Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 10, 2014.
1:23 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. I just have a couple of items for all of you at the top. Secretary Kerry was in Beijing this weekend participating in the APEC Ministerial Meetings. He met with his Indonesian and Australian counterparts, where they discussed a full range of bilateral, regional, and global issues. He met briefly with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and pressed Russia to implement fully its commitments under the Minsk agreements, including securing and monitoring Ukraine’s international border.
Secretary Kerry also attended several public events before departing Beijing to travel to Muscat, Oman. He will return to Beijing later this evening to join President Obama in meetings with President Xi Jinping.
As you all know, President Obama arrived in Beijing today – or yesterday, I believe. He participated in a leaders meeting with TPP member states and a bilateral meeting with Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Indonesian President Joko Widodo. The President delivered a speech at the APEC CEO summit, attended APEC’s opening festivities hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping, and will join the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting that I believe is underway or soon to be underway.
He also announced the United States will increase the validity of short-term business and tourist visas and student and exchange visas for eligible Chinese travelers. This step will make it easier for Chinese travelers and students to visit the United States. As a result of this arrangement, we hope to welcome a growing share of eligible Chinese travelers, inject billions of dollars into the U.S. economy, and support hundreds of thousands of additional U.S. jobs.
Second item for the top: We condemn Russia’s increased militarization of the Donbas region through the provision of tanks and other heavy equipment to separatists. The OSCE SMM monitors have reported the movement of large military convoys of Russia-supplied heavy weapons and tanks to the front lines of the conflict in recent days, and greatly intensified shelling around the Donetsk airport in Debaltseve, where separatists appear intent on making territorial gains well beyond the lines agreed in Minsk.
There are no excuses for these ongoing and continuous blatant violations of the Minsk protocol by Russia and its proxies. If Russia is truly committed to Minsk and peace in Ukraine, it will stop fueling the fire with new weapons and support for separatists and withdraw all Russian military personnel and equipment from Ukraine, and it will call on its proxies to stop ceasefire violations, release hostages, and close the international border. As the White House made clear on November 3rd, should Moscow continue to ignore the commitments that it made in Minsk and continue its destabilizing and dangerous actions, the costs to Russia will rise.
We also call to your attention to press reports that the Russian Government has thrown a blanket of state secrecy over what happened to its paratroopers from Pskov that were killed fighting in the Donbas – in Donbas this summer. We note that the families of those killed in action may never have the comfort of knowing from their own government what truly happened to their sons now that their fate has been declared a state secret.
Finally, I’d like to welcome Ian Clements in the back, a 7th-grade from Swanson Middle School in Arlington. So we’re glad you’re visiting today as well.
All right. Matt.
QUESTION: Right. Well, I want to go to Ukraine, but we can do that —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — and get back to that a little bit later. I wanted to start with these developments with USAID, which I think you’re familiar with.
MS. PSAKI: Yes, I’ve seen the AP report.
QUESTION: Right. Well, not just the report on it, but the statement from AID about how it’s changing its work in politically restrictive environments. And I’m wondering a couple things on this. One, what is going to be the State Department’s role in these pro-democracy programs since now, apparently, the work in politically restrictive environments is going to come under State’s rubric rather than AID’s?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I spoke with our team right before we came down here. These reports of new regulations or a change in policy is something that we’re still reviewing or discussing internally. So I don’t have a – I don’t believe any final decision has been made at this point in time. Obviously, we continue to review our programs and how to best implement them, how we should implement them, who should be responsible for them. And that certainly is applicable here. We continue to believe we need to find creative ways to promote positive change in Cuba; but beyond that, we’re still assessing what any change or what any impact would be.
QUESTION: Well, but you’re not denying that you’re considering changes or that you’re reviewing your programs in – democracy programs in restrictive countries, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re constantly reviewing all of our programs. Obviously, USAID – obviously, they’re a part of the State Department, but I believe this is a reference to some internal discussion and deliberations that haven’t yet been finalized.
QUESTION: Yeah. But does that – is this an acknowledgment that there was an – a higher-than-acceptable risk for some of – in some of – in the people who were carrying out or promoting or actually working for these programs?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, obviously, USAID has the lead on looking at any of these programs and evaluating what is effective and what’s worth continuing. So it’s just – it reflects that that’s an ongoing process, and we’ll have a discussion with them about what to do moving forward.
QUESTION: You understand, and I presume AID understands, that some of the work – at least some of it, maybe a good percentage of it – is illegal, actually, in certain countries that you would consider to be politically restrictive, including Cuba. If you’re going to be transparent about them, how are you going to continue to do them if they’re actually against the law in countries where you’re operating?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s just premature at this point to – for me to read out for you or brief for you how these programs will be continued moving forward or implemented moving forward. Obviously, with any program, we continue to evaluate its effectiveness and whether it should continue.
QUESTION: But you’re – so you’re saying that you objected to the use of the word “clandestine” or “secret” before —
MS. PSAKI: We continue to.
QUESTION: — but you did say “discreet.” That’s been the word.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that this – any changes in policy will not mean an end to the discreet operations?
MS. PSAKI: Well, all I’m saying, Matt, is that, obviously, there’s an ongoing internal deliberation about any big program by USAID or one – or some that the State Department runs. This is a reflection of that. It doesn’t mean that a final decision has been made about how it will be implemented or if it will be implemented moving forward.
QUESTION: But it does mean that there are concerns within the Department and within USAID that some of these programs may have over-reached?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you may recall —
QUESTION: Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: — that several months ago, I believe it was, when some stories came out about some of these programs, they made clear that they would be evaluating them. So this is a reflection of that.
QUESTION: All right. Well, do you anticipate – or is it just too early to say – do you anticipate any reduction in the number of discreet programs that you’re doing – that you’re funding and carrying out in politically restrictive environments?
MS. PSAKI: It’s too early to say at this point in time.
QUESTION: Okay. I’ll —
MS. PSAKI: Shall we move on to a new topic?
