Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–October 28, 2014.
1:18 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
MS. PSAKI: I have a couple of items for you at the top. And the Secretary has a press avail scheduled right before 2:00, so let’s get through as many as we can. They’ll give me a signal when he’s about to start.
Secretary Kerry is on travel in Ottawa, Canada today for a series of bilateral meetings and to convey condolences to senior Canadian officials following last week’s attacks. The Secretary will meet with Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird and they will participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the National War Memorial. He will also meet with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper as well as members of parliament. Obviously, this is ongoing, so some of these events have taken place.
General Allen and Ambassador McGurk were in Bahrain today, where they met with the King, the Crown Prince, and senior Bahraini Government and military officials to discuss our shared efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. The delegation thanked Bahraini interlocutors for Bahrain’s participation in coalition airstrikes in Syria. They also noted important steps Bahrain has taken to halt the flow of foreign fighters, including monitoring ISIL sympathizers and declaring it illegal for Bahraini citizens to fight abroad.
General Allen and Ambassador McGurk also discussed planning for the counterterrorist financing conference to be held on November 9th in Manama. Countering ISIL’s finances is a key line of effort in our comprehensive strategy, and we’re grateful for Bahrain’s leadership in bringing the coalition together to discuss areas of cooperation on this critical issue, including the full implementation of recent UN Security Council resolutions.
General Allen and Ambassador McGurk also visited U.S. Naval facilities in Manama, thanking the personnel there for who make – for their work of making coalition air missions possible. In their bilateral meetings with Bahraini officials, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk conveyed our gratitude for Bahrain’s hosting of those facilities. They’re now en route to Doha and will continue to Abu Dhabi tomorrow and Muscat on Thursday.
With that, hello Lara. Let’s go to what’s on your mind.
QUESTION: Jen —
QUESTION: Just quickly – I wasn’t going to bring this up at the top, but since we’re talking about Bahrain, I’m wondering if you all had any reaction to the court decision today shutting down the main Shia opposition group and if that came up during the conversations with General Allen and Ambassador McGurk.
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to check with his team on that specific question. I didn’t have a chance to talk with them this morning. Broadly speaking, we are concerned by today’s decision of the administrative court in Bahrain to suspend the activities of Al Wefaq National Islamic Society for three months on technical grounds. Such a move runs contrary to fostering an environment of political inclusion. We’re following the case closely and understand that the society plans to appeal the decision.
QUESTION: That puts the U.S. in kind of an awkward position, doesn’t it, if you’re trying to work with Bahrain on one hand to get support to fight ISIS, and on the other hand Bahrain is shutting down a democratic process in the country?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Lara, there are many countries, including Bahrain, where we have differences with. We’ve spoken out about human rights issues and others, and we certainly will continue to do that as we see fit. We were also – let me just note while I have the opportunity – disappointed by the opposition’s decision to boycott the elections. We’ve brought – we’ve urged broad participation in Bahrain’s upcoming parliamentary elections as an important and public means of demonstrating inclusiveness.
But with any relationship, strength is shown by being able and willing to express concerns and differences where you have them, both through private, diplomatic channels when appropriate and at times through public channels when appropriate.
QUESTION: Jen, how do you view the timing, especially that General Allen was there when they took the decision or announced it?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t make any connection on the timing. I don’t have any particular analysis on that.
Do we have any more on Bahrain, or should we move on?
QUESTION: I wanted to also ask you about this new video out by the British photojournalist John Cantlie, what the U.S. makes of this, what the assessment has been, and any conversations you all have had with the British Government about this.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re aware, of course, of the video, which the intelligence community is reviewing. We, of course, remain in close touch with our UK counterparts. But we’d refer you to them for any specific comment, given it’s related to one of their citizens.
QUESTION: Does this have any kind of implication for any American citizens who might be held by ISIS?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I certainly understand the question. I think we, though, are doing analysis, so I don’t want to get ahead of where we are or where, most importantly, the British are on their analysis.
