Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–December 16, 2014.
1:28 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
MS. PSAKI: Thanks for everybody bearing with us yesterday during our technical difficulties. I have two items at the top.
The Secretary is in London today. He met with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, Arab League Secretary General Elaraby, and members of the Arab League committee, and is meeting right now with Quartet Representative Blair.
On Sunday in Rome, just since we didn’t have an opportunity to chat yesterday, the Secretary met with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and yesterday he met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Last night in Paris, Secretary Kerry met with the E3 – EU3 ministers, German Foreign Minister Steinmeier, British Foreign Secretary Hammond, and French Foreign Minister Fabius to discuss a range of issues, including the situation in the Middle East and discussions about possible action at the UN.
As you all saw this morning, he did a press conference from London, where he addressed those meetings as well.
The second item is Secretary Kerry spoke this morning with Australian Foreign Minister Bishop to express condolences to the families of those who were killed in yesterday’s hostage situation in Sydney. The Secretary also commended the New South Wales police and the other emergency personnel who responded to the crisis and offered Australian authorities any and all assistance necessary as they continue their investigation.
With that —
QUESTION: Right. Excuse me. Let’s start with – I want to start with some legislation that has passed the Hill, not Russia. I know that your colleague at the White House spent quite a bit of time on that, on the sanctions issue. But I want to ask you about this Egypt issue.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does the Administration, does the State Department support this legislation, which would give you the ability to send if not lawyers, certainly guns and money to Egypt without a human rights certification?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are studying the implications of the 2015 appropriations bill. Generally speaking, we welcome the flexibility that the bill provides to further our strategic relationship with Egypt and our national security interests. That said, there has been no policy decision with regards to our assistance program, which remains under review. And our concerns about Egypt’s human rights record, which we speak about frequently, that has not changed.
QUESTION: So you welcome the flexibility to be able to give them the aid, but you’re not sure that you’re going to use that flexibility. Is that —
MS. PSAKI: We haven’t made a decision, a policy decision, with regards to using this – the flexibility that’s provided in the bill.
QUESTION: Well, okay. When was the last time you had such flexibility that you didn’t use it? Are you aware of any cases where —
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, again, this is – this gives us flexibility. We haven’t made a decision about whether we’re going to use it. So our policy at this point has not changed.
QUESTION: Okay. But so you do support it, you support the idea of having it?
MS. PSAKI: We support the idea of having the flexibility, but we haven’t made a decision to use it yet.
QUESTION: Okay. When must such – at least for the money that is still being held up because of no certifications, when does that money have to be spent?
MS. PSAKI: If there’s a timeline for it, or when does it need to be spent by?
MS. PSAKI: Let me check that for you. That’s a good question.
QUESTION: And how much is it that’s still on hold?
MS. PSAKI: I believe it’s about 1.3, but I can check that for specific —
QUESTION: It’s on hold?
MS. PSAKI: Yeah. I’ll check that as well. Do we have any more on Egypt? Okay. New topic? No questions? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You wanted to talk about Ukraine and Russia?
QUESTION: You can go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. So could you bring some clarification – maybe it’s very clear, but I didn’t understand. Your colleague at the White House just said that the President intends to sign the Congress bill on the – to tighten sanctions against Russia. And on the other hand, Secretary Kerry in London said that the sanction could be lifted very quickly; it’s on the President Putin choice. And he had some very pleasing comments, saying that in the last days Russia has taken some very constructive moves. So is there a contradiction between what your colleague at the White House said and what the Secretary said?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe so, but let me see if I can try to answer all of your questions here. And I’m sure if I don’t get to one, you’ll let me know.