QUESTION: Going to a new topic?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Said.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Are you following up on the statements by the special envoy, the UN special envoy, by perhaps having some sort of a ceasefire or at least stopping the fighting in Aleppo? And do you support such a thing, or was that discussed when he was here in Washington?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly support ceasefires that would provide genuine relief to Syrian civilians and are consistent with humanitarian principles. But, however, we’ve seen in some cities – Babila, Homs, Yarmouk – unfortunately, many local truces achieved thus far have more closely resembled surrender arrangements as opposed to genuine, sustainable ceasefire arrangements that are consistent with best – with humanitarian best practices.
So we certainly support the efforts of Minister de Mistura. We support any effort to save human life. That would represent a shift in the Assad regime’s approach. But we are also cognizant of the Assad regime’s record on ceasefires.
QUESTION: So you don’t take – Assad issued a statement after his meeting with de Mistura basically saying they support his idea. First of all, can you give us perhaps, if you do know, sort of an outline of those ideas? I mean, how would this – such a ceasefire work? Will it sort of declare an area that is noncombat area? I mean, how does it work? Because he said I support such a proposal.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, there are – have been reports related to local ceasefires. That’s what I can address at this point in time. In terms of other components of de Mistura’s proposals, I would certainly point you to him. I will just reiterate that our view is that the Assad regime bears overwhelming – continues to be that the Assad regime bears overwhelming responsibility for this humanitarian disaster and the daily suffering of the Syrian people, that as we must not – as – even as ISIL exploits this vacuum, we must not lose sight of the Assad regime’s ongoing crimes against the Syrian people that have nurtured ISIL’s growth in Syria. That continues to be our belief. And we’re just cognizant of the history on some of these local ceasefires.
QUESTION: Do you see this as perhaps a prelude for re-energized activities on the political front, perhaps a Geneva III, especially after it’s been sort of put aside for a number of months due to the rise of ISIS and the rise of fighting? Do you see now there is an opportunity perhaps with this new envoy or sort of a renewed interest by the UN to organize such an effort?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the United States continues to believe that there’s only a political solution here. The United Nations does. De Mistura does. But in terms of a mechanism for that, we’re obviously not at the place right now where both sides are going to be back at the table.
QUESTION: Okay. And my final question on this. Yesterday the President when asked if – what are the priorities, he said the priority is – I’m paraphrasing – is to defeat ISIS. And when he was asked about Assad, whether – he said that Assad continues to be someone who lost his legitimacy to rule. But the implicit message was this is not our priority at the present time. So is that no longer the priority?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the President – what the President said is entirely consistent with what we’ve said from the beginning of when we first started doing airstrikes several months ago.
QUESTION: Can I go – stick with Assad?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: There was a series of strikes Friday night, over the weekend, on Mosul by the U.S. coalition. And there have been reports, which are unsubstantiated as yet, that the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, was either wounded or killed in those reports. Do you have any up-to-date information you can share with us today on his fate on what happened?
MS. PSAKI: Not much, Jo, but let me tell you what I can convey. And obviously, as – if information becomes available we’ll make that available to all of you. As you know, we assess these things through our partners in the intel community and others. But as Jo noted, there were coalition – coalition aircraft conducted a series of airstrikes November 7th in Iraq against what was assessed to be a gathering of ISIL leaders near Mosul, destroying a vehicle convoy consisting of 10 ISIL armed trucks. We cannot confirm if ISIL leader Baghdadi was among those present. We have no further information to provide regarding those strikes at this point.
It clearly demonstrates that we’re continuing to keep the pressure on. We’re continuing to target and go after the ISIL terrorist network. But we don’t have any new information at this point.
QUESTION: Do you have information on other leaders or other senior figures within ISIL who may have been in the convoy?
MS. PSAKI: Not at this point. We’re continuing to assess the impact.
QUESTION: And there were some reports today out of Egypt that one of the Egyptian jihadi movements, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis – excuse my pronunciation – has sworn allegiance to ISIL. Do you have any comment on that? Does that kind of perhaps undermine what you’re trying to do in terms of delegitimizing the message of ISIL?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first I would say that what we have to assess and what we assess in cases like this or others where individual terrorist leaders or extremist leaders, depending on the case, have sworn allegiances, whether the sworn allegiance means affiliation, whether it means action, whether it means they’re joining the effort. We don’t have an assessment of that at this point in time. That doesn’t change the fact that we remain concerned about ISIL’s strength that they’ve developed over the last several months, and obviously, that’s why we’re – we have the coalition and why we’re doing what we’re doing in Iraq and Syria.
QUESTION: And I just wondered if you’d also seen a report out of Tehran today that the vice president – or one of the vice presidents has said that Iran would be ready to help to all of its abilities in Iraq, to help the Iraqi Government with all its abilities to fight ISIL. I know that there’s been some discussion about Iran’s role here, but would that be something that you would welcome?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what exactly the minister meant by his comments. Our concerns haven’t changed. Obviously, while there’s a role every country can play, and the Secretary himself has said that, we have expressed concern and our concerns remain about Iran’s activities in Iraq. We believe that Iran’s leaders can choose to continue to contribute to the current – we believe they continue to contribute to the current instability by backing unregulated militias in Iraq and elsewhere in the region. We believe these actions have contributed significantly to the sectarian conflict. And we are aware that some Iranian active – or operatives are inside Iraq training and advising. We remain concerned about this, and it’s certainly not something that we are encouraging.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Iran?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: By now, I presume your experts have had a chance to look at the IAEA report from Friday.
MS. PSAKI: Well, it wasn’t the formal release of the report, Matt, so we don’t have any additional comment on it. That’s standard how we handle these releases.
QUESTION: All right, then let’s talk about the one prior to this, which found that the Iranians, as we talked about on Friday, had not been complying with the IAEA on looking into past – any possible military dimension of their nuclear program in the past. Given the fact that they’ve said that in the last report, not this one – they also say it in this one – does that play any – does that have any impact or play any factor in the P5+1 negotiations that were going on until just an hour, couple of hours ago?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the IAEA will, of course, play a critical role, as they already have played, in the monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program. They would continue to play that if there’s a deal or an agreement. Obviously, there isn’t a deal or an agreement yet. And implementation of that and the monitoring mechanism of that will be pivotal to whether Iran is abiding by their agreement.
