Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 7, 2014.
12:55 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
QUESTION: It’s Friday.
MS. PSAKI: It is Friday. Happy Friday.
MS. PSAKI: A couple of items at the top for all of you. We are appalled by reports that ISIL has shut down schools in territory it has seized in the eastern Syrian province of Deir al-Zor and will force teachers to endure its empty indoctrination and propaganda, contrary to Syrians’ aspirations for freedom, tolerance, and dignity. ISIL represents no faith or religion and has demonstrated that it will target any group that might disagree with its goals or policies by committing atrocities, violations of international human law, human rights abuses, and other violent acts. ISIL’s use of coercion and grotesque violence to impose its repressive ideology and false narratives only reinforces that it has no place in a future Syria or anywhere else in the region.
On Ukraine, yesterday we saw battle tanks, armored vehicles, and cargo trucks amass at a rail yard approximately 25 kilometers inside the Russian border. Today, as we see Ukrainian reports that Russia has moved heavy artillery, including T-64 tanks and Howitzer artillery systems into Ukraine – if confirmed, the United States condemns this most recent incursion into Ukrainian territory. It would be another blatant violation of the Minsk agreement signed by Russia and the separatists. We continue to emphasize the need for full and immediate implementation by the separatists and Russia of all their commitments under the September 5th Minsk Protocol. Russian forces and weapons must be withdrawn from Ukraine. Ukrainian sovereignty must be restored along the Ukrainian side of the international border, and that border needs to be monitored by the OSCE, and all hostages must be released immediately.
Just two more quick items for all of you. The Secretary, together with USTR Froman, is leading the U.S. delegation at the APEC Ministerial Meeting in Beijing. In the afternoon, they attended the opening session of the AMM at the China National Convention Center. On the margins of the AMM today, the Secretary held separate bilateral meetings with his counterparts from New Zealand, China, and Japan. On Saturday, the Secretary will again participate in AMM events, including the foreign ministers breakfast, the plenary in the afternoon, and on the margins he is expected to hold additional bilateral meetings with his counterparts from Mexico, Indonesia, and Australia. Also on Saturday, the Secretary is expected to meet with the American Chamber of Commerce reps and make remarks at two National Center for APEC events – the 20th anniversary luncheon and a women-for-economy event.
Finally, we welcome Japan’s announcement on November 7th of an additional $100 million contribution to the international response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. The new pledge, which is on top of earlier commitments from Japan of $45 million and in-kind donations, demonstrates important leadership in the global response to this crisis and is another example of Japan’s longstanding support for humanitarian assistance and long-term development projects in Africa.
With Matt, let’s – with that, Matt, let’s go to you.
QUESTION: Wow, okay. So there’s a lot going on today. I’ll get to Iran, Ukraine, all that stuff in a bit. But I want to begin with – in the Middle East with Israel.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yesterday, the ICC made its decision that there was no case to prosecute for war crimes in Gaza. But also yesterday – and you spoke about that very briefly here. But also yesterday, General Dempsey, who is no slouch when it comes to military things, told an audience in New York that the Israelis went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage during the Gaza war.
And I’m puzzled, because I thought it was the position of the Administration – or maybe it was just the position of the State Department and the White House – that Israel was not doing enough to live up to its – what you called its own high standards. Back on August 3rd, there was the statement you put out after the UNRWA school incident, saying that the U.S. “is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling.” And that was some pretty fierce criticism.
How do you reconcile these two apparent divergent points of view? When this statement came out, the United States was appalled? Did that just mean the State Department was appalled?
MS. PSAKI: No, that is the position of the Administration; it remains the position of the Administration. As we made clear throughout the summer’s conflict, we supported Israel’s right to self-defense and strongly condemned Hamas’s rocket attacks that deliberately targeted civilians, and the use of tunnels, of course, of attacks into Israel. However, we also expressed deep concern and heartbreak for the civilian death toll in Gaza and made clear, as you noted in the statement you pointed to, that we believed that Israel could have done more to prevent civilian casualties, and it was important that they held their selves to a high standard. So that remains our view and position about this summer’s events.
QUESTION: Okay. But I’m still confused as to how you can reconcile the fact that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – who knows a bit about how military operations work, I would venture to guess; I don’t know him, but I assume that he wouldn’t be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff if he was – if he didn’t —
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: — says that the Israelis essentially did the best that they could and lived up to – by extension lived up to their high standards by taking – by going to, quote, “extraordinary lengths” to limit the collateral damage.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to the chairman’s team for his – more specifics on his comments. But it remains the broad view of the entire Administration that they could have done more and they should have taken more – all feasible precautions to prevent civilian casualties.
QUESTION: All right. Now – same issue. Well, same area. Do you have any update, anything new to say about the situation in Jerusalem today?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we obviously continue to urge calm and condemn any resurgence of violence. Obviously, we’re watching this closely. The Secretary remains in close touch, as do senior officials, I should say, at our embassies and here in Washington, with officials in Israel, and as well as Palestinian leaders and Jordanian leaders as well.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — General Dempsey? I mean, to his credit, he also said that the number of casualties was large. But you do – just to re-emphasize, you do acknowledge that the situation in Gaza did not allow for those who are in authority in Gaza, in this case Hamas, to really provide viable protection for the population, correct?