So as my colleague at the White House announced, the President intends to sign the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, despite having significant concerns. We have – the Administration has worked together closely with allies and partners in Europe and internationally to build a broad coalition of countries to impose sanctions, as you all know because we talk about it frequently in here, that impose real costs on Russia for its aggressive actions in Ukraine. And we have sent an unmistakable signal condemning Russia’s actions while mitigating the spillover impact on American businesses, international energy markets, and the global economy. While this legislation appropriately preserves the flexibility of time and calibrates sanctions with our international partners, it does not – it does send a confusing message to our allies by appearing to move for new sanctions outside of our close consultations with them.
And so we certainly acknowledge that, and I think that’s why my colleague referenced the fact that the President has concerns about it. But obviously, the decision was made. The legislation provides the President to waive the sanctions provisions as appropriate and when determined to be in the national security interest of the United States. So it provides that flexibility as well. So I don’t believe it’s changed our policy in that regard.
It also still remains the case that Russia has a choice to make, and the Secretary talked about this today. While certainly we’ve talked a bit in the last couple of weeks about actions they’ve taken, including humanitarian convoys moving across the border, Russian assistance moving across the border, and that is concerning to us, they have an off-ramp and they’ve long had an off-ramp. If they choose to implement the Minsk protocols, then certainly there’s an opportunity to change the course of the sanctions that we’ve put in place.
I think the third question you asked was about the Secretary’s comments, so let me work to address those as well. As you have seen over the course of the last couple of days, while we still have remaining concerns, we would also welcome reports that violence has decreased markedly over the last few days in eastern Ukraine. This is a positive step and an opportunity to advance the prospects for a lasting political solution. But I don’t want to overstate that, nor do we, and that’s one of the reasons why he also reiterated ongoing concerns we have.
We understand there are – discussions are ongoing for – to set the next date for formal talks of the trilateral Contact Group. We certainly support that. We’re also concerned about reports from the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission about violence and threats being perpetrated against OSCE monitors by the Russian-backed separatists. And again, Russia has a choice. There are specific steps they can take to implement the Minsk protocols. They can do that. That’s in their power. And if they do that, obviously that will have an impact on the actions we take.
Did I address all of your questions, or tried to?
QUESTION: Yes, and more than that. But —
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Sorry. That was a long answer. Keep going.
QUESTION: No. But still, I mean, don’t you see any contradiction between the White House, I mean, saying that the President is ready to impose new sanctions, and on the other hand the Secretary of State having some very optimistic comments about Russia’s behavior?
MS. PSAKI: No, because there have been some positive steps – but I don’t want to overstate that – in the last couple of days as it relates to a decrease in violence. They both feel that there are steps that Russia has not taken, they need to take. There are ongoing aggressive actions as it relates to Russia’s incursion into Ukraine that need to change in order for our approach to sanctions to change.
QUESTION: So does that mean then that even though he’s going to sign the law, the bill, the Administration does not intend to enact sanctions outside of the consultative process that you’re – you have been doing with the Europeans?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s been an important component, as you know, from the beginning of the process. And I’m not going to predict what we’ll do in the future. It gives the ability to do that. But I don’t have anything more to lay out for you in the future.
QUESTION: Well, you said that – and your – you and your colleague at the White House both said that it sends a confusing message.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Well, so why would the President send a confusing message?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the legislation also provides – because he weighed the pros and cons of the legislation and weighed – the pros outweighed the cons. And that’s sometimes what happens with legislation.
QUESTION: What’s the – what are the pros?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we are strong supporters, as you know, of Ukraine and the future of Ukraine, the sovereignty of Ukraine, and sending a strong message that we want to see them succeed. But there are certain components of it that the reason we’ve spoken out specifically about them is to be clear about where we have concerns and send that message to the international community.
QUESTION: In other words, even though he’s going to sign it, the Administration has no plan to go ahead and actually impose the sanctions that are – that this legislation —
MS. PSAKI: Well, I noted for a reason that the legislation provides the President the ability to waive the sanctions provisions as appropriate. But it also gives the ability to move forward if you want to.
QUESTION: Right, so – but you’re going to waive them —
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make a prediction.
