Tagged: AirTransport

Signing of an updated Canada-China Air Transport Agreement

Beijing, China – 8 November 2014

Our Government is committed to helping the Canadian air industry increase its access to international markets which, in turn, benefits domestic businesses, shippers and travellers.

To this end, on November 8, 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Li Keqiang witnessed the signing of an updated Air Transport Agreement, which reflects growing bilateral relations between the two countries.

The Agreement:

  • Increases the number of flights permitted for services between Canada and China;
  • Increases the number of destination points in each others’ territory;
  • Enhances the flexibility of Chinese airlines to offer passenger and all-cargo services to third countries, in connection with services to Canada; and,
  • Provides greater flexibility and certainty for Canadian and Chinese airlines with respect to code-sharing with airline partners of third countries.

The signing of this updated Agreement, which was concluded in June 2013, represents an important step towards ratification of the Agreement and a further step in enhancing transportation and trade relations between Canada and China. Canadian and Chinese airlines operated up to a total of 73 passenger flights per week between both countries during the peak summer months. Canadian airlines have also enhanced their code-sharing partnerships with Chinese airlines.

Canada’s Blue Sky policy encourages long-term, sustainable competition and the development of new or expanded international air services. Under this policy, the Government of Canada has concluded new or expanded air transport agreements covering over 80 countries, including:

  • Open Skies-type agreements with 16 countries: Barbados, Brazil, Costa Rica, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Sint Maarten, South Korea, Switzerland, and Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Expanded agreements with 20 countries: Algeria, China, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, and Turkey.
  • New first-time agreements with 21 countries: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Colombia, Croatia, Ecuador, Gambia, Kenya, Kuwait, Macedonia, Paraguay, Qatar, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Tunisia, and Uruguay.
  • A comprehensive Air Transport Agreement between Canada and the European Union’s 28-member states (including Croatia and Ireland).

CALENDRIER du 13 au 19 octobre 2014

Commission européenne

Bruxelles, le 10 octobre 2014

CALENDRIER du 13 au 19 octobre 2014

(Susceptible de modifications en cours de semaine)

Déplacements et visites

Lundi 13 octobre

Eurogroup, Luxembourg

AGRIFISH Meeting of Agriculture and Fisheries Ministers, Luxembourg

Mr José Manuel Durão BARROSO and Mr Karel DE GUCHT receive Mr Nguyễn Tấn DŨNG, Prime Minister of Vietnam

Mr Siim KALLAS receives Mr Raymond BENJAMIN, Secretary General of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

Mr Janez POTOČNIK in the Republic of Korea (13-17/10): participates in the 12th High-Level Meeting of the Conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (Alpensia Convention Center, Pyeongchang)

Mr Andris PIEBALGS participates in the signing ceremony of the Multiannual Indicative Programme 2014-2020 for Vietnam with Mr Nguyễn Tấn DŨNG, Prime Minister of Vietnam

Ms Androulla VASSILIOU attends the opening and delivers a keynote speech at EU Youth conference organized under the Italian EU Presidency (Rome)

Mr Karel DE GUCHT receives the Minister of Industry and Trade of Vietnam, Mr Vu Huy HOANG

Ms Connie HEDEGAARD receives representatives of “Young Ideas for Europe”

Mr Štefan FÜLE visits Jordan

Mr László ANDOR in Budapest: attends and gives speech at conference “Nothing about us without us? – Roma participation in policy making and knowledge production” at Corvinus University of Budapest; speaks at conference of Hungarian trade unions on “Decent wages”; gives presentation on “Europe after the crisis” at Európa Klub

Mardi 14 octobre

AGRIFISH (Agriculture and Fisheries Council), Luxembourg

ECOFIN (Economic and Financial Council), Luxembourg

Mr José Manuel Durão BARROSO receives Mr Edmund STOIBER, chairman of the High-Level Group on Administrative Burdens

Mr José Manuel Durão BARROSO and Ms Androulla VASSILIOU receive Mr Michel PLATINI, President of the Union of the European Football Associations

Ms Catherine ASHTON leads meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister and US Secretary of State in framework of Iran Nuclear Talks, Vienna

Mr Joaquín ALMUNIA delivers a keynote speech at the 31st AmCham EU Competition Policy Conference, Brussels

Mr Andris PIEBALGS is in Rome: participates in a Conference on energy

Mr Karel DE GUCHT in Rome: delivers a speech at a dialogue on the TTIP; event organised by the Italian presidency with participation of the Italian Prime Minister Mr Matteo RENZI, the Italian Deputy Minister of Economic Development Mr Carlo CALENDA and U.S. Trade Representative Mr Michael FROMAN

Mr Johannes HAHN receives Mr Max HIEGELSBERGER, Regional Minister of Upper Austria; receives Mr Erwin PRÖLL, Governor of Lower Austria and attends with him the opening of the Exhibition Lower Austria; receives Mr Vidar HELGESEN, Minister at the Office of the Prime Minister

Ms Connie HEDEGAARD delivers a keynote speech at the Arctic Futures Symposium, organized by the International Polar Foundation (Residence Palace, Brussels)

Mr Štefan FÜLE visits Lebanon

Mr László ANDOR in Budapest: gives speech at a conference on Health & Safety organised by Napi.hu

Mr László ANDOR in Rome: gives opening speech at European Social Fund conference on Youth Guarantee, organised by the Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU; meets Mr Giuliano POLETTI, Minister of Labor and Social Policies of Italy; attends presentation of European Social Fund project “Torna subito”

Mercredi 15 octobre

FAC informal meeting of the 28 European Foreign Trade Ministers, Rome

Mr José Manuel Durão BARROSO in Milan (15-16/10)

Ms Catherine ASHTON leads meetings with Iranian Foreign Minister and US Secretary of State in framework of Iran Nuclear Talks, Vienna

Mr Joaquín ALMUNIA delivers a keynote speech and participates in the Award Ceremony of 2014 EARTO (European Association of Research and Technology Organisations) Innovation Prize, Brussels

Mr Ferdinando Nelli FEROCI, Mr Michel BARNIER and Mr Tonio BORG participate at the High Level Forum on the Food Chain, Brussels

M. Michel BARNIER participe à la conférence “L’homme face aux risques de l’argent”, organisée par l’Institut Catholique de Paris, Paris

Mr Andris PIEBALGS receives new President of CONCORD Mr Johannes TRIMMEL

Mr Andris PIEBALGS participates in the signing ceremony of the National Indicative Programme (NIP) with Cameroon

Jeudi 16 octobre

EPSCO (Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council), Luxembourg

Mr Siim KALLAS meets a delegation from the Estonian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Brussels

Ms Androulla VASSILIOU delivers speech at the Conference: “A highly-qualified and well-trained work force: a key factor for European competitiveness” (Representation of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, Brussels)

Ms Maria DAMANAKI meets with Mr Charalambos SIMANTONIS, President of the Hellenic Shortsea Shipowners Association (Athens)

Ms Kristalina GEORGIEVA receives the Disaster Risk Reduction Champion Prize from Ms Margareta WAHLSTROM, UN SRSG for Disaster Risk Reduction

Mr Johannes HAHN in Vienna: gives a speech at the Board meeting of the Fraunhofer Society; in Brussels: gives a closing statement at the “Mayors Adapt Signing Ceremony”

Ms Connie HEDEGAARD participates in the signatory ceremony of “Mayors Adapt”, the Covenant of Mayors Initiative on Adaptation to Climate Change (Berlaymont building, Brussels)

Ms Connie HEDEGAARD in Deauville (France) to participate in the Women’s Forum Global meeting for a dialogue “A Champion for Climate Action” (Centre International de Deauville, Les Planches)

Mr Štefan FÜLE receives the Turkish Minister for European Union Affairs Mr Volkan BOZKIR

Mr Dacian CIOLOŞ in Rome: participates in a panel discussion at the World Food Day – CFS (FAO Committee on World Food Security) Special Event: Innovation in Family Farming: Towards Ensuring Food Security and Nutrition; holds a series of meetings focussing on agriculture and food security issues.

Mr Neven MIMICA in Zagreb: visits a local school and meets with students who are using the ConsumerClassroom.eu educational platform

Vendredi 17 octobre

Mr José Manuel Durão BARROSO in Geneva

Mr Andris PIEBALGS participates in the signing ceremony of NIP with Tadjikistan

Mr Johannes HAHN in Piran: gives an opening speech to the “Rethinking Europe – Creative regions for a strong Europe” Seminar

Mr László ANDOR in Torino: attends conference on the European Social Charter organised by the Council of Europe and the Italian Presidency of the Council of the EU

Mr Tonio BORG visits food retailers concerning food waste

Mr Neven MIMICA in Zagreb: meets the Minister of Economy, Mr Ivan VRDOLJAK, launches a consumer rights information campaign, meets representatives of consumer organisations

Samedi 18 octobre

Mr José Manuel Durão BARROSO in London (18-20/10)

Mr Andris PIEBALGS is in Nepal

10:00 Mr Andris PIEBALGS participates in a visit to the Bagmati river

11:30 Mr Andris PIEBALGS participates in a project visit

Ms Máire GEOGHEGAN-QUINN is invited to the Royal College of Physicians where she receives an Honorary Fellowship, Dublin

Dimanche 19 octobre

Mr Andris PIEBALGS is in Nepal: meets President Dr Ram Baran YADAV; meets Prime Minister Mr Sushil KOIRALA; meets Foreign Minister Mr Mahendra Bahadur PANDE; meets the Secretary-General of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Mr Arjun THAPA; meets Minister of Finance Dr Ram Sharan MAHAT

12:30 Mr Johannes HAHN in Piran: gives a closing speech on “Challenges of the Adriatic Ionian region” at the “Rethinking Europe” Seminar

Prévisions du mois d’octobre:

20/10 FAC (Foreign Affairs Council), Luxembourg

20-21/10 EYCS informal meeting of the 28 European Sports Ministers, Rome

20-23 European Parliament plenary session, Strasbourg

21/10 GAC (General Affairs Council), Luxembourg,

23-24/10 European Council, Brussels

28/10 ENVI (Environment Council), Luxembourg

30/10 Informal meeting of the EU Ministers of Tourism, Naples

Prévisions du mois de novembre:

06/11 Eurogroup, Brussels

07/11 ECOFIN (Economic and Financial Council), Brussels

08/11 Eurogroup

10-11/11 AGRIFISH (Agriculture and Fisheries Council), Brussels

12-13/11 European Parliament plenary session, Brussels

14/11 ECOFIN (Economic and Financial Council), Brussels

17-18/11 FAC (Foreign Affairs Council), Brussels

18-19/11 GAC (General Affairs Council)

21/11 FAC (Foreign Affairs Council), Brussels

24-27/11 European Parliament plenary session, Strasbourg

25/11 EYCS (Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council)

27/11 TTE (Transport, Telecommunications and Energy)

Prévisions du mois de décembre:

01/12 EPSCO (Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council)

03/12 TTE (Transport, telecommunications and energy)

04-05/12 COMPET (Competitiveness Council)

04-05/12 JHA (Justice and Home Affairs Council)

09/12 ECOFIN (Economic and Financial Council)

09/12 TTE (Transport, telecommunications and energy)

11/12 EPSCO (Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council)

12/12 FAC (Foreign Affairs Council)

12/12 EYCS (Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council)

15/12 FAC (Foreign Affairs Council), Brussels

15-16/12 AGRIFISH (Agriculture and Fisheries Council)

15-18/12 European Parliament plenary session, Strasbourg

16/12 GAC (General Affairs Council)

17/12 ENVI (Environment Council), Brussels

18-19/12 European Council (Brussels)

Permanence DG COMM le WE du 11 au 12 octobre:

Joe HENNON, +32 (0) 498 953 593

Permanence RAPID- GSM: +32 (0) 498 982 748

Service Audiovisuel, planning studio – tél. : +32 (0)2/295 21 23

Open Skies Air Transport Agreement with the Republic of Korea

Ottawa, Ontario
22 September 2014

The Government of Canada is committed to helping the Canadian air industry increase its access to international markets which, in turn, benefits domestic businesses, shippers and travellers. To this end, on September 22, 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Park Geun-hye, President of the Republic of Korea, witnessed the signing of the Open Skies Air Transport Agreement between Canada and Korea. The signing, by Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, and Yun Byung-se, Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs, is a significant milestone in the deepening of our bilateral relations. The signing took place during the state visit of PresidentPark to Canada.

The Agreement provides for:

  • An open and unlimited number of direct passenger and cargo flights between the two countries;
  • Unrestricted ability for Canadian and Korean airlines to stop in countries between and beyond Canada and Korea, to drop off and pick up additional passengers and cargo;
  • A market-based tariff regime with minimal filing requirements for prices;
  • Fully open unrestricted code-sharing; and,
  • Open points of service.

The Agreement builds on the original 1989 Canada-Korea Air Services Agreement, which was amended in 1993 and 1996.

Canada’s Blue Sky policy encourages long-term, sustainable competition and the development of new or expanded international air services. Under this policy, since 2006, the Government of Canada has concluded new or expanded air transport agreements covering more than 80 countries, including:

  • Open Skies-type agreements with 16 countries: Barbados, Brazil, Costa Rica, Curaçao, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Sint Maarten, Switzerland and Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Expanded agreements with 20 countries: Algeria, China, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa and Turkey.
  • New first-time agreements with 21 countries: Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Colombia, Croatia, Ecuador, the Gambia, Kenya, Kuwait, Macedonia, Paraguay, Qatar, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Sierra Leone, Togo, Tunisia and Uruguay.
  • A comprehensive Air Transport Agreement between Canada and the 28 European Union member states (including Ireland and Croatia).

Additional and up-to-date information on the Blue Sky policy and its implementation can be found at: www.tc.gc.ca/bluesky.

Press Releases: Statement as Chair of Ministerial Debate of the UN Security Council on Iraq

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you very much, Your Excellency, Mr. al-Jafari, for a very important statement, and we appreciate very much your leadership and the new government’s efforts. Now it’s my privilege to make a statement in my capacity as Secretary of State of the United States.

Let me start again by thanking every single one of you for participating in this session. I’ve seen in the last weeks traveling around how extraordinarily busy everybody is and how committed to this effort everyone is, through their actions as well as through their incredibly busy schedules. So I’m convinced that the fact that so many countries are represented here from so many parts of the world really underscores the clear need for all of us to come together to welcome and to support the new, inclusive government in Iraq, and, of course, to put an end to ISIL’s unfettered barbarity.

I want to thank Secretary-General Ban and welcome our new Iraqi counterpart, Foreign Minister al-Jafari. I don’t need to remind anyone here that the last two times the eyes of the world were focused on Iraq was when its government was in confrontation with the international community, with great consequences. Today, however, we come together in support of the new Iraqi Government that has already made great strides in a short amount of time, and we must not miss this moment.

Last week, I made my second trip to Baghdad in just over two months, in order to meet with the new Iraqi Government. And I was very encouraged to hear them reaffirm their commitment to govern in the interests of all Iraqis and to finally begin to address the deep divisions that we’re all aware of, including those over energy resources, regional autonomy, and the composition of the security forces. All of these have plagued Iraq throughout its modern history. They’re also committed to empowering local communities to mobilize, to maintain security control in their area, and work with the international community to defeat ISIL.

Indeed, Iraq has responded to the ISIL threat with a spirit of unity that the country has not experienced in decades, if ever. Last month, an Iraqi Arab pilot, Major General Majid Ahmed Saadi, flew an Iraqi Air Force helicopter with a Kurdish crew and a Yezidi member of parliament and with the single goal of rescuing Yezidis on Mount Sinjar. Tragically, the helicopter crashed. General Saadi was the only one killed. But before he died, he told a New York Times reporter that the mission to rescue the Yezidis was the most important thing he had ever done in his entire life and career as an Iraqi pilot. This historic level of cooperation between Iraqi and Kurdish forces has resonated deeply in both communities.

As the President explained earlier this month – my President – ISIL is a terrorist organization, pure and simple. And it has no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way. In a region that has known so much bloodshed, these terrorists are actually unique in their brutality. They execute captured prisoners, kneeling them down, tying their hands behind their back, a bullet through their heads. They kill children. They enslave, rape, and force women into marriage. They threatened a religious minority with genocide. And in acts of barbarism, they took the lives of two American journalists, Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff, and a British aid worker, David Haines. ISIL simply poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria and the broader Middle East, and if left unchecked, these terrorists certainly would pose a growing threat beyond the region because they have already promised to.

Ultimately, history will judge how the world responds to this moment, to this challenge. In the face of this sort of evil, we have only one option: To confront it with a holistic global campaign that is committed and capable of degrading and destroying this terrorist threat; to confront it with a holistic global campaign that is committed and capable enough to ensure whether in Iraq, Syria, or elsewhere, ISIL cannot find safe haven.

As President Obama has clearly explained, and as I think everyone in this room is well aware of at this point, the coalition required to eliminate ISIL is not only, or even primarily, military in nature. It must be comprehensive and include close collaboration across multiple lines of effort. It’s about taking out an entire network – decimating and discrediting a militant cult masquerading as a religious movement. The fact is there is a role for nearly every country in the world to play, including Iran, whose foreign minister is here with us here today. ISIL poses a threat to all of us, and we’re committed to working in close partnership with the new Iraqi Government and countries around the world to defeat it. That’s why I spent the past week consulting with my Iraqi counterparts and traveling in the Middle East and in Europe, building partnerships; and that’s why we were so focused on hosting this session here today.

And I thank Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal for Saudi Arabia’s leadership in hosting their conference in Jeddah, and I thank President Hollande and Laurent Fabius in France for their leadership in hosting the conference in Paris. From each of these has come a greater and greater commitment to do what we need to do. – I have to tell you that in many of the meetings that I’ve had so far, leaders aren’t talking about if they should support our campaign against ISIL; they’re asking how. And already across each of the lines of effort that we’re focused on, we have seen more than 50 countries come forward with critical commitments.

First, on military support, countries in the region and around the world are already providing assistance both in terms of kinetic action, but also in the form of training, advising, equipping, providing logistical support, and so on. In the region, countries like Egypt have committed to significantly enhance the coordination between its forces and Iraqi and Kurdish forces. But even further from away from Iraq, countries like Australia are committing to deploying fighter jets and support aircraft and personnel. Germany, in recognition of the grave threat posed by ISIL, reversed its longstanding policy against offering lethal aid. France, last night, conducted its first air strikes against ISIL targets in Iraq. These forms of assistance, provided at the request of Iraq, and with full respect for its sovereignty, are essential to combating ISIL – but they are only one part of a comprehensive approach that is required.

We’re also seeing overwhelming support when it comes to humanitarian assistance. Dozens of countries from throughout the international community have so far committed almost $1 billion to the UN-led humanitarian response in Iraq. That includes donations from countries within the region – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and elsewhere – as well as funds from countries on the other side of the world – Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and more.

We’re seeing encouraging progress in the effort to dry up ISIL’s illicit funding, as well. And Bahrain has offered to host an international conference in the near future to further develop a global action plan to counter terrorist financing. – As we’ll discuss next week at the session that President Obama will chair, we must also stop the flow of foreign terrorist fighters to ISIL – men and women who carry passports from countries around the world, including nearly every country represented in this room. This is yet another area where countries have already begun to take important steps, including legislation criminalizing the recruitment, preparation, and participation of their citizens in combat activities of terrorism abroad.

And finally, there is an urgent need to counter the poisonous propaganda and gross distortion of Islam that ISIL is spreading far and wide. It is time to put an end to a group, so extreme in its rejection of modernity, that it bans math and social studies for children. It’s time to put an end to the sermons by extremists that brainwash young men to join these terrorist groups and commit mass atrocities in the name of God. This is something that leaders in the region are very focused on. Saudi Arabia’s top clerics this week came out publicly and declared terrorism a “heinous crime” under Sharia law and called ISIL in particular “the order of Satan.”

All of this is vital, because we know that in preventing an individual from joining ISIL, or from getting to the battlefield in the first place, that’s the most effective measure you can take.

But for this campaign to have any chance of success, Iraq itself – and its security forces on the front lines – must be leading the way. – That’s one of the reasons why it’s imperative that we all go the extra mile to help Iraq fully re-integrate into the region and into the global community of nations. And that’s starting to happen. Last week, the Iraqis, long estranged from their neighbors and isolated from the world, were not just invited, but were warmly welcomed at international meetings in Jeddah and Paris, and now here in New York, before the Security Council and before the entire world.

And what is different about today’s meeting – and this is one reason why we’re so grateful to so many minsters for traveling here – is that the last meetings the world did not share in the deliberation or the discussion formally as it went on; they heard afterwards. Today, the world can listen to each of the ministers, and they will understand the breadth and scope of the support for this effort.

So we’re well on our way, but that doesn’t mean that we’re where we need to be. I hope that today the progress that I’ve described will continue, and over the course of this week that more partners will come forward and more commitments to these efforts will be announced.

Make no mistake: Our work to build and enhance this coalition will continue well after this week is over. I commit that to you and President Obama firmly commits that. And one of our most respected military experts sitting right here behind me, General John Allen, who served in Afghanistan in command of our forces there for two years and also in Iraq, who knows many of the people in Iraq for his service in Anbar – has agreed to come to the State Department with a presidential appointment and oversee the U.S. effort to match up each country’s capabilities with the coalition’s total needs so the line of effort is coordinated.

I look forward to hearing from all of you in the course of this afternoon. Again, I’d just close by thanking everybody for joining this discussion, and I’m absolutely confident that through a global campaign that is comprehensive and committed, we can support the promise of the new government in Iraq and we can defeat the ISIL threat – wherever it exists.

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: August 12, 2014

1:49 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I have a few items at the top.

First, on Libya, we strongly condemn today’s assassination of Tripoli’s police chief, Colonel Mahmed Sweissi. We are deeply concerned – or Mohammed Sweissi, excuse me. We are deeply concerned by ongoing violence in Libya. Colonel Sweissi was widely seen as a committed public servant. His murder and the senseless acts of violence against other officials, activists, and citizens throughout Libya threatens to undermine the aspirations for which the Libyan people have sacrificed so much. As we’ve said many times, violence will not solve Libya’s problems. We urge dialogue and compromise to build a free, prosperous, and democratic Libya.

And then a travel update: On August 12th, Secretary Kerry and Defense Secretary Hagel met with Australian Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Johnston for the annual Australia-U.S. Ministerial – or AUSMIN – consultations to discuss ways in which we can expand and deepen our alliance cooperation in the Asia Pacific region and globally. The highlight of this year’s meetings was the signing of the U.S.-Australia Force Posture Agreement, which was announced by President Obama and Prime Minister Abbott on June 12th in Washington. The new FPA provides the foundation for force posture initiatives in Australia. This long-term agreement on rotational deployment of U.S. Marines in Darwin and American airmen in northern Australia will broaden and deepen our alliance’s contributions to regional security and advance America’s ongoing strategic rebalance in the Asia Pacific.

Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, Foreign Minister Bishop, and Defense Minister Johnston had robust discussions of global issues as well, including conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, and the situation in eastern Ukraine, and of course, our joint efforts in Afghanistan.

Lara.

QUESTION: So I see the President spoke today with the Canadian prime minister on Iraq. It made me wonder what kind of regional dialogues the United States is having with other partners in the Mideast on how other states in the Mideast can assist militarily or with humanitarian aid to what’s happening.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re having a number of conversations, and to be fair, those conversations have been ongoing. Obviously, one I’d note is the Brits, as you know, who have now also provided – began providing humanitarian aid. We’ve also talked to a number of partners about financial contributions and would note generous financial contributions from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Japan, the EU, Sweden, Australia, Canada, and others already in response. So obviously, we are talking to many of our partners on the humanitarian side and the financial side particularly about how we can all bring more resources to bear here.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering, aside from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, if there are other partners in the Mideast. Particularly, has anybody expressed any willingness to assist militarily with the Government of Iraq or even the Kurds, or what kind of – if not boots on the ground, personnel on the ground, people on the ground?

