Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 12, 2015.
12:43 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Maybe I was a little quick on the two minutes. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Hello, everyone. Good afternoon. I don’t have any toppers today. I do have a time constraint on the other end, so let’s get to as many topics as we can. Go ahead.
QUESTION: A time constraint? I thought that wasn’t until 4:45. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Twitter #AskJen, send me your questions. We can continue this debate over Twitter.
QUESTION: Right. Let’s start with Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I’ve seen the – or I’m sure we’ve all seen the White House statement and the Secretary’s statement on this —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: — both of which are – well, as you know, they welcome it but say the proof is in the pudding essentially and that it needs to be implemented. I am just wondering, though, if the Administration is comfortable with everything that’s in this agreement, particularly the ceasefire lines, which do not appear to match the previous – the ones in the previous Minsk agreement.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I hope you did all see the Secretary’s statement. It just went out, so if you haven’t seen it, it should be in your inboxes. One of the points he made in his statement is that the parties have a long road ahead before achieving peace and the full restoration of Ukraine’s sovereignty. And so while the first test and the first step here is the ceasefire, which according to the agreement will be put in place this weekend, there’s a great deal of work to be done.
As you know and has been reported, there are reports of – which we’re still reviewing the agreement, but there are reports of discussions that will be ongoing about addressing the border questions over the course of the coming months. Obviously, we, as the Secretary indicated in his statement, have offered our help and services and our willingness to participate and support these ongoing efforts. But as was also noted in the statements, the proof is in the pudding. I don’t think that’s an exact quote, but our view is that words are words and actions and implementation are what we’re looking for. So a piece of paper is a piece of paper until it’s implemented.
QUESTION: Right. But I’m just – but do you – are you comfortable with everything that’s in this piece of paper right now? In other words, if it is implemented – and I know that’s a big if – if everyone agrees to it, are you okay with it, considering the fact that it appears that it gives the separatists more territory than the previous Minsk agreement?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are some components in the immediate ceasefire where they’re expected to pull back from certain lines, and the reasoning for that is to have peace, right, as soon as this is implemented, which we certainly support as a first step. There are components of this, which we’ll have to continue to evaluate, that still need to be determined. We’re still studying what it is; we’ll still be discussing it with our partners. So we support the overall effort, and I think we’ll continue to assess in the days ahead.
QUESTION: All right. And then my last one on the Secretary’s statement is – says, “As we have long said, the U.S. is prepared to consider rolling back sanctions on Russia when the Minsk agreements of September 2014, and now this agreement, are fully implemented.” And then it lays out the conditions for the rolling back of sanctions, “That includes a full ceasefire, withdrawal of all foreign troops, equipment from Ukraine, the full restoration of Ukrainian control of the international border, and the release of all hostages.” I don’t see the word Crimea in there at all. Is that – are you basically conceding Crimea?
MS. PSAKI: We continue to believe that Crimea is a part of Ukraine. That remains our policy. We’re talking about our policy as it relates to these sanctions. There’s a long road ahead, and we don’t anticipate that all of these pieces will be implemented in the coming days. We’re certainly hopeful that it will be done rapidly.
QUESTION: Okay. Sorry, I said that was the last, but I have one more —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: — and that is: There has been a lot of talk about the possibility or the consideration, the Administration’s consideration, of supplying Kyiv with lethal defensive weapons, and also a lot of talk about pushing – imposing new, more tough, or tougher, sanctions against Russia. Is it fair to say that those two things right now, while they still may be being considered, are on hold until you see what happens with the implementation of this agreement?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we have not taken options off the table. Those discussions are ongoing, so a decision hasn’t been made. Certainly, our preference would be to see this agreement and components – including a ceasefire, including the pullback of heavy weapons and a complete withdrawal of foreign fighters – implemented, and obviously, that would impact and we’d correlate our actions accordingly. But discussions are ongoing internally and with our European partners.
QUESTION: Right. But in the – but until the ceasefire comes into place on Sunday, or Saturday – Sunday, I guess – and you have been able to judge whether or not the agreement has been abided by, can we expect to see you take steps – sanctions or a possible decision on weapons – before you know whether or not this is – this agreement is successful?
MS. PSAKI: I think you can expect we’ll see if this agreement can be implemented, but I’m not going to put a timeline or exact criteria on how we’ll evaluate that. Obviously, it will be clear if it’s being implemented or not, specifically with the ceasefire.
QUESTION: So, Jen, was there – I mean, is the U.S. and Europe still prepared to move ahead with sanctions, even though this agreement has been made?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Lesley, we’re going to – we’ve seen the agreement. It was only made in the last few hours. Obviously, we’re continuing to consult and discuss with our European partners the specifics of it. And certainly, as you know, we’ve long supported the diplomatic path as the right path forward.
