Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 3, 2014.
- DEPARTMENT/NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH
- MIDDLE EAST PEACE
- BURKINA FASO
- BURKINA FASO
- NORTH KOREA
- DEPARTMENT/SECRETARY KERRY
- UNITED NATIONS
12:57 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi everyone.
MS. PSAKI: Hello.
QUESTION: Happy Monday.
MS. PSAKI: Happy Monday. Happy November.
MS. PSAKI: I just have a couple of items for all of you at the top. The United States condemns the assassination of Dr. Mohammed Abdulmalik al-Mutawakil, secretary-general of the Union of Popular Forces, and expresses its condolences to his family. We urge the Yemeni Government to conduct a full investigation that brings to justice those responsible for this crime. Yemen’s challenges, particularly now, require moderate voices and a commitment to the rapid and peaceful resolution of differences. Indeed, the challenges facing Yemen today can only be resolved through political dialogue. Violence and intimidation have no place in a civil and democratic society. The United States remains firmly committed to supporting the Yemeni people as they seek to advance their country’s historic transition. We call upon all parties to work together for the good of Yemen and fulfil their obligations under the Peace and National Partnership Agreement in a timely manner.
Following the statement we released on Friday on ISIL executions in Anbar province, we saw additional reports this weekend of ISIL’s brutality, including that they may have massacred hundreds of members of the Albu Nimr tribe, including scores of women and children. This also coincides with reports of indiscriminate killing of other Sunni tribe members and the senseless attack on Shia pilgrims preparing for the commencement of Ashura. This proves once again that ISIL does not represent anything but its warped ideology and provides more evidence, if any were needed, why our coalition partners, including Iraqis from every background, must work together to defeat these terrorists.
And finally, November is National Adoption Month in the United States. For almost 20 years, National Adoption Month has highlighted the importance of family care for children. The Department of State believes that, when conducted in a manner that protects children, birth parents, and adoptive parents, inter-country adoption provides one valuable avenue for eligible children to find permanent homes with loving families. This work is difficult but rewarding, and would not be possible without the support of our partners. We would like to thank prospective adoptive families, advocates, adoption service providers, members of Congress, and our many partner agencies for their commitment and contributions to inter-country adoption. We look forward to our continued collaboration.
Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: Right. Before we delve into policy substance, let’s talk personnel for a second —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — and the announcement that was just made about Ambassador Sherman taking over, at least temporarily, as deputy. Does the President or does the Secretary intend to have a permanent – someone nominated and confirmed by the Senate to take over from retired Deputy Burns?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: So not necessarily her?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to get ahead of any process or speak about personnel from here, which should come as no surprise, unless we’re ready to make an announcement.
QUESTION: Okay, I didn’t ask that.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I just asked if this means that she is going to be eventually nominated, or is anyone going to be eventually nominated to take over that position?
MS. PSAKI: This means that Under Secretary Sherman will be the acting Deputy Secretary of State. There is every intention to nominate a —
QUESTION: Okay. Which may or may not be her?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: All right. And then how long does one stay – I mean, doing two jobs, both of which are pretty big, is not exactly the easiest thing in the world to do, nor the most efficient, probably. I’m not taking anything away from her skill, but I mean, being the number two and the number three at the same time, it will be taxing, to say the least. So do you have any idea about how long it will be before either she is nominated and someone else takes over as number three, or a new permanent number two is nominated and she can go back to only dealing with the under secretary job?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a prediction on timing. I will just say that the fact that she was named Acting Deputy Secretary of State just reflects the Secretary’s trust in her, the trust of the building, the trust of the President, and obviously, her wealth of experience on a range of issues. So —
QUESTION: Jen, isn’t it just a time-space —
MS. PSAKI: — of anyone, she can certainly handle it.
QUESTION: But that’s a time – it’s just about a time-space continuum. I mean, Deputy Secretary Burns had a full portfolio and Under Secretary Sherman has a full portfolio. So just to Matt’s point, I mean, how long can this Department run on one person being the kind of Secretary’s second and third in command?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, you all know Under Secretary Sherman. She has superhuman abilities in diplomacy and obviously, I’m not going to get ahead of a personnel process or the timing on that.
QUESTION: Can I ask a process —
QUESTION: She has superhuman abilities? (Laughter.) Does she wear a costume too? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: She does not. She is a very talented and experienced diplomat. That was – I was kidding.
QUESTION: It’s not about her diplomatic skills.
QUESTION: But can you assure us that she is not going to be taking her eye off the Iran nuclear ball?
MS. PSAKI: I can assure you. And as you also all know, Deputy Secretary Burns, Senior Advisor Jake Sullivan, and there are a couple of others who are very involved in the Iran negotiations as well.
QUESTION: There’s something I don’t understand about this, Jen, and I realize this is – that it’s the White House that nominates, but Secretary – Deputy Secretary Burns, his departure, first of all, it came as no secret. The President had to talk him into staying and the Secretary did.
MS. PSAKI: Twice, yes. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Right. Second, you guys put out an announcement, I think it was six months ago, explicitly stating that he was going to be leaving in October. It would be one thing if the Administration had nominated somebody and the Senate was sitting on it, as it has so many other of your nominees. But it just – it doesn’t make sense to me why, when you knew he was leaving, you had at a minimum six months’ public notice about the date that he was leaving, why it was – has not been possible to come up with a plausible candidate and put them forward.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think it’s a reflection of not being able to come up with a plausible candidate. In fact, there are many talented candidates, and obviously —
QUESTION: Why haven’t they been nominated then?
MS. PSAKI: — there is a process that works through the interagency, as you know, that is not just the State Department. I’m not in a position to give you any more details on that process.
QUESTION: I didn’t think that presidential nominations were an interagency process. I thought it was the White House that decided who the President would nominate.
MS. PSAKI: We work with the White House. Obviously, the Secretary has a great deal of input as well.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean it’s – but it does make – like, why isn’t someone ready to be nominated? I mean, why does – I think Arshad’s question is: Why is the process only starting now? I mean —
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t take it as a reflection of that. There’s an on – been an ongoing process.
QUESTION: For six months?
MS. PSAKI: We’re not in a position – I’m not going to detail for you when that process started.
QUESTION: My question is, well, why isn’t the process over by now given that you’ve known about this for half a year?
MS. PSAKI: I would just assure you that we have somebody who is very capable who will be in this position as acting deputy, and when we have an announcement to make, we’ll make the announcement.
QUESTION: Would you say that the – not – I won’t – I don’t want to use the word delay, but the reason that a nomination rather than a – the reason that there was a designation as an acting instead of a nomination as a permanent is because vetting of the potential candidates is still going on?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to outline it any further. Should we move to a new topic?
QUESTION: Yeah, can we go to policy substance?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, we can. What would you like to discuss?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: You have seen the announcement this morning about the new construction in East Jerusalem. I presume that since you were talking last week about how bad this would be, you don’t approve. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: That is correct. We’ve, of course, seen the reports that you’re referencing. It would be unfortunate at this sensitive time, that after the unequivocal and unanimous position last week of the United States and others in the international community opposing construction in East Jerusalem were clearly vocalized, Israeli authorities would actively seek to move these plans forward. We continue to engage at the highest levels with the Israeli Government about these reports. We continue to make our position absolutely clear about how we view construction in East Jerusalem.
