Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – July 28, 2014
1:36 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
QUESTION: Welcome back.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you. I was going to make up a story, but I couldn’t come up with a good one. So I injured it over the course of the last couple of weeks. So this boot will be with me for about six weeks.
With that, I have one item at the top for all of you, and I wanted to – the Secretary, as you know, just returned late Saturday night from a trip that included stops in Egypt, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Paris, and Tel Aviv. And I wanted to just give you an overview of the last 10 days or so, what has transpired and where we stand today.
So let me first reiterate that the objective of the United States has been and remains stopping the rocket fire against Israeli citizens and bringing about negotiations through – that can lead to a longer-term ceasefire. Our first step – our next step, I should say, here that we’re working toward is a humanitarian cease-fire. That’s what the Secretary has been calling for; that’s what the discussion has focused on. That would not only significantly de-escalate the violence, but it would also allow urgently needed food and medicine to the people of Gaza, and that’s one of the reasons we think it’s so important.
As you all know, two weeks ago – about two weeks ago, the Egyptians put forward a cease-fire proposal that was accepted – that was supported by the United States and endorsed, certainly, by Secretary Kerry and accepted by Israel and rejected by Hamas. At that point, the war began to escalate – shortly after, I should say, the war began to escalate dramatically. And there were no serious conversations going on about how to further initiate a cease-fire. Demonstrations were increasing in the West Bank and the situation was spinning out of control. And casualties, as we all know because we all saw press reports on both sides, were increasing and there were no serious negotiations in place.
So in our view as we watched, as violence escalated, there did not appear to be a clear path to a ceasefire or an end to the violence. President Obama, as you all know, asked Secretary Kerry last weekend to travel to the region, which he did late last Sunday night, first to Egypt to build on the Egyptian ceasefire. Every step of the way through this process we’ve been consulting with and coordinating with our allies, including Israeli and Egyptian partners. And over the past week, and I know many of you have been tracking this closely, but Secretary Kerry has remained engaged with many of the key actors in the region, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, President Sisi, and, of course, Ban Ki-moon, in efforts to negotiate a humanitarian ceasefire.
So, as a part of this effort, it was essential to engage, as it has – as has been done in the past, including in 2012, with countries that have the most influential relationship with Hamas. This is what happened, of course, in 2012 and with the Egyptians, and this time the primary interlocutors are the Qataris and the Turks. And so as a part of that effort, the Secretary has been very closely engaged with Foreign Minister Davutoglu and Foreign Minister Attiyah, parties that we feel have the most leverage with Hamas.
So this gets us to late last week. The Secretary was obviously in the region for several days and there were several meetings with all of the interlocutors, including with the Israelis. And as you know, the Secretary traveled there. And let me be clear, during that meeting there were a range of press reports out there. So part of my effort here is to provide accurate information about what happened last week. There was never a formal U.S. proposal presented. As part of our ongoing consultations we sent them a clearly labeled confidential draft of ideas, sent an order to get Israeli comments, as part of an effort closely coordinated with the Israelis to explore a possible basis for a cease-fire.
This draft was – of ideas was based on the Egyptian proposal that they had supported from just a couple of weeks before that. So it was based on – and I shouldn’t say – not just supported, but the Israeli cabinet formally accepted. So we were surprised and were obviously disappointed that a confidential draft was leaked to the press. Our discussion draft and the Egyptian proposal both called for the immediate cessation of hostilities, the opening of broad – of border crossings, and mediation by the Egyptians on other core issues.
It’s also important to note that the Egyptian proposal accepted by the Israeli cabinet did not make any mention of demilitarization or of tunnels or of rockets. That was not in the proposal from two weeks ago that the Israeli cabinet approved and Hamas rejected. It also made no mention of the need for disarmament, and it underscored the need for discussions between Israel and the Palestinians. In effect, this proposal called for Hamas to cease hostilities that – to cease hostilities, and this was a proposal that Israel had accepted 10 days earlier. The main difference was there was additional language on humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians, something that the Israelis have historically supported. It did not include any of the demands that Hamas was making when Secretary Kerry arrived, including the release of prisoners.
Moreover, the document also reflected the need for negotiations to address the issues necessary for an enduring solution to the conflict, meaning there’s a great deal of history here, there’s a great deal of mistrust here. There – the document didn’t address every issue that each side is being presented – has presented or has spoken out about that’s of concern to them. We all know that the Israelis’ position on the importance about demilitarization – we all know their position. That’s a goal, of course, we support. We know the Palestinians care about opening up the crossings and restoring normal life for the people of Gaza. These are exactly the kind of issues that need to be addressed as a part of negotiation.
So that leads us to where we are now. The Secretary has, of course, been very closely engaged, continues to be. He has been over the course of the weekend. He has been this morning as well. Our focus now is on short-term cease-fires that can build on each other. The longer there’s a reduction in violence, the more likely it is that the parties will be able – will come to the table and talk, and that is our focus at this point. The Egyptians remain prepared to host a negotiation in Cairo. We would support that, and of course the United States would participate at a high level.
So over the course of the last week, clearly we’ve seen violence. We’ve – there’s ongoing violence. That’s of concern. That’s why we’re so focused on bringing an end to this. But we’ve also seen engagement and discussion about short-term cease-fires; we’ve seen negotiations with the parties that wasn’t happening. We’ve also seen an increase in international support where, of course – as is evidenced by the Security Council statement. Obviously we’re going to continue working on this, and the Secretary, of course, will remain very closely engaged.
That was long, I realize, but —
QUESTION: Yeah, it was long.
MS. PSAKI: — it’s been a lot that’s been happening.
Go ahead, Matt.
QUESTION: I was going to congratulate you. I think you might have set a record for the length of the opening monologue.
MS. PSAKI: It’s a complicated issue and we think that —
QUESTION: Yeah, can I ask —
MS. PSAKI: — laying out the facts is important. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Can I ask what compelled you to take up, I don’t know, seven to 10 minutes of your opening here to, I mean —
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, that there has been a lot of confusion out there in reports about what has been happening, what the focus of our efforts is, and what our goal is, and we felt it was important to lay that out.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, you use the word “confusion.” The White House just a little while ago, the Deputy National Security Advisor Mr. Blinken was up there and said that he – it was his opinion, and I presume this is the opinion of the Administration, that some of these leaks were either misinformed leaks or they were attempts to misinform. How unhelpful – or how angry are you? How unhelpful do you believe the Israelis, or at least some Israelis have been in this issue? And how angry are you at what you claim to be a serious misrepresentation of what the Secretary was trying to do?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think let me just reiterate first that the Secretary’s goal is to bring an end from the – to the rocket fire and the rocket attacks coming from Hamas and impacting the people of Israel, and I think that’s important for everybody to remember. This is, I think we’ve certainly noted, the difference between what is discussed privately and what is noted in public accounts from anonymous sources. And no one is calling to complain about the Secretary’s handling of the situation or his engagement in this effort overseas. And our view is it’s simply not the way that partners and allies treat each other.
So it was important, in our view, to lay out on the record what the facts are about what has happened here, and we’re certainly hopeful that we can all focus moving forward on how we achieve a ceasefire and not on other misinformation campaigns.
QUESTION: When you say – so you accuse – you’re accusing at least some in the Israeli Government of waging a misinformation campaign? Is that —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any information on the sources, Matt.
MS. PSAKI: But obviously there’s a great deal of information out there that’s inaccurate.
QUESTION: When you say that this is not the way friends and allies should treat each other, you’re referring to Israeli treatment of Secretary Kerry and of his – of the Administration’s attempt to get a ceasefire together?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there are obviously some anonymous sources that are out there that are speaking on behalf of the views of the Israeli Government. Whether or not that is an accurate depiction of their position is not for me to make a judgment of, but —
QUESTION: So how serious is this, in terms of jeopardizing the relationship?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think – I think Israel remains an incredibly important partner. The Secretary has been closely engaged in this over the course of the weekend. His – this is not about him, and his view is this is not about him. But I think we all feel that we need to focus on laying out the facts and not undergoing an effort to distort what our effort is focused on here.
