With two officially announced candidates to run for president in 2016-and a half dozen others who would love to be included-maybe it is time to reflect on the choices.I am often asked who might be the best choice, and I suddenly becom…
The political economy of the Philippines reflects such “a long history of missteps”, as President Benigno Aquino noted recently, that many wonder if the positive change ushered in during his term would be undone when he leaves Malacana…
Now that the President has anointed his close friend DILG Secretary Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas to succeed him in the 2016 presidential elections, the battle lines are clear. At this point, survey results can be thrown out the window because it…
2 Apr 2015
The top United Nations envoy for Afghanistan has condemned “in the strongest terms” today’s deadly suicide attack in the city of Khost, in the country’s far east, which reportedly left dozens of people dead and injured.
Suicide attack in Afghanistan condemned by UN
A suicide attack in Khost Matun city in Afghanistan’s Khost province on Thursday has been strongly condemned by the UN Assistance Mission in the country (UNAMA).
A suicide bomber reportedly detonated his explosive devices amongst a group of civilians participating in a peaceful demonstration, killing 16 people and injuring at least 40, including four children.
UNAMA says the attack took place in the vicinity of the Khost Provincial Governor’s residence, where a large group of civilians had gathered to protest against corruption.
Pacific cyclones highlight existential threat of climate change
Concerns are being raised by the head of the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction about the future development of Small Island Developing States in the face of extreme weather events.
Margareta Wahlström on Thursday said it is “remarkable” that in the past two weeks both Vanuatu and Micronesia have been forced to declare a state of emergency.
The countries experienced separate Category 5 cyclones which have caused several deaths, population displacement and widespread destruction.
Millions of people could soon be affected across the Philippines by Typhoon Maysak depending on its strength when it makes expected landfall.
Indonesia gets lowest possible evaluation from Human Right Committee
Indonesia has received the lowest possible evaluation from the UN Human Rights Committee for its failure to respond to a call in 2013 to stop executing prisoners for drug-related crimes.
After a review of Indonesia’s human rights record, the Committee had urged the State to reinstate the de facto moratorium on the death penalty.
It has also called on the Indonesian authorities to ensure that if capital punishment was maintained, it was only for the most serious crimes, which do not include drug-related offences.
Indonesia has argued that given the severe challenges posed by drug-related crimes, it considers such offences as among the most serious to which the death penalty may apply.
Cathrine Hasselberg United Nations.
NNA – Two people were killed in a bomb blast in the Southern Philippines on Tuesday, the military said, the latest in a series of violent incidents in the strife-torn region in barely a week.Two men riding a motorcycle, and believed to be carrying the …
Generous support from donors like ECHO allows UNRWA to maintain services and humanitarian assistance for Palestine refugees in Syria. The cash assistance programme is an important tool in helping refugees maintain their dignity and strengthen their resilience as they face a fourth winter of armed conflict in Syria. Alliance Food Distribution Centre, Damascus. November 2014. ©UNRWA/Taghrid Mohammad.
2:17 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
MS. PSAKI: I know we’re late today, but we wanted to wait until the Secretary’s press conference was done.
QUESTION: Well, since he’s answered every question there is, this can be very short. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Happy Monday. He was so thorough.
QUESTION: Tuesday, Tuesday.
Well, I think you’re all aware of what he has been doing, but let me just quickly reiterate that while he was in Paris, Secretary Kerry had meetings with Libyan – the Libyan foreign minister, as well as, of course, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. Tomorrow he will continue his travels to Vienna, where he will have a trilateral meeting with EU High Representative Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif on the nuclear negotiations, which is a continuation of the two trilateral meetings they recently had in New York.
With that, Matt.
QUESTION: That’s it? All – that’s all you have to start with?
MS. PSAKI: That is all. I thought we’d go straight to questions. I have a time issue on the back end.
On – I realize Secretary Kerry just spoke to this. I’m just wondering if you have anything you might be able to add to what he said about the incident in – outside of Riyadh.
MS. PSAKI: We don’t. You probably also saw the on-the-record statement we put out. We don’t have any additional updates. Obviously, we’re looking into it; we’re in close touch with our team on the ground. If we have additional updates, we will make those available to all of you.
QUESTION: All right. That’s all I have.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Hello.
QUESTION: Hello. Follow-up on that (inaudible). So can you rule out the terrorist possibility? Is it – I mean, some news report put out that it’s probably a disgruntled former employee of Vinnell Arabia – sorry.
MS. PSAKI: There are a range of news reports. We’ve seen the same ones. Obviously, this just happened this morning, so I just don’t want to get ahead of where we are. We could know more this afternoon. I’m not sure we will, but as we have more information we’ll make it more available. But I don’t want to rule anything in or out at this point in time.
QUESTION: So you don’t whether it’s criminal or terrorist in nature at this —
MS. PSAKI: Well, it just happened this morning. And as Nicolas mentioned, there are reports that Secretary Kerry also mentioned about it being a former employee. We don’t have confirmation of the details at this point in time.