QUESTION: Why do you say it “would” be if they, in the face of all of the opposition, would go ahead with this, when they did?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there were reports —
QUESTION: I mean, they made the announcement.
MS. PSAKI: Yes. There were reports about it. We haven’t received more clarity on the specifics.
QUESTION: And the fact that they decided to go ahead and make this announcement even though these – this construction won’t be done for probably years, what does that tell you about your influence with Israel right now?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t draw a conclusion it’s a reflection of that, Matt. Obviously, there are a range of cabinet officials in Israel. We all understand how this works politically in Israel. We still – it doesn’t mean we don’t voice our view, and many in the international community voice their views as well. But —
QUESTION: So you don’t think that this is a slap in your face, you think this is rather a domestic political issue for the Israeli Government?
MS. PSAKI: I think I conveyed it would be a – it’s unfortunate, obviously. It would be unfortunate. It is unfortunate for this to move forward given not just the view of the United States, but the view of many in the international community.
QUESTION: But you made it – just let me pick up on that. You – well, particularly, you said the unequivocal and unanimous position of the United States. So you are kind of making it a little bit about you in terms of, like, despite your or the international community’s objections to it. I mean, what about Israel’s commitment to creating a climate under which a peace deal is – that this is conducive to a peace deal?
MS. PSAKI: Which is a goal they’ve stated. This flies in the face of that.
QUESTION: So I mean – right. So I mean (a) it seems as if – it seems as if you’re insinuating that they did it kind of despite your or to spite your objections.
MS. PSAKI: I didn’t imply that, Elise.
QUESTION: Do you think that it has anything to do – like, the announcement, as Matt said, it’s not going to take place for several years.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you think that this announcement right now has anything to do with any kind of tit-for-tat in terms of the tensions that we saw over the last week or two?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to do analysis on that, Elise. But as you know, this isn’t the first announcement. It doesn’t mean that we don’t feel the same way about it despite the fact that there are many that have happened in the past over the last year.
QUESTION: So I mean, what – I mean, this continued – these continued settlement announcements, you say that that flies in the face of where it’s kind of against what Israel says that it wants. I mean, have you kind of made any conclusions about their commitment to restarting the peace process and working out a peace deal? It seems as if they’ve pretty much kind of given up.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say, Elise, that obviously if they were going to restart a peace negotiation, we would be seeing actions and we’d be seeing efforts on their part to do that. And obviously, steps like this are contrary to that objective.
QUESTION: Jen, do you read anything in the timing, especially that the Secretary is meeting today with the Saeb Erekat to de-escalate the situation between the Palestinians and the Israelis, especially in Jerusalem?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s a follow-up to the announcement, as you know, that they made last week. So it’s, I guess, a continuation of that announcement. The meeting today with Saeb Erekat is a follow-up to the Secretary’s meeting with President Abbas in Cairo. Obviously, we support a two-state solution, as you know, and certainly, they’ll talk about that. But we expect they’ll talk about a range of issues, including Middle East peace, including the situation in Gaza, and of course, on reducing tensions in Jerusalem.
QUESTION: News reports coming from the region saying that the Secretary will present a peace plan to the Israelis and Palestinians to resume negotiations.
MS. PSAKI: There are no current plans to introduce a peace plan.
QUESTION: Why is that?
MS. PSAKI: Because it’s up to the parties, Matt.
QUESTION: Because the two sides have never been farther apart?
MS. PSAKI: It’s up to the parties to take steps. We know what the issues are. We know what the conditions would be. But it’s up to them. So we’re only going to take steps that we think would be productive.
QUESTION: So you’re willing to – the Administration is willing to – or is unwilling to try and force them back into talks like the Secretary did two years ago?
MS. PSAKI: We’re obviously having a range of discussions and conversations with them privately, but there are no plans to introduce a peace plan.
QUESTION: Well, how about this? If – even if it’s not introducing an actual peace plan, are – do you intend to try and push the two back together, even if they are – everything that they’re doing suggests that they’re unwilling to do so?
MS. PSAKI: Well, if the two sides indicate they are interested in returning and there’s a willingness, then we’re willing to be a capable partner.
QUESTION: Are you —
MS. PSAKI: But I don’t think we’ve seen evidence that as of late.
QUESTION: Is the Secretary – okay. So the Secretary’s not holding his breath for that to happen.
MS. PSAKI: He’s not.
MS. PSAKI: But he continues to have private discussions with both sides. We know that a two-state solution is the only way to address these issues over the long term.
QUESTION: Okay. So is it fair to say then that the meeting this afternoon with Erekat is going to be focused primarily on how the – the Palestinians and the UN, their UN ambitions?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they may talk about that. But obviously, they are – there are tensions in Jerusalem, which we’ve been talking about every day. There’s the situation in Gaza. It’s all related, as you know. So I expect they’ll talk about a range of issues.
QUESTION: Okay. So —
QUESTION: Jen, can I just go back? You said that you weren’t going to do anything that you felt was unproductive at the moment. So you believe it’d be unproductive to put forward a peace plan?
MS. PSAKI: If we felt it would be productive, we would do it. Obviously, we’re not – I just indicated we’re not – we have no plans to introduce a peace plan.
QUESTION: Why do you believe it’d be unproductive? I mean, there’s a certain train of thought that if you put forward a plan based on the intensive negotiations held over the nine, ten months that the peace process was still ongoing, that would actually sort of show both sides and the larger world global community how much progress you said was made. You do say that there was some progress that was made.
MS. PSAKI: Well, sure, Jo, and we certainly understand the appetite of the media, and you’re not alone in the media —
QUESTION: No, I mean (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: — of having an interest in that. But obviously, we put a great deal of thought on what we do and how we do it, and this – there’s no plans at this time.
QUESTION: So why do you believe it’d be unproductive to put forward —
MS. PSAKI: Because we believe that both parties need to make the choices and there need to be willing partners who want to have a negotiation at the table.
QUESTION: Jen, how —
QUESTION: I don’t – sorry, I don’t understand how that was —
MS. PSAKI: If we felt that was productive to doing that, we would do it. There’s no current plans to do it at this point in time.
QUESTION: How will the announcement affect the U.S. position at the Security Council in case the Palestinians —
MS. PSAKI: Which announcement? I’m sorry.
QUESTION: The Israeli announcement of new buildings in the – in Jerusalem.
MS. PSAKI: How will it impact which piece of the —
QUESTION: The U.S. position. How will you react at the UN Security Council in case they presented a —
MS. PSAKI: The Palestinians present something?
QUESTION: Yes. Not the Palestinians, the Arab League or someone —
MS. PSAKI: The Arab League? I think I’m not going to predict what our view will be on a resolution or information that doesn’t yet exist. So we’ll see what happens and we’ll go from there.
QUESTION: Earlier, I think in response to one of Elise’s questions, you said that the announcement flies in the face of Israel’s stated commitment to a two-state solution to peace. And before, last week, you said something about not wanting – their actions suggest they don’t want to live in a peaceful society, I think, if I’m not —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I said exactly that.