QUESTION: The Israeli – the main Israeli – well, there has been a huge chorus of very, very harsh criticism of the Secretary in the Israeli media and in social media as well, claiming – some of it claiming that the Secretary has – is now pro-Hamas and that the only reason that he went into this was to save Hamas. Can you address – the argument goes Hamas was losing militarily, and he comes in and demands an immediate ceasefire, calls for an immediate ceasefire, and then the argument goes that the only reason he’s doing this, the sole reason that he’s doing this, is to save Hamas so that it can live to fight another day, I guess.
MS. PSAKI: Well, thank you for that opportunity, Matt. I’ll say that the Secretary’s reason for engaging in this, as he is, is to end the rocket attacks from Hamas that are going into – that have threatened Israel. That’s his focus. I think anyone would be hard pressed to find a stronger partner and ally with Israel than Secretary Kerry, not just over the course of the last year in his efforts with the peace process, but the entire time he was in the United States Senate.
But one of the reasons I laid that out in great detail, as I did, is because there’s a lot of information that is inaccurate about what our efforts were about, what they were focused on. The reason that he engaged with the Qataris and the Turks, who are, of course, countries that we regularly engage with about a range of issues, was because they – but on this particular issue is because they have an influential role to play in engaging with Hamas. You can’t have a ceasefire where Israel agrees to a ceasefire and the other side isn’t agreeing to a ceasefire. That doesn’t help make Israel safer, and that’s our primary objective.
QUESTION: Okay. It sounds as though you think the Administration believes that someone in Israel or multiple people in Israel were actually trying to sabotage – maybe I’m wrong, tell me if that’s – were actually trying to sabotage a cease-fire. Is that an accurate reading of your —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to ascribe motivations, but certainly I think those who want to support a cease-fire should focus on efforts to put it in place and not on efforts to criticize or attack one of the very people who’s playing a prominent role in getting it done.
QUESTION: All right. I’ll wrap up and let other people —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: I have one more question and that is: Why are these critics wrong? Why is it not – why should it not be a part of a cease-fire that Hamas demilitarize and disarm? I mean, it would seem to make perfect sense if that’s the ultimate goal, or not even the ultimate goal. Should – why shouldn’t it be the short-term goal as well?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think demilitarization is something the United States certainly supports. But in the meantime, people are dying every day, whether it’s children in Gaza or Israeli soldiers. And what we want to see is an immediate end to the violence so we can have a discussion about these core issues. That is certainly one of them the Israelis have presented as an important issue to address, and we support that. But in the meantime, that can’t be a precursor for a cease-fire, and a humanitarian cease-fire that very importantly would allow essential medical and food – medical assistance and food to get in to the people of Gaza.
QUESTION: Sorry, indulge me one more time.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu just gave a speech, which you’re probably aware of, and he said that they won’t stop until they take care of all the tunnels. Is that problematic for you?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the tunnels are an issue that we recognize as a legitimate threat to Israel, and I think all of you are familiar with this issue. But the way we see it, it would be very challenging, as the Israelis experience every day, to wake up and worry about the threat of terrorists coming in through tunnels into your country. They have been working on address it – on addressing the tunnels. We think that they can be addressed in a way that doesn’t escalate combat. So that’s a part of the discussion that’s being had.
QUESTION: Can I just go back to – you mentioned that nobody was ringing to complain about the Secretary’s presence and his efforts. Do you mean nobody on the official side was – no Israeli or Egyptian or Palestinians were complaining, on the Palestinian Authority side?
MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But how do you explain the torrent of criticism in the Israeli media that Matt already referred to? The Secretary was described to – as a bull in a China shop, that he believes he could just go in and by his mere presence trying to effect a cease-fire. How do you – what do you say to all those critics who just say that he just isn’t the person to be able to negotiate this cease-fire deal?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s hard for me to ascribe the motivations, but I think it’s important to note that prior to the Secretary’s visit to the region, there were no discussions going on about a cease-fire. There was not a focus in the international community of what was happening on the ground. Of course there’s more work to do. There is – we need to end the violence. We’re not going to be satisfied until that happens. But it does raise the question, not all, but are there some who oppose a cease-fire or don’t want to see a cease-fire happen?
QUESTION: So do you believe – is there any sense, perhaps, that the Secretary, through his failed efforts earlier this year to get a comprehensive Middle East peace treaty, may have in some way hampered or compromised his ability to negotiate in this situation? If a few months ago, both the Israelis and Palestinians felt that they could say no to the Secretary on something which was much broader, does that not give them a renewed focus or ability to say no this time around or something?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not. I don’t think – we don’t think that those two issues have anything to do with each other. I think the fact that the peace process is not currently ongoing has left a vacuum for violence to fill it, but there are also a range of events, as we all know, including the death of the three teenagers, that has increased the tensions in the region. The factor that our – that we feel is different from, say, 2012, are – there’s a couple of factors. And that’s really, I think, what’s making it more challenging.
One is clearly there’s a different relationship between the Egyptian Government and Hamas. Obviously, they have the lead on this. It’s an Egyptian proposal, but the prior government essentially negotiated the ceasefire, and at this point we’re working, of course, through the Qataris and the Turks and in cooperation with the Egyptians. But that’s a different scenario.
There are also different politics on the ground. There’s increased regional tensions. And Israel – their effort has gone farther earlier than it did a couple of years ago. And the Secretary himself, as we were discussing this with him over the weekend, he was engaged, as you may know, in the 2012 effort. And his view is that the process and the dynamic is completely different. And obviously we’re dealing – the different challenging set of circumstances is certainly a contributing factor to our process.
QUESTION: And we talked a little bit about what Israel would like to see out of a ceasefire, including what Israel’s aim is, including getting rid of the tunnels. But on the other hand, is there an acceptance on the American side that Hamas isn’t just going to agree to a ceasefire for a ceasefire’s sake, because they did that in 2012 and there was supposed to be an opening up of Gaza, there was supposed to be a lifting of the blockade, there was supposed to be an opening up of the Rafah Crossing, and that hasn’t happened.
And so this time, I think there’s a sense that they’re holding out for something more. They actually want guarantees that these things will happen. Is there some sympathy in the American – on the American side with that position?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s certainly an understanding that the Palestinians want to see greater access, improved economic opportunity; that’s, of course, a reference to the crossings. And certainly, the border crossings would be a part of any discussion. There are other demands that they have put out there. I think our view is that the need for humanitarian – a humanitarian ceasefire is based in part on the fact that there is a dire situation on the ground where there is a need to get in medical assistance, food, that sort of assistance. And in order to have this discussion about those difficult issues, we need to see a de-escalation.
QUESTION: So the bottom line is a ceasefire first, then further negotiations? Is that what you see?
MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Jen, just to follow up on this point. I mean, it’s not only the crossing. You’re aware that there is a siege, basically, that has Gaza cut off from the rest of the world, and it’s in the air, in the sea, fishermen are not allowed to fish and so on. So you do support lifting the siege, at least on the humanitarian basis, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think there are larger issues here that will need to be discussed as a part of a longer-term negotiation. That’s going to be – the Egyptians would have in all likelihood the lead on that. So our – my point is that we’re talking about a ceasefire where those issues are not addressed in advance, because that will delay it further. And what we want to do is de-escalate the tension, put it – bring a pause, so that we can have a discussion about those issues.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, I know you are focused on bringing a pause – as you said, maybe a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire. But in light or in view of the speech that was just made by Prime Minister Netanyahu and seeing how this whole thing morphed from going after the perpetrators of the kidnapping, and going after the rockets, now going after the tunnel, this thing is really expanding. Are you concerned that there may be a reoccupation of Gaza?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think we’re concerned about the increasing level of violence we’ve seen over the last several weeks. That’s why we’re focused on stopping it. There are a range of issues at play here that are part of the discussion, but again, I think I reiterated what our focus and – is on.
QUESTION: Just very quickly, a follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Are you aware of any efforts that are ongoing now by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to bring along Hamas members and maybe Islamic Jihad members and go to Cairo to talk to the Egyptians perhaps to refrain their proposal? Are you aware of that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, President Abbas has been very engaged in this process. We know there have been some comments out today about his view, which we’ve been in touch with people close to him and are not accurate, and we expect there’ll be a clarification of those. But we – they have stated, and in fact, one of his top advisors stated yesterday during a Sunday show appearance that they would be willing to engage in a negotiation in Egypt. So I’d point you to that.
QUESTION: Right. And this effort, or at least the effort with the Qataris and Turks and so on, with this now over, is it – do we have something other than that? Do we have a follow-up on that, the meeting in Paris and so on? Do we have anything new?