However, as I just noted but it’s worth repeating, an agreement is a piece of paper unless it’s implemented. And so what we’ve seen to date is that Russia and Russian-backed separatists have not taken the steps to implement. We will see what they do from here. We have had long ongoing conversations with our European partners about additional steps that could be taken. And if it’s not implemented or there’s additional aggression, that’s something we will continue to discuss.
QUESTION: So would it be best to maybe pause on the sanctions while you – to make sure that President Putin keeps to his – I mean, the U.S. was not part of this deal. And will the U.S. —
MS. PSAKI: But we supported it, and we were consulted on it, and we continue to consult on it. And we support the effort.
QUESTION: Would sanctions not be a way to continue applying pressure?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we maintain the ability and the resources to put additional sanctions in place, should the situation on the ground warrant it.
QUESTION: Jen, can I ask in what ways practically is the United States willing to help? There was some suggestion perhaps that there might be a need for more OSCE monitors, for instance. Is that something the United States would be prepared to do?
MS. PSAKI: I think, obviously, the United States has shown – and we have shown – that we are not just supportive in words but supportive in actions of returning the sovereignty and the respect of the territorial integrity to the people and the Government of Ukraine. I don’t have anything to lay out for you specifically. I think that’s a discussion we’ll have with our partners and with the Ukrainians about what their needs are.
QUESTION: And can I just ask why is the United States not involved in the negotiations that were happening in Minsk? Did you not feel that you had a role in those?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, as you know, the Secretary visited Ukraine just last week. He met with Chancellor Merkel. He’s had consultations and conversations with his French and German counterparts as well. We’ve been very closely coordinated and consulted on these ongoing efforts. We have been involved in the past in some negotiations, and some we have not been. It’s not about what our role is. It’s about what is in the best interest of the people of Ukraine, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. And we support any diplomatic effort that takes steps forward toward achieving that goal.
QUESTION: But it does seem that the United States, which usually has a quite diplomatic weight in many of these issues around the world, whether it’s from Ukraine to Syria or Iraq – it actually has been sidestepped in this case.
MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with that, Jo. We haven’t been involved in the Trilateral Contact Group negotiations over the course of the last several months. We’ve closely consulted on them. At the same time, while those have been ongoing, we’ve partnered and worked with our European counterparts to put in place sanctions, to take coordinating steps. And that’s ongoing. It simply doesn’t reflect how we feel about this effort.
QUESTION: Jen, is your understanding that the sanctions will not be lifted until the Russians pull out of Crimea?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are specific steps that are laid out that I can – I’m happy to repeat, including the complete withdrawal of all heavy weapons and foreign fighters from Ukraine; the restoration to Kyiv of control of its side of the border with Russia; full and unfettered access by international monitors to separatist-controlled territory. It’s outlined in the Minsk agreement, and it will – it’s outlined in the specifics here. So that’s what we’re looking at. That needs to be implemented. And obviously, that’s our primary focus at this point in time.
QUESTION: So if the Russians don’t pull out of Crimea, no sanctions will be lifted?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered that question, Said. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. Let me ask you very quickly – you said something about foreign fighters. Are there any other foreign fighters other than Russians?
MS. PSAKI: That’s primarily who we’re talking about here, Said, not U.S.
Let’s finish Ukraine. Go ahead.
QUESTION: I just want to make clear that although Crimea is not in this agreement, not – it doesn’t – this agreement doesn’t cover Crimea, the fact of the matter is the Administration put sanctions and the EU put sanctions on Russia after the annexation. And I want to make sure that in Secretary Kerry’s statement that talks about rolling back sanctions if Russia complies with the Minsk agreement, that that does not include the sanctions that were imposed because of the Crimea annexation.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we haven’t even made a decision to roll back any sanctions. So I expect if these pieces are implemented, we’ll have a discussion about what sanctions would be rolled back.
QUESTION: Are you saying that it is possible then that you would roll – you would roll back the Crimea sanctions based on this agreement, which does not include Crimea?
MS. PSAKI: I – Matt, I think I’m not going to lay out what sanctions we’re going to roll back on a plan that has not even begun to be implemented.
QUESTION: Well, but the problem is that when you say that you don’t expect – accept Crimea as – the annexation of Crimea by Russia and you impose sanctions on them, are you now opening the door to dropping that?
MS. PSAKI: I didn’t drop anything. I’m just not outlining what sanctions —
QUESTION: So the Crimea sanctions – so even if this – if this agreement holds, everyone abides by it, there is peace and stability in eastern Ukraine, the Crimea sanctions will remain in place until that is – until that issue is resolved, or not?
MS. PSAKI: When everything is implemented, I’m happy to have a discussion about what is rolled back and why. We’re far from that point at this point.
QUESTION: And then just – the question was asked, “Has the U.S. been sidestepped?” Was there – back in June in Normandy, was there any serious discussion or serious desire by the Administration to become part of the Normandy format, the Normandy group?