MS. HARF: I can check with our team here and see if those discussions have been happening. We’ve had discussions with Iraq’s neighbors over the past several weeks and months, I’d say, particularly on the refugee issue and on the foreign fighter issue as well. So these are conversations we’ve had for a while. I can check and see, Lara – and it’s a good question – if there are updates on the military or security assistance piece.

QUESTION: Thank you. Were you aware of the report in Der Spiegel today that apparently some Iranian planes have landed in the Kurdish region with arms and ammunition?

MS. HARF: I am and I’ve seen them, and we can’t confirm them one way or the other at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. And did you get any update from my question yesterday on when was the last time somebody from the U.S. Government spoke with Prime Minister Maliki?

MS. HARF: I believe it was yesterday. We’re not going to outline all the details of who talks to who, but I believe we did have contact with him yesterday.

QUESTION: Okay. And can you – you can’t give us any readout on what the —

MS. HARF: I —

QUESTION: — nature of the conversation was or —

MS. HARF: I don’t have more of a readout for you on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can we follow up on one thing on Maliki, please?

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday, I had asked if you had – if the U.S. Government had played any role whatsoever in the selection of Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi, and you very clearly said no. Have you seen today’s Daily Beast story which claims – which cites U.S. officials as saying that they had pushed for Maliki for days, weeks? And it suggests maybe – suggests that an effort to oust Maliki had been underway since June. Is there any truth to that report?

MS. HARF: There is not. As I have said multiple times from this podium, this is up for the Iraqis to decide. Of course, we’ve had conversations with them as they’ve gone through this process, but quite frankly, for a number of years, not just in this Iraqi election but in the last one, there were a number of rumors and conspiracy theories about the U.S. role. I would squarely put this report in that category. As I said yesterday, this was a decision for the Iraqis and solely for the Iraqis to decide.

QUESTION: And are you getting the impression that you are getting more cooperation from your allies in the Gulf vis-a-vis Iraq now that an alternative to Prime Minister Maliki has been settled on?

MS. HARF: Well, cooperation in what way? Because certainly on the refugee and humanitarian side, they have, quite frankly, for a while been very concerned about the humanitarian situation and the possibility of refugees and foreign fighters as well. So I don’t think that’s a new concern. I do think that there are a number of partners in the region who want Iraq’s government to govern more inclusively. And so I certainly think that’s a part of it, but I don’t think the two are necessarily linked.

QUESTION: I ask because Secretary Kerry made clear that the U.S. Government could do a number of things with the new government and I therefore wonder if that sentiment is echoed among Iraq’s neighbors and any other close U.S. allies.

MS. HARF: Well, you’d have to ask them. I do think that broadly speaking, all of us are partners. We certainly know that the only way to fight ISIL going forward here is that it requires an inclusive Iraqi Government to be formed quickly. And as that happens, as the Secretary said, we certainly are looking at ways we can do even more to help.

QUESTION: And one more. Are you getting any greater cooperation from allies such as Kuwait, which the Treasury Department recently – I mean, they essentially said that the Kuwaiti Government needed to do more to try to crack down on financing of ISIL, and it identified, I think, three Kuwaiti citizens who were designated for having done so. Are you getting any more cooperation from them on that?

MS. HARF: I know it’s something we work with them and other governments on that there are private citizens in some of these countries who have been providing monetary support. We’re certainly very worried about it. And I think quite frankly, countries like Kuwait are increasingly realizing this is – could also be a threat to them. So it’s an ongoing conversation. I don’t have anything to update, but I’m happy to see if there is anything else to say.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Maliki very —

MS. HARF: Uh-huh, and then we’ll go to you, Michel.

QUESTION: Yeah, very quickly. Given that you said that you’re not aware of any more U.S. Government contacts with him in the last —

MS. HARF: Since yesterday.

QUESTION: — since yesterday, is there a concern —

MS. HARF: There may have been, though.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: It’s constant communication on the ground in Baghdad.

QUESTION: Right. Is there a concern given his decision to move troops into the green zone over the weekend that he may try yet again to resist what the U.S. considers the orderly transition according to the Iraqi constitution?

MS. HARF: Well, I —

QUESTION: And how worried is the U.S. about this?

MS. HARF: I would note that today Prime Minister Maliki said in remarks that the security forces should not get involved in this matter and should focus on defending the country. Again, we’ll see what happens going forward, but there’s a process that’s been playing out. We never thought it would be without complication. We never thought it would be easy. These things often aren’t. But there is a process that has hit the benchmarks. It’s continued to move forward. And we’ll listen to what he said today and go from here.

QUESTION: And then very quickly, the status of those U.S. diplomats who had to be moved from Erbil temporarily, are they still —

MS. HARF: And some were moved in. As I said yesterday, we’re adjusting staffing, so if we move some people out, we might move other people in. We moved in a DART team over the weekend, a Disaster Assistance Response Team, to help with the humanitarian situation. So a lot of it is really about readjusting is a more appropriate term.

QUESTION: But for the people who had been moved out, is —

MS. HARF: I don’t believe they’ve moved back yet.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah. Some of them are working out of Amman, where we have a contingent of people working on Iraq. Some are working out of Basra.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: I believe some also may be working out of Baghdad. But we’re basically shuffling people around where we have a need and what makes the most sense security-wise.

QUESTION: And perhaps you answered this yesterday, but what is the practical impact not so much on U.S. citizens, but on Iraqis who might need to do business in Erbil with the consulate there?

MS. HARF: The consulate is open, functioning. We believe it’s important to do so. That’s part of the reason the President ordered the military action we’ve seen to protect Erbil.

Lara.

QUESTION: Can I ask just very quickly, are you aware of reports of a bomb that may have gone off in the last hour or so near Prime Minister-designate al-Abadi’s house?

MS. HARF: I am not. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I will check as soon as I get off of the podium.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Marie —

MS. HARF: His house in Baghdad?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: I’ll check.

QUESTION: Iran has endorsed Iraq’s new prime minister-designate. How do you view this statement from Iran?

MS. HARF: Well, we encourage any country to encourage the Iraqis to form an inclusive government as soon as possible to govern inclusively. That’s been our position all along, and so, obviously, we would welcome any statements to that effect.

QUESTION: And have you been in discussion with the Iranians regarding the situation in Iraq?

MS. HARF: We have not. We have not.

QUESTION: And last week during the meeting between the U.S. delegation and the Iranians, have you discussed Iran?

MS. HARF: Have we discussed Iraq?

QUESTION: Iraq, sorry.

MS. HARF: To my knowledge it was not raised in the way that it had been raised previously on the sidelines of the P5+1 round. It may have been brought up in casual conversation, but it was not discussed in a substantive way.

QUESTION: And a follow-up question on Roz’s question, too, regarding al-Maliki. To what extent you are confident that he will leave power after the formation of the new government?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a process in place, and that’s what will happen at the end of it. That’s what should happen at the end of it. Look, we’re not going to entertain hypotheticals at this point. The Iraqis have hit the benchmarks as part of this process. Again, we knew it wouldn’t be entirely smooth. We never thought it would be. But that’s what we’re working towards right now. So let’s hope that happens. We’ll continue to have conversations with all of the Iraqis about making sure that happens.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the – on the Iran angle. You mentioned that you couldn’t comment on the Der Spiegel —

MS. HARF: I just couldn’t confirm it. I just don’t know if —

QUESTION: Couldn’t confirm it, the Der Spiegel report?

MS. HARF: We can’t confirm it one way or the other.

QUESTION: Sure. But the issue of Iranian arms – does the U.S. have a position on that?

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: Should Iran have the right to small arms —

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not a question of a right. There are some sanctionable – there are potential sanctions that could be involved with the export or import of Iran – arms in or out of Iran. There are specific sanctions in place. Without being able to confirm whether or not it’s happening and the specifics, I can’t say whether or not this would be, but there’s a likely chance it could be if this is true. We just have to look at it.

QUESTION: So, in general, the U.S. would be opposed to Iranian arms flowing into Iraq.

MS. HARF: In general, we believe we should —

QUESTION: Even if it’s for the same side.

MS. HARF: — continue to implement sanctions that are on the books.

QUESTION: One on Afghanistan?

MS. HARF: Let’s stay on Iraq. If people – and then we’ll go to Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Can you just outline specific steps that Prime Minister-designate Abadi can take to be inclusive? We’re hearing the mantra “inclusive governing” often, but I was wondering if there are certain specific steps that could be outlined.

MS. HARF: Well, first of all in terms of specific steps, he now has 30 days under the constitution’s – it’s constitutionally mandated – to put a – to complete a process to put a new government in place. So as part of this process, that will be presenting a cabinet to the Iraqi parliament for approval that represents the aspirations of the Iraqi people. I’m not going to outline what that should look like. That’s for him and his government to decide. But there are things he can do that would demonstrate inclusiveness. Things you can say, things you can do, as part of this formation process. And then going forward, if he does form a government, which we expect and hope that he will, there are ways you can do that.

One of the things we’ve been quite heartened by is the really unprecedented way the Iraqi security forces have been working with the Kurdish forces for example, in a way we never saw them do before. So continuing some of that and encouraging some of that, from the top on down, is really important. So those are some.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: So the government has —

MS. HARF: Thirty days.

QUESTION: — so as you said, he has 30 days. But if he isn’t able to do that, then the Iraqis are back to square —

MS. HARF: Well, there’s —

QUESTION: I’m just worried — I’m just wondering if you’re concerned that Prime Minister al-Maliki will take this time to try and prevent him from starting a coalition and not kind of let the process play out.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re going to watch the process play out. It’s played out on – as it should so far. So while I understand people want to jump 28 days from now and guess about all the bad things that might happen, the process has played out. Let’s watch and see what Prime Minister Maliki says – and does, more importantly. We’re having conversations with him and all the other Iraqi leaders about how this can move forward, Elise.

QUESTION: Well, it’s not really 28 – it’s not really 28 days. It’s what happens during the next 28 days.

MS. HARF: Exactly.

QUESTION: You don’t have the luxury, really, of waiting 30 days and —

MS. HARF: It’s not about us not having the luxury. It’s about the Iraqis.

QUESTION: Well, the Iraqis.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Right. So I mean, starting from today —

MS. HARF: So, we’ll wait – we’ll see what happens, Elise. But let’s not assume the worst here.

QUESTION: Aren’t you kind of assuming the worst, that he’ll do that?

MS. HARF: No. I’m not. I don’t think we are, Elise. I think that today you saw Prime Minister Maliki say that security forces should not get involved in this matter. Again, we think that’s a good sign. But we will be watching and we will be in direct conversations if – as we have been with Prime Minister Maliki. And took, if we see signs that anything like that is happening, we would, obviously, be very concerned and immediately express those concerns.

But I think the other point, though, is it’s not about what the U.S. is or isn’t concerned about. The Iraqi people themselves, including the Shia bloc, has nominated someone else with a lot of support from Prime Minister Maliki’s own party. So this is about the Iraqi people standing up and saying this is the government we want.

QUESTION: Yeah, but —

MS. HARF: It’s not about what we want. It’s about what they want.

QUESTION: I understand that.

MS. HARF: And so the support for the new prime minister-designate, I think, has been fairly clear.

QUESTION: Right, but that’s not stopping Prime Minister Maliki from mounting legal challenges to – I don’t believe he’s dropped that legal challenge.

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t – look, there’s always going to be some differences that people have about how these things should play out. But we would reject any effort, legally or otherwise, to achieve outcomes through coercion or manipulation of the constitutional or judicial process. I think I said this on Sunday night and repeating it today: There’s a constitutional process. It is happening, and that is what we support. And we will keep supporting that as the Iraqis go through this process.

QUESTION: But, I mean, you know that in 2010 he did launch a legal challenge. He mounted a legal challenge —

MS. HARF: I’m aware of the history.

QUESTION: — and he was able to maintain another term.

MS. HARF: I’m aware of the history. I think we need to watch what happens day by day here. We need to see what’s happening on the ground. We need to make clear our position, which is that we would reject any efforts to achieve outcomes through judicial – through coercion or manipulation of judicial processes. And we’ll keep working with them, but they have a process in place. It’s moving forward, and let’s see how that plays out.

QUESTION: Who is the main interlocutor right now with Prime Minister al-Maliki?

MS. HARF: Well, we engage with him and other Iraqi leaders at a number of levels. We’re not going to outline specifically, necessarily, all the time what that engagement looks like. But people on the ground in Baghdad certainly have had conversations with him, as have people in Washington.

QUESTION: Well, has Secretary Kerry or Vice President Biden or, specifically, someone at a senior level reached out to Prime Minister Maliki?

MS. HARF: There are senior people who have —

QUESTION: Who – can you —

MS. HARF: We’re not going to outline —

QUESTION: Why can’t you say —

MS. HARF: Because we —

QUESTION: I mean, you put out press releases of calls —

MS. HARF: I can tell you the Secretary hasn’t, and I can tell you – to my knowledge; let me check with the White House – I don’t believe the Vice President has, either. But people have been in contact with him.

QUESTION: Does this mean that the fact that someone at a very senior – I’m not saying that the ambassador’s not of a senior level, but does the fact that the Secretary or the Vice President or the President is not speaking to Prime Minister al-Maliki meant to send a signal that the Administration is done dealing with him?

MS. HARF: Well no, not that we’re done dealing with him and not that we’re not speaking with him. It’s just that we haven’t. He’s the prime minister still, legally, until a new government is officially formed. So we will continue talking to him and working with him, but what we’re focused on is the way forward and how we can help the Iraqis, as they form this new government, fight ISIL. That’s what we’re focused on every day.

Yeah.

QUESTION: How much confidence does the United States Government have in the independence of Iraq’s judiciary?

MS. HARF: Wow, that’s a big analytic question. I’m happy to check with our experts.

QUESTION: I’m all about big thoughts today.

MS. HARF: I know. I like it. I can check with our team.

QUESTION: What inducements is the U.S. Government prepared to offer Maliki as sort of a consolation prize in order to allow this process —

MS. HARF: This isn’t about us offering consolation prizes. This is about Iraq’s constitutional process playing out.

QUESTION: But it can be argued that the U.S. does have a security interest in seeing this new government be stood up and be stable.

MS. HARF: That is true, but it’s not about us offering anything. It’s about the Iraqis making decisions in the best interests of their people, including Prime Minister Maliki.

QUESTION: But it doesn’t – so saying to him if you allow this process to go through, if you drop your legal challenges, we can do X for you to address some of your issues, some of your concerns, something that would be in keeping with U.S. policy – that’s not on the table at all?

MS. HARF: That’s – this is – Roz, that’s not what this is about. This is about what’s in the best interests of the Iraqi people. And the conversations we have with Prime Minister Maliki and others are about everything they do being in service of that. So there is a new prime minister-designate who has been named by the Shia bloc, including by Prime Minister Maliki’s own party, with support from his party, period. And that’s reason enough to move forward with a new government.

QUESTION: May I follow up on that? Does the U.S. have – even if it’s just internally at this point – any kind of exit strategy for Prime Minister al-Maliki? I mean, if he stays in the country, he’s probably going to be targeted. He has many, many enemies on all sides. Is there any – clearly, he’s afraid for his own life and for his own security, and has shown that in many times over the last God knows how many years. Has the U.S. talked about where he could go, what he could do if he were to step down?

MS. HARF: Well, again, there’s a process in place here. So it’s not about him stepping down or not stepping down; it’s about a new prime minister being named, (a). But (b), I – look, I can check with our folks. I haven’t heard of those conversations.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Marie, to what extent do you think the U.S. has gained influence in Iraq in the last few days?

MS. HARF: In what way?

QUESTION: Political influence.

MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve always had a strong political relationship with the Iraqis. At times we certainly differed on things, but we’ve been very engaged at a number of levels with all of Iraq’s political leaders. I think you have seen, particularly over the last, I’d say, weeks and months since the ISIL threat really quite rapidly grew and we increased our assistance in a number of ways, that the Iraqi leaders from across the board understand that we are an important partner, that we are assisting them in very unique ways and playing a unique role. And I think that’s something that you’ve seen play out just even over the past 72 or more hours now.

QUESTION: And last question for me: Do you have any update on the delivery of arms to the Kurds?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any updates from what we’ve talked about in the past few days.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. been able to come up with any strategy for getting the Yezidis and others trapped on Mount Sinjar to a safe place?

MS. HARF: We’re working on it.

QUESTION: I mean, I know that the military is constantly carrying out airstrikes. They’re basically doing a counterclockwise circle.

MS. HARF: Right. So they’re doing humanitarian drops, and I believe we did the fifth one just recently. And also —

QUESTION: Right. But there have also been —

MS. HARF: Strikes.

QUESTION: — (inaudible) strikes.

MS. HARF: Yep, over the last 24 hours, particularly around the area surrounding Mount Sinjar, to protect the people on the mountain. So we’ve been doing those in conjunction with each other. And we are looking at ways to see if there’s a humanitarian corridor that can be established, if there are safe locales for people to go to, because ultimately you can’t have tens of thousands of people trapped on a mountain even with the airdrops. So there needs to be a long-term humanitarian solution. We’re looking at that right now. It’s a really, really tough security challenge, also humanitarian challenge.

QUESTION: Does that imply that in order to make it possible to get people off the mountain and to safety that the U.S. necessarily would have to either increase its own military operations or would need to persuade the U.K., France, any other countries with a military —

MS. HARF: I wasn’t meaning to imply that.

QUESTION: — to actually be able to push back ISIS —

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: — and (inaudible) enough in order to get people off the mountain and get them to a place where they wouldn’t be attacked?

MS. HARF: I wasn’t meaning to imply that. I was saying just simply that we’re looking at how he could possibly do that. What that might look like, obviously, is a much more detailed issue. It wasn’t meaning to imply anything about how that might be done.

QUESTION: You saw the reports of the helicopter crash today, I’m sure.

MS. HARF: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: And a parliamentarian was injured, the pilot was killed, a New York Times reporter aboard was injured —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — many other people, I’m sure, were injured if not shaken.

MS. HARF: I know it was someone we all know very well.

QUESTION: So I do wonder if the U.S. is considering doing some of these types of missions – in other words, sending helicopters in to help get some of the refugees off the mountain – in a way that the Iraqi air force at this point may not either be equipped to do —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — or have the manpower to do.

MS. HARF: I know we’re looking at a variety of options, the Defense Department is. I think one of the reasons you saw us several days ago first start taking humanitarian drops is because the Iraqis had tried to do this and had succeeded to some extent, but really couldn’t do it in the same way we could. So the Iraqis have certain capabilities. We have in some cases different capabilities that are helpful, so I know they’re looking at that, but I don’t know if any decisions have been made.

QUESTION: So it’s fair to say that the U.S. is looking at potentially sending in helicopters?

MS. HARF: No, we’re looking at options for getting people off of the mountain. I did not say we are actively looking at whether we would use helicopters or not. You can check with the Defense Department about that. I know, broadly speaking, we are looking at how it might be possible to get these people off the mountain, broadly speaking.

QUESTION: Well, how other – I mean, they’re not going to rope-line down. I mean, how other would you get them down other than some kind of airlift?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re looking at a variety – I don’t have anything specific to outline for you.

QUESTION: So are you – I mean, obviously – I mean, you don’t need to tell us that it would have to be some kind of airlift. So you’re discussing whether it’s you that does it or one of your partners does it, or are you —

MS. HARF: We’re just looking at how it could possibly be done.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: We don’t have more details than that.

QUESTION: And where would people go?

QUESTION: Marie, you mentioned —

MS. HARF: Don’t – I don’t have – again, we’re looking at all of this. I don’t have any answers for you.

QUESTION: Would the ideal be to try to keep people inside Iraq?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any answers for you on this. We’re looking at how it could be done.

QUESTION: Marie, you mentioned that you were looking into the possibility of a humanitarian corridor. Doesn’t that imply that at least one way of getting people down off the mountain would be through some kind of a land corridor rather than air?

MS. HARF: I think it would seem to imply that, yes.

QUESTION: So land is a possibility?

MS. HARF: We’re looking at, quite frankly, at —

QUESTION: Everything.

MS. HARF: Everything, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: It is so dire that we are looking at everything.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan?

QUESTION: No, I’m not ready yet. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: I noticed that some of the strikes that have been happening over the last 24 to 36 hours included hitting some Humvees, some personnel carriers, clearly equipment that they – that ISIS has taken from U.S. forces. I would – at least I would assume that’s the case.

MS. HARF: Yeah, I – there are some report – it’s likely some of it probably is. Some of it may not be.

QUESTION: And do you happen to know how widespread that is?

MS. HARF: I can check, and I can see if the Defense Department knows more. I can check on that.

QUESTION: Okay. Or whether they would try to take that equipment back? I mean, these are multimillion dollar pieces of equipment.

MS. HARF: Let me check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: I don’t have more details than that. But I think our assumption is some of it probably is American.

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: Is there any discussion on the number of military advisers? I know that the President has said no more troops – or no troops with —

MS. HARF: In – no troops in combat positions – in combat roles.

QUESTION: Right. But is there an idea of the number of military advisers who have been dispatched? Is there an idea of changing that number?

MS. HARF: Again, check with the Defense Department. I’m happy to check with them. We’re always looking at what the needs are staffing-wise, personnel-wise. And we’re undergoing a bigger mission now than we had before, so we can probably keep having that conversation, but they may have the most up-to-date thinking.

QUESTION: But does it imply that the number has gone up slightly, if at least one FAST team has gone in and —

MS. HARF: A DART team.

QUESTION: DART team.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does that mean —

MS. HARF: A DART team is from USAID. It’s not from the Defense Department.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Anything else on Iraq today?

Afghanistan.

QUESTION: The two presidential candidates in Afghanistan today announced the formation of a joint commission for the unity government. Do you have anything on that?

MS. HARF: Was that today?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: I’m not sure that was today.

QUESTION: It was announced – setting up the commission, along with the members, were announced today.

MS. HARF: Okay. Well, I will check on that. I hadn’t seen that. I know that progress has continued with the elections audit. The Secretary was obviously there recently, and we felt they made progress, that both candidates had agreed to work towards a goal of completing the audit and inaugurating a new president by the end of August. We are moving forward with the ballots being counted, so I can check on that specifically. But we are encouraging the process to keep moving, and the two candidates to keep working together on this.

QUESTION: And does —

QUESTION: What’s the impact on getting a BSA signed, because of the delays in counting the vote, auditing the vote?

MS. HARF: Well, they’ve both said they’ll sign it shortly after – if either – who’s inaugurated, so I think we’re expecting it will be signed as soon as we have a new president.

QUESTION: Has this made it clearer in any way for the U.S. Government to organize the drawdown of combat forces and to stand up whatever the residual force would be, as well as additional Foreign Service USAID personnel?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any updates from when the President made the announcement in May about what our post-2014 presence would look like. I don’t have any new updates on planning, either for the Defense Department or for us. I know we’re looking right now at that, and I can check and see if there’s anything new.

QUESTION: Because it would seem that, especially in light of the agreement which the Secretary helped broker, that it would be giving your people more certainty now about who’s going to be assigned, who’s going to be there for how long —

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: — what kinds of missions might need to be worked on.

MS. HARF: Both of these candidates have said for many months that they would sign the BSA, so that’s not new. I think that’s a separate question, quite frankly, and the staffing’s a separate question from the fact that we believe the political process needs to move forward and there’s an audit in place now, and it’s moving forward. So they’re not exactly related, but I can see if our folks have more.

