State Department Briefing by Jen Psaki, Feb. 3, 2015

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 3, 2015.

TRANSCRIPT:

1:07 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hi.

MS. PSAKI: I think you all have seen the statement we forwarded from the NSC. I don’t have anything new to add to that, but let me just reiterate that for those of you who did not see. We are aware of the video purporting to show that Jordanian 1st Lieutenant Moaz Kasasbeh has been murdered by the terrorist group ISIL. The intelligence community is working to confirm its authenticity. The United States strongly condemns ISIL’s actions and we call for the immediate release of all those held captive by ISIL. We stand in solidarity with the Jordanian people.

With that, go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: I realize you don’t have more to convey than that, but to your knowledge, has Jordanian King Abdullah or his foreign minister decided to cut short their trip to the United States because of this?

MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen reports on television, as I’m sure you have as well, but I don’t have anything to confirm on their behalf.

QUESTION: And the Secretary’s talks today with the Jordanian king and the foreign minister, of course – I appreciate this report is just coming out – have they had a chance to discuss it between themselves and —

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary’s meetings ended around 10:30 this morning, which was before the video came out publicly. I don’t believe he’s had a chance to discuss it with them since then. I can certainly check after the briefing.

QUESTION: Because during the little bit that we saw on the signing of the memorandum, of course, the Secretary had called for a sign of life. Presumably, that was before the reports came out, so just wanted to clear that up.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. As I mentioned, their meetings ended at 10:30, and you know when the signing of the memorandum was. So —

QUESTION: Jen, Lieutenant Kasasbeh being the first military member of the coalition to be caught and executed like this, would that give it a different dimension or a different urgency in terms of maybe of accelerating the bombardments and so on, in terms of perhaps having more intense military engagement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, obviously, we’re going to see this process, as we always do, through. And as I mentioned, our intelligence community is working to authenticate the video. And obviously we would defer to the Government of Jordan and any public comments that they would make.

I don’t think there’s any question – we have not been holding back on our efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL, and I suspect that will continue. But I’m not going to do analysis from here today when this – these reports just came out in the last two hours.

QUESTION: Is there any concern that —

QUESTION: Now, on the fact that the Jordanians are saying he was probably killed or executed like a month ago, do you have anything to explain?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to speak to that, no.

QUESTION: Is there any concern that the death of a member of the military from the region could perhaps cause other countries that have joined the coalition against ISIL to rethink their participation because of fear of blowback, fear of attacks within their own countries, fear of attacks against their troops, for example?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we haven’t seen indication of that at this point, Roz. But I’m not going to analyze that. It just wouldn’t be appropriate, given what we’re looking at, at this point, in these recent reports.

Do we have more on Jordan before we continue?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Continuing with the visit and the partnership agreement that you’ve signed with the Jordanians and so on.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Would that in any way sort of – is that – would make Jordan be more active in the coalition, less active in the coalition, as a result of these things happening together at the same time?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Jordan has long been an important member of the coalition. As you noted, the Secretary and – signed with the Jordanian officials today an MOU that reflects the intention to increase U.S. assistance to the Government of Jordan from 660 million to 1 billion per year for the years 2015 through 2017. But I would remind you we’ve long been a significant provider of assistance to the Government of Jordan. They’re an important partner. We work with them on a range of vital national, international issues.

QUESTION: Now this $1 billion – different than the loan guarantees? There’s also an element on loan guarantees for Jordan. Is that different?

MS. PSAKI: I would – we put out a Fact Sheet, Said, so I would encourage you to take a look at that.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: A quick numbers question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The Secretary, in his remarks, said 600 million, but the correct number is 660, which is what you had on your sheet?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Okay. And then obviously, I just want to make absolutely certain that you’re referring to Fiscal Years 2015 through Fiscal Year 2017.

MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question. That would be my understanding of the reading as well, but why don’t I just double-check that for you to make sure in terms of the way it’s written.

QUESTION: And the – and on – and the corollary to that last question: I mean, is it from 2015 to 2017 because that’s the life of – if it’s fiscal year, that would be the life of this Administration?

MS. PSAKI: I believe we often do yearly or twice yearly —

QUESTION: Well, why not make it more? Is this with the idea that the strains and stresses on Jordan won’t be as great after 2017?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, Matt, we have made a —

QUESTION: I’m just trying to figure out why —

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t read into it in that regard. We – I expect we’ll —

QUESTION: I’m not reading anything into it. I’m asking.