QUESTION: Okay. Well —
MS. PSAKI: But go ahead.
QUESTION: Let’s just stick with what you said right then about flies in the —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is it your view, is the Administration’s view, that the Israelis are the only ones who are doing – who are doing things that fly in the face of stated commitments to peace and a two-state solution, or do you also find problematic anything that the Palestinians are doing at the current time?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we believe that both sides can certainly do more. We appreciate – it’s all related, so I will just convey we appreciate Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for responsibility and restraint in Jerusalem, refraining from provocative actions and rhetoric, and preserving the historic status quo of the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. We strongly urge all parties to respect this call, which the Palestinian Authority described as a step in the right direction.
But we urge the leaders of Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Jordan to exercise decisive leadership and work cooperatively to lower tensions. And certainly there’s more that can be done.
QUESTION: So you believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu, whatever description people in the Administration might have of him, has actually taken decisive – has shown decisive leadership in this specific instance?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we think the call for responsibility —
MS. PSAKI: — and restraint was certainly a positive step, yes.
QUESTION: Have you seen similar from the Palestinian leadership?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Palestinians also described it as a step in the right direction or as an opening.
QUESTION: No, no. But has – well, describing something as a step in the right direction is not necessarily showing decisive leadership. Have the Palestinians done – have they done what you think is necessary in terms of trying to calm the —
MS. PSAKI: I think —
QUESTION: — calm the tensions or —
MS. PSAKI: — neither side has done everything that’s necessary. There’s more that needs to be done on both sides.
QUESTION: Do you —
QUESTION: Okay. Because last week, the spokesman for the Palestinians said that the immediate move after the shooting of the American citizen, the closing of it was an act of war, which doesn’t seem to be toning down the incitement. Now, obviously —
MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t believe that kind of rhetoric is helpful, no.
QUESTION: Have you seen any change in the Palestinian – in the rhetoric from the Palestinian side?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that’s been restated, but I don’t have any new analysis.
QUESTION: Okay. So I’ll stop. Okay, I’ll stop after this. But I just – is this something that the Secretary will be talking with Saeb Erekat about later this afternoon?
MS. PSAKI: I’m certain it’s part of their discussion.
QUESTION: The need —
MS. PSAKI: It’ll be part their discussion.
QUESTION: — to calm things down?
MS. PSAKI: To lower tension. Yes, absolutely.
Go ahead, Arshad.
QUESTION: And do you — will the Secretary meet any Israeli official after the meeting with Erekat today?
MS. PSAKI: As you know, he has a range of meetings that are ongoing. He’s leaving tomorrow for China, as you know. So there’s not another meeting tonight, no.
QUESTION: And did he call any official in Israel in the —
MS. PSAKI: He has – he speaks with Prime Minister Netanyahu every couple of days.
QUESTION: Two things. Can you read out his latest calls either from today or from over the weekend? And then secondly, can you tell us whether you have any update into the investigations of the deaths of the two U.S. citizens in the region?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I’m not going to – there’s not going to be a readout of every meeting he – of every call he does with the prime minister because he speaks with him every couple of days.
QUESTION: I’m not interested – I’m interested in whatever calls the Secretary —
MS. PSAKI: Sure. The calls he did this weekend, he spoke with Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh. He spoke with Chinese State Councilor Yang. He spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He spoke with new EU High Representative Mogherini. Those are the main calls from the weekend. I’ll see if there are any more.
QUESTION: And then any – do you have any update on the results of the investigations into the deaths of the two U.S. citizens?
MS. PSAKI: Well, in all cases – and I spoke with some of our leadership on the ground or communicated with them this weekend about this – we continue to underscore in all of our discussions the need for the Israelis to complete these investigations in a rapid and thorough manner.
Regarding the killing of the 14-year-old American citizen, Israeli Government officials have told us that the IDF is doing a thorough investigation of the incident, will share results with us when it’s completed. We’re awaiting that information. They are well aware of the importance we attached there being a speedy and transparent investigation. I don’t have any other updates for you on the investigations.
QUESTION: Can I change the subject?
QUESTION: No, wait. I’ve got one more just on this. It has to do with some comments that Susan Rice allegedly made that were published, I guess yesterday or today, about the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. She reportedly told someone that she – that he has – she hasn’t seen him in over a year and that he’s apparently too busy, he hasn’t asked for a meeting, he’s running around with Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas.
Do you know – and if you don’t know, could you take the question – when the last time the Secretary or senior people in the Near Eastern Affairs Bureau have met with Ambassador Dermer? I will ask them as well, but —
MS. PSAKI: With Ambassador Dermer?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I know the Secretary was at his house a month ago for a holiday, I believe.
QUESTION: Right, yeah. But that’s —
MS. PSAKI: — I will check and see when the last time the Secretary did.
QUESTION: I mean a substantive policy discussion with the Israeli ambassador to the U.S.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Syria?
QUESTION: Yeah. Okay, just your reaction to the al-Nusrah Front’s defeating Syrian rebels in the north – isn’t this a huge setback for the U.S. policy, given that they’re now – been kicked out of their bases and territory there? And are you reviewing anything about how to proceed?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re concerned by these reports. We continue to gather facts on the ground. I can’t confirm the reports at this time. We have taken extensive measures to mitigate the risk of U.S. assistance from falling into the wrong hands. Also – we also recognize, of course, that forces on the ground face combat conditions. We’re working with our partners and with moderate opposition groups we support to confirm the status of items we have provided them. And I know we’ve seen some reports and photos out there that al-Nusrah likely seized some food baskets that we provided, but I’m not in a position at this point to give a definitive account of what happened. We’re still looking into it.
QUESTION: But in terms of the U.S. strategy, which – the foundation of it in Syria is strengthening the Syrian opposition and having them serve as the ground forces – if they’ve been kicked out of their stronghold in the north, first of all, and secondly, if Nusrah Front, which used to work together with them, now is turning on them, doesn’t this kind of completely cut the strategy off at the knees?
MS. PSAKI: Well, many of them have been fighting al-Nusrah for some time as well.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) so much.
MS. PSAKI: For some – have been fighting some of them as well. It hasn’t been that they’ve all been working hand in hand. That’s not correct.
In terms of what happened in this specific case, because I’m not in a position to confirm it and our team is still looking into it – obviously, we know that there’s an up and down and fluid, complicated situation on the ground. We are – we have increased our assistance to support the opposition. That’s a process that is ongoing. It’s not – far from being at its end point, and we’ll continue to work toward that. Obviously, we know that they need to be strengthened more militarily. That’s why we and other partners have continued to do more to assist them.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Al-Nusrah also released a video saying it confiscated valuable U.S.-supplied heavy weaponry from one of the FSA depots. Do you have any confirmation of this? Do you know what specific —
MS. PSAKI: I think I just sort of addressed this in the sense that we’re working with our partners on the ground to determine what equipment or —
QUESTION: Well – but specifically on the weapons. I mean, if al-Nusrah is taking weapons from – continuing to take weapons from the rebels, I mean, doesn’t that kind of make you question what kind of weapons you’re talking about training and equipping, even though they’re vetted? I’m not even talking about like who’s a responsible person that you can trust or not. But if they’re going to continue to be overrun by groups like al-Nusrah or who – any type of extremist group, ISIL or not – I mean, doesn’t that make you question the strength of that plan in terms of providing them with weapons if they’re just going to be taken by extremists?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, they’re in a combat zone, as you know. We’re well aware that there is that risk. We’re assessing what equipment, whether it’s heavy weaponry or others or none, that was taken. We’re working with our partners on the ground to do that.