MS. PSAKI: The effort is ongoing, Said —
MS. PSAKI: — and the Secretary’s been engaged with all of these parties consistently throughout the weekend, and I expect that will continue through the course of the next several days. And Foreign Minister Davutoglu, Foreign Minister al-Attiyah remain two of the key interlocutors who have influence with Hamas.
QUESTION: Considering how you have spoken to the Egyptians, the Israelis, the Palestinian Authority and (inaudible) and so on, has anyone from the negotiating team been to Gaza to see what is it like on the ground?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen – it doesn’t take a visit to see the photos and the video and the horrible circumstances that people are living in on the ground.
QUESTION: Yeah. I wanted to ask you – you mentioned twice, I think, why the U.S. is engaging with Qatar and Turkey. And I’m just wondering if this is in response to criticism in the media or from the Israeli Government.
And on a related note, you talked about Egypt being the lead. You also talked about the relationship between Hamas and Egypt changing. I’m wondering if there’s any consideration in the Administration about whether Egypt should be the lead given the hostility towards Hamas that you see in Egyptian state media, and the distrust that Hamas has for Egypt. Are they the right people to play that role?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, again, there’s a range of interlocutors from the international community that are now engaged in this effort, including the UN, including the United States, including European countries. The Egyptians have played a role. They proposed the first of this year ceasefire proposal. They are open to hosting negotiations in Cairo, and we feel that’s absolutely the appropriate lead.
On your first question, the reason I mentioned that – and it goes back to what I said about the difference between public comments – or I should say anonymous public comments – and what’s discussed privately. I think in a negotiation, there’s certainly an understanding that you have to engage with both parties. Otherwise, you’re having a negotiation with yourself. So there’s an understanding of that, and our role in working with the Qataris and the Turks on this – though I should note, again, we work with them on a range of issues, of course – is to – is because of their – the influential role they can play with Hamas. So I would say it’s more about the public accounts than it is private conversations.
QUESTION: Would you – I mean, can you understand Israeli concern with you dealing so closely, particularly with the Turks, after the really inflammatory comments that have been made by not only Prime Minister Erdogan, but by Foreign Minister Davutoglu as well?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me say that those comments were inflammatory and certainly not just unhelpful, but offensive. And we don’t agree – we don’t even talk to Hamas, as you all know, and certainly we don’t agree with those comments that were made by the Turks. But at the same time, when we’re talking about a dire situation on the ground and one where people are dying, people are living under threat every day, it’s important to engage with parties who can have an influence with Hamas.
QUESTION: Right, but you can understand Israel’s concern with that, can you not?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly understand their concern with the comments, of course.
QUESTION: Right. But I mean, for any – when the leaders of a country make comments like that, can they really be expected to be – can you really expect the Israelis to be on board with anything that they’re going to do as it relates to this specific issue?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there has to be a – I think the question is: What’s the alternative? There has to be a way to engage with Hamas. The United States doesn’t, Israel doesn’t. This is the best path at this point to engage.
QUESTION: So if it was not very much of a difference, as you say, between the Egyptian – the initial Egyptian proposal and this Friday proposal, why weren’t the Egyptians in Paris?
MS. PSAKI: Because the purpose of our trip to Paris was not to negotiate. The parties weren’t even in Paris, as you know.
QUESTION: I know.
MS. PSAKI: The Israelis weren’t there either. The purpose was to brief the international community on what was happening.
QUESTION: Right. But if you – but the fact of the matter is that by getting up there in Paris with the Turks and the Qataris – and the Europeans, but the Turks and the Qataris – and not the Egyptians being – not having them there as well, can you see how people might take that as a turning away from the Egyptian proposal and a wholehearted embrace of Qatar and Turkey, with whom Israel has huge problems?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just reiterate what the purpose was, because the Secretary did a press conference with the Egyptians the night before we went to Paris.
QUESTION: I understand that.
MS. PSAKI: They fully knew we were going there to meet – that he was going there to meet with the Europeans. It was important to hear from the Qataris and the Turks for the Europeans too, because they had been engaged with Hamas. We had not been. So the purpose was to brief them and continue to build support in the international community.
QUESTION: Okay. That would suggest that – well, let me ask first: Are you saying in your – all your comments here that the leak of – this document that was leaked, this confidential document that you said was leaked, that that is accurate? That that is the document that was given to the Israelis to peruse and decide whether they liked it or not?
MS. PSAKI: As much as this piece of paper is a document, yes.
QUESTION: Right, this piece of paper. And I’m recognizing you’re saying it’s not a formal proposal, whatever. It was the ideas that they were going to discuss. But those are accurate, right?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Did the Egyptians sign off on those?
MS. PSAKI: The Egyptians were fully engaged in every aspect of our discussions.
QUESTION: Does that mean that they signed off on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: Because I think the argument that – the argument that’s being made by some Israel is that this deviated substantially from their – from the Egyptian initial proposal, which you say that’s just wrong. But I’m wondering if you can say with certainty that the Egyptians on that Friday signed off on this one-page or whatever – however many pages it was – list of ideas.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I understand what you’re asking, but I still think contextually it’s important to note this was not a document getting sign-off from. This was based on the Egyptian proposal —
QUESTION: Well, the Israelis certainly thought that it was.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m conveying that —
QUESTION: They voted on it.
MS. PSAKI: I’m conveying that a confidential draft of ideas, perhaps, was not something that was ready for a vote by the Israeli cabinet.
QUESTION: So they acted prematurely in rejecting it?
MS. PSAKI: I think I’ll let you make your own judgment, Matt.
QUESTION: But still, I want to get to the – back to the answer: Did the Egyptians sign off on the confidential draft of ideas?
MS. PSAKI: Well, they were engaged, and no one was asking for anyone’s sign-off at that stage in time. But I would ask all of you to take a look at the – both proposals and note what the differences are, which they’re very minimal.
QUESTION: What – are you willing to offer them up?
MS. PSAKI: I think they’re appearing publicly. I also —
QUESTION: So that means you are confirming that what has been out there is – what is out there is accurate?
MS. PSAKI: It’s accurate in the sense that three days ago, it was an informal draft of ideas that was given on a confidential basis and we asked for responses on. It’s not currently something that is relevant to the discussion.
QUESTION: It’s not? I thought —
QUESTION: Really? I thought they voted —
QUESTION: I thought it was.
MS. PSAKI: Hmm?
QUESTION: I thought it was. No?
MS. PSAKI: Currently not. Where our focus is —
QUESTION: It’s dead?
MS. PSAKI: Our focus right now is on the short-term humanitarian ceasefire.
QUESTION: Right. That’s what I thought this was.
MS. PSAKI: Well, this was a longer document or a longer description.
QUESTION: Well, what are the – the problem that the Israelis have with it is that it doesn’t – apparently that they have with it is that it didn’t address demilitarization and disarmament. But that’s a – and what you’re saying is that that’s a longer-term – I don’t understand why you’ve – you’re so angry with the Israelis that you pulled this whole – this paper off the table?
MS. PSAKI: No, that’s not at all the case, Matt.
QUESTION: All right. I don’t get it.
MS. PSAKI: I think things have moved forward since then over the course of the last several days. So I’m just saying it’s an old discussion, but it’s still out there with a bunch of information that isn’t accurate, which is why we decided to —
QUESTION: Well, things have certainly moved as – I don’t know if they’ve moved forward or backward. But why isn’t that still – that is no longer the basis of what you’re trying to do? Those ideas?
MS. PSAKI: Our basis is what I just outlined, which is —
QUESTION: But what’s going to come next? How’s the next proposal going to differ from this one?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the – what we’re discussing with both sides at this point is a humanitarian cease-fire, where the longer-term issues would be addressed at the later – at a later basis, simple as that.
QUESTION: But I thought that’s what that was?
MS. PSAKI: It is that. (Laughter.) But what I’m saying is that that draft of ideas is not a paper that’s being litigated and going back and forth with edits at this point in time. It hasn’t been for days.
QUESTION: Seeing how this would incrementally work, so you have like a 24-hour proposal followed by seven-day cease-fire, and then during that time things begin to happen or negotiations begin to happen with the involvement of, let’s say, Qatar, Egypt, and so on. Is that what it is?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think we’d certainly support a longer-term ceasefire, if we could achieve a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire. What we’re doing right now is we’re taking it day by day, and we’re hopeful that with each ceasefire we can build on the last. Because if there’s a pause, we feel that’s going to be the best opportunity for negotiations.