QUESTION: But there wouldn’t be any sort of legal prohibition on planning to do X unless you had an agreement signed and —

MS. HARF: Well, obviously, we have to have a BSA signed to do certain things, but both of these candidates have said they will. I’m not a lawyer, but, obviously, planning continues.

QUESTION: I have one more on Pakistan. Do you have anything on the Azadi March? Is it being planned by main opposition party, PTI, on August 14th?

MS. HARF: I don’t. Let me check with our folks.

QUESTION: Are you concerned that this is going to have any kind —

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything on it. Let me check.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we do a new topic?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can we do – talk about Russia?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: So Russia sent an aid convoy this morning bound for Ukraine. Is that something that you’re supporting?

MS. HARF: Well, we understand that talks are underway for Russia to deliver the aid to the Ukrainian border where it would be transferred to the custody of the ICRC. Ukraine confirmed with us directly today its readiness to facilitate the arrival of the aid and arrange for its delivery to Luhansk so long as the shipment is received at a border crossing point controlled by the Ukrainian Government in Kharkiv, it passes appropriate customs clearances, that the ICRC takes custody and responsibility for the delivery in Ukraine, and that Russian-backed separatists allow safe access for the delivery of the aid.

We do support this proposal as I just outlined it and as the Ukrainian Government confirmed with us, and call for its swift implementation.

Russia has no right to move into Ukrainian unilaterally, whether under the guise of humanitarian convoys or any other pretext, without Kyiv’s permission.

So we have spoken to the Ukrainians today. They have a plan in place that they feel comfortable with; we feel comfortable with it as well. And now the Russians need to deliver, no pun intended.

QUESTION: Are you confident that this convoy has humanitarian supplies? Because there’s been this concern, as you’ve been saying, that this is a pretext for some kind of —

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: — invasion. But do you think that this, on face value, is what it is?

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t know. And that’s – and we do have concerns. And that’s why, as we’ve said today, if it goes through all of these steps, then we would support this, if it goes through this Ukrainian Government-controlled border crossing, if it passes through customs clearance, if the ICRC takes custody and responsibility for it. So if it goes through, again, those things I just outlined and passes all of those, then sure. But nothing can be done under the guise of humanitarian assistance here that is anything other than what they claim it is.

QUESTION: Marie, the way I saw the —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Let’s go here and then I’ll come back to you.

QUESTION: The way I saw the Ukrainians talking about this themselves, they said that – and you may be alluding to this when you talk about the ICRC taking custody.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But they said that the humanitarian goods would be transferred at the border onto different vehicles. In other words, they don’t want Russian vehicles going in.

MS. HARF: I don’t have that detail here. That might – that makes sense. I just don’t have that in front of me. But it does have to be transferred to ICRC – has to be.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. I mean, I guess what I’m trying to get at is whether you would oppose – as the Ukrainians say they oppose – Russian vehicles going onto their territory.

MS. HARF: I’ll check with the folks who talked to the Ukrainians today and see if that was part of the conversation. Again, we have outlined here with them what they considered appropriate, and we agreed. So I can check and see if that’s what they —

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Has the – can I just (inaudible)? Has the ICRC (a) agreed to this, and (b), what’s the readout you’ve gotten from the Russians on this proposal?

MS. HARF: Let me check on the ICRC piece. I’m guessing they have, but I don’t know specifically. I don’t have any readout of what the Russians have said they will or will not do. I just know what we are calling on them to do.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Are you in contact with the Russians about this?

MS. HARF: We have been. I don’t have any specifics to read out.

QUESTION: Uh-huh. Are you still concerned that this would be pretext for a military action?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re concerned that it could be. And that’s why we felt like there is a humanitarian situation in the east that needs addressing. So if this convoy goes through all those things I just laid out, we would be comfortable with it going forward. We don’t want it to be a pretext for anything else.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. Do you think the Ukrainian Government bears any responsibility for the humanitarian —

MS. HARF: Not at all. This humanitarian situation did not exist before the Russians intervened in eastern Ukraine. It just did not exist. It is a direct result of Russia’s intervention.

Yes.

QUESTION: Change of topic?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Egypt. Human Rights Watch said today that Egypt’s security forces likely committed crimes against humanity when it crushed Islamist protests last year, comparing the bloodshed to China’s Tiananmen Square massacre and calling for a UN investigation into the role of President al-Sisi and his security chiefs. How do you view this report?

MS. HARF: We have seen the report. I believe it was just released this morning, and we’re currently reviewing it. Our initial reaction is that the report’s findings are very disturbing. At the time of the violence last year, which was around this time last year, President Obama strongly condemned the steps taken by the Egyptian Government and security forces, and deplored the violence against civilians. It was at this time that we decided to hold delivery of several weapon systems.

It’s troubling that one year later, no security forces have been held accountable in events that resulted in the deaths of approximately a thousand Egyptians. And as we’ve said many, many times, in order for Egypt to achieve long-term stability, security, economic prosperity, it must investigate these events in a fully transparent and credible manner, one that’s grounded in impartial application of the rule of law, and to hold people accountable.

QUESTION: Do you support a UN investigation into the role of President Sisi?

MS. HARF: Well, again, we’re just reviewing the report and don’t have any additional recommendations to make at this time.

QUESTION: But the Egyptians have rejected the report today and criticizes its bias, and called the Human Rights Watch as unprofessional for relying on anonymous and unreliable accounts and twisting the truth.

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think that you needed any anonymous sources to see what happened in the streets of Egypt last August. We saw it; President Obama talked about it. Approximately a thousand Egyptians died because of it. So we’re reviewing the report. We’ve made our position on this very clear.

QUESTION: How full-throated should the investigation of those responsible be?

MS. HARF: We believe —

QUESTION: Should it rise all the way to now-President Sisi?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any more details about what the investigation should look like, other than we believe all of these situations that have occurred there should be fully investigated.

QUESTION: Was there any – in light of this initial read of the report, is there any misgiving or regret on the part of the U.S. Government for releasing some of the military aid that was held back a year ago?

MS. HARF: No. Look, we have made decisions about our policy towards Egypt based on what’s in our national security interests, as they have made some limited progress. Some – I would stress some and limited. But we have made decisions based on what’s in our security interests and how we can help, but we’ve also, as we’ve said, held some things back even today as well.

QUESTION: How do you view President Sisi’s visit to Russia, especially that he was invited to attend the African Leaders Summit in Washington and he didn’t – he didn’t come?

MS. HARF: Well, look, Egypt is free to have relationships with whoever it wants. We have a relationship with Egypt that’s based on unique capabilities we bring to bear, certainly in the security side, but also on the economic reform side as well. So we believe we have a strong and strategic relationship, and don’t have much more analysis beyond that.

QUESTION: Marie, the report is quite critical of the U.S. and EU for its decisions to continue providing aid to Egypt. Are you – is there any discussion of reevaluating U.S. aid to Egypt as a result of the findings of this report?

MS. HARF: Well, at the time the instances in the report happened, we did hold – we put all of our assistance on hold, we reviewed everything on the books. Everyone remembers we talked about that quite a bit in this room. We held the delivery of certain weapon systems and we reevaluated all of it. And there is still some things that have not been certified even today that – basically the clause that talks about their advance in democratization and their progress there. So this is an ongoing process, but we took very serious steps in response to what happened. I don’t think this report will change what we’ve done in any way, but we’re certainly very disturbed by what’s in it.

QUESTION: Do you agree with the wording – sorry – that the crackdown was premeditated, systematic, and indiscriminate?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re still reviewing the report. But one of the reasons we said there need to be full investigations here is because we want to get all the facts. I can’t stand up here and tell you whether this was all premeditated. I can tell you that we saw civilians being killed in the streets of Egypt, which, as the President said at the time, meant that business as usual could not continue. I remember those words distinctly being said at this time last year.

QUESTION: The aid that’s – the U.S. aid to Egypt that’s still being withheld, is that being withheld by the Administration or by Congress?

MS. HARF: By the Administration. We have not yet certified the last certification we have to make in the – and this is not a technical term – I’m sorry – it’s one of the sub-parts of it on progress towards democratization.

QUESTION: Do you know how much that amounts to?

MS. HARF: I knew that was the next question, and I’m sorry, I don’t.

QUESTION: Okay. Can you take that?

MS. HARF: I will check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Well, can I – just one last question?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have confidence that the Egyptians will hold those who have committed crimes – are you confident that they will hold those accountable? And to what extent are you having direct conversations with Egyptians on this incident?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s troubling that one year later no security forces have been held accountable. That is troubling to us, particularly when there were about a thousand Egyptians who died. So we need to see things be done a little bit differently and see some more progress made here, and we are having that conversation.

QUESTION: And to what extent might this report impact U.S.-Egyptian relations going forward?

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, we’ve been looking at what happened last August and July since last August and July. This report is certainly an important part of that discussion, but we’ve made decisions based on this for many, many months now. I don’t think that this will change that, but it’s certainly a key effort to document what happened here and to call on the Egyptians to investigate it.

QUESTION: In light of the savageness – if that’s a word – of the killing —

MS. HARF: Savagery?

QUESTION: The savagery of the killing of these people – shot in the face, shot in the chest —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — deliberately shoot to kill, what is the U.S. Government’s message to the Egyptian people that some kind of justice can be had for their loved ones?

MS. HARF: Well, I think when you hear the President stand up and say what he said about this last year and what we’ve said since then, that we really need the Government of Egypt to hold people accountable here and we will continue pushing them to do so. We can’t do it for them, but the people who lost loved ones who were killed or injured deserve that. And if Egypt is going to have a fully prosperous, better future, they really need to take these kind of steps, or else they won’t.

QUESTION: A lot of these people who were in Rabaa Square were there because they felt that the democratic process that they had tried to establish had been subverted with the coup on July 3rd. What more can the U.S. do to support the Egyptian people’s aspirations for what they view as a fair democracy?

MS. HARF: Well, this is a conversation, Roz, we’ve had for many, many months now. And last July when we saw what happened with the military, we were very clear and then took steps to back it up with our displeasure. So we have certain levers we can bring to bear here. We have. We will continue to have the conversations. I don’t have more analysis on it to do for you than that.

QUESTION: Is the President prepared to enact more pressure on the Egyptian Government, especially if time passes and no one is brought in to question?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any policy steps to outline for you about what we might or might not do. I know, again, we’re looking at the report and we’ll evaluate going forward.

Scott.

QUESTION: Burma?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What can you tell us about the circumstances surrounding the arrangements made for the Secretary’s lodging at the —

MS. HARF: Thank you for the question. I know there’s been some confusion —

QUESTION: — ASEAN Regional Forum?

MS. HARF: — including on Twitter, on this today. So let’s clear it up here.

So for the ministerial meeting, the foreign ministry assigned hotels to delegations there. The ministry assigned the Lake Garden Hotel to the U.S. delegation. The hotel itself is not sanctioned. The local owner is on an SDN list, but under U.S. law, the IEEPA – which is the law that governs how sanctions are implemented in Burma – includes an exemption for activities related to travel, including hotel accommodations. That’s for U.S. private citizens, U.S. businessmen or women, and U.S. Government officials. So if you are – basically how it was explained to me, you can stay at this hotel no matter who you are, you just can’t do business with it. So if you wanted to sell them towels, you could not do that but you could stay there.

QUESTION: But don’t you think the —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

(Laughter.)

MS. HARF: There’s a difference in the law.

QUESTION: All right, okay. Well, even if it’s —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Oh, can we ask one question at a time —

QUESTION: Even if —

MS. HARF: — or is there going to be pure anarchy in here today?

QUESTION: It is going to be anarchy on this, on this important —

MS. HARF: Elise is leading in the coup here.

QUESTION: The inmates are running the asylum.

MS. HARF: Well, but when there are things being said that the hotel’s blacklisted, that’s just not the case.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: We need to be very clear when we talk about sanctions what is and isn’t sanctioned.

QUESTION: Fine.

MS. HARF: This hotel was assigned to our delegation. We complied with all laws. And we have pushed very strongly with the Burmese Government to take actions to reform, to reform in a number of ways that address the issues that underpin our sanctions.

QUESTION: No doubt.

MS. HARF: So we raised those, including during our meetings bilaterally in Burma.

QUESTION: No doubt. But —

MS. HARF: But – I know there’s a “but” coming, Elise.

QUESTION: Don’t you think though that just that the appearance and the perception of staying at this hotel sends a wrong message?

MS. HARF: I don’t.

QUESTION: I mean, yes, maybe you’re – maybe you’re complying to the letter of the U.S. law, but what about the spirit in which the sanctions were put and the U.S. values that they represent?

MS. HARF: Okay, Elise.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Let’s take a step back.

QUESTION: Okay. Let’s take a step back.

MS. HARF: We’ve been very clear how strongly we feel about the values that underpin our sanctions towards Burma. They were raised repeatedly with Burmese officials. The notion that we need to take steps to reform – because eventually, obviously, we want them to take steps so we can remove sanctions. And they have made some progress. This in no way changes how deeply we care about the things that made these sanctions enacted in the first place.

QUESTION: But if you’re —

MS. HARF: And I don’t think staying at a hotel that itself is not sanctioned in any way changes that.

QUESTION: But how do you —

MS. HARF: I really don’t.

QUESTION: You don’t think that (inaudible)?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) people pay to stay isn’t going to benefit from it? What Lara said.

MS. HARF: I’m sorry.

QUESTION: The owner of the hotel is going to benefit financially from —

MS. HARF: Well, there’s ways sanctions are put in place. And I know you all have opinions on what the sanctions should say, but the sanctions as written make very clear that Americans can stay there. And if we felt like that would be helpful to sanction as well, I would have guessed that we would have sanctioned that as well.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: But it’s not an interpretation of the law. This is just common sense. If you —

MS. HARF: No, it’s actually – and you don’t get – the funny thing about the way the law is written is there are things you can and can’t do. And everything we did is completely legal.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: If you’re willing to – sorry. If you’re willing to comply – just if you – saying this complies with the letter of the law, it certainly doesn’t comply with the spirit of the sanctions —

MS. HARF: It does actually, because sanctions are put in place on certain people for —

QUESTION: And you’re staying at a hotel that is owned by —

MS. HARF: — for doing certain things. If we had wanted to sanction the hotel, we could have done that too. And there’s a reason, I’m sure, that we didn’t.

QUESTION: But how does allowing this person to benefit –

MS. HARF: I think we might just have to agree to disagree on this.

QUESTION: — encourage further reforms?

MS. HARF: Because when the Secretary of State and President Obama sit in Burma with Burmese leaders directly to their face and say you need to do more to reform, I think that makes the case much more clearly than where the Secretary sleeps when he overnights there.

QUESTION: But when he stays at the hotel after that meeting, it kind of a sends a wink-wink —

MS. HARF: Not at all.

QUESTION: — to the government that yeah, well —

MS. HARF: Not at all. Not at all.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, we can agree —

MS. HARF: We can agree to disagree on this, Elise. And I think we’ve probably exhausted this topic.

QUESTION: I’m not exhausted.

QUESTION: Do you agree that the owner is financially benefitting?

QUESTION: I mean, do you think that – I mean, do you think that – do you know if the State Department was aware of these sanctions against this hotel owner–

MS. HARF: I can check.

QUESTION: — at the time they were assigned the hotel?

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t.

QUESTION: Do you think if they did not know that they would have asked for a hotel change?

MS. HARF: There’s like 15 hypotheticals there.

QUESTION: There’s just two.

QUESTION: Can we – let me ask —

MS. HARF: I honestly – I will – to calm the masses, I will check with our team. I’m not meaning to be flip about this. We worked very hard. We’re all being —

QUESTION: You’re doing a pretty good job of it. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: We’re all being a little flip about this. But let’s step back. Let me step back for a second and be serious. We worked very hard to put in place sanctions on Burma that we believed were a key part of helping get to a place where we are today where there has been quite amount of political and economic and commercial reform. We have much more to go. That was a huge topic of conversation the Secretary had when he was there.

So we’ve come a long way, as you know, with Burma in a broader context in the

Press Releases: Remarks With Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, and Australian Minister of Defense David Johnston

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Ladies and gentlemen, today we have welcomed to Sydney and to AUSMIN Secretaries John Kerry and Chuck Hagel, and this is the second AUSMIN meeting that the four principals here have participated in. The United States alliance is the most important security relationship for Australia, and AUSMIN is an annual opportunity for us to take stock of this relationship. And today’s discussion was broad in its scope. We were frank in our exchanges, and there was a clear instinct for collaboration across a wide area of endeavor. There’s a desire to share the burden of implementing our mutual vision and mutual goal of regional and global peace and prosperity, security and stability.

At a bilateral level, we signed the Force Posture Initiatives, the formal, legally binding document about a presence of U.S. Marines in the north of our country, and we focused particularly on the humanitarian disaster relief aspects of having the assistance of the U.S. in our region, which is, sadly, prone to natural disasters and other tragedies. Now at a regional level, we discussed the tensions in the South China Sea. Secretary Kerry and I have just returned from the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum, where the South China Sea was discussed at length, and we went over some of those issues. But we also discussed the tensions on the Korean Peninsula and our mutual desire to see North Korea denuclearized in a verifiable way and returned to the Six Party Talks.

We discussed the regional architecture and the need for the East Asia Summit to be the premier regional forum. It has the right mandate, the right membership to discuss matters of regional strategic significance. We talked about the importance of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is where the U.S. rebalance finds its economic expression and how important the TPP will be to opening up and liberalizing markets in our region. We discussed the emergence of China and other major powers in our region.

Globally, in the wake of the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-17, we talked about the situation in eastern Ukraine and Russia’s intentions and the behavior of Russia in recent months and weeks involving the breach of sovereignty in Ukraine and elsewhere. We had a long discussion on the Middle East and the significant conflicts there, whether it be Syria, Iraq, or in Gaza, and we also talked about Afghanistan and our commitment to Afghanistan post-2014.

A considerable focus of our discussion was on counterterrorism and, more specifically, on the issue of foreign fighters. People going to fight in conflicts around the world, leaving their countries, going to Syria, Iraq, and elsewhere and becoming radicalized and taking part in extremist terrorist activities is, in fact, an international problem. It’s a concern for Australia, it’s a concern for the United States, but it’s a topic that’s raised increasingly in countries in our region and across Europe. It’s an international problem, but the barbaric ideology that these extremists embrace is, in fact, a threat to our way of life, a threat to our values, and we discussed ways that we can bring this issue to international attention. So a major focus on the issue of foreign fighters.

Overall, it was a most productive and most useful exchange from Australia’s point of view. We came up with a number of significant initiatives. The communiqué sets out the detail of it, but I want to thank both Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel for making the trip down under. We are always delighted to see you in our part of the world. You’ve been in Asia and Southeast Asia on so many occasions, and we always want you to come to Australia and count us in on your discussions. The relationship has never been stronger, and we have appreciated your commitment and focus on the issues that are of mutual concern and of concern to Australia’s national interest.

I’ll ask the Minister for Defense to say a few words and then pass over to our American friends.

DEFENSE MINISTER JOHNSTON: Well, thank you, Julie. To Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel, firstly, thank you for the magnanimous, generous, and gracious way that you’ve entered into our discussions. I must say I know I speak for Julie, it’s an absolute delight to be with you in your busy schedules to discuss matters that are regionally significant, but also in the wider area of world events, the problems we both are worried about, how best to confront them and how best Australia can help the United States in its very excellent leadership, particularly in this region.

Part of that is, of course, the rebalance, and we’re delighted to have 1,200 – approximately 1,200 U.S. Marines in Darwin. That, ladies and gentlemen, is going very seamlessly, very well, and it is a classic win-win situation. So today’s discussions have gone very cordially, very constructively, and very frankly as you would expect with partners and friends of long standing. So the rebalance has been, from our point of view, delivering the Marines into Darwin very, very successful so that our region has, of course, benefitted – and I reiterate this to the Secretaries – benefitted from the stability of the past 20, 30 years. That stability has been delivered by U.S. leadership and of course the booming middle class of Southeast and East Asia has been the end dividend of that stability.

And so today we’ve enjoyed discussing the challenges, what we perceive coming over the horizon in the future, matters such as counterterrorism, foreign fighters, which we both, as two countries have to deal with. Can I say that both Secretary Hagel and Secretary Kerry bring enormous amount of wisdom and wit to our discussions. And I must say to you the discussions have been most enjoyable. We share interoperability across so many fronts. We have very large numbers of people embedded in the United States in the U.S. military. We’ve got 400 people still in Afghanistan working with the Americans and our other ISAF partners going forward. I want to end on that note by just saying thank you very much for the trust. When we are doing things together in the defense space, trust is a really important part of that, and trust leads to great friendship, and I think we have great friendship, and I thank you both for that.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much, Julie. Good afternoon to all of you. And let me just – let me begin by saying that I am really delighted to be here with Secretary Hagel at the Australia-United States Ministerial Meeting. This is my first AUSMIN, as we call it, in Australia, and I really want to thank Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Johnston for their unbelievably warm welcome over the course of these two days. We had a very productive dinner discussion last night just over the way from here, and today we both join together in thanking Governor-General Cosgrove for opening up his magnificent residence to us. It afforded a really superb venue to be able to sit here quietly and be able to really dig in in very personal ways to very complicated issues, and we thank them for this special venue and special friendship that goes with it.

Secretary Hagel and I both want to begin any comments that we make here today with an expression of our deepest condolences to the families and the loved ones of the 38 Australians who lost their lives in the Flight 17 – Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. We both want to affirm to Australia and to the world that we absolutely demand, as does Australia, justice for this unconscionable crime. And just as we stand together on so many issues from the Asia Pacific to the Middle East to Afghanistan and beyond, we will see this through together.

I’ve also had the very good fortune to work with our Australian friends for many years, 29 years in the United States Senate and a number of years as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. So when Secretary Hagel and I served in Vietnam – slightly different times, but we both served there – we also fought alongside, side by side, with our Australian brothers who are great soldiers and great friends. In fact, Australian men and American men and women – men and women on both sides – have fought side by side in every major conflict since World War I, and we’re proud of the friendship and the trust, as Minister Johnston was just saying, that has grown out of this longtime relationship.

I was very privileged to join Secretary Hagel and Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Johnston last year at Arlington National Secretary where we honored this special bond between Australians and the United States, a bond that can only be forged through the sacrifice of war, which we both understand. So I thank Australia at this moment, particularly for stepping up yet again with their offer of humanitarian assistance in Iraq at this moment of crisis. The new Iraqi leadership has a very difficult challenge. It has to regain the confidence of its citizens by governing inclusively, but also by taking steps to demonstrate their resolve, and we’re going to continue to stand with the Iraqi people during this time of transition.

And though we live in different hemispheres and at opposite ends of the globe, the United States could ask for no better friend and no closer ally than Australia. Australia is a vital partner in so many different endeavors. It is vital as we deepen the U.S. economic engagement throughout the Asia Pacific, as we engage in the rebalances of – both ministers have referred to it, which will bring the United States even more to the effort to help create a larger economic transformation in the region and to bring about a rule of law-based structure where everybody understands the rules and where it is a race to the top, not to the bottom. We also are working hard together to try to complete a critical component of that race to the top, which is the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement.

We also discussed, as has been mentioned by both ministers, difficult regional and global security challenges. We didn’t need to struggle to find commonality in our understanding of the fact that we are living in one of the most complicated moments of transformation and transition all across this planet. Instant communications, massive numbers of mobile devices, massive amounts of information moving at lightning speed around the globe informing everybody about everything all of the time. And that has changed politics, and it has changed international relations. It raises expectations among people all over the world. And it challenges politics in terms of building consensus around decisions.