MS. PSAKI: I think —
QUESTION: Because of the density —
MS. PSAKI: I just —
QUESTION: Because of —
MS. PSAKI: I just reiterated the statement we made this summer and indicated we stand by that statement that we made.
QUESTION: Okay. Because this flare-up may likely to happen again. And you have one of the highest concentrations of populations in the world, so it could conceivably happen one more time. What would you do in terms of – in the absence of any kind of threat to take someone to the ICC or accuse them of war crimes, wouldn’t that be – they would feel that there is no deterrence to continue to do something like this again?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what your question is, Said.
QUESTION: My question is that, obviously, you oppose any efforts with the ICC. But barring that effort or barring that threat or that someone may be taken before an international court and accused of war crimes, if that is absent wouldn’t that be a disincentive for them to take any kind of, like, guidelines or —
MS. PSAKI: We think the incentive is that Israel is a country just like the United States and many other countries around the world that should do everything within their power to hold themselves to the standard that a modern-day democracy should hold itself to.
QUESTION: Okay. Is it possible that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is basically also trying to cover military action by the United States by saying that?
MS. PSAKI: No. I don’t think I have anything more to add.
Go ahead, Arshad.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, Ukraine.
QUESTION: I’m a little perplexed by your opening statement —
QUESTION: I want to go back —
QUESTION: Oh, I’m sorry. Did you have more?
QUESTION: No, it’s okay. No, that’s all right.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, did you have more on that?
QUESTION: Just a few more questions. Yeah, I’ll go back to the —
QUESTION: Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Well, why don’t we finish this topic and then we can go to Ukraine.
QUESTION: Okay. I wanted to clarify first on the AID thing, the USAID. And it says there’s a hundred million —
MS. PSAKI: The assistance you referenced yesterday?
QUESTION: Right, right. Yeah.
MS. PSAKI: It was something that the Secretary actually announced in Cairo, so posted on the website yesterday.
QUESTION: Right, so that’s not – okay. So that’s not a new thing but it’s part of the same —
MS. PSAKI: We announced it just a couple of weeks ago.
QUESTION: Okay. And it goes for development. It goes for education, health care, and things of that nature.
MS. PSAKI: There’s a press release on our website.
QUESTION: It is not —
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Yeah, okay. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Sure.
QUESTION: Yeah. I’m perplexed by your statement about Ukraine because you started out by talking about all the materiel that you had seen massing inside Russia near the border, and then you went on to note the Ukrainian reports that heavy armor, including tanks or heavy artillery and tanks have crossed into its territory. And you said if confirmed, you would condemn it. Can you not – why can’t you confirm it? If you can see them 20 kilometers away, why can’t you see them having crossed an international border?
MS. PSAKI: I think – because obviously we take a range of steps to confirm things internally before we confirm them publicly. I’m not going to outline that from here. But there have been a range of reports. I’m not suggesting we’re questioning them. I’m just suggesting that we don’t have independent confirmation.
QUESTION: Really? You don’t have independent confirmation?
MS. PSAKI: If we did, I would convey it to all of you.
QUESTION: On that line, I’m just curious. You said yesterday we saw battle tanks, et cetera, mass at the border. You saw, how?
MS. PSAKI: We have a range of means of evaluating and viewing what is happening, Matt. I’m not going to outline those further.
QUESTION: Okay. Well, I mean, could you – I mean, one of the problems or one of the issues that’s been going on in this battle – in the war of words that’s been going back and forth between the Russians and the United States and the Europeans to a certain extent has been that there hasn’t been evidence presented to back up these claims. So can you – if you can’t confirm the – if you can’t confirm that these tanks and the other things have actually gone into Ukraine, can you offer us any evidence to show that the – of the build-up on the Russian side of the border?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, when we have information that is declassified we will provide that and can provide that. We have information that Russia has moved, as I mentioned during the topper, military forces, vehicles, armored personnel carriers, within several kilometers of the border. Obviously, to Arshad’s questions, we’re just waiting for – we’ll continue to look and analyze.
MS. PSAKI: If there’s more to share, we will provide that.
QUESTION: Right. But —
MS. PSAKI: And I don’t actually – I would disagree with the notion that that has been an issue when we have provided a range of information over the course of time when it’s available and when we can.
QUESTION: Right. But when you say something like, well, the Russians have massed up all these troops and tanks on the border, and you say, “We saw it happen,” and then you don’t have any – I mean, they come back and say, “Prove it.”
MS. PSAKI: We have information that leads us to believe that. I wouldn’t be stating it if there wasn’t confidence from the United States Government in our information.
QUESTION: Okay. But you’re not willing – or could you see if someone in the government is willing to provide some kind of this —
MS. PSAKI: If there is information to provide, we will provide it.