QUESTION: And just to follow up on Jo’s question as of a little while ago, when she said that the 2012 agreement calls for opening the crossing, lifting the siege, doing all these things, which none of it has happened – now strategically, if there is an agreement strategically, would the United States be willing to sort of guarantee that these steps, whatever steps are taken, to lift the border crossing, to open them, and so on? Would it guarantee such a thing?
MS. PSAKI: I think I’m not going to get into guarantees from here, Said. Obviously, there’s ongoing —
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish.
MS. PSAKI: There’s ongoing discussions. We are certainly aware of the issues that are important and have been discussed publicly by both sides, and they would certainly be a part of a negotiation.
QUESTION: Yes, please.
QUESTION: Now just to get us right, you’re just suggesting a 24-hour ceasefire, followed by another 24-hour cease-fire, followed by another 24-hour ceasefire —
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’d certainly support longer than 24 hours. But what our goal is is to have agreement on short – even if they’re short-term ceasefires by the parties so that – and – that we can build on, so that we can have a pause in the violence and have an opportunity to negotiate.
QUESTION: But that doesn’t actually address any of these issues that we’ve talked about here, on either the Israeli or the Hamas side.
MS. PSAKI: It does address allowing food and medical equipment in. It does address bringing a temporary end to the violence and threat of rocket attacks. That’s, right now, an important first step. And there’s no question the larger longer-term issues need to be negotiated and addressed.
QUESTION: But I think the Israeli concern about these – the short-term ceasefires is it simply gives Hamas time and space to regroup and refocus its rockets. It doesn’t actually achieve, other than – I understand that humanitarian – the humanitarian argument, but I wonder whether either party is actually very interested in a humanitarian ceasefire for the time being.
MS. PSAKI: Well, that has been the basis of our discussion. We’ve seen some agreement over the weekend on short-term humanitarian ceasefires. Certainly we would support a much longer-term ceasefire, and we would – we have advocated for that and you’ve seen the UN advocate for that and in the readout of the President’s call advocating for that. What we’re talking about is a step that we think could be an important next step or important steps in the process, and that’s why our focus is on that at this point in time.
QUESTION: And I just wondered if you had any issue or comment on Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif’s round of telephone calls he’s been making in the region yesterday to various different parties, including – and not just the region, but also with the EU and the UN, to try and also on their part effect some kind of truce. Does that concern you at all that the Iranians are getting involved, or do you welcome it? What would be your response?
MS. PSAKI: I haven’t spent a lot of time reading about his comments or his calls. I think our focus is on calling for a ceasefire, bringing an end to the violence on the ground. Efforts to put that in place I think we’d be comfortable with.
QUESTION: But in the same way that any country that has influence is – has been asked to use its influence, would you not ask Iran as well on the same – in the same vein to do so with Hamas?
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly publicly. That hasn’t been our focus at this time because we’ve been working with other countries, as you know, who we are engaging with in issues aside from the nuclear issue to play a role in influencing Hamas.
QUESTION: I have one more, broadly.
QUESTION: I have one.
QUESTION: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. Two questions related to this unusual level of vitriol about the Secretary. One is, do you guys have a theory or a sense as to why? Is this an attempt, an Israeli attempt to deflect blame? And I know you’re going to – I think I know what your answer is going to be, but secondly, has there been any outreach to the Secretary from Israeli officials to apologize or explain?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say I’m, of course, naturally not going to ascribe the motivation or the reason for the different leaks or anonymous comments that we’ve seen out there. But I do think that laying out the details of what has happened and the level of specificity that I did – and I appreciate all of your patience – helps convey what the facts are. And that’s why I did it.
On the second question, what’s important to note here is that the Secretary has been engaged, as has Ambassador Shapiro, as has Frank Lowenstein, with Israeli officials and others in the region basically nonstop – many calls a day with them. The focus of the discussions are about next steps and what to do next. It’s not about any – there haven’t been complaints about his handling or his engagement or involvement, so it’s almost a separate track than what we’re seeing in the public comments.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) acknowledgement?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that has not been the focus of the discussions in any way, shape, or form.
QUESTION: Just following on from that, more broadly in terms of the U.S.-Israel relationship under the Obama Administration – more specifically the second term. This is not the first time that we have seen vitriol and very harsh criticism of the Secretary – directed at the Secretary from Israel and its supporters in the United States and elsewhere. And I’m – without ascribing a motive to what might be behind that, does the Secretary himself feel that he is still in a position to be able to deal with the Israeli Government and to be someone who can be effective in both this current Gaza situation, but also in the longer term in terms of peace talks and a peace process with the Palestinians?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. And we certainly understand, as we’ve seen in past occasions, that when there is a difficult political situation or security situation, tensions can rise and we’ve seen that in the past. But Secretary Kerry considers Prime Minister Netanyahu a friend. He has been, as I said earlier, I would be hard pressed – I think anyone would be hard pressed to find a stronger supporter for Israel than Secretary Kerry, and his engagement in the region and his efforts in this regard has been in close coordination and cooperation with the Israelis. So I would say that he will remain engaged; they have welcomed his engagement in this effort, and that will continue – he will continue his effort.
QUESTION: One, you just – they welcomed his engagement in this effort? My understanding was the Israelis fought tooth and nail, didn’t want him anywhere near this.
MS. PSAKI: Well, over the last – I think the fact that he has been engaged in perhaps a half a dozen calls or more every day with them shows you that they’re open to his engagement.
QUESTION: And second, you say that the Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu are friends and will remain friends. Who else is Secretary Kerry friends with in the Israeli Government?
MS. PSAKI: In the world?
QUESTION: Defense minister? No, in the Israeli Government. Other Israeli officials. Defense Minister Ya’alon?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I need to list a —
QUESTION: Foreign Minister Lieberman?
MS. PSAKI: — do a listing of his friends. It’s fair to say —
QUESTION: Minister Steinitz?
MS. PSAKI: — he has a range of friends in Israel, including in the government.
QUESTION: Uri Ariel? (Laughter.) Can you name one other person in – maybe one minister in —
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into a naming. I was —
QUESTION: But you already did. You named – you’ve named Prime Minister Netanyahu. So how many of his cabinet members do you think the Secretary could consider friends of his?
MS. PSAKI: I think when the Secretary has an issue he will raise that privately. But he has a range of friends in the government and in Israel, and certainly has been a strong supporter and continues to be.
QUESTION: Would you like to see those friends stand up for him now?
MS. PSAKI: I think, Matt, our focus here is on the ceasefire effort —
MS. PSAKI: — but it was important to lay out the facts on the ground.
Israel or a new issue?
MS. PSAKI: Israel? Go ahead.
QUESTION: The same issue. I mean, you mentioned humanitarian aid, and then you mentioned short-term ceasefire. I mean – sorry – humanitarian ceasefire and short-term ceasefire, and then long-term cease-fire which was the aim. I mean, the seven-day proposal was – is that the short-term or the long-term or the —
MS. PSAKI: Well, the seven day was the initial proposal.
QUESTION: What’s the long term for you?
MS. PSAKI: Certainly, we’d support that or a continuation of that. I think we would like to see a permanent ceasefire, if that was possible, certainly. But right now we’re focused on short-term proposals that can build on each other. Let me just note in addition to having access to humanitarian assistance into Gaza, we also announced last week additional funding – $47 million for humanitarian assistance. That’s something that we’re continuing to work on with the international community as well.
QUESTION: So can you say now you are working on humanitarian ceasefire now?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: And it’s – the same talks are taking place with the counterparts at the sides?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. The other question related to draft of ideas that you mentioned, is still that draft of ideas on the table or it’s off the table?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not – the focus of the discussion at this point is on immediate short-term ceasefires that we – that can build on each other. This is a – sort of a discussion from several days ago, but it was worth – we felt it was worth clarifying.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) now; can we say that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of issues that are raised in there that will certainly be a part of a discussion, so in – security issues, including greater access to – increased access and economic opportunity for the Palestinians. So there are issues that have been the everlasting issues in this case that will be discussed and negotiated over the course of time. But in terms of a document that is being negotiated back and forth, no, there’s not line edits going back and forth between the parties.