QUESTION: — just like you’re going to waive the human rights concerns for Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make a prediction of that, Matt. Obviously, legislation provides a range of options. We’ll leave the room for the President to make his own decisions.
Do we have any more on Ukraine before we move on? Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Russia. Go ahead.
QUESTION: What do you make of the move by Russia’s central bank to raise its key interest rate from 10.5 to 17 percent?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific analysis of their economic moves domestically. I think the Secretary spoke this morning to the collapse of the ruble and some of the economic challenges that, obviously, Russia is dealing with within their country. And as he stated then, one, there are costs, of course, attached to Russia’s attempt to annex Crimea and its continued support of separatists. But the economic situation in Russia and many of the choices they’re making are not due solely to sanctions. It’s more complicated and involves oil prices and general economic mismanagement in Russia, and those all play a significant role. So the lack of economic diversification and development of innovation and entrepreneurship over the past decade has also left Russia overly dependent on hydrocarbons. And some of these issues all factor into the economic challenges that they’re facing today.
QUESTION: Do U.S. policymakers regard that the diminishing value of the ruble tends to increase instability in the region because it makes Vladimir Putin, in order to distract ordinary Russians from their economic hardships, more likely to engage in foreign adventurism?
MS. PSAKI: I think I’d, again, point you to what the Secretary said in response to a very similar question earlier today. Obviously, the sanctions are not targeted at the Russian people. They are targeted – they’re making clear that there are costs attached, and Russia has a choice they can make to change the course of these sanctions. Obviously, that’s up to President Putin to make that choice. But has it incentivized him to take more action? No, I wouldn’t put it in those terms.
Do we have any more on Russia or Ukraine before we move on? Pam, go ahead.
QUESTION: I have a question about the attack in Peshawar today, but first of all, backtracking a little bit —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — in your statements, you mentioned that Kerry in his series of meetings met with Lavrov, and there was a readout saying they spoke about Middle East issues.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Did they specifically get into the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, do you know?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think one of the – obviously, the primary topics of discussion is the interest of many countries to move forward with action at the UN. So certainly, as part of that, they talk about what the only way to have a lasting solution in the region is. But clearly, that’s not an ongoing process right now, so I would not assume it was a major part of their discussion.
QUESTION: Regarding the school attack in Pakistan, the Pakistani Government says the leadership of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, the group that claimed responsibility for the attack, is based in Afghanistan. Is the U.S. talking to Afghanistan about taking action against terrorist groups such as this one? And if so, what has been the response from the Afghan Government?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t have any – we’ve seen the comments. We obviously don’t have any confirmation of those reports. Broadly speaking, the message we convey to both Afghanistan and Pakistan is that there’s no place – they should not have safe havens for any of these terrorist organizations in their countries. Obviously, we work with both countries on counterterrorism measures. But our conversations with Pakistan have been at all levels, of course, of the Pakistani Government regarding the attack. And it’s really been about our offer of assistance and our offer to continue working closely together to address these challenges.
QUESTION: Jen, any readout for the Secretary’s meeting with the Israeli prime minister?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he did an entire press conference this morning, so I would point you to that.
QUESTION: Yeah, but he didn’t talk especially – specifically —
MS. PSAKI: And there was also a readout that was sent last night, so I’d point you to both of those.
QUESTION: Okay. What are your expectations regarding tomorrow’s session at the UN for the Security Council? Do you expect any vote? What are the expectations in general?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to the UN for that – any specifics on their agenda. I think, as the Secretary said this morning, obviously, he – we’re trying to figure out a course forward that helps diffuse tensions, reduces the potential for greater conflict, and helps set the stage for the underlying issues between Israel and the Palestinians to be wrestled with in a serious way. And we’re exploring various possibilities to that end, which is why he met with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday, and – as well as European partners, and certainly, it was part of the discussion with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov as well.
QUESTION: Is it not the case, Jen, that the Administration would prefer to see the UN not take any action this week or next?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a lot of different options and measures that could be taken.