MS. PSAKI: If I recall seven or eight months ago, I guess that that was at this point —
MS. PSAKI: — we were also supportive of those efforts and expected to be consulted and continue our coordination, and we have.
QUESTION: And you would say that you do not have any complaints about how the French and the Germans in particular went about doing this?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve worked with them throughout this process.
QUESTION: But you don’t feel left out?
MS. PSAKI: We do not. We do not. Our objective is about Ukraine and the future of Ukraine.
QUESTION: But I guess he’s not questioning about whether you feel out – is about – left out. It’s about a question about the absence of the weight of U.S. diplomacy being at the table.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would refute the notion that there’s been an absence. We have been – we were in Ukraine – the Secretary was in Ukraine first last week. We have been engaged closely with the Ukrainians and with our European partners in the form of meetings and phone calls up to the highest levels over the past couple days. The President has been engaged with many partners. So I just don’t think that that’s accurate, an accurate depiction of what’s been happening.
QUESTION: There hasn’t been any high-level face-to-face meetings between President Putin and the United States for some time now.
MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.
QUESTION: Does that not hamper your diplomacy?
QUESTION: There was a phone call just the other day.
QUESTION: Well, but face-to-face —
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President – right, the President spoke with him about two days ago.
QUESTION: Yeah. But there hasn’t been a face-to-face and a sit-down with President Putin for some time between high-level American officials.
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Does that – is that – does that not point to the fact that your diplomacy is somehow being stymied with Russia at the moment?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think it does. We have had, again, phone calls. The Secretary met with Foreign Minister Lavrov about five days ago. We’ve been engaged with the Russians on a range of levels.
QUESTION: Change topic?
QUESTION: Jen, if you – I mean, the Germans and almost every other country said that this offers a glimmer of hope. In your mind, is there anything in this deal that you believe that this one could be the “it,” that it could – this one has more chance of working?
MS. PSAKI: Have the “it” factor?
QUESTION: Have the “it” factor. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what that means, even though I repeated it. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: You knew what I meant.
MS. PSAKI: Do you mean: Does it offer a chance forward?
QUESTION: What makes this one —
MS. PSAKI: Or you tell me what you mean.
QUESTION: Yes, that’s exactly what I meant was that: What is it in this one that you think – is it the timing of it? I mean, have the sides exhausted all options here? What is it that you – I mean, do you believe that this one has a chance of succeeding, or is it too early?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the truth is we will see, and we are clear-eyed about the potential here. We have seen the Russians say one thing and do another over the course of the last several months. The first test of whether this agreement lays the groundwork for a more comprehensive settlement is the run-up to the ceasefire. And I think we’ll all know more after we see what happens this weekend.
QUESTION: No, no.
MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Ukraine. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just – do you – does the U.S. – does the Administration believe that its public floating of the idea of supplying Kyiv with weapons had anything to do with the rapidity with which this – with which the French and the – which the Russians presented a plan, the French and Germans countered it, there was this flurry of meetings, and now this agreement in Minsk?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t attribute – I think the French and the Germans certainly have been engaged from the beginning, and we all saw the increase in violence and what was happening on the ground in Ukraine. I can assure you I would give yourselves and your colleagues a bit more credit than to suggest it was a public floating, given it was information that got out about internal discussions. So I don’t believe that was —
QUESTION: You’re saying that that wasn’t intentionally put out there by the Administration?
MS. PSAKI: Not by those who are making decisions in the Administration.
QUESTION: (Laughter.) But you’re – it’s true, though. (Laughter.) I mean, that’s – I mean, the idea that it is being considered is not wrong.
MS. PSAKI: No, nor was I saying it was wrong. But it wasn’t an intentional public floating.
QUESTION: So it’s a complete coincidence.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as you know, as all of you are reporters and you tell me —
QUESTION: All right. Okay.
MS. PSAKI: — you often do reporting and find out information about what’s being discussed.
QUESTION: So it’s not the “bad cop, good cop” decision – the Europeans being the good cop, ready to negotiate; the Americans being the bad cop, ready to send in weapons.
MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) Are we the bad cops now? Well, that’s – (laughter) – I think this is – obviously, there are internal discussions that had been ongoing for some time about what the appropriate steps are. As all of you know, we take into account what happens on the ground. We’ve seen the increase in violence over the last several weeks, the increased aggression. That obviously leads us to consider a range of options, which we’ve talked about a bit in here.
In terms of the French and German efforts, I would suspect they’ve seen the same increase in violence on the ground, and we’ve been engaged with them. We all were recognizing that the Minsk protocols were not being implemented and we needed to see what the diplomatic path forward could be.
QUESTION: All right.
QUESTION: Would you say that your position came – became closer to that of the Germans the French through – after the shuttle diplomacy – not the shuttle diplomacy – the high-level diplomacy by Angela Merkel and visiting here so quickly?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you mean.
QUESTION: What I mean that —
MS. PSAKI: Our position on what?
