUESTION: So none of the incentives or anything that was laid out at the start of the talks will fall away?

MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?

QUESTION: There were a number of goals beyond peace, things that were —

MS. PSAKI: Working with the Palestinian economy?

QUESTION: — supposed to helpful to economic development – exactly – other things that —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, a lot of those steps were tied to a final status agreement in terms of their ability to be successful. So I can’t do an evaluation case by case. Obviously, we still want the Palestinian economy to be successful. I’m not going to get ahead of where we are because we’re working to see what the path forward is. But a lot of – some of those steps would be contingent upon a successful peace agreement where two parties are living side by side.


QUESTION: But some of those – I’m using the term “sweeteners” because I don’t really know what else to call them – incentives.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Weren’t they tied to the fourth stage of prisoner release and things like that? I mean, there were actions met by incentives —

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’re referring to specifically.

QUESTION: It wasn’t just final status, as in like peace for all eternity. It was sort of like if we get this far, there’s a reason to keep continuing to go forward, and that there might or might not be something on the table before April 29th that would keep people in the room and negotiating?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that was always going to be some steps that the parties were going to take that would create a condition and a climate for moving the peace process forward, whether that was a framework or whether that was an extension with certain conditions. But beyond that, I’m not sure what you’re referring to in terms of U.S. sweeteners.

QUESTION: So there’s no aid that no longer becomes accessible for the Israelis and the Palestinians on – by April 29th?

MS. PSAKI: No, we provide – obviously, Israel – having a secure Israel is hugely important to the United States strategically. We provide, of course, aid to the Palestinian Authority as well. Beyond that, I’m not going to speculate on what may or may not happen given our focus is on seeing if there’s a process forward.

QUESTION: Jen, during his hearing tomorrow, I guess – it is tomorrow?

MS. PSAKI: The Secretary’s hearing?

QUESTION: The Secretary’s on the Hill?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. And he will be meeting with Congresswoman Kay Granger, the chairman – chairwoman of the Appropriations Committee. Will he advise —

MS. PSAKI: She’ll be in the hearing, I suspect.


MS. PSAKI: She’ll be in the hearing, you mean? She’ll be attending the hearing?

QUESTION: I guess he’s – isn’t he meeting with them? I mean – okay, let me ask you the question: Will he raise or will he advise against cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve never advised to, so I’m – again, I’ll leave it to what the steps – what questions are raised tomorrow, and I’m not going to get ahead of that process.

Do we have more on the peace process?


MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: What would the U.S. role be in the upcoming days till the end of April?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Ambassador Indyk is on the ground. The parties have agreed to reconvene today, so that will be happening shortly if it’s not already happening, and we’ll continue to be in close touch with both the parties, the leaders, as well as the negotiators on the ground, and we’ll evaluate what the appropriate role is to play.

QUESTION: And one more: How does the Secretary feel about the process after months of meetings and travels, and negotiations are collapsing now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, the negotiations, the talks are ongoing. Certainly, there have been unhelpful steps taken over the past week, but we remain engaged with the parties. The Secretary is clear-eyed and focused on the path ahead and he remains in close touch with the parties, with the negotiators, with our interagency here, and we’ll make a determination about what can happen moving forward.

QUESTION: Does he consider what happened last week a personal setback?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly not. It’s never been about the Secretary. It’s been about the future of the Israeli and Palestinian people, and that’s what he’s always felt and why he remains committed to seeing if there’s a path forward.

QUESTION: Does he need to see a certain amount of progress or any – are there any benchmarks that would prompt his return, or is there something he wants to see before he wants to go back yet again?

MS. PSAKI: I mean, nothing that I’m going to outline here. Obviously, part of it is discussing with Ambassador Indyk, with the negotiators, with the parties, and seeing what would be most useful moving forward.