QUESTION: On Kobani, the Peshmerga have left Kurdistan to Kobani and they are in Turkey. Do you have any information when they will be going to Kobani, and are you playing any role in facilitating their arrival there?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think those reports just came out right before I came out here – or that’s when I saw them, I should say. As you know, we’ve been supportive and been discussing with appropriate authorities, whether it’s – including Turkey, of course, specifically, the facilitation of Peshmerga forces across the border. We certainly encourage that. We had heard – or understood earlier today that they would be deployed soon. I don’t have any independent confirmation at this point, aside from the reports, about where the Peshmerga forces are at this point in time. We can see if there’s more to convey to all of you after the briefing.
But as you know, we have worked closely with Turkey and the Kurdish Regional Government authorities on a sustainable way forward to support forces in Kobani and over the long term to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL. So that certainly has been our role in this effort.
QUESTION: There’s been a lot of back and forth –
QUESTION: Just one more on Kobani —
MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Jo. Oh, let’s do – go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: And on this issue – on this issue, I don’t know if you saw that there was an interview with Turkish Prime Minister Davutoglu with the BBC today in which he suggested that he believes that talk of a no-fly zone is gaining traction. There’s very intense diplomatic and military conversations going on, and he seemed to hint that he believes it’s a question of time, not if but when this is going to happen. Is that your understanding of a no-fly zone, where you are?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously we continue, as we have been for several weeks now, to discuss with Turkish authorities what their proposals are, what they’d like to see happen. We have the same concerns that we’ve had in the past, so our position hasn’t changed. I don’t have anything otherwise to preview for you on that front.
QUESTION: Jen, how are —
MS. PSAKI: Oh, I was – meant to go to Roz, and then we’ll go to you. Go ahead, Roz.
QUESTION: Going back to the deployment of the Peshmerga, we’ve been showing video of them in a convoy and they’re on their way. But as recently as three days ago, the head of the PYD said what they really need isn’t just people going in to fight but what they still need are heavy weapons. Are the U.S. and other countries persuaded that giving the Peshmerga heavy weapons, as opposed to the small arms that were dropped into the region last week, will make a difference in their ability to hold Kobani?
MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed on our view, Roz.
QUESTION: You know Jen, there are only 160 Peshmerga fighters that are going to Kobani today, and that’s the number that Turkish Government has approved of. But how can that really make a difference against thousands of ISIS fighters who are reportedly besieging the city?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, this is not the only component of the effort to degrade and defeat ISIL and push back on them in Kobani. We have done a range of airstrikes that have increased over the past couple of weeks that have helped push back on this effort on the ground. Turkey has continued to allow refugees in across their border. So this is one component. It’s certainly one that we felt would be impactful and be important to have a partner on the ground to work with.
QUESTION: But what kind of – like do you really expect a major – like do you expect the tide of the conflict to be turned?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make predictions about the impact on the military component of this. Obviously, we’ve advocated and been discussing the importance of allowing the Peshmerga across the border and the facilitation of that. We believe that will happen soon, or perhaps it’s already happening. I’m checking with our team to see what we can confirm, if anything, from this —
QUESTION: Just one more question. If we – you know this happened shortly after the air drops. There are conflicting reports on what – how did this come about in the first place. Some believe that the Turkish Government did it on its own. Some other reports – I’m talking about local media reports in the region – they say the United States pressured Turkey to do this, to allow Peshmerga forces to go to Kobani. Can you clarify which one is true?
MS. PSAKI: Well, ultimately, it’s the decision of Turkey to help facilitate. They made that decision, as they’ve spoken publicly about. Certainly, it’s been a part of our discussion with Turkey over the course of the last few weeks.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Just very quickly. I believe it was the same interview with the prime minister regarding the extent – there were some comments that I believe he made saying that we are not going to send any troops to Syria or Kobani if no other coalition has done this or nobody else in the coalition will. Well, the Pesh are, in fact, sending troops to Kobani to fight. So do you think this is kind of a convenient excuse for the Turks to not send troops, or is that something that the U.S. doesn’t even expect Turkey to do this at this point?
MS. PSAKI: We don’t see it that way. The – for the first – the former just description that you made of. Obviously, there’s an ongoing discussion happening with Turkey and with countries in the region about what role they’ll play. Turkey’s role has increased over the past couple of weeks. We know this is going to be a long-term effort, but every country will make a decision about what role they’ll play. And there are a range of other steps that Turkey has already taken to be supportive of the coalition.
QUESTION: What sorts of —
QUESTION: Can you say if you have asked Turkey to send troops?