QUESTION: Yeah, but don’t you see what the problem is here? If the Iranians are not cooperating with the IAEA on monitoring of its previous – allegations of previous military dimensions, how in the world can you trust them to be able to effectively and to credibly monitor an agreement that you might come to in the future? I mean —
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we had a similar conversation last Thursday or Friday.
QUESTION: I know, but I thought that – I was under the impression that today, you would have been able – or people would have looked at the report and you’d be able to speak to it.
MS. PSAKI: Well, it hasn’t been publicly released by the agency yet, so we don’t —
QUESTION: Okay. But the last one says the same thing, the one that – and that has been public for more than a month.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the point is, Matt, that the IAEA will continue to play an important role. Obviously, abiding by any monitoring mechanism would be essential to Iran abiding by any agreement.
QUESTION: Yeah, but the point is that they haven’t been abiding by the monitoring system that’s been in place for quite some time now.
MS. PSAKI: And we’re in the pivotal stages of a negotiation about a comprehensive agreement.
QUESTION: So does that mean that the negotiations now will take into account the fact that the Iranians haven’t been complying with the previous monitoring order? And will it – will you demand that Iran does comply with that now as part of an agreement that you might reach?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, they’ll be required to abide by any part of the agreement that is agreed to, but I’m not going to get ahead of that process.
QUESTION: Right, but Jen, they agreed to it before and they’re not complying with it. So why should anyone think that they’re going to comply with it now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re talking about a comprehensive agreement where there would be benefits to Iran if they agree —
MS. PSAKI: — and commit to it. There would be benefits to the United States. Obviously, the monitoring component of that is a pivotal part of that.
QUESTION: Would that include the military dimension?
MS. PSAKI: Will that include the military dimension? There’s two and a half weeks left before we have a deadline on the agreement.
QUESTION: No, but what I’m saying is, would a verification include the – basically, in this report, the IAEA is saying that Iran is not giving us enough access – giving them enough access to sites that would prove it.
MS. PSAKI: Being able to have access to adequately monitor would certainly be part of what would be required.
QUESTION: Two weeks.
QUESTION: So them complying —
MS. PSAKI: Sorry, you’re right – two weeks, not two and a half weeks.
QUESTION: So them complying with the previous IAEA – complying with the previous inspection demands is a part of these negotiations, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, obviously, the history here and what they have or haven’t abided by is a part of the discussion. Beyond that, I don’t have anything more for you on what will be a part of any agreement.
QUESTION: All right. There is just from this report – and I realize that you say that it’s not final so you don’t want to comment on it – but there are some who look at this report and say that Iran is in violation of the JPOA right now.
MS. PSAKI: Based on what specifically?
QUESTION: Because they have increased their stockpile of low-enriched uranium gas.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we raised – I believe you’re referring to the IR-5 issue. We raised that issue with Iran as soon as the IAEA reported it, and it was resolved immediately. The Iranians have confirmed that they will not continue that activity as cited in the IAEA report, so it’s been resolved.
QUESTION: Okay. This is from —
QUESTION: Can I ask, when was that resolved?
QUESTION: When was it? Yeah, when?
MS. PSAKI: Over the course of the last few days, I believe.
QUESTION: But —
QUESTION: And one other one on this. I mean, there’s some people who read the JPOA and who argue that the R&D activities that are permissible under the JPOA would allow for the introduction of gas into the IR-5.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, it’s a very technically complex agreement, and it provides a framework. But when there are questions that need to be raised, we raise them. This was an example of that.
QUESTION: So, wait. Could I just make sure I understand this correctly?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So you – based on the report that you refuse to talk about because it’s not final, you went to the Iranians and said, “You’re in violation, fix this,” and they did? Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: This was an issue. When there are issues that need to be raised, we still raise them, Matt.
QUESTION: Okay. But they were – you believe that they were in violation of the JPOA?
MS. PSAKI: I didn’t convey that. I conveyed that as soon as the IAEA reported it, then we raised it, and it’s been fixed.
QUESTION: But – right, okay, so they were in violation of the JPOA?
MS. PSAKI: No, that’s not what I said.
QUESTION: Well, why can’t you talk about –
QUESTION: Well, then why was it – why did it need to be fixed, then?
MS. PSAKI: Because we felt that it was a violation of what the IAEA requirements were.
QUESTION: Why can you talk about this aspect of the report, but not the other one that Matt has been (inaudible) you about?
MS. PSAKI: Because this was a specific report – in general, as a policy, Arshad, we don’t comment on reports before the final has been released. When there are issues that are raised that are in the news that all of you report, we try to be as responsive as we can.
QUESTION: Could I ask you —
MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Iran?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Okay.
QUESTION: Could I ask you about the meeting in Muscat, Oman?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: What does it hope to achieve? And how is it – how does it fit into, let’s say, the meeting on the 24th? How is it juxtaposed against it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there – this was – these were important meetings, of course. And we’re still very focused on making progress and seeing if we can get a deal done before the deadline in all of our meetings. There’s still time to do so. This was an opportunity to have follow-on discussions with Secretary Kerry, EU High Representative Ashton, Foreign Minister Zarif. They had two lengthy meetings yesterday; two today as well. The discussions have been tough, direct, and serious. And as you know, the political directors will continue to stay in Oman for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time. They’ll be reconvening, of course, for the already-announced round of meetings that are next week in Europe.
QUESTION: Do you think it’ll become any clearer after this set of talks whether a deal is actually achievable in the next two weeks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we continue to assess that, obviously, with every meeting we have. But there continue to be – it’s pieces of a puzzle, so it’s hard to assess exactly what it will mean. It’s just continuing to chip away at a very challenging issue.
QUESTION: The talks went into a second day today, which had been unscheduled.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Yes.
QUESTION: Why did the – all sides decide that those were necessary, these meetings today were necessary?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it was always an option in our internal planning for the Secretary to stay longer, given there was room in his schedule before heading to Beijing. So it was always possible if we thought there was a reason for him to stay a little bit longer. It doesn’t mean that any major development changed. It just meant that he felt it would be and we felt it would be productive to continue the discussions.
