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State Department Briefing by Jen Psaki, July 24, 2013

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–July 24, 2013.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Secretary to Chair UNSC Meeting focused on Great Lakes / Sustainable Peace
    • Update on Snowden / Secretary Spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov / Extradition
    • Secretary Spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov
    • Extradition Request for Dmitry Ustinov/ Bilateral Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty
    • Update on Snowden
    • Update on Military Assistance / F-16 Aircraft
    • Call for Peaceful Demonstrations / General al-Sisi
    • Parties Remain Committed to Resumption of Final Status Negotiations
    • No Update on New Special Envoy
    • Foreign Fighters
    • Secretary Kerry Plans to Meet with SOC Leadership at UN
    • Concerns with Humanitarian Aid Access
    • Visa for Leadership
    • 2014 Elections
    • Cyber Security
    • Economic Dialogue
    • Reports of Jets Scrambled in Okinawa
    • Pending Legislation in the House / SIGAR Report’s Recommendations
    • Update on Representative Wolf’s Letter in Response to Benghazi Incident
    • Ability of Employees to Speak
    • Visit of Opposition Party Leader to DC
  • MALI
    • Elections
    • Early Release of Convicted Yemeni Journalist Abdulelah Haider Shai
    • Foreign Minister’s Comment About the Election of President Maduro’s
    • Geneva II / Syria / Snowden



1:54 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon, everyone. I have one item at the top for all of you just on the Secretary’s trip tomorrow to New York.

The Secretary of State looks forward to chairing a positive and constructive UN Security Council ministerial debate tomorrow that promotes international attention to and regional accountability in the peace process. We commend the countries of the African Great Lakes region for undertaking a comprehensive peace process aimed at breaking the cycle of violence in the D.R.C. and achieving sustainable peace and development in the region. We believe the peace process, starting with the February signing of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework Agreement presents the region and the international community with the unique opportunity to address the security, economic, and governance issues underlying the chronic instability and conflict in the region. The United States is prepared to work with all signatories to promote the fulfillment of the framework for the benefit of all in the region.

QUESTION: Thank you for answering a long-held question of mine, which is that guidance on – readouts of meetings are not precooked. You’re —

MS. PSAKI: You’re very —

QUESTION: — convinced this is going to positive and constructive? What happens if it’s negative and destructive?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, our focus is on creating a sustainable —


MS. PSAKI: — path forward.

QUESTION: I understand, but I’m glad that you already know that it’s going to be positive and constructive.

MS. PSAKI: We’re looking forward to that.

QUESTION: Could we start with Russia, please?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: What’s your understanding of the situation of Mr. Snowden at the moment?

MS. PSAKI: Thank you for your question. I suspected this might be on your minds today. We have seen, of course, the press reports and are seeking clarification from the Russian Government. Obviously, any move that would allow Mr. Snowden to depart the airport would be deeply disappointing.

I also have another update for all of you. The Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning. He reiterated our belief, the belief of the United States, that Mr. Snowden needs to be returned to the United States where he will have a fair trial, that Russia still has the ability to do the right thing, and that call happened just late this morning.

QUESTION: So have you – who sought the clarification? Secretary Kerry sought clarification from Foreign Minister Lavrov in their conversation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are still seeking an update on the exact status. Our understanding is he’s still in the transit lounge, but for any update or announcement on the Russian Government’s steps, I would point you to them.

QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but Lavrov did not clarify things to the Secretary in their phone call? Did he, or did he not?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more on the phone call to read out for all of you.

QUESTION: So you’re basing – when you say you’ve seen the reports, you’ve seen that his lawyer went to visit him?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: About 10 days ago, two weeks ago when the human rights activists went in to see Mr. Snowden, into the transit lounge, you expressed disappointment that the Russians had facilitated this meeting, which turned into what you called a propaganda platform. I’m just wondering if you have a similar problem with the lawyer going to see him today.

MS. PSAKI: I would not compare all options. I believe at the time what we were most concerned about was the steps by the Russian Government to facilitate that event, which we expressed our concerns —


MS. PSAKI: — about, as you know, but beyond that, our focus is on encouraging Russia to do the right thing and return Mr. Snowden to the United States.

QUESTION: Okay, but you don’t have any problem with them allowing this guy in to see him today. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not our focus.

QUESTION: Does that mean that you don’t have a problem with it?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I expressed a problem about it.


QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on —

QUESTION: No. I do have one —

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Lesley.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. I might have blanked out on some other thing, but did you say that – what kind of message did he give Mr. Lavrov?

MS. PSAKI: He expressed – reiterated our belief, which we’ve stated publicly and privately, that Mr. Snowden needs to be returned to the United States, where he will face a fair trial. As you all know, he’s been accused on three felony counts. He is not a human rights activist; he is somebody who’s been accused of leaking classified information. And that Russia still has the ability to do the right thing and facilitate his return.

QUESTION: Because this would seem to be in Russia’s hands now, and is that why the conversation took place? Because given that the papers have now moved to the government to decide what –

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — it’s going to do, this does put the matter in its hands. Is this a critical time for that decision?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve always felt, especially after they facilitated that event, that they have had the ability to facilitate his return. I should mention, just so I don’t forget before I move on, that they also spoke about Syria during the call.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: And the Secretary said that they – he would be in touch with him after his trip tomorrow.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, but just on the call, was it – it was the Secretary calling Foreign Minister Lavrov, yeah?