QUESTION: — satellites or whatever kind of information it is that you have?
QUESTION: What conversations have there been between the U.S. and Russia about —
QUESTION: Sorry, could I just —
QUESTION: Could you endeavor to have —
MS. PSAKI: If there is information to provide, we’ll provide it, Matt.
Go ahead, Roz.
QUESTION: Have there been conversations between this building, for example, and the Russian foreign ministry about the continued troop presence along the Ukrainian-Russian border?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary has a bilateral meeting, I believe tomorrow, with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And certainly, they’ll discuss the situation in Ukraine. He’s been speaking with him fairly regularly.
QUESTION: Well, when was the last time that the two of them spoke directly about the tensions in that region?
MS. PSAKI: I can check, Roz. I mean, I believe it was in the last week or so. And obviously, we have a range of means of being in contact with Russians at several levels. So I don’t think it’s an issue of not conveying our concerns. There’s an opportunity to talk about Ukraine when the Secretary meets with the Foreign Minister tomorrow.
QUESTION: What is the analysis from the experts in this building about Russia’s long game regarding eastern Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to Russia on that question. I’m not going to outline for you what we view as their long game. Obviously, we believe they’ve taken illegal actions. They’ve taken aggressive actions that violate international protocol, and obviously, the international community has spoken out against that. In terms of their long game, I’m not going to do analysis on that from here.
QUESTION: So are you – if – are you saying that if in fact these troop – the tanks and other stuff has gone into Ukraine that there will be a further consequence?
MS. PSAKI: We always have a range of options at our disposal. I’m not going to preview that. We’ll have to see what it is and what it looks like and have a discussion internally and with our counterparts around the world.
QUESTION: Sorry. What what is? Have to see what it is —
MS. PSAKI: What the details if – if they did cross over into Russia.
QUESTION: Okay. But if they didn’t? If the report from Kyiv is incorrect and these tanks that you say you saw on the Russian side of the border did not cross into Ukraine, it’s okay – is it okay for the Russians to put tanks and troops on their side of the border?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, it’s an aggressive action. Obviously, I’m not going to predict what that may or may not mean. We will have those discussions internally, but I have nothing to preview at this point in time.
QUESTION: Can I ask one more on this?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Just – obviously, you tend to think that the – you said you weren’t doubting or questioning the Ukrainian reports, you’re just not in a position to confirm them now from the podium.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does – do these reports make you now think again about imposing additional sanctions on Russia? U.S. officials have always said that this was a matter of behavior in part – on the part of the Russians, and depending on what they did or didn’t see, the next round of sanctions might or might not happen. If this proves to be true – or do even just the reports of it, which you don’t doubt, make you think that you need to take a look at additional sanctions on Russia?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, I think, one, as you know, we work and consider that sort of thing in lockstep with our counterparts around the world. You’ve seen comments from everyone from the new EU High Representative Mogherini, you’ve seen comments from Chancellor Merkel. Obviously, we have a range of tools at our disposal should we choose to move forward with additional consequences. I’m not going to preview that at this point in time.
Do we have any more on Ukraine?
QUESTION: Can we move to ISIS?
MS. PSAKI: Ukraine? Okay, ISIS. Sure.
QUESTION: Yeah. Today, National Security Advisor Susan Rice said that there was no cooperation with Iran, at least militarily —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: — on the ground in Iraq. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I would certainly stand by the comments of – I can talk a little bit more, and I know there were a couple of questions about this yesterday. So let me do that —
QUESTION: Right. Yeah, go ahead, sure.
MS. PSAKI: — then we’ll go to your next question.
Obviously, we don’t have anything to confirm in terms of specific commands or commanders; there have been a range of reports on the ground. We are, of course, aware that Iran has sent some operatives inside Iraq that are training and advising some Iraqi Security Forces and, of greater concern, working with Shia militia. We also know that Iran has provided some supplies, arms, ammunition, and aircraft for Iraq’s armed forces. We appreciate, of course, the seriousness of the security situation in Iraq and the brutal acts of ISIL, but we have expressed our concerns about Iranian activities and reports of Iranian flow of arms into Iraq previously, and that would certainly apply here as well. I would note also that, on Shia militias, Prime Minister Abadi has noted on several occasions the importance of ensuring that all militias are regulated under government control. And obviously, that continues to be an ongoing challenge.
QUESTION: But you wouldn’t be totally opposed to Iraq receiving military equipment or arms from Iran, would you?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just expressed our concern about that. Did you listen to what I said?
QUESTION: No – okay. I am listening to what you said, but —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — they continue to receive this illicit equipment, and —
MS. PSAKI: I just expressed a concern about the flow of arms and —
QUESTION: Okay. When you say we expressed our concern, would you sort of give the Iraqis ultimatum on receiving Iranian arms?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve conveyed our concerns, certainly, to the Iraqis as well.