QUESTION: Do you think – because the Secretary has traveled there so much – that perhaps, like, the parties have gotten so used to him going that it doesn’t give them – because they know that he’ll keep returning and stuff, it doesn’t kind of give them the incentive to work hard enough to try and reach a deal, that they know that he’ll always be back? I mean, is there —

MS. PSAKI: Well, it has —

QUESTION: — a strategy now to kind of hold back his —

MS. PSAKI: He’s only been there – he’s only —

QUESTION: — the prestige of – he’s been there, what, like about 14 times since (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Once in the last three months, though, and —

QUESTION: Is that a conscious choice to kind of not —

MS. PSAKI: Well, it was the stage in the process we were in, and he’s been very engaged over phone, over videoconference with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, and he’ll make an evaluation, we’ll all make an evaluation together with the negotiating team on whether it makes sense for him to return to the region.

QUESTION: Did he receive an apology from the Israeli defense minister?

MS. PSAKI: Did he?

QUESTION: Yeah, receive any apology?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that. That seems like it’s very old at this point, but —

QUESTION: One last question —

QUESTION: You forgot about it? That means you forgot about —

MS. PSAKI: No, I don’t have any update for you on that.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you whether you feel that perhaps, like Lara was – or Elise was saying, that both sides, in essence, take it for granted and they’re just running out the clock? I mean, they don’t want to get on your bad side, so they keep meeting with each other, and then when the time comes, it’s over.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, look, I think there are a lot of discussions that happen behind the scenes that we’re not going to talk about publicly, and that will continue. We’ll make an evaluation as to what our level of engagement should be moving forward, but I don’t have anything to lay out for you today.

QUESTION: Will you take them to the woodshed at one point?

MS. PSAKI: To the what?

QUESTION: I mean, will you sort of chastise —

MS. PSAKI: To the orchard?

QUESTION: Woodshed, I said.

MS. PSAKI: Woodshed. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Woodshed, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I thought he said the orchard. I don’t know. That would be odd. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I mean, it’s an old term. I mean, would you chastise them or – publicly at one point?

MS. PSAKI: Look, this is not about blame. This has been about what’s in the best interests of the Israeli and Palestinian people, and that’s why we’ve been hopeful about both parties making tough choices. So we’ll keep working on it day to day.

Any more on this topic, or – Middle East peace?


MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: As the 29 approaching, do you or – do you intend to convey a message to the party like, hey guys, we’re here now, we did our best, if you need us you know our number – as Jim Baker said one time, you can call us? Are you going this way?

MS. PSAKI: I’m familiar with that anecdote, but look, I would point you to what the Secretary said on Friday. I think he was pretty clear. We remain engaged with the parties every single day. Our negotiators are on the ground. But beyond that, I don’t have any predictions for you.

QUESTION: After 29, even after 29?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t have any predictions for you.

QUESTION: If I – can we move on?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Or do we have any more on Middle East peace? No? Okay, go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I want to ask you, on Secretary Kerry’s upcoming visit to Azerbaijan and Georgia, what can you tell us? When is it happening?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any trip or schedule to announce for you, so I’m not aware that that trip has been planned in any capacity.

QUESTION: It’s been announced in Azerbaijan by U.S. Ambassador Morningstar that Secretary Kerry will be traveling to Azerbaijan and Georgia. (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m sure he would like to go, but I don’t have any details for you on when or if that trip will happen.

QUESTION: But it will – he will be traveling just to Azerbaijan and Georgia, but not Armenia?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details about any trip to Azerbaijan or Georgia to outline for you.

QUESTION: All right, but is it happening – is it something that’s been planned, or is it happening because of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. Again, there’s many places that he would like to visit, including Azerbaijan and Georgia, but I don’t have any details or trip plans to announce for all of you.


MS. PSAKI: Turkey, okay.

QUESTION: It has been over a week that local elections conducted in Turkey. Is there any way you can tell us that – whether you find the elections done in a transparent and fair and free conditions, circumstances?

MS. PSAKI: I’m certainly aware, we are certainly aware, of the elections that have taken place. I don’t have any particular analysis for you about the outcome of the elections.


QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the Afghanistan election?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary provided – put out a statement over the weekend, so I’d point you to that.

QUESTION: I have just one more question on Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the Twitter ban was lifted by the Constitutional Court, and today a deputy prime minister said that the decision was wrong by the Constitutional Court and it was supposed to respect other local Turkish courts’ decisions about the privacy and individual rights. I was wondering whether you think the Constitutional Court didn’t respect the privacy and —

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to engage in Turkish politics, but I will say we welcome, of course, the recent Constitutional Court decision in support of freedom of expression in Turkey. We note the Turkish Government implemented the ruling to unblock Twitter yesterday. We are also following the Ankara court’s decision that the government should unblock access to YouTube, and we continue to urge the Turkish Government to ensure all open access to all social media.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Licenses to Boeing and GE to sell engines and things to Iran – are those the types of deals that you envisioned when the agreement went into effect in January?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’re referring to.

QUESTION: The – on Friday, I guess, it was announced by Treasury that they had granted these licenses to GE and to Boeing. Is that the – are those the types of economic things that the State Department would consider a good thing? Boeing makes a sale; Iranian plane travelers are safer. Is that the type of thing that you envisioned?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any particular comment on this. Obviously, we work closely with the Treasury Department, but I would point you to them for any analysis.

QUESTION: It was specifically contemplated in the Joint Plan of Action —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — the sale of spare parts and other aircraft materials. So —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — it was there from the beginning.

MS. PSAKI: So there you go.

QUESTION: Isn’t it something that State should crow about, though? It’s a deal for American companies. It’s safer train – or plane travelers and —

MS. PSAKI: I’ll see if there’s anything else we’d like to provide.


MS. PSAKI: Okay? Scott.


MS. PSAKI: Okay, Iran. Go ahead. And then we’ll go to Scott.

QUESTION: Any update on Vienna negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that an extensive background briefing was done in advance of the trip, so I would point you to that, which I believe we sent out. Broadly, let me just give you a few logistical updates.

There is an internal P5+1 meeting tonight. Foreign Minister Zarif and EU High Representative Ashton have their typical dinner that they do around every set of meetings. There will be plenary sessions tomorrow. As was stated in the briefing but let me reiterate, we are certainly clear-eyed about the challenges ahead and determined to keep making progress on different issues. As you all know, the experts have been meeting over recent weeks in Vienna, and we know we’re starting – we know where we can see points of agreement and we know where gaps have to be bridged. So our team will be on the ground for the next couple of days, and I expect they’ll do another briefing as it concludes.

QUESTION: Are you satisfied so far?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve spoken to – and not just us but others have spoken to the fact that Iran has abided by the JPOA. Obviously, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. Our technical experts and our negotiating team are on the ground doing that.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: On Cyprus.

MS. PSAKI: Cyprus. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Greek Cypriot negotiator was in town last week. Do you have a readout of his meetings at the State Department?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I believe I do. Deputy Secretary Burns met with Greek Cypriot negotiator Andreas Mavroyiannis on April 3rd to discuss Cyprus settlement efforts. The meeting is part of periodic consultations the Department conducts with all parties involved in the Cyprus talks. We reaffirm our full support for the Cypriot-led process under the auspices of the United Nations Good Offices Mission to reach a comprehensive statement. We continue to urge both sides to make real and substantial progress toward reunifying the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation.

QUESTION: Do you believe both sides are showing the flexibility that’s necessary to move the process forward?

MS. PSAKI: We do. We’ve met with both parties. We’re continuing to urge both parties to seize the timely opportunity to make real and substantial progress. And this is, again, an ongoing process.


QUESTION: On the same issue?

MS. PSAKI: Same issue. Okay.

QUESTION: The last week the Secretary met with the foreign minister of Turkey, as you know.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You were there. They discussed Cyprus, according to the Turkish foreign minister. Can you give us a readout of this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: I really don’t have any additional readout. Obviously, it’s an issue that’s on the Secretary’s mind and on the foreign minister’s mind, and certainly they discussed ongoing efforts.