QUESTION: Is doing nothing one of them?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it in those terms. I know there’s been some – I’m not – know this isn’t your exact question, but I think it answers it, or I hope it will. A UN Security Council resolution is not, in our view, a unilateral measure by either one of the parties. There are the – obviously, the details are what matter. And so our objection here, and our objection historically has been to measures that would prejudge the outcome of the negotiations. If you had a Security Council resolution from the Palestinians, which we’ve had in the past, that sought to have them recognized as a member of the – of – as a member state, that’s a unilateral action, as you all know. But if you were to do some kind of terms of reference in the Security Council resolution, that would not be what we would consider to be a unilateral step.
So obviously, there are a range of proposals out there. There isn’t a proposal tabled. We don’t know what will be presented and we have to see – we’re having a discussion about all of the options with all of the parties.
QUESTION: All right. So you’re leaving the door open to actually voting for a resolution?
MS. PSAKI: We have to see what the details are.
QUESTION: So in other words, yes?
MS. PSAKI: We have historically supported resolutions in the UN before. Not —
QUESTION: You’ve also historically vetoed pretty much every resolution that’s come down the —
MS. PSAKI: We have, but it depends on what the details are. We supported a resolution on Gaza just this summer.
MS. PSAKI: It depends on what the specifics are, Matt. We don’t know that yet.
QUESTION: Okay. So if there was a resolution that essentially you – that you did not regard as a unilateral, as presenting or putting forward a unilateral action on behalf of the Palestinians – or the Israelis, I would imagine – if there is one that does not do that, you would vote for it?
MS. PSAKI: We have to see what the specifics are.
QUESTION: Well, with those specifics, I mean, you actually raised this hypothetical, which is very rare from anyone from any podium around town to do.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the reason – the reason I —
QUESTION: You’re saying if —
MS. PSAKI: The reason I raised it – let me explain: The reason I raised it is that there is a perception – I’m not saying by you or anyone here – that we have never supported any UN action related to Israel, and that is not true. We have supported a range of actions in the past. What we haven’t supported is steps that are unilateral actions that predetermine the outcome of negotiations.
QUESTION: Well, Prime Minister Netanyahu made no – made it pretty clear that his government expects or wants the U.S. to veto any resolution. The Secretary was not in a position to give him that kind of an assurance, was he?
MS. PSAKI: We haven’t made a determination yet what we’ll do because we have to see the details of what would be presented.
QUESTION: All right. But isn’t it not the case, getting back to my original question, that it would be a whole lot easier for the Administration if the UN didn’t do anything, if there was no vote on any resolution, at least in the next two weeks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as you know, we’re a member – prominent member of the United Nations. We’re working closely with them. I wouldn’t say that either. It depends on what the specifics and the details of any resolution would be.
QUESTION: After the meeting with European foreign ministers yesterday, are you on the same page with them regarding the Security Council move?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of views from a range of countries. So I’ll let them speak for themselves, Michel.
QUESTION: But regarding the draft resolution that the French especially are working on —
MS. PSAKI: I’m going to let individual countries speak for themselves.
QUESTION: In the region, I just wanted – in terms of the Lavrov meeting —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, sure.
QUESTION: — the Russians have been pushing for a Syria meeting in Moscow. Is – did the Secretary get any details of what the Russians have – what they have in mind? And would the Administration be willing to send someone to such a meeting?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the – broadly, the topic came up, but it wasn’t a primary part of their conversation, and I expect it will continue to be an ongoing discussion as their plans and ideas for this develop. But they didn’t go in depth on this issue, no.
QUESTION: So what did they go in depth on? If they didn’t go in depth on the Mideast, on —
MS. PSAKI: Well, the —
QUESTION: Did they only go in depth —
MS. PSAKI: What Pam’s question was, was about a Mideast peace process. That wasn’t what, obviously, they were focused on discussing.