MS. PSAKI: Let me explain. I – let me finish then. I expect we’ll continue to provide assistance. This was the recent announcement. I’m sure there will be additional in the coming years.

QUESTION: In a meeting this morning —

QUESTION: Can you talk about —

QUESTION: — the Secretary addressed a meeting this morning with ISIL and – of ambassadors from the – sorry – of ambassadors from the coalition who joined the fight against ISIL. Are you able to give us any kind of readout of what he said, what the purpose of the meeting was?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that he spoke to the purpose of the meeting a bit this morning. And as you know, we see a great benefit in bringing together the more than 35 Washington-based ambassadors from partner countries in the global coalition. We’ve had ongoing meetings. It was an opportunity for coalition partners to reaffirm our shared resolve to address this common threat and discuss how to strengthen, accelerate, and integrate our contributions to coalition efforts. This is the second time Washington – second Washington plenary session of coalition ambassadors. There was one that we held last November as well.

QUESTION: Can I just ask logistically on that, was it just ambassadors? There’s been some stuff in the ether about the Jordanian foreign minister being there, the Jordanian king even being there.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But this was just ambassadors, right —

MS. PSAKI: This morning meeting, that’s my understanding. But obviously, there were a lot of individuals, as you mentioned —

QUESTION: Well, there’s —

MS. PSAKI: — in town today. So —

QUESTION: Right. And yesterday as well there were.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So I’m just wondering if it was strictly ambassadors or if there were more higher-ranking —

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check to give clarification on that.

Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about the Secretary’s meeting with the king?

MS. PSAKI: I – we put out a media note that I would point you to. He also spoke to it this morning. I don’t expect we’ll have more of a readout beyond that.

QUESTION: No, but the issues —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) for the gathering today of – we had the Qatari foreign minister in town yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Obviously a member of the coalition as well, the Jordanians today. Should we expect some kind of stepping up or boosting of your campaign against ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: I would attribute it to the fact that those foreign ministers often visit the United States, we often visit their countries, we work closely with them on a range of issues. And obviously, we’re continuing to work to continue to step up our efforts with the coalition.

QUESTION: You didn’t bring them together for a specific cause or reason?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, as I mentioned, we had a plenary session with these ambassadors last November. That was a couple of months ago. This was a natural time to do it again.

QUESTION: Can you describe how the Secretary found out about the pilot’s murder and what his initial reaction to it was, apart from the official statements?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details on that to read out for you, Roz.

QUESTION: Staying in the region on the fight against ISIL?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Now, I know this is probably a question better addressed to the Pentagon, but there’s a great deal of talk about postponing the much-anticipated spring offensive, but there’s a political dimension to it. It seems that a great deal of differences between Sunni and Shiite —

MS. PSAKI: Are you referring to – in Iraq?

QUESTION: Yes, yeah. In the fight against ISIL, in the fight or in the effort to reclaim or retake, liberate Mosul. So there seems to be a lot of bickering and infighting among Sunni and Shiites and so on. My question to you – that General Austin was there, of course, Mr. McGurk was there the week before, I think, or maybe a couple weeks before. What are you doing in terms of bringing all these different points of views together, having the Kurds, the Peshmerga, and the central forces working together?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say on the first part I have no confirmation of that or validation of that, and my suspicion is your information is inaccurate.

On the second piece, there are a range of steps that we’re taking. Obviously, we work closely with the Government of Iraq. As you know, one of the efforts that the anti-ISIL coalition is very focused on is not only boosting their capacity but taking steps to go after ISIL in Iraq. We have – and you are right; most of this in terms of technicalities is best posed to the Pentagon, and they can get into specifics – let me finish – as they often do. And so I would certainly encourage you to pose this question to them.

But I would also add that, in addition to the efforts of the coalition countries, that Prime Minister Abadi has been taking steps to – greater – create greater unity to better incorporate different forces underneath the Iraqi Security Forces. That is something that has been ongoing. It’s not new now, but they’re continuing to take steps on.

QUESTION: I guess my point, or the thrust of my question, is the following: That while there was a great deal of enthusiasm, let’s say, a month ago among the Sunni tribes who was working with Prime Minister Abadi, there is less of that enthusiasm because they feel that much of what they have been promised has not been delivered. They are a bit skeptical about the national guard that is being formed and so on.