QUESTION: And it was in response to the reports that he might be given this document?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, they speak regularly.


MS. PSAKI: This is an issue, obviously, we’ve —

QUESTION: And the last time you spoke was —

MS. PSAKI: — been concerned about. That was a big focus of the call —


MS. PSAKI: — but they also spoke about Syria.

QUESTION: Right, but would you say that you learned of the possibility that he was going to get this temporary document and that was why the call was made?

MS. PSAKI: That was a part – a big part of the purpose of the call, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And you’re not prepared to say whether Foreign Minister Lavrov was able to clarify to your satisfaction his situation. Is that —

MS. PSAKI: I just – I don’t have any more to read out for you on the call.

QUESTION: And then just one more thing. You said that any move from – any move of Mr. Snowden out of the airport transit lounge would be deeply disappointing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think any effort to – for – to help facilitate that or for him to move out of the airport certainly would be disappointing. Our belief is the only place he should be moving is back to the United States.

QUESTION: Right. So not any move out of the airport, but any move that is not back to the United States, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that is what our focus is on.


QUESTION: It would be the U.S. wish that the request gets denied and that they hand him over to the U.S. authorities? Is that the way —

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know there’s been lots of reports, and as far as I’ve seen, nothing has been fully confirmed yet. So I would point you to the Russian Government for the specifics on what the conversations are or what the documents and what the actual status is, I should say. But any move to help facilitate his departure would be disappointing.

QUESTION: What’s the role of the U.S. Embassy in this? Do you have officials stand by at the airport should he walk through? Can you arrest – are you able legally to arrest him on Russian territory?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more depth on that in particular. I mean, he is in the transit lounge. We’re aware of that, but beyond that I think we’re relying on the Russian Government to help facilitate.

But, as we’ve talked about, our Embassy has been in regular contact. I don’t have any recent updates for you, but that was only natural.

QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?

QUESTION: What did they share on Syria, if I might – considering it’s linked. What did the Secretary ask him about Syria? Was it in further discussion to – I mean, you’ve probably seen that diplomats are looking at votes to pass in the (inaudible) Security Council to help these aid groups, and since the Secretary met with the aid groups yesterday there’s been – seems to be a lot of concerns that there isn’t aid getting in to the people. They’ve been caught in the middle of the fighting. What was the discussion about?

MS. PSAKI: The discussion was pretty brief. It was more of a focus on the Secretary’s commitment to follow up with Foreign Minister Lavrov in the coming days.

QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Russian extradition question.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The Russian Foreign Ministry’s commissioner on human rights, democracy, and rule of law says the United States is ignoring legal procedures for extradition requests in getting a Lithuanian court to agree to extradite to the United States a Russian citizen, Dmitry Ustinov, who is suspected of smuggling export-restricted military equipment.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I do have something on this for you. We don’t comment, as a policy, on extradition matters of that sort, but the Bilateral Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the United States and Russia provides for cooperation on criminal matters, but does not govern U.S. extradition relationships with third countries, and for any questions on this, given it’s a criminal case, I would point you to the Department of Justice.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Said.


QUESTION: And yet, (inaudible) something to offer in response to the question. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I believe I gave everything I could give on that in response to Scott’s question.


QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?

QUESTION: I have another question on that.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I just have a question – a Washington – a Russian Embassy official today referred me to a quote from a Russian official saying that they’ve been trying to cooperate with the State Department on the extradition claims, and claims that the United States between 2007 and 2012 had referred more than 1,500 people to Russia. And essentially they’re saying that they’re not getting that information and they can’t confirm that there is a lot of precedent for cooperation between the U.S. and Russia, which of course has been a claim from this podium that there is a precedent that exists – that type of cooperation.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what your question is. Is it whether – sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Essentially, the question is: Do you still hold that there is a large precedent of cooperation between Russia and the United States in their extradition relationship?

MS. PSAKI: I do, and we don’t have a formal extradition treaty —


MS. PSAKI: — as you know, with Russia, but we have returned several hundred, I believe, individuals to Russia, and I believe that’s perhaps what they’re referring to, but I haven’t seen kind of the back and forth between the background quotes that you’re referring to.


QUESTION: Just a quick one on Mr. Snowden. As far as this drama, airport drama, is concerned, have any U.S. diplomats allowed to see him or meet with him?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. Obviously, there’s been – we talked a little about the event he held, but beyond that I don’t have any updates for you on it.

QUESTION: So why you have not tried? Maybe he will have changed his mind.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’re working through the proper channels to have Mr. Snowden returned.

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.

QUESTION: Do you know – has there been a request made to the Russians to see him —

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Matt.

QUESTION: Well, why not?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re working through the proper channels to have him returned.

QUESTION: Well, I understand that, but why wouldn’t you want to see him? Why wouldn’t you want to send – I mean, he might not want to see them and he might say no, but I mean, why wouldn’t you at least ask? I mean, you might – do you not have any interest in talking to him —

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think he’s been —

QUESTION: — except in a trial?