QUESTION: So what did they go – if they didn’t go into depth on Syria or on the Mideast peace process, what did —
MS. PSAKI: Well, as stated in the readout —
MS. PSAKI: — Matt, that we put out yesterday, they talked about, obviously, this discussion about action at the UN. They talked about Ukraine. There are a range of topics that came up. Obviously, they both share opinions in these discussions. They talk frequently, so I expect it will be an ongoing discussion.
QUESTION: So we don’t know the agenda of this Russian conference, its agenda?
MS. PSAKI: That hasn’t been put out nor has a date been put out, so there are a lot of details that still haven’t been determined, it seems.
QUESTION: And did you – did the UN envoy to Syria brief you about his – the details of his plan to —
MS. PSAKI: About the local ceasefires?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s – obviously, those – that proposal and those ideas have been out there for some time. That’s something that certainly a range of senior officials have talked to him about. We’ve talked about that a bit in the past.
QUESTION: Yeah. He gave an interview to Al-Hayat in London last Sunday saying that he leaves the interpretation of the principles of the Geneva agreement to the parties, which is a position close to the Russian position rather than the U.S. position on the interpretation of the Geneva. Were you aware of this?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t looked at his interview. I mean, we also talk about how it’s mutually agreed between the parties, so we’d have to look more closely and see if it actually – we would agree with the notion that it conflicts. As it relates to the ceasefires, we support his efforts to look at the feasibility of local ceasefires in fighting, particularly around Aleppo. We remain committed to a political solution in Syria, as you know, and we’ve had concerns in the past about how local truces have been predicated upon the Assad regime imposing surrender tactics. And so we look at the history and we keep our eyes wide open about how this would be implemented if it moves forward.
Syria? Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Can we finish Syria? Syria?
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: You mentioned that we left our eyes open and watch what you are saying. It’s – this is almost like two weeks now we are talking about this local peace agreement. Do you have —
MS. PSAKI: Local ceasefires? Yeah.
QUESTION: Local ceasefire, I mean.
MS. PSAKI: Because you guys ask about them. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah, I know that.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: And we are trying to get an answer.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: So the answer is that – what is your position? Are you with it? Do you consider it’s a good step? Do you consider it’s a part of a political solution? Or you just wait and see what will happen?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t put it in any of those categories. We support his efforts. We think any effort to reduce violence and save more lives of Syrian – innocent Syrian people is a positive thing. But we also know these have been very difficult to implement in the past, and they have – the regime has implemented them in a way that has resulted in harm to people. So we’re aware of that and we’re just pointing that out, given these have been tried in the past.
QUESTION: So I will try to put it in a different way. Are you trying or do you want to be part of this equation or political solution, or you completely reject the idea?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think that’s an accurate question. I mean, we support the effort to implement local ceasefires. That is not an overarching political solution. A political solution needs to be negotiated between the parties.
QUESTION: Just as – I would take you back to this UN resolution because you said that already it was said many times that we don’t want to prejudge the outcome of the further negotiations first. And part of, of course, any unilateral action is always not accepted. Do you think that raising the issue in the UN now, without going to details of what was – any proposal means, it is a unilateral action or not?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the details of the proposals matter, and they determine whether or not it’s a unilateral action. A UN Security Council resolution itself is not a unilateral action. One that determines the outcome of a negotiation by putting in place a timeline for security transitions or something along those lines would be a unilateral action. So it depends on what the specifics are.
QUESTION: So you are – you have to look at the proposal and the content of the proposal, and accordingly, you will decide that it’s a unilateral action or not, right?
MS. PSAKI: That’s right. Seems common – seems like it makes sense when you say it that way. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Is that supposed to mean that it doesn’t make sense said some other way? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: It does make sense. That’s my point. It’s very common sense that we would have to look at the specifics of a proposal before we make a decision.