QUESTION: Because there was enough progress in the talks that it made sense to keep going, or – I mean, it doesn’t – just because he had a little time to kill doesn’t —
MS. PSAKI: He wouldn’t have stayed had he felt it wasn’t productive to continue to stay, and that’s why he remained in a little bit of extra – an extra day, I guess.
QUESTION: Can I ask —
QUESTION: And there was – sorry, Matt – there was plans for – it was staged in the hotel while these talks were going on for a press conference possibly between – three or four-way press conference, including the Omanis, and that was – that didn’t happen. Was there any reason why it didn’t happen?
MS. PSAKI: There was never – we plan for every contingency everywhere we go, and often there are press conference setups that don’t actually happen because that’s how we prepare for things. But there wasn’t a plan at any point for a press conference.
QUESTION: Do you plan for every contingency?
MS. PSAKI: Almost every, Matt.
QUESTION: How about an attack of giant spiders?
MS. PSAKI: We plan as best as we can.
QUESTION: Is that – what’s the – no, I have a serious question.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The Israelis, as you know, are extremely concerned about what the – what’s happening in the negotiations, and extremely worried that you guys are going to accept a deal that is a bad deal in spite of the fact – despite the fact that you say that no deal is better than a bad deal. The Vice President today repeated this in his speech, and yet Prime Minister Netanyahu is still under the impression – I don’t know why – that the Israelis are going to get the shaft here, they’re going to get the short end of the stick, that this existential threat that they believe is going to come out on top as a victor in these negotiations.
One, Prime Minister Netanyahu says that Israel will not accept any deal that allows Iran to stay on the pathway. Does – do you believe that Israel has a vote?
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: Since it’s not part of the negotiations, does the – do the Israeli concerns have merit, one; and two, do they get to veto it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, technically, Israel is not a part of the P5+1. However, because we feel their view and their voice is important, we have continued to brief them as much or more than any other country outside of the P5+1. And those discussions are ongoing. And what we convey to them privately is that this is a deal that’s still in the discussion process —
MS. PSAKI: — and obviously you haven’t seen the final product yet.
QUESTION: Right. But given the fact that you – well, the – if you say that you’ve been briefing them more than any country outside of the P5+1 and their concerns are getting higher rather than lower, like, is there still something problematic?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know if that’s an accurate – they’ve been expressing similar concerns from the beginning. But our view continues to be that Israel – there’s no question Israel will be safer if Iran does not – is not able to acquire a nuclear weapon.
QUESTION: Okay, all right. So – and then just apropos of what you just said but also the letter, non-letter – the “Dear Supreme Leader” letter – have you seen the plan that Khamenei put out or people close to him put out for the destruction – eventual destruction of the state of Israel?
QUESTION: Which he tweeted about today, by the way.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah, I saw that. I saw it.
MS. PSAKI: We did see it. We strongly condemn the hateful remarks made about Israel on Twitter from an account linked to the supreme leader. The remarks are offensive and reprehensible, and the entire international community should condemn such rhetoric. This rhetoric is, unfortunately, not new, but it’s not conducive to regional security either.
QUESTION: Would you – would any kind of communication with the Iranians, whether it be in email or paper or conversations between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Zarif, include a – expressions of concern about things like this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I – there isn’t one I have to read out for you, Matt, from their last two days of meetings.
QUESTION: All right. So can you see how from the Israeli point of view – I’ll stop and you can go – from the Israeli point of view, if you’re not bringing these things up, this – which pose, I mean, literally an existential threat to Israel, that that’s a problem for them?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I just publicly conveyed it strongly.
QUESTION: I understand that. But if leader to leader, Kerry to Zarif, or president to supreme leader or whatever – I mean, can you say that you’re bringing this kind of thing to their attention and condemning it to them personally, rather than just to us here?
MS. PSAKI: We’re condemning it publicly. I don’t have any more condemning to read out for you.
QUESTION: Just to pick up on that – I mean, this is coming at a time where you’re working towards a nuclear deal. The President is making overtures to the supreme leader. I mean, what kind of – yes, vitriolic comments by Iran are nothing new, but they come amid this kind of sensitive time right now where the nuclear deadline is approaching, you are looking for their cooperation in the region. And what does that say about their intentions to have some kind of broader positive role in the region?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think this is about their broader positive role in the region or trusting with them. This is about their – them agreeing to take steps to change their nuclear weapons capability.
QUESTION: I understand. But even if you have a nuclear weapon, they’re still looking to wipe – annihilate, in the quote – in the words of the supreme leader, to annihilate Israel, and are explaining how they feel that that could be done.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, if we prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, which is the purpose of the entire negotiation, we certainly make that much more challenging to even pursue.
QUESTION: Well, he seems to have a whole other bunch of ways that you can annihilate Israel, though.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think their ability or their path toward acquiring a nuclear weapon is the biggest threat to the international community.
QUESTION: So even – so let’s say that you get a nuclear deal and it does, obviously, eliminate a big threat to Israel. Is it okay that they’re continuing the – on this —
MS. PSAKI: I think I just clearly conveyed it wasn’t okay.
Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you – you said that you share with Israel more than any other country. Does that mean that the Gulf countries or Saudi Arabia are less of a —
MS. PSAKI: I appreciate your question, Said. I did not intend to do a ranking. I just intended —
QUESTION: No, no, I – no, I’m – it’s a serious question. I want —
MS. PSAKI: I just intended to convey there are a number of countries, included the ones you just referenced, that we have regular conversations and briefings and discussions with.
QUESTION: Right, okay.
MS. PSAKI: But there are – Israel is one of the countries that we have stayed in very, very close contact with about the process of these nuclear negotiations.
QUESTION: Well, to be fair – I mean, Iran does not threaten Saudia Arabia with annihilation, unlike what it does Israel. So we understand that.
And the other point is: Do you that Mr. Zarif or even President Rouhani has some sort of influence on the supreme leader that they can tell him, actually, that you are complicating our negotiations?
MS. PSAKI: In terms of Iranian politics, Said, I would certainly point you to them.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
QUESTION: Oh, can we just stay on —
MS. PSAKI: Finish Iran?