QUESTION: And I think also Eric Rubin, assistant secretary, is going to go to the region next week. Do you have any readout on —

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check on that. He’s going to where? He’s going to Cyprus?

QUESTION: I believe so, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, let me check on that. I’m seeing a nod behind you, so I’ll take that as a likely yes. But we can get that around. There’s a lot of phone-a-friends going on here today. It’s good.

Go ahead, Scott.

QUESTION: The Secretary meets with the South Sudanese foreign minister this week. While you were traveling, there was an announcement of sanctions in South Sudan. Have there been any individuals associated with those sanctions, and is the message – that part of the message to the South Sudanese foreign minister this week?

MS. PSAKI: I’m certain that will be part of the discussion. I’m not aware of individuals tied to it but – yet. But let me talk to our team and see if there’s an update. I know that was last week, if I remember correctly.

Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: And I apologize if you were asked this while I was not around.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have you been asked about the BJP’s political platform?

MS. PSAKI: I have not been.

QUESTION: Okay. So as you I’m sure know, the BJP Party in India in its political platform says that they’re going to study, revise, and update their nuclear policy. I realize that’s an internal political document by one party in an election, but it’s a comment that also raises questions about whether they may abandon their no-first-use policy on nuclear weapons should they come to power. Does the U.S. Government believe that it is better for the Government of India to maintain its current no-first-use pledge on nuclear weapons?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our position on this hasn’t changed. We, of course, as you laid out there for us, are not going to comment on a platform of a party running for office on ongoing elections. But nothing has changed about our view.

QUESTION: And – but is it indeed your view that you think it’s better for the Indian Government to have a no-first-use policy?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more specific for you, Arshad. I can check with our team and see if there’s more we want to lay out on this.

QUESTION: Can you tell us one more time what’s your view on this?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to outline it further. Obviously, these are discussions we have with the Indian Government. I will check and see if there’s more our team would like to say.

QUESTION: Also on India?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I understand that Representative Peter King and Chuck Schumer both reached out to the Secretary about the arrest of a New York police – off-duty police officer who had some stray bullets. And I know you last week have acknowledged the arrest, but now the NYPD says it’s working with the State Department. And if you can bring us up to date on —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have much more to offer you. We don’t have a Privacy Act waiver. We are aware, of course, of reports of the citizen you mentioned who has been arrested in New Delhi, India. We take our obligations, of course, to assist U.S. citizens overseas very seriously, but we don’t have any other additional update at this point.

QUESTION: When – but you confirmed the arrest of a citizen last week and now you’re saying – are you saying that that citizen is one and the same of the citizen that was arrested? And can you confirm that Representative King, who has published the letter, that you’ve received the letter?

MS. PSAKI: I can check on the letter. I didn’t receive an update on that internally. I know we were looking into it. But beyond that, I just don’t have any more updates for all of you since last week.

QUESTION: Do you agree with the assessment of Congressman King that arrest of this particular New York police official was in retaliation of the arrest of Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I’m not going to speculate on it, given I can’t even speak to the identity of the individual.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) telling you the same thing.

MS. PSAKI: Understood. I can’t speak to the identity of the individual, so I’m not going to speculate on that.


QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: On Cuba, the USAID program to create a Twitter feed for Cubans, it was said last week that the program was not covert or classified.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you know if any parts of it were classified that would require members of Congress to be briefed in a SCIF about it?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of it being classified in any capacity, but I’m happy to check with our team and see. Obviously, there were briefings, as Marie mentioned, with Congress that were offered.