MS. PSAKI: — accused of three federal felonies. We’d like to see him returned.

QUESTION: I know. But as you’re fond of saying, he is an American citizen and he has rights —

MS. PSAKI: That is true.

QUESTION: — as an American citizen, and protecting the welfare of American citizens abroad is apparently, according to the little sign downstairs, it’s one of your primary missions of the State Department. So if you haven’t seen him, I’m just wondering – have you asked to see him?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Matt. I’m happy to check if there’s more to update you on.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you find out why you wouldn’t want to or why you —

MS. PSAKI: If there’s more to report, I’m happy to share it with all of you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, could I just pick up on the comments you made that you returned several hundred individuals to Russia?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have a time frame, and do you know what sort of crimes they were accused of or under what circumstances?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Obviously, every circumstance is different and we can’t get into specifics, given there are a lot of ongoing court cases. In terms of the timeline, I’m happy to check if there’s kind of a time frame of that we can provide —

QUESTION: But are these people who have been charged with crimes or just people – convicted or people or — I mean, just generally without going into specific details of individuals, it would be helpful to know what kind of circumstances they were here —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — or why they were being returned.

MS. PSAKI: I understand. Let me check if there’s more of a specific description we can offer to all of you.


QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the status – on the decision to withhold delivery of the F-16s?

MS. PSAKI: I do, and I know that my colleagues over at the Department of Defense have already spoken to this. So let me just further confirm, as we have said, we do not believe that it would be in the best interests of the United States to immediately change all of our assistance to Egypt. We are reviewing our obligations under the law and are consulting with Congress about the way forward. Given the current situation in Egypt, we do not believe it is appropriate to move forward with the delivery of F-16s at this time.

QUESTION: So, is that like maybe paving the road to determine what happened as a coup?

MS. PSAKI: This was a very specific decision made about – at this specific time about this specific case. So I would caution you to read further into it.

QUESTION: Okay. And lastly, General al-Sisi today asked the Egyptian people to give him a mandate to stamp out violence and terror and so on. Are you concerned about his statement in spite of the positive response he’s receiving from the public?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have certainly seen General al-Sisi speech in which he called for the Egyptian people to take to the streets on Friday against violence. We reiterate our call, which we have done publicly a number of times, as you know, but also in private conversations with him in others, on all participants – on all – I should participants in the process here – that all – any demonstrations be peaceful. We are concerned that clashes would make it very difficult to reconcile and get ahead of cycles of unrest and instability.

QUESTION: But aren’t you concerned that his call for the Egyptian people at this moment of flux to give him a mandate to basically confront what he calls violence and terror and so on, that this is paving the road to full military rule in Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re concerned about – I think I just said we’re very concerned about the calls and we’re also concerned about – that the clashes would make it very difficult to reconcile and get ahead of the cycles of unrest and instability. But I’m not going to get ahead of where we are.

QUESTION: I guess I’m saying about something very specific.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: He said he wants a mandate to stamp out violence and terror, which means to bring to bear the full power of the Egyptian military.

MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly that is something we strongly disagree with and we remain focused on encouraging the interim government to move towards an inclusive process which includes elections – civilian elections, and we’re monitoring closely steps they’re taking to do just that.

QUESTION: Sorry – but what’s something that you strongly discourage?

MS. PSAKI: Violence.

QUESTION: No, no, in response to his – I believe you said something about – maybe I misheard you. Can I just ask —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — on the F-16s – so this was a specific decision limited to just the transfer of these planes?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: It does – you’re not aware of, or have there been any other preapproved military or civilian assistance that have been – that has been stopped or suspended since July 3rd?

MS. PSAKI: This is a very specific case. I don’t have any other information or announcements for you.

QUESTION: So other stuff that was already approved is still going ahead? Is that —

MS. PSAKI: Well, yeah. As far as I’m aware, yes. This was a specific case and a specific decision that was made.

QUESTION: Okay. And then when you talked about – when you were answering the question about General al-Sisi’s —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — calls, you said you’re concerned about the calls. So that means that you don’t think it’s a good idea that he’s calling for people to come out in the streets and demonstrate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what we’re referring to is – here is kind of calls – we’re concerned about the possibility of violence in these cases.

QUESTION: Right. I —

MS. PSAKI: And that’s what we’re concerned about.

QUESTION: I understand, but you do not think that if people – that this will give him a mandate?

MS. PSAKI: We’re – we don’t think it will give him a mandate in what way?

QUESTION: Well, he says that he wants – he’s saying to the Egyptian people look, turn out in the streets and you’ll give me a mandate to fight terrorism and corruption. You do not agree that this would give him a mandate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our concern is that we, of course, believe in public displays of expression, and we just want them to be peaceful, and our concerns about – are when they are potentially turning to violence. In terms of – I’m not sure where you’re going with this.

QUESTION: Well, where I’m going with it is that you in essence, after the whatever it was, the non-coup coup, said look, democracy is not just elections, there were 20 million, 30 million people in the streets, basically giving him the idea that getting millions of people into the street gives him a mandate.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And now you’re saying that that’s not correct?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I said any of that. What I’m —

QUESTION: Well, yeah, you did. I mean you – at the – back at the time, you said look, not all the Egyptian – there were 20 million – you kept referring back —

MS. PSAKI: No, you’re right, I did say that. We still absolutely stand by that.