QUESTION: Right. But it’s you that makes the decision whether it’s unilateral.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I mean, I would hazard to guess that the Jordanians who have prepared a resolution on behalf of the Palestinians wouldn’t regard their resolution as being a unilateral step, nor would I hazard to guess that the French would think that theirs is a unilateral step. So, I mean, are you willing to take anyone else’s advice on whether whatever comes out is —
MS. PSAKI: We have our own views on issues – on specific proposals that would predetermine the outcome of what we think —
MS. PSAKI: — should happen in a negotiation.
QUESTION: On Syria. The opposition, especially the Nusrah – al-Nusrah Front, have made yesterday a huge progress on the ground after they took control of two military bases from the regime. How did you view this development?
MS. PSAKI: Well, al-Nusrah Front is an al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist organization that does not represent Syrians’ aspirations for freedom and dignity. Obviously, we’re not going to do a battlefield analysis of every up and down from each of the many sides in this conflict, but that would be our view.
QUESTION: There were news reports that said that these groups used U.S. military arms, especially TOW missiles, in their offenses yesterday. Do you have any information about this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are concerned by these reports and are seeking more information. We can’t confirm the details at this time. We support the moderate opposition groups with a range of nonlethal assistance. We’ve been clear that we’re not in a position to detail everything that we provide.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Syria? Turkey? Turkey. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Can we do one more? And then I’ll go to Turkey. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Ambassador-at-Large Stephen Rapp is quoted in news reports as saying that the State Department has concluded that as many as 10 European citizens have been tortured and killed by the Assad regime. Can you elaborate on how these victims were identified as Europeans? And then, secondly, does this revelation heighten prospects that President Assad will be charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as everyone may know, Pam is referencing the – of course – Caesar photos and analysis that’s been ongoing of the Caesar photos. And as you know, we don’t have all of the photos. Having exhausted all existing automated capabilities, the FBI has completed its standard authentication analysis of 27,000 photos obtained by Caesar. We – due to the specific parameters of the data set we were given, we cannot definitively rule out the possibility of tampering with some of these.
It’s important to note that none of these have been confirmed in terms of the specific identities of the individuals. It’s an ongoing process. As we all know, there are tens of thousands of photos, and the point that Ambassador Rapp was trying to make in that interview was that of the 27,000 photos that have been looked at, there are only even a small number where there have been weak matches – potential matches – that are not confirmed. So they’re not confirmed to be Europeans. These are a handful of photos where there were, again, weak matches. It’s not confirmed on the identity of the individuals.
QUESTION: On Turkey, two different subjects. One of them – first of them: Today, Besiktas soccer team’s football fans are on trial. Accusation is they tried to overthrow the government, these 35 fans. Do you have any comment on this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, in Turkey and around the world, the United States supports freedom of expression and assembly, including the right to peaceful protest. We look to Turkey to uphold these fundamental freedoms. We remain concerned about due process, broadly speaking, and effective access to justice in Turkey. For this specific case or details of this, I’d refer you to Turkish authorities.
QUESTION: Second subject is couple days ago, several journalists in Turkey were arrested. You issued statement two days ago as well. The – couple of the journalist from Zaman and Samanyolu, they are still in detention. Do you have any further reaction to your already-issued statement?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to offer. As we said in the statement we issued over the weekend, we are concerned by the detention of journalists and media representatives following police raids on the offices of media which have been critical of the government. Media freedom, due process, and judicial independence are key elements in every healthy democracy and are enshrined in the Turkish constitution. Freedom of the media includes the freedom to criticize the government. Voicing opposition does not equal conspiracy or treason. As Turkey’s friend and NATO ally, we urge the Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold Turkey’s core values and democratic foundations.
QUESTION: I might have missed it – did you say you are concerned, or did I miss – you said that —
MS. PSAKI: Concerned by the detention of journalists.
QUESTION: Okay. Today Prime Minister Davutoglu said that the things are happening with the detention has nothing to do with the press freedom in Turkey. And he further stated that there’s a separation of powers in Turkey, so the impartiality of the judicial process. So have you communicated with the Turkish officials about the situation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, we do through our Embassy on the ground, but the Secretary has not, no.