So we face a lot of these challenges together in today’s world, and that is why it is so important to have the kind of discussion that we had here today where we lay out every one of those challenges and try to figure out how do we do this better, how can we have greater impact, how do we bring more people to the table in order to affect change. It has enabled both of our countries to stand with the people of Ukraine, support long-term progress in Afghanistan, reduce tensions in the South China Sea, collaborate in the United Nations Security Council on everything from Iran to Syria to restricting trade in illicit small arms and weapons and even in our fellow human beings.

Today’s session allowed us to consult and coordinate in depth on these issues and on the challenges that we face in Iraq and Gaza, and we also agreed in conjunction with our discussion about the foreign fighters that Julie raised a moment ago that we are going to work together to assemble a compendium of the best practices in the world today regarding those foreign fighters, and we intend to join together in order to bring this to the United Nations meeting next month and put it on the agenda in a way that will elicit support from source countries as well as those countries of concern.

Earlier today, as you all know, we signed a Force Posture Agreement that will further strengthen and deepen the U.S.-Australian defense relationship, and we agreed to expand our trilateral cooperation with Japan. So you can see that we covered a range of very important issues in the Asia Pacific region, including our commitment to the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. And the United States – I want to make this clear – is absolutely prepared to improve relations with North Korea if North Korea will honor its international obligations. It’s that simple. But make no mistake we are also prepared to increase pressure, including through strong sanctions and further isolation if North Korea chooses the path of confrontation.

So I join Secretary Hagel in thanking Foreign Minister Bishop and Defense Minister Johnston for very productive discussions over the past day, and we all look forward to continuing our work together in the years to come in order to address these complex challenges.

SECRETARY HAGEL: John, thank you, and I, too, appreciate an opportunity to be with Secretary Kerry here for the AUSMIN meetings that we are concluding this afternoon. I want to add my thanks as well to our hosts, Minister Bishop, Minister Johnston, and also to Governor-General Cosgrove for his hospitality here at Admiralty House. So thank you.

On a visit to the United States in 1960, the great Australian prime minister, Robert Menzies, said that strength is admirable, but only for the responsibilities it accepts and discharges. America, Australia, and this historic alliance has always, always sought to live up to those responsibilities around the world. Today’s agenda for the U.S.-Australia alliance, you have heard, span issues ranging from the South China Sea to Iraq where Secretary Kerry and I expressed our appreciation for Australia’s offer to contribute to the humanitarian and relief operations and where America is prepared to intensify its security cooperation as Iraq undertakes and makes progress towards political reform.

We also addressed the crisis in Ukraine as has been noted and Australia’s tragic loss of 38 citizens and residents aboard MH-17. And as I have said, as Secretary has – Secretary Kerry has expressed, our condolences to the people of Australia and especially the families of those who were lost in that tragedy. America will continue to work with Australia as we have said clearly and plainly to provide requested support and assistance.

Today we have reinforced the foundation of our alliances, defense, and security cooperation by, as Secretary Kerry noted, signing the U.S.-Australia Force Posture Agreement. This long-term agreement on rotational deployment of U.S. Marines in Darwin and American Airmen in northern Australia will broaden and deepen our alliance’s contributions to regional security and advance America’s ongoing strategic rebalance in the Asia Pacific. At today’s AUSMIN having just come from New Delhi and having consulted closely with our Japanese and Korean allies and ASEAN defense ministers, I see a new, committed resolve to work together, to work together to build a security system across this Indo-Pacific region, recognizing the independent sovereignty of nations, respecting that sovereignty, but also recognizing the common interests that we all have for a stable, peaceful, secure world.

The U.S. Australia alliance is spurring this progress and will remain a bedrock for a stable and secure order. Along with Secretary Kerry, let me again thank our hosts, Minister Bishop, Minister Johnston, and Governor-General Cosgrove for hosting this year’s AUSMIN and what they continue to do as we continue to collaborate and work together on some of the great issues of our time. As Secretary Kerry has noted, we live in an immensely complicated world, but a world that is still full of hope and promise if we endeavor to bring resolute, strong leadership, leadership that is committed to these virtues and values and principles that we all share and living up to the highest responsibilities as Prime Minister Menzies once said. Thank you very much.

MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you. We’re now going to have four questions, and I think Laura, you’re going to kick off. Thank you.

QUESTION: Laura Jayes from Sky News. Secretary Kerry, Secretary Hagel, thank you. Ministers, thank you. I wanted to first go to Russia, and our Australian Government has talked about greater sanctions on Russia, leaving that option open, uranium perhaps. Secretary Kerry, is that a path you would like to see Australia go down? There’s also the question of Vladimir Putin attending the G20 Summit. I wondered if you have a comment on that.

And also, as I guess a little bit out of that direct realm, China in all of this. We’ve seen the U.S. and EU impose quite strong sanctions against Russia in the last couple of months, but China has, I think, helped to dilute that in some ways, if you, Secretary Kerry, could address those questions, also, Minister Bishop as well.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you very much. On the subject of sanctions with respect to Russia, we are very understanding of our friend, Australia’s deep, deep anger and its need for justice with respect to what has happened. This is an unconscionable crime on a huge international order that findings already, without the full investigation being done – and we are pressing for a full investigation, because nothing is complete until you have a full investigation. But there is no question – and we’ve said this publicly previously, but that this type of weapon and all the evidence of it was seen on our imagery. We saw the takeoff. We saw the trajectory. We saw the hit. We saw this airplane disappear from the radar screen. So there’s really no mystery about where it came from and where these weapons have come from.

But we need to have the complete investigation, obviously, to legitimize whatever steps are going to be taken as we go down the road, and that’s why we’re all pressing so hard for that. The foreign minister of Australia traveled to New York, made an eloquent plea working with our ambassador and others there, Frans Timmermans of – the Dutch foreign minister spoke eloquently about what had happened. And the world can’t just sort of move by this and gloss by it. People need to remember this, because holding people accountable is essential not just to justice for what happened, but to deterrence and prevention in the future, and we don’t want to see these kinds of things ever repeated again.

So we’re open, but we haven’t made any decisions. I’m not sure Australia has either yet. We need to see what’s happening, but our hope and prayer – our hope is that in the next days and weeks we can find a way for President Poroshenko and Ukraine to be able to work with the Russians to provide the humanitarian assistance necessary in the east to facilitate the thoroughness of the investigation, to begin to bring the separatists to the degree that they are Ukrainian into the political process, and for those who are not Ukrainian, they need to leave the country, and there needs to be a process worked out where the supplies stop coming in both in money and arms and support and people and Ukraine is allowed to begin to protect its sovereignty and define its future. Our hope is that that can happen through the diplomatic process, but we’ve all learned that we need to be cautious and strong at the same time in our responses and clear about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.

With respect to the G20 Summit, et cetera, no decisions have been made at this point in time. I think a lot of the attitudes about the – about that issue from the various countries attending can, frankly, be determined and impacted to some degree in what happens in these next days and weeks.

And finally, with respect to China and what is going on, we have said again and again – and we just had a Strategic and Economic Dialogue in China, Secretary Jack Lew of the Treasury and I were there, with two days of discussions, and we made it very clear to China that we welcome the rise of China as a global partner, hopefully, as a powerful economy, as a full participating, constructive member of the international community, and we want China to participate in constructive ways, whether it’s in the South China Sea or with respect to Japan and South Korea, with North Korea, with other issues that we face. We are not seeking conflict and confrontation, and our hope is that China will, likewise, take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of it to be that cooperative partner.

And so there are always differences, shades – there are differences with respect to certain issues, and we’ve agreed to try to find those things where we can really cooperate. We’re cooperating in Afghanistan, we’re cooperating on nonproliferation with respect to Iran, we’re cooperating to get the chemical weapons out of Syria, we’re cooperating on counterterrorism, we’re cooperating on nuclear weaponry and on the reduction of nuclear arms. So there are plenty of big issues on which we cooperate with Russia even now every day, and our hope is that on those things where we’ve obviously had some disagreements with China or with Russia that we can both find a diplomatic path forward, because everybody in the world understands the world will be better off if great power nations are finding ways to cooperate, not to confront each other.

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: If I could put this question of sanctions in context, MH-17 was a commercial airplane flying in commercial airspace carrying 298 civilians. Passenger numbers included 80 children, and this plane was shot down, we believe, by a surface-to-air missile just inside eastern Ukraine. The deaths of so many people, including 38 Australian citizens and residents was shocking, and the implications for international aviation are profound. So after completing our humanitarian mission of removing the remains and personal effects from the crash site, we are now focused on the investigation into how this came to be, how this plane was shot down, and who did it, because those culpable for creating the circumstances or for actually causing the downing of this plane must be held to account, and the grief of our citizens demands answers. They must be held to account, the perpetrators, and brought to justice.

All the while, when Australian and Dutch teams, unarmed police, humanitarian teams were seeking to get to the crash site, all the while, Russia was supplying more armed personnel, more heavy weaponry over the border into eastern Ukraine. They didn’t cease, and in fact increased their efforts. And instead of listening to international concerns about a ceasefire and the need for a humanitarian corridor for us to conclude our work, on the very day that Australia was holding a national day of mourning to grieve the loss of so many Australian lives, Russia chose to impose sanctions on Australia through an embargo on our agricultural exports.

We are rightly focused on the investigation, supporting the Netherlands, Malaysia, Belgium, and Ukraine as part of an investigation team. But on the question of sanctions, we will consider the options available to us, but our focus at present is to bring closure to the families who are still grieving over this barbaric act of shooting down a plane that killed their loved ones.

As far as the G20 is concerned, as Secretary Kerry indicated, there’s been no decision. The G20 is an economic forum. There would have to be a consensus view as to whether or not steps should be taken in relation to President Putin’s presence here in Australia.

On China, I must say that China was extremely supportive of our resolution in the United Nations Security Council. As you’d be aware, it was a unanimous resolution. It was supported by all 15 members of the UN Security Council, and China has suffered a great loss through the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH-370. Australia has done what we can to help in that search effort, and I have committed to Foreign Minister Wang Yi last weekend that Australia will continue to help search for that missing plane. So China grieves with us over the loss of people aboard airplanes that have crashed or disappeared in such extraordinary circumstances.

On the question of China’s support beyond MH-17, Russia’s behavior in recent months has been to breach the sovereignty of Ukraine, a neighbor, and this is not behavior that China, one would think, would condone. It’s behavior that China has pointed out to others would be unacceptable if it were to occur in China’s sphere of the world. So we’ll continue to consult, discuss with China the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian tensions, the conflict, the need for ceasefire, the need for humanitarian assistance and hope that China sees it as we do, an unacceptable breach of Ukraine’s sovereignty and urge Russia to stop the flow of weapons, stop the flow of armed personnel. Russia claims to be concerned about a humanitarian situation in Ukraine when the first thing it should do is stop sending weapons and armed personnel to the so-called separatists.

QUESTION: I’m (inaudible). I’m a reporter with Bloomberg News. Questions on Iraq first to Secretary Hagel: What kind of direct military assistance is the Pentagon prepared to offer the Kurds, and does it include sending heavy weapons to them?

And if I can ask Secretary Kerry: Can you talk a little bit more about what the United States is prepared to do once there is a new Iraqi Government? And both of you, do you share any concern that directly aiding and supporting the Kurds could potentially encourage them to break away from a united Iraq in the future?

And to the Australian officials, the U.S. has said it will assist and train Iraqi troops to combat ISIL. And have you been asked and are you prepared to send any of your troops to train the Iraqi forces? Thank you.

SECRETARY HAGEL: The United States Government is working with the Iraqi Government, the Iraqi security forces to get military equipment to the Peshmerga. That is Iraqi military equipment. We – our American forces through CENTCOM are helping get that equipment to Erbil. As to your question regarding a breakaway status of the Kurds into an independent Kurdistan, I think it’s important that – and we have taken this position and Secretary Kerry, who has been directly involved in this, may want to amplify on this point – but it’s important to note that America’s position is a unified Iraq.

You all know that the Council of Representatives announced today that it had selected a new prime minister, a new Shia prime minister. That then completes the new senior officers that the Counsel of Representatives have put forth, a new speaker of the parliament, a new president, a new prime minister. That’s good news. Now the next step has to move forward in getting that government ratified and in place, and we look forward to working with that new government.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well – sorry, go ahead. No, please.

DEFENSE MINISTER JOHNSTON: With respect to the Australian contribution to those people who are in the mountains around Erbil, we are going to be participate and deliver humanitarian relief in the nature of being able to drop supplies to them, and that is a (inaudible) capability we have long held probably since East Timor. And that’s the role that we’ll carry out, and we’ll fit into and be part of the planning of the United States and other partners who want to assist on that humanitarian basis, and that’s the way we’ll go forward. Sorry, John.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, no, no. That’s important, and I appreciate it. Let me just begin by congratulating Dr. Haider al-Abadi on his nomination, which now offers him an opportunity to be able to form a government over the next 30 days. And we urge him to form a new cabinet as swiftly as possible, and the U.S. does stand ready to fully support a new and inclusive Iraqi Government, particularly in its fight against ISIL.

Now I’m not going to get into the details today before a new prime minister is there and a government is there and we’ve talked to them and we know what they think their needs are and how they define the road ahead, but I will tell you that without any question, we are prepared to consider additional political, economic, and security options as Iraq starts to build a new government and very much calculated to try to help stabilize the security situation, to expand economic development, and to strengthen the democratic institutions. Those will be the guidelines.

We also would note that there are already a significant group of programs in place under the strategic framework agreement, and we, with a new government in place, would absolutely look to provide additional options, and we would consider those options for sure in an effort to strengthen an effort. Let me be very clear we have always wanted an inclusive, participatory government that represents the interests of Shia, Kurd, Sunni, minorities, all Iraqis. That’s the goal. And our hope is that when there is a new government, we will all of us in the international community be able to work with them in order to guarantee that outstanding issues that have just stood there absolutely frozen for years now, like the oil revenue law or the constitutional reform, all of these things need to be resolved, and that will really determine the road ahead.

Now with respect to the Kurds, we welcome increased coordination and support between the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish forces. That is taking place right now. It’s quite unique, and we think that’s a signal of a growing potential for cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil. So as we’ve said last week, ISIL has secured certain heavy weaponry, and the Kurds need additional arms, and what is happening now is through the government in Baghdad, some of that assistance is being provided directly to the Kurds. I think that raises as many questions about the possibility of greater cooperation as it does with the possibility of further efforts for separation.

What I do know is from my own meetings with President Barzani recently, he is very committed to this transition in Baghdad, in Iraq, in the government. He is committed to trying to be a force for a strong federal government that works for all Iraqis, and that’s the only subject on the table at this point in time.

QUESTION: Secretaries, Ministers, Greg Jennett from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. This is to any or all of you, but perhaps starting with you, Secretary Kerry. Following on from that question on Iraq and noting that you don’t want to get into details, but that stabilizing security is an option that the U.S. is prepared to explore with the government there, what are the circumstances in which the U.S. could look to allies, including Australia, to support security with further military commitments, if you could outline at least the parameters in which you would start that conversation.

And also on homecoming jihadists from the Middle East, what is the shared approach? Practically, what sort of initiatives are we talking about? As this – things before prosecution, after incarceration, before interrogation, is there any example of the types of actions you’d like to see the world take jointly?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me let a couple of my colleagues – I’ll turn to Julie to address the issue on the foreign fighters, because we had a pretty robust discussion, and perhaps even Mr. Johnston and Hagel want to tackle that. So let me just answer the first part of the question, and they can answer the second.

The question is: How can we look towards this issue of stabilization and military assistance? And you said: Where would the discussion begin? Well, let me tell you in the simplest terms where the discussion begins. There will be no reintroduction of American combat forces into Iraq. That is the beginning of the discussion. This is a fight that Iraqis need to join on behalf of Iraq, and our hope is and the reason President Obama has been so clear about wanting to get the government formation before beginning to tackle ISIL in the most significant way excepting the kind of emergency circumstances that have arisen is because if you don’t have a government that is inclusive and that works, nothing else will work plain and simply.

So you have to have a government that can begin to be inclusive where the forces of Iraq are not a personal force defined by one particular sect and sworn to allegiance to one particular leader, but they truly represent Iraq, and Iraq’s future in a broad-based sense. And I think that everybody understands that is the direction that we have to go. Lots of countries who have an interest in stability in the region have already offered different kinds of assistance of one kind or another, but nobody, I think, is looking towards a return to the road that we’ve traveled. What we’re really looking for here is a way to support Iraq, support their forces with either training or equipment or assistance of one kind or another that can help them to stand on their own two feet and defend their nation. That’s the goal. That’s where the conversation begins, whoever is prime minister, and I think everybody is crystal clear about that.

We are convinced that with a unified effort by Iraqis, and particularly if there is a return to the kind of localized efforts that existed in the Sons of Anbar or the Iraqi Anbar Awakening, as it’s referred to, that there will be plenty of opportunity here for a pushback against ISIL forces which is why the restoration of a unified, inclusive government is so critical as a starting point. I think the President felt that that process was well enough along the way with the selection of a speaker, the selection of a president, and the clear movement of people towards a candidate for prime minister that he felt comfortable that the urgency of the situation, of protecting potential people moving towards Erbil or the extraordinary atrocities that were beginning to take place with respect to the Yazidis that it was critical to begin to move in that regard, and that’s why he made that decision, and I think it was a wise decision.

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Australia has long joined the international community in calling for a more inclusive government in Iraq, and the political instability that we have seen that hasn’t addressed the concerns of the Sunnis, hasn’t addressed the concerns of minorities, is of course a matter of grave concern. So political stability is the key for Iraq encountering the influence and impact of these extremist groups, including ISIL. And that brings me to the issue of foreign fighters. The Australian media has, this week, published some truly shocking photographs I assume have been verified of an Australian family in the Middle East holding up a severed head, a seven year-old child is involved in this barbarous display of ideology, and they’re Australian citizens.

So when the government says that there is a real domestic security threat from the phenomenon of foreign fighters, we have evidence that there are a significant number of Australian citizens who are taking part in activities in Iraq and parts of Syria, extremist activities, terrorist activities. Our fear is that they will return home to Australia as hardened, homegrown terrorists and seek to continue their work here in Australia. And it’s not a concern just of this country. As I mentioned earlier, at the East Asia Summit, a number of countries raised this issue of foreign fighters leaving countries, going to fight in these conflicts and coming home with a set of skills and experience as terrorists. That truly poses one of the most significant threats that we’ve seen in a very long time.

Our discussion today focused on what we can do to counter this risk. Australia, as the Australian media would be well aware, has announced a series of legislative reforms that deal with matters including the burden of proof for people’s presence in prescribed areas like Mosul, and why Australian citizens would be defying the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advice to not go to Mosul demands explanation. We are looking at issues involving passports and the cancellation and the ability to suspend passports so that we can investigate the activities of people within Australia and deal with them on their turn.

We know that one of the Australian citizens involved in these activities in the Middle East in Iraq had, in fact, been convicted of terrorist activities in Australia, had served time and then left Australia under a false identity. We also know that in coming weeks and months, a significant number of those convicted of terrorist activities in Indonesia will be released. Now the question is: Have they been de-radicalized in their time in prison? Clearly in the case of the Australian citizen, not. And we hold similar fears for those inmates leaving Indonesian jails. So the whole question of what we can do when these people are detained and what we can do if they’re prosecuted and found guilty and spend time in jail, they are matters that we have to look at. The whole question of reaching out to the communities in Australia and getting communities to assist us in fighting this extremist threat is important.

So as we were discussing these issues, Secretary Kerry said this is something we’ve got to bring to the attention of the international community. It’s a shared issue across Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Europe, in Pakistan, in Great Britain, Canada. There are a number of countries across the globe reporting instances of citizens becoming extremist fighters in the Middle East. And so this idea of having a forum, discussion at UNGA Leaders’ Week is something that I believe will be well supported because so many countries are facing this threat, and if we can exchange ideas and practices and suggestions as how we can deal with it, then I think we will have made a great step forward, and so we certainly will support the United States and work very hard to ensure that we collectively deal with this growing threat to the security of our nation.

SECRETARY KERRY: Can I add one thing to that?

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Sure.

SECRETARY KERRY: I apologize, but I just want to underscore this image, perhaps even an iconic photograph that Julie has just referred to is really one of the most disturbing, stomach-turning, grotesque photographs ever displayed, this seven year-old child holding a severed head out with pride and with the support and encouragement of a parent with brothers there. That child should be in school, that child should be out learning about a future, that child should be playing with other kids, not holding a severed head and out in the field of combat. This is utterly disgraceful, and it underscores the degree to which ISIL is so far beyond the pale with respect to any standard by which we judge even terrorist groups, that al-Qaida shunted them aside. And that’s why they represent the threat that they represent. And it’s no accident that every country in the region is opposed to ISIL.

So this threat is so real, an African – north African president of a country recently told me that 1,800 identified citizens of that country have gone to Syria to fight. Believe it or not, 1,100 of them they knew had already been killed because their bodies had been returned or they were tallied as killed. Well, that leaves 7 or 800 still out there that they fear are going to return to that country knowing how to fix an IED, knowing how to arm weapons, knowing how to explode a bomb, knowing how to build a suicide vest or something like that. And this ideology is without one redeeming quality of offering people a job or healthcare or an education or anything other than saying don’t live any other way but the way we tell you.

So this is serious business, and we understand that, and I think the world is beginning to come to grips with the fact, the degree to which this is unacceptable. And we have a responsibility to take this to the United Nations and to the world so that all countries involved take measures ahead of time to prevent the return of these fighters and the chaos and havoc that could come with that, and I just wanted to underscore that with the – with Minister Bishop, because we’re all joined together in this effort, and that’s why we’re going to take it to the United Nations in the fall and try to get best practices put together by which all countries can begin to act together in unison in order to react to it.

QUESTION: Leslie Wroughton from Reuters. Please excuse if I don’t stand up. I’ve got too much equipment going here. Turning back to Iraq, you said that the U.S. was prepared to consider security, political, and economic options as Iraq forms this new government. Can you get into more specifics about that? We’ve heard some vague statements on how you ought to prepare to support. Does this include further airstrikes to push back ISIS? Once the government comes in, how do you secure that stability?

And then number two, on Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Rasmussen said today there’s a high probability of a Russian intervention in Ukraine. What specific steps, again, are you taking through diplomatic channels to address this. You talked about your hopes in the next days and weeks to – that you could find a way for President Poroshenko and Ukraine to be able to work with the Russians. Are you talking about a new diplomatic effort here? And what are you talking about? Thanks.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me make it clear with respect to Ukraine, diplomatic efforts have never ceased. It’s not a question of a new one; it’s a question of ongoing diplomatic efforts. We have never stopped. The President has not stopped, the Vice President, myself have all been in touch with the top leadership of Ukraine, with leadership of Russia, and others. The President of the United States talked to President Putin a few days ago. I talked to Foreign Minister Lavrov just a couple days ago. I talked to President Poroshenko a few days ago. There are a lot of conversations taking place.

And even now as we stand here, there are efforts being made with our friends, with Germany, with the Ukrainians, with Russia, with others to try to see if there’s a way to work out a way forward on the humanitarian delivery with direct contact with the ICRC. There is direct contact with the Germans and others in this effort, and the hope is that through the meetings that will take place this week, there is a way to find a means that is acceptable to deliver humanitarian assistance without the guise of a military delivery in an effort to do so against the will and wishes of the country where it is being delivered and against the norms of the ICRC, the International Red Cross, and how it would react to that.

So that’s the effort that’s underway now. It’s been a consistent, continued diplomatic effort to try to find a way forward, but obviously the humanitarian assistance needs to get there, and there are a clear set of meetings scheduled, so there’s a timeframe within which we think we’re operating, which is why I mention that.