QUESTION: You know that the deal became more real and more within reach right after her trip to Washington.
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t say that’s an accurate depiction of what happened. We have long supported the Minsk agreement and the principles in the Minsk agreement. These discussions are – were based on that. There was agreement that we needed to find – look for every avenue for a diplomatic path forward. The French and the Germans led that effort; we coordinated with them. It was discussed not just on Monday but over the weekend with Chancellor Merkel, in discussions and meetings in the region in Europe over the weekend. So that’s what happened.
QUESTION: And —
QUESTION: I just want to —
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: — come back to the issue of the sanctions —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — and the lethal weapons. Given that this – there is a ceasefire and you want to give this a chance, is – on the sanctions and – surely you would not be thinking about those things right now while this diplomatic effort is being given a chance.
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s always ongoing discussions about what the appropriate assistance is and what the appropriate response is. I would remind you that we’re talking about starting the ceasefire in two days from now. So I don’t have anything to predict for you, but I think it’s safe to assume we’re supporting this effort, we certainly want to see it work, and that’s our priority and our preference. But we have a range of options that we continue to consider.
QUESTION: And then I have a follow-up. You probably saw today was a $40 billion deal – package, including IMF and other money, for Ukraine. Would the – is the U.S. willing to support that additional money within the IMF and the other parts of it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we welcome the news that the Government of Ukraine and the IMF have reached an agreement that will allow the IMF to provide Ukraine with a $17.5 billion – I think that’s the number I had, Lesley, but —
MS. PSAKI: — in financial assistance in support of economic reforms. As IMF Managing Director Lagarde noted, this is ambitious and not without risk. It will require the Ukrainian Government to continue implementation of tough reforms to fight corruption, overhaul the energy sector, cut expenditures, and reduce bureaucracy. We, in coordination with our European partners, will continue our assistance to help Ukraine implement these quickly and build a stronger, more prosperous, democratic future.
Certainly, as you know, because you I think covered the IMF, it was the decision of the IMF. We certainly supported these efforts and will help support efforts toward reform that are required by the agreement.
QUESTION: No. And just you mentioned about the monitoring of this agreement and how you’re willing to help – it’s OSCE-led, I think, right?
MS. PSAKI: The OSCE is, yes.
QUESTION: And it’s going to be monitoring both sides —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: — for violations of this.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: You’ve made pretty clear – the Administration has made clear that if the Russians and the separatists don’t agree, the costs – there will be consequences for them and the cost to Russia will increase, right? So which is new sanctions basically.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: What – is there any consequence or any cost to Ukraine if they’re the ones found to be not complying with the agreement?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, first of all, we’ve seen over the last 24 hours even that Russia has continued to take aggressive actions into Ukraine even while this agreement is being discussed. So Ukraine, over the past several months, has not only implemented and taken steps to implement the Minsk protocols, but they have been supportive of efforts to find a peaceful solution here. I don’t think we anticipate that is going to happen over the course of the coming months.
QUESTION: Right. But I mean, if – since you’re willing to entertain the possibility that the rebels and the Russians aren’t going to agree with it and there’ll be costs for it, can you not also entertain the possibility that there’ll be costs to the government in Kyiv if they are found to be not in – to be in violation of the agreement?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s just a little bit ludicrous given Ukraine —
MS. PSAKI: — is a sovereign country, and this is a country that has illegally brought troops, weapons, resources into their country. Certainly, we call on both sides to abide by it.
MS. PSAKI: But I don’t think – I think that’s a highly unlikely hypothetical.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, it may be, but I’m not sure it rises to the level of ludicrous, because if you’re talking about both sides needing to implement it and there’s going to be – but they’re – but now it seems to be – it seems to me that you’re saying that there won’t be consequences if one certain side doesn’t implement.
MS. PSAKI: Matt, over the last six months Ukraine has implemented the Minsk protocols, whereas Russia has not. So —
MS. PSAKI: — I think that’s the record we’re looking at.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: Ukraine? Are we – okay, go ahead, Abby.
QUESTION: It was confirmed yesterday that ISIS proposed the trade of Kayla Mueller for Pakistani scientist Siddiqui. There are people who are questioning why it is that that would not be considered when Bowe Bergdahl was exchanged for five Taliban prisoners. Do you have any response to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would first say that out of respect – and I believe the White House put out a statement on this last night that we then forwarded – and out of respect to the family of Kayla Mueller, her parents, her brother, we’re simply not going to speak to more details that are reported out there about her case. I will say broadly speaking that, as you know, we – the case of Bowe Bergdahl was an individual who was a member of the military, who was taken by the Taliban. We don’t leave any man or woman behind serving us. We also take every step possible. As you also know, and you all have reported on, last summer the President authorized a military step to try to rescue hostages, including Kayla Mueller. So we’ve taken every step possible. I’m just not going to speak to other reports out there out of respect for her family.