QUESTION: Elise’s question is one side of the coin. The other side of the coin would be: Is it not vindication of your decision or indecision early on to supply them with even more weapons two years ago?
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: You can either look at it as being bad now, or you could look at it – I don’t know, and tell us if you do – that this proves the point that you were so worried about two years ago.
QUESTION: But they’re going to be (inaudible) now so that totally cancels it out.
MS. PSAKI: Well, look, I think – given both of your questions, I think it’s just a reflection of the fact that, obviously, this is an incredibly difficult and complicated situation. And we made the decision, obviously, recently to do more to train and equip, which Congress passed. We didn’t do that for some time because of exactly – one of the factors was exactly what Matt mentioned. So it just reflects how complicated the situation is and difficult, frankly.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
QUESTION: But Jen, you can’t – so you can’t comment at all on how much of a setback it would be if the Syrian rebels have lost their bases and territory in the north?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speak to a hypothetical because we want to see what the assessment is of our team on the ground – or not on the ground, but our team working with forces on the ground to assess that.
QUESTION: Jen, just a follow-up on this —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, and then we’ll go to you next. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Not going back to two years ago, but just last week, early last week, you were asked in this podium about these clashes when they start for the first time, and Syrian rebel forces, which were – who were vetted by the U.S., sent their messages and they asked for help in their fight against al-Nusrah Front in that particular – in the (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: Are you talking about the FSA or are you talking about who —
QUESTION: FSA, FSA.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: FSA and Harakat al-Hazm as well.
MS. PSAKI: Yep.
QUESTION: So this question was asked to you, and this help actually asked from you last week. Do you think —
MS. PSAKI: What is the question? I’m sorry. What —
QUESTION: Question is this —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: You were asked for help for this particular fight, but you did not provide, neither you provided any kind of strikes on the al-Nusrah Front. Do you think this was a wrong move for you?
MS. PSAKI: In Idlib or —
QUESTION: In Idlib, yes. This particular fight.
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Defense. I’m not going to give an assessment of battlefield and what we did.
QUESTION: Just on the gains made by Jabhat al-Nusrah.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, this is not the first gains made by those extremist groups in the Arab part of Syria. ISIS, we know, like, is controlling large parts of Syria as well, like Raqqa and other province in other cities. Does that not prove the point that, apart from the Kurds – who are also controversial because of your alliance with Turkey – you don’t really have any real partners on the ground who stand their ground and will refuse to be defeated by the Islamist extremists?
MS. PSAKI: I think you are familiar with our – how closely we work with the Kurds in Iraq to push back on ISIL there. But we continue to believe that the moderate opposition, many groups that are part of the moderate military opposition – and Harakat al-Hazm is one of the groups with a large number of thousands of members – we’ll continue to work with them. So I don’t think it’s a reflection of that, no.
Syria? Go ahead.
QUESTION: On this issue too, some of these groups said that they’ve been waiting for help and military aids from the West for four years and they didn’t get what they wanted. That’s —
MS. PSAKI: Which specific group said that?
QUESTION: Who defected from FSA and joined al-Nusrah. And that’s why they defected and joined al-Nusrah, because they are not getting the help that they promised to get.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would just say without knowing specifics, unless you have them, the United States increased the scale and scope of our assistance more than a year ago. Many countries have been providing a range of materials to the moderate opposition during that course of time as well. So without knowing the individuals and what their intentions are, it’s hard for me to make a sweeping comment on that.
QUESTION: Just two more questions.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Iraq’s Kurds have said today – the Kurdish officials – they said they have sent a new convoy of weapons to Kobani. Are you aware of that?
MS. PSAKI: That the Iraqi Kurds have?
QUESTION: They’ve sent a new convoy of weapons.
MS. PSAKI: I would take their word for it.
QUESTION: Uh-huh. Would you support that as well, like more weapons from the Kurds to – from Iraqi Kurds to Syrian Kurds?
MS. PSAKI: We support what they’re – their help in fighting back against ISIL in Kobani, yes.
QUESTION: Now that brings me to, like, really a bigger question.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Why has there been no other U.S. ally willing to send fighters to Syria or to Kobani apart from the Iraqi Kurds? I mean, from one’s perspective – because Iraqi Kurds, as you know, are not like – they don’t have their own state. That – I mean, it seems to be, like, very strange. You’re working with, like, little groups from this country to that country, send them —
MS. PSAKI: Are you asking about fighters going into Kobani? Are you asking about support, or – material support?
QUESTION: Support, fighters. Why, for example, none of your real allies – nation-states – are willing to do that? Do you just go —
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: — talk to —
QUESTION: Particularly your NATO ally, Turkey.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would first say that, one, I think the preference of the Kurds in Syria, as we saw, was to have the Iraqi Kurds come in and help them. Two, we have provided a great range of – a great deal of assistance to Kurdish forces, including 30 million rounds of light and heavy machine gun ammunition, 12,000 assault rifles, 15,000 hand grenades, 44,000 mortar rounds, and I could go on. And there are many other countries that have provided a great deal of material assistance to them as well.
They also, as you probably know, already have significant numbers of heavy weapons, including over a hundred tanks and hundreds of other armored vehicles and artillery systems. So they’re very well-equipped, and many countries have increased their assistance to the Kurds in Iraq over the course of the last several months.
QUESTION: But, like, openly – that’s – my question is this: Openly, why do you want the Iraqi Kurds to support Syrian Kurds, not the Iraqi Government or Turkish Government or other countries? Does that mean – I mean, what does that say?
MS. PSAKI: Well, individual countries are going to make their own decisions about the type of assistance they’re providing. Obviously, our airstrikes that we have done in Kobani have helped forces on the ground push back on ISIL. There are other countries in the coalition that have also done airstrikes, so it’s not just about forces on the ground.
QUESTION: Jen —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — related to this, it is emerging that the Egyptians, the Saudis, the Emiratis, and the Kuwaitis are talking about forming some kind of joint military alliance that – with a – that has a – one part of which might be a kind of a military strike force that could intervene in Middle Eastern crises – Yemen, Libya, the kind of things that they’re talking about. Is this something that the U.S. supports?
MS. PSAKI: So my colleague at the Pentagon spoke to this on Friday.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Oh, sorry. I was not here on Friday.
MS. PSAKI: And I did a little bit last week too.
QUESTION: Okay. I was not here on Friday.
MS. PSAKI: Yes. It’s all right. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just to follow up an earlier question —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — do you expect anything more from Turkish Government in terms of Kobani at this moment?
MS. PSAKI: I would – we have ongoing discussions with them. We’ll see what’s happening on the ground. Obviously, that’s not just a one-off. We have regular discussions with them. So in terms of predictions of future assistance, I can’t make that at this point.