QUESTION: So the other – which is like a follow-up to Matt’s question, which is like: Are – the Egyptian side was aware of the content and the spirit and the text of this draft of ideas, or were out of the loop?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely aware. We were living in Cairo for five days. The Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Shoukry multiple times a day and we were very closely involved. And again, it was based on the Egyptian proposal, and so they are obviously a key interlocutor and key lead on this effort.
QUESTION: Yes, there is another thing, which is the two issues of demilitarization of Hamas or Gaza, and the same time crossing that was proposed by – to facilitate crossing to Gaza, whether it’s Egyptian or other sides. Is – are – these issues were discussed? You say they’re going to be discussed or this was proposed to be discussed in negotiations. Are these issues, two issues were part of the deal or the talk and the draft of ideas or not?
MS. PSAKI: It was not mentioned in either – and I would encourage you, and anyone can follow me on Twitter. I tweeted the Egyptian proposal from just two weeks ago. It has all of the details in there. You’ve seen the list of – the draft of informal ideas that’s out there as well in the press. I would encourage you to compare the two. No, there was not a specific mention of demilitarization. Of course that’s something we support. There was a mention of security issues, which has been how it’s been described in many of these documents in the past.
QUESTION: So, wait, wait. I wasn’t aware that the Egyptian proposal could fit into 140 characters.
MS. PSAKI: I tweeted a link.
QUESTION: Oh, there you go.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you for your clarification. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Okay. I have – these are going to be very brief.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: They have to do with Israel. They don’t have to do with this.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: One, I asked Marie —
MS. PSAKI: And then I’ll go to Ukraine, which I would bet is the next issue, but —
QUESTION: Yes. One, I asked on Friday about this 15-year-old Palestinian-American kid who’s been held. Do you have any update on him?
MS. PSAKI: I do. Let me just find that in here, Matt. We can confirm that Mohamed Abu Nie, a U.S. citizen, was arrested on July 3rd during protests in the Shuafat neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv is providing consular assistance. A consular official assisted him on July 17th – visited him, I should say – and attended his hearing on July 22nd. The Embassy’s also in contact with his family and his lawyer. Considering his age, we are calling for a speedy resolution to this case. He is now – this 15-year-old has now been held for three weeks in Israeli custody and has seen his parents only once briefly during that night, and so we are certainly gravely concerned about the detention of an American citizen child.
QUESTION: Seen only once by that – the night that he was arrested, is that what you’re saying?
MS. PSAKI: I would have to check on exactly when his parents saw him, Matt.
QUESTION: Okay. Have you – you’ve made this – you made your concerns known to the Israelis on this, yes?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Have you gotten a response from them? Is there any sign that they are going to act speedily to – I mean, he’s been in custody for – since July 2nd. That’s 20 – how many days is that?
QUESTION: Twenty —
QUESTION: July 27th?
QUESTION: Twenty-six days.
QUESTION: Yeah, 26 days.
QUESTION: I mean, is it appropriate for – I mean, well, one, are you aware that this kid did anything wrong?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more details other than to say he – we did not – just in terms of why we just saw him recently, he didn’t immediately inform Israeli authorities that he was a U.S. citizen. So obviously, as soon as we learned that, we contacted Israeli authorities to schedule a consular visit.
QUESTION: Are you – have the Israelis done anything wrong, as far as you know, in terms of this case? Are you – I noticed that you’re not calling for him to be released immediately. You’re calling for a quick, speedy resolution to the case, suggesting that you’re not sure that the Israelis have acted inappropriately.
MS. PSAKI: Well, our role is to ensure he’s being afforded due process under local laws and international standards, and obviously we’re providing all consular access and we’ll continue to be engaged.
QUESTION: Are you able to give us details of charges he’s facing and what conditions he’s being held in? Is he in an adult prison or is he in a juvenile section?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we understand he faces charges of rock-throwing, attacking police, carrying a knife, and leading protests. We —
QUESTION: Leading —
MS. PSAKI: And leading protests, yes. We are concerned about allegations that he’s been mistreated while in custody. We obviously take all such allegations seriously, raise them with authorities as appropriate.
QUESTION: Well —
QUESTION: But do you know whether he’s being – sorry, Matt. Do you know whether he’s being held in adult jail or a juvenile section?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail. We can certainly check for you, Jo.
QUESTION: So when I asked if you would – were worried that – if you were – there were concerns that the Israelis had acted in appropriately, that sounds like there is concern, because you say that —
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re concerned about allegations that he’s been mistreated.
QUESTION: What are the allegations?
MS. PSAKI: Hmm?
QUESTION: What are those allegations?
MS. PSAKI: That he’s been mistreated. I think there’s allegations out there that he’s been beaten, but we don’t have – I don’t have any more details other than the allegations that have been out there.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: One more on this? Sorry. Just a brief one, sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re certainly aware of press reports regarding pending arms sales from North Korea to Hamas. We have long highlighted the global security and proliferation threat posed by North Korea, and we continue to work to stop North Korea’s proliferation activities with partners in the Security Council and throughout the international community. But I’m not going to have any other comment on the specific allegations.
QUESTION: So does that mean you have no independent confirmation of this or just —
MS. PSAKI: It means I have no other comment on it.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we wouldn’t have put them out publicly if we didn’t feel confident about the accuracy. Obviously, we declassify information as we can to make it available to all of you and to the American public and the international community, and that was the case here.
QUESTION: Well, do we know which satellites these images came from? Who’s – who owned them, for instance?
MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to be able to get into any greater level of detail.
QUESTION: All right. Let’s talk about the timing of them being released. Why did we choose over the weekend, first of all?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think everybody works on the weekend. I think all of us do, and we felt it was important to put this information out publicly. It shows engagement by the separatists and with support from – with – of Russian artillery in this effort. As you know, we’ve been concerned about that engagement and that escalation, and this provides a further example of that.
QUESTION: And the means that they were released – as I understand it, the first time that we saw them was released on the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine’s Twitter account. Is that accurate?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we sent them out publicly for everyone to see from the State Department, so I think I – we sent them pretty broadly.
QUESTION: So what is it that the State Department is hoping to achieve from these? What kind of response, first of all, does the State Department have given the evidence that these satellite images are showing?
MS. PSAKI: Response to what specifically? Response to the satellite images, response to escalation?
MS. PSAKI: As you know, we’ve been long concerned about the fact that the Russians have been supplying, supporting, arming the separatists. We – as we have information that shows and backs up those concerns, we make that information available. We have put in place, as you know, a range of sanctions, including an additional set of sanctions last week. We fully expect the Europeans will do additional sanctions soon. And this shows the world what those concerns are and why it’s important to focus on the engagement of Russia in Ukraine.
QUESTION: So Secretary Kerry spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov over the weekend. To what detail was this – were these satellite images discussed, and how will these satellite images affect U.S.-Russia relations moving forward?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not about the satellite images. The satellite images provide evidence of what we’ve been saying publicly for some time now. They didn’t discuss the satellite images. They did discuss Secretary Kerry’s concern about the Russians’ continuing assistance and support for the separatists. And the Secretary certainly made clear he doesn’t buy the claim that they are not involved and they’re not engaged in this effort. So that was a part of the discussion. They also discussed the Secretary’s trip over the past week and the situation on the ground in Gaza.
QUESTION: Jen, what exactly in those images was declassified?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look at the specific images, Matt. There was some information that we have from our own sources that we put out publicly for the first time.
QUESTION: But the satellites – they were Digital Globe, right? This is not U.S. spy satellites taking – they were credited to Digital Globe, which is a commercial satellite company. So those pictures in themselves weren’t subject to classification, were they?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look back and see what information was newly available from those satellite photos.
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, you all have the packet of them.
QUESTION: Right. No, I’m just wondering what in there was declassified? What prior to Sunday – what information in that – in those four pages was classified prior to Sunday when they were released?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one —
QUESTION: The analysis?
MS. PSAKI: — there weren’t images released previously that I’m aware of that showed that Russian forces had fired across the border at Ukrainian military forces, and that Russian – there was some, of course, that Russian-back separatists have used heavy artillery. But this was, again, further evidence and further information that we made available to – in order to show what we have concerns about. That’s why we put it out publicly.