QUESTION: A follow-up question?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you think that the proposal of the exchange of prisoners has – that there has been a change in the policy of terrorists wanting to bargain to trade since the Bowe Bergdahl exchange has happened? Has that made the U.S. reconsider their policy in any way?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there’s an ongoing review of these issues. But I’m not aware of any change or planned change to that policy.
QUESTION: Jen, and —
QUESTION: If I could – on this topic?
QUESTION: On this topic.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Well, why don’t we go over here to Laura, and then we’ll go to you, Said.
QUESTION: If I could just – because some of the details about these rescue attempts are being confirmed by family spokespeople. So if I could just push a little bit here – are you saying that some of the rescue attempts that they’re talking about – for instance, the raid in July, there are reports now that the U.S. held on to some intelligence from the British that would’ve allowed them to proceed with that raid more quickly. Is that something that you can comment on?
MS. PSAKI: I would just say that as soon as we have information that we can act on, we act on it, and we talked about that at the time.
QUESTION: So when we talk about these rescue missions, we’re talking about one, basically – not a number of missions, not one to, let’s say, rescue Foley and Sotloff and one to rescue Kayla and so on. We’re talking about —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details for you. We talked about this particular mission at the time, Said. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. So I just wanted to follow up: Today at the United Nations, the Security Council just adopted a resolution to dry up fund resources to ISIS and so on. It was a resolution, but basically it was drafted and submitted by the Russians, and it also garnered your support. Now, we know that – or at least we read that many of your allies in the Gulf and maybe the Saudis even actually funding these different groups that find – the money finds its way, being fungible, to ISIS. Do you have any comment on that, both on the resolution —
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say we welcome the unanimous adoption of Resolution 2199. Today’s resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter includes a range of tools, including sanctions and other binding measures, to degrade the ability of ISIL as well as al-Nusrah and other al-Qaida-associated groups subject to UN sanctions, to continue their brutal and destructive agendas. It focuses exclusively on terrorist financial support networks, especially ISIL’s raising of funds through oil smuggling, kidnapping for ransom, and other illicit activities. It also includes a ban on the illicit trade of antiquities from Syria, the first time this element has been included. I think the fact that this was – there was unanimous adoption of this resolution answers the question on how seriously the global community takes these issues and how willing the global community is to take steps to address the funding resources of ISIL and take steps over the course of the future, but also, many have taken steps in the last couple of months to address these issues on their own.
QUESTION: That includes leaning heavily on your allies to stop the funding.
MS. PSAKI: You’re very familiar with the steps we’ve taken, Said —
QUESTION: Okay. Let me just ask you on Turkey, because —
MS. PSAKI: — and these countries have taken. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, very quickly, just to follow up. I know I asked couple days ago —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — on the flow of foreign fighters. It was in the number of 20,000. Well, yesterday, an expert testified before Congress —
MS. PSAKI: And somebody asked about it and I answered it yesterday.
QUESTION: I understand, but my question is on your ally, Turkey, that obviously is not keeping a tight lid on its border.
MS. PSAKI: I would say Turkey remains an important partner of our anti-ISIL coalition. They have contributed in all five lines of effort, which includes cracking down on foreign fighters. They’ve put new steps in place. We continue to work with them on these efforts, so that’s my —
QUESTION: To what you attribute, then, this flow of fighters from Turkey into Syria and maybe in the hundreds, maybe in the thousands every month, that has increased over the last couple months?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of your specific numbers.
QUESTION: No, can we stay with – well, ISIS, ISIL —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — and the AUMF?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: And I recognize that this building is not – I don’t know if you’re the one to really answer this, but I don’t think that the White House briefing (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering – there’s been some concern – I mean, raised on the Hill about some of the language in here, particularly the – one, two, three, four – fifth paragraph: “Whereas ISIL has threatened genocide and committed vicious acts of violence against religious and ethnic minority groups, including Iraqi Christian, Yezidi, and Turkmen populations.” Is there a reason that those are the – that those specific ethnic and religious minorities were mentioned and others that may have been targeted were not mentioned?
MS. PSAKI: I would certainly, on that particular question – and I may be able to answer others – would point you to my colleagues over at the White House. I think obviously, as we know, there were highly publicized and written about targeting attacks against those populations. It certainly doesn’t eliminate concern for others.
QUESTION: Right. There is at least one member of Congress, I think, who has expressed concern that it doesn’t include Jews in this statement and that somehow, given the conversations that have been had here over the Paris shooting incident, the Administration may not be paying – or may not be as sensitive as it could be or should be to this. Is that —
MS. PSAKI: I certainly don’t think it’s a reflection of that or intended to be any reflection of that. And on the other piece, I think I would just reiterate that both Josh Earnest and I tweeted and came out and made clear what our position is on the targeted anti-Semitic attack in Paris.