With respect to Iraq and the stability, I want – I think Chuck Hagel should speak specifically to any of the security components of that, but I’d just say on the economic and political front, the best thing for stability in Iraq is for an inclusive government to bring the disaffected parties to the table and work with them in order to make sure there is the kind of sharing of power and decision making that people feel confident the government represents all of their interests. And if that begins to happen, then there is a way for both investment, trade, economic, other realities to help sustain and build that kind of stability.

But if you don’t have the prerequisite, which President Obama identified at the outset, of an inclusive, working government, there’s no chance for any of that. That’s why we think the steps taken, the selection of a speaker, the selection of a president, and now a prime minister-designate who has an opportunity to be able to form a government are just essential prerequisites to this process of providing stability.

Do you want to talk to the security?

SECRETARY HAGEL: I’ll just mention a couple of things. One, as you know, it was the Iraqi Government that requested the U.S. Government’s assistance with humanitarian delivery on Mount Sinjar. And we complied with that request, agreed with that request for carrying out those missions. It was also the Iraqi Government’s request of the United States Government to assist them in transferring, transporting military equipment to Erbil to help the Peshmerga. As Secretary Kerry noted and as President Obama has said, as a new government begins, takes shape, we would consider further requests from that new government.

But I would just also reemphasize what Secretary Kerry has already noted, and President Obama has made this very clear, the future of Iraq will be determined by the people of Iraq. It will not be determined by a military solution. It will require a political solution, and I think Secretary Kerry’s comments about an inclusive participatory, a functioning government is critically important to the future of Iraq. So we would wait and see what future requests that this new government would ask of us, and we would consider those based on those requests.

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Just on Ukraine, Australia welcomes the efforts of the United States to assist in preventative diplomacy between Ukraine and Russia. As I made, I hope, very clear to Vice Minister Morgulov in Naypyidaw over the weekend, yes, there is a humanitarian situation in Ukraine that is serious, and it’s likely to worsen. But if Russia were concerned about the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, the first step is to stop the flow of fighters and weapons into eastern Ukraine and the so-called separatists are very professional, very well armed with the most sophisticated of weaponry and equipment, so to cease that flow of personnel and weapons would be a start.

I also hope I made very clear that any intervention by Russia into Ukraine under the guise of a humanitarian crisis would be seen as the transparent artifice that it is, and Australia would condemn in the strongest possible terms any effort by Russia to enter Ukraine under the guise of carrying out some sort of humanitarian mission. Clearly that kind of support must come from donor countries, from the UN, from the International Red Cross, and that is our expectation.

I think that’s it, (inaudible). Yes, ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. We will now depart, and I just want to place on record again our thanks to Secretaries Kerry and Hagel for taking part in this AUSMIN, and we look forward to seeing them next year.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.

# # #

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: August 5, 2014

2:31 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: I just wanted to start by giving you all just some readouts of the meetings the Secretary has been having over the course of the last few days. There are quite a few, so bear with me.

Yesterday, the Secretary met with President Kabila of the D.R.C. They discussed their shared vision for a more prosperous D.R.C. that can build on the progress achieved during the past year and bringing stability to the Great Lakes region. The Secretary and President Kabila affirmed their joint commitment to the continued demobilization and repatriation of the M23 – of former, sorry, M23 combatants and to ending the threat from the FDLR within the next six months through a continued process of voluntary demobilization backed by a credible military threat.

The Secretary also expressed support for the D.R.C. Government’s goal of establishing a more transparent international adoptions process, but reiterated U.S. concerns about the humanitarian impact of the D.R.C. Government’s suspension of visa issuance for adopted children.

During his meeting with Vice President Vicente of Angola, the Secretary welcomed Angola’s leadership in Africa and world affairs, particularly in the Great Lakes region. The United States considers Angola a key stakeholder in the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework peace process, and strongly supports Angola’s efforts in its role as chair of the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to help resolve the conflict in the D.R.C. The Secretary also noted Angola’s efforts on trafficking in persons through a recent recommitment to combat trafficking and USUN Ambassador Powers urged – or called for a continued engagement on peacekeeping operations both regionally and internationally.

The Secretary – hmm?

QUESTION: Power.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know what —

QUESTION: There’s no “S”.

MS. PSAKI: Powell. I don’t know why I just said “Powell.” Long day.

QUESTION: No, Power. Power.

MS. PSAKI: I know. I know what her name is. Thank you, Matt.

The Secretary called for the next iteration of the Security and Economic Dialogue to be held in the fall. The Secretary also met yesterday with Burundi President Nkurunziza. During their meeting they discussed how to work together to build a peaceful, stable, and prosperous nation, including support to the Burundi Government law enforcement, judiciary, and military to develop the institutions and procedures that will protect citizens and establish a foundation for long-term national and regional stability.

They also discussed the critical importance for Burundi’s continued economic growth and stability for the 2016 national elections there to be peaceful, fair, free, and consistent with the spirit of the Arusha Accords. In support of these elections, they talked about the strong U.S. support for a continued robust United Nations presence in Burundi, including the current UN office in Burundi which concludes in December, and the follow-on UN electoral observation mission.

He also met yesterday with President Compaore of Burkina Faso. Secretary Kerry expressed condolences to the families of the 28 citizens who were among the 116 passengers and crew who lost their lives in the crash of the Air Algerie fight in Mali – flight in Mali just a few weeks ago. Secretary Kerry discussed the importance of developing strong institutions and peaceful transitions of power. He also expressed appreciation for Burkina Faso’s contributions to the UN peacekeeping missions and regional mediation efforts, including support of the Mali peace negotiations recently begun in Algiers.

And last one of yesterday, during an August 4th – during the meeting yesterday on the margins of the Africa Leaders Summit, Secretary Kerry congratulated Mauritanian President Aziz on his recent reelection and for assuming the chairmanship of the African Union. The Secretary applauded him for his leadership role in negotiating a cease-fire between the Malian Government and rebel groups in the country’s north, and recognized the strong U.S.-Mauritania partnership on counterterrorism initiatives in the region.

Today – just a few from today. The Secretary and Prime Minister Hailemariam of Ethiopia discussed security in South Sudan and in the Horn of Africa. The Secretary commended Ethiopia for moving the South Sudan peace process forward and working to bring the two sides of the conflict together. The Secretary also commended Ethiopia for its contributions to fighting Al-Shabaab in neighboring Somalia and for helping Somalia create a more just, peaceful, and democratic society. The prime minister remarked that regional peace and stability is the basis for economic growth, and noted that Ethiopia is working very hard to bring investors to the region. The Secretary, finally, underscored the U.S. commitment to continuing to help Ethiopia’s strength and capacity in the fields of health, education, agriculture, energy, and democracy, and human rights, noting that we provided Ethiopia $800 million in assistance annually.

The Secretary also met with AU Commission Chairperson Zuma this morning. He expressed his sincere gratitude to her for her work as chairperson of the African Union Commission. He reiterated that the African Union is a key strategic partner in implementing President Obama’s strategy for sub-Saharan Africa, strengthening democratic institutions, spurring economic growth, trade and investment, advancing peace and security, and promoting opportunity and development. They discussed the potential positive role of the summit in changing perceptions in Africa – of Africa in the United States, highlighting opportunities in Africa for U.S. investment outside of the extractive industries.

Finally, the Secretary also met this morning with South Sudan President Kiir. The meeting came at a very critical time, especially given our concern about lack of progress in peace negotiations, ongoing violence, and a worsening humanitarian crisis, which we see as the worst food security situation in the world now made worse by the recent killings of a number of humanitarian workers in South Sudan. Secretary Kerry and Ambassador Power expressed their concern about continued fighting and the growing humanitarian crisis, which will reach even more catastrophic levels in the coming months. The Secretary stressed that in order for a transitional government to be established, the parties need to come to the table and need a peace agreement.

That is the summary of our bilateral meetings. Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: Wow, did he have time to do anything else?

MS. PSAKI: He has done a few other things in that time, it turns out.

QUESTION: Okay. Listen, can we start with – maybe some of them have been on the Middle East. Have they?

MS. PSAKI: They have not.

QUESTION: Oh, they haven’t?

MS. PSAKI: But we can certainly start with the Middle East.

QUESTION: All right. Well, listen, we saw your comments and the comments of the White House, your comments last night and the comments of the White House, about the cease-fire and you being supportive of it and also being supportive of the talks that are now going to happen whenever they start in Cairo. What is the Administration’s thinking about U.S. participation in these talks, if at all? And if the parties who are the direct parties to this are not particularly enthusiastic about U.S. participation, are you going to try to force your way, barge into this, much in the same way the President and former Secretary of State did with the Chinese and the climate talks in Copenhagen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that was quite a unique event. But this is an issue that, of course, the Secretary and senior levels of the Administration have been closely involved in. We expect that will continue. In terms of who will participate, we’re still determining who and at what level. Obviously, we’re in discussions not only internally but with the Israelis and the Egyptians about that as well.

QUESTION: But you do —

QUESTION: So you definitely will?

QUESTION: Yeah. You —

MS. PSAKI: Our expectation is that we will continue to remain closely engaged. In terms of who and how and when, we’re still determining that.

QUESTION: But you have decided that U.S. participation in these talks in Cairo is important and should happen, correct?

MS. PSAKI: I think it is likely we will be participating in these talks.

QUESTION: Can you —

MS. PSAKI: We will – we are determining at what level and in what capacity and when.

QUESTION: And can you say if you feel – if the Administration feels that its participation is welcome?

MS. PSAKI: I think our effort and our engagement on this process from the beginning has been welcomed by the parties. We’ve been – we were in Egypt —

QUESTION: Really? We just spent an entire, like, 10-day period where both sides were telling you the exact opposite.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, there is sometimes a difference between what is stated publicly and what is communicated privately.

QUESTION: Aha.

MS. PSAKI: In this case, as we know, this cease-fire just took hold this morning. Obviously, in – over the course of the last 10 days or more, the Secretary has been very closely engaged, making more than a hundred phone calls related to the cease-fire. We all know he spent five days in Cairo, a day in Paris, a day in Israel. The President’s spoken with Prime Minister Netanyahu three times over the course of the last few weeks as well. So obviously, we want to see a cease-fire that will be prolonged, that will hold, that will give an opportunity to have negotiations. But there are, of course – where we are now is determining our engagement moving forward.

QUESTION: Did the U.S. Government have any direct role in achieving the cease-fire that has now taken hold?

MS. PSAKI: Well, absolutely, Arshad. I think our engagement over the past 10 days has built and led to the point we reached last night. And that’s why I referenced the number of calls and the number of visits the Secretary was engaged in. I think there are two important factors that obviously have changed over the course of the last couple of days and – or two conditions, I should say. One of them is that Israel completed work on the tunnels. At their insistence, of course, the cease-fire agreed to last week allowed for Israel to continue that work. That’s something the United States supported. Of course, that obviously made it more difficult to sustain a cease-fire, given sometimes the confusion that causes on the ground. And the second factor is, of course, that – the growing concern and pressure that has built over the course of the last 10 days, in part due to the Secretary’s involvement, from the international community. That has – there’s been a building chorus of support for a cease-fire, obviously to see an end to the rocket attacks, but also to see an end to the humanitarian crisis that we’ve seen on the ground in Gaza.

QUESTION: How – I mean, there were at least two cease-fires that were – well, there was definitely one that was more or less announced in the middle of the night in India that did not take hold. And then there was a —

MS. PSAKI: It took hold briefly. But yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: Excuse me. It took hold for 90 minutes or whatever was the number of minutes. But I think if it’s a cease-fire that lasts for less than two hours it’s – whether it actually took hold or not is kind of debatable. But in any case, it didn’t succeed. Similarly, the prior cease-fire, which was originally 12 hours and then maybe extended, did not end up lasting a long time. And what I’m trying to understand is what was the direct U.S. role in the last, say, 48 hours. Because from the outside, it kind of looks like the Israelis simply decided that they had done what they needed to do, and therefore they had decided to stop. So what was your role in the last, say, 48 hours on the current cease-fire?

MS. PSAKI: Well, in the last 48 hours the Secretary has continued to be closely engaged with Prime Minister Netanyahu, with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry, with all of the parties. The point I was trying to make, Arshad, is that obviously the work of the last 10 days, built by the Secretary, by the UN, by a range of international partners, built to the point we reached now. But there are conditions that, of course, changed over the course of time, including the fact that Israel completed their work, by their own public statements, on the tunnels. Not only does that create more of a condition perhaps to have a sustainable cease-fire, it also, of course, gives the people of Israel more security that that piece of the job is done. So that certainly is a factor in terms of the conditions of how we got to this point.

And then the second piece is over the course of the last 10 days and even the last 48 hours there’s been continued, building international support for a cease-fire, concern about the civilian causalities we’re seeing, concern about the ongoing rocket fire, and those are all factors that have contributed to the point we led to last night.

QUESTION: One other one on this. There is – and I know you’re not responsible for what op-ed writers write, but there is a piece by David Ignatius today that lays out what purports to be Secretary Kerry’s ideas for the next steps. And it talks about a circumstance under which you would try to strengthen President Abbas: There would be a transfer of the border of control on the Palestinian side to PA forces; both on the Israeli and the Egyptian side, talks about disarming Hamas. But what he doesn’t talk about and what I don’t understand – and again, I know this is just somebody’s op-ed piece – but it doesn’t explain at all why Hamas would be interested in doing any of these things or in seeing any of these things happen in Gaza. Does that piece reflect the Secretary’s thinking? And if so, how do you hope to get Hamas to agree to do all these things that one would think it would be quite opposed to?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say there’s no “Kerry plan.” I’ll put that in quotes. There are – there has – he has been – has long supported an effort to strengthen President Abbas and to work with other parties in the region to do just that, and that will continue. So that certainly is supportive of his view.

The reason why the negotiations are so important is because these are issues that we believe and he believes need to be worked out in Cairo with the host, the Egyptian hosts, certainly with our support. But the issue of how demilitarization would work, which we certainly support, or how efforts to open up greater economic opportunity to the people of Gaza – those are issues that need to be discussed between the parties.

QUESTION: Jen, just two – a couple very quick points. You mentioned – you said over the past 48 hours the Secretary has been actively engaged, talking with Prime Minister Netanyahu, the Egyptian foreign minister, and others. But unless something is – but I thought you answered my – you answered earlier by saying he hadn’t been in touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu over the last day. And —

MS. PSAKI: Well, he was in touch with him on Sunday.

QUESTION: Right. And what you said was the very brief phone call, interrupted by some communications problem.

MS. PSAKI: And —

QUESTION: So – but, okay, so if we go back 48 hours from right now, which is almost 3 o’clock on Tuesday —

MS. PSAKI: You want me to give you a rundown of the calls he’s —

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: He’s spoken today – I would remind you since you asked me, since he’s had 12 bilats, he hasn’t had as much —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: — quality phone time as perhaps he would like, but he spoke with secretary – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today. He also spoke with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry yesterday. He spoke with Special Coordinator for the UN Robert Serry yesterday. So those are just the calls that he’s done over the last few days.

QUESTION: Okay. But as far as you know, he hasn’t managed to reconnect with Prime Minister Netanyahu since the —

MS. PSAKI: Not over the last 36 hours, no.

QUESTION: All right. And then you said that “there is no Kerry plan,” quote-unquote, but is – what was notable in the Washington Post piece, at least something that jumped out at me, was that there wasn’t any method or – well, you say that it – that the general goals outlined there are what the Secretary has been pushing for for months now.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But is the Administration convinced that Hamas has to disarm? Because one of the – and if it is, how exactly does that happen? Because it doesn’t seem to be addressed in that piece.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know that that piece was meant to be a rollout document or – of any sort, certainly not officially from the government. But demilitarization, the point I was making, is something we certainly support. How we get there is a good question.

QUESTION: But is that —

MS. PSAKI: There are a lot of parties that will have that discussion. There are also pieces – this is just the last thing I’ll say. There are also priorities that the Palestinians have, including opening up some of the crossings, like Rafah crossing, more access to goods, economic opportunity, that are some of their asks in this discussion. So obviously just like in any negotiation, there are pieces that both sides are interested in.

QUESTION: But is disarmament or demilitarization, is that critical to these talks in Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s critical in the sense that it’s a big priority for the Israelis, and obviously they are an important party in the discussions.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, is that something that you think must be addressed in these negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we’re going to be dictating what terms they will be, but certainly we understand why it needs to be part of the discussion.

QUESTION: And then my last one is just – I want to get an answer: If you’re not welcome at these – if you, meaning the Administration, is not welcome at these talks, are you going to insist, are you going to force your way into them?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we anticipate that at this point in time, Matt. So —

QUESTION: So what happens on Friday 1:00 a.m. Eastern, 8:00 a.m. local, when the cease-fire is supposed to be done?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I think obviously one of the priorities or one of the focuses early in any discussions will have to be an extension of the cease-fire so that there can be a longer period of time to continue the negotiations, and we don’t expect that these very difficult, complicated issues with a great deal of history will be resolved in a matter of hours.

QUESTION: Is the special envoy, Mr. Lowenstein, working the phones right now?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly. He just returned last – yesterday, but he certainly would be one of the individuals who could return to Egypt, and he certainly has been engaged on the phone. I expect that will continue.

More on this issue?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Or on Gaza?

QUESTION: Yes, one more quickly.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: This issue will be coming next month at the United Nations General Assembly gatherings, and what do you think UN or the international community will play a role as far as a permanent cease-fire is concerned?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the UN has been an important partner with the United States and many in the international community in supporting a cease-fire, and we expect that will continue. Obviously one of the people that Secretary Kerry has spoken with in the limited time he’s had over the past 24 hours is Robert Serry, and he was closely engaged with him throughout the course of the last several days.

Do we have any more on Gaza?

QUESTION: Yeah. Can you go back to the allegations primarily against the Israeli military, but also against Hamas, of civilian casualties, some using language such as “genocide,” “human rights violations”? The U.S. has expressed its concern over the way that some of the Israeli military’s actions were conducted during this operation, and I note your colleague at the White House did so very pointedly last Thursday. What is being done in terms of accountability since it seems that the fighting has stopped, an accountability for both sides?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I think, one, the point we were – we made with our public statements from the State Department as well is that while we certainly respect Israel’s right to defend themselves, there’s certainly more that could be done or could have been done to prevent and avoid civilian casualties. That’s the case in any war zone.

And I know – and this may be what you’re referring to – that there are reports of a push for an ICC investigation. Our view is that we continue to strongly oppose unilateral actions that seek to circumvent or prejudge the very outcomes that can only be negotiated. We’ve been very clear that, while we’ve expressed concerns when we’ve had them, there is – the only realistic path for realizing Palestinian aspirations of statehood is through direct negotiations between the parties. Obviously, our focus right now continues to be on addressing this current situation.

So, go ahead.

QUESTION: Does that mean that as part of whatever these talks will be that the question of overreach, atrocities, whatever word that you want to use, from both sides would be addressed in that venue as opposed to in ICC?

MS. PSAKI: I think that wasn’t what I was saying at all, Roz. What I was saying – I think we know what the issues will be, which are the issues that were presented by both sides. That would be the focus of the negotiations, whether that’s security for Israel or that’s economic opportunity for the Palestinian side.

QUESTION: Well, I guess what I’m asking – just – sorry, Matt. I guess what I’m asking is: Things happened in the last 29 days, and there are going to be people on both sides expecting some sort of resolution of what happened. How will that be done?

MS. PSAKI: Well, right now our focus is on seeing if the cease-fire can be extended, seeing if these core issues can be – these key issues can be addressed. The question of what the UN Security Council might do will be evaluated at a later time.

QUESTION: I don’t understand how you are concerned about an ICC investigation prejudging the outcome of final negotiations unless you are saying that the potential or possibility of war crimes having been committed is going to now be part of the peace process, in which case I think that the chances are —

MS. PSAKI: That’s not what I was saying.

QUESTION: Like, what —

MS. PSAKI: I think the reason I used that broad reference is because there have been – this is not the first time there have been rumors of; certainly, there have been issues raised in the past, and we think there’s other forums to address them.

QUESTION: Right, but —

QUESTION: Why shouldn’t – just in the interests of justice, why shouldn’t allegations of war crimes in any conflict be addressed in some forum? Why not?

MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t saying that in any broad – I wasn’t making a broad point that it shouldn’t be, Arshad. I think our focus —

QUESTION: Just not at the ICC?

MS. PSAKI: Our focus right now is on addressing the current situation.

QUESTION: Why shouldn’t an allegation of war crimes by any side in any conflict be addressed at the ICC? Why is that a bad forum? Why shouldn’t that happen?

MS. PSAKI: We – as you know, there have been occasions where we have been supportive of that.

QUESTION: So – but my question is, why not now? I mean —

MS. PSAKI: I think there is going to be a great deal of time to make a determination about what happened and what issues should be raised at a higher level, but right now we think the focus should be on addressing the current situation.

QUESTION: But why? I mean, I understand the underlying argument, I think, which is that if the Palestinians seek to join the Rome Statute or to sign onto it and then raise it, that that is a unilateral action that you believe prejudices the outcome. Correct?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But I don’t understand why, leaving aside that one piece of it, why the Government of the United States of America would not argue that if there are credible allegations of war crimes – and there are certainly things which you, in your name, said were disgraceful and that the U.S. Government was appalled by them – why it should not support an independent investigation into what happened.

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re not at that point right now, Arshad. And I certainly didn’t in any statement call anything a war crime. Obviously, there will be a great deal of time to determine what happened and what steps should be taken. That’s not our current focus at this moment.

QUESTION: I guess that there is another route to the ICC, and that’s through the UN Security Council. Can we assume that the Administration would veto any – that the U.S. would veto any move at the Security Council to bring not just whatever Israel is alleged to do, but what Hamas is alleged to do as well, to – is that – would that be a fair assumption?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just – there hasn’t even been a UN Security Council resolution proposed.

QUESTION: Right. Well, the – so thus far —

MS. PSAKI: So I don’t think I’m going to go there at this point in time.

QUESTION: Thus far in this conflict, which has now stopped because of the cease-fire, there has been a total of one vote on any kind of an investigation into it, and you guys voted against it because you said it was one-sided.

MS. PSAKI: I understand. I’m aware.

QUESTION: So – but you’re not saying that you’re opposed to any investigation at all, as long as it’s fair.

MS. PSAKI: I have no comment on this, no evaluation of it.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: We will determine at a later date what the appropriate steps are.

New topic or – go ahead.

QUESTION: I cut off Michel (inaudible) his question.

QUESTION: Yeah, on Lebanon. Please go ahead, if you want. You’ll take Lebanon or Asia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I’ll do Lebanon.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: I have one on rockets in Gaza.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Palestinian Authority go back into Gaza to help clear the area of illegal weapons, is that it?

MS. PSAKI: I think, Lucas, there’s a great deal that needs to be discussed in terms of what is going to happen from here. A lot of those discussions will happen in Cairo. I’m not going to prejudge what the steps will be, when they’ll be, anything beyond that.

QUESTION: But aren’t there already outstanding treaties that say – like Oslo, for example, from 1995 – saying that there should not be any illegal weapons throughout Gaza?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed in Gaza that will be a part of the discussions moving forward, Lucas.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Lebanon, to what extent are you concerned about the clashes between the Lebanese army and ISIL and Arsal at the border with Syria? And are you providing any arms and any help to the Lebanese forces?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we put out a statement just a few days ago on this, Michel, but I will say – I can give you an update on what we are providing. As you know, we provide significant security assistance and we are currently providing $75 million in support to Lebanon’s armed forces just in FY 2014 alone. This assistance is intended to bolster the efforts to preserve Lebanese security and stability, including minimizing the spillover violence from the Syrian crisis that is impacting Lebanon. Our support for the Lebanese army, also, of course, a key institution of Lebanese statehood is critical, and the spillover effects of the Syrian crisis have increased the strain, as we all know – hence why you’re asking – and we remain fully committed.