I wonder if you could – if you have any information, to begin with, that you can share with us on this.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I have nothing to validate your view or your opinion, and I haven’t —

QUESTION: It is not opinion. I mean, that’s —

MS. PSAKI: — seen those reports that you’ve mentioned. So I don’t think anyone should take that as fact. The national guard is part of the Iraqi Government’s long-term restructuring plan of the Iraqi Security Forces into a federalized security force. This is something that they’ve asked for United States – the United States for assistance to help further define and develop the program. We’re working with the government and providing advice based on our previous experiences. The national guard would not replace, but rather augment a restructured multi-sect and multiethnic federal security force as well as address a key demand that many leaders from across Iraq have called for over the last 10 years. It’s been in the process of being implemented for a couple of months now, but obviously, it’s not at full completion.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Jordan for a moment?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Many in Jordan, including the political opposition, was already opposed to Jordan’s role in the anti-ISIL coalition. So now that the pilot has been killed, are there any concerns that this may further increase opposition within Jordan?

MS. PSAKI: Roz just asked the same exact question. Do we have any more on this particular issue or ISIL or Iraq before we continue?

QUESTION: Yeah, one (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I think recently, there were many call in this town for increasing the size and the role of American assistance, military assistance in the region. In light of the latest development, is that under serious consideration now within the Administration?

MS. PSAKI: Who is making those calls specifically? Can you be a little more specific?

QUESTION: Senator McCain, former Secretary Gates, the other day on Sunday —

MS. PSAKI: For more assistance to the anti-ISIL coalition or specific kinds of assistance?

QUESTION: In the coalition, they’re all in the size of American forces in form or special forces, as they call it. Are you —

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed in our policy in that regard.

QUESTION: No change?

MS. PSAKI: No. New topic?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Let’s do something that’s not having to do with people dying.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Yesterday was the deadline for the agencies to submit their Keystone evaluations. Can you tell us what’s going on with that, what’s the next step? Is there a deadline, a timeline now that’s been restarted?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you noted, yesterday the Department of State notified just a couple of weeks ago, January 16th, that the eight agencies would have until February 2nd to provide their views with regard to the Keystone pipeline permit application. That, of course, was yesterday. We will treat the agencies’ replies as part of an internal interagency process. They’re not mandated by the executive order to provide their views on the national interest regarding the proposed project, but we were required to request their views. There’s not a deadline or a timeline. Of course, their views will be factored into the consideration process.

QUESTION: Did all eight actually submit by the deadline?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not going to confirm. We treat them as internal recommendations.

QUESTION: Well, I’m not asking what they say; however the EPA has already put theirs out, so —

MS. PSAKI: I understand that.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Well, then it’s pointless for you guys to keep them secret, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we treat them as —

QUESTION: I’m just wondering —

MS. PSAKI: — internal recommendations.

QUESTION: Well, that’s fair enough. But I just want to know if all —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t see that as pointless, but go ahead.

QUESTION: — if all – well, it’s – I don’t understand why you can’t say if all eight submitted them or not. How does it —

MS. PSAKI: Because they’re internal recommendations, and I’m not going to confirm whether or not we’ve received them. They’re not mandated. The ones we receive will be factored into the consideration process.

QUESTION: That makes it sound like they didn’t all.

QUESTION: Do you feel that we have a balanced representation?

QUESTION: It makes it sounds like they didn’t all.

MS. PSAKI: As I mentioned, we treat them as internal. I’m not going to confirm. I understand —

QUESTION: What happened to this transparency idea? I don’t get – I’m not asking what’s in the report. If an agency – what’s in the – if an agency wants to put their own report out, not – and make it public, that’s fine. That’s up to them, but —

MS. PSAKI: Well, just to be clear, the EPA didn’t put their recommendations out publicly. They put out their views on the final SEIS. It’s something different, but that’s an important distinction.

Go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: Well, even though these reports weren’t mandated, does this building feel that it got a balanced representation from the agencies that were requested to submit their views?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to provide analysis on internal reports and internal input that we requested, as you asked. This is an internal process we’ll proceed through as the executive order mandates. There isn’t a deadline or a timeline. Obviously, we’ll factor in all of the input from agencies from these reports and other input they offer in other ways.

QUESTION: How do you confirm to people —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) determination from this – sorry, Roz.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Is – does the Administration intend to make a determination one way or the other —

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: — before the end of its tenure? Before —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we’ve said anything otherwise.