QUESTION: Is Russia going to be invited to the summit next week on fighting violent extremism?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check on the list of invites, Samir. I just don’t have that in front of me. So we can check. I know there’ll be more we’ll say as we get to next week about the specifics.
QUESTION: Just to quickly follow it up, do you know how many countries are participating this conference?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’re still finalizing all the specifics. And again, I would anticipate that early next week we’ll do a briefing on the plans for the summit, what we hope to accomplish, et cetera.
QUESTION: India issue?
QUESTION: No, could I just ask one more question on the funding?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: It’s – the text was – is heavily on the —
MS. PSAKI: The UN?
QUESTION: The UN. UN, sorry. The UN text is heavily on stopping oil smuggling, but I understand the United States believes that oil is not the main source of revenue for IS anymore. So where do you think that the other revenue streams are coming from particularly?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve talked about this a bit in the past, and the resolution does address kidnapping for ransom and other illicit activities. We pointed out oil smuggling as one of them. As you know, we’ve also taken steps to take out a number of their oil refineries, given the funding that we believe that they receive from that. Antiquities, which this does also address, is another stream of funding that they have unfortunately raised illicit funds from, stealing these treasures from around the world. So it does address a range of the concerns we have, and clearly, there’s other actions, including military actions, that we’ve taken to address their sources of funding as well.
QUESTION: Okay. But the back end of last year, I remember going to several briefings by U.S. officials in which it was stressed that the oil revenue was the main source of funding. Are you saying now that this has been overtaken by kidnapping, ransoms, and antiquities?
MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t saying that. I think this – the resolution references oil smuggling. I also referenced the fact that I think we’ve taken out – I can’t get you the specific numbers, but I think I gave them yesterday, on oil refineries and the number of those. But certainly, that remains a stream of funding.
QUESTION: But part of that resolution is actually – points out to the fact that they are still getting like a million dollars a day, that ISIS is getting about a million dollars a day from oil, from the flow of oil —
MS. PSAKI: Okay. I —
QUESTION: — and selling it on —
MS. PSAKI: Okay. And it addresses oil smuggling —
QUESTION: — and oil smuggling —
MS. PSAKI: — and that’s why it includes that information.
QUESTION: One more ISIL?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Madam, who is buying their oil in the black market, and also who is supplying the arms to them in exchange to kill the innocent people around the globe?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, that’s an issue that we have serious concern about. That’s why I don’t have any more specifics to lay out for you. That’s why we raise it with our partners in the region. It’s an issue that, again, there was unanimous support for a UN Security Council resolution on, and certainly, we believe that their sources of funding should be cut off.
Go ahead, Abby.
QUESTION: I mean —
QUESTION: Just back to ISIL —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The parents of Austin Tice were recently interviewed, and Debra Tice, while saying she felt tremendously supported by the State Department, felt that the information exchange was not a two-way street, that she was giving information without receiving any. I was wondering if you had any response to that.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say I don’t think anyone can understand or fully relate to the pain or suffering of a family when your child is missing unless you’ve experienced that. And certainly, this is the case of Austin Tice, and his absence is something that the Secretary regularly raises that we remain very concerned about.
I will say there’s also, as I referenced, a review of our policies and our processes, and family engagement and involvement is part of that. And so the families have also been asked to engage in that effort and express their suggestions and concerns, and certainly, we’re hopeful that those who have been impacted will do that.
QUESTION: One more follow-up on that?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: She also stated that she felt the only way, without discussion of ransom or anything else, that their answers could be found is through discussions with the Syrian Government. Even if it was through another channel, is that something that would ever be considered?
MS. PSAKI: Without going into details, we certainly have means of raising concerns about his case, and we have done that in the past.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Have you received anything from Government of India about that unfortunate incident in which an elderly man, he is lying paralyzed in the hospital after being tackled by the police in Alabama?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say that our hearts go out to him and to his family. Obviously, there’ll be an investigation into this case which will be handled by local authorities, so I would certainly send you to them. I don’t have anything more to lay out in terms of our diplomatic discussions.
QUESTION: Because in Delhi they stated that they have reached out – the consulate and all, they have reached out to, so they cannot go directly to the – that it has to go through this building, I suppose protocol. And then what best we can do so that it doesn’t snowball like Khobragade case?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I would say that the Secretary and the State Department certainly express our strong condolences to the family for everything that he has been through. This is being handled by local authorities, and certainly, we would address any concerns through private diplomatic channels.
QUESTION: And there’s another one on Sri Lanka. Can I —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: The Sri Lankans have asked for a delay in the U.S.-backed UN report, so – and the Sri Lankan foreign minister is here. He is meeting the – do you have any update on that?
MS. PSAKI: I would just simply say the Secretary is meeting with the foreign minister early this afternoon. I expect we’ll have a readout of that meeting, and I’m sure there’ll be a range of issues and likely including this one discussed.
QUESTION: Well, can we talk about —
QUESTION: What is the position of the Administration on this? Do you agree with the Sri Lankans? Would there – do you think it’s a good idea, or do you – or even if it’s not a good idea, do you have any objection to a delay?