QUESTION: Are you aware of any measure that the U.S. is planning, let’s say to restrict the movement of Americans and American employees of places like Aramco and other companies as a result of this?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as we mentioned in the statement that we put out to all of you, obviously, we evaluate our security posture when incidents occur. Certainly, we’re in the process of evaluating our security posture. We’ll take appropriate steps to ensure that all of U.S. mission personnel are safe, of course. We typically issue – our embassy is issuing, I should say, a security message to U.S. citizens to advise them on the situation and any safety precautions. As you know, we typically do that when information becomes available or there are incidents we want to make American citizens aware of.
QUESTION: Okay. And when an incident like this occurs, it’s the FBI that investigates?
MS. PSAKI: Said, this just happened this morning, so as more information becomes available, we’ll make that available to all of you.
MS. PSAKI: Turkey? Do we have any more on Saudi Arabia?
QUESTION: Yeah, one more. So is the —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: — message you’re talking about just – concerns only Saudi Arabia, or more countries maybe involved in the coalition against ISIL?
MS. PSAKI: I think you’re talking about two separate issues.
QUESTION: No, I’m talking about the attack, because it might be within a broader context that might unfold in the future. Well, we don’t know, because we still don’t know if it’s criminal or terrorist. But what I’m saying – is the message about the safety of American citizens only concerning Saudi Arabia, or more countries?
MS. PSAKI: Well, typically, in any country when an incident like this occurs, we put out a security message which just provides details about the incident. So that’s what I’m referring to, not a larger message.
QUESTION: So you’re not concerned that something like this might happen elsewhere?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s a concern we’ve expressed. Obviously, this is an incident that just happened this morning, so as more information becomes available, we’ll make that available.
QUESTION: I think what he’s getting at is that this is a security message that’s going out from the embassy in Riyadh to Americans in Saudi Arabia. It’s not a message that’s going out from any other embassy —
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: — and it has nothing to do with the worldwide caution that was released on Friday.
MS. PSAKI: No. That’s updated on a regular basis. Sorry, I was – thank you for that assist. There was a regular six-month update that went out. These are separate issues.
QUESTION: Yeah, I understand, but my question is – so you don’t have any concerns that this might be part of a broader campaign? It’s – you still think it’s an isolated incident, and just within Saudi borders?
MS. PSAKI: It just happened this morning. We will provide information that becomes – as it becomes available, but I’m not going to get ahead of where we are at this point in time.
Do you want to go to Turkey?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry just addressed some of the questions, and he said that there is no difference between Turkey and U.S. positions over what is agreed. But is there any way you can give us a little more detail? First of all, has Turkey given authority or agreed – let U.S. to use U.S. facilities and bases in Turkey against ISIS?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk were there just last week. As part of their discussions, they talked about the important role that Turkey can play in the fight against ISIL. There are already measures that Turkey has taken, including efforts to counter the flow of foreign fighters. They’ve also been hosting more than 170,000 refugees who’ve crossed into the border. But part of what they discussed last week was also a range of military issues. Turkey agreed to host a train-and-equip program and to allow for use of some of the facilities for the coalition. Secretary Kerry just mentioned that as well. There are also, naturally, going to be discussions at the mil-to-mil level, which is only appropriate. A DOD, Department of Defense, team has just arrived on the ground in Turkey to discuss how to operationalize these efforts. I’m not going to get ahead of that. Obviously, there’ll be a lot of discussions about how this will be implemented and what will happen from here.
QUESTION: So the – National Security Adviser Susan Rice said that Turkey actually gave authority about the bases. It is not correct? Turkey hasn’t – has not given —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe that’s what she said exactly in her quote. I know there were some background quotes from unnamed officials – so you always have to caution against some of those – that didn’t have information that was consistent with the agreement. But what I just outlined is what we have agreed to and, of course, going from here, the consultations between military – between Department of Defense officials and their military counterparts is an important next step from here.
QUESTION: When you say “facilities,” do they include the use – assist to the use of air force?
MS. PSAKI: Well, which specific facilities and how they’ll be used is part of the discussion that we’re having with Turkey and we’ll have over the coming days.
QUESTION: So there’s no – still no confirmation of the kind of facilities you can use?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, hosting a train-and-equip program will require certain facilities, but which and how and where is part of the discussion that’s ongoing at this point in time.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I mean outside of that, the equipping and training. I’m talking about the coalition effort and – against ISIS.
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s part of the coalition effort, in our view. Are you talking – I mean, the fact is there are a range of important functions that support our coalition operation that don’t involve airstrikes. I’m just not going to outline that much further than that.
QUESTION: So you’re not talking about the use of the Incirlik Air Base, for instance?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, some of this is there will be discussions about specific facilities and how they’ll be used. And as those discussions continue, perhaps we’ll have more to say, or more importantly Turkey will have more to say.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the attacks that Turkey conducted against the PKK?