QUESTION: So there will be a determination before January 2017?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not putting a new deadline on it, but we are going to make a determination.

QUESTION: When you say “internal process,” okay, that really means secret and nontransparent, correct?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t agree with that. A great deal of information here is public, Matt. Just because we’re not making public internal input that we received —

QUESTION: I’m not asking for – but see, that’s not the – I’m just asking if all eight agencies submitted a report. I’m not yet —

MS. PSAKI: I will let you know if that’s something we’re going to confirm. At this point we’re not.

QUESTION: Okay, well I just – because the whole question of this Administration’s transparency would seem to be – I mean, I don’t understand why you won’t even say if you got eight reports or you got five.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I mean, I don’t see how that compromises anything.

MS. PSAKI: I’ve registered your question.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: I’ll let you know if we’re going to confirm it.

Any more on Keystone before we move on? Go ahead.

QUESTION: A new topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Speaking about internal deliberation, do you have something more to say about the possible decision from the U.S.?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing new to what I said yesterday.

QUESTION: He hasn’t asked his question. How do you know what he was going to ask? He didn’t actually ask a full question.

MS. PSAKI: He just asked if I have anything new to add to the internal deliberations of which I addressed yesterday.

QUESTION: Can I ask —

MS. PSAKI: I said no. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: That was the question.

QUESTION: Okay. Because apparently, the Ukrainian authorities are really looking forward to receiving Secretary Kerry, so what will be his message? Will he bring something to Kyiv?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not making a prediction of that. What I will convey, as we’ve said as we’ve talked a little about the trip, is that the Secretary was there about a year ago. He’s going because it’s important in his view to have face-to-face meetings and discuss progress that’s been made, progress they can still continue to make on everything from economic reforms to the effort to de-escalate the situation on the ground. But I have nothing to preview for you beyond that.

QUESTION: But nothing on weapons deliveries?

MS. PSAKI: No. This is an ongoing process and we’ve not taken things on or off the table, as I mentioned yesterday, but I’m not making a prediction of anything else.

QUESTION: Jen, on —

QUESTION: Do you have any response to – sorry, Matt – do you have any response to the report that came out yesterday from eight former officials – administration – previous administration officials that it should be – that the United States should be providing weapons to the Ukrainians?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly seen the report, and as you mentioned, there are a number of former officials, many of whom worked in the State Department and are well respected. We certainly talk to a range of individuals and take their input. And as I mentioned, we have an ongoing process where we haven’t taken options on or off the table, but we weigh a number of factors.

QUESTION: Jen, earlier today the UN high commissioner for human rights came out and said – was highly critical of both sides in the conflict, saying that the tactics that each side are using leave – to put it mildly, leave a lot to be desired. Do you agree with that or are you still convinced that the overwhelming majority of the – of any kind of violations are coming from the separatists’ side?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we still continue to believe, and I think many – I haven’t taken a close look at those comments, but I would say the vast majority of the international community believes the preponderance of aggressive actions are coming from the Russian side and the side of the Russian-backed separatists. We certainly continue to encourage both sides to take steps to prevent civilian casualties and to keep – take that in as an important factor as this conflict is ongoing.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, when you say that you continue to encourage both sides to take steps to limit or to not have any civilian casualties, are you satisfied with the steps that both sides are taking to do that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to encourage it. I’m not going to give a day-by-day evaluation of that.

QUESTION: Well, but back during the Gaza conflict, and I realize they’re separate situations, but you were highly critical of Israel for not doing enough to limit civilian casualties, particularly —

MS. PSAKI: We were.

QUESTION: Exactly. So I’m not sure why exactly it is that you can’t say if either side here is – if you’re satisfied with the way that either side here is taking —

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t equate the situation in Gaza with the situation in Ukraine.

QUESTION: I’m not trying to equate the situations. I’m trying to equate the U.S. response and what the U.S. thinks about what’s going on in Ukraine, considering you have, in fact, given what you would call or what you’re saying a scorecard kind of analysis in previous conflicts. Is there a – can you say if you are happy or unhappy with what both sides are doing in Ukraine in response to your calls or your encouragement for there to be – for them to take – to limit civilian casualties?