QUESTION: So now when the army chief – you don’t think that you encouraged him in any way to have the – to ask for the Egyptian people to come out and show their support for him and his military by saying – by giving credence to the idea that mass demonstrations in the streets give people a – or take away a mandate from an elected president or give a mandate to a military to oust him.

MS. PSAKI: Well, in this specific case, we’re concerned about the possibility of this leading to more violence, and that’s our concern. And we saw his remarks, and that’s our concern about it.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. So you’re not concerned about the idea, or what was asked in the question, that this could pave – this could be leading the way for a complete military takeover of Egypt? That’s not your concern; your concern is only in the short term about violence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, our focus remains, as you know, on encouraging the interim government to take steps – to continue to take steps, I should say – towards electing civilian leadership, taking all of the steps they’ve laid out they would take. That’s where our focus is. This is a specific case where we are concerned about this leading to violence. That’s our concern.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. There is no broader concern than that?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead of what hasn’t yet happened.

QUESTION: Well, I’m sorry. I – you’re not concerned at all that this might lead to him, the general, saying look, I have a huge mandate and we’re just going to take over and the hell with the civilian government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s speculating. That’s a hypothetical that hasn’t happened, so I’m not going to speak to that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well —

MS. PSAKI: He has called for protests. That’s what I was speaking to.

QUESTION: Okay. And just to be very clear —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — the only concern you have about these demonstrations that have been called for is the possibility that they might lead to violence?

MS. PSAKI: That is our concern, Matt. Of course, if there was a path that was taken that was not the interim government moving forward on the path they’ve laid out and elections, that would be of concern, but that’s purely a hypothetical at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. So – but you don’t see – at this moment, it’s not a threat to that, his calls are not a threat to the interim government moving forward?

MS. PSAKI: That’s – I was not at all suggesting that.


QUESTION: On the withholding of delivery to the Egyptian military, just restricted to the F-16, you said that, but it does not include, let’s say, tear gas that has been used? I mean, they did not use the F-16s against the public, but did they —

MS. PSAKI: It includes the F-16s.

QUESTION: Just the F-16s, so it does not include —

MS. PSAKI: That is what it includes.

QUESTION: — American-made tear gas, which the U.S. —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any —

QUESTION: — which the Egyptian military —

MS. PSAKI: There’s no other aid or assistance I have to lay out for you today.

QUESTION: So they can continue to use —

MS. PSAKI: I’m just cautioning you not to read into this as an indication of anything else.

QUESTION: So it is fine with you if they continue to use American-made tear gas against demonstrators?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, that’s a broad hypothetical point. I’m speaking to the F-16s and the announcement that was made by the Department of Defense today. As we have more announcements on aid and any form of aid, if we do, I’m happy to make them.

QUESTION: Can I just ask you to explain a bit more why it was felt it was not appropriate to move forward with the delivery at this time of the F-16s?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is a decision ultimately made by the President. It was unanimously supported by his national security team. Obviously, they’re reviewing case by case, but I don’t have any further kind of internal discussion to read out for you on the reasons.

QUESTION: But – well, I mean, I guess the question is: Is it because it was felt that the interim government receiving such aid would send a bad signal to other governments or other militaries who might be considering removing presidents, or was it because it was felt it wasn’t good for the United States image to be sending such weapons or such military equipment at this time? I mean, there must’ve been a reasoning as to why it was felt to be inappropriate.

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, it was about to be delivered, so there was a timing reason here. That was a big part of the reasoning, and beyond that I just don’t have any more specifics to lay out for you.

QUESTION: Well, except that it could’ve been – this decision could’ve been made last week. Do you know when it was made?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t.

QUESTION: So in other words, it doesn’t necessarily have to do with anything that might’ve happened yesterday or the day before; is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: I would not read into it as being related to a single day.

QUESTION: Okay. And then just as you feel like you are entitled to seek clarity from the Russians about —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — what they’re doing with Mr. Snowden. I hope you understand that we need to seek clarity from you on behalf of —

MS. PSAKI: I always understand that, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. So —

MS. PSAKI: Though sometimes there are things I can read out and sometimes there aren’t.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I understand that. But I mean, it would be – if you say something is inappropriate to do at a certain point of time —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — generally a non-opaque explanation would include the reason why. And I think Jo’s question is perfectly valid. And basically you can’t say —

MS. PSAKI: I’m not suggesting it’s not.

QUESTION: Right. But you cannot say why it’s inappropriate. Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to read out for you on the reasoning.

QUESTION: Okay. So you can’t say why it’s inappropriate. So how do we know that it’s inappropriate? How do – there has to be a reason.

MS. PSAKI: A decision was made by the President, by his national security team, not to deliver. Given the events on the ground, we’re continuing to review. But I’m cautioning you against reading into what it means in the future or tying it to a specific day in Egypt.

QUESTION: What it means in terms of the future, in terms of the overall review —

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: — about what happened three weeks ago?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, will someone at the White House – if they’re asked, will they be able to say why the President thought it was inappropriate to go ahead with a sale of – the transfer of F-16s at this time?