QUESTION: On Israel.
MS. PSAKI: Israel. Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: Just the latest developments in Jerusalem —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — and the stabbing in the West Bank.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure, sure.
QUESTION: Or Tel Aviv and – Tel Aviv and the West Bank.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there are, unfortunately, a couple of events.
MS. PSAKI: So let me just speak to all of them. We strongly condemn the stabbings – the stabbing today in the West Bank and we deeply regret the loss of life. Our condolences go out to the victim’s family. It is absolutely critical that parties take every possible measure to protect civilians and de-escalate tensions.
We are also seeking additional information surrounding the incident of the Israeli Arab who was shot with – who was shot as well with a live bullet. We’re looking for information surrounding this incident. We’re in touch – close touch with the ministry of justice. And of course, we urge all parties to exercise restraint. Obviously, these events happened over the course of the last 12 to 24 hours, so I don’t have more details than what’s been out there at this point.
QUESTION: All right. I’m just going to assume – but correct me if I’m wrong – that when you say all parties’ restraint, you’re talking about the – who are you talking about?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re talking about the Israelis, the Palestinians – any who are involved in these tension-raising, rhetoric-raising incidents.
QUESTION: Okay. But, I mean, if you’re standing at a bus stop or something and someone runs a car into you or comes up and stabs you, I don’t know how – I mean, those people aren’t – don’t need to exercise restraint, do they?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think I’m referring to the fact that we know that there have been – there’s been rising tensions in the region —
MS. PSAKI: — that has led to some of these incidents. I think we all are aware of that, so —
QUESTION: All right. In terms of the restraint and the rhetoric, are you seeing any – I mean, last week, you were pretty down on both sides, or you were up on – you were pleased with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s calls and the stuff that he did with the Jordanians about getting the tensions around the Temple Mount down, but you weren’t particularly happy with President Abbas. Has that changed?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as I also said last week, I was speaking to one incident —
MS. PSAKI: — of Prime Minister Netanyahu.
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, there have been a range of issues and events that have led to the rising tensions in the region that both sides need to do more to fix.
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Still. And can you point to anything significant along those lines over the course of the – over the weekend?
MS. PSAKI: Positive steps?
QUESTION: Positive or negative.
MS. PSAKI: There aren’t any positive steps I have to —
QUESTION: There are no positive steps, correct?
MS. PSAKI: No additional, no.
QUESTION: Let me ask you, though – this area, like, in Hebron is not under the authority of the Palestinian Authority. So basically, it’s – it is the Israeli occupation forces that are responsible for that area. Would you call for the Palestinians perhaps to exercise more authority and perhaps they can stop these incidents from happening, to make sure they look after the bus stops and other places where Israeli settlers may be exposed to danger or to attacks?
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: Would you call for a more —
MS. PSAKI: Said, I think we don’t have a lot of details at this point in terms of why these events happened, who’s responsible. So it’s hard to assess what the solution should be without having more details.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Could you talk about the case of Stacey Addison?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There was a meeting on Friday between the East Timorese ambassador and U.S. officials.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. There was a meeting, as you referenced, on Friday. We aren’t going to go into too many details about our diplomatic discussions, but obviously, we expressed concern about – that Dr. Addison receive due process, and our hope for a prompt and transparent resolution to the case. We were assured that our concerns would be raised at the highest levels in East Timor by the ambassador as well.
QUESTION: Could you say who from this building went?
MS. PSAKI: A senior official from our EAP bureau.
QUESTION: Where are you on what – you say – are you saying that you’re concerned that she was not afforded due process by the kind of re-arrest, her re-arrest?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the fact that we didn’t have any information leading – that I spoke about this a bit on Friday —
MS. PSAKI: — about which – what the specific charges were. Obviously, she was rearrested without indication in advance as to why or what that was about, and obviously, those do raise concerns, and we’ve raised those as well with them.
QUESTION: Now —
QUESTION: Did you get clarification on the charges?
MS. PSAKI: This was simply a meeting to discuss the issue and to raise it at higher levels.
QUESTION: Now, apparently, this cab driver or whatever and also the person that was arrested said that she had no connection to any of this. I mean, do you think she should be released?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this is a case, obviously, where we’re working closely with the government officials. We are in close contact with her. There’s a process that’s playing out there. But beyond that, I don’t have any updates from her.
QUESTION: But do you see any – that she broke any East Timorese laws, or do you think that she should —
MS. PSAKI: Well, there haven’t been charges issued at this point in time —
MS. PSAKI: — that we’re aware of.
QUESTION: Right. And are you saying that you don’t think that there’s enough to warrant charges and she should be released? When you call for a prompt and transparent resolution to this case, does – are you suggesting that you think that she should be released as soon as possible?
MS. PSAKI: Well, she was conditionally released earlier in September and then she was rearrested. Obviously, we have significant concerns about this case which we have expressed.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Can I go to Yemen?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: First off, I wonder if you could answer some queries from the – over the weekend.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There were suggestions that ISIL had laid some bombs or planned to attack the embassy in Sana’a. Obviously, that attack didn’t go ahead, I guess, because we would have heard of it by now. But is that something that you’re aware of? Do you know the details of that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have specific details on that. I will say – and we put this out earlier today – that in response to changing security – the changing security situation in Yemen, we have further reduced our American personnel working in Yemen. And this ordered departure refers solely to the reduction in staff numbers due to unstable conditions in the host country. Obviously, we’ve all been watching what’s been happening on the ground there, but I don’t believe it was related to a specific threat.
QUESTION: If you’re reducing the staffing, you’d already reduced it once. Who was left to reduce? Who does it – who does this order cover?
MS. PSAKI: Well, for – let me be clear on one thing we – before I get to that point. We are operating on – we reduced it and then we returned staff.
MS. PSAKI: So we’re operating with reduced staffing until conditions warrant a return, but we still – our consular services are continuing to run, the embassy’s continuing to operate normally, and even consular services have not been affected by implementation of ordered departure.