QUESTION: Right, okay. And – so that, and I – I think everyone appreciates the fact that you’re going to efforts to put out the – to put out evidence that you say backs up the claim. But does, in fact – do, in fact, those images show Russian artillery being fired into Ukraine from inside Russia? Does it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the images showed —
QUESTION: I mean, clearly you’re not going to have video, real-time video or whatever – or maybe you do, I don’t know – but that doesn’t show – it doesn’t show that. It shows pockmarks on the ground, and then it’s got arrows drawn in, which could – so, I mean, maybe you could have an analyst or someone come and explain exactly what this is. But, I mean, to – I’m certainly not an intelligence analyst or expert in reading what these satellite photos mean. But to the casual observer, if you just showed them the pictures without the arrows drawn on them and without the text – I mean, it just looks like there’s a bunch of holes in the ground.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think the images showed things such as ground scarring at a multiple rocket launch site on the Russian side of the border oriented in the direction of Ukrainian military units within Ukraine. It showed self-propelled artillery only found in Russian military units on the Russian side of the border oriented in the direction of the Ukrainian military unit. It showed a range of specifics that I think you can lead – lead you to a conclusion.
QUESTION: Okay. You’ve seen the Russian Defense Ministry came out this morning and said that basically – I mean, I guess not surprisingly, said that these are fake; they don’t show what you purport that they do show. Do you have any response to that?
MS. PSAKI: I think that strains credibility, that claim.
QUESTION: Their claim that it’s fake?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. And so —
QUESTION: Do —
QUESTION: I mean —
MS. PSAKI: They’re photos that show clear evidence of what we just outlined, that back up what we’ve been seeing patterns of for some time. This is not the only evidence we have of Russian engagement and their support for the separatists. There’s a preponderance of evidence out there. This is just the recent images that we made available that back up and support the claims, the public comments, the information we’ve been putting out for several months now.
QUESTION: But as Matt said – I mean, I saw those images on Sunday morning and sent them to the desk saying I have no idea what these show.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m —
QUESTION: Because despite the fact that there are arrows drawn on it, it does just look like a bunch of holes in the ground.
MS. PSAKI: Well, it was meant to provide visuals. I’m sure we can get you both —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) visuals of anything.
MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we can get you both a briefing with the proper officials from DNI if that’s helpful.
QUESTION: That would be great. So do you know – is the process of declassifying still going on?
MS. PSAKI: Absolutely.
QUESTION: So we can expect to see more evidence?
MS. PSAKI: Should we have more to share, we certainly will.
QUESTION: All right. What do you have to say, if anything, about the latest round of fighting today, which has prevented yet again these international police delegation from getting in to secure the crash site?
MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s in everyone’s interest, I should say – not just everyone’s – the United States, the international community’s interests in seeing access to this crash site. And we support the efforts of the Malaysians, the Dutch, the Australians, and others who have offered their support to secure the site. With each day that passes, that is concerning and disappointing to us that the investigators don’t have access to the site. So we certainly call on all sides to facilitate proper security of the site and to immediately ensure access. This is something we’ve been engaged closely with the Ukrainians on as well.
QUESTION: The reports that I’ve – some of the reports that I’ve seen indicate – and these are reports coming – and the Ukrainians say this as well, that the reason that there is this fighting is because they resumed their operation in and around the zone that includes the crash site. So I’m just wondering, given the fact that you think that access to it is important, is it wise for the Ukrainian army to be resuming – or to be conducting because they resumed their operation in and around these operations in a way – in such a way that causes fighting that prevents the very people that you want to get there from getting there?
MS. PSAKI: Well, first the root cause of this is the Russian separatists, not the Ukrainians. The Ukrainians are defending their own country. The Russian separatists didn’t abide by the ceasefire that was in the area around the crash site and continued to fire on the Ukrainian forces. So they can’t stand by while that happens. If they – if all parties, including the Russians, want to see investigators reach the crash site and support a ceasefire, as was stated in the readout that Foreign Minister Lavrov’s team put out yesterday, then they can call on the separatists to step down, and I am certain that the Ukrainians would as well.
QUESTION: So you do not – President Putin the other day said that he was willing to use whatever influence he had with them to stop it. You don’t believe that that’s happened? I’m just – you don’t think that that’s happened, and you’re – and evidence of that is that the separatists are to blame for the fighting today and yesterday that has prevented the police from getting in. Is that your mind?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen over the last few months, Matt, that the Russians are masters of saying one thing and doing another, and this is certainly an example of that.
QUESTION: Masters of saying one thing and doing another. Say grand masters. You don’t want to say that? It would be a great quote. (Laughter.) I want to know, next, the Secretary’s call with Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday was pretty harsh. He basically called him a liar, or the readout did. What does it mean? Did Foreign Minister Lavrov tell him, “Look, we really have nothing to do with this,” and the Secretary said, “Sergey, I don’t believe you”? Is that pretty accurate?
MS. PSAKI: I think the Secretary made clear we have a great deal of evidence showing their engagement and their involvement.
QUESTION: Okay, well, do you expect – given the apparent tone of that call, would you expect there to be more calls?
MS. PSAKI: I would.
QUESTION: In the near future?
MS. PSAKI: I would.
QUESTION: All right. And then last thing from me: Tony Blinken —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: — at the White House said what you just said about the Europeans and enacting sanctions. Can you give – and the U.S. will follow suit. Can you give us any indication of – you’re going to do identically what the Europeans are going to do? What is it you’re planning?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as Tony noted, we expect the Europeans to put in place more sanctions soon. Obviously we have taken additional steps prior to this week that they have not yet. So certainly we’re acting in lockstep, and I don’t have any other predictions for you in terms of the timing or when.
Nicole, and then we’ll go to Scott. Go ahead, Nicole.
QUESTION: So quick housekeeping.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I forgot to ask you about the strike on the Gaza hospital, if you guys have comment. Second, Ebola.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The International Air Transport Association says that if there’s going to be any decision to restrict flights or travel, that you guys will do that, it will come from this agency. I’m just wondering if it’s under consideration. And the third one was whether you could comment on Aruba freeing Hugo Carvajal, the former head of Venezuelan military intelligence.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. I’m going to try not to forget anything you asked here, but you can always re-ask. In terms of —
QUESTION: (Inaudible) to get a word in edgewise with —
MS. PSAKI: Understood.
QUESTION: — himself.
MS. PSAKI: Understood. On Ebola, we continue to closely monitor the outbreak of the virus. We are aware of reports. You all have reported it that two citizens in Liberia have contracted Ebola. We continue to provide a range of support and assistance to those countries and organizations responding to the outbreak, including through the provision of personal protective equipment and other essential supplies. We’re taking every precaution, of course, as would be expected. And the U.S. missions in the areas have distributed messages to U.S. citizens as well, and of course we extend our sympathies to the families of those who have died. And last quick update on this, multiple U.S. Government agencies are also contributing to the outbreak response efforts, including USAID, HHS, the CDC, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, and the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, and we will continue to engage with that. In terms of what we’re considering, I don’t have anything to predict. We’re taking every precaution, of course.
QUESTION: Are you going to be updating any travel warnings to the areas, to the affected countries?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we certainly update those as there’s information that becomes available. That’s necessary for U.S. citizens to be aware of. At this point, we are not – the communications typically come through the CDC and the WHO. The State Department is not the responsible medical authority on communicable diseases. We do provide general medical information for travelers in the country – in the country – in any country, which is, of course, available on our website.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) who are reaching out to – that are reaching out to citizens in the area. How are they doing that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s a range of ways that we make information available in any country, whether that’s through information on the website or mailings that go out. So we’re taking every step we can.
QUESTION: And can I just ask – sorry, Nicole, because I know you had other questions – but is this going to affect in any way the planning for next week’s summit of African leaders in the White House and State Department?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re taking every precaution, but at this point we don’t believe it will.
Oh, do we have one more you didn’t get?
QUESTION: There was Gaza.
QUESTION: There was a question about Carvajal.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure.
QUESTION: And Carvajal.
MS. PSAKI: Yep. We were deeply disappointed at the decision of the Government of the Netherlands to order the release of wanted narcotics trafficker Hugo Carvajal on the basis of claims of immunity that are beyond established international norms. We made a legitimate request for Carvajal’s arrest in conformity with our treaty, which governs extraditions between the United States, the Netherlands, and Aruba. Carvajal is under indictment in the United States and is alleged to have used his former position as head of the Venezuelan military intelligence to assist the activities of narcotics traffickers. He’s been on the Department of Treasury’s kingpin list since 2008. He also used his official position to protect narcotics traffickers.