In FY 2015, our request includes $80 million for FMF security assistance for Lebanon. The Administration’s $5 billion Counterterrorism Partnership Fund request includes funds specifically to help mitigate the spillover effects for Lebanon. As we look to the future, we’ll continue to assess, of course, how we can best assist.

QUESTION: And are you planning to provide the Lebanese army with sophisticated arms since they are fighting ISIL in a complicated area?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think our assistance includes what I’ve just outlined. I have nothing to predict for you in terms of future assistance.

Go ahead, Anne.

QUESTION: Can we stay in the region? I just wondered if the State Department has any new information or any updated comment on the case of a Washington Post correspondent, Jason Rezaian, and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who were detained on July 22nd and have not been heard from. Particularly, there was a report yesterday uncorroborated by IranWire that a caretaker for their building was killed at the time of their detention for asking for documentation and an arrest warrant from whoever it was who grabbed them. Do you have any information that might substantiate or refute that report?

MS. PSAKI: Unfortunately, we don’t have a great deal of information, so let me share with you what we have. We, of course, have seen the reports that an individual in Mr. Rezaian’s building died from injuries sustained – the reports you referenced. We don’t have any further information or confirmation of those reports.

We remain concerned about his detention in Iran, along with one other U.S. citizen and the non-U.S. citizen spouse of one of the two, one of which you referenced. We, of course, call on the Iranian Government and continue to call on the Iranian Government to immediately release him and the other individuals. Our focus is on doing everything possible to secure the safe return and release of Mr. Rezaian and the others detained with him.

We have requested consular access via our protecting power Switzerland. In general, however, Iran’s response to our request for consular access to dual U.S.-Iranian citizens is that Iran does not recognize their U.S. citizenship and considers them to be solely Iranian citizens. I don’t have any specific update at this point in time in our request, but we, of course, continue to monitor the situation very closely.

QUESTION: Just a quick clarification on that.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: You said that’s the Iranians’ position generally.

MS. PSAKI: Has generally been with the other American citizens, yes.

QUESTION: Right. But they – do I take it from that and what you said after that they have not given the Swiss any specific yes or no —

MS. PSAKI: There’s no specific update in this case, yes.

QUESTION: Okay, all right. Got it.

QUESTION: Do you know whether the Swiss have been able to see Jason and his wife at all?

MS. PSAKI: There’s no specific update in the case.

QUESTION: There’s no specific update or no – or there’s been no response from the Iranians to the Swiss request?

MS. PSAKI: No specific update I can provide to all of you.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: If – I’m sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Different topic?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can I —

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. One on Iran? Sorry. I’m sorry. Go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Asia, can you confirm a report that the State Department had a meeting with former comfort women from South Korea last week? And if that’s the case, could you share who met from the State Department and who requested this meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, at their request, two members of the House of Sharing met State Department officials on July 31st and discussed their experiences. It’s important to note that State Department officials have periodically met with members of the House of Sharing in the past, so this is not the first time or it’s not without precedent. I don’t have any other updates on the level. Of course, it was here in Washington, so from our bureau here.

QUESTION: So you don’t know if it’s requested from South Korean Government?

MS. PSAKI: They were – no, it was requested from the members of the House of Sharing.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you have any concern this kind of meeting might have a negative impact on U.S.-Japan relationship, given Japan has different opinions on these issues?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think this is an issue that we have discussed, certainly, in the past with Japan. As we’ve stated many times, it is deplorable and clearly a grave human rights violation of enormous proportions that the Japanese military was involved in the trafficking of women for sexual purposes in the 1930s and 1940s. And we – as we know, that was quite a long time ago, but we encourage Japan to continue to address this issue in a manner that promotes healing and facilitates better relations with neighboring states. We have had meetings – State Department officials have periodically met with representatives from this group in the past, so it shouldn’t set a new precedent. And obviously, there’s a great deal we work with Japan on.

QUESTION: Last question: So you don’t rule out any future meeting like this?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m ruling it out. I think we meet periodically with representatives from this group.

QUESTION: Sorry, which bureau was that with?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the EAP would be the natural —

QUESTION: Not DRL?

QUESTION: DRL?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that, actually, but it wasn’t at a – it was a working-level meeting, so —

QUESTION: Right. I’m just curious as to what bureau or multiple – maybe there were multiple —

QUESTION: Could you check on it?

MS. PSAKI: I will see if there’s more clarity we’d like to provide.

QUESTION: So you don’t have any (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: More detail of any – you don’t have any —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I’m going to have more detail to provide, no.

QUESTION: Going back to Iran for a second, how can you in good faith negotiate with the Iranian Government over their nuclear program when they’re taking American hostages?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Lucas, let me say first that the reason that we’re working with the P5+1 members, the reason why we have been negotiating with Iran, is because of the great concern the President, many members of Congress, the Secretary of State have about Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon. And we think preventing that is not just a priority for the United States, but for the international community.

At every point in this process, we’ve had remaining concerns about other issues where we have strong disagreements, not just the detaining of American citizens, which of course is something we have a strong concern about, but also issues like human rights violations and their work and support for terrorist activities. But preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon remains an objective and a goal we think is worthy, and one that we will, of course, continue to pursue.

QUESTION: So as all the – as these events transpire, would you say Iran is a good negotiating partner?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think Iran has abided by the JPOA. Obviously, we’re moving into a new stage of negotiations that will begin soon. As you know, in each of these negotiations, whenever we have the opportunity, we raise concerns about the American citizens who have been detained and our desire to see them return home.

QUESTION: Speaking of the nuclear talks, there are reports that there might be a sideline meeting at UNGA next month on the negotiations. Can you confirm that?

MS. PSAKI: I have seen those reports. I don’t have any update on the timing of the next meeting.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Do we have any more on Iran?

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead. Egypt.

QUESTION: Yes, please. The first one is an American FMO – MFO soldier was shot in Sinai. Do you have any information or update about him?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know there were reports, but the media reports are incorrect. The MFO camp was not targeted during this incident. No U.S. soldier was injured. A U.S. contractor was slightly injured as a result of a stray round fired in the vicinity. The U.S. contractor has received treatment, was released, and has since returned to duty.

QUESTION: Okay. The second question regarding the – Secretary Kerry yesterday met yesterday evening – met the prime minister of Egypt. Do you have any readout of the meeting?

MS. PSAKI: I believe I do. If I don’t, I was there, and I will give you a readout.

I’ll just say that he had a meeting, as you mentioned, with the prime minister of Egypt last evening. It was his last of the day. They discussed not only our strategic and security relationship with Egypt and the path forward, but also steps that Egypt could take to continue on the path to democracy. That’s something the Secretary, of course, raises during every meeting. He also raised the issue, again, of the arbitrary arrests and our concern about that and the concern he hears from members of Congress about that as well.

QUESTION: The (inaudible) case, did that come up?

MS. PSAKI: It was more of a general conversation. He had – did raise that as recently as the last time he was there.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: How long was the meeting in —

MS. PSAKI: If I remember, it was about 30 minutes.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: These meetings are never as long as you want them to be because they’re all trying to fit in so many.

QUESTION: So there is another question. One of the main issues of – I mean, yesterday, the Secretary had meetings and other people had meetings all related to Libya.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What’s the main – what is your understanding now of what’s going in Libya and how it’s going to be somehow solved or find out – exit to this situation now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary also met with the prime minister of Libya yesterday. We continue to call on all Libyans to respect the June election of the Council of Representatives, to support the work of the constitutional drafting assembly, and to reject the use of violence. Libya’s challenges can only be resolved by Libyans working together to secure a more stable and prosperous future, and we continue to stand solidly by the Libyan people as they endeavor to do so. And certainly, Libya and – actually, it was certainly an issue – I should have mentioned that – that was discussed last night during the meeting, and it’s been discussed in some of his meetings over the course of the last several days.

As you know, there’s – we’ve been working with the international community to try to address the security issues on the ground. We know this is inherently a political problem, but certainly we have remaining security concerns that we’re trying to work to address as well.

Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: How much does it impair your ability to work with the Libyan Government on such things as training and establishing a security force that would be answerable to the Libyan Government that the U.S. has had to – or has withdrawn its diplomats from Tripoli?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, it’s important to note that this is a temporary relocation. Ambassador Jones was in the meeting yesterday. She’s remained closely engaged with the Libyans. And as you know, this is not just a United States endeavor. It is one that we’re working with the international community on, and so those conversations are continuing at a high level. Our preference would certainly be to have our staff there, but we’ve been able to continue to engage and work on these issues, both with the Libyans as well as others in the international community who are closely engaged with it.

QUESTION: Does it make it harder not being there?

MS. PSAKI: I think, again, because a lot of these conversations and coordination are happening at a very high level, whether it’s Ambassador Satterfield, Ambassador Jones, those are continuing. But of course, it’s preferable and – to have our team on the ground, and our full team on the ground, and that’s certainly what we’d like to return to.

QUESTION: Who’s working on the issue of trying to, for lack of a better word, demilitarize Libya?

MS. PSAKI: Well, who from the State Department?

QUESTION: Well, just in general, what parties are working on it? Are there any protocols that can be looked to to try to make – to help the government secure the country so that people don’t have to get caught in between these militias fighting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there are a great deal of international efforts. The Secretary has been engaged in a number of meetings with a number of other countries that the British – the U.K. has hosted, others have hosted, to discuss exactly that issue. I think it hasn’t moved as quickly as we would like, Roz, but obviously, Ambassador Satterfield, certainly Ambassador Jones, others who are engaged at a very high level here, that’s one of the primary issues that they’re working on.

QUESTION: Just to be clear, are – Ambassador Jones and Ambassador Satterfield are in the same place or different places?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Ambassador Jones is the Ambassador to Libya.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: She was —

QUESTION: And Ambassador Satterfield is – I think, is special envoy?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, and he’s been working sort of as a – in coordination with other international partners on kind of how to coordinate as we work to address the issues going on in Libya.

QUESTION: The other question – you said Libyans. I mean, are you in touch with all the factions or the fighting – whatever you call it – I don’t know, it’s groups? Or just the central government?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a list of our engagements. We can see if there’s one we can get to all of you, if you’d like.

Should we move on to new issue?

QUESTION: Jen —

MS. PSAKI: Michel, go ahead.

QUESTION: — there is a perception in the Middle East that the U.S. was behind the creation of ISIL in the region. And —

MS. PSAKI: Behind the creation?

QUESTION: The creation or supporting the ISIL. And they say that since the U.S. didn’t attack yet or so far ISIL in some parts of Iraq after they took over some parts of Iraq, that’s why the U.S. is behind the creation and supporting ISIL. What can you say about that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s a ludicrous and absolutely false accusation or view. Our view is that ISIL is a group of vicious terrorists. Their campaign of terror, grotesque violence, and repressive ideology poses serious threats to the stability and future of Iraq. We’ve seen the nature of ISIL fully exposed by its ruthless attacks on not only the Iraqi people but the Syrian people. This is an issue that not only the Secretary but the President of the United States remains focused on, and I think our actions speak to how concerned we are about ISIL.

QUESTION: And why the U.S. didn’t react or didn’t attack ISIL in Iraq and Syria so far?

MS. PSAKI: Why did we not attack?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there are a couple of factors, including the assessment on the ground that, of course, DOD has the lead on. We have sent additional resources, and they’ve been there for weeks. The other is government formation, and we believe – and the Secretary’s believes and the senior members of the Administration believe – that government formation is an incredibly important part of what needs to happen in Iraq in order to proceed and that, of course, is a factor in our own decision making.

QUESTION: But Jen, I think what – I mean, it’s well and good for you to say it’s ludicrous and absurd that you created ISIL or – but I think the perception that Michel’s talking about is that you have unintentionally given this group – not – given is the wrong word, but the U.S. has armed this group to some extent because of the stuff that they’ve stolen from the Iraqi military. Is that – I mean, you don’t deny that, do you?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve all seen the same reports, Matt.

QUESTION: I mean, they – right. I mean, they’ve taken this – Humvees and other stuff and arms, correct? You don’t dispute that, right? So I guess the question is: Why doesn’t the U.S. destroy that stuff?

MS. PSAKI: Why don’t we retroactively destroy —

QUESTION: No, why don’t you go in now and take out, destroy, the U.S. equipment that this group is now using against your friends, the Iraqi army and the Peshmerga?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to do an analysis from here —

QUESTION: A military analysis.

MS. PSAKI: — on what we should take, what steps militarily we will or won’t take.

QUESTION: Okay. But I think that that’s kind – that may be something that’s keeping this perception alive.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the point I’m making is obviously that’s an inaccurate perception.

QUESTION: Yes, Jen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Regarding the ISIL, a few weeks ago you were mentioning that there was kind of a confrontation going on in the Twittersphere, as you can call it, between tweets that – so is there – this thing is still going on or they – you stopped it?

MS. PSAKI: I think a few weeks ago I spoke to our efforts to combat that. I don’t have any real updates since then in terms of their – the activity of ISIL’s Twitter account. I would you let you do analysis on that.

Do we have a new topic? Oh, go ahead, in the back. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Venezuela.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Last week there was an initial announcement from the State Department that the U.S. was considering punitive actions against some Venezuelan officials for human rights violations. Is there any more that you have on that? We’ve heard reports that the U.S. is moving to revoke the visas of 24 officials.

MS. PSAKI: So the announcement that was made last week – obviously since then and in conjunction with that, there have been briefings with the Hill and there have been a range of information that’s been out there in the public domain. And so, therefore, we can confirm that there are 24 individuals who will have restrictions imposed on them. Obviously, those vary, but that is a number we can confirm at this point in time.

QUESTION: So they’re done on Venezuela?

QUESTION: Quick question.

QUESTION: On Venezuela?

MS. PSAKI: I think – Venezuela. Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, I don’t have one on Venezuela.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: All right. I want to go to Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One, I’m wondering if you were —

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. (Laughter.) Sorry about that.

QUESTION: I’m wondering – yesterday, you said that you weren’t able to verify either of these conflicting – the many numerous conflicting reports about these Ukrainian soldiers.

MS. PSAKI: I do have a little bit of new information on that.

QUESTION: Do you have – yes.

MS. PSAKI: The OSCE observer mission on the Russian border facilitated the movement of 437 Ukrainian troops into Russia on August 3rd. The troops had requested OSCE assistance in opening a humanitarian corridor after being surrounded by separatists and finding themselves without food, fuel, and ammunition. All their attempts to negotiate a cease-fire with the separatists had failed. At least 192 of these servicemen returned to Ukraine on August 4th. The OSCE was not made aware of any asylum requests.

We also would note that the Russians have committed to return the rest of the troops as well. That’s the latest number that we have at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. I mean, this situation seems bizarre, no? I just – what I mean, so you have a situation where the Ukrainian army that you support is fighting separatists who you oppose but who are supported by Russia. And somehow the OSCE negotiates safe passage for these Ukrainian troops into Russia where they are not molested; they’re taken care of apparently. And then they – and then some of them go back.

This would seem to me to suggest that the situation is perhaps less – recognizing that there is actual shelling and fighting going on in certain places, what does this tell you about the situation between Ukrainian troops and the Russian troops on the other side of the border? Does it tell you anything?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure I would venture to do any broad analysis here, given the other events that have continued to happen on the ground.

QUESTION: Fair enough.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, in this case the OSCE obviously played a significant role here in assuring their safe passage, and certainly we wanted to note that the Russians have agreed to return the troops.

QUESTION: Okay. So that’s a positive thing?

MS. PSAKI: This particular incident, certainly.

QUESTION: Right. Do —

MS. PSAKI: But obviously, there are a range of other issues that we remain concerned about.

QUESTION: Clearly. I think you’ve – yes, you’ve made that very obvious. But do you think that in the absence – if the OSCE hadn’t been there, are you concerned that there might have been – that this might have led to people dying, bloodshed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s hard to know, Matt. But I mean, it was a situation obviously where they were surrounded by separatists and they had no food, fuel, ammunition.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: So it certainly was not a desirable —

QUESTION: Your position —

MS. PSAKI: — situation to be sitting in.

QUESTION: Okay. So your position would be then that they – this should never have happened in the first place because there shouldn’t be a separatists attacking the army?

MS. PSAKI: Well certainly. The prime – the, of course, primary point is that, yes.

QUESTION: All right. So the other thing that you were asked yesterday about this Russian military – aviation military exercise that’s going on.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You said you were – the U.S. was very deep – was deeply concerned about it, that it’s provocative. Well, the Russian defense ministry says that this is – this exercise is not taking place really close to the Ukrainian border. It’s a thousand kilometers away. And I’m wondering if given that, if you still have deep concerns about this being a provocative exercise.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, the point I was making yesterday that I think I would certainly stick with is that obviously the conditions and the circumstances that any of these exercises are taking place in are a relevant factor, and that when we’re in a situation where we’re trying to reach a cease-fire where the Russians say they want to reach that, these sort of exercises send a different message.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, it’s really not close to the Ukrainian border. So if you’re deeply concerned – I mean, how far away can the Russians do military exercises without drawing the concern of the United States? I mean, do they have to be in Vladivostok? I mean, how far away from —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Czech Republic?

QUESTION: I mean, it —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an exact kilometer (inaudible) measurement.

QUESTION: Siberia? Where do they – where exactly is it that the Russians can have military exercises that won’t – that you don’t think – or that you won’t have concerns are provocative to the situation in Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: If there are exercises in Siberia, I’m happy to speak to that at the time.

QUESTION: Okay. But you still have – you have concerns about this exercise and it being a provocative action, is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Despite the distance, the rather large distance?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Jen, the Polish foreign minister is very concerned about these exercises and says that Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine, and that has generated a lot of news. The markets are way down today. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there have been a range of reports and comments out there. I think it’s – there are a few things that we do know. Additional Russian forces continue to arrive along the Ukrainian border, and Russia continues to reposition forces throughout the region. We don’t have specific numbers from here to share, and specifics on troop numbers is difficult to calculate. So I’m not going to make a prediction from here, but certainly the fact that troops continue to arrive is something that we are watching closely and remain concerned about.

QUESTION: And a few hours ago, President Putin said that he was going to develop a response to the sanctions put on his country by the United States and the EU, and that’s also held – the stock market is down 1 percent as we speak. I thought these sanctions were supposed to hurt Russia, not the United States.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, Lucas, I think the vast, vast, vast majority of the hurt is being felt by Russia. As you noted – or I don’t think – but related to it is the central bank’s statement in Russia that was made as well. I mean, our goal here remains continuing to impose costs to increase the – to impose sanctions to increase the costs and – on Russia and on – and to have an impact on Russia’s actions. And obviously, with everything from the amount of nearly $100 billion in capital is expected to leave Russia, the impact on the energy, financial, and defense sectors, they’re all feeling pain. And that’s, of course, what we are hopeful will have an impact.

QUESTION: But you say you want to affect Putin’s actions, but you just said that Russia is putting more forces along the border. So how are the sanctions making him change his calculus?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think with every week that passes, we’re seeing more of a dire impact on the Russian economy. And obviously, President Putin has a choice to make. Does he care about the economy and the middle class people and people living in Russia, or does he care about continuing to take aggressive actions as it relates to Ukraine?

QUESTION: Can I just follow up on one thing?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In Lucas’s question he referred to the exercise causing the Polish concern, but you’re talking about – when you say troops, Russian troops moving towards the border, that is something entirely separate from these military —

MS. PSAKI: Separate.

QUESTION: — from the aviation exercise, correct?

MS. PSAKI: That is entirely separate, yes.

Do we have any more —

QUESTION: Next question, please?

MS. PSAKI: One more on – do we have any more on Ukraine? Go ahead.

QUESTION: One more.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Arshad.

QUESTION: Excuse me if I missed this, but were you asked about the Russian media report saying that Russia is considering barring European airlines from flying over its territory, from flying over Siberia, I think, to go to the Far East?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think if Russia doesn’t like the sanctions that have been imposed and the impact they’ve had, then the more productive response would be for Russia to stop sending arms and fighters into Ukraine. And that, we feel, is the more appropriate response they could take.

QUESTION: But does it bother you that they seem to be considering retaliation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think – sure, but I think our view is that if they want to bring an end to the sanctions, there are clear steps they can take, clear – a clear path they can take.

QUESTION: Well, but Jen, I mean, are you – you’re approaching this with the idea that they want an end to the sanctions. Are you convinced that they do? They certainly don’t have – they certainly haven’t been acting that way, have they?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think, again, because the pain has been building and we’ve seen the impact on the economy only growing over the course of the last several weeks, we think there are serious decisions that President Putin will need to make.

QUESTION: As far as thes

48 Killed, 10 survivors in Taiwan pl

48 Killed, 10 survivors in Taiwan plane crash
Thu 24 Jul 2014 at 08:52

NNA – Taiwan’s TransAsia Airways said Thursday that 48 people were killed and 10 survived when one of its turboprop passenger planes crashed after an aborted landing during stormy…

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – July 23, 2014

1:48 p.m. EDT

QUESTION: Good afternoon.

MS. HARF: Hello and welcome to the daily briefing. I have just a couple things at the top, and then happy to go into questions, of course.

First, I’m sure many of you have seen that today is the Dutch day of mourning. Today, we join King Willem-Alexander, Prime Minister Rutte, and all of the people of the Netherlands in mourning the loss of the 193 Dutch residents who died when Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was downed over eastern Ukraine. No words can adequately express the sorrow the world feels over this loss. On behalf of the American people, we again extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims of this terrible tragedy.

As the President said yesterday, we will work with the Netherlands to make sure that loved ones are recovered, that a proper investigation is conducted, and that those responsible for the downing of flight MH17 are brought to justice.

And second, a quick travel update for people. Excuse me. The Secretary, as you saw, is in Jerusalem and Ramallah having some meetings today. He’s met with President Abbas, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and Prime Minister Netanyahu, who I think is ongoing as well, that meeting. So has traveled there to continue discussions on the ceasefire. As we said, he’s always happy to get on the plane and travel if he wants to and needs to. So, with that.

QUESTION: All right. I’m sure we’ll get to Ukraine in a second, but I want to start with the Mideast.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Two things. One, the FAA extension of the flight ban; and second, the vote at the UN Human Rights Commission.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’ll start with the Human Rights Commission.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Why did you vote against forming a panel of inquiry? The statement that was given before the vote by the – your ambassador there said that whatever steps that the commission would take should be balanced and should not single out Israel. Was it your understanding that what was approved in the end is unfair to – would be unfair to Israel?

MS. HARF: And one-sided. So we do strongly oppose today’s special session at the Human Rights Council and the resulting resolution as the latest in a series of biased, anti-Israel actions at the Human Rights Council. We strongly oppose the creation of this kind of mechanism that you spoke about because it’s one-sided. No one’s looking here at Hamas rockets, no one proposed looking at anything else other than Israel in this case, and again, we oppose it as one-sided.

QUESTION: In her opening statement, the commissioner for human rights talked about the possibility or potential that war crimes had been committed, not just by Israel but also by Hamas. Was that not your understanding of what this commission would – your understanding of —

MS. HARF: Well, we were voting on a resolution that had certain language in it —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: — and that was looking at certain things, and that was one-sided in nature.

QUESTION: Can – what was it precisely about the language, do you know, that was —

MS. HARF: That it was one-sided —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: — in nature.

QUESTION: I mean, it talked – yeah, but what was that language? What was the offensive language?

MS. HARF: I can pull the specific language for you after the briefing, but —

QUESTION: The title of the resolution seemed to be respecting – or “A resolution on the respect for international law and norms in the Palestinian territories,” and then including East Jerusalem. Is that problematic?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen the specific title. As I said, the resolution in general, we view as one-sided and biased, and therefore we voted against it.