QUESTION: Okay. And on those briefings – I would appreciate if you could take it.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: But on those briefings, I think the White House said that this was – the program was fully debated by Congress. It was said last week that briefings were offered to members of Congress —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — two different things. I think it was said last week at this podium that if members of Congress didn’t take advantage of the briefing, then hey, that’s not anything you all can do about it.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But the White House indicated that everybody was briefed on it. So do you know which it is?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure there’s a difference. I mean, it’s rare that any briefing everybody participates in, right? So I’m not sure. I would ask, of course, my former colleagues if they meant every person attended and they checked the box on attendance. I think they meant the same thing we did over here, which was that briefings were offered to a broad array of members, and obviously, all of them rarely participate in every briefing offered.

QUESTION: Or debated? I mean, I think the words Carney used were “fully debated in Congress.” I mean, what does that mean to you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I know this was discussed. I don’t have any other detail, really, for you. I would also point you to USAID posted a blog post that just went up, I think, right before we came out here, so – that goes through point by point. That may be useful to some of you who are following this story.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can we go back to India for a minute?

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

QUESTION: I know several State Department officials have met senior BJP leaders in the last six months. Was this issue of nuclear policy that BJP is putting up in its platform right now was discussed with them? Ambassador met – Deputy Secretary Burns met with BJP president —

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more details about those meetings. Obviously, we meet with a range of officials. That should come as no surprise. That’s part of the job of any diplomat. But I don’t have any more details about —

QUESTION: But you always discuss issues with them. Was this an issue when you discussed —

MS. PSAKI: Again, I don’t have any more details for you.

QUESTION: Can you check out?

MS. PSAKI: I will, but I will probably have nothing to offer you, so I will leave you with that expectation.

Let’s go to the back to Scott. Go ahead, Scott.

QUESTION: In Nigeria, there are members of the military who have come forward with evidence that the Nigerian military itself is coordinating attacks with Boko Haram.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is the United States aware of these reports? Does the United States have any independent analysis of collusion between the Nigerian military and Boko Haram? How does that affect your helping the Nigerian military with what you thought was a fight against Boko Haram?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me check, Scott, with our team. I haven’t had a chance to talk with them about this issue this morning – or this afternoon.

QUESTION: I have a quick one on Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: You started at the very top. How did you make your displeasure known about – to the Egyptians about Mohammed Adel and Ahmed Maher? Did you – did anyone speak with anyone there, or just that they —

MS. PSAKI: We have an expansive team on the ground —


MS. PSAKI: — so they certainly make their – our concerns known when that is relevant.

QUESTION: Same topic, sort of?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Today is 100 days since the Al Jazeera English journalists —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — have been in captivity. I’m just wondering if you guys are —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — in touch at all with the Egyptians on that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are, of course, watching closely the trial and continue to convey our deep concerns directly to the Government of Egypt. We urge the government to drop these charges and release these journalists who have been detained. We remain deeply concerned about the restrictions of freedom of expression in Egypt, including the targeting of Egyptian and foreign journalists simply for expressing their views. Journalists, regardless of affiliation, should be protected and permitted to do their jobs free from intimidation or fear of retribution. Egypt’s constitution upholds these basic rights and freedoms, and Egypt’s interim government has a responsibility to ensure that they are protected.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

QUESTION: One more on the Egypt thing.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Had you – I know you had previously urged the Egyptian authorities to reconsider the sentences on those three.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Had you previously urged them to commute them?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that, Arshad, and see what language we’d used previously.

QUESTION: Because the – I mean, I can check too, but the reason I ask is I think there’s one more legal appeal that is still possible.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

QUESTION: And if you didn’t ask them to commute it before, it suggests you’ve just given up on the legal process entirely, or on the court process.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Let me check with our team and see on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Oh, actually, can I ask about North Korea —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There was a trilat.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, there was.

QUESTION: So I was just wondering if, during this meeting, the issue of a UN inquiry that concluded that North Korea had committed crimes against humanity, did that come up?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the trilat was happening this afternoon, and there were going to be follow-up meetings with Glyn Davies immediately following it, so we’re planning to release a readout later this afternoon that will have more details. But it didn’t start until after I was coming down here.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:38 p.m.)

Source: state.gov



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