MS. PSAKI: As I’ve stated a number of times, but I’m happy to repeat, we remain concerned about the aggressive actions of Russia and Russian-backed separatists and the steps they’re taking illegally in the country of Ukraine. We, of course, also encourage the Ukrainians, when they’re fighting back and defending their own country, to take into account civilian casualties.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not at the point – and it does not warrant making the type of condemnation that we did or making the statements we did related to Gaza.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: I had a question last week, actually, which goes a little bit to this about the reports coming out of eastern Ukraine, about the travel ban making it difficult for residents in eastern Ukraine to leave, and also that the Ukrainian authorities were preventing medicines, other necessary medical equipment from getting into the area. Do you have a response to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me – I have a little bit more detail on this, Jo, so let me just see if I have that in here, because I just want to make sure I have all the – so we have seen the Government of Ukraine – as you noted, but a little more detail – created a permit system in response to the threat from Russian-backed separatists crossing into government-controlled areas. So the issue was separatists – in separatist-controlled areas of who and how the services were being implemented, who was coming in and with what, which is something they had, I think, legitimate concerns about. In coordination with the international humanitarian community, we’ve urged the government in Kyiv to ensure that this permit system has as minimal an impact as possible on providers of humanitarian assistance and the civilian population.

Unfortunately, there continue to be blocking as well by the separatists of delivery of aid from entering the conflict-affected regions of eastern Ukraine. And this is a situation where the government of Ukraine – and this is obviously very complicated, so I’m doing my best to try to explain our view on this – has had to discontinue some of its social services because there’s essentially no one to run them and use the money and pay out the money in an effective manner. Obviously, this is a very difficult situation on the ground. And the government has legitimate concerns about who was coming in and out of the territory and what materials they bring in and out. But we are working with the international humanitarian community to see how we – what we can do to address this issue and kind of the logjam of trying to get assistance in.

QUESTION: Is it as crystal clear as that, though? Are the Ukrainians simply not delivering services just because the situation has become too dangerous? Are you suggesting in any way that they’re not in some way partly responsible for the lack of access?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I said any of what you just said. I think I tried to explain to Jo that there are a couple of factors here at play. One is that you have an issue where Russian-backed separatists are bringing in – or there’s a concern about what they’re bringing in and bringing out and who’s crossing over into areas of Ukraine that are not controlled by the separatists. That’s a valid concern.

There is also a concern we have about making sure humanitarian assistance gets in. The Government of Ukraine is trying to weigh how to get assistance in but also how to prevent putting areas that are not controlled by the separatists at greater risk. That’s a valid concern in our view. We, of course, want humanitarian assistance to get in, as does the international community. But the problem is, in some of these separatist-controlled areas, there’s no one to kind of run these government services that they could give money and payments to. So it’s a difficult situation; that’s why we’re working with the international humanitarian community to see what more can be done.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. On Ukraine still. Yesterday, at the beginning of the day, the talk about sending weapons and so on to Ukraine was a bit serious. By the end of the day yesterday, there seemed to be backtracking by the Administration; they’re saying that we want to give diplomacy a chance, and so on. Would you say that the situation is the same or is there – is it likely that there will be military aid to the Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to make a prediction of that, Said. I think, as I mentioned yesterday, obviously we provide a range of assistance. We haven’t taken options of the table. Clearly, there are ongoing internal deliberations about what should be done and what the appropriate kind of assistance is. We’re always evaluating those options. It doesn’t change the fact that we believe a negotiated solution to the crisis is the right approach, and no decision has been made to provide lethal assistance.

QUESTION: Let me ask you: As we come close to the one-year anniversary of this whole issue in the Ukraine, in retrospect, was it a very good idea for the United States to be involved or engaged so directly in the crisis in the Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think – I went through this yesterday —

QUESTION: I’m sorry. I —

MS. PSAKI: — and I’m happy to do it quickly again, but —

QUESTION: Sorry. I missed it.

MS. PSAKI: Former President Yanukovych abdicated his responsibilities by fleeing Kyiv during a political crisis. He was voted out of power by a near-unanimous vote of the Rada, including virtually all members of his own party. He lost legitimacy, and Ukraine’s lawmakers in the Rada fulfilled their obligation to the people by preserving a democratic government until President Poroshenko was elected.

Clearly, then you have Russian-backed separatists and Russia supporting these efforts coming into Ukraine. The United States is committed to helping support a sovereign country, helping them pursue economic reforms, helping them with the security assistance they need. We clearly want to see a de-escalation of the crisis, and we’ve been consistent with that.