QUESTION: Today, President Erdogan once more criticized the U.S. Government for your resupply of the arms to Kobani, to PYD. Have you been talking to Turkish Government on this issue? Have you been able to solve your differences over it?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve been discussing this issue with the Turkish Government for weeks.
QUESTION: Jen, just on this – sorry, before we move on – today, the Secretary’s meeting with the Diplomatic Corps in the building, and along with General Allen and Special – Brett McGurk?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Could you please give us a readout on the purpose of this meeting and – because it’s – there’s – he’s giving remarks, but I believe it’s all closed press. Will we get a transcript or —
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s – well, there’s no plans to release a transcript. It’s a private meeting.
MS. PSAKI: He speaks about ISIL quite frequently, as you know. He’s meeting with 60 Washington-based ambassadors from partner countries in the global coalition. The session was an opportunity – is an opportunity for coalition partners to reaffirm shared efforts in the coalition, discuss ways in which we can integrate our contributions to coalition efforts, and review ways to accelerate and increase our joint operations. Obviously, the representatives of the Diplomatic Corps in Washington are important partners and certainly, diplomacy, as you know, we feel is very important – an important part of this. So it’s just an opportunity for the Secretary to provide an update. General Allen and other senior U.S. officials will also be speaking, and I’m sure there’ll be a back-and-forth.
QUESTION: Can we stay on Turkey for one second?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: As you know – and I don’t think you’ve been asked about this recently, although if you have, forgive me.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: A group of Turkish army officers who were accused of plotting to oust Erdogan fairly soon after his original election as prime minister is now being retried. The original trial was quashed by a court, the – on the grounds that there was mishandling of evidence and it was not conducted properly. Do you believe that the Turkish officers can get a fair trial in Turkey?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve expressed our concerns in the past, as you know, on certain trials. I’d have to – I’m happy to take it and check with our team and see, given it’s a new trial, it sounds like, or a new —
QUESTION: It’s a new – it’s – they’re being tried again for offensives previously —
MS. PSAKI: They’re being tried again?
QUESTION: Yes, it’s a retrial.
MS. PSAKI: So let me talk to our team and see what our view is on this specific case.
QUESTION: Finish Turkey?
MS. PSAKI: Let’s finish Turkey, sure.
QUESTION: Just one more. President Erdogan today said that the statements coming out from State Department spokesman and from Pentagon —
MS. PSAKI: As in me?
QUESTION: Yes, I believe.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: You became very celebrated in Turkey, just so you know. From state of —
QUESTION: — State Department, Pentagon.
MS. PSAKI: Right, celebrated in the way I am in Russia? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: — White House, National Security Council, all these different spokesmen, President Erdogan says, gives cacophony, which is very different messages, and he’s suggesting that you have to somewhat centralize your message. Do you think you give different messages to the world?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think so. I would say that obviously, the questions that come to the Pentagon are often very military-operational. The questions that come here are often more about our relationship. And often, the White House gets questions about politics. So sometimes it reflects the questions that are being asked.
QUESTION: So you would disagree with the idea that Administration spokespeople are cacophonous?
MS. PSAKI: I would disagree with that, and you know that my friend, John Kirby, was here just a few weeks ago and we did a briefing together.
QUESTION: A senior PKK commander has told an Austrian newspaper that they’re looking for an intermediary between the PKK and the Turkish Government, suggested that the United States might play that role. Is that something that the Obama Administration might be interested in playing?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not aware of any plans to be an intermediary there, given we talked to the PKK through intermediaries until just a few weeks ago. But I’m happy to take that in the group and see where we are on that.
QUESTION: Well, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait, wait.
QUESTION: Yeah, you said you —
QUESTION: You talked to the PKK through mediators or the —
MS. PSAKI: No, we —
QUESTION: — other group that’s in Kobani through mediators?
MS. PSAKI: We – through intermediaries, we talked a couple weeks ago.
QUESTION: To the PKK?
MS. PSAKI: Well, months ago.
QUESTION: First PYD or PKK?
MS. PSAKI: PYD, I’m sorry. PYD.
QUESTION: Not PKK?
MS. PSAKI: Not PKK.
QUESTION: Okay. All right.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just making —
MS. PSAKI: I am not aware of plans.
QUESTION: Would you consider any difference between PYD and PKK?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, PKK is a designated terrorist organization. We’ve gone through this many times.
Go ahead, Nicolas.
QUESTION: Thank you. Can we move to Burkina Faso?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Now that it’s pretty clear that the military took over in Burkina Faso, would the U.S. consider taking sanctions against Ouagadougou or at least freezing its military-to-military ties?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we put out a couple of statements this weekend, but let me just reiterate a couple of points. I would – we would call again for a civilian-led transition that follows the spirit of the constitution and moves as quickly as possible toward free and fair presidential elections. The situation on the ground now is still very fluid because, as many of you know, there’s a power vacuum left by the departure of President Compaore and key leaders in the government, including leaders of the national assembly.
So right now the precise makeup of Burkina Faso’s transitional government is an outstanding issue. We are certainly encouraging movement to a civilian-led transition, and then, of course, elections. And that is the conversation we’re having. So at this point, we’re still gathering facts. We’re not going to make a policy or legal determination at this point in time. I can give you a little bit of an update or a – not update, but I know some of you have asked about how much assistance we provide. We have allocated approximately $14.8 million of bilateral FY2014 assistance to Burkina Faso; through the Title II Food for Peace program, $5 million; the Global Health Programs, $9.5 million; and IMET, which is 250,000.
QUESTION: What about —
QUESTION: And all of that is suspendable?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to – I asked the same question, Matt. Obviously, as you know, the – it’s – the legal authority is based on kind of what goes directly to the government, and I’d have to check on the specifics.
QUESTION: Can you find out what – if you do make such a determination, how much of what you just said —
MS. PSAKI: Sure. And I’m not sure our legal team is quite there yet, Matt, but I will check with them.
QUESTION: How much of that is – do you know how much of that is counterterrorism funds?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check, Elise. Obviously, it’s not the Food for Peace Program —
QUESTION: I understand.
MS. PSAKI: — or the Global Health Programs, so perhaps part of the 250,000, but I’ll check.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to this Egypt-UAE-Saudi thing?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You said that, when I asked first time, that it was discussed at the Pentagon on Friday. So I understand that the Pentagon on Friday said they didn’t know anything about it. Is that what qualifies as a discussion?
MS. PSAKI: I think they also said that, obviously, our coalition partners will work together in a variety of ways. I don’t think there’s much more information we have at this point in time.
QUESTION: Okay, but I mean, is this the kind of thing that you think is a good idea, or there could be —
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have to see what the details are. We’re obviously having discussions with a range of countries.
QUESTION: Right. But are you in discussion with Egypt, Saudi, UAE, and Kuwait about them, within the alliance that you have crafted, doing their own thing, or even completely separate from it?