MS. PSAKI: I do. Well, one, I think I would encourage everybody to note that, obviously, this – these are attacks that – or these are – yes, these are attacks that happened far from Kobani. I know there’s been a focus on looping the two together. Obviously, there’s a complex situation on the ground, but there’s a long history between Turkey and the PKK. There are reports – we’ve seen remarks from Turkish Government officials that the PKK fired on Turkish military installations in Turkey. I don’t have any independent confirmation of that. But obviously, there are – I would just encourage everybody to look at these as separate circumstances.
QUESTION: But don’t you look at this as, perhaps, a negative sign that – or signal that Turkey is conveying, at a time when Kobani is besieged and everybody is looking for Turkey to come to its aid, it goes out and strikes Turks who are really in close sort of coordination, if not alliance, with the people in Kobani?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think – I would encourage all of you to look at the exact mileage, but I believe we’re talking about more than a hundred miles from Kobani. So over the border, where Kobani is, is a separate circumstance; that’s the point I’m making.
Now, regardless of that, we want to see all parties continue working towards a lasting peace, and that’s something we’ve certainly encouraged over the course of time. But it wouldn’t be accurate to loop the two incidents together.
QUESTION: Well, sure. Sorry, James.
QUESTION: That’s okay.
QUESTION: This’ll be quick.
QUESTION: Please, please.
QUESTION: I mean, yes, they are separate circumstances, but they – the separate circumstances don’t take place in their own vacuum. Are you disappointed at all that the first time the Turks have gotten militarily involved has been to bomb their own country against people – no matter how bad the history is between the PKK and the Turkish Government is, the PKK is still fighting ISIL, and they’re linked to the people who are in Kobani trying to defend it. Is that not at all disappointing to you that the Turks would choose for their first military action during the current campaign their own country and enemies of the people that you’re trying to defeat?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, this situation is obviously not without a great deal of complexity. And certainly, the situation in Kobani, one we have been talking about for some time, is one we’ve increased airstrikes ourself over the course of the weekend, as you may know. I think there were more than 30 over the course of the weekend to deal with that circumstance. Again, I don’t have confirmation of reports that – of government officials’ statements about the PKK firing onto Turkish military installations, but that is – would be relevant information.
QUESTION: Well, it would be. But are you concerned at all that the Turks look at the PKK or the Kurds in general as their primary enemy here, not ISIL, which is your primary enemy here?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, one, Turkey has obviously agreed to take steps to join the coalition and take additional steps, military commitments over the course of the last several days, which shows their commitment to the coalition.
QUESTION: Sorry, James.
QUESTION: First, I want to note for the record the precedent that appears to be set today by a reference of the briefer citing press reports that she openly states she can’t confirm. I mean, I’m not sure why you’re telling us about press reports that you can’t confirm and suggesting that they may be significant to what you’re talking about. Normally, when we bring up press reports, if they haven’t been confirmed, you have nothing to say about them.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the reason I brought it up, and then we’ll go to your next question —
MS. PSAKI: — is that while I don’t have confirmation of it, there are certain reports that could provide relevant information. And I don’t have confirmation of them, but still, I thought they were worth nothing.
QUESTION: Okay. That doctrinal throat-clearing having been accomplished, here was the question I intended to ask, which is: In exchange for the Turkish Government agreeing to host this train and equip mission, the train and equip mission, did the United States have to agree to do anything?
MS. PSAKI: In terms of what specifically, Matt?
QUESTION: Payments to the Turkish Government or any other measures.
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, James.
MS. PSAKI: I think Turkey is – certainly has a role to play, not just because they’re an important NATO ally, an important partner, but I think we all recognize the place – their location and the fact that this poses a real threat to Turkey.
QUESTION: But you can confirm that the Turkish Government did not seek to extract any reciprocal measures of any kind from the United States in exchange for agreeing to host this train and equip mission?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’d be referring to, James. Do you have anything more specific —
MS. PSAKI: — you want to ask about?
QUESTION: I’m just asking if they sought to extract any reciprocal measures of any kind.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you’re referring to, so if you have more information we can certainly talk about it.
Okay. Do we have more on Turkey? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Secretary Kerry said that he’s confident Turkey will make its position even more clear. What do you exact – what does he exactly mean by that? Is there, like, anything that you want Turkey to be more clear about?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what he was referring to is what I mentioned a few minutes ago, which is that clearly they’ve committed to host a train and equip program. There are other commitments they’ve made that there need to be discussions at the mil-to-mil level, which is only appropriate, and certainly, we expect their role in the coalition to only expand from here. So I think he was pointing out the fact that we could hear more from them about that in the coming days or weeks, depending on what they decide.
QUESTION: But I remember last week, you said that there were – like, quote-unquote, there were no questions on your mind that Turkey was committed to take on ISIL.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Has anything changed since, I think, August 3rd that you made that statement?
MS. PSAKI: In fact, I think they’ve committed to more since I made those comments, so that is backup for what we’ve —
QUESTION: Can you still say that there are no questions on your mind that Turkey is committed to take on ISIL?
MS. PSAKI: I would stand by that statement, yes.