Let’s go on to a new topic. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Another new topic, Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have updated information about Fethullah Gulen, as we know that his passport has been canceled by Turkish officials?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we’ve talked about a little bit in here before, we would refer you to the Turkish Government on those specific reports that I know are new today. I don’t have anything new to add to them.

QUESTION: On North —

MS. PSAKI: Let’s – any more on Turkey before we continue?

QUESTION: North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un announced yesterday – he said that simply he doesn’t want face-by-face talk with the United States. How did you respond on his announcement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, we’ve addressed this during testimony, and a range of senior officials have talked about our – North Korea and how we view that relationship or lack thereof. We have offered and continued to offer – and I would – I’m quoting here, actually, from Special Representative Sung Kim’s testimony from January 13th. Nothing has changed in the last couple of weeks.

He said: “The United States has offered and continues to offer Pyongyang an improved bilateral relationship, provided it takes action to demonstrate a willingness to fulfill its denuclearization commitments and address our important concerns, which are also shared by the international community. We’ve made clear to North Korea that the door is open to meaningful engagement while applying unilateral and multilateral pressure to steer it toward the door. Unfortunately, while North Korea claims to seek talk without preconditions, it has consistently rebuffed or ignored our offers for dialogue and instead responded with a series of provocations.” That hasn’t changed. That remains our position and our view.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to Turkey for a second?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I wonder if you saw the op-ed piece that Gulen wrote in The New York Times today and if you have any comment about it.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any comments on his opinion piece, no.

QUESTION: Okay. Can I go to Iran, please?

QUESTION: Sorry, can I follow on North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Turkey? North Korea? Sure.

QUESTION: Just, when you say “address your concerns about denuclearization,” what do you mean by “address”?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, I don’t think I’m – you are familiar with what our terms are as it relates to Six-Party Talks. We’ve long had a means of talking to North Korea. We typically don’t outline that; I’m not going to outline that further. But clearly, they haven’t addressed – I’m not going to discuss – I’m not going to outline what we mean by that further. We know what we mean.

QUESTION: You can’t say what your terms are?

MS. PSAKI: No. I’m not going to outline those from here.

QUESTION: And one last thing.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does “address” mean taking action? Because to address can also mean to speak about something, to apostrophize.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re referring to having dialogue, right? That’s all we’re referring to here. So I’m not going to spell it out more specifically than that at this point in time.

QUESTION: So Jen, we have a report out of Vienna this morning talking about discussions going on between – or, according to diplomats, unnamed diplomats – discussions going on between the U.S. and Iran that would – in terms of the nuclear deal that would allow them to keep a larger number of centrifuges than apparently one was willing – you guys were willing to accept before, in return for them lowering the efficiency or the capabilities of those centrifuges. Do you have anything you want to say about that?

MS. PSAKI: I would just say the technical aspects of such a deal have not yet been agreed upon, and obviously, there are discussion about a range of issues. We’re squarely focused on cutting off Iran’s four pathways to material for a nuclear weapon. As many officials have said, there are many pieces of the puzzle that need to fit together, so speculation before that is not a depiction of the actual picture.

QUESTION: But is this one of the – you talk about there are many ways to cut off the four avenues. Is – would this be – is this one of them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there are a host of factors, including how many centrifuges are operating, how advanced those centrifuges are. Of course, we all know that those are factors. But beyond that, I’m not going to speculate on those reports.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, so – well, it sounds as though you’re saying yes, this is a subject that’s up for discussion.

MS. PSAKI: Well, how many, how they will operate – obviously, those are factors in cutting off the four pathways.

QUESTION: Right, but you can’t – but you’re not willing to say whether or not the discussion has been had about allowing Iran to keep a higher number of centrifuges if those centrifuges have less capability?

MS. PSAKI: No, I’m not going to confirm any reports out there about what’s tied to what.

QUESTION: Can I just ask if there’s been any determination on the Secretary’s schedule yet? Were they going to meet Foreign Minister Zarif in Munich?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update on that, Jo, but I’m happy to check. I know it’s – we’re finalizing the schedule, so hopefully we’ll know more on that in the next 24 hours or so.

QUESTION: Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Do you have more on Iran before we continue?

QUESTION: No. I’ve got a change of topic.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: On Yemen.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Three days ago, the Houthis said that – they gave a three-day deadline, otherwise they will take over the government, unless there is some sort of a deal reached. Are you aware of the situation? Are you following what is going on? Do you have anything to share with us?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we – we’re certainly aware of the situation. We are following closely. Our belief continues to be that any political solution to the current crisis should be consistent with the GCC initiative, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, UN Security Council resolutions, and Yemeni law. We’re certainly not putting deadlines or timelines; we’re encouraging dialogue between all of the parties.

