Tagged: PeaceKeeping

Speeches: Remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations

(As Delivered)

Date: 03/12/2015 Description: Assistant Secretary Crocker at the Council on Foreign Relations. - State Dept Image

Thank you first and foremost to the Council on Foreign Relations for hosting today’s conversation and to Stuart for guiding it, and for that kind introduction. Thanks also to all of you for coming this afternoon for a discussion of the status, purpose, and value of multilateral diplomacy.

I’m here today in the context of the 70th anniversary of the United Nations, whose Charter was signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945. That Charter, and the lofty aspirations contained in it, remains very much at the center of today’s international system, a system that has evolved and expanded well beyond the vision of its earliest promoters. But a system that has endured – remarkably – and a Charter that retains relevance even some seven decades on.

My comments today are not intended to be retrospective, but rather a brief survey of the UN and the larger international system as it is today, and the qualities and capacities that I believe will be crucial for its continued relevance.

As I begin, I take the liberty of assuming your stipulation to some guiding realities:

First, that pressing transnational challenges are only growing in scope, scale, and variety. In this category, I might offer climate change, food security, pandemic health challenges such as Ebola, the threat of violent extremism, and more.

Second, that these varied challenges require often urgent and sometimes simultaneous multilateral action. This truth is perhaps most evident often in the case of humanitarian crises.

Third, that today’s remarkable connectivity accelerates the pace at which events become available to global audiences, and thus in turn accelerates the pace at which the international community is expected and called upon to respond.

And finally, that an international system unable to respond to these truths would quickly become irrelevant on the global stage.

Seventy years ago, the need for an international body to provide a convening authority and a constraint for disputing nations was obvious. And though it is true that since that day in San Francisco there have been few constants on the international stage, it is also true that a body that was conceived primarily as a means to prevent war among the great powers of the world has met that fundamental objective.

The original 50 signatories of the UN Charter have grown to 193. The modern international system comprises dozens of organizations and agencies, with responsibility for engaging on innumerable shared priorities, and – let’s be honest – more than a handful most of us have never heard of. Civil society networks have emerged as a powerful complement to multilateral tools, and globalization has fostered economic and cultural linkages that would have been unimaginable at the end of World War II.

And yet, across that timeline and in all those categories, American leadership within the international system has been steadfast and instrumental. Now, in making that statement, I acknowledge that from its earliest moments, the UN has been the source of discomfort in some segments of the U.S. political universe. That said, it is notable that for all of its seven decades, the UN and the evolving international system have enjoyed the strong support of U.S. administrations and the Congress.

But why? Why is the vitality and agility of the United Nations and other international organizations of such importance to the United States?

In its most simple expression, it comes to this – we ask the international system to do a great many things on our behalf, and on the whole it is genuinely and actively responsive in that regard.

Yes, there are failings in the system, frustrations inherent in its history and exploited by its membership. There are recurring instances of mismanagement and inefficiency. There is a deeply-rooted anti-Israel bias that rears its ugly head across the system. And there is a persistence of division, call it North vs. South, NAM vs. the West, or G77 vs. the likeminded, that seems almost unthinkable given how much has changed on the global stage since 1945.

But the challenges we face today require as never before the multiplier effect of an effective international system. And the reality is that with the UN, that means we must take the good with the bad – accept the shortcomings, because the benefits to the United States still far outweigh the stories that grab headlines.

So today I will briefly discuss the UN’s unique capability and capacity, where today’s international system succeeds, where it falls short, and why we must remain relentless in our efforts to push it toward improved effectiveness, efficiency, and innovation and expand our efforts to encourage UN member states to break through tired voting habits and stale thinking. Any discussion of where the international system works must be predicated on an acceptance that the system is messy. With 193 UN member states, division is not uncommon – but we also have to remember how much gets done by consensus, even in the unwieldy UN General Assembly.

And, frankly, if member states were all of one mind, the need for an international system would be far from obvious. No, clearly our differences illustrate the need, create opportunities for unanticipated partnerships, and can make multilateral accomplishments all the more resonant. They are, in fact, the source of the legitimacy that the UN bestows when it speaks to an issue of global concern.

So, where does one look for such accomplishments? I’ll offer a few examples in three broad categories. First, we find accomplishment where the international system effectively channels shared aspirations.

Take, for example, human rights and the UN Human Rights Council. This is a body that has been fairly criticized as providing solace and protection to some of the world’s worst human rights abusers while focusing with unrelenting, unhealthy attention on a single nation – Israel.

When the United States decided to seek election to the Council in 2009, it was with a determination to redirect the Council’s energies, refocus its purpose, and begin strengthening its reputation as the global focal-point for universal human rights.

In the succeeding years, we’ve achieved a great deal. In 2011, we led an effort to pass a groundbreaking resolution on the rights of LGBT persons – the first such resolution in the UN system. We supported the Latin Americans in taking the lead on the follow-on resolution this past September. We have worked with our partners to lift the veil of secrecy on the horrendous human rights abuses in North Korea at the hands of the regime and to get this issue on the agenda of the Security Council – a huge accomplishment.