Turkey? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Still on Turkey.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Today —
MS. PSAKI: Or there may be some other more Turkey, but go ahead.
QUESTION: Sure. Today, President of France Hollande called on Turkey to open borders for Kurdish fighters and all the aid to go to Kobani. Would you endorse this call?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as – our reports or our understanding is that refugees fleeing violence are still able to enter Turkey and Turkey has allowed huge numbers of refugees from Syria in need of urgent assistance to seek protection on its territory. There are some numbers, I think, the Turkish Government recently put out in terms of those who were able to pass through recently, I think, in the couple hundred as recently as late last week.
QUESTION: So I think calls that Turkey should let fighters from other —
MS. PSAKI: Oh, I’m sorry. I misheard your question.
QUESTION: Yeah. Fighters from KRG or other cantons, they’re called, to go to Kobani via Turkish soil. Would you endorse that call?
MS. PSAKI: Our view is that that’s a decision that Turkey would need to make and we’re not going to make that on their behalf.
QUESTION: One more question. Secretary Kerry made a phone call with President Masoud Barzani of Kurdistan, I think last week. Do you have anything on that? And shortly after that meeting, according to a statement first of all put out by President Barzani’s office, they discussed the situation in Kobani. That was all it said. And after that, just today actually, President Barzani hosted the Kurdish – the Syrian Kurdish leader in Erbil. I just want to see what – do you have anything on that phone call?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t – I think it’s not at all out of the ordinary for Secretary Kerry or any Secretary of State to have calls touching base with officials in the region when they’re facing the threat that they do, and it was simply, as I understand it, a check-in call. I can see if there’s anything more we can provide in terms of a readout.
QUESTION: So just one more thing. Some media outlets in Kurdistan, they have said from anonymous officials again that Secretary Kerry promised Barzani if the Syrian Kurds unite then there will be more U.S. support. Is that something that you can confirm?
MS. PSAKI: I – that is not our position, so it seems unlikely that’s an accurate report.
QUESTION: Just one more on Turkey.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I mean, although you’re trying to encourage us not to link the situation in Kobani with the bombardment of PKK positions, that might not be the interpretation of ISIS. So my question is: Do you think that targeting PKK, which is fighting ISIS, Turkey is maybe risking sending the wrong message to ISIS?
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve addressed this question. I don’t think I have more to add to what I said.
QUESTION: There has been some frustration from some quarters in Washington about Turkey’s involvement here, and some would say that it’s time to send the ally a message, and that one thing that would send them a message would be to take the PKK off the terror list. Is that something that’s being thought about?
MS. PSAKI: Our position hasn’t changed on that issue.
QUESTION: Can we go to the donor conference in Cairo?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, can we just finish Turkey? Does anyone have anything more on Turkey?
QUESTION: There is one I’d like to —
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead. And then we’ll go to you, Said. Go ahead.
QUESTION: — address. President Erdogan just yesterday said, this is quote, “Those who are participating in airstrikes in the Middle East are not aiming for peace but for oil.” This is quote by President Erdogan yesterday. So apparently they are on strikes being done by the coalition forces. Are you aiming for oil, to get oil or for —
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve made the intention of our airstrikes clear, which is to take on the threat of ISIL, as is true of our other coalition partners.
QUESTION: But what do you think about President Erdogan’s statement on this regard?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m – I’m going to leave it at what I just said.
Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: I wanted to ask you on the money that the United States is giving in aid to the Palestinians, now part of it or half of it will go through USAID. Will others go in terms of equipment, like hospital equipment or perhaps something to aid in health care directly? And how – what is the process in which something like this can go through?
MS. PSAKI: Are you referring —
QUESTION: Or has to go through.
MS. PSAKI: — to the 220 —
QUESTION: I’m talking about the —
MS. PSAKI: — 212 million?
QUESTION: — the U.S. Yes.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. So this money is going to relief for reconstruction —
QUESTION: Sorry, because I think there was 400 and something, 12, 10 million dollars.
MS. PSAKI: I think there was 212 this weekend.
QUESTION: 212 that goes through USAID. Yes.
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check.
MS. PSAKI: Let me – so spell out for me a little bit more your specific question.
QUESTION: I’m trying to get – to see how will you give that. In direct funds or you give it in equipment? Do you give in aid? How do you do it?
MS. PSAKI: I can check for you, see if we can get a more technical breakdown of how it’s transferred. Sometimes it goes through organizations on the ground. We can get that for you, Said.
QUESTION: Okay. As part of the discussion, I mean, many people made the statement that we have to ensure that this does not get destroyed over and over again every time that there is a vicious cycle of rebuilding and destruction and so on. Is there anything behind the scene that may have taken place that you can share with us, or anything that is a common ground that may have been arrived at?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there’s a recognition by many of the donor countries and the international community that there needs to be a durable ceasefire, and that is certainly the focus of the efforts going from here. And unless we have that, it’s hard to get out of this cycle of destruction and reconstruction.