QUESTION: So it remains open?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: It is open?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Today —
QUESTION: And I wondered if I could ask also about – the U.S. Treasury unveiled some kind of sanctions against former President Saleh and two commanders from the Houthi.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is that in response to the UN resolution or the UN move that was brought in on Friday? Or is it something that’s separate?
MS. PSAKI: It was, as you know, as a member country of the UN Security Council when they put in place sanctions. And obviously, as a member country, we would do that as well. So the Treasury release, which outlines the specifics of it, of course, makes clear that the action was taken in conjunction with the unanimous UN Security Council action that happened on Friday.
QUESTION: What practical effect will it have on —
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: I mean, do they have assets in the United States?
MS. PSAKI: As you know, we don’t typically assess that in a public manner. I can go back to Treasury and see if there’s more. But it means that all assets of those designated that are located in the United States or in control of U.S. persons are frozen and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them. But the fact that this was a UN Security Council resolution and these were names, of course, that were approved, means other member countries would likely be implementing this as well. So it’s not just the United States.
QUESTION: What was it that prompted this action particularly?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’d long, I think, in the UN Security Council resolution – or I should say information they put out, they made clear that this was about individuals who were undermining the political process in Yemen, obstructing the implementation of its political transition as outlined by agreements from November of 2011. So there had been the UN Security Council Resolution 2140 that had been passed to allow for this, and this was just that names were added to that list.
QUESTION: But that – that information that came out on Friday from the – at the UN was pretty specific and quite damning in suggesting that ex-President Saleh conspired with AQAP. Is that – I’m presuming, but I want to make sure, that that is the view of the entire Administration that this guy who Secretary Clinton went and met in Sana’a is actually actively conspiring with one of your – one of the top al-Qaida affiliates.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think if we look at the last couple of months in Yemen, we’re talking about specific actions that were taken by those who were designated over the course of that time that have prohibited the implementation of some of these transitions that had been approved some time ago. So we’re talking about recent actions, not actions from a couple of years ago.
QUESTION: Any reaction to the formation of the new government?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure. We welcome the formation of a new cabinet in Yemen and commend the efforts of President Hadi, Prime Minister Baha, the country’s political leadership, and Yemen’s diverse communities to come together to form an inclusive government that can better meet the aspirations of the Yemeni people. We remain fully committed – firmly committed to supporting all Yemenis as they work to implement the September 21st Peace and National Partnership Agreement, the National Dialogue outcomes, and the Gulf Cooperation Council Initiative, which collectively form the foundation for a peaceful and prosperous Yemen.
QUESTION: Just to follow up on Yemen —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — I think the Treasury also calls Saleh one of the bigger advocates of violence and so on. But let me ask you, since this – the agreement that saw the transition way back then was brokered by the GC – yeah, the Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC – do you expect them also to impose the same kind of sanctions on Saleh?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, individual countries make their decisions, but typically member countries of the UN will follow the UN Security Council resolution.
QUESTION: Because he has – I mean, he has investments and so on in all of these countries and personal loss of money and so on. So this – it’s an area where it can actually have a real bite.
MS. PSAKI: Well, that is the impact of sanctions and why they’re serious when they come from the Security Council.
Go ahead. On Yemen or a new topic?
QUESTION: A new topic, please.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Yesterday Catalonia held a referendum to decide its independence or not from Spain. The Spanish Government has deemed that referendum is illegal and doesn’t recognize it. Does the U.S. Administration have any view regarding (a) the referendum, (b) the possible independent Catalonia?
MS. PSAKI: This is an internal matter for Spain.
QUESTION: Is it binding? I mean, I thought the referendum —
MS. PSAKI: It’s not – no, it’s not binding, actually.
QUESTION: China trip?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Goyal.
QUESTION: Two questions.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: One, as far as Secretary’s and President’s visit to China is concerned, many groups, including the religious freedoms and Committee to Protect Journalists and democracy and religious freedom and freedom of the press, they’re calling on the President and the Secretary to bring this issue before the Chinese because – and now, of course, there are Hong Kong democracy groups. Are – these issues are going to come up or has come up during those meetings?
MS. PSAKI: Human rights issues are always a part of the discussion we have with the Chinese.
QUESTION: Do you have a statement on —
QUESTION: Can I stick with China?
MS. PSAKI: On China?
MS. PSAKI: Is yours on China, Scott, or can we go to China? Go ahead.
QUESTION: I just wondered if there was any reaction from this building on the meeting today between the Chinese president and the Japanese prime minister.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as we said last week when they put out their four-point statement, obviously, dialogue between the two countries and a positive relationship is something that we feel is important for not only relations between the countries, but peace and prosperity for the region and the world. So we certainly welcome the meeting between the Chinese president and the Japanese prime minister. I know they’ve done a little bit of readouts on their end about the specifics of it, so I’d point you to that.
QUESTION: I mean, obviously, we won’t know, but it did look like the handshake was particularly icy. Does it suggest that perhaps the talks have a long way to go yet?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think any one – and I think they stated this as well, the different leaders, that obviously there is – there are some issues where they agree on and some they don’t. But certainly, sitting down and meeting is still a positive step forward.
QUESTION: Just one more follow-up?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any reactions about the coral poaching in the region?
MS. PSAKI: The coral poaching in the region?
QUESTION: Right. Last week there had been a lot of news reports emerging about the Chinese vessels in Japanese waters poaching coral.
MS. PSAKI: I would have to check on that one for you, so why don’t you make sure we have all of your information and we can get you something right after the briefing.
QUESTION: Red coral.
QUESTION: Sorry —
MS. PSAKI: All right. Thanks for clarification. Go ahead. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: This was about the Abe-Putin meeting, and apparently they agreed that there was going to be preparation for Putin’s visit to Tokyo. And I wondered if you had any reaction to that considering that the United States and the West is trying to isolate Russia.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we continue to convey that we believe that the actions taken by Russia as it relates to Ukraine are illegal and they violate international norms. Certainly, Japan has been a partner in that. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have meetings and dialogue. As you know, we have meetings and dialogue with the Russians as well. So perhaps they’ll bring up and raise issues related to Ukraine during their discussion. We’ll see.