MS. PSAKI: It’s more of a discussion about what role they are prepared to play and what role they’re willing to play. And obviously, we’ll let them make any decisions and announcements about what their engagement will be.
QUESTION: But on the other hand, they’re also asking again for reassurances from the – from Washington that you are prepared to sort of step up training and equipping and fighting, that you have a strategy, a military strategy for the eventual – for aiding the Free Syrian Army and the eventual kind of ousting of President Assad. What kind of assurances are you giving them on this line?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we agree that we don’t want to see ISIL take more territory. We agree that we want to boost the capacity and the military credibility and capability of the Syrian opposition. Those steps are in the interest of the United States as well. So I don’t know that on that particular piece there’s a disagreement.
QUESTION: But they actually – I mean, they want a kind of commitment, so it seems or sounds, that they want a commitment that you are ready to engage militarily to oust Assad.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have done hundreds of airstrikes and we’ve been very clear that our focus is on degrading and defeating ISIL given the threat it poses to the United States. There’s no secret about our position on that front. We’ve said it publicly and we’ve discussed it, certainly, privately with any country who wants to discuss it.
QUESTION: But they want you to go beyond that. They want you to go beyond the ISIL to the FSA and the —
MS. PSAKI: I understand what their view is, but we have been – we just passed a train and equip program. We’ve been increasing the scale and scope of our assistance to the opposition. The United States has been doing as much or more than almost any country in the region in that regard. But our focus in this effort strategically is on degrading and defeating ISIL, and that’s what it will remain.
QUESTION: So no change in that even though the Turks would like —
MS. PSAKI: That hasn’t changed, and that’s something they’ve been talking about for some time, as you know.
QUESTION: Jen, on this issue, he said clearly that Turkey will not join the coalition if the coalition won’t fight the Assad regime.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think these are new comments. There are – they’ve said – I know – realize these particular quotes are, but these are comments that have been made for several weeks now. They’ve been increasing their engagement in the coalition, not just in the military component but in other components, including counter-financing, tracking – cracking down on foreign fighters, anti-ISIL messaging. We’re working with Turkey on all these components. We’ll continue to discuss with them their role moving forward.
QUESTION: Did you mean that they already joined the coalition?
MS. PSAKI: They have been making a range of contributions over the course of time.
QUESTION: But how do you measure the train and equip program that is ongoing now? I mean, it’s – these kind of trainings take a very long time for the Syrian opposition to become an effective fighting force. Is there any way that you can measure how they are doing, when will they be participating, where are they going to be participating and so on?
MS. PSAKI: Said, I would certainly point you to my colleagues at the Department of Defense for that. They obviously oversee the implementation of train and equip programs.
QUESTION: But you’re also working directly with them and —
MS. PSAKI: Sure, we are.
QUESTION: — I’m sure that the envoy is working with this opposition and he’s getting – somehow, he’s getting a feel or he’s getting something on how they are doing, how effective they are, what is their likely participation in the future.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what your question is.
QUESTION: My question is: How do you assess the ability of the Syrian opposition? Because you keep saying “the moderate opposition.” We never really have a clear picture on who’s this moderate opposition. It could be the Free Syrian Army; but if we take the Free Syrian Army, for instance, how do you gauge their effectiveness, their ability to sort of be cohesive and work together? Because in the past, the track record shows that they have been fragmented.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, one of the reasons why we’re putting in place this train and equip program, why Congress passed it, is because of the important role that capacity building militarily will play in strengthening the opposition. We still believe there is only a political solution; there is not a military solution here.
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, part of that is certainly that assessment you referenced. But again, I’m not going to do that from here. That’s more appropriate from the Department of Defense.
QUESTION: Okay. And my last question on this issue —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Who among your allies is taking a more active role in training and equipping? Is it Jordan, is it Saudi Arabia? Who is really taking the lead?
MS. PSAKI: There are a range of countries who are participating and will play a role in the train and equip program but also contribute militarily and – for the other lines of effort.