QUESTION: Jen, one of the prerequisites for being a member of NATO, or at least a member in good standing of NATO, is to be a democracy. Are you concerned at all this backsliding that you’re seeing in Turkey that you’ve expressed concern about might hurt Turkey’s standing in NATO as a good, solid member?
MS. PSAKI: No.
QUESTION: No? So in other words, they can go around and detain as many journalists and cops as they want and try soccer club supporters for trying to overthrow the government by attending a – what you say is a legal protest, and it has no implications for them or any other NATO member if the same thing was going in in their territory?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, Turkey is a democracy. As I mentioned, a number of these important values like media freedom, due process, judicial independence, are enshrined in the Turkish constitution, so —
QUESTION: Right, but that doesn’t mean that they’re actually respected. I mean, there’s a lot of things enshrined in a lot of constitutions that aren’t —
MS. PSAKI: But it means that we can speak out, as do others, when we have concerns about the implementation of these pieces. But it does not mean that they don’t continue to be an important ally and NATO partner.
QUESTION: And in terms of support for groups that you deem to be terrorist organizations, such as members of Hamas and others, those don’t have any impact either on NATO membership – good standing in being a NATO member?
MS. PSAKI: You know where our view is on Hamas, as it is of a number of countries around the world. I don’t have any analysis of – beyond that.
QUESTION: Are you still in discussion with Turkey regarding its role in the coalition in fighting ISIL?
MS. PSAKI: It’s an ongoing discussion. As you know, General Allen has been there several times. They remain an important partner. They’ve taken steps in every single one of the five lines of effort.
QUESTION: But there’s no agreement yet?
MS. PSAKI: In terms of what?
QUESTION: In terms of what role can the – can Turkey —
MS. PSAKI: They’ve already taken step. It’s not about an agreement. They’ve already taken a range of steps.
QUESTION: But they were asking for more steps to be taken.
MS. PSAKI: It’s an ongoing discussion, and there’ll be ongoing contributions that will take many forms of many of the coalition members. So that’s only natural that that would be the case with Turkey.
QUESTION: Just one more follow-up. This latest detention round-up were made possible thanks to the legislation passed last week, which gave the – more authority to police and reason for law enforcement to detain without concrete evidence. Do you have any comment on this recent laws passed at the parliament?
MS. PSAKI: I can – I’m happy to talk to our team about it and see if we have a – more of a comment on it.
Should we change – new topic?
QUESTION: Yes, please.
QUESTION: I have one more. I’m sorry about that.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: As you may know, the government has been accusing Gulen movement – it is a religious movement whose leader based —
MS. PSAKI: I’m familiar with it, yes.
QUESTION: — in Turkey – I’m sorry, in here. So the government accuses Gulen movement that they have been working with – this secretly trying to overthrow the government, and there were some soap operas couple years ago in Turkey, were giving some kind of signals. Do you have any comment on the Gulen movement’s role or —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t.
QUESTION: I was going to ask about the South Korean delegation to North Korea to – I’m not sure what the word is – three years since Kim Jong -il’s death and to give their condolences. Do you have any reaction to that?
MS. PSAKI: I hadn’t actually seen those reports in the busyness of the day. Generally speaking, we support dialogue, as you know, but we can look into it more specifically and see if we have a more detailed comment.
QUESTION: Did you have any thoughts on the differences between the North Korean leadership in the past three years?
MS. PSAKI: Don’t have any analysis of that either.
QUESTION: Jen, staying on North Korea – they – their ambassador to the United Nations has written a letter to the Security Council saying that North Korea believes that the Senate majority report on the CIA enhanced interrogation techniques should be raised – what – should be raised there, or at least somewhere within the UN system. What’s your response to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that – maybe that, in part, because for the first time the human rights situation in North Korea could be a standalone agenda item in the Security Council.