MS. PSAKI: I encourage you to ask them and see if there’s more to offer.

QUESTION: And you would – what’s your expectation?

MS. PSAKI: I encourage you to ask any question you choose.

QUESTION: Basically that the President is allowed to make a decision without giving a reason for it. No?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I think I gave the reason I’m able to provide today.

QUESTION: Has it been communicated – has this decision already been communicated to the interim government in Cairo?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Defense on that. They’d be the appropriate source to make the – to communicate it.

QUESTION: And do you know if there’s – it’s been – you’re not going ahead with it at this time, which leaves open the door that at some point you will go ahead with it. Are you able to tell us whether that’s the case?

MS. PSAKI: All I can tell you is the decision was made about – at this time about what to do regarding the F-16s that were planned to be delivered, but I can’t look into a crystal ball in six months or a year from now.

QUESTION: So there’s no timeline? There’s no timeline attached to this suspension of the delivery of the F-16s then?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they’re not being delivered, so it would require that changing, which – that would obviously be looking into a crystal ball. And I don’t know. I wouldn’t venture to do that.

QUESTION: It’s just —

QUESTION: Is it true that if the – once there is a permanent government in place —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — that the U.S. could review that decision?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I just don’t want to get ahead. I don’t know all the specifics beyond what the announcement was today.

QUESTION: Is it safe to assume that it was not one particular incident that triggered this withholding of deliveries and it’s an accumulation of things over the past, let’s say, month?

MS. PSAKI: I would say that is safe to assume.

QUESTION: Just on the call —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — of your expression of concern about General al-Sisi’s call, do you know if that was conveyed to – directly to him or anyone else?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe that my colleagues over at the Department of Defense read out that the Secretary —


MS. PSAKI: — had done – had spoken with him, so I’d point you to them and the specifics on that call.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. Secretary Hagel has spoken —

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Secretary Hagel. Exactly.

QUESTION: No, but do you know – did he express concerns about the calls for people to show – turn out on the streets?

MS. PSAKI: Secretary Hagel?


MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Defense. I don’t have any readout of his specific call.

QUESTION: So they’re handling the diplomacy on this now?

MS. PSAKI: He was the last person to speak with him this morning —

QUESTION: All right. I understand that. Okay. But other than —

MS. PSAKI: — so he’d be the natural person to point you to.

QUESTION: Do you know if the same – okay. Do you know if the same message that you just read out on the calls for demonstrations were given by the Embassy or by anyone in this building?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve expressed that concern publicly and privately a countless number of times.


MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a new update of a call today.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have a date yet for the Israeli-Palestinian talks?

MS. PSAKI: I do not have an update for you today.

QUESTION: Any progress in bringing them here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to – the Secretary and other senior officials remain in close touch with officials on both sides, and they’re working towards – as we’ve talked about a bit – formalizing the discussion. But I don’t have an update on a date at this point yet.

QUESTION: It was attributed to the Palestinian negotiator that he’s sort of postponing his trip to Washington until they agree on some terms, them and Tzipi Livni and so on. Are you aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know there have been a lot of reports out there, some accurate, some inaccurate. But I can assure you that we’re continuing – nothing has changed since last Friday, and we’re continuing to talk with both sides about setting a date for them to come to Washington.

QUESTION: So what major obstacles have emerged, let’s say, in the last 24 hours that could derail the effort at least?

MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed since last Friday. We’re continuing to discuss a time for them to come to Washington.

QUESTION: In the interest of seeking clarity on this —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — can you tell us which reports are accurate that you just mentioned?

MS. PSAKI: Well, thank you for your question, Matt. I am not going to get into behind-the-scenes discussions and negotiations. It would require me doing that in order to refute or confirm any of these reports, so hence the challenge.

QUESTION: Okay. So when the Russians give you that same explanation for why they won’t you give you clarity on Snowden, I hope you’ll be as accepting of their answer as we are of yours.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I would caution you that those are apples and oranges. This is a —

QUESTION: No, no. Well, it’s all in the greater quest for clarity.

MS. PSAKI: I know you do like to make sweeping assertions.

QUESTION: I just like to know – (laughter) – I just like to know what’s going on.

QUESTION: So there are reports out there that both Israeli and Palestinian sides have postponed any visit because there is a dispute over the principles of how – under which the talks should be held. Is that an accurate report or an inaccurate report?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re continuing to discuss a time for them to come here. I’m not going to speak on behalf of them, but nothing has changed since earlier this week, so I would caution you about believing every report you read.

QUESTION: Can you confirm that Martin Indyk is the envoy?

MS. PSAKI: I can – we have discussed this a bit this week in here.


MS. PSAKI: Lesley, there’s no —

QUESTION: I feel like we’re getting closer. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: There is no new update I can report. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, the Secretary is eager to put together a senior team of officials, but those decisions are still being made.

QUESTION: Can you tell us if that team would include Mr. Robert Malley as well?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t confirm any personnel for you. I know we’re all eager to have a personnel announcement be made.