QUESTION: Is this ceasefire in terms of like an armistice, or is it part of a larger, let’s say, peace settlement? I mean, is this gaining stock again, especially with efforts like the British parliament, which has voted symbolically but overwhelmingly for the creation of a Palestinian state and so on?
MS. PSAKI: Said, what do you mean by that?
QUESTION: I’m saying – I’m saying is this part of a perhaps a hope to reignite the peace process or some sort of talks and so on where there’s so much – let’s say in Sweden and England and so on, it’s back on the front burner, so to speak, the effort to restart negotiation or to reach a peace settlement?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think what we’re talking about is what we’ve been talking about for some months now, which is a discussion to address the core issues that can create a long-term, lasting ceasefire between the parties and provide the kind of security that everybody is looking for. The process of a peace process is a much larger question, and certainly, we haven’t seen a change in the parties’ willingness to engage in that.
QUESTION: Now – yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: I have one on this.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Sorry, because I wasn’t paying enough —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — close enough attention over the weekend. But this 212 that the Secretary pledged, does that need congressional approval still?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe so, Matt. It’s a reconfiguration of some money that’s now going towards specifically the reconstruction effort.
QUESTION: Does that mean – does that – to the best of your knowledge, or can you check —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — to see if there are still any congressional holds on assistance to the – apart from this, but because of the UN – moves at the UN on —
MS. PSAKI: Sure, we will check for you. Sure.
QUESTION: Jen —
QUESTION: And just more broadly on this, do you intend to release this money – if it does not need congressional approval, do you intend to release it regardless of whether or not you’re convinced that the ceasefire is durable? And the reason I ask is because if it’s not, is there not a concern – I mean, if you’re going to do that, if you’re going to give them the money without a guarantee of – that hostilities aren’t going to start again, I’m wondering why you just don’t throw it on a bonfire or something.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, one, we want to see Gaza reconstructed, and we believe that the people of Gaza have a vast array of needs, including water, including food, including health needs. And so – let me finish, and then we’ll get – and then you can, of course, follow up, which is fine.
QUESTION: Well, there’s no doubt – I have no doubt that there are needs in Gaza.
MS. PSAKI: But I think what we’ll see from here is clearly there’s a desire in the international community to see a serious approach to a lasting ceasefire. And obviously, the money we’re giving and that others have pledged is not going to fully reconstruct Gaza, so there’ll need to be an incentive for the international community to keep pledging.
QUESTION: Okay. I understand that. I just – this money is going to go to Gaza to help reconstruct Gaza regardless of whether there is a more formal or your assurance that the ceasefire will be durable and that this isn’t just throwing money into something that is going to get blown up two months from now?
MS. PSAKI: Yes, because we believe the —
QUESTION: So to – you’re going to go —
MS. PSAKI: — people of Gaza have needs that must be met.
QUESTION: And is it your understanding that the other money that was pledged, like from Qatar —
MS. PSAKI: From other countries?
QUESTION: — is the same, that it’s going to – or you don’t know?
MS. PSAKI: I – you’d have to check with those countries.
James. Did you —
QUESTION: Different subject.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: I just had one more on this.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, one more and we’ll go to you.
QUESTION: Beginning tomorrow and the day after and so on in the West Bank, there is – [cellphone ringing] —
MS. PSAKI: Sounds like a Superman interlude or something. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: — the olive harvest season begins, and the settlers have a habit of attacking the harvester, of attacking the olive trees, burning them, and so on. Can you call on – I mean, I asked this to Marie last week. Would you call on, let’s say, the Israelis, or is the U.S. Government willing to call on the Israelis to hold back the settlers and allow the Palestinians to collect and harvest their olives?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, we’ve seen reports that the olive harvest in the West Bank has again been disrupted by vandalism. If true, these actions are very concerning, and we condemn acts of vandalism. The olive harvest, as you noted, Said, is important to the Palestinian people and the Palestinian economy, and we urge all parties to make sure it is a successful harvest. We look to local authorities to make sure that the perpetrators of attacks and vandalism are held to account and that they take steps to prevent future attacks from occurring.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I heard the Secretary’s comments in Paris; I read closely the transcript of the State Department briefing of October 10 with Marie Harf; and it seems to me the question that has been put repeatedly to State Department officials has not been explicitly addressed, and that is whether the United States will rule out a second extension of these talks. I know you’re focused on November 24. I know you regard there’s still time for a deal to come together. But the issues are tough and the gaps remains. The question is whether you will rule out a second extension, and that seems a fairly simple thing to address.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, the reason we say things the way we say them, as you know, James, is because we want to send a strong message that our focus remains on the November 24th deadline, and that is where our focus remains. So I certainly understand your question and why you’re asking, but we’re just not going to get into ruling in or out things at this point in time. With every meeting that passes – and certainly, as the Secretary mentioned, he’s going to have a meeting in Vienna tomorrow – we’ll know more, and perhaps we’ll keep discussing this as the weeks proceed. But we certainly expect that we have – we believe, continue to believe we have the time needed to get a deal done.