MS. PSAKI: I think this is one of those issues we will get more information from them on and we will discuss it when the Secretary meets with him at 1:30 this afternoon – 2:30.
QUESTION: So prior to this meeting, the U.S. has no position on it? Is that what you’re saying?
MS. PSAKI: We’re going to have – allow them to have the discussion, and then we’re – we’ll likely speak to it.
QUESTION: On Yemen.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Going back to India.
QUESTION: Earlier today Secretary —
MS. PSAKI: We’re going to go back to Yemen. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Earlier today Ban Ki-moon said Yemen is collapsing before our eyes. Can you give us the status of the U.S. diplomatic relations with Yemen? And has there been any discussion or any movement toward asking someone to act as our U.S. protecting power for Yemen? And then I have one more question after that.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. First, let me just reiterate we remain strongly committed to supporting the Yemeni people, and we’ll explore options for a return to Sana’a as soon as the situation on the ground improves. Of course, recent unilateral military and political actions taken by the Houthis disrupted the political transition in Yemen and created the risk that renewed violence would threaten Yemenis and the diplomatic community. That’s why we made the decision we did. But our ambassador remains ambassador to Yemen. We’re still having discussions about what will happen with the – our protecting power and how we will handle that, but we remain committed. We will continue to engage with Yemen and with the international community, and certainly remain – want to see our partnership continue.
QUESTION: Okay. And also these reports about the level of involvement and whether there is Iran backing the Houthis in Yemen, what is the U.S. position on how much involvement and the depth of involvement on the part of Iran, if any, whether militarily, financially, or otherwise?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Houthis have concerning relations with Iran, and we are aware of reports of a variety of support provided by Iran to the Houthis, but we have not seen evidence that Iran is exerting command and control over the Houthis activities in Yemen. And we encourage, of course, all parties to support the full implementation of the GCC initiative. We, again, don’t have specifics to confirm about their involvement in the last few weeks.
QUESTION: Can you address reports last night and today about the ambassador, or at least this building, ordering the Marine Embassy guards to turn over their weapons? We talked a little bit about the vehicles yesterday —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — but this is – I don’t think we – you just said at the time you didn’t know about the weapons.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Marine – the Marines have addressed this. I’m happy to reiterate what they have said about this, which is that the Marine security force left the American Embassy in Yemen for the movement to the airfield, as part of the ordered departure, with only personal weapons. All crew-served weapons were destroyed at the Embassy prior to movement. None of them were handed over in any way to anyone. The destruction of weapons at the Embassy and the airport was carried out in accordance with an approved destruction plan. And upon arrival at the airfield, all personal weapons were rendered inoperable in accordance with advanced planning – specifically, each bolt was removed from its weapon’s body and rendered inoperable by smashing the sledgehammers. The weapons’ bodies, minus the bolts, were then separately smashed with sledgehammers. All of these destroyed components were left at the airport. So that is the specifics that were put out by the Marines on this – on these false reports.
QUESTION: Well, whether the weapons were inoperable or not, they were still left at the airport, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they were not handed over, nor was anyone – they were not —
QUESTION: Well, what would they do? Just —
MS. PSAKI: — no one asked them to hand over. They were inoperable weapons that were in the vehicles, yes.
QUESTION: Right. But I don’t think that’s – I mean, that is relevant, clearly, but that is not the point of the complaints.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The criticism is that they were turned over at all, whether they were working or not working or not able to be worked. And when you say they were left at the airport, what does that mean? They just threw them in a pile in a parking lot next to the – I mean, they had – did they just drop them on the ground, threw them in a garbage can?
MS. PSAKI: Well, no, Matt. But there was a plan that was implemented. Obviously, every component did not go as planned. We are requesting the return of the vehicles and all of the materials and components and having discussions about that now.
QUESTION: So you have asked whoever it is, your contacts with the Houthis or how – whatever channel it is – you have asked them to return not just the vehicles but the disabled, inoperable weapons?
MS. PSAKI: All of the materials that have been taken, yes.
QUESTION: Can you tell us under whose authority the airport was at the time?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details for that – on that for you.
QUESTION: Jen, I wanted to ask this.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: There was a reaction today from somebody, Hussein al-Ezzi who describes himself or is called the militia’s foreign relations chief, who says that the decision by all of the Western powers to leave – yourselves, Britain, and France – to close their embassies was unjustified, and he’s sort of suggesting it was designed to put pressure on the Yemeni people, that it was kind of like a – it was an exit which was sort of a ploy to put pressure on the Yemeni people to rise up against or depose the militia. Would you like to answer that?
MS. PSAKI: That’s false. The decision was made for one reason, and it’s the security and safety of our personnel. That’s something we evaluate regularly, and the recent unilateral actions taken by the Houthis created an uncertain security situation in Sana’a. We would like to return; this is a suspension. But again, there need to be steps taken in order for us to be able to do that.