QUESTION: Okay, but I mean, concern – what is your concern? Don’t you tell them that we totally oppose this thing?
MS. PSAKI: I think I just conveyed that we do.
QUESTION: Okay. All right, let me ask you a little bit about —
QUESTION: Did the President say that in his letter to the Supreme Leader?
MS. PSAKI: I have nothing new on reports of a letter, Matt.
Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: Okay, just to follow up on ISIS —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, apparently, despite all the – the five points that – they were discussed here on Monday, and one of them is really to sort of dry up funds and prevent oil. But apparently ISIS is really flush in cash from oil. They’re selling it despite the low prices and so on, and in fact, they’re seeking executive director to run their oil operations and so on, advertising much like other companies do and so on. My point to you – or my question to you is: It seems that this oil is being smuggled through countries that may be your allies and friends. What is happening in terms of a commitment that, let’s say, countries like Turkey is giving you to stop the flow of oil?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think, as I’ve noted in the past – one, let me just say I’m – there have actually been a range of reports refuting what you just conveyed about increasing financial support and actually conveying quite the opposite. Obviously —
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. Obviously, part of our effort has been to do everything we can to impact and cut off their finances. As you know, we’ve gone after oil refineries from which they get a great deal of funding, and we’ve done that over the course of time with strikes.
Also, you’re right: There are a range of countries that we have been discussing with the need to do more to crack down on the sale of oil. Obviously, if there’s not a buyer it’s hard to sell it, so we certainly convey that. And part of our discussion with countries is about the impact this has on their financing and the impact increased financing has on their ability to function.
QUESTION: A couple things, still on Iran?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: You will have seen the IAEA director general’s report that came out today in Vienna. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: Was it the final report, Matt, or was it an initial draft report? I’m not sure which – I believe it was a draft, which we typically don’t comment on, but I can go back and see if there’s something more specific we would convey.
QUESTION: Well, whether it’s a draft or the final, it says that Iran is still not complying with the efforts of the agency to determine whether or not there is a – there was or is a military component of its nuclear program. Is that – does that enter at all into the P5+1 negotiations?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re not going to agree on something unless there’s a means of monitoring, right? And obviously, abiding by the IAEA role in monitoring is certainly part of what we discuss.
QUESTION: So does that mean that if Iran continues to stall or continues to not cooperate with the IAEA on this investigation into what it may have done in the past, that you will not agree to a deal with the Iranians?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead of where we are with a deal, Matt, or discuss it further, other than to convey that, obviously, the IAEA plays an important role in monitoring what is happening within Iran.
MS. PSAKI: We recognize that. That will continue. We support their role, continue to call on Iran to abide by it. But obviously, the ability to monitor whatever would be agreed to is certainly part of the discussion.
QUESTION: Yeah, but the point of this report – again, whether it’s the draft or final – is that they don’t have the ability to do it because the Iranians aren’t letting them.
MS. PSAKI: We continue to call on them to abide by it, Matt. That continues to be the message they’re sending.
QUESTION: But that’s not – but you’re saying that’s not a deal-breaker? In other words, you’re saying that even if Iran continues to stonewall on this – this one part of the IAEA investigation, that that is not a deal-breaker, that you could still reach an agreement?
MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all what I said. I’m not getting into what’s going to be a deal-breaker or not. I’m conveying that, obviously, we have repeatedly said, consistently said that the IAEA has an important role. We’ve consistently said that monitoring of what any deal would be —
MS. PSAKI: — is an important part of any deal, and that we wouldn’t agree to it without the verification mechanism.
QUESTION: But – so you see these two things as being entirely distinct and separate? The —
MS. PSAKI: Again, it’s a draft report. If we have more to convey on it, we will.
QUESTION: But it says the same thing as the last final report, right?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t looked at the report. Neither has our team.
QUESTION: Okay. But it says —
MS. PSAKI: We have had – we have been – continued to call on the IA – I mean, on Iran to abide by the IAEA, give – provide them access, because we think it’s important.
QUESTION: But they’re not. Don’t you see that as problematic and doesn’t that —
MS. PSAKI: We wouldn’t be calling for them to abide by it if we didn’t think it was problematic.
QUESTION: But at the same time, the Secretary is going to meet the Iranian foreign minister. Wendy Sherman is in wherever she is right now in the political directors talks. So you – clearly, it’s not a prerequisite for you to have the negotiations because they’re ongoing and there have been very high-level meetings so far. The question is whether it will be an obstacle to reaching an agreement if the Iranians don’t come clean on what their past activities were with the IAEA.
MS. PSAKI: The bar has long been that any agreement would need to be enforceable and verifiable. Beyond that, I’m not going to outline further.
QUESTION: All right. And then the other thing on Iran is that the NCRI, the Iranian – the National Council of Resistance of Iran, they are the ones who exposed parts of the Iranian nuclear program years ago – came out today with another report claiming that the facility at Parchin is still being used for nuclear weapons development and that the regime remains – despite what it says publicly, remains committed to seeking a nuclear arsenal. What do you – do you have anything to say about that?