MS. PSAKI: I can talk to our – my DOD counterparts to see if there’s more we want to convey on that or if we learned more over the weekend.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to Burkina Faso?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The African Union today gave the army two weeks to return the country to civilian rule. Is setting a deadline helpful in that sort of situation? Is that kind of something that the United States would approve of?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, we’re appreciative of efforts by countries in the region to encourage officials in Burkina Faso to move forward rapidly. And we’re certainly encouraging that, too. We have not set a deadline, but I don’t have much more evaluation than that.
QUESTION: But are – is this going to be a case – does Burkina Faso – are they in the same league as Egypt, where you would twist yourself into pretzels for not – in not making a determination? Will you make a determination one way or another, or are you – is Burkina Faso such a critical – like Egypt – element of your policy in that region, West Africa, that you will make a determination not to make a determination?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we’re still gathering the facts in this case. Obviously, our hope is that they will transition quickly to a civilian-led transitional government. And that’s what we’re pressing on. So —
QUESTION: But that was the hope in Egypt as well.
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are slightly —
QUESTION: I know every —
MS. PSAKI: — I would say not just slightly —
QUESTION: I know every case is different.
MS. PSAKI: — they’re significantly different scenarios, but —
QUESTION: I understand that. But it seems to me that you contorted your – the Administration contorted itself in such a way that it appeared that it – you never wanted to determine that what happened in Egypt was a coup, even from when it began. And I’m just wondering if you regard what the events – if you’re looking at Burkina Faso in the same way, that you don’t want to have to suspend —
MS. PSAKI: It’s a different scenario for many reasons, including the fact that the president left and there’s a political vacuum left, and it wasn’t initiated in the same way that the events in Egypt were, even though, as you know, we have implemented legally a range of steps in Egypt over the course of the last year.
QUESTION: But I just – you don’t know if a determination has been made at this point whether you want to make a determination that nothing happened?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t know yet if a determination will be made.
MS. PSAKI: We’ll see what happens over the course of the next couple of days.
QUESTION: Can I just quickly (inaudible) the embassy operations or anything on the ground?
MS. PSAKI: I know, obviously, we issued a travel alert that you may have seen, I mean, broadly to American citizens, which we did given events on the time – at the time. But beyond that, I have not heard of other impacts on the embassy.
QUESTION: Do you have anything – maybe you had this last week and I didn’t ask, but do you have anything about these new satellite images of North Korea’s submarine facilities showing appears – what appears to be technology being developed for future ballistic missiles and submarines?
MS. PSAKI: I can’t remember if I spoke to this last week or not.
QUESTION: You did, but I don’t think you had very much on it.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure I have much on this, Elise. I’m happy to talk to our team and see if there’s anything we want to convey. Obviously, as you know, we don’t get into intelligence, but – do we have any —
QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: So you made no secret of the fact that you weren’t going to recognize these elections that were held in the east by the separatists. Not only did the Secretary and the President say this, and the Vice President say it, and you, and spokespeople from every other building, but the Europeans joined you, and they went ahead and did it anyway. What are – what do you make of that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, of course, as you mentioned, but let me just reiterate since you gave the – me the opportunity – the United States deplores and does not recognize yesterday’s so-called separatist elections in eastern Ukraine, nor do we recognize any of the leaders chosen in this illegal vote. We also welcome statements from the European Union, the United Nations, France, Germany, and others rejecting these illegal and illegitimate actions. If Russia were to recognize the so-called elections, it would only serve to isolate it further. In terms of what it will mean for separatists, obviously we have a range of tools. I don’t have any prediction on that in terms of what it will mean.
QUESTION: Well, how – forget about the people themselves and whether they might be subject to any additional – sanctions or any additional sanctions, but what does this mean in terms of U.S. policy toward the east of Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t recognize the leaders. We – it’s —
QUESTION: Okay. Well —
MS. PSAKI: — the – they’re part – it’s part of Ukraine, part of the Ukrainian Government.
QUESTION: Well, you say the same thing about Crimea too, and it clearly isn’t part of Ukraine anymore, at least according to the facts on the ground. It is essentially Russian territory. Are you concerned that the same could happen in the east of – in the east of what is – of Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, we remain closely watching what’s happening on the ground, Matt, and we certainly wanted to make clear that we don’t recognize the legitimacy to show that we would not be working with these leaders, and obviously, we don’t recognize that they are governing these parts of Ukraine. Obviously, we’re concerned about what’s happening in the country given our focus on the issue.
QUESTION: But as a practical thing, what does that mean, that you don’t recognize them? Does it mean the same as Crimea?
MS. PSAKI: It means we’re going to continue to work with the central Government of Ukraine.
QUESTION: And —
MS. PSAKI: And not with these leaders.
QUESTION: Yeah. But I mean, the central Government of Ukraine, the government in Kyiv, doesn’t control anything that’s going on in Crimea now, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, it depends on the part of the – part of eastern Ukraine, but —
QUESTION: No, no, I – no, I was just saying that in Crimea, which you do not – which you don’t recognize as being part of Russia now, you still regard it as Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: But the central government in Kyiv has nothing to do with governing in Crimea right now, correct? So —
MS. PSAKI: Well, this is an ongoing process, Matt, obviously.
QUESTION: But I’m —
MS. PSAKI: Our – go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, I’m just curious as what the practical – I mean, what are you going to do to stop this if you are – you’re very much opposed to it. You’ve made that clear. But what do you do to stop it or to roll it back?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have a range of tools at our disposal, but more importantly than that, we’re going to continue to press for the implementation of the Minsk Agreement and all of the specific steps that are included in there.
QUESTION: The run-up to these elections on Sunday was pretty violent – violations of the Minsk ceasefire deal on both sides. Did you have anything to say about that over the – or do you have any thoughts about that – Friday, late Friday and Saturday?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there were a couple of incidents over the course of the last several days, including around the Donetsk airport and other territory in eastern Ukraine. Russian forces and weapons have not all been withdrawn. Obviously, as you’ve seen, hostages must be released. These are a range of steps that have not yet been taken. We are – remain concerned about mounting reports that de facto authorities in Russia – I mean in Ukraine, Russian separatists are continuing to take aggressive actions around the country. And so that’s something that we are repeating, we are conveying to Russian authorities in all of our conversations. We’re also alarmed by reports and images of dozens of unmarked military trucks in eastern Ukraine carrying heavy weaponry and ammunition.
QUESTION: These are new —
MS. PSAKI: These are all issues —
QUESTION: – new ones?
MS. PSAKI: New ones, yes, over the course of the last several days.
QUESTION: All right. And then last week – I think it was Thursday – it certainly wasn’t Friday because I wasn’t here, but Thursday, maybe, or Wednesday you had some pretty harsh words about the Russian detainment or continued detention of this Ukrainian pilot.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Has anything changed on that, her circumstances?
MS. PSAKI: She remains detained. This detention, obviously, violates Russians – Russia’s commitment to supporting the Minsk agreement.
QUESTION: Can I just ask – you said that if Russia were to recognize the so-called elections, it would only isolate the country even further. But I mean, Russia’s actually said it respects the outcome of the poll and said that those people who’ve been elected in these elections have a mandate to resolve the issues to try and reestablish normal life. So I guess what Moscow’s trying to say is that further negotiations with Kyiv to resolve this political crisis – this crisis – the – those people who’ve been elected in these elections should have a seat at the table.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Russia has made a range of comments, as you know, leading up to this weekend and over the weekend, and their response to the so-called elections has been out of step with both the letter and spirit of the Minsk agreements. I had – unless that came out in the last hour, I had not seen them specifically recognize the outcome of the election. I’d have to look and see if that’s exactly what they did.