QUESTION: Sorry. Does that mean that if they do have a dialogue, but if they don’t raise Ukraine, that you might find that problematic?
MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t conveying that. I was just more conveying that Japan has been a partner of ours as it relates to our concerns, the international community’s concerns about Russia’s incursions into Ukraine. But obviously, we have a dialogue with Russia about a range of issues, whether it’s the P5+1 talks or a range of chemical weapons or Syria, so we expect other countries will do the same.
QUESTION: So do you think that it’s a good thing that they’re going to have a meeting that is focused solely on the northern territory side?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details on their meeting, so let’s see what they talk about. But basically, we understand that countries around the world engage with each other. That’s part of diplomacy, so —
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I ask you a question about the nomination of Tony Blinken?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Okay. And what do you expect? When do you expect this to happen, confirmation and all of that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can’t predict that, Said. Obviously —
QUESTION: Okay, and in the interim?
MS. PSAKI: — as is true of —
QUESTION: In the interim?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as is true of any important nomination, we certainly would like to see it happen as quickly as possible. I would remind you that while he was just nominated on Friday, and obviously to a very important position in the Department, we also have 60 ambassadors, some of whom have been waiting for hundreds of days to be confirmed.
QUESTION: Okay. I mean, that’s exactly the point. Do you expect that he would have to wait until all the 70s are either confirmed or not confirmed?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any analysis of that at this point in time.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Why don’t we go to Scott in the back? Go ahead, Scott.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts on today’s attack?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. And you’re referring, of course, to the one on the students, I assume.
QUESTION: Correct. Yes.
MS. PSAKI: We condemn in the strongest terms the horrific attack on Nigerian students by a suicide bomber, which has reportedly killed dozens of students and wounded countless others at a school assembly in the northeastern Nigerian town of Potiskum, as well as other attacks on defenseless civilians this past week in Nigeria. Our sympathies and thoughts are with the victims and their families of these latest egregious assault on innocent civilians by those bent on fomenting violent extremism and insecurity in northeastern Nigeria and the region. We urge the Government of Nigeria to investigate these and other attacks to bring the perpetrators to justice.
QUESTION: So it’s evident that this talk of a ceasefire with Boko Haram over the past few weeks is just talk. Do you have any insight into whether there was a deal that fell apart or whether this was never actually ever going to happen and no one was ever going to N’Djamena?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been a range of reports over the course of time, and certainly some ups and downs in these discussions. As far as I heard earlier today, I think it’s fairly obvious where things stand at this point in time. It doesn’t mean that those negotiations and discussions won’t continue. I can see, Scott, if there is more of an assessment about where things stand on that front.
Okay. Let’s do a couple more here.
MS. PSAKI: Why don’t you go ahead? Go ahead, in the back.
QUESTION: North Korea?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: When Director of National Intelligence Clapper, he – when he traveled to North Korea, were there any support officials from this building, State Department, who traveled together with him, such as Korean language speaker Sydney Seiler?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, the State Department has worked very closely with a range of other officials in the government on this – these cases, and we’ve used every diplomatic tool at our disposal to see how we could bring them home. Director Clapper went specifically because it was – we knew that there would be a greater chance of bringing these two individuals home if we had a high-level, Cabinet-level official who was sent. But we did not want to indicate that this was the opening of any negotiations on nuclear issues. So it was appropriate that it was somebody with security credentials and not somebody who was – had been a negotiator or was working with other countries on nuclear issues or on human rights issues, because it is not an opening for a dialogue on those issues.
QUESTION: So no State Department official traveled —
MS. PSAKI: Correct. Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. So after the release of all three Americans from North Korea, are you going to continue to seek the UN Resolution on Human Rights that calls for referring North Korea to the ICC?
MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed about our concerns about North Korea’s human record – abysmal human rights record. Nothing has changed about our concerns about their nuclear aspirations and capabilities. Those issues remain ones that we will continue to work with the international community on.
QUESTION: May I go to —
QUESTION: Is it correct that DNI Clapper’s plane had troubles that delayed his mission?
MS. PSAKI: That is correct.
QUESTION: What happened?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details for you. I’d point you to DNI for more technical details on the technical issues.
QUESTION: But there was – I mean, it was our friend Matt’s scoop that the plane broke down in Hawaii. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have details on exactly where in the process it was en route, so it delayed the visit.
QUESTION: So it was on a refueling stop, though?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: And is this – do you happen to know if it was the same plane that broke down in Vienna when Secretary Kerry was on his way back?
MS. PSAKI: Well, technically speaking, there are a couple of planes that are in rotation. I don’t have information as to whether it was exactly the same plane, no.
QUESTION: Apart from the specifics of that incident, is there a concern in this building or with your boss about the reliability of this fleet of aircraft?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve had – obviously, many of you have experienced the fact that I think four times this year we’ve had delays, the Secretary has, on our diplomatic travel, which obviously has an impact. So now we’re seeing it have impacts in other places as well.
QUESTION: Right. To the best of your knowledge, though, there wasn’t a problem with the North Koreans and the fact that they had – and DNI Clapper, presumably – or someone had to call up North Korea and say, sorry, we’re going to be a little late?
MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly he returned home with the two American citizens. So —
QUESTION: Right. But I mean, is there —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) told them that he was going to be late because the plane broke down?
MS. PSAKI: I was not engaged in any communications about his arrival time.
QUESTION: But is there any broader concern that this kind of thing happening so frequently now – or apparently more frequently – is affecting the ability of the U.S. to do business overseas – diplomacy and rescue missions, whatever?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s no question it presents technical logistical challenges, Matt. But obviously, we do the best we can to make adjustments where needed. Obviously, DNI Clapper did that, the Secretary does that, and we thank all of you for doing that from time to time as well.
QUESTION: If you were wanting to request a new plane, would that come from the State Department, in that – your budget, or how would you go about doing that?
QUESTION: I think you’d have to ask Congress for —
QUESTION: Well, yes, I know you’d have to go to Congress.
MS. PSAKI: I believe Congress would have to approve new funding for new planes.
QUESTION: But would it be a request from the State Department, I guess, is my question.