QUESTION: Can I ask a question about a Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So there’s been several high-profile stories of Westerners from the U.S. and U.K. going back to Syria to fight against the Assad regime. Are there any concerns about when these citizens return to the U.S. and other allied countries?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary has expressed concerns about foreign fighters from anywhere in the past, and that remains a concern and something that we’re following very closely.

QUESTION: Are you worried about them bringing back the jihad ideas into the U.S.?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, we have – obviously, we haven’t spoken to numbers or anything along those lines. We’d certainly be concerned about extremists returning to the United States.

QUESTION: Is this —

QUESTION: (Off mike.) I don’t know what you were trying to – but people that are – have been fighting along the opposition —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and they were actually former soldiers in the military and so on, now they are defecting back to the army because they see the power of the Islamists and they also see that Assad is winning on the ground. Are you aware of these reports, and do you have any comment on them?

MS. PSAKI: I have —

QUESTION: It is allegedly in the hundreds.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. I have not seen those reports, Said. I have to look a little more closely into them.

QUESTION: Can I ask – I asked this question yesterday and I wondered if you had an update.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: With the Secretary being in the UN tomorrow —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and the Syrian opposition leaders also being in the UN, are there any plans for him to meet with the Syrian —

MS. PSAKI: I do have an update, for clarity purposes, of course. The Secretary plans to meet with SOC President Jarba and other members of the coalition, including Michel Kilo and Burhan Ghalioun. They will discuss the current situation in Syria, how to support a process of political dialogue and the Geneva conference, and ways to bolster our assistance to local communities in coordination with the SOC. I know they have other meetings or events they’re planning. I would, of course, point you to the UN for more specifics.

QUESTION: Do you know what time that’s likely to happen? And will it be tomorrow or Friday?

MS. PSAKI: Tomorrow afternoon. The Secretary is only in New York tomorrow.


QUESTION: So he’s meeting at the UN tomorrow with Burhan Ghalioun and Michel Kilo and Jarba, correct?

MS. PSAKI: He is planning to, yes.

QUESTION: And is this his first meeting with this particular set of leaders from the SOC?

MS. PSAKI: I believe so. I would have to kind of double-check that for you because there’s been a combination of different officials at different meetings, but certainly in this capacity, yes.

QUESTION: New subject?

QUESTION: Will that meeting be positive and constructive as well?

MS. PSAKI: We are hopeful it will be, Matt.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary have a particular message he wishes to convey, considering that now we’ve got beyond whatever happened in Congress this week with the Representative Rogers’ statement on the – that they are – there is consensus in Congress for the President’s plan —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — is there a particular message that the Secretary wants to convey to these leaders?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we, of course, are in touch as it relates to any sort of aid in that form with General Idris and the SMC. He would not be a part of this, as you know. He will, I think, convey his commitment, the U.S. commitment, to continuing to help strengthen the opposition. Obviously it was an important step that they elected leadership. This provides an opportunity to meet with them and discuss with them not only the situation on the ground but the path forward towards a political solution.

QUESTION: And will he be trying to get a sense of who possibly might be a representative from the opposition towards any Geneva 2 talks, if they happen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m sure the portion of the discussion on Geneva will have a range of components, including attendants and when the right timing is and all of that that we’ve talked about a bit in here.

QUESTION: Can I raise – I raised it a little earlier, where we have a report out of Paris today saying that the French are pushing for the UN to see if the UN can get enough votes to pass a resolution to help aid groups —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — get into Syria as the death count mounts. Is that something that the U.S. would support?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to take a closer look at it. I think naturally, as we’ve talked about a bit in here, we’re very concerned about the ongoing issues with humanitarian assistance making its way into parts of Syria and the impact that has on innocent civilians. And there have been countless times – we’ve talked about it a bit, whether it’s Qusayr, or even recent events this past week – where aid is unable to reach individuals. We have supported steps in the past to make that point, but I’d have to talk with our team that works on this to see the specifics.


QUESTION: New subject?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Do you have any more on Syria?

QUESTION: No. It’s new subject as well.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: You can go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Oh. Sorry, Goyal.

QUESTION: Yeah. Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Two questions – one on India, one on China.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: India: Mr. Rajnath, the opposition party leader of BJP, is in the U.S., in Washington, now. He has been addressing a number of events, including yesterday all day on Capitol Hill meeting lawmakers. One thing he’s asking the U.S. Government still: Why Mr. Modi, the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, has not been given visa? And he’s seeking from the State Department, give the reason why he has been – he is not getting visa, but everybody else is coming from India to the U.S.

MS. PSAKI: Well, our policy on this has not changed. If Chief Minister Modi applies for a visa, his application will be considered to determine whether he qualifies for a visa in accordance with U.S. immigration law and policy. But as you know, we don’t talk about the specifics of that process or individual cases. But he would, of course, be considered if he were to apply.

QUESTION: Next year there’s election in India.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And Congress Party is very unpopular among the people of India, and it might lose the election, and Mr. Modi might become the Prime Minister of India. Then what happens?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s a lot of speculation down the road. We always encourage democratic elections and we don’t take sides, and we’ll be watching it closely.

QUESTION: As far as visa to Mr. Modi, the prime minister of India, Mr. Modi.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I just said that we will consider his application if he applies. And we’re not going to get ahead of where we are at this time.