QUESTION: Just one more question like generally speaking on the Kurds.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I mean, we know the Kurds have been a crucial player in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, both the Iraqi Kurdish forces and the Syrian Kurds. But I want to know how you characterize U.S. relationship with the Kurds. We know the Kurds are not – they don’t have their own state. Do you call it an alliance with the Kurds? What do you call this relationship that the United States enjoys with the Kurds?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as you know, we work, obviously, with a range of groups. Iraqi Kurds have been among our closest partners in the region going back decades. That continues to be the case. Obviously, there are a range of groups and different groups are characterized differently, so I’m not sure there’s an overarching – there isn’t an overarching, sweeping characterization. We work with different groups, and some groups we don’t work with.
QUESTION: But is it like an alliance? Can you call it an alliance with Iraqi Kurds, for example?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t – I’d qualify it exactly as I just characterized it.
Do we have any more on Iraq or Turkey?
QUESTION: Jen – yeah, yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on the program, the training and equip program?
MS. PSAKI: I think that’s the same question Said asked.
QUESTION: Yeah, but —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update. It would be more appropriate to ask that question at the Department of Defense, who is implementing that program.
QUESTION: Just to follow up earlier question, U.S.-Kurdish relationship – how would you characterize the relationship with the PKK right now?
MS. PSAKI: PKK remains a designated terrorist organization. That hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: Is there any discussion regarding de-listing the PKK at this point from —
MS. PSAKI: If there was, I wouldn’t get into it from the podium.
QUESTION: You just talk about Turkey’s role in the coalition, and you said that Turkey’s contribution is increasing. And the Prime Minister Davutoglu says Turkey’s not in the coalition. Just to clear the air, can we say Turkey is not partner but contributor? Is there any way you can define us —
MS. PSAKI: I will leave it to you to editorialize how you choose, but Turkey has been an important partner. They’re a NATO ally, and they have been an important contributor to the coalition efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL.
QUESTION: And one question in Syria: Free Syrian Army has been fighting with the al-Nusrah and al-Qaida group in Idlib for the last two days. It looks like the clashes are increasing and intense. Al-Nusrah pushed back the FSA brigades today. Is there any plan by the U.S. to help the FSA groups in Idlib, since this fight is increasing between the al-Qaida and the moderate —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any military plans to outline for you or predict for you from here. Obviously, you know what our focus remains on. We have continued to increase airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. That will continue, but I don’t have anything to preview for you.
Scott, go ahead.
QUESTION: Can I go elsewhere? Are you going to stay —
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Okay, let’s just do a couple more on Syria.
QUESTION: Very quick question —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — on Syrians that are stranded in places like Turkey – journalists, doctors, and so on. They have no passports. The government refuses to renew their passports. Do they have any recourse here? Are you aware of anything that they —
MS. PSAKI: U.S. citizen? I’m not sure who you’re referring to.
QUESTION: No, no, they’re not U.S. citizens. Syrian citizens. Is there anything that they could do – I know you may not know this, but what should they be doing? What should they do to obtain any kind of travel documents?
MS. PSAKI: Syrian citizens —
QUESTION: Right —
MS. PSAKI: — in Syria?
QUESTION: — Syrian citizens who have been disallowed the benefit of passport renewal because —
MS. PSAKI: I’m not – I don’t think the U.S. Government is probably the right source to ask that question. I will check and see if there’s any more we can offer.
QUESTION: I mean, can they – okay, let me rephrase the question: Can they go to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and seek asylum?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, as you know, there’s an application process for that. Typically individuals are within countries.
MS. PSAKI: The State Department doesn’t —
MS. PSAKI: — run that process fully —
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: — so I would point you to DHS and others if you have a specific question on that.
QUESTION: Just a very quick status check.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any assessment on whether ISIS is in custody of chemical weapons or MANPADS at this point?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update to what I said yesterday on MANPADS or a couple days ago on chemical weapons.
QUESTION: Which – I’m sorry – was what? I missed it.
MS. PSAKI: You’re talking about specifically the reports about Iraq?
QUESTION: Right, right.
MS. PSAKI: I think it was that we were assessing it. I don’t have any new update on —
QUESTION: Okay. But you haven’t confirmed either at this point?
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Jen, a news report said that officials in Kurdistan, Iraq are involved in smuggling oil for the benefit of ISIL. Are you aware of these reports, and what do you think about them?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those reports. I can check with our team and see if there’s anything more to offer.