QUESTION: So you’re not ruling out another extension?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not entertaining your question, I guess is what I’m saying, James. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Well, that was honest. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah, I suppose so. I’m thrown for a loop there.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Are there other questions that you’re not going to entertain?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I tried to lay out why we’re just not going to get into the game of ruling things in or out. But go ahead.
QUESTION: Which is not ruling it out. You can say, “I’m not ruling it in and I’m not ruling it out,” but that means you’re not ruling it out. It’s – logic dictates the answer there.
But in any case, why should any more time be necessary beyond November 24? As Wendy Sherman has made clear a number of times, as the background briefings have made clear a number of times, the issues are well known to all concerned and it is simply a matter of the political will to get there. So it seems to me you should be able to rule out an extension, because a year’s worth of this kind of negotiation should be sufficient to determine whether the will is there.
MS. PSAKI: Well, James, our focus remains on determining whether it’s possible to reach an agreement by November 24th. And certainly, I expect we’ll have time in the briefing room together over the next couple days and weeks, and we can keep discussing this issue.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary reached out to U.S. lawmakers about the prospect of a potential second extension?
MS. PSAKI: The Secretary has regular conversations about a range of issues with officials, but I’m not going to get into those more specifically.
QUESTION: Do you believe that the Administration would have the support it needs from the Congress?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get ahead of where we are in the process.
QUESTION: The Ayatollah over the weekend posted on Twitter a fairly elaborate diagram setting forth what he explicitly called Tehran’s redlines in these negotiations. First, I presume the Department is familiar with this diagram?
MS. PSAKI: I’m aware of the Twitter activity of some officials in Iran, yes.
QUESTION: First, do you have any response to that diagram?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific response, mainly because we’re going to keep these discussions about these difficult issues private through diplomatic channels, because we feel that’s the most appropriate way to get a deal done – most effective way, I should say.
QUESTION: Without asking you to disclose the classified contents of these negotiations, has it been your observation that the redlines that were promulgated in this diagram have indeed been set by the Iranians and their delegation in the context of the talks, or are those redlines something that’s just on Twitter and elsewhere?
MS. PSAKI: I would just say there are a range of comments that have been made by Iranian officials. They have their own political audience, as we all know. Beyond that, I’m not going to speak to specifics of what’s going on behind the scenes, whether there – it’s on Twitter or not on Twitter or how consistent it is.
QUESTION: Do you think that a Tweet in English from the Iranian leader is aimed at an Iranian audience? I mean, maybe it is, but —
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, there’s a range of audiences that they speak to.
MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more on Iran? And then we’ll go on to the next – go ahead.
QUESTION: The Secretary said something to the effect that – he was, I think, being facetious – that the pundits knew more than he did about the failure or success of the meeting he’s going to have with Zarif. Isn’t that in a way saying that we are open, perhaps, to extended talks or anything like this?
MS. PSAKI: I think what he was speaking to is public comments out there by many who watch this closely that it’s possible or not possible – the prognosticators. So that’s what he was speaking to, Said. It wasn’t making a prediction one way or the other.
Do we have any more on Iran, or should we move on? Nicole, go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — and this U.S. serviceman who is accused of murdering a transgender person there, if you guys have comment.
MS. PSAKI: Yes, I do have something on this. Let me just find it.
Well, first, let me say we express our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jeffrey Laude, also known as Jennifer. A U.S. Marine has been identified as a possible suspect. The U.S. Marine is assigned to the Second Battalion, Ninth Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He is being held on board the U.S.S. Peleliu while a joint investigation is being conducted by the U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Philippine National Police. We will continue to cooperate fully with the Philippine law enforcement authorities in every aspect of the investigation.
QUESTION: Can we stay in this – stay in roughly the same area?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure, go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: I would.
QUESTION: You would? Okay. So on Friday, Marie was asked about this Chinese newspaper, the People’s Daily, their allegation that the U.S. Government was behind the – or had played a role in stirring the pot in the Hong Kong protest. She denied it categorically and said – my question, though, is: Is it not correct that the U.S. Government does fund the National Endowment for Democracy, and is it not correct that the National Endowment for Democracy, or at least officials affiliated with the National Endowment – the Endowment – have had contact with some of the protest leaders?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me clarify a few things of information that’s been out there. One is USAID does – I know this wasn’t your question, but still I felt worth sharing – does not fund any programs in Hong Kong. The NED and its core institutes, as you all know and are familiar with, such as NDI, are well known, independent NGOs that have worked transparently worldwide for more than 30 years. Congress authorizes funds for the NED, a portion of which is allocated to NDI. However, NED and NDI allocate their budgets and initiate their programs independently, and so for specifics of what they use their funding for, I would certainly point you to them.
QUESTION: Okay. So – but they were not – do you – is there no direction given to any of these groups by the government in terms of don’t you – doesn’t USAID or the State Department or someone say, “Hey, we’d like” – I mean, they apply for grants, right —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — from the government, and presumably, those grants are for things that you want to see happen, or do you want to see —
MS. PSAKI: The specifics of the funding and how it’s allocated, they determine. They are funded, as you know, on an annual basis by Congress.