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that, Jo. They’re DOD planes —
MS. PSAKI: — so I would have to check and see where that – any such request, not that I’m aware that one is coming from, but broadly speaking, would come from.
QUESTION: If you do, a jumbo jet would be nice.
MS. PSAKI: I will take note. We will give you —
QUESTION: Does it have to be American-made?
QUESTION: No. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: We will attribute to all of you.
QUESTION: Can I go to – change the subject a little bit —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — to – back to Ukraine, from your opening statement?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: You condemn Russia’s increased militarization of Donbas, you said. Is this from – is this something new that’s happened over the weekend, or is this the stuff you were talking about last week? Or is it all —
MS. PSAKI: There are no – there’s no new assessment from my end – from our end.
QUESTION: And the – you mean since Friday?
MS. PSAKI: Since Friday when I spoke about it, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. And so this is just – this is the stuff that you were talking about last week?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Do you – are you able to offer any substantial evidence that this stuff is actually Russian material and Russian —
MS. PSAKI: On the border?
QUESTION: No, that’s gone into Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I noted on Friday – and I don’t think I changed what I said today —
QUESTION: Right. You said if confirmed.
MS. PSAKI: — if true, I don’t have any new information to provide for all of you.
QUESTION: All right. And then your comment about the Russian soldiers —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — and the state secret, are you saying here from the podium that these guys were killed in Ukraine and their families are being misled or lied to by the Russian authorities and so – is that —
MS. PSAKI: Yes. Information is not being provided to the families.
QUESTION: So you are —
QUESTION: But that’s different from lying. The absence of the provision of information is different from lying about something, isn’t it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, if they don’t have information and they don’t know where they are, some of them are, or don’t know why they – where they went, I think you can define it many different ways.
QUESTION: No, no. But you choose not to provide information 20 times a briefing, but nobody would not accuse you – would accuse you – nobody would accuse you of lying because you’re not providing information. Matt’s question —
MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I think there’s a difference between me not providing, say, classified information or information about sensitive negotiations to you during a press briefing, and families who have lost a loved one not being provided with information about their lost son.
QUESTION: So you have no problem with answering Matt’s question whether you regard this as lying in the affirmative – yes, you regard it as lying, the Russians are lying to their own people about the fate of these soldiers?
MS. PSAKI: I think information is not being provided. You can define that however you would like to define it.
QUESTION: But – okay. But are – is it your intent by standing there and saying this to inform the families of these Russian —
MS. PSAKI: We’re —
QUESTION: — missing Russian soldiers that their loved ones were lost in Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: — intending to raise our concern that this is unacceptable; not to inform anyone, to raise a concern that this is unacceptable.
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, they would be informed by the Russian Government.
QUESTION: Are you familiar at all with any time that the U.S. has done something similar about troops that have – or where things have been masked in a shroud of secrecy in terms of the whereabouts or the deaths of American troops?
MS. PSAKI: Are you referring to something specific, Matt?
QUESTION: I’m just wondering if this – if the – this is something that the United States would never do – what you’re accusing the Russians of doing.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, without referring to something specific, I don’t know what you’re referring to. But obviously, this is a concern we felt was worthy of raising.
QUESTION: What about (inaudible) —
QUESTION: Okay. Have you – do you know if you’re making this same kind of statement in other venues, or is it just here? I mean, is the embassy doing anything, are you doing anything with – I don’t know, online, or —
MS. PSAKI: Typically, when we raise things, they’re being raised through private channels as well. I can check if this specifically has been raised through private channels.
QUESTION: Do you know, though, if the Secretary, for example, raised this with Foreign Minister Lavrov and said, “Hey, this is not good?”
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of him raising this in his recent conversations, no.
QUESTION: And just —
MS. PSAKI: But this is from kind of earlier this summer, so —
QUESTION: Just where are you getting the reports from? I mean, are the families – are these Russian families in direct contact with you or with the embassy? I mean, where are you hearing that they’re not being told?
MS. PSAKI: We’re – we have a range of sources for information. I’m not – I don’t think I have anything more to read out from it – from that.
QUESTION: But they haven’t come to the embassy directly or to you guys directly, to —
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more details on it.
QUESTION: On Russia —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — Mikhail Gorbachev, the last president of the Soviet Union, on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, warned that maybe a new Cold War is underway. Do you have any comment on what he said? Are you concerned that there may be a new Cold War with Russia?
MS. PSAKI: No, I’m not. And the Secretary has spoken to this as well.
I can just do a couple more. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Staying on Russia?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: The Russian central bank issued its annual economic forecast today and predicted that sanctions from the West would remain in effect until 2017. Do you see that as a generally accurate prediction?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it may be their assessment in order to do their economic reporting. Obviously, that will be determined by Russia’s own actions.
MS. PSAKI: So beyond that, I don’t have any other assessment.
QUESTION: But does it trouble you that a central organ of Russian policymaking is predicting such a dim outlook for the possibility that actions might work in the favor of removing sanctions?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it troubles me that instead of taking actions to remove – or to prompt a removal of the sanctions, there seems to be a doubling down on some of the problematic actions that Russia has been taking, leading to negative growth predictions and record capital flight departure from Russia having a huge impact, obviously, as was assessed in this report on the Russian economy.
QUESTION: And then the EU – well, Chancellor Merkel made some comments last week hinting that sanctions might be expanded against rebel leaders in the Ukraine. Can you provide us with any update about coordination that you’re doing with them or how imminent that kind of expansion might be?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – as I stated at the beginning, if Russia continues on the path to aggressive behavior as it relates to Ukraine, then there will be additional consequences. We continue to discuss that with the Europeans. That’s ongoing, but I don’t have an assessment at this point in terms of what, if anything, will result from that.
QUESTION: Would those consequences apply to Russian officials or Ukrainian separatists or both?
MS. PSAKI: We’ll see. We’ll see.
I think – I have to wrap this up, Goyal. I’m sorry. Do we have any more in the front here? Go ahead.
QUESTION: I’ve got just one more. Could you —
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: — update us on the investigation into Robin Raphel? Is there anything more you can say about it?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new beyond what I said on Friday.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:21 p.m.)