MS. PSAKI: We’re aware of the claims that were made, but we don’t have any comment on the substance.
QUESTION: Can I ask about the letter?
MS. PSAKI: The – sure.
QUESTION: Yeah, because a Democratic congressman, Adam Schiff from California, said that the letter or the substance of the letter should be the last thing that the United States could offer Iran to come up on a deal. How does that work into the upcoming negotiations on the 24th of this month?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I don’t think anyone has confirmed the letter or the existence of the letter. Obviously, it’s a report about a letter from the President —
QUESTION: The national security advisor did.
MS. PSAKI: — so I would point you to them.
QUESTION: The national security advisor did. She said that the letter was sent out and – didn’t she?
MS. PSAKI: No. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: All right. Do we have any more on Iran? Iran?
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, I just want to go —
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure. Then we’ll go to you, Abby.
QUESTION: Did your comment about what the NCRI report – does that – that includes the whole thing? You’ve seen it or people are looking at it right now? There are other allegations in there aside from the Parchin ones about – well, they’re related to the Parchin ones, but they have to do with Ukrainian scientists being involved in —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t anticipate we’ll have a comment on it. But obviously, it was just coming out this morning, so I will check back on that particular piece as well and see if we expect we’ll say anything
QUESTION: All right. And more broadly, though, when you see these kinds of reports – both the IAEA report and the NCRI report – and I’m not suggesting that the two are – should be taken with equal weight or anything like that – doesn’t that give you pause about the Iranians’ credibility as a negotiating partner in the P5+1 talks?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, it’s never been about trust. It’s been about why Iran would want to convince the world or show the world that they are capable of having a peaceful program. And it’s about the United States and other countries who are a part of this feeling that the verifiable – that this is verifiable, that this can be monitored, that this can prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. We’re obviously not there yet.
QUESTION: The problem that I have in my head trying to get over this is they have demonstrated that they are not reliable when it comes to verification, as evidenced by the IAEA’s latest report, which repeats the same thing that it said in previous reports, which are definitely final and which you have definitely seen, about obfuscating and about stonewalling them on this look into – the investigation into what they – the possible military ramifications of or possible military aspect of —
MS. PSAKI: That’s why there would be a process by which any deal would be verifiable and it would include monitoring. And if that’s not abided by, then obviously, that’s not a deal. So we’re not at that point yet, but obviously, the details are important, and certainly, the implementation of it is important.
Roz, did you have a question on Iran or —
QUESTION: Yeah, on Iran. Is there – does the U.S. consider the NCRI a valid interlocutor on issues involving Iran’s nuclear program?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to have a comment on the report or the group.
Iran? Any more on Iran? Okay, Scott. Let’s go to you.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Have you had an opportunity to assess —
MS. PSAKI: Oh, I’m sorry. Can we do Iran and Abby?
QUESTION: Oh, yeah. Sure.
MS. PSAKI: I forgot her. And then we’ll go to Libya. Go ahead.
QUESTION: This is just a follow-up on Said’s previous question about Iran militias.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: There was a profile out of Hadi al-Amiri which suggested that his pro-Iranian Shiite militia was indispensable in the fight against ISIS and that Baghdad would fall without Iran’s help. Do you have any response to that?
MS. PSAKI: I think what I just conveyed about our concerns haven’t changed. Obviously, there are a range of countries – and I’ll just add to it – there are a range of countries, including the United States and Arab partners in the region, who have done military airstrikes, who have been boosting the Iraqi Security Forces, who have been helping them build their capacity to take on ISIL. And I would put much more credibility into that than the comments of one commander.
Go ahead, Scott. I’m sorry.
QUESTION: It’s a follow-up to yesterday’s question on Libya —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — and the supreme court decision that appeared to annul a lot of what was going on there. Have you had an opportunity to look at that and —
MS. PSAKI: Well, we do have – it is publicly available as well, as I’m sure you’ve seen it. We’re studying carefully the decision of the supreme court, its context and consequences. We would note again the challenges that face Libya remain – require political solutions. Beyond that, we don’t have analysis at this point in time. If it’s not out yet, I think it may be. There’s a joint statement from a number of countries that should be out as well that express a similar concern to the one of the United States.
QUESTION: On this, though, I’m having – does that mean that you’re still looking at the supreme court decision? I mean —
MS. PSAKI: It just became public yesterday, last night.
QUESTION: Well, I know. But how long does it take? I mean, there are some who —
MS. PSAKI: Maybe we’ll have more to say next week. We’ll see.
QUESTION: Well, how about —
MS. PSAKI: Bring you back to the briefing.
QUESTION: How about later today? I mean, are there some ace translators out there —
MS. PSAKI: If there’s more to convey, Matt, we will convey it later today, or over the weekend if you’d like.
QUESTION: Right, okay. Let’s do it very late Saturday night. How’s that? (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: That’s my plan. How’s 7 o’clock for you on Saturday?