Broadly speaking to your initial question, Matt, I think we’d put our record on human rights against North Korea’s, certainly, any country in the world, any day of the week. And we made changes in order to address this program, end it, as we talked about quite a bit last week, because it wasn’t in line with our values. The same can’t be said of North Korea and their abysmal human rights record.
QUESTION: Okay. But it’s still the position of the Administration that no one will be held accountable for these alleged misdeeds, this alleged wrongdoing?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, that’s a question for the Department of Justice, as it has long been. I have nothing more to report on that front.
QUESTION: Okay. So you can’t say if anyone in this building, people who make a living out of this kind of thing – perhaps in the DRL Bureau, have suggested that maybe it might be a good thing for American accountability or American moral authority around the world for there to actually be some accountability, if in fact you believe that what is outlined in this report happened?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Matt, there’s been a long analysis of this. The program ended five years ago, so I have nothing new to add.
Any more? Go ahead. Hi, Lalit.
QUESTION: I have one on Pakistan.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I know you have already addressed a lot of questions, in case this has not been answered.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: In the last few months, you have seen Pakistan army taking strong actions against militants, including Pakistani Taliban in North Waziristan area. But today’s attack by the Pakistani Taliban, what does it reflect? Has the Pakistan army been successful in weakening the Pakistani Taliban, or they have become more stronger?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s call this horrific attack, which took the lives of many innocent children, what it is. And this was – it was a cowardly attack against children who were in enclosed spaces within a school unsuspecting and doing their schoolwork. We continue to work closely with the Government of Pakistan. Counterterrorism is an integral part of our relationship, including in the Strategic Dialogue. We understand certainly the threats of – that Pakistan faces, and unfortunately, the people of Pakistan are not new to dealing with some of these horrific acts. But we’re going to keep working together, and I don’t think it reflects anything other than a cowardly attack by this group.
QUESTION: What is U.S. assessment of the strength of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, which claims credit for this attack?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say we’ve of course seen reports that they claimed responsibility. I mean, we don’t have confirmation of that, so I just want to convey that to you. I don’t think I have any new assessment of their strength. I think I answered that in the last answer I offered.
QUESTION: Do they pose danger to Pakistan and U.S.?
MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, obviously we’ve seen that. And again, they claimed responsibility for this attack, but we haven’t confirmed that from here.
QUESTION: After the attack, Indian prime minister telephoned the Pakistanis, Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif. Do you see any scope for India and Pakistan coming together in this war against terrorism, and what kind of it is according to this —
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think in the discussions that the Secretary has had with both leaders, he certainly encourages dialogue and encourages that they work together where they can. But I’m not going to make any predictions about the future.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: All right.
QUESTION: I’ve got two very brief ones.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: One on Honduras, and I apologize for not getting this to you guys earlier.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, no problem.
QUESTION: So you might not have anything on it. But apparently, last week or the week before, a bunch of police officers who had been trained, vetted by the United States, were accused of stealing several million dollars.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything on it.
MS. PSAKI: But I’m happy to take it and we can get you something, Matt.
QUESTION: And then the last one, Randy Quaid, the actor, and his wife have filed a lawsuit against the Secretary because he is the Secretary of State, not a personal lawsuit, over what they say is the wrongful revocation of their passports. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I had not heard of that. I am happy to talk to our lawyers and see if there’s more we can convey.
QUESTION: Okay. I realize that you generally won’t talk about lawsuits when they are still being – while they’re still in the lawsuit —
MS. PSAKI: Or typically passports.
QUESTION: — the lawsuit phase. Or passports, except when it relates to people like Edward Snowden, who you had no problem talking about. So my question is not going to be about – is not about the merits of the lawsuit, but rather what the State Department’s authority to revoke, to administratively revoke passports is like, and has that been challenged before. Those are my questions.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, happy to look into it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: All right. Thanks, everyone.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:07 p.m.)