Scott, go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have an answer to yesterday’s taken question —
MS. PSAKI: I do.
QUESTION: — regarding the human rights allegations about the new defense minister?
MS. PSAKI: I do. Thank you for bringing it up again.
So, as you know, we raise human rights around the world and we certainly never hesitate to do that. With this specific case, we are certainly aware of the allegations of human rights violations committed by the Indonesian army while the general served as army chief of staff. We are not, however, aware of any allegation that ties the defense minister explicitly to a specific human rights violation. Obviously, this is something that we track and watch closely.
And I would also just note that Indonesia’s military, like the country as a whole, has reformed in significant ways over the past 16 years in line with Indonesia’s democratic transition. This is something the United States has obviously pushed for, and we expect that reform trend to continue from here.
QUESTION: A question about another member of the new cabinet: The minister of state enterprises was born in Maryland. Do you know the – there’s no dual nationality allowed, so can you take that question of citizenship?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to take it. And what was your specific question, just so I make sure – whether he was born – whether he’s a —
QUESTION: Or whether this individual has renounced U.S. citizenship.
MS. PSAKI: Let me check and see on that one, Scott. Sure.
Should we move to a new topic?
QUESTION: North Korea.
MS. PSAKI: North Korea, sure.
QUESTION: Yesterday, North Korea’s ambassador to the United Nations met with the UN rights investigator on talks about – I think there’s a report that’s being presented tomorrow which could push for North Korea to face war crimes. Were you aware of the meeting? What is your take on it? And what do you expect it to come out of the talk – the discussion tomorrow at the UN General Assembly?
MS. PSAKI: I was not aware of the meeting. I’m happy to talk to our team about it. And I’m not going to make a prediction about tomorrow. Obviously, as you know, we have raised concerns and supported the efforts of the commission of inquiry. The Secretary did an event raising awareness for these issues when we were in New York, given our concern – the United States concern. But in terms of the outcome tomorrow, I would point you to USUN on that.
QUESTION: Is the United States behind the idea of referring North Korea to the ICC for war crimes?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check with our team on that, Jo.
QUESTION: One more on this?
QUESTION: Have you seen the reports that North Korea may have developed a viable missile testing facility? And if the U.S. has been able to confirm it, how does that change the U.S.’s concern about North Korea’s role?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have certainly seen the article. I’m not going to comment on intelligence matters. As you know, broadly speaking, North Korea’s ballistic missile launches and continued development of its ballistic missile program and related activities constitute clear violations of multiple UN Security Council resolutions, and have been condemned by the international community and the UN Security Council. We continue to urge North Korea to comply with its UN Security Council obligations, as required by multiple resolutions. North Korea must suspend all activities related to its ballistic missile program, stop conducting any launches using ballistic missile technology, and abandon its ballistic missile program in a complete, verifiable, and irreversible manner.
QUESTION: Quick follow-up: Given the sanctions regime already in place against North Korea, where is it getting the equipment to build this facility? Where is it getting the materials to build this facility? Where is it getting the scientific know-how? Is it dealing with other pariah states in order to make this facility a reality?
MS. PSAKI: Well, given I haven’t confirmed any details of the article, I don’t think there’s much more I can say on this particular topic.
QUESTION: Can I go to —
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead, Nicole.
QUESTION: Well —
QUESTION: I want to go to a new country, so —
MS. PSAKI: Okay. North Korea? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Have you been in touch with Japan about the delegations over there right now? And have you been receiving reports about them or have any reaction to that delegation over there?
MS. PSAKI: We are in regular touch with Japan. I don’t have anything to read out for you in terms of recent calls or meetings over the past 24 hours.
QUESTION: Any update on Mr. Seiler’s trip over there?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. I do believe I have one on that. One moment. Oh, sorry.
Special Envoy for Six-Party Talks Sydney Seiler held a series of wide-ranging and constructive discussions on October 29th with Director General for North Korean Nuclear Affairs Shin Chae-hyun and with other Korean officials on a wide range of issues related to North Korea. These discussions are the latest in a series of regular ongoing consultations with our five-party partners, all of whom remain united in pursuit of their shared objective: a denuclearized North Korea.