QUESTION: No, no, no. That’s too early.
QUESTION: Too early.
MS. PSAKI: Too early, sorry. 10 p.m.
QUESTION: How about 2:00 a.m. Sunday morning?
MS. PSAKI: Okay, you got it. Deal.
Do we have any more on Libya?
QUESTION: I got some on Yemen.
MS. PSAKI: Libya. Libya? Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Libya? Go ahead.
QUESTION: The past couple joint – or joint statements suggested that there would be individual sanctions, or sanctions against individuals, and that a military solution was not the best option. Are those still the position?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a resolution in the UN that was passed – I’m not sure exactly when, but some time ago – that allowed for sanctions. Obviously, as is true with Yemen, for example, there are individual names that can be agreed to between the countries. That’s how the process works. So we are certainly – we’ll continue to work with our UN partners, and while we don’t, of course, comment on – specifically on the deliberations of the Libya sanctions committee, we would reiterate that our focus, as is the focus of many other countries, remains on holding accountable the spoilers who are undermining the fundamental security of Libya. So we’ll work – we’re continuing to work with our partners, and if and when action is taken at the UN, the United States would of course also be prepared to act.
QUESTION: Since you mentioned Yemen, could I follow up on Yemen, the —
QUESTION: Wait, wait. Hold on. Undermining the what? The fundamental stability of Libya?
MS. PSAKI: Security.
QUESTION: Security? Is there any? I mean, it doesn’t seem like —
MS. PSAKI: Well, if it’s being under – fundamentally undermined, it means it’s being challenged.
QUESTION: The argument is made by many that what undermined security in Libya was NATO involvement in – is that – I assume that you would reject that idea.
MS. PSAKI: We would. Obviously, you know there’s many militias fighting on the ground now, and the fact that we’re looking at the meaning of the supreme court. But obviously, the inability to have a functioning government is a challenge as well.
QUESTION: Right. But the inability to have a functioning government followed the collapse of the old government, which you assisted. Is that not correct?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, we’re looking at the situation as it stands. I don’t think anyone would question the impact of fighting militias at this point in time on security within the country.
QUESTION: General Haftar, should he be worried about possibly facing UN sanctions?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get ahead of any process. Obviously, as I mentioned, for the UN process – and you know this, Roz – when there’s a resolution that’s been passed that allows for the names to be considered, those names would be considered between member countries.
QUESTION: Today there were massive demonstrations in Sana’a, and they all – in fact, the former president came and spoke to them. They’re demanding the ouster of the U.S. ambassador, the ouster of the UN Envoy Jamal Benomar. They’re calling to basically topple the government. Do you have any comment on that, in anticipation of the Security Council sanctions that are —
MS. PSAKI: Well, we of course – one, let me say first, we continue to monitor the situation on the ground to make sure that our personnel are safe and secure, and we evaluate that on a daily basis. Obviously, when it comes to the situation on the ground in Yemen and the sanctions you referenced, that is in response to the fact that there are certain elements seeking to exploit the certain – the current security situation to further enflame matters for their own personal gain. So obviously, it’s in response to the challenging security situation that’s happening on the ground. Obviously, we continue to support and want to see a stable – stability and security in the country, and that’s why we have such a large presence on the ground as well.
I think we had one on Libya. Did you have one on Libya?
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Qadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, he’s presumably in jail in Zintan. His trial has been postponed several times, and reportedly, nobody has seen him for five months. Do you have any information about his whereabouts?
MS. PSAKI: I really don’t have more information. I’m happy to check and see if there’s anything from the United States that we can offer on that front.
Any more on Libya? Yemen? Okay. Japan? Okay.
QUESTION: Obviously, you can say – you can see there’s some change between China and Japan relationship. On Friday, China and Japan had reached agreement to improve relations, and Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi announced the four-point agreement on getting the relationship back on track. Do you have any comments on that?
MS. PSAKI: We would welcome the statement between China and Japan that outlines agreed steps to improve relations. As two of the three largest economies in the world, relations between the two countries affect the peace and prosperity of not only the region, but the world. I know that they talked about a couple of steps that you mentioned. For more details, we’d certainly point you to them.
QUESTION: Someone else has said the four-point agreement set up a platform for the two leaders to meet next week. We know this APEC time now. So some also now say it’s a signal, a potential thaw in their long frozen relations. Do you think it – do you think it’s kind of way – like that? I mean —
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we saw the statement was a positive step. Whether or not the leaders will meet, I would certainly point you to the governments of those countries.
QUESTION: But is – but now it’s still unclear whether the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will visit Yasukuni Shrine again. Do you think the Japanese Government will contact the United States regarding this issue?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve expressed our views on that in the past and nothing has changed on that front. We have a regular dialogue, as you know, with the Government of Japan, and I don’t expect that will change.
QUESTION: Jen, could I ask you if – this is a vocabulary question, actually.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: And it can be confusing. It’s not that tricky —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — but you say we would welcome such a statement in the – in the – as a conditional. Can you not say – I mean, does that mean that you’re not sure that this agreement exists? Or is it possible – can you actually come out and just say “we welcome”?