QUESTION: And he suggests —
QUESTION: Sorry, I don’t want to get too into the weeds on this weapons thing, but when you said that there – that everything was done according to the previously arranged plan, whose plan was that? Is that the embassy plan? Is that a Marine plan? Whose —
MS. PSAKI: We coordinate across the interagency.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: We always have contingency plans for any removal of staff.
QUESTION: All right. And then when you said it did not go entirely according to plan, that —
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that’s clear.
QUESTION: — that that means that – the problem I have with the – with your explanation is that if it didn’t go according to plan, that means that just simply leaving the vehicles in the parking lot and the weapons on the ground wherever they were was not part of the plan. So what was the plan?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to outline that more specifically. As you know, we’ve had to move staff out from a range of embassies, and we’re not going to detail security plans more specifically from the podium.
QUESTION: And do you know, was it a condition of the flight to Muscat or Doha that weapons, even inoperable ones, would not be allowed?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have details on that, no.
QUESTION: Madam —
MS. PSAKI: I just can do a few more here. I’m sorry, Lalit, we’ve got to get to a few more. Elliot, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks. I just wanted to go to East Asia for a couple.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Abe of Japan made some – made a big policy speech. I was wondering if you had seen it and if you had any reaction.
MS. PSAKI: I have not seen it yet, but is there anything specific in there you’d like me to follow up on?
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, he suggested that this could be a really big year for Japan’s constitutional reforms, which we’ve talked about before. Also, he suggested that Japan would be reaching out to China for friendly relations, which was a bit of a change in tone from previous remarks he’s made. Just on those two points.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we support dialogue and we support positive relationships in the region. We think that’s in the interests of the security of the region. I’m happy to take a closer look and talk to our team and see if there’s more of a reaction to —
QUESTION: Okay, thanks. And I had one on Vietnam as well, if that’s all right.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: There were two dissident bloggers who were released. I saw Assistant Secretary Malinowski tweeted about it. I was wondering if you had anything to add as well.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything to add.
QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.
QUESTION: Jen —
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do – go ahead, Lalit.
QUESTION: Pakistan’s former ISI chief in an interview to Al Jazeera has said that ISI probably knew the location of Usama bin Ladin, head of al-Qaida, and probably – do you have any information on that? How do you see it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as we’ve stated in the past and the President and Secretary Clinton at the time stated, we don’t have any reason to believe that the Government of Pakistan knew about the location of bin Ladin. That remains our belief.
QUESTION: But now, since he’s trying to give new information, are you trying to reach out to him to find out why he – he must be having some basis of saying this.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of plans to outreach – to reach out to him, no.
QUESTION: So but what he’s saying is entirely wrong?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Very quickly, going back to India, please, quickly.
MS. PSAKI: I think we can do just two more here. Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: Yeah, I want to follow up again. You said that there’s no evidence that Iran has command and control of the Houthis in Yemen.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Are you able – how would you characterize the sort of relationship that they have?
MS. PSAKI: I would say they have had a troubling relationship and they have – in the past. And we’re certainly aware of that and aware of the support that they’ve offered in the past. But as it relates to this situation, we don’t have anything to suggest that that has increased or that’s particularly involved with the last several weeks.
QUESTION: Jen, on South Korea?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Liz is going to be – the last two here. And Laura, you’ll be the last one. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. The South Korean Government announced that South Korea willing to have normalization relationship with Cuba. What is your comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: That South Korea is willing to have normalized relations with Cuba?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we’re in our own process right now. Certainly every country makes their own decisions. We thought our policy was outdated for some time; I had not seen their specific comments, but you’ve seen what we – what steps we have taken, so I don’t see why we would have any issue with that.
QUESTION: Do you have a date for the next talks?
MS. PSAKI: Hm?
QUESTION: Any date for the next talks?
MS. PSAKI: Don’t have an update yet. Remains to be in the next couple weeks. Hopefully we’ll have that soon.
Go ahead, Laura.
QUESTION: There are some reports that AQAP militants have stormed a Yemeni military base. Is there any concern that with the chaos that’s going on there on the ground, that that might create a void that AQAP could take advantage of? And is this something specifically that you’re in touch with the Houthi leaders about?
MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have something on this. I don’t believe we have confirmation of those reports. As I have noted in here, we have – we communicate in – with a range of parties in Yemen. That continues, but I don’t believe we have confirmation of those specific reports.
QUESTION: Madam, quickly on India —
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, Lalit. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have any response or support of the bill that was recently introduced by U.S. senators to lift the embargo on Cuba?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the President has talked about our support for legislative action, which would be required. Obviously, I’m not going to speak to the specifics of a bill that’s in draft form, but certainly, we support the overall objective. I just haven’t seen all the details of this particular bill.
Thank you, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:30 p.m.)