He also delivered remarks as the U.S. representative at the first high-level meeting of the Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative. He’ll travel to Beijing later this week on October 30th to meet with senior Chinese Government officials and then he’ll travel to Japan on November 1st to meet with senior Japanese Government officials, and he’ll return to Washington early next week.
QUESTION: Just one follow-up on that.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Has Mr. Fowle’s release had an impact on his trip?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, no. And I would just reiterate that the release of Mr. Fowle, which we certainly welcomed and celebrated, does not change the fact that we have existing concerns, ongoing concerns along with the international community about North Korea’s nuclear program.
Should we – new topic? Go ahead, Nicole.
QUESTION: I’d like to go to Israel-Palestine.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: There have been media reports that Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected criticism of Israel’s settlement policy saying that criticism was the impediment to peace. I was wondering if I could get this building’s reaction to that.
And secondly, I’m just wondering if there’s discussion or interest in going back to or trying to rekindle talks, perhaps after the midterm election is over or in the next few months.
MS. PSAKI: Well, on the first question, we’ve seen the prime minister’s remarks. I think that’s what you’re referring to – his remarks earlier today?
QUESTION: Right. Yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Our policy has been clear for many administrations. The policy continues to oppose unilateral steps that would prejudge the outcome of negotiations on Jerusalem. Certainly, Secretary Kerry – I mentioned this a little bit yesterday – but he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu on Saturday. He conveyed very clearly what our view is on settlements. And the fact remains that if actions are taken that are not conducive to peace, it makes it very difficult to not only return to a negotiation but to obviously reach a two-state solution.
In terms of the reconvening, that is going to be up in any scenario to the parties to determine whether they’re willing to take the steps necessary to do that. Obviously, we will continue to be available and advocate for the benefits of a two-state solution for the Israelis, the Palestinians, and for the region. But certainly we can’t do it for them.
QUESTION: But he dismissed your criticism, and he basically said that building in Jerusalem is like building in London or Paris or any of the other capitals. Do you agree with them? Do you agree that they have the right to build as they wish in Jerusalem?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our view on construction is longstanding, Said. And we’ve stated it many times here. We’ll continue to express those views. We’ve – as I mentioned yesterday, we continue to urge both sides to take steps that are conducive to what they state they want to achieve, which is peace in the region and a two-state solution.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. He also said that if you keep criticizing the settlement, that is likely to give the Palestinians unwarranted hopes that they may not realize. Are you aware of his statement?
MS. PSAKI: I would say, Said – I would just leave it with what I said. I think clearly there are a range of issues that would need to be discussed. Obviously, there are a range of difficult choices that both sides would need to make. As you know, we’re not – there aren’t ongoing peace negotiations. And as you also know, we believe that’s the only way to achieve peace in the region.
QUESTION: Okay. Also, the Security Council just announced that they will meet tomorrow to discuss the settlement expansion and the settlement activities. It was done at the request of Jordan, which is a member of the Security Council. Now, will you call on the Israelis to call back or to nullify their earlier announcement about the expansion of settlement?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve already conveyed our views; I did yesterday, I did today. In terms of the meeting tomorrow, obviously, those reports are – were just coming out this morning. I don’t have any more information on what the agenda is or what the plans are for tomorrow, and I expect we can talk more about it tomorrow when we know more.
QUESTION: Okay. But if the Security Council calls on Israel to withdraw its plans, will you support such a request or such a demand in this case?
MS. PSAKI: As you know, we don’t typically get ahead of actions that have not yet been taken and haven’t even been laid out.
QUESTION: Do you think that any action in the Security Council will sort of engender the kind of veto that we have experienced in the past from the United States?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to make a sweeping generalization, Said. We don’t have information yet on what the plan is.
QUESTION: The European Union also condemned the plans, saying that it calls into question Israel’s commitment to negotiate a solution. But they actually went a step further than the United States has been prepared to go, saying that if it does go ahead, there’s going to be consequences for EU-Israel ties, some of which we’ve already seen in the past with previous announcements. Again, I guess this goes back to Matt’s question of yesterday. I mean, is the United States prepared to put in place consequences if these settlements go ahead?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I have anything to add to what I’ve stated about our view.