QUESTION: Right, but don’t you put out contracts saying, “Look, we want – we have Program X that we want to see done in Country Y,” and then people – then these groups say, “Okay, we’ll do it,” and —
MS. PSAKI: But —
QUESTION: — there is an end – the end – the intention of whatever program it is is set by the federal government, is it not? Not by —
MS. PSAKI: Well, but that’s a separate question, Matt, from the question of programs they run and that they use a pot of funding that Congress authorizes for.
QUESTION: So there was – so the U.S. Government writ large, in terms of the Executive Branch, had – doesn’t and did not, in this case with Hong Kong, tell any group what it wanted to see done with its money?
MS. PSAKI: That’s how the funding works, so yes.
MS. PSAKI: Do we have more on this issue or – oh, go ahead.
QUESTION: On North Korea?
MS. PSAKI: On North Korea, sure.
QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday, North Korea released their great leader, Kim Jong-un’s picture. What is the United States view of their leader’s picture? It shows up after 40 days in his hiding?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen the same reports and images. We don’t have any reason to doubt authenticity at this time. But of course, given the North Korean regime is one of the most opaque on Earth, there’s always a question about reliable information and what’s – about what’s publicly available, I should say. We’re obviously watching very carefully what’s happening in North Korea, and it certainly is a country we monitor with great attention. But beyond that, I don’t have anything new to report for you.
QUESTION: Have you seen the – have you seen that picture carefully? The North Korea expert is saying that the picture taken at the nighttime, at the – and the missing two shadows, but other two shadows (inaudible). So it’s still mystery, but —
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, as I said, we don’t have any reason to doubt their authenticity, but I don’t have anything to confirm for you independently from here.
QUESTION: Sort of back to —
MS. PSAKI: Sorry, we’ll go to you in the back. I apologize. Go ahead.
QUESTION: This’ll be quick, I think.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Just sort of back to the other region, is there any evidence that ISIS and its followers have now surfaced in North Africa?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check with our team, James. Were you – is there a specific country or a specific report you want us to look into?
QUESTION: Specifically Morocco.
MS. PSAKI: Let me check with our team and see. Not that I’d heard, but I will check with our Moroccan team just to make sure.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Why don’t we go to this young woman back here just because she’s been waving her hand. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Last week, President Obama released a video message to countries in West Africa that have been experiencing outbreaks of Ebola. And in the video message, he stated that you cannot get Ebola through casual contact like sitting next to a person on a bus.
My question for the State Department would be twofold: Firstly, did the CDC vet the President’s video message before it was posted to a number of State Department websites, including U.S. Embassy websites? And then, does the State Department stand by the President’s statement that you cannot get this disease by sitting next to an infected person on a bus?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s important for everybody to understand the role of the State Department. We certainly – in this particular case. We work closely with countries, we work closely with American citizens who are in countries, we provide information, we provide materials. But we are not the evaluator of health information. I’d point you to the CDC; I’d point you to the White House for your specific question.
QUESTION: But do you know if the CDC vetted this video before it was posted to y’all’s website?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the CDC and the White House for that.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There are really some credible reports that they are in within miles’ reach from Baghdad. Are you concerned that ISIS might at some point take over Baghdad?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think first it’s important to note that the Iraqi Security Forces certainly well understand the importance of Baghdad and have stiffened their defenses in and around the capital. We do not see an imminent threat to Baghdad at this time, but we are committed to working with the Government of Iraq to end this terrorist threat and to strengthen the capability of its security forces. The Embassy remains open, continues to conduct business essential to our national security mission in Iraq. We’ve deployed also a significant number of our own military personnel to Iraq and to the region for the protection of American personnel and to advise and assist Iraqi Security Forces. So we continue to monitor it very closely.
QUESTION: Recently have you deployed more, or just you are talking about the ones that you have deployed —
MS. PSAKI: The ones that we have deployed. I don’t have any new personnel to announce for you at this point in time.
MS. PSAKI: I’m talking about this specific pot of money and how that specifically works.
QUESTION: So what – their activities in Hong Kong does not reflect your position or your endorsement to their activities?
MS. PSAKI: I think I provided all of the information I can on specifically how the funding works. I think, as Marie did on Friday, we would reject the notion that we have any involvement or engagement, and USAID does not provide any funding.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Following James’s questions.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: When you said “I’m not ruling in or out,” does it mean that this date of November 24 is not an absolute deadline as it was —
MS. PSAKI: It is the —
QUESTION: — and that the U.S. would be —
MS. PSAKI: Let me be clear: November 24th is our deadline. That’s where our focus remains, and what all of our efforts are —
QUESTION: But would it be acceptable for the U.S. side to extend the talks?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate on that at this point. We have six weeks until the deadline. Our focus is on reaching that deadline. The Secretary is having a trilateral meeting tomorrow to continue to take steps forward.