QUESTION: But you still recognize Hadi as the legitimate president or leader of the country?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, and not just us. Technically speaking, President Hadi remains president until his resignation is accepted – excuse me – by the parliament.

QUESTION: So what happens if they do come through on their threat and they take over the central government and they begin to run things and so on? What is likely to happen then? I mean, what would be —

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we’ll have a discussion about it and our policy team will discuss it, and then we’ll have a discussion and hear about it, Said.

QUESTION: And finally on this point, are you in contact – I know you’ve said – last week we asked you the same question, but are there any new contacts or new negotiations with the Houthis at any level?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to read out for you.

Did you have —

QUESTION: On this issue —

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: No, just on this issue, what did the Secretary mean yesterday when he was meeting the Qatari foreign minister and he thanked him for his help in making the necessary adjustments needed in U.S. policy in Yemen? What did he mean by —

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to talk to him about it. I haven’t had a chance to talk to him about that specifically.

QUESTION: Well, I guess the question is that yourself and other U.S. officials have said that you are, in some way, in contact with the Houthi militias in Yemen and you’ve recognized —

MS. PSAKI: And that we’ve maintained our CT efforts as well, of course.

QUESTION: Yeah, and that they’re part of the political process, that they have a role there. I wondered if maybe Qatar, in some way, was facilitating discussions between you and the Houthis. Are you able to say that?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if there’s any more I can read out about what he meant, and I certainly understand the question. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Change topic? We have a report that Chadian troops have entered northern Nigeria, specifically the town of Gamboru, which had been under the control of Boko Haram. Do you have any comment on the Chadian troops doing so?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t at this moment, but I’m happy to talk to our Africa team and get you something, Arshad, and anyone else who’s interested.

Do we have any more new topics?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Palestinian occupied territories.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The Israelis withheld again another $100 million of tax – Palestinian tax money. I wonder if you have spoken with them or have you spoken with the Palestinians on this issue on how to release the cash (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: We have an ongoing discussion with both the Israelis and the Palestinians. I don’t have any confirmation of what you just stated, but I’m happy to talk to our team about it.

QUESTION: Just a quick follow-up on the UNRWA situation. Now, back on October 12th, the donors agreed to give $5.4 billion on that day, including Qatar and all the donors that were there, including the United States. But UNRWA said thus far they have not received any of the promise or pledged money. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the United States has certainly delivered on our commitments —

QUESTION: Right, right. You did.

MS. PSAKI: — and we encouraged every country to deliver on their commitments as well.

QUESTION: Jen, last night the head of the UN committee investigating the Gaza flotilla – or, no, sorry – is it the flotilla —

MS. PSAKI: No, Gaza conflict – yes.

QUESTION: — no, Gaza conflict – resigned and Prime Minister Netanyahu said this morning that that resignation should herald the dismantlement of this investigation. Do you agree with that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we oppose the creation of the commission of inquiry in the first place. So we remain concerned. Given the one-sided nature of the resolution that created the commission of inquiry and the history of the HRC stance on Israel, we still don’t believe that such a mechanism as the commission of inquiry contributes to the shared goal and priority of reaching a sustainable and durable agreement. That has long been – has been consistently our view.

QUESTION: Okay. But I mean, he says that it should be dismantled and gotten rid of completely. Do you agree with that or do you just think that it’s not worthwhile pursuing?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t think it’s the appropriate mechanism.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t talked to our team about this dismantlement, but we didn’t support its creation anyway.

QUESTION: Fair enough.

MS. PSAKI: So I think it tells you what —

QUESTION: But on that point, there is a pattern that the Israelis dismiss whatever investigatory effort on their – whatever war that they waged on Gaza or elsewhere. In 2009 they pressured the Goldstone Report and it was dismissed. In 2002, they disallowed a commission from going into Jenin, where a massacre —

MS. PSAKI: Well, I just stated, Said, what the position of the United States is. So that was the question, and that’s what I addressed.

QUESTION: I understand. But why would you oppose – why would the United States oppose a UN commission that is going impartially to investigate crimes that are likely to have been committed?