We are also disturbed by credible reports that have come to us indicating the Venezuelan Government threatened the governments of Aruba, the Netherlands, and others to obtain this result. This is not the way law enforcement matters should be handled, and we will certainly continue our efforts to bring him to justice.
QUESTION: How long —
QUESTION: Can you be a little more specific about what those credible reports of threats are —
QUESTION: The threats.
QUESTION: — what the threats —
MS. PSAKI: I really can’t. I will check and see if there’s more.
QUESTION: Well, when you say reports, are you referring to media reports or reports that you’ve gotten from whoever?
MS. PSAKI: I think there – more than media reports.
QUESTION: More than media reports. But are you aware of any media reports to the effect that the Venezuelans threatened?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, Matt.
QUESTION: And they threatened the Dutch or they threatened the local Aruba authorities?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more details than the governments of Aruba, the Netherlands, and others to obtain this result.
QUESTION: You were set to extradite this man. He was effectively here that same night. What happened in Aruba?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I just outlined what happened, and that’s why we’re so disappointed by these actions that were taken.
QUESTION: Can I go back to (inaudible) in Liberia with Ebola, unless there were more on Venezuela?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, did we have another on this one?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Oh, go ahead.
QUESTION: Is there any indication of Cuban Government involvement in these actions by the Venezuelans to get the Government of the Netherlands to release him?
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of. I can check and see if that’s an area of concern.
QUESTION: Any more on Venezuela?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think so. Ebola?
QUESTION: I just wanted to —
MS. PSAKI: Oh, and Scott. We were supposed to go to Scott next.
QUESTION: It’s okay.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Liberia, this morning, as a result of the increase in deaths from Ebola has closed most of its land borders. I just wondered if what – if you had a comment on that, whether you thought that was a good decision, and whether it was something that the United States is recommending other countries who have been affected in this outbreak to do.
MS. PSAKI: It’s a good question, Jo. I don’t have that level of detail, so let me check with our team and see if that’s something we’re currently recommending. Not that I’m aware of, but I will check and see.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Scott.
QUESTION: From the podium, you pretty consistently objected to the Kurds exporting their own oil through Turkey. It would appear that, however, that that first shipment of oil has now been unloaded in Houston. So —
MS. PSAKI: My understanding of where things stand, Scott, is that it’s – there’s a tanker that’s anchored 60 miles outside of Galveston, Texas and that the cargo remains on board the ship at this time. I will see if there’s been any update to that information, but I spoke with our team about it right before I came down here.
Our policy, which you outlined, certainly hasn’t changed. We believe that Iraq’s energy resources belong to the Iraqi people and certainly have long stated that it needs to go through the central government. And as you know, there’s an ongoing legal dispute in this case, which is – which obviously is something that we’re aware of and we’re closely following.
QUESTION: Local Coast Guard say they asked you guys about it and everything was fine and it’s already being lightened.
MS. PSAKI: That – I would have to check. That was not the information that I had from our team, Scott. Obviously that contradicts it, which is concerning, but let me go back to them and see what the exact situation is on the ground.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, India. And then we’ll go to you, Lucas. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. There’s a sweeping row going on in Delhi about finding this bugging devices in a Union minister Gadkari’s official residence, and they’re demanding – so will this be affecting Secretary Kerry’s – during his trip to India? Will this come up? Have you got any reaction to this?
MS. PSAKI: Other than to say that we’re not going to comment publicly on every alleged intelligence activity, we have an important and strategic relationship with India. That’s why the Secretary will be leaving to visit India tomorrow and why we are bringing quite a delegation with us to the Strategic Dialogue. And so we expect the focus of that discussion will be on everything from our economic relationship to issues that we can continue to work closely on, whether – including energy, and we’ll leave it to readouts of those meetings to determine what else comes up.
QUESTION: And just another one. It’s a kind of a clarification on today’s report that the Secretary presented. You – in the report you say that Uttar Pradesh, the northern Indian state, the clashes in Muzaffarnagar and then just this week again in the vicinity of Muzaffarnagar in Saharanpur, the Sikhs and Muslims have clashed. And now that Modi is the prime minister, he’s not opening his mouth on any of this. So will this religious freedom, this riots be on the agenda? What is your reaction to what’s going on, this massacre?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think obviously the purpose of the annual Religious Freedom Report is to outline areas where we have concern. Beyond that, I know we’ve done an announcement about the trip, and we’ll do a longer preview of it and the focus in the coming 24 hours. But I would expect the focus of the meeting to be more about the future of our relationship moving forward, including our cooperation on economic issues moving forward.
QUESTION: The question that is being asked from the media or the others – in the morning just I got a phone call to get this cleared, that we issue this report every year. What is the follow up? Like is it just goes into the – on the net and on papers and then nothing happens?
MS. PSAKI: No, and quite the contrary. This is more of a compilation of the issues that we are concerned about. I would point you to the remarks of Assistant Secretary Malinowski, who obviously outlined it in great detail and the purpose of the report. But these are issues that we bring up – human rights issues, certainly religious freedom issues – at every occasion where appropriate. And the fact that we do an annual report indicates how much we are focused on these issues and how much we – and our value in highlighting them.
QUESTION: Just a quick follow up.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: When Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat and there were these communal riots, we denied him a visa for nearly nine years. In – now when these – we are saying in the report that there are communal clashes going on and on. Will we see any kind of – such a concrete visa denial, embargo, anything that —
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve spoken to his visa in the past, and I’d point you to those comments. And we’ll look forward to welcoming him later this fall. And as we have concerns about any of those issues, we’ll certainly raise them through proper channels.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s just a difference in – or in technical terms, Lucas. I mean, what it was exactly, which was outlined in our statement, was we moved staff to locations outside of Libya. As you may have seen, we’ve noted publicly that Ambassador Jones is now working out of Malta. We’ll have some staff working in other countries. We have staff who will be in the United States. The plan is, of course, that we want to return, and obviously the safety and security of our staff is one of our first priorities and the lens through which we make decisions.
QUESTION: Who is guarding the embassy right now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, right now, Lucas, we’ve asked our local guard force and bodyguards to protect our facility for the time being. The guards in Tripoli were hired by the embassy directly under a personal services agreement. They’re not third-party contractors. So they’re currently overseeing the guarding of the embassy.
QUESTION: So those are local nationals?
MS. PSAKI: Those – that’s my understanding, yes.
QUESTION: What was the Administration’s plan post-Qadhafi for Libya?
MS. PSAKI: In what capacity?
QUESTION: In 140 characters or less.
MS. PSAKI: Right. (Laughter.) That’s a hard question to answer in 140 characters.
QUESTION: Was your goal a constitutional monarchy, democracy, freedom, prosperity?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think one thing – we know that democratic transitions, Lucas, are never easy and require the long view before assessments can be made. Certainly Libya has been going through a transition over the course of the last several years. Ambassador Satterfield remains prepared and ready to continue his engagement. Again, we have staff continuing to engage. We want to see – we are committed to the future of Libya, and that hasn’t changed despite the temporary removal of staff.
QUESTION: You all have failed in that endeavor, haven’t you?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Lucas, the international community knows, not just the United States, that these transitions take time, and we can’t – we’re going to continue to work at it, and we remain focused on standing by the Libyan people as they face these challenges, and we’ll continue to support them for the duration of this transition.
QUESTION: And what would you say to Americans who may harbor concerns or fears that Libya is shaping up as the next Syria – a lawless safe haven for terrorists and one from which terrorism may spill beyond its borders?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, we would say that we are – we know Libya is facing many challenges. We believe that their challenges are inherently political and must be solved through dialogue. To end the crisis, Libya must immediately rein in militias, cease violence, and engage in productive political dialogue. I’d say that we remain focused on that. We have staff that continue to be engaged in that. But we know that they’re continuing to go through a transition and we believe the international community should and will continue to support them.