QUESTION: But why not? I mean, wouldn’t – if – you can say that you condemn the settlements, that they’re contrary to peace. I think you said it was, yesterday, “incompatible” with any peace plans. But if you don’t back it up with any kind of action, then the Israelis surely can just go ahead and do it for as long as they like.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, I would disagree with that. Obviously, there are a range of countries you just referenced that have indicated their plans to put in place consequences. Israel cares deeply about their place and role in the world. That’s obviously something they factor in. They’ve stated they want to see a peaceful society for their people. If they want to achieve that, then there are steps that they should take themselves. So —
QUESTION: But the United States is the biggest backer – single backer of Israel. If the United States moved to do even halfway what some of the European countries are doing, would that not lend more weight to your cause to stop the settlement building?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Jo, I think I’m going to leave it with what I said.
QUESTION: Would there have come a moment when the United States will say you must stop settlements or we’re going to do X, Y, and Z? Or is this going to remain at the level —
MS. PSAKI: I think Jo asked the same question. Let’s just try to get a couple of others, Said.
QUESTION: Okay. Okay. Let me just – okay. Just very quickly, a follow-up to that: Have you found out anything about the teenage Palestinian American boy that was shot?
MS. PSAKI: I have a little bit more in terms of the specific technical answers that all of you were asking.
MS. PSAKI: So let me run through a little bit of that.
MS. PSAKI: The Israeli National Police is handling the investigation on the death of the three-month-old American in the light rail attack incident. We’re in close touch with the INP and understand the investigation is ongoing. We’ve asked for a speedy, transparent, and thorough investigation.
For the teenager who was killed in the West Bank during a confrontation with Israeli forces, Israeli authorities are conducting the investigation. We have stressed to a number of Israeli Government officials our expectation that there will be a speedy, transparent, and thorough investigation, and they have indicated to us that that will be the case. That is the update I have at this point in time.
MS. PSAKI: Africa, and then we’ll go to Scott. Go ahead.
QUESTION: There are reports this morning from a contingent of U.S. military personnel who apparently are quarantined in Italy, including a two-star general.
MS. PSAKI: I think we addressed this yesterday. Go ahead, sorry.
QUESTION: I just wanted —
MS. PSAKI: Continue. Maybe that wasn’t your question.
QUESTION: Yeah. I want – the general or the spokesperson for the group referred to – we want to make sure we don’t bring back any gunk from Africa to the United States. So I’d like an explanation of – I assume “gunk” is referring to Ebola?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’d refer you to the Department of Defense.
MS. PSAKI: I know they addressed this yesterday, and I’m sure they’re – they’d be happy to —
QUESTION: The second question is: Is it – are there a series of bilaterals being negotiated with various countries in terms of where military personnel will be quarantined if they are coming out of Africa?
MS. PSAKI: I would again point you to the Department of Defense. Obviously, there were guidelines announced yesterday by the CDC that impact —
MS. PSAKI: — the return of American citizens or individuals who come to the United States. They did an extensive briefing on that. Otherwise, I know the Department of Defense has explained that this was an individual, not a sweeping decision. But I would point you to them for more specifics about military personnel.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Just on that —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Could you update us on where Ambassador Power is at the moment, which country?
MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have that, Jo. I know USUN —
QUESTION: She started in Guinea, but I’m just wondering if she’s moved on now to one of the other countries.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that in front of me. I’m sure we can quickly get that to you after the briefing.
MS. PSAKI: You just want to know which country she’s in right now?
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: And I guess where the tour is going to wrap up.
MS. PSAKI: I think perhaps Sierra Leone, but let me check and make sure that’s —
QUESTION: And I guess when the tour is going to wrap up or when she might start becoming susceptible to the – any kind of rules that —
MS. PSAKI: I know she’s returning later this week. I’ll see if there’s more on – in terms of a specific day or time.
QUESTION: Okay, thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Scott.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: There are two Azerbaijani citizens who are on trial or facing charges of sabotage in the self-declared capital of Nagorno-Karabakh. Baku is demanding the return of their citizens. Are you aware, monitoring the situation, and have expressed your concerns to either the Armenians or the Azerbaijanis?
MS. PSAKI: I do have something on this. One moment. On these specific cases, we really don’t have a great deal of information on it. Obviously, they are the experts. We have continued to convey that it’s important for the sides to take the necessary steps to lay the basis for a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We call on all sides to redouble their efforts at the negotiation table to focus on the benefits that peace will bring to people across the region.