QUESTION: But would you object to these elected officials having a role in further negotiations to resolve the political crisis in Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there have been times in the past where Ukrainian authorities have invited in separatists to discussions and conversations. Obviously, now they’re implementing the Minsk agreement, and so it’s sort of a different point in time, but that’s a decision for the Ukrainian leadership to make.
QUESTION: Jo’s got an – makes an interesting point. I mean, you can say “so-called elections,” but people did actually vote. Now, it may not have been free and fair, it may not have met your standards, but people did vote. Do you believe that these people that they did elect have any legitimacy to represent the people from that part of the country?
MS. PSAKI: We don’t, no.
QUESTION: So who should be representing the east – Donetsk and Luhansk? Who should —
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt —
QUESTION: And when you go to the table to talk about the things that the Poroshenko government says that it wants to do in terms of giving greater autonomy, who should represent the people of the east? I mean, are these people who were elected disqualified from representing them simply because you don’t – because that they were not elected in an election —
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I mean, there’s a bunch of issues here. Obviously, we continue to believe that any elections need to be done through the central Ukrainian Government and implemented in that way. And there are upcoming elections in December, as you know. But the second piece of it is there’s obviously an agreement that is being implemented right now, the Minsk agreement.
QUESTION: Or not being implemented.
MS. PSAKI: Parts of it are being implemented; more needs to be done. There’s no question about that. But in the past, the Ukrainian Government are actually the ones who have been – who have invited separatists in. It’s not that they haven’t in the past. Whether or not that’s appropriate or there’s a place, that’s a decision for them to make.
QUESTION: Okay. But you don’t believe – the Administration does not necessarily believe that the people who were elected in this so-called election are disqualified from representing the people of that region?
MS. PSAKI: We don’t recognize their legitimacy as being elected. So there’s upcoming elections in December; we’ll rely on that.
QUESTION: Okay. So if these people are reelected in December or are elected in the first place in December – I mean, simply being Mr. X, who got more votes than Mr. Y did in this election that you don’t recognize, doesn’t disqualify you from representing the people of that region, does it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, there are a range of individuals who may be guilty of other things who were involved in these elections, Matt, so we’ll see what happens in December.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: Any more on Ukraine, or should we move on?
QUESTION: New subject?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Scott, in the back.
QUESTION: Burundi. The travel advisory – Travel Warning that you had last week spoke of the threat from al-Shabaab, which would appear to indicate concern that al-Shabaab has moved beyond Somalia, which we knew, into Kenya and Uganda, but as far as Burundi. So can you speak any more to that or any broader concern about what had previously been heralded from the podium as success against al-Shabaab in Somalia and a greater concern about the spread of that threat?
MS. PSAKI: Let me check with our team, our counterterrorism team, on our concerns about how widespread it is into Burundi, given I know it was mentioned in the Travel Warning, but I haven’t had a chance to talk with them more in-depth about it.
QUESTION: African-related questions, Jen, please.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Could you provide any sort of status update on U.S. domestic policies concerning mandatory quarantine of U.S. citizens and foreign visitors from Ebola-affected nations, particularly with regard to the conflict between federal and state policies that are being adopted?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we view it one – are you referring to DOD? You mean DOD policies?
QUESTION: Mm-hmm, DOD as well as State policies.
MS. PSAKI: There’s not an update to federal policy, which is what the CDC outlined a couple weeks ago. There – so there’s no update to that. You’ve seen the Department of Defense put out their guidelines. Obviously, there are a couple of factors here, including the fact that there are up to 4,000 members of the military who will be over in Western Africa working on these issues. One of the concerns was – and I think Secretary Hagel and others have spoken to this – is that it would place an undue burden on the health system if they were doing individual monitoring and providing updates. So that was one of the reasons, as well as the fact that military families asked for that quarantine to be put in place.
We have a slightly different circumstance with diplomats. There are smaller numbers that are moving back and forth, and so it doesn’t place that undue burden on health workers, although – or on the health system, I should say, although they certainly will be abiding by CDC regulations when they return, just as Samantha Power did when she returned last week.
QUESTION: What enforcement capability do these states have who have been issuing policies or recommendations as to how returning personnel may be – either take a voluntary quarantine, or do what they like, as this lady has been doing? And —
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would certainly point you to the White House for state laws. You saw Ambassador Power and her team indicate they would be abiding by state laws when they returned. We certainly would anticipate other diplomats would do the same, but obviously, the White House has spoken to their views on state laws.
QUESTION: But on the subject of Ambassador Powers and Assistant Secretary of State Thomas-Greenfield for African Affairs —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — any status updates that you can share with us about the outcomes of their recent visits to Africa?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Ambassador Power, as you know – she did some interviews over the course of the weekend, so I’d certainly point you to that, where she spoke to some successes she had seen and some ongoing challenges. And there’ll certainly be ongoing discussions internally. That’s the benefit of having her overseas or in these countries, to kind of bring back what she saw and what she learned.
Assistant Secretary Greenfield obviously has been working on a range of other issues that we’ve discussed. Certainly, she’s also very engaged in the Ebola issue. I don’t have any specific readouts from recent trips. I think she’s been back for quite a while from her last trip.
QUESTION: She’s been back about a week.
MS. PSAKI: About a week, yes.
QUESTION: New subject?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Goyal.
QUESTION: Pakistan, Taliban.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Madam, dozens of innocent Pakistanis were killed by a suicide bomb, and scores were injured. And this is the group that used to be with the LET, and now this got separated. And according to the reports yesterday, this group has been supported by the ISI. My question is that the whole world, including India, has condemned this attack. Anybody spoke from this building, or any comments, please?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we did put out a statement from our Embassy, I think, just this morning. We certainly condemn the senseless terrorist act at the Wagah border post on November 2nd. We offer our deepest condolences to the families of those killed in the attack and wish those injured a quick recovery. We support the Pakistani Government’s efforts to bring all those involved in planning and executing the attack to justice and stand ready to provide any appropriate assistance to authorities investigating this tragic attack. We remain steadfast in our commitment to assisting the people of Pakistan in their efforts to counter terrorism, uphold the rule of law, and build a peaceful future for themselves and their children. I’m not aware of a – and I don’t believe there has been a claim in this particular case on who was responsible, or a conclusion on it.
QUESTION: And Madam, this terrorist – terrible incident comes today when Pakistan is going through internal problems also. And do you believe that still there is some – those terrorist groups are still inside Pakistan, and what U.S. is helping or doing to end these terrorism in the country?
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: Because innocent people are the one who are victims in Pakistan.
MS. PSAKI: — Pakistan remains an important partner on counterterrorism. Obviously, there are remaining concerns, as the Government of Pakistan would certainly convey as well, so we continue to work closely.
Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: Can I ask on the – last week, we talked a lot about anonymous comments in an article in The Atlantic. But I wanted to ask you about a piece that was in The New York Times the back end of last week as well, in which they talked about a possible shakeup of the national security team. And in that, there was a comment from anonymous White House officials, saying that the Secretary is considered to be like an astronaut in the movie Gravity, somersaulting through space and untethered from the White House. What’s the building’s – your building’s response to those comments?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to the fact that the White House chief of staff went out and did an interview on Friday conveying that’s absolutely not how Secretary Kerry is viewed in the building. And I think, also, that quote is sourced not to a White House official, but to a source close to, which obviously has a – quite a different meaning.
I will say that – and the Secretary spoke to this on Thursday as well – certainly, his experience has not been that at all. He’s been working closely with the White House on a range of issues, whether it’s Afghanistan or Iraq or the troubling situation in Gaza, but again, of course it’s more important what the White House conveys on this particular question, and they’ve spoken to this from their building as well.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, she used to have weekly meetings up at the White House, and that’s – doesn’t seem to have been a tradition that has followed into Secretary Kerry’s.
MS. PSAKI: Nope. Actually, the Secretary does have weekly meetings with the President.
QUESTION: Weekly meetings? Yeah?
MS. PSAKI: Yep.
QUESTION: So —
QUESTION: Whether he’s here or not?
MS. PSAKI: He has them when he’s here in person, but he participates in – it’s very rare for him to miss an NSC meeting or a DC meeting from the road. He does them at whatever hour they are.
QUESTION: But he doesn’t have – I just wanted to —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — understand whether or not he has a dedicated, like, SVTC call when he’s on the road, just with him and the President? Or no, he just has the weekly meeting when he’s in town?
MS. PSAKI: Not typically, Arshad, but I don’t think that there’s been a tradition of that. So —
QUESTION: Yeah. I was just asking.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Does – I mean, is that enough, to be able to dial into the meetings? Or would his presence be better if he were able to attend in person?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, the way that it typically works, and I’ll give you an example – a recent example. When we were in Afghanistan, obviously, you may remember that that was when we did our first strikes in Iraq, and the Secretary participated in multiple multi-hour meetings from there via SVTC, via video, right? Ambassador Power also participates via video. There are other – obviously, Secretary Hagel travels quite a bit. There are others who participate via video, depending on where they’re traveling. So it’s rare that he misses one, hardly ever. He also does them via phone from the plane, when necessary, but certainly the role of any Secretary of State is to be out there in the world gathering information, talking to their counterparts, and reporting back, and that’s exactly what he’s doing.
QUESTION: So he’s not as – he’s not worried that he leaves tomorrow on Tuesday. We obviously – there’s big midterm elections coming up tomorrow night. He’s not worried that by the time he gets back, his job might be —
MS. PSAKI: Again, I’d point you to the White House’s comments on this, making pretty clear he will be here. So —
QUESTION: Although it is interesting to note that the last two – well, this Secretary of State and the previous Secretary of State made a point of being out of the country during the midterms. (Laughter.) Is it not —
MS. PSAKI: Both retired from politics. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: But are you sure that the Secretary’s predecessor is retired from politics? Are you? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I can’t speak to that, Matt.
QUESTION: And which part of the White House – the alleged White House joke do you take issue with? The Sandra Bullock comparison? The somersaulting through space comparison? Or the untethered from the White House comparison?
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: Or all of them?
MS. PSAKI: It was clearly – comment was clearly made by somebody who has more time to go to the movies than Secretary Kerry, Matt, so – (laughter) —
QUESTION: But he has not seen the film?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe so, as riveting as the film is.
Do we have any more topics?
QUESTION: I have one more.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Just – I understand – again, I’m going to say that I wasn’t here on Friday, because I wasn’t – but you were asked about this American guy who was arrested in Abu Dhabi, and I believe you said you couldn’t say anything because of a Privacy Act. I’m wondering if that’s changed since his family has now spoken out about it.
MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have anything more on that. I don’t believe I do, Matt. I will check and see if anything has changed on his status. It was that issue on Friday with the Privacy Act waiver.
Go ahead, Abby.
QUESTION: Can I go back to the massacre in the Anbar province?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: One of the tribal leaders is saying that he made repeated requests to the Shiite-led government for weapons and they didn’t provide them to them. Is that accurate? Do you think that they should be providing weapons to the Sunni tribal leaders to fight ISIS?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s hard to analyze off of one anecdote, but what I will convey is that obviously we know that there has been a history of ineffective workings between the Iraqi Central Government and the tribal leaders – the Sunni tribal leaders. That’s something that was obviously needed to be addressed with the new leadership in the government. And Prime Minister Abadi just recently – last week – met with tribal leaders. He stressed he took responsibility for the protection of all Iraqis, regardless of religion or sect. He emphasized that ISIL has killed more Sunnis than Shia.
This will – is not the end. This is not – there will be many more meetings and – but this is an effort that will be ongoing. It’s one that the United States is certainly supportive of and involved in to the degree it’s useful. But in terms of what their needs are and what assistance or material will be provided, that’s something that will have to be discussed between the parties.
QUESTION: I’ve got two very brief UN-related things.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: One, are you seeking new sanctions on Yemen? And if you are, or people in Yemen? And if you are, what are they?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we don’t typically comment on potential UN sanctions actions, but the UN Security Council has signaled several times that it’s prepared to pursue designations against specific individuals whose risk – whose actions risk destabilizing Yemen or threaten the transition process.
QUESTION: Do you see —
QUESTION: Hold on. Wait, wait.
QUESTION: — former President Saleh as one of those individuals?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our concerns about the role former regime officials and Houthi leadership are playing in Yemen are well known. We’ve repeatedly denounced elements seeking to exploit the current security situation. Beyond that, I’m not going to get ahead of who or what the UN Security Council may decide to sanction or do.
QUESTION: But specifically – but, I mean, outside of whether he’s going to be designated by the United Nations, do you see former President Saleh as one of those individuals whose undermining the future?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve spoken to concerns about former officials in the past. I’m going to leave it at that.
QUESTION: So is that the full —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: — spiel?
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. I’ve done the full spiel.
QUESTION: There wasn’t —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: That’s all you’re —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: So you are – but I guess what – I’m trying to interpret what you just said. That means that you are supporting – you would – you’re supporting this in the Council? You’re in favor of it?
MS. PSAKI: We’ll see. We’re obviously engaged with the Council, as you know. We have made clear our concerns about the role of former officials in the past; there are sanctions authorities.
QUESTION: Right, but – so you would like to see those authorities used, right?
MS. PSAKI: We’ll see what happens, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, I’m not asking who. I’m just asking, in general, are you in favor of imposing more under this – with these authorities.
MS. PSAKI: I understand what you’re asking. I don’t have anything more to add at this point.
QUESTION: All right. And then the other UN question I had was about the landmine resolution vote today that you guys abstained from along with a rogues gallery, as it were, of countries like North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia – all well-known human rights champions. Are you uncomfortable at all that abstaining in a vote like this puts you into the company of countries that you otherwise accuse of horrible human rights abuses, violations?
MS. PSAKI: No, but I can get you a comment on this specific vote, if you’d like.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, great. Thanks, everyone.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:02 p.m.)