QUESTION: Are we talking about the P5+1 or the Mideast peace process here?
QUESTION: The P5+1.
MS. PSAKI: He’s talking about the P5+1.
QUESTION: On the —
QUESTION: Right. Well, I’m so old, I remember when the end of May was the deadline for reaching an agreement or a framework agreement.
MS. PSAKI: You’re so old? Matt, that wasn’t that long ago.
QUESTION: I know. It was only last year. But it was – that was your target; that was your target until it wasn’t your target anymore, so —
MS. PSAKI: November 24th is the deadline.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. PSAKI: That’s our focus. Nothing has changed.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I think I have a little bit of something. Well, we have seen reports of the Houthi presence and activity at the port. And we once again call on all parties to abide by the terms of the September 21st Peace and National Partnership Agreement. I don’t think I have much of a – more of an assessment than that. We can check and see. Is there a specific question you want me to follow up on?
QUESTION: They reach the – a port or seaport in a strategic area in Yemen?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen reports. I don’t have any additional information on it or confirmation of it. I can check with our team and see if there’s more we can provide to you or anyone who’s interested.
QUESTION: And I have one more question. Before he took off from Andrews Air Force Base on Saturday, Secretary Kerry was holding a plastic bag. And this bag raised too many questions in Egypt on Twitter, and they were asking about: What’s in the bag? What was in the bag?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m going to let you in on a secret. He does have a sweet tooth. So I don’t know if it had cookies in it. I can check and see.
QUESTION: It was a Safeway bag.
MS. PSAKI: It was a Safeway bag. (Laughter.) It could’ve been cookies or cupcakes. I will see if there is anything to confirm for you, but I would not suspect it’s anything more interesting than that.
QUESTION: In addition to cookies and cupcakes, did the Secretary get a chance to discuss the issue of the detained Al Jazeera journalist with President Sisi?
MS. PSAKI: With President – yeah. Let me give you just a little bit more on that. Well, one, Secretary Kerry – as all of you know, because I think we put out a readout – he raised specific cases over which we have consistently expressed concerns. Certainly that includes the detained journalist and others. I’m not going to specify too much about what he raised because these were sensitive discussions. There were sensitive discussions going on about a number of cases. We’ve addressed them publicly. We’ve addressed them privately. We’ll continue to address them and he does on every occasion of him meetings.
QUESTION: But did you have a sense that there’s some progress on this issue?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new assessment, unfortunately, to provide. We continue to urge the Egyptian Government to repeal or otherwise amend the highly restrictive demonstration law, and urge Egypt’s leadership to ensure due process and human rights protection for all Egyptians, but I don’t have any new assessment.
QUESTION: Part of the strategy to combat ISIS is to counter its extremist ideology.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: I was wondering if you think that what has been described as a, like, continuous crackdown on peaceful political dissent in Egypt would eventually lead to radicalizing more sectors of youth in Egypt and would eventually be counterproductive to your strategy.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, I would point out that there are a number of officials in Egypt who have spoken out against the fact that ISIL is not Islam and spoken out against the brutality of ISIL. And that’s something we’ve had many conversations with the Egyptian Government about. That doesn’t change the fact that we have had concerns about some of the laws and some of the crackdown that we’ve seen on journalists and others exercising freedom of speech. We’ve expressed that when warranted, but I don’t want to draw a conclusion or make any predictions at this point in time.
QUESTION: What about the latest wave of crackdown on student protests? Do you have any comments on that?
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve had concerns in the past. We’ve expressed them. These are issues that are raised when the Secretary meets with officials, and he certainly did when he was there just last weekend. I have to wrap this up.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we understand that this vote was primarily symbolic and that the United Kingdom Government – the government’s position, I should say, on this issue has not changed. We know our position has been clear and consistent for some time. We believe it’s premature. While we still support the Palestinian statehood, we believe that process needs to be reached through a two-state solution.
QUESTION: Well, through negotiations.
MS. PSAKI: Through negotiations —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) two-state solution.
MS. PSAKI: — that ultimately lead to —
MS. PSAKI: Sorry. I got ahead of the process. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: There’s been increased polling with regard to Americans’ perception of the danger of Ebola spreading in the United States. And about 35 percent-plus of Americans are indicating that they are very concerned that the measures taken to date are not sufficient to stop the inward spread of potential infected people to the United States. Does the U.S. have any change coming in terms of its policy beyond the five airports and the measures that have been put in place in the last two or three days?
MS. PSAKI: Well, CDC Director Dr. Frieden has spoken to this as recently as the weekend, and made clear that we’ll continue to evaluate, and certainly the appropriate entities, the CDC, will continue to evaluate what measures need to be put in place in coordination and cooperation with other government agencies where applicable. The point you just raised – or the new policy you just raised we just put in place last week. As we need to put in place new measures, we’ll certainly do those. But we certainly are guided by the advice and counsel and view of our health – top health officials. And that’s why we – the CDC typically are the appropriate officials to speak to it.
All right. Thanks, everyone.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:02 p.m.)
DPB # 173