QUESTION: So you were concerned that this might turn out to be Goldstone 2?

MS. HARF: Again, we were concerned about it for being one-sided and biased, and it’s something we’ve said, quite honestly, we’ve said in the past by actions this body has taken.

QUESTION: All right. Does it surprise you that you were the only country to vote against?

MS. HARF: There were a number of abstentions. That’s my understanding.

QUESTION: Yes, there were 17 – all of Europe. Do you —

MS. HARF: And other countries as well. I think there were some countries in there that weren’t in Europe, that aren’t in Europe.

QUESTION: Right. But —

MS. HARF: Look, we make clear – as we have said repeatedly, we will stand up for Israel in the international community, even if it means standing alone, and I think you saw that today.

QUESTION: Okay. But that doesn’t tell you anything, though, that you’re standing alone?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more announcements to do on it, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. On the FAA decision —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — there’s still continually this line coming from some in Israel and some here that this is all a political decision, that it’s —

MS. HARF: Totally inaccurate.

QUESTION: — and it’s designed to push the Israeli Government into accepting a ceasefire that it otherwise would not want.

MS. HARF: It’s a totally inaccurate line, period. We – the FAA makes decisions based solely on the security and safety of American citizens, period. That is the only thing they take into account. I don’t know how much more strongly I can say that. People can choose not to believe us —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: — but those are the facts, and people aren’t entitled to their own facts but certainly they can have their own opinions.

QUESTION: Okay. Do you know, has – were there any – aside from the call that Prime Minister Netanyahu made last night, I guess, and then his meetings today —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — I presume that he brought it up again in the meetings with the Secretary?

MS. HARF: I don’t have a readout yet.

QUESTION: I’m not asking you to speak for that, but —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — you’re not there. But do you – are you aware of any other interactions between the Israelis and the State Department on this issue?

MS. HARF: On this? Not to my knowledge. I’m happy to check. I mean, we have folks on the ground, obviously. I just don’t know.

QUESTION: I understand.

MS. HARF: And look, we do understand that the Israelis want to return to normal air travel in Israel. Obviously, they want to restore a calm and normal life. We want them to be able to do as well. That’s why we’re trying to help broker a ceasefire. That’s the purpose of everything the Secretary is doing.

QUESTION: So would you – I mean, how likely – and I know you can’t speak for the FAA, so let’s talk about just the – your – the State Department’s Travel Warning which preceded this. At least —

MS. HARF: And I’m – let me make a point on the Travel Warning, though, because you asked about this yesterday, because there were some conspiracy theories that you were bringing up as well about why the timing. It takes a while to get travel updates updated and done, and travel warnings updated, but we did issue security messages from our embassy and consulate on the 8th, 9th, and 11th re: rocket attacks. So it’s not like yesterday suddenly we thought there was a security issue, which you mentioned. It’s been a consistent conversation we’ve had with American citizens.

QUESTION: Right. But —

MS. HARF: So I’m pushing back on the timing issue a little bit.

QUESTION: Okay. I mean, it wasn’t me making the argument, I was —

MS. HARF: Well, it was you asking the question.

QUESTION: Well, I was asking you about the criticism that was —

MS. HARF: So I’m pushing back on that criticism.

QUESTION: Got you. Okay.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: Is it likely that either of these things, the Travel Warning or the FAA warning, are going to be lifted before a ceasefire is ordered?

MS. HARF: I have honestly no predictions to make. We constantly make decisions based on the situation on the ground. The Travel Warning obviously is under our purview. We’ll continue to look at the situation. The FAA can speak to their processes as well.

QUESTION: Right. But the —

MS. HARF: I have no way to make a judgment about likelihood on either.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. So I’ll leave that and then just go back to my UNRWA questions from the other day.

QUESTION: Well, the Secretary was – Matt —

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can we just – can I just go back to —

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: Sure.

QUESTION: Because yesterday it was asked about Hamas’s capabilities of —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have anything further? And you said you would.

MS. HARF: I did. I got a little bit for you. Give me one second. So Hamas does have rockets that can reach Ben Gurion Airport. During current fighting, Hamas rockets have landed north of the airport, although the accuracy of their rockets does remain limited. Israel’s Iron Dome system, which, as you know, we worked very closely with them to develop and fund, has monitored and, with quite a high degree of success, destroyed many of the incoming rockets which could reach this area as well as other areas. Hamas’s anti-aircraft missile capabilities are still being determined. We don’t have confirmation that Hamas has launched heat-seeking anti-aircraft missile during the current conflict or that Hamas has access to the type of anti-aircraft missiles like those we saw – judge bring down Malaysian aircraft in Ukraine.

So I tried to get a little more about the capabilities for you.

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you very much for that. I mean, it’s helpful to get perspective. Was that kind of thing taken into consideration, do you know?

MS. HARF: I’m guessing all of that was taken into consideration. The FAA worked very closely with the intelligence community, with people that do analysis on these kind of things before they make these determinations. So I’m assuming it was in this case.

QUESTION: So did you – when you said Hamas has not used heat-seeking —

MS. HARF: There’s no confirmation —

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: — that Hamas has launched heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles during the current conflict.

QUESTION: Is – do you – is it your assessment that they actually have these kinds of weapons.

MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. I’m happy to check. I don’t know the answer to that, Matt.

QUESTION: Marie, on the FAA ruling, I mean considering that when this conflict began, Israel had, like, seven Iron Domes. Now they have 10. And the rocket firing has really been reduced dramatically. Why is this such a – why such a —

MS. HARF: Because a rocket landed very close to the airport, and I think if you were a passenger on an airliner taking off or landing at that airport, you’d be pretty nervous about that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Iron Dome has been very successful, but security of America citizens is top priority, and that’s why the FAA made this decision.

QUESTION: Can I go back to the Human Rights Commission?

MS. HARF: Just one second. Let me say one more thing about the FAA.

QUESTION: Okay. Sure. Oh, sorry.

MS. HARF: I know you probably saw Jen’s email but – last night – that the FAA notice to airlines does not apply to military aircraft, which is why he could land.

QUESTION: Right. So, but on that —

MS. HARF: I just wanted to clarify that, that was a Taken Question —

QUESTION: But on that, you said that if you were a passenger you would be pretty nervous. Was the Secretary nervous flying into —

MS. HARF: Secretary —

QUESTION: He’s never nervous?

MS. HARF: Well, as you saw, we didn’t announce the trip until it was down.

QUESTION: No, no. I understand that.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: But you said that if you were a passenger on a plane flying in —

MS. HARF: The Secretary’s not nervous, Matt.

QUESTION: He is not nervous.

MS. HARF: The Secretary’s very happy to be there meeting with people right now.

QUESTION: And can you speak for your other colleagues?

MS. HARF: I’m not —

QUESTION: Was anyone on the plane —

MS. HARF: This is a ridiculous line of questioning.

QUESTION: No, it’s not —

MS. HARF: Yes. Said. Wait. We’re going back to Said.

QUESTION: — because if it’s a danger, it’s a danger. And if it’s not, if the Secretary thinks it’s not a danger that’s something else.

MS. HARF: We’re going back to Said.

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow-up on the Human Rights Commission.

MS. HARF: He was very – he and our whole team were very comfortable landing at Ben Gurion.

QUESTION: Okay. Which would seem to, I don’t know, belie the FAA’s concerns, no?

MS. HARF: Take that up with the FAA.

Yes.

QUESTION: I will.

QUESTION: Yeah. On the Human Rights Commission, are you opposed in principle to have any kind of commission to look into possible war crimes by either side, to go one —

MS. HARF: We’re opposed to one-sided and biased inquiries of any kind.

QUESTION: And that – if – you believe that this one —

MS. HARF: We believe this one today was.

QUESTION: — this one is one-sided?

MS. HARF: Would have been and that’s why we voted against it.

QUESTION: What would – okay. What in the language of this resolution that makes you say that it is one-sided?

MS. HARF: Well, I am happy to see if there’s specific language that we can point to. Again, it was what they were – that would be evaluated in the resolution and in this commission of inquiry, what they would be looking at was purely on one side, which by definition, I think, makes it one-sided.

QUESTION: So it’s not really a knee-jerk kind of reaction, as we have seen in the past? Every time there is an effort to look into Israel’s —

MS. HARF: Well, unfortunately the Human Rights Council has often put forward one-sided documents. The international community has often put forward one-sided documents – excuse me – and we have opposed those as well.

QUESTION: Okay. Now I asked you yesterday on the hospitals – the bombing of hospitals, and so on.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Both ABC News and NBC News, they followed – they accompanied medics and ambulances and so on and went to the hospitals and house and so on, and they saw no evidence of firing rockets from there. So what makes you think that these hospitals have been used to launch rockets or to hide rockets or to hide fighters and so on?

MS. HARF: Well, we have evidence —

QUESTION: Do you have solid evidence?

MS. HARF: Generally speaking – not speaking about any specific hospital, Said, or any specific target of Israeli activity, we have evidence throughout many years of Hamas using hospitals and schools, ambulances, other civilian places to hide rockets, to hide fighters. We’ve seen that throughout this conflict. Again, I’m not making a commentary on any one specific hospital or location, but we have seen that. We have seen Hamas do that in the past and have done that in this conflict.

QUESTION: Now I just want to go —

MS. HARF: And that’s not acceptable. I think if you are a Palestinian living in Gaza who just wants to go use a hospital or a school, you would not want Hamas using them to store rockets in.

QUESTION: Okay. Now let me ask you about the ceasefire points.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It seems that the Egyptians, at least for now, are not flexible or are unwilling to sort of introduce any new element.

MS. HARF: I have no idea how you could even make that assessment. Everybody who is in these negotiations is not talking about them publicly. We’re talking about them privately.

QUESTION: The Egyptians are talking about their proposal publicly.

MS. HARF: Well, you’re making one assessment, and I think that we are —

QUESTION: I am not making it. They are. They’re saying —

MS. HARF: You called them inflexible.

QUESTION: No, I said inflexible. They said that they —

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: — what they submitted or what they proposed last week stands, that they’re —

MS. HARF: Well, we’re in discussions about what a ceasefire might look like. That’s why the Secretary is shuttling back and forth between Cairo and Jerusalem and Ramallah so he can see if we can get a ceasefire here. What the eventual contours of that looks like are being discussed right now.

QUESTION: And my last question on this: Today the Palestinian Authority submitted to Secretary Kerry their own version of what a ceasefire agreement should look like. Do you have any reaction to that —

MS. HARF: I can’t confirm that. I can’t confirm that report, Said.

QUESTION: You cannot confirm that report.

MS. HARF: I cannot confirm that report. I’m not going to comment on any of the rumors out there about what these negotiations look like, a line that should be familiar to everyone in this room.

QUESTION: Although you won’t comment on the specifics —

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: — there was something that Tony Blinken said earlier today about demilitarization of Gaza. Are you more concerned with getting an immediate – just an end to the fighting right now, or is – and is demilitarization something that would be later on? In other words, that’s not necessarily a part of the negotiations going on now?

MS. HARF: So obviously, our top priority is getting a ceasefire and achieving a ceasefire. What the contours of that ceasefire will look like, I’m obviously not going to outline. But longer term, the issue of rocket fire does need to be addressed. We’re very serious about that. Again, how that looks like, what that looks like, I’m not going to get into the details of that either.

QUESTION: Okay, so it’s – but it’s fair to say that some kind of demilitarization or some kind of dealing with the rocket fire in the future is not necessarily on the table right now. What you’re more —

MS. HARF: I’m not telling you what or what is not on the table right now. What I’m saying is we need a ceasefire. What that ceasefire looks like, I’m not going to detail. But longer term, we do need to deal with the rocket fire.

QUESTION: On my UNRWA question from yesterday, do you know if the – so there was this – they confirmed a second – finding a second batch – cache of rockets in a school. Do you know how those were handled? And more broadly, had your discussions with the UN, with UNRWA, with the PA and Israel come to a better option for dealing with things like this?

MS. HARF: We’re still having those discussions. I’d refer you to UNRWA to discuss the second batch. I don’t have all of the details on that. I think there’s been some confusing information out there. They could probably speak better to what happened to that other batch of rockets. But the conversations continue, and I think hopefully we’ll get to a better path forward.

QUESTION: Okay, so you’re not exactly sure what they did —

MS. HARF: I think it’s probably best for UNRWA to speak to this. They have the most up-to-date information.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes, Nicole.

QUESTION: Is there any discussion about structuring this ceasefire through a UN Security Council resolution or working through the Security Council instead of trying to put together something on a bilateral or multilateral basis?

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard of that. Obviously I’m not going to talk about specifics that are being discussed in the room, but what we’re focused on is working with Egypt and other regional partners – of course, with Israel and the Palestinians – to see if we can get something here.

QUESTION: One more on the flight cancellations.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: It’s not just Matt that’s been critical and conspiratorial. Senator Cruz – (laughter) –

QUESTION: I haven’t been critical or conspiratorial.

MS. HARF: You’re being put in a category with Senator Cruz, so let’s see where this one goes. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Senator —

MS. HARF: I can’t wait for this.

QUESTION: Yeah. Thanks a lot, Lucas. That’s not —

MS. HARF: You’re welcome, Matt. Thank Lucas later.

QUESTION: Senator Cruz just released a statement saying that the FAA’s flight suspension to Israel is economic blackmail and that the Obama Administration is —

MS. HARF: It’s ridiculous.

QUESTION: — doing this to punish Israel.

MS. HARF: It’s ridiculous and offensive, quite frankly. The FAA takes its responsibilities very seriously. I will speak for them in that case. They make these decisions based solely on the security and safety of American citizens, period. For anyone to suggest otherwise, it’s just ridiculous, Lucas.

QUESTION: His argument is that tourism is an $11 billion industry for Israel and that while these flights are cancelled and Israel is losing money, the aid to Hamas continues.

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly care about Israel’s tourism industry as well, but we care more about the rockets being stopped from coming into Israel to kill innocent civilians in Israel. We care more about getting a ceasefire, and we care more about protecting American citizens. So clearly, I think Senator Cruz is completely wrong on this. We make decisions about security based solely on what’s in the best interest of American citizens. And look, one of the reasons – the main reason, if not, that Secretary Kerry is investing so much energy into getting a ceasefire is so Israel can return to normalcy, so they can return flights, so we can move past the Travel Warning, so Israelis and visitors and anyone don’t have to run to bomb shelters because Hamas is firing rockets at them. So I’d urge him to take another look at his comments on this.

QUESTION: But you can still fly to Beirut, can’t you, and other hotspots around the country?

MS. HARF: The FAA has a full list of places that we don’t fly. Someone asked about North Korea the other day. You cannot fly, I think, places in North Korea as well. So I would take a look at that. But there are times – in parts of Ukraine, Crimea we have warnings out as well. And these are all designed to protect American citizens here. And again, this is a temporary notice. The 24-hour notice has been renewed for another 24 hours. Our goal is to get this ceasefire in place as soon as possible so we don’t have to take these steps.

QUESTION: Marie, if I may follow – just to follow up on Nicole’s question. The sort of – what format this ceasefire should take? Back in 2009, there was a resolution – a UN Security Council Resolution 1860, and then in 2012 or just an agreement. Is it your feeling or this Department’s feeling that if you frame it in a United Nations Security Council resolution, would be more robust and would have to be – have better chance of being sustainable?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve talked about 2012 as sort of —

QUESTION: Right, right.

MS. HARF: — one of the standards that we’re looking at here. I don’t have anything beyond that on what the discussions look like.

QUESTION: Same topic, real quick.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Secretary said he was going to Cairo, back to Cairo. Any confirmation or details of when?

MS. HARF: I’m sure he will. I don’t know when. I’m not sure we know when.

QUESTION: He said immediately after the – or not immediately, but after the (inaudible).

MS. HARF: I don’t have details on timing, but he will eventually return to Cairo and could possibly return to Jerusalem and Ramallah.

QUESTION: There have been some riots in Paris over the issue of Gaza. I’m wondering if you see that as indicative of any larger international feelings towards either side.

MS. HARF: Well, let me say first that we obviously have seen some of the horrific anti-Semitic and anti-Israel comments that have come up during some of these protests; not all of them, but some, which we would of course strongly condemn as we always do. But I’ve been asked about these for three days and I don’t think my line’s changed that people have a right to freely express themselves. That’s something that is important to us, but we do want people to remember that Israel has a right to defend itself and that its citizens are living under constant threat of rockets from Hamas that are the responsibility of Hamas to end. And I would just caution people to keep that in mind.

QUESTION: Last thing for me, and it sets a perfect segue of – because we’ve heard —

MS. HARF: Great.

QUESTION: — that phraseology any number of times from the White House, from this podium as well.

MS. HARF: We are remarkably consistent.

QUESTION: Yes, I know. How do we square that no country would tolerate rocket fire with things like Pakistan and Yemen and rocket fire that has killed civilians from the U.S.?

MS. HARF: Well, they’re wholly different, and I’ll tell you why.

QUESTION: Please.

MS. HARF: Hamas is a terrorist organization firing rockets indiscriminately with the purpose to kill civilians. Our counterterrorism operations, wherever they are, are taken with a great degree of care to protect civilian life. The President has spoken about this several times in speeches, and they are in fact designed to go after terrorists who are trying to kill more civilians. So any equivalency is just – I guess the word of the day – ridiculous and offensive.

QUESTION: And so when mistakes are made, it’s a mistake, it’s – you take every care –

MS. HARF: Right. The President has been very clear that we take extraordinary care to prevent civilian causalities, which is the exact opposite of what Hamas does, who tries to kill as many civilians as they can. We take extraordinary care when conducting counterterrorism operations.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Anything else on this?

QUESTION: On (inaudible).

MS. HARF: No. If your hand —

QUESTION: No.

MS. HARF: No? Then don’t keep your hand up if it’s not about Gaza. (Laughter.) You’re trying to play a trick here. Let’s go to Ukraine.

QUESTION: I was wondering if the Department has any comment on reports or Ukrainian Government claims that two more planes have been shot down from Russia.

MS. HARF: Yes, we have seen those reports. We are still looking into them. We have, of course, seen a history of the separatists shooting down planes in the past, I think about a dozen before MH17. And look, if true – and we hopefully will be able to confirm whether it’s true soon – it would only be further evidence that Russian-backed separatists are using advanced surface-to-air weaponry less than a week after shooting down a civilian airliner and killing 298 people. Again, it’s hard to imagine any of this happening without Russian support.

QUESTION: Dovetailing off that, I mean, you said to me yesterday that the fighting is by and large outside of the 25-mile radius of the crash site.

MS. HARF: Forty kilometer —

QUESTION: Yeah. Or whatever.

MS. HARF: — or whatever. But numbers matter.

QUESTION: At this point, I think it was three miles outside of the crash site. I mean —

MS. HARF: No. I think you have wrong information there. There hasn’t been – they have maintained – the Ukrainians have maintained a ceasefire. The 40-kilometer ceasefire they have declared around the crash site, the Ukrainians have maintained it.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you concerned that a break in ceasefire could impede the investigation?

MS. HARF: Well, obviously, we would be concerned about the separatists not upholding a ceasefire. The Ukrainians have repeatedly shown their willingness and ability to do so.

QUESTION: India?

QUESTION: No.

QUESTION: Wait. Can I continue on Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You’re kidding, right?

QUESTION: Well, yesterday – this is sort of related Ukraine, I guess, and Russia. Yesterday the intel community said they were going to lay out evidence sort of backing their assertions about who brought down Malaysia Airlines 17. They did lay out a bunch of different things, but they didn’t actually lay out the real documentation that supports those assertions. Why haven’t we seen —

MS. HARF: I’m not sure exactly what you’re looking for. Well, they did a couple things yesterday. They showed – they walked through an intelligence assessment case and they talked about some additional pieces of declassified information that I can walk through today that bolsters our case that we know what happened here. They also showed imagery of training facilities; they showed imageries of the site, including a trajectory based on classified information that they were able to provide that showed the trajectory of the SA-11. So those are important, and let’s get – let me finish —

QUESTION: Yeah, go ahead.

MS. HARF: — and then you can keep following up.

So a couple things they said yesterday, which I think are significant which we had not set before, that the audio data provided to the press – and we talked a lot about these open source reports, right, these audio messages that people have said are certain people or that prove things – they were provided to the press by the Ukrainians. It was evaluated by the intelligence community analysts, who confirmed these were authentic conversations between known separatist leaders.

And then another key point they talked about yesterday, and we can talk more about the rest of this, is the – this notion the Russians have put out there about a Ukrainian fighter jet. They’ve argued that an Su-25 fighter might have shot down the aircraft with an air-to-air missile. They have judged that engagement would be implausible for the following reasons: The Su-25 is a ground attack aircraft. The only missiles it carries are short-range – excuse me – are short-range, infrared-guided missiles. Ground photography from the crash site is consistent with the expected damage from a surface-to-air missile, but it is – does not correspond, in fact is inconsistent with what we would expect to see for an air-to-air missile, as Russia claims.

Third, Russia – this is a little separately here – has also released a map with the alleged locations of Ukrainian SA-11 units within range of the crash. This is another red herring they’ve put out there. We are confident that this information is incorrect. The nearest Ukrainian operational SA-11 unit is located well out of the range from both the launch and the crash site. So part of their case yesterday was not only giving more information about what we know, but giving our professional, technical assessment of some of the Russian claims that, I think, we have tried to increasingly knock down.

QUESTION: When you said – when they – when you said they showed evidence of this, what do you mean by that, “they showed”? They – I mean, did they have a presentation? I —

MS. HARF: Well, they – they did. They did. They showed some imagery, they showed a number of images; they showed some maps, they showed some graphics. I’m happy for you to get in touch with DNI Public Affairs, who can probably give you that packet that they showed. They showed some – one of the maps that we actually have posted on our Facebook page and our Kyiv Embassy that shows the trajectory of the SA-11 missile. That trajectory is based on classified information. I can’t detail all of what that information is, but that is based on the information we have.

QUESTION: And some of the evidence U.S. is relying on are social media postings and videos made public by the Ukrainian Government. Have those all been authenticated?

MS. HARF: Again, that’s why I said the audio data, which is part of the social media, has been authenticated by the intelligence community analysts. Social media is obviously only one part of the puzzle here. It’s something we look at, but obviously, we back everything up to the extent that we can when we can with other intelligence as well.

QUESTION: Marie.

MS. HARF: Matt.

QUESTION: On your three things that you say were new: one, on the audio data being analyzed and being authenticated. That was not new yesterday. That was actually in the statement that the Embassy in Kyiv put out on Sunday morning —

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: — before Secretary Kerry appeared on those —

MS. HARF: That the intelligence community had authenticated all of it? I – it’s my understanding that that was not all out there on Sunday, but I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Well, I believe it was. But I mean, there’s no – it doesn’t —

MS. HARF: Okay. Well, I disagree with you, but I’m happy to check.

What’s the next thing?

QUESTION: Well, you can look at the statement. I mean, it says that they’ve been authenticated. So I would say that that wasn’t new.

MS. HARF: Okay. Happy to check.

QUESTION: Secondly, I’m not sure that – I know that there were some suggestions that the Ukrainian fighter plane shot down this – with a missile, but the —

MS. HARF: So the Russians have basically had a couple of alternative explanations.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: There was the Ukrainian fighter jet. I think we – the intelligence community went to great lengths yesterday to show why that’s not the case.

The other – one of the other things they said was that it was a Ukrainian SA-11 system that the Ukrainians had fired. Again, I think they made very clear why that’s not also the case.