QUESTION: I was struck by the criticism of the Administration’s handling of Syria when we were – when we heard not from Republicans, but from Representative Eliot Engel of New York, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, during Deputy Assistant Secretary McGurk’s testimony last week. Congressman Engel said, I quote, “The right time to train and equip the moderate Syrian opposition was well over a year ago, but we waited so long and by now ISIS has gained so much territory and momentum, they are far more difficult to stop.” He added, “I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if we had committed to empowering the moderate Syrian opposition last year.” Your reaction?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of factors. Any member of Congress, Democratic or Republican, is certainly allowed to speak their view and should, and we encourage them to. We have expanded the scale and scope of our assistance since last year. Since – longer than just the last few weeks, certainly. We can’t outline all of that publicly. That hasn’t changed. There are a couple of events that we’re all aware of that have happened over the course of that time that I think are important context, including Iranian engagement, including the influx of foreign fighters that have impacted the situation. We have, even in the last couple of weeks, provided additional – or made the determination to provide additional assistance, so I think the most productive role that any member of Congress can play is to support those efforts and continue to push them through Congress.
QUESTION: Okay. Last one. I’m sure you saw The Washington Post article today that more or less echoed what Congressman Engel said. The article stated that by the time the Administration’s request for $500 million in counterterrorism funds is up and running, quote, “There may be few if any moderate rebels left to aid.” And your reaction to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it goes to what I just stated in that that doesn’t represent the totality of our assistance, far from it. There’s a range of assistance that I can’t outline and I’m not going to. But we’ve built the capacity over the course of time. We’ll continue to do that. I think it’s important to vet both the recipients of the assistance. That’s something I think Congress and the American people want us to do, and it also is important to work with Congress. Those two steps require a process. That’s what’s been underway.
QUESTION: Is there still time to defeat the Assad regime?
MS. PSAKI: We certainly wouldn’t be still working as hard as we are if we didn’t think that was the case.
QUESTION: Can I just ask a couple logistics questions?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: You mentioned that ambassador – excuse me – Ambassador Patterson is based out of Malta. Is she there with some of the team?
MS. PSAKI: Not Patterson, Jones.
QUESTION: Oh, Jones, sorry. Excuse me. Do they have any of the Embassy staff there too?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check. The staff are in different places. I’m not sure where all of the staff are. I can see if there’s more details we can provide to you.
QUESTION: Okay. And did you – in the temporary relocation of all these staff, did you take any local Libyan staff with you at all, or were they all American citizens?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that specifically, Jo.
QUESTION: Just going back to Gaza really quick, the question on the hospital strike.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I was curious to get your comment on that.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as we’ve stated many times in the past, the reason we’re so focused on this is because of the increase in violence or violence that’s been ongoing over the course of the last few weeks. That’s why we want to see it stop. We’ve seen violence back and forth from both sides. Beyond that, I don’t think I have a further comment.
QUESTION: Can I – go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah, sorry. On this case, there’s some conflicting reports about who’s responsible. I think the IDF has said that it was a misfired Hamas rocket.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any independent details on the responsibility. Obviously, there’s a range of reports that are out there, so we’ll let the process of looking into it see itself through.
QUESTION: I just want to go back to Libya for one quick second.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: About more broadly, you were talking about a transition takes time. But this situation there is pretty dire – the fact that you had to take your staff out, that there was huge clashes in the vicinity of the Embassy, which made it unsafe for people to work in. But you seem to be a bit sanguine about it because you say, well, transitions take time.
Is this – does the Administration think that this is like, now, the new normal for countries going through transition to – from dictatorship to democracy, that it is in fact okay and not a sign of serious problems in its own policy but also in your policy for fighting to reach such a point where Airbuses are being blown up at the airport and you’re having to shut down your Embassy?
MS. PSAKI: No, Matt. I was making a broad point about what we’re seeing on the ground in Libya. Libya has certainly been going through a transition. The decision was made to temporarily relocate our staff because of ongoing clashes. As you know, that was – were in the immediate vicinity of the Embassy.
QUESTION: I know. My question is not about whether – not about what you did with the Embassy. It’s about whether the Administration thinks that this is normal for a country going through transition to – from dictatorship to democracy.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know that – we take these steps rarely in terms of this level of —
QUESTION: I think you’re missing my point.
MS. PSAKI: Sorry, go ahead.
QUESTION: My question isn’t about what you did with the Embassy and your staff.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: My question is about in the language about it, you say that transition takes time, that this is – and I’m wondering, does that mean the Administration thinks that allowing or having a situation like this deteriorate to the point where you have to take your people out, if that’s what you think is now normal for a transition from dictatorship to democracy?
MS. PSAKI: No, we don’t think it’s normal, but there are – in this particularly case, there are militias battling near our Embassy, so this is the step we took. I’m not – I wasn’t making a broad point about what’s normal in the world.
QUESTION: — Swiss.
MS. PSAKI: Yes. We remain concerned about reports of Washington Post reporter’s detention in Iran, along with two other U.S. citizens and the non-U.S. citizen’s spouse of one of the three. We are also aware of reports that Iranian officials have confirmed some of the detentions. If true, we call on the Iranian Government to immediately release Mr. Rezaian and the other three individuals. We continue to monitor the situation closely. We have reached out to our Swiss protecting power in this case as well.
QUESTION: Do you know – have the Swiss seen them?
MS. PSAKI: I do not have any update on that. As you know, we request consular access, but I don’t have any further updates to provide.
QUESTION: And can I just ask, since the beginning of the secret diplomacy with Iran on the nuclear issue, we’ve been told that the issue of detained Americans was brought up, at least in the initial phases of it. And I’m wondering now, since it is no longer taboo or forbidden to speak to Iranian officials, at least on the nuclear issue, the detention of these people plus the ones who are already in detention that we know about – Abedini and Amir Hekmati – in addition to Levinson, who you think the – are you raising this at all in conversations with the Iranians that are now —
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve raised the detained Americans prior to. This is obviously very recent.
QUESTION: I understand that, yes.
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check and see if there’s any other contact on these specific new, recent individuals. But the others we certainly have raised.
QUESTION: And it – yeah. And it would be good – yeah, okay. Thank you.
QUESTION: Back to Libya for a second.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Can you explain the difference between a temporary relocation of staff and an evacuation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, I think it means that the staff is – our plan is for them to come back. They’re technical terms. I think I’m explaining exactly what it is, but there isn’t – evacuation often refers to making planes and others available for citizens living in the country. That’s obviously not the step that’s being taken at this point in time. I think we’ve outlined in pretty great detail that they traveled over land to Tunisia, and that they moved from there. So beyond that, I don’t think it requires an additional explanation or a description of the terminology.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: There were a couple of attacks in – which have been blamed on Boko Haram in Cameroon, in which about 15 people or so died, were killed on Sunday. And also, worryingly, there are reports that the wife of the deputy prime minister is among those who have been kidnapped. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I do. Just give me one moment.
We abhor the increasingly brazen attacks by Boko Haram terrorists, including the attack over the weekend on Kolofata in Cameroon’s far north region near Nigeria, in which a number of people were killed, including the younger brother of the deputy prime minister, and several people, including the wife of Cameroon’s vice prime minister, were kidnapped. Our sympathies and thoughts are with the victims and their families of this latest egregious assault on innocent civilians by a terrorist organization, Boko Haram, bent on fomenting violent extremism and insecurity in northeastern Nigeria and the region. We continue to encourage Nigerian authorities to adopt a comprehensive approach to Boko Haram that emphasizes respect for human rights, including the freedom of religion; prioritizes civilian security in response to the needs of victimized communities.
Although we don’t currently have an ambassador in – to Cameroon, our Chargé and other embassy officials have been in close contact with the government for some time as a part of a coordinated regional response to Boko Haram. And we’re in regular contact with the government and security officials as we track the situation closely.
QUESTION: Oh, I have one more (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.
QUESTION: I don’t know if – sorry, been a busy weekend.
MS. PSAKI: I know.
QUESTION: I don’t know if you saw that North Korea has apparently put out a threat to launch a nuclear strike on the White House and the Pentagon, sparing the State Department. (Laughter.) Do you have any —
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: (Laughter.) Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I have – I had not actually seen that report with everything going on. I think it’s fair to say that that kind of inflammatory rhetoric is not a way to move towards a place in the world – having a place in the world.
QUESTION: It comes from the director of the military’s general political bureau, Hwang Pyong-so.
MS. PSAKI: Understood.
MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:01 p.m.)
DPB # 131