In terms of our engagement in this specific incident, not that I am aware of. Let me double-check and make sure that that’s the case.
QUESTION: Is it your opinion that putting on trial Azerbaijani in the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh capital is in line with taking those moves?
MS. PSAKI: Taking the moves to —
QUESTION: That you’re calling on both sides to take.
MS. PSAKI: I think it’s just a broad point we make. We don’t have the – all the specifics, so I think we just haven’t weighed in more than that.
QUESTION: Can I ask a question on Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Before Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi was sworn in, I remember Brett McGurk, your colleague, had a hearing on the Capitol Hill.
MS. PSAKI: He’s above me in the food chain, but keep going. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Okay. Yeah, he told senators that, quote/unquote, “it was unacceptable” for Baghdad to stop sending the revenue share of the Kurdistan region. He said it was unacceptable. But months have passed since he made that statement, and the Kurds don’t receive their budget yet from Baghdad. I mean, one could wonder whether the United States has done anything concrete to make sure that that decision by Baghdad would be reversed, or you just made that promise in order to make sure that you had a government in place to fight ISIS?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would completely disagree with the premise of your question, which I’m sure you’re not surprised by. This is an issue we have raised many times publicly. It comes up in meetings that we have on the ground. And our position hasn’t changed on this; we’re continuing to press on that. But obviously, it’s up to the officials on the ground to make progress.
QUESTION: But why hasn’t Baghdad done anything? Is Baghdad not willing to listen to what you are telling them?
MS. PSAKI: I think, obviously, there are a range of steps that the central government is working to implement. I’d point you to them for more answers on that question.
QUESTION: Considering that this is 17 percent of the budget, why, in your opinion, is the Baghdad government withholding all that for so many months?
MS. PSAKI: Said, you’re familiar with the history here. I would point you to the government there. I don’t have any more analysis for you.
QUESTION: Could I return to Africa please?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: On Zimbabwe —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — the U.S. Government has long criticized as un-democratic the rule of Robert Mugabe, who’s now enjoying his 34th year in power. I’m wondering if the United States had any view on First Lady Grace Mugabe’s indication that she may be the next ruler of Zimbabwe, in part by describing the sitting Vice President Joice Mujuru as ungrateful, power-hungry, daft, corrupt, foolish, divisive, and a disgrace.
MS. PSAKI: Well, on the first part of your question, our view continues to be that internal rules and party – and a party constitution govern Zimbabwe’s political parties, and party members should hold their leaders accountable for those rules. We value a democratic process and a result that is credible – a credible reflection of the will of the people. Obviously, it will be up to the people of Zimbabwe to pick their next leader and not the United States, and we’re certain they’ll weigh all the factors.
QUESTION: Could I just stay on a similar vein —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — not Zimbabwe. In Sudan – I don’t know if you’ve seen the notice earlier this week that the Sudanese President Bashir, who’s wanted for war crimes – just go back to an earlier theme – is planning to stand again in the next elections. Does the United States take a position on whether this is a good idea or not?
MS. PSAKI: I had seen that report, though I haven’t talked to our team. So why don’t we get something for you, Jo?
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: On Egypt very quickly, does the United States support this buffer zone that’s being built on the border with Gaza? It’s forcing the evacuation of many people there.
MS. PSAKI: I really had not talked to them about the —
MS. PSAKI: — specific details on there. I’m happy to do that. Obviously, we know – understand Egypt’s concern about their security. That’s why we have done – taken steps like delivering the Apaches and things along those lines, but let me check on the specific border question.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: All right, anyone else?
QUESTION: One more, actually.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Jo.
QUESTION: Just one very quick one: Hong Kong, the pro-democracy students who’ve – now marking one month of their protests have decided that they’re going to go above the heads of the Hong Kong authorities and call for direct talks with Beijing. I guess they’re not getting any traction with Hong Kong authorities. Given that you’ve stood behind the protests, saying that you support universal suffrage, do you think this is a good idea, that they should go and talk directly to Berlin – Beijing? Would you support that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve also said that we believe dialogue between students and the authorities is the right step to take. I hadn’t seen that report, so we’ll put that on the list of things we’ll follow up with you on.
Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:57 p.m.)