MS. PSAKI: Because we have concerns about the anti-Israel bias, which we’ve spoken about in the past. We think there’s a range of mechanisms, and this is not the appropriate one.

QUESTION: But when the Israeli prime minister —

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve addressed the question, Said.

QUESTION: — just – my last question —

QUESTION: Can I move to Venezuela, please?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can I just ask —

QUESTION: Yesterday you had some rather harsh comments about the Venezuelan president’s accusations about Vice President Biden. I’m just wondering, today it appears that they have begun this – the government, or at least the government has pushed forward this occupation of private stores, or at least one chain of private stores. Do you guys have any comment on that or is that not —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t at this point, but I’m happy to follow up on that as well, Matt.

QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine, please?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I want to ask you about Ben Rhodes’s comments on TV last night.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: “We still think the best way to influence Russia’s calculus is through those economic sanctions that are biting deep into the Russian economy.” “We’re not going to bring the Ukrainian military into parity with Russia’s military, certainly not in the near future. So we’ll look at these options, but… we have to keep the perspective that the best tool we have to apply pressure on Russia is that economic pressure through the sanctions.” And then lastly: “We’re helping Ukrainian military… but at the same time, we don’t think that the answer to the crisis in Ukraine is simply to inject more weapons and get into that type of tit-for-tat with Russia.”

Do you view those comments as an authoritative statement of the Administration’s position for now?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, that’s our view.

QUESTION: So should one interpret those comments as a suggestion that you are not going to – that the Administration is not planning on changing that policy?

MS. PSAKI: I think you should interpret those comments as a statement of where we stand. He also noted in there, as you’ve read, that we continue to discuss and consider a range of options. And as we discussed a little bit yesterday, there are, of course, a range of factors that you weigh, including the fact that we don’t believe that military escalation is the appropriate or most effective means of proceeding. But we continue to consider a range of requests, what’s most appropriate. Nothing has changed about our policy at this point in time.

QUESTION: Can I ask on “change in the calculus,” then? I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but I raised last week the issue of this young mother in Russia who’d been detained for apparently ringing the Ukrainian embassy and talking about Russian troop movements. There’s now been a petition launched in her favor with tens of thousands of people apparently having signed it and petitioning President Putin to release her. I just wondered if there was a U.S. comment, whether this is the kind of thing, perhaps, that you were – that Assistant Secretary Nuland was talking about in her speech last week at the Brookings Institute when she talked about popular view in Russia changing, about how the Russian Government is governing.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think this is in that category. We do expect that, of course, Ms. Davydova will be treated in keeping with international legal norms. We’re troubled by the reports of the arrest of a Russian mother of seven on charges of treason. They are – these are serious charges, and we certainly would call for respect, as I mentioned, for international legal norms.

QUESTION: Are you surprised that this petition seems to have gathered speed within a week so quickly?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think anything surprises any – me in social media nowadays. Of course, she has a compelling personal story. We don’t have anything more about these specific charges, and we, of course, encourage an investigation that respects the process.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: A different topic (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The office of the director of national intelligence has said that intelligence agencies are going to limit the use of information they collect on foreigners, including purging material that isn’t relevant after five years. Is it your understanding that the changes introduced are enough to appease the concerns or take care of the concerns of foreign leaders, such as Chancellor Merkel and others, on whom information has been collected?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think to be clear, you’re referring to a report about the PPD-28 report, which is largely focused on domestic issues, that was released or was reported out today, I guess I should say. There wasn’t – this wasn’t an announcement about international policy. There are certain pieces, of course, that have been the case. We don’t collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent; we don’t collect intelligence to disadvantage people based on their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. In terms of bulk collection, we will only use data to meet specific security requirements, cyber intelligence, counterterrorism, counterproliferation, cyber security – there’s a great – a lot of detail, of course, in these sort of reviews and reports focused on the domestic piece.

The President also decided – not today, but as – but some time ago – that we will take the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people to people overseas. I think that might be what you’re referring to. No? That’s not a new announcement. But I’m – there’s not new information in this report about our international approach.

QUESTION: It was my understanding that the report issued today by the director of national intelligence does say that they will limit – they will actually limit some of the use of the information collected on foreigners.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m just conveying to you – and I’m happy to go back to the intelligence community – that there isn’t components that are new information on the international piece today.

QUESTION: Is there a State Department component to this?

MS. PSAKI: No, there’s not, so – all right. Thank you, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:48 p.m.)

Source: state.gov