QUESTION: You always encourage democratic elections, just not – you don’t always encourage upholding their results. Is that pretty much the case there?

MS. PSAKI: Every case is different, Matt.

QUESTION: And a question on China, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Congressman Mike Rogers, the chairman of the most private matter on Capitol Hill —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — he was addressing the International Institute of Strategic Studies in Washington, DC, IISS, and what he said that U.S. companies in China are being robbed and stolen their trade secrets and they are being asked to leave the country after they have been robbed of their trade secrets and so on. What do you think the cyber attack and other trade secrets China is stealing from the U.S. is still going on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, this is an issue, that it’s been raised at the highest levels, whether it’s been the President in his meeting in California or Deputy Secretary Burns in his meetings at the S&ED just a few weeks ago. We of course remain concerned about cyber security and it’s an issue we talk regularly about, and we have a working group, as you know.

QUESTION: One more quickly. As far as the 500 Fortune U.S. companies in China doing business for the last 25, 30 years —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and all that, they thought that China is heaven for their business and they will make money, but most of the – most of – maybe 99 percent U.S. companies were losing and still hoping that U.S. Government will help, and they will be coming ahead as far as making money as a business. Businessmen, of course, they want to make money. And they have no left anywhere because billions of dollars in investment and they have nowhere to go anywhere. So what are you telling to the Chinese and what Chinese are telling you about this investment they made?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the economic dialogue is a robust one. It was a big part of the S&ED dialogue just a few weeks ago, and I know Secretary Lew spoke extensive to that as well.

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.

MS. PSAKI: I know you had a question here.

QUESTION: Yeah, not really a China question actually —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you have a response to reports that the Japanese Air Defense Force scrambled jets after a Chinese aircraft flew near Okinawa in the Pacific Ocean?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have seen these reports. We don’t have a comment about the specific incident, so I have nothing really further for you.

QUESTION: This said there were 306 similar incidents where the Japanese Air Force scrambled jets in response to Chinese – this was the first one in this particular region, but are you concerned that this is an ongoing escalation of tensions in the region?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we always resolve – we always encourage all parties to resolve their disputes peacefully through dialogue and diplomacy, but beyond that, I don’t have much more for you on this particular case.

Oh. Go ahead, Dana. I’ll go to you next.

QUESTION: I have two questions in relation to some things in – happening in Congress.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The first is that – do you have any response to the House Appropriations amendment that was brought up and passed today that advocates cutting Secretary Kerry’s salary by 25 percent if the State Department doesn’t submit a proposal to implement the – I believe it’s the SIGAR report’s recommendations on better auditing practices for Afghanistan reconstruction?

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that. When I came down here, it must have just passed in the last hour or so, but we’ll take a look at that and we’ll get right back to you.

QUESTION: And the second question is whether Secretary Kerry has received or has issued a response to Representative Wolf’s letter in regards to Benghazi and asking for the phone numbers and addresses for the five Diplomatic Security officers.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. We have actually sent a reply to Mr. Wolf[1], and on that specific case, just to give you all a little more background here, the ARB interviewed the five RSOs who were in Benghazi on the night of the attack, along with more than 100 other individuals who were on the ground in Tripoli or in Washington. There have been requests from Congress in the past as well to interview the five surviving DS agents. As we responded to Congress, we have serious concerns about the survivors’ welfare and want to be careful not to interfere with the FBI’s investigation of the attack.

One agent is currently recovering at a local military hospital and the other four have returned to duty. All of them are security professionals, and we are committed to ensuring their security as they return to the field. Should their identities become public, they may become targets, putting their lives as well as those of their families and the people they protect at risk.

QUESTION: You said 500 on the ground in Benghazi (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: I think we – I said more than 100 other individuals —

QUESTION: I’m sorry, 100.

MS. PSAKI: — who were on the ground there, but – as well as in Tripoli and in Washington who were interviewed for the ARB report.

QUESTION: Who do you (inaudible) become targets for – I think was (inaudible) —

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t —

QUESTION: Who would target them?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into specifics about that, but it is a concern, and that’s why we are concerned about keeping their safety – keeping their identities private.

QUESTION: And, I mean, and since we’re on this, is there any update on the investigation into who carried out the attack?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the FBI. I don’t have an update for you from here.

QUESTION: If they want to testify, though, or if they want to talk to Congress, is – do they have that option?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are no – and we’ve talked about this before, but there are no Department employees who want to tell their story that are being obstructed from doing so by the leadership of the State Department. And as you know, there have been, I believe, nine recent hearings that we’ve participated in, 25,000 documents we’ve provided, and we continue to cooperate with Congress on these issues.

QUESTION: Just a follow-up on that.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So you’re saying that the State Department won’t prevent any meetings, but would the State Department —

MS. PSAKI: Won’t prevent —

QUESTION: — facilitate meetings between members of Congress and the survivors if the concern is to not let their names and contact information get out, perhaps a meeting might be possible?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think we’re concerned about their identities being made public. Obviously, we’ve received inquiries about this. They’re carefully considered. We respond to letters that we receive. I don’t have an update for you on that or whether there would be anything else considered.

What I was referring to was any Department employee who wants to speak about their story or tell their story publicly, we certainly wouldn’t prevent.