MS. PSAKI: We welcome.
QUESTION: Okay, because in other instances —
MS. PSAKI: I did not mean to be confusing.
QUESTION: Okay, because maybe you could just drop the —
MS. PSAKI: The statement has happened. We welcome it.
QUESTION: Right. Maybe we could just drop the “would welcome” from things that you know are true, yeah? Would – get rid of the “would”?
MS. PSAKI: I did not intentionally convey it that way, Matt.
QUESTION: As for the Yasukuni thing —
QUESTION: — so the United States will not agree that Japan or the Japanese prime minister will visit again. So that’s —
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen reports of that. We’ve had – expressed our views in the past. Those haven’t changed, but we’re talking, it sounds like, about a hypothetical at this point in time.
QUESTION: By the way —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: — do you have a readout on the Secretary’s meeting with the Japanese foreign minister regarding this issue and —
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me see if I have anything. I know they just met earlier today and I know they may be saying more on the ground, so why don’t I see if there’s more? I’ll talk to our team on the ground after the briefing. I know it’s late there, but we can see what we can get from them before tomorrow their time.
QUESTION: And one of – one more follow-up on that. As she just questioned, the Japanese prime minister and the Chinese President Xi Jinping seems to be agreed to meet on the margin of APEC. It’s the first time in two years and five months or so and one year after you expressed officially the disappointment to the Japanese prime minister not listening to the Chinese. How do you evaluate this one year’s progress – development between the two countries?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen a confirmation of that meeting, and obviously, I would never announce such a meeting from the United States if that were confirmed. But obviously, we felt the statement was a positive step. We’ll see what happens as it relates to increased dialogue. We think relations between two of the largest economies is certainly a positive step forward.
MS. PSAKI: Let’s – oh, go ahead.
QUESTION: Change of topic. FBI agents have apparently searched the home and office of Robin Raphel, who’s a former Foreign Service officer and who was recently working under contract as an adviser for the State Department. They also searched her office at the State Department. Do you have any more on that investigation?
MS. PSAKI: It’s really – I would punt you mostly to the Department of Justice. I can say that we are aware of this law enforcement matter. The State Department has been cooperating with our law enforcement colleagues on this matter. I can also confirm that Ms. Raphel’s appointment expired and she is no longer a Department employee.
QUESTION: Can you say – she was placed on administrative leave last month and her security clearance was revoked. Can you say when the State Department learned about this investigation and what you can say?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get into any more details from the podium. I would point you to the Department of Justice and see what they’d like to share with you.
QUESTION: On this, are you – does the State Department have any concerns that this – the investigation could compromise any ongoing diplomacy with South Asia or in South Asia or elsewhere? I’m – well, can you answer that? I’m just wondering about the broader – is there concern in this building that the investigation is – will affect the conduct of your policy towards countries in that region or anywhere else for that matter?
MS. PSAKI: We have a range of high-level officials who work with a range of countries and – in this region and others every single day. We don’t feel that will be impacted.
QUESTION: Oh, well, that’s not really what I’m asking. I realize there are other people who can do the job that she was doing. I’m wondering if the – if you are concerned at all —
MS. PSAKI: If our work on diplomacy will be impacted? No.
QUESTION: You’re concerned at all —
QUESTION: Compromised if the investigation is such that you’re – there is concern in the building that the work you’re doing in this region of the world could be affected? And I think your answer is no, but I’m not sure. I want to make sure that I understand it.
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Matt. I’m just not going to have anything more to add on this particular case.
QUESTION: As far as you know, is the scope of the investigation related at all to her work at the State Department?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more details to share.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Goyal.
QUESTION: I have two quick questions. As far as ISIL is concerned, India is still under threat, and recently, a number of Indian cities were on high alert during the Diwali and also concern about the cross-border terrorism. Is there any conversation between U.S. and India on this issue?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, our – we have a large embassy, many – in India, and many, many officials who work there. We also have an assistant secretary who works closely with the government and they discuss a range of issues, and I’m sure that if the issues related to security or recent events came up, that we’d be happy to discuss those with India.
QUESTION: And Madam, second – second one, just —
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve got to move on just to get to a couple of other questions. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. Can we go back to Israel and Palestine?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: So there are reports about Prime Minister Netanyahu, like, ordered to demolish the houses of any person, like, conducting an attack in Jerusalem. And I was wondering if you consider that, like, part of self-defense that Israel can use, because it sounds like a collective punishment, because they’re punishing —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any confirmation of those reports nor can I validate them. I’d direct you to the Government of Israel on that question.
QUESTION: Okay. How about Israel, like, preventing people who’s below 35 years old, like from – pray inside the al —
QUESTION: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: — al-Aqsa Mosque?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a status quo that I think everybody supports the policy going back to, including the Israelis.
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve got to move on. Go ahead.