QUESTION: But the theory that – or the – I don’t know what you would – the suggestion isn’t necessarily that the Ukrainian jet – I mean, you have – you’ve discovered that the Ukrainian jet was in the vicinity, but it was not capable of shooting (inaudible) down —

MS. HARF: No, I can’t confirm that there was even a Ukrainian – we have no confirmation that I have seen that there was a Ukrainian jet.

QUESTION: Oh, that there was even —

MS. HARF: I’m not saying there wasn’t. I just can’t confirm it.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: But regardless, the notion that this kind of Ukrainian jet the Russians are talking about could have done this with the kind of missile and the kind of debris we’ve seen – it just doesn’t match up.

QUESTION: Because I think the suggestion is that whoever fired this missile may have been shooting for that plane, like what we saw today in terms of a shoot-down.

MS. HARF: Which in no way makes it better.

QUESTION: Well, I’m not saying it does. I’m not saying it does at all, but it’s not —

MS. HARF: And I don’t know what the intentions are of whoever was on the ground pushing the button. I don’t.

QUESTION: And the last thing about this —

MS. HARF: Clearly – well clearly, I know the intentions were to launch a sophisticated missile and to kill people. Whether those – they were trying to kill Ukrainian military officers or civilians, we’re still waiting to find out.

QUESTION: I – yeah, okay. I’m not arguing that one is better than the other.

MS. HARF: Okay. I know.

QUESTION: I’m not saying that.

MS. HARF: Just responding to your question.

QUESTION: I’m just saying – and then on the – this trajectory thing that you said was put out by the Embassy —

MS. HARF: I didn’t say that was new yesterday. We posted that a few days ago.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, if you just look at that – a lay person looking at it, it’s a line drawn on a satellite photo with no – nothing to back it up.

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, it’s based on a series of classified information —

QUESTION: Which we have to —

MS. HARF: — which we are —

QUESTION: — we have to take the leap of faith to believe that – right?

MS. HARF: Well, Matt, we are trying to put as much out of this out —

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: — information out about this as possible. We are trying very hard to do so. It is a process that takes, I think, more time than any of us, certainly you or I, would like.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: But I think I would make the point that it’s much more time-consuming to declassify real evidence than to make it up, which is what the Russians have been doing for days now.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, be that as it may, are you saying that at some point, the IC is hopeful to —

MS. HARF: We are working to —

QUESTION: — that they will be able to put —

MS. HARF: We’re working to get more information declassified and put out there as quickly as we can. It’s just a difficult process (inaudible).

QUESTION: Okay. But do you understand that given the conflicting claims, no matter how ridiculous you say the other side’s version is and no matter how implausible it might be – but saying that you’ve put together the imagery showing the root of this —

MS. HARF: Trajectory.

QUESTION: — trajectory showing imagery.

MS. HARF: Just one piece. It’s one piece of evidence.

QUESTION: Well, I know, but anyone can draw a line on a map. They can. I mean, I’m not saying that —

MS. HARF: That’s not what our intelligence community does. That’s not what the U.S. Government does when we go out there and present a case to the world. We have —

QUESTION: So —

QUESTION: Can I just —

MS. HARF: Wait. We have to protect sensitive sources and methods. We have to, because if we don’t, we won’t be able to get this kind of information in the future if they’re compromised because of a declassification. Believe me, I want to be able to declassify more.

QUESTION: Right, okay.

MS. HARF: They want to be able to declassify more. And it’s not about a leap of faith. We are laying out a very comprehensive argument based on a number of different pieces, right. So if you look at all of them in totality —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: — look at the entire picture, it presents a very compelling case about the kind of missile, where it was fired from. Those are the two key pieces, right. The kind of missile that took down this plane we are very confident is an SA-11, we are very confident it was fired from Russian-controlled territory. We are very confident that the two alternate stories the Russians put forward aren’t plausible.

Who put their finger on the trigger? We still need to find that out.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: But suffice to say, the Russian separatists we believe fired this, in general, could not be doing what they’re doing without the Russians. And responsibility lays at the feet of President Putin, not just for this but for every incident that we have seen throughout this conflict, period.

QUESTION: All right. So Putin is – it’s Putin whose fault this is; that’s what you’re saying?

MS. HARF: I think I was just pretty clear.

QUESTION: What you’re saying – okay. So you said that – you say it’s a very compelling case, but you – it is a circumstantial case, is it not?

MS. HARF: It is a case based on a number of different pieces of evidence, Matt – across the board, a number of different pieces. Whether you’re looking at what we talked about yesterday, whether you’re looking at what we’ve seen on social media, whether you’re looking at the kind of SA-11 which is a missile that essentially gets fired straight up does what it does, and that’s exactly what we saw in this case as well.

So we’ve laid out a very detailed case. We will continue to declassify as much as we can. But again, we’ve been very open about our assessments here. The Russians have repeatedly lied about what’s happening on the ground. They said there weren’t troops in Crimea when there were troops all over Crimea. So there’s just no credibility on their side. And I understand the need to put out more information, but look, the notion that they’ve shot down dozens – over a dozen planes now – and this is just the one that wasn’t them – also just doesn’t pass the common sense test.

QUESTION: Marie —

QUESTION: Okay. Hold on a second. So – but – and I understand the – your desire to protect sources and methods, but we have here an incredible tragedy where almost 300 people died.

MS. HARF: I agree.

QUESTION: Is that – protecting sources and methods are more important than getting —

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: — to the bottom of who —

MS. HARF: Well, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive here. A, if we think an investigation can go forward, then we’ll get to the bottom of what happened here. We believe we do have a good assessment about the things I’ve talked about. The investigation about who did it specifically to a person is ongoing. But look, part of the reason we protect sources and methods is because we want to be able to see these things in the future if they tragically – something like this were to happen again in the same area, the way we found out information this time. So —

QUESTION: So you’re saying that – but just to be clear, that the imagery, the trajectory imagery that you have that —

MS. HARF: In that one sheet, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Right, right, right, exactly.

MS. HARF: I think it’s the green line.

QUESTION: That is – yes, that there are sources and methods for how you know that trajectory —

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: — that people are concerned are going to be somehow —

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: — tainted if —

MS. HARF: Correct. Not just tainted, but compromised.

QUESTION: That are going to be compromised if you —

MS. HARF: Yes, correct.

QUESTION: I mean —

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: Okay. I guess —

MS. HARF: Having spent six years in the intelligence community —

QUESTION: I know. That’s what I – I know that’s what —

MS. HARF: — I know there are a variety of ways we can figure these things out, many of which are quite sensitive and many of which I think we don’t want to lose.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: So look, believe me, I’m pushing my colleagues at the DNI —

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: — as much as I love these —

QUESTION: Do you – but I —

MS. HARF: — conversations with you about this. We are pushing and they’re pushing, and we’ll see if we can get more.

QUESTION: Okay. But do you – I mean, would you expect —

MS. HARF: I have no prediction.

QUESTION: — or you don’t know? You don’t expect more or you —

MS. HARF: I have no idea.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Look, I think there will be. I think we’re just working through it.

QUESTION: Okay. One other thing that’s unrelated to the intel.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Are you aware of the reports that several journalists have been detained or kidnapped – one a Ukrainian, the other one a Brit? Do you know anything about this?

MS. HARF: I saw some reports about some journalists. I think we’re still trying to track down the facts there. I’ll see if there’s more after I get off the podium.

QUESTION: Okay. Ambassador Pyatt had tweeted something about —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — one of the —

MS. HARF: Yeah. Obviously, we are concerned about these reports. Let me see if there’s more details.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you – you said the blame lays at Mr. Putin’s feet just now.

MS. HARF: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Does that mean that they are involved in issuing the orders issued down there?

MS. HARF: I didn’t say that. I said that these Russian separatists who we strongly believe fired this missile would not be there operating without the support of President Putin and the Russian Government, would not have been trained without the support of President Putin and the Russian Government, would not be armed without the support of President Putin and the Russian Government. They would not be there doing what they’re doing, period, so they could fire an SA-11 without the support of President Putin and the Russian Government. Yes, direct responsibility lays there.

QUESTION: And also – okay. I wanted to ask you also on integrity of the crash site.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Who’s in control now? I mean —

MS. HARF: Let me see if I – the Dutch are leading – give me one second – the investigation.

Just a couple quick updates. The black boxes are now in the United Kingdom. The reason for doing so is that the British have a specific kind of aircraft forensics laboratory needed, and the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch is a highly respected and capable investigation authority.

Let me answer a few more taken questions from yesterday, and then I’ll get to your question, Said.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: Not all of the remains were, tragically, handed over yesterday. Potentially, the remains of some 100 people are still missing. We don’t have exact numbers. Obviously, it is critical that international investigators, led by the Dutch, receive immediate and full access to the crash site.

In terms of access to the site, we – they have on the ground in Ukraine begun the difficult work of piecing together exactly what happened here. Today, we understand that they do have better access than they’ve had in the past days. We are, though, troubled by reports of looting, evidence tampering, and the failure to transport, as I just said, all of the remains of all of the victims to Kharkiv and into Dutch custody. So that is the latest I have in terms of the situation and the investigation.

QUESTION: India?

QUESTION: On Ukraine itself?

MS. HARF: On Ukraine?

QUESTION: Hold on.

MS. HARF: Yeah, on Ukraine.

QUESTION: Based on the intelligence information that you released yesterday and what you have been saying today, it looks like it was a case of mistaken identity by the Ukraine separatists that hit the Malaysian plane.

MS. HARF: That’s not what they said at all.

QUESTION: That’s what you are concluding, right?

MS. HARF: No. That’s not what I said either. I said we don’t know yet the intentions of the people who fired the SA-11 from the pro-Russian separatist-controlled territory. We just don’t know what their intentions are.

QUESTION: So my question is —

MS. HARF: It may – they may have been targeting a civilian airliner; they may have been targeting a Ukrainian fighter jet, which they’ve done over a dozen times now. Either way, they’re clearly trying to kill people with an SA-11.

QUESTION: So when the Malaysian Airlines was passing through that part, there were some other passenger planes which was crossing that area, including one of Air India, which was under 25 miles away from the Malaysian planes. And then plane carrying Indian prime minister was passed around one hour before that.

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard that.

QUESTION: Do you know from intelligence information that any of these planes were – could have been a target or could have been hit by these missiles here?

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard – I haven’t heard that.

QUESTION: Can you check?

MS. HARF: I can check. I haven’t heard it, though.

QUESTION: One more?

MS. HARF: Ukraine?

QUESTION: Staying on India?

QUESTION: One more?

MS. HARF: No, let’s stay on Ukraine.

QUESTION: Ukraine, one more.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

Madam, what message do you have for the grieving families from this terrible incident? What they are asking the United Nations and the United States and the global community: Are we safe to fly in the future, and what steps are you going to take in the future that such incident doesn’t happen? Because many families believe not only these terrorists here in this area, but many other terrorists may have access also to the similar weapons, including in Pakistan or Afghanistan, and anybody could be the next target.

MS. HARF: Well look, I think you heard the President speak about this. I spoke about it at the beginning of the briefing, that one of the reasons, if not the most important reason, that we are so committed to finding out what happened here is so we can hold the people who did it accountable, that people cannot get away with shooting civilian airliners out of the sky. That’s just wholly unacceptable, and that countries that support these kind of separatists, like we’ve seen Russia do, also need to be held accountable. And that’s why you’ve seen additional sanctions; that’s why we’ve said there could be further steps, because that’s just not something that we will allow, that we will stand by and watch, and we do need to get to the bottom of what happened here.

QUESTION: Do you believe, Madam, that other terrorists like al-Qaida in Pakistan or Abu Baghdadi in Iraq, who have challenged already India, U.S., and other countries – that they may have similar weapons?

MS. HARF: I can check and see who else we think has these weapons. I just don’t know that off the top of my head.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam

MS. HARF: Thank you.

QUESTION: Marie, Senator —

MS. HARF: Yes – no, let’s stay on Ukraine.

QUESTION: One more on Ukraine.

Senator Carl Levin called this an act of war. What is your response?

MS. HARF: Well, look, we’ve been very clear about what’s happening in eastern Ukraine. You have separatists backed by a foreign country who have invaded and been killing people with impunity, who’ve been shooting down Ukrainian military jets, who’ve been – who’ve now taken down a civilian airliner, who’ve been terrorizing populations in eastern Ukraine.

I would also note, just for balance here, that there have been some areas liberated by Ukrainian forces, where people are able to go about their lives without the fear of separatist violence. The Ukrainian Government is providing food and water and hope, I would say, to the residents in those liberated areas. And one of the main places they have restored electricity, water, and train service is to Slovyansk, which we’ve talked about. It was on July 9th, so it was a little while ago. But we have seen steady progress in terms of them regaining territory.

QUESTION: But is this alleged act by the separatists, or by Russia, an act of war?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I have any more terminology to put around it, Lucas. I’m happy to check and see.

QUESTION: An act of terror?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check and see if there’s more terminology I’d like to put around it.

QUESTION: Your – when you say that the blame for this lies directly at President Putin’s feet, does that also mean that you think that his call – some – seemingly more conciliatory call yesterday for – to support a full and open investigation, do you think that’s duplicitous? Is that —

MS. HARF: Well, I just think that the words need to be backed up by actions, which, unfortunately, we haven’t seen very much of from the Russians lately.

QUESTION: Got you. I had one question semi-related to this.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: That is yesterday you talked about the French going ahead with their transfer of this Mistral ship to the Russians. It turns out today that the Brits have also been continuing to —

MS. HARF: I don’t think that’s actually —

QUESTION: Is that not correct?

MS. HARF: — accurate. No. And I’m not sure it’s in my book here. I have – they put out a statement very strongly denying this.

QUESTION: Denying it, okay.

MS. HARF: I will send it to you as soon as I get off the podium. I’m not sure I stuck it in my book here, but —

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: — they have gone on the record.

QUESTION: And denied the earlier reports. Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes, so —

QUESTION: So in other words —

MS. HARF: — I’m sorry I don’t have it.

QUESTION: No, no, it’s okay.

MS. HARF: Apologies to my British colleagues who may be watching.

QUESTION: You don’t need to – I’m not asking you to respond on behalf the British Government. But I’m just saying —

MS. HARF: No, no, no, but they – no, but I did have that and I wanted to – we’ll get it to you.

QUESTION: But you accept their denial and you don’t have any questions about their —

MS. HARF: We don’t have any questions about the British.

QUESTION: What about French?

MS. HARF: Period, sort of full stop. Well, we have big questions —

QUESTION: Ever?

MS. HARF: — about whether they would go through with something like that, yes.

QUESTION: So what is the latest? How long ago, how many days has it been that you raised it?

MS. HARF: Well, we raise it consistently with the French. The Secretary has spoken again today to French Foreign Minister Fabius. I don’t have a full readout of that call, but needless to say, I think it’s been raised recently.

QUESTION: And is it that the U.S. wants to just cancel that transaction, or just not to ship it until they start behaving properly?

MS. HARF: I don’t think we think it’s appropriate to provide that kind of material to the Russians at this time. I’m not sure what form that would look like, but we just don’t think they should do it. However they don’t do it, they shouldn’t do it.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Ukraine. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In your statement last night, Marie, at 9:58, you congratulated the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council, and you said, quote, “Today the Council agreed to accelerate preparation of additional sanctions.”

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But no new additional sanctions were taken. Was that really a disappointment to the West, to the United States?

MS. HARF: Well, they talked about a number of additional things they could do. No, I mean, I put out a statement saying quite positive things and I don’t have much more to add beyond that.

QUESTION: But wouldn’t you like to see

Western Premiers focus on competitiveness and rural and remote communities

Iqaluit, Nunavut (July 10, 2014) – Western Premiers met in Iqaluit over the past two days and emphasized the importance of continued economic growth in the West. Premiers discussed a number of priorities including labour market development, market access and internal trade. They also acknowledged the vital role that rural and remote communities play in the prosperity of Canada.

Developing the labour market

The need for skilled labour continues to increase in Western Canada. With a number of major projects either underway or in the development phase, existing labour shortages are only expected to deepen.

Premiers agreed that residents in their rural and remote communities need to be prepared to take advantage of increased job opportunities from the growing economy. They emphasized the shared role of employers, industry and government in skills development and on-the-job training to build capacity at the local level, particularly in Aboriginal and northern communities.

Having trusted, reliable, and up-to-date labour market information is essential for governments, employers, and for workers making employment decisions. Premiers discussed the importance of prioritizing the use of data to make joint decisions, and committed to sharing labour market information.

Western Premiers agreed to:

  • call on their Labour Market Ministers to continue developing opportunities for individuals in rural and remote communities to build the skills needed to benefit from economic development;
  • ask Western Labour Market Ministers to prepare a report on labour mobility and demand of major projects within the western provinces and territories;
  • show leadership and cooperation in supporting worker mobility by enhancing the transferability of post-secondary and trades education credits, including competency-based assessments; and
  • call on the federal government to provide better access to existing data from areas of federal jurisdiction, such as Employment Insurance data by economic development region and tax data.

When discussing changes to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program (TFWP) announced by the federal government on June 20, 2014, Premiers agreed that it is important to ensure Canadians have the first chance at the available jobs, and that employers should be held responsible for violating the rules of the program. However, Premiers are concerned that the recent changes go too far in restricting access to the program. Western Canada has a strong economy and unique labour market needs that often make it necessary for employers to rely on foreign workers when qualified Canadians cannot be found. Limiting the ability to hire foreign workers to address critical labour shortages will unduly punish responsible employers in Western Canada, particularly those in smaller and remote communities where Canadian workers are not readily available. Premiers also noted that temporary foreign workers often transition to permanent residency, such as through the Provincial and Territorial Nominee Programs, and become long-term contributors to the labour force. Premiers emphasized the need to ensure that the planned overhaul of Canada’s economic immigration system in 2015 is responsive to the diverse needs of western Canadian jurisdictions.

In advance of the FPT Labour Market Ministers’ meeting, Western Premiers discussed their concern about the federal government’s intention to alter provincial-territorial Labour Market Development Agreements (LMDA). 

Labour Market Development Agreements enable provinces and territories to provide direct assistance to Employment Insurance-eligible clients, ensuring they attain the valuable skills required to return to the workforce as quickly as possible. Premiers noted that existing programs have proven to successfully support Canadians getting the training they need to get back to work. Western Premiers also noted that the responsibility over skills training has been devolved by the federal government to provinces and territories, as they are best placed to better deliver training and support programs that meet local needs. The federal government has provided no evidence that any change in approach is needed. Western Premiers will also discuss this issue at the 2014 Summer Meeting of Canada’s Premiers in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island later this summer.

Western Premiers also discussed the challenges posed by the timing of LMDA and TFWP changes. Premiers urged the federal government to:

  • consider how these changes may reduce labour availability; and
  • engage in a collaborative dialogue with western Canadian provinces and territories to explore ways to accommodate the unique labour challenges of the region.

Improving market access

Western Premiers congratulated the federal government on concluding the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement. They welcomed federal efforts to secure further free trade agreements (FTAs) with key markets to strengthen Canada’s competitiveness and urged the rapid conclusion of ambitious FTAs, including the Canada European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and bilateral agreements with India and Japan.

Premiers noted that an ambitious TPP would improve Canada’s access to the Asia-Pacific region and ensure that Canada remains a preferred market for the United States (US).  US protectionism continues to be a concern for Premiers.  Premiers supported the federal government’s work in the US and in international forums, to address US Protectionism, particularly the Grow America Act.

Premiers also discussed the need for improved bilateral air transport agreements to ensure western provinces and territories can fully capitalize on the FTAs.

Canada’s trade success hinges on having an effective and efficient transportation system to reliably get goods and services to market. To this end, Western Premiers:

  • welcome a transparent review by the federal government of the Canada Transportation Act, focusing on regulatory and policy changes to improve the competitive environment and balance the relationship between shippers and railways;
  • call on the federal government to expand monitoring systems and information sharing and ensure full transparency between stakeholders involved in Canada’s supply chain system; and
  • call on the federal government to work with provinces, territories and the private sector to ensure that gateway facilities and transportation networks, in particular the Asia-Pacific gateway, accommodate current and future exports.

Modernizing internal trade

Premiers agreed it is essential to accelerate cooperative efforts to strengthen Canada’s economic union. Western Premiers support an ambitious modernization agenda to achieve substantial progress. Premiers noted that the original Agreement on Internal Trade (AIT) was signed as a direct result of Premiers’ leadership in 1994 and took effect in 1995. Since that time, significant progress has been made by the provinces and territories to broaden the AIT’s coverage on labour mobility and public procurement, to remove technical barriers in the agriculture and foods sector, and to put in place an enforceable dispute resolution mechanism.

Western Premiers remain committed to the objectives originally set out in the 1994 Agreement.  However, the Canadian economy and the global trading environment within which Canada operates have evolved since the AIT was signed. As such, bold new steps must be taken to maximize our country’s ability to be globally competitive and to ensure consistency between our internal and international trade agreements.

Exploring solutions for off-grid communities

Western Premiers are committed to supporting economic growth throughout the West and noted the challenges faced by some off-grid and remote communities that rely on diesel-fueled energy generation technologies, which are often expensive and emissions intensive. Premiers agreed that resource development and community and economic growth should be enhanced through the availability of innovative off-grid energy solutions in these communities.

Western Premiers directed their Energy Ministers to work on identifying barriers to the reduction of diesel use in off-grid communities and ways to increase access to affordable, clean, and reliable supplies of energy. Ministers are asked to focus on practical solutions that use innovative technologies that can be applied to small communities. Premiers directed Energy Ministers to report back on this work at the Western Premiers’ Conference in 2015. Western Premiers will also work with their colleagues across the country in addressing this issue through the Canadian Energy Strategy.

Improving access to housing

Western Premiers recognized that access to stable and affordable housing is fundamental to a strong economy and to the health and well-being of western Canadians. Adequate housing allows families to participate more readily in the workforce, reduces dependencies on costly government programs such as healthcare, policing and justice and increases the level of academic achievement attained by children and youth. This is particularly evident in Aboriginal and northern communities. Premiers stressed the need to work with the federal government to develop a long-term, sustainable partnership to support housing needs.

Addressing aboriginal child welfare

Western Premiers discussed the disproportionate and large number of Aboriginal children taken into care across the country. They recognized the need for governments to work in consultation with Aboriginal communities to address this Canada-wide problem.

Western Premiers urge the federal government to show leadership and commit to working in partnership with provinces, territories and Aboriginal communities to address these critical issues facing Aboriginal children and families.

Western Premiers directed provincial and territorial Social Services Ministers work with Aboriginal Affairs Ministers to consider ways to reduce the number of Aboriginal children taken into care by child welfare authorities and to improve the quality of care.

Disaster management and assistance

Western Premiers discussed the frequency and severity of recent natural disasters, including current major floods in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and stressed the critical importance of continuing strong, reliable federal support for disaster management and recovery assistance.

Premiers call on the federal government to:

  • broaden the definition of a “disaster event” to include multiple smaller events that have large, cumulative impacts;
  • maintain its longstanding 90-10 cost-sharing arrangement for disaster recovery; and
  • allow communities to rebuild to a higher, more resilient standard.

They praised first responders and Canada’s military for their exemplary efforts in dealing with emergency situations across the country and acknowledged that they had been key to saving lives and livelihoods. Noting that advance planning and investment in disaster mitigation infrastructure have been proven to reduce the scale and costs of natural disasters, Western Premiers called on the federal government to substantially strengthen its new mitigation programs to enable provinces, territories and Aboriginal communities to move ahead quickly with high-priority flood protection and other projects.

2015 Western Premiers’ Conference

Premier Wall confirmed that Saskatchewan will host next year’s Western Premiers’ Conference.

###

Contact Information:
Yasmina Pepa
Press Secretary to Premier Taptuna
867.975.5059
ypepa@gov.nu.ca