QUESTION: So if the survivors wanted to speak with members of Congress, would the State Department facilitate that meeting?

MS. PSAKI: We don’t prevent anyone from telling their story. We’ve helped and facilitated countless hearings and interviews and discussions with members of Congress as well as members of the ARB.

QUESTION: Madam, can I just go back quickly, my question on Mr. Rajnath visit, please?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: If Mr. Rajnath, the opposition party leader of India, visit the – has met anybody in the State Department?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update for you on that, Goyal. We can check on that for you.

QUESTION: Thank you, ma’am.

MS. PSAKI: Scott.

QUESTION: Elections in Mali?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: If you can give an assessment of the preparation for that process?

MS. PSAKI: I know they’re coming up very soon. Let me see if I have anything new for you here, Scott. Scott, we’ll have to check for you on whether there are some late – recent updates on it. Obviously, we’ve been closely following and engaged in this, but I know they’re coming next week, right? So —

QUESTION: This weekend.

MS. PSAKI: This weekend – sorry, my dates are off.

QUESTION: If you would as well, there’s some concern about the ability of voters in the north to be able to vote, given the security situation —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — so if you could see if you have something —

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, absolutely, we’ll check on that as well for you.


QUESTION: Jen, I had a question about the Yemeni journalist who was released yesterday after three years in jail. He’d been arrested on charges of links to al-Qaida after he reported about U.S. involvement in air raids in southern Yemen. Rights groups – there’s some indication with rights groups who feel that he was arrested and then imprisoned because there was pressure put on the Yemeni authorities by the United States, and the reason he spent so long in jail – he’s now been pardoned by the President – was because the United States had argued against his release. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can say that we are concerned and disappointed by his early release. He was sentenced by a Yemeni court to five years in prison for his involvement with al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. We have also conveyed our concerns to the Government of Yemen. Beyond that, I don’t have any further comment or speculation on the reasoning.

QUESTION: So by conveying concerns, does that equate with what rights groups would call pressure from the United States to keep him in prison?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t equate it with that, just our concerns about what I just stated publicly about his early release.

QUESTION: But why are you concerned about him being released? Do you – I mean, you believe that he’s an al-Qaida affiliate or some kind of person who’s working with al-Quaida? You believe his release is doing to endanger civilians and people working in Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have much more for you other than the fact that he was convicted and sentenced and he was released early, and that’s – is not our preference.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Scott.

QUESTION: Venezuela’s Foreign Minister —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — says that the United States is interfering in Venezuela’s internal affairs by supporting those who don’t recognize President Maduro’s election. Do you have any response to the Foreign Minister’s comment?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those new comments. Were they from today, perhaps?

QUESTION: I don’t know.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I haven’t seen those new comments. We obviously have not interjected into any election. As you know, we are open to having a positive relationship with Venezuela moving forward. That’s what our focus is on, and we still are leaving the door open for that.


QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead, Deb. Last one.

QUESTION: Sorry. Can we go back to Snowden real quick?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I was wondering, first of all, if you had any update on Geneva 2, and whether or not the Snowden – unresolved case of Snowden is affecting any work on Geneva 2 and the Syrian problem.

MS. PSAKI: I would not – obviously —

QUESTION: You mentioned they talked about it today.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, they did. And if, as I mentioned before but worth restating, if they were to help Mr. Snowden depart the transit lounge, that would be disappointing. We’re still waiting for further confirmation and – we’re looking for clarification of the details. But separately, we still continue to work, and the Secretary continues to discuss our efforts to move toward a political process which Geneva 2 would be an important component of. And he will look forward to giving Foreign Minister Lavrov a readout of his discussion he has with the opposition tomorrow.

So it is a case which is challenging but not uncommon in that we agree on some things and we disagree on others, and we are certainly hopeful that they will do the right thing when it comes to Mr. Snowden, but we are continuing to work with them as it relates to planning Geneva.

QUESTION: So it’s not really a snag in that movement – on that line of the discussion?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it has not been. It is an issue we continue to discuss. But obviously, it would be disappointing if they did – took any steps to help aid Mr. Snowden.


MS. PSAKI: But look, I think the larger point here, Deb, is that we’re working with the Russians on pursuing and planning Geneva because they’re an important partner in getting both sides to the table to discuss a political transition moving forward. There’s no question that we are concerned about their aid they provided – or I should say facilitation of the event just a few weeks ago. We’ve conveyed that at several levels of the government, and we will continue to. But it is in the interests of many in the world. Many countries are deeply focused on the end result and the process forward in Syria, and we’re continuing to work with the Russians on that.

QUESTION: So if Russia does go ahead and allow him to leave the transit lounge and then ultimately give him asylum, what kind of consequences do you feel that would have or do you know that would have for the U.S.-Russia relationship?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re hopeful it won’t come to that.

QUESTION: But I mean, are you actually saying this will have consequences?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to outline that from here.

QUESTION: Have they outlined that to the Russian authorities?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more specifics, but I know we’ll keep talking about this issue, I bet, in the days ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:41 p.m.)

[1] Spokesperson Psaki was referring to our response to Congressman Wolf’s May 6 letter.

Source: state.gov


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