QUESTION: The Pakistan’s army chief was in Afghanistan this week, and according to reports, he has offered to Afghanistan to train Afghans’ army inside Pakistan. Is the U.S. supportive of this move, this offer?
MS. PSAKI: Lalit, let me talk to our SRAP team about the specifics and see if we can get more details on it.
QUESTION: I have one more. As you know, the Republicans have taken over the Senate, and that’s where more than 40 ambassadorial nominations are pending. Since Secretary was a senator himself, serving for more than three decades, is he talk – planning to talk to the new Republican leadership to get those cleared as soon as possible?
MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary will certainly continue to raise the need to move forward with the confirmation of the 60 waiting nominees, including 39 career ambassadors. And we’ve continued to call for Congress to do a voice vote, as does happen in the military with the career ambassadors.
Go ahead, Scott, in the back, and then —
QUESTION: Can we go back to the – yesterday’s line of questioning about Burkina Faso?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: First off, have you come to a conclusion about whether the change of government there was a coup?
MS. PSAKI: We’re continuing to evaluate events on the ground, Scott, so I don’t have anything new on that front. Obviously, our focus is on encouraging the government or officials there to move as quickly as possible to put not just a civilian government in place through elections, but also a civilian-led transition.
QUESTION: So the current military rulers at Burkina Faso have rejected the African Union call for a handover to civilian government within two weeks. The threat from the African Union is economic sanctions. Would the United States join that threat?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly have been – as you know, ECOWAS and the African Union and the UN have had the lead on this and we’ve been working closely with them, and we certainly supported their call for a two-week plan. We thought that was not only viable, but it would be productive and constructive for the people of Burkina Faso. In terms of additional steps, I think we have to see, and we’ll continue to evaluate what happens on the ground. And obviously, actions will determine what we’ll do, but we’ve typically followed the lead of ECOWAS and the African Union on this front.
QUESTION: Jen, one very quick one?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I know you were asked about something that may be or may not be related to this yesterday. There are – Syrian activists have released photographs of what they say are two children who they claim were killed by U.S. airstrikes. Do you – and it’s not clear to me whether this is the same as what was raised in the briefing yesterday. Do you have any comment on those images, whether you believe them to be bona fide, whether you think that they might be, as the Syrian activists claim, the result of a U.S. bombing?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we take civilian casualties – reports of civilian casualties extremely seriously, and we would evaluate them. That is led by the Department of Defense, but certainly — and therefore I’m not in any position to evaluate those photos or any others from here. We, of course, strive to avoid civilian casualties, even in this extremely complex operating environment, and we recognize the continued risk inherent with strikes. But in any case or in any – when any accusations are made or information is brought forward, we would certainly look into that and take it seriously.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: General Austin said – just a quick follow-up on that – said on Thursday that part of the problem of trying to investigate these reports is that, obviously, there aren’t any American forces on the ground inside Syria. Are there members of the FSA or other opposition figures inside Syria that could be relied upon to investigate these claims of civilian deaths because of the U.S. airstrikes?
MS. PSAKI: Well, he’s right, there’s a challenge, Roz. And I’m not going to get into who we receive information from, but we determine the credibility of each allegation based on information available, including information provided by third parties and information such as the proximity of the location to the airstrike, any corroborating evidence that’s presented. So that is what the Department of Defense takes a look at in these cases.
QUESTION: East Timor?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have an update on Stacey Addison, the Oregon woman who’s in the jail there?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me walk you through what we have. Well, just to repeat – I know some of have been following closely; some others have not as much – but she was originally detained on a drug charge on September 5th. We understand that there are questions as to whether there is evidence leaking – linking Dr. Addison to this alleged crime. She was conditionally released on September 9th and her U.S. passport retained to prevent her from leaving the court’s jurisdiction. She was detained again on October 29th when she appeared in court to retrieve her U.S. passport and sent to a block – a prison. It is not clear she was given notice that she would be arrested at that time, and we don’t have information on what those specific charges are. While she reports that she is being treated well by the prison – by prison officials, we seek a prompt and transparent resolution to this case, and that Dr. Addison be afforded all due process in accordance with Timorese law.
QUESTION: And then the meeting today between State officials and the East Timorese ambassador, can you tell us anything about this meeting and whether this case is expected to come up?
MS. PSAKI: I expect it will. I think it was happening this afternoon, so let me touch base and see if there’s more we can convey on what came out of the meeting.
QUESTION: What was her most recent consular access? Do you have that?
MS. PSAKI: On November 4th, so earlier this week.
MS. PSAKI: Do we have anymore? All right. Oh, do you have one more, Abby? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. The Interdisciplinary Center in Israel released a report saying that ISIS militants were able to get a hold of chemical weapons buried in Iraq that were previously aware of by the United States military. Do you have any comment on that report, or —
MS. PSAKI: Let me look at – I’ll have our team look at the report. There have been a range of reports about chemical weapons in Iraq, and many of them have been false. So let me check with our team and see what the facts are in this case.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:43 p.m.)