We have also led a sustained effort to promote the investigation of and accountability for human rights violations in Sri Lanka, and in fact consistently promote the utility of focusing on country-specific situations to highlight some of the most distressing human rights situations around the world.

That effort has resulted in Commissions of Inquiry and Special Rapporteurs on the human rights situations in Iran, Syria, Belarus, Burma, and North Korea and independent experts on the situations in Sudan, Somalia, and Mali. We have also led efforts to pass important thematic actions to bolster freedoms of expression and association, the rights of women and girls, the protection of civil society, and much more.

And, I would note, that we have achieved this level of success in spite of the recurring presence on the Council of some of the world’s worst offender states.

It is also true that we have not succeeded in ending the ingrained bias against Israel, but we continue to advocate forcefully against that bias in the Human Rights Council and across the international system. In fact, as Secretary Kerry pointed out earlier this month, we have intervened on Israel’s behalf over the last two years a couple of hundred times in more than 75 different multilateral fora, both to defend it and to support its positive agenda.

This recent progress notwithstanding, the Human Rights Council will obviously never be flawless. But consider the outsized influence of this relatively small body of just 47 member states and the small Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. We measure that influence not just in the allergic responses often displayed by offender nations, but more meaningfully in the feedback we receive from civil society in those nations, who remind us frequently that Council action has a powerful impact on the ground.

Today, shared aspirations are evident across the UN system, from the heightened focus on gender issues, to strengthened humanitarian coordination across UN agencies, to the elevation of climate change and other (inaudible) issues, and in the energy and ambition fueling negotiations toward a Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Obviously, shared aspirations do not immediately or even necessarily equate to agreed action, but they serve to shape many of the conversations defining today’s multilateral diplomacy.

We also find accomplishment in the international system where it acts to promote peace and security. The headline institution here is of course the UN Security Council, which has not always warranted or enjoyed universal admiration. At times, disagreement between permanent members has inhibited action on urgent crises and Syria is an obvious example here.

But it should come as no surprise that in situations closest to our core interests, the United States and other permanent members won’t always – or even often – agree. And indeed the Council was created to give us a mechanism to air our differences and try to foster solutions without resorting to open conflict.

And where the P5’s interests align, the Security Council plays an indispensable role. We have continued to work effectively with Russia and the rest of the Council on combatting the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, on substantive actions to counter terrorism, counter piracy, on robust nonproliferation regimes targeting Iran and North Korea, on authorizing peacekeeping missions, and much more.

To be sure, the Council’s failures on matters such as Syria are as inexcusable as they are unsurprising. And over time, failure to act time and again to address front-burner issues could undermine the body’s legitimacy. But as often as that has been predicted it has been disproved, as even when we and others have acted without Council authorization, we have generally returned to the Council to bestow legitimacy and to coordinate on additional actions.

UN peacekeeping is also a widely-known UN peace and security tool, and lends itself well as an example of multilateral burden-sharing. UN peacekeepers, in fact, are currently the largest deployed military force around the world, with 16 missions and over 130,000 personnel today. We’ve had UN peacekeeping missions nearly as long as we’ve had the UN itself, and like the parent body, they have not always measured up. In particular, we see the challenge when missions are mandated to take actions they don’t deliver on, such as the protection of civilians.

We learned from the experiences of Rwanda, of the Balkans, and elsewhere that missions needed strengthened mandates to make clear the authority to use force and protect civilians. Today, more than 95 percent of peacekeepers serve in missions with a responsibility to protect civilians. Today, the problems we see relate more to how to plan for such operations, how to get host nations to do their job, how to make sure troop contributing countries are able and willing to enforce robust mandates – and a lack of the political underpinning needed to ensure missions’ success.

We are committed to modernizing peacekeeping missions and pressing to fill critical gaps and as the nation contributing over 28 percent of the UN peacekeeping budget and with a seat on the Security Council, we obviously have strong views. We are engaging with and support the new Independent Panel chaired by former President Jose Ramos-Horta to review UN peace operations, and in fact held serious discussions with panel members at the State Department on Tuesday.

Also earlier this week, both Ambassador Power and Deputy Secretary Blinken spoke forcefully on the continued U.S. commitment to peacekeeping and the gaps we are focused on filling, and President Obama will host a Peacekeeping Summit in New York in September.

Finally, we find accomplishment where the international system provides unique specialized and technical expertise. Consider, for example, the ongoing negotiations related to Iran’s nuclear program. While I want in no way to prejudge the outcome of those negotiations, I do think they offer an important reminder of the need to invest in credible international organizations. In this instance, I’m referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which occupies an indispensable place on the global stage as an authoritative technical entity.

As the Iran negotiations continue through the P5+1 process, the IAEA has the proven capacity to undertake the monitoring and verification roles that would likely be required of it under any agreement and that have been required to verify compliance under the Joint Plan of Action. Imagine how much more difficult these already highly technical and complex negotiations would be without the existence of this international agency.

In a similar vein, I think it fair to speculate that the international community would have struggled mightily to deal with the Assad regime’s chemical weapons stockpiles in the absence of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. I take little risk in suggesting that not all of knew about the OPCW before their services and capabilities were required in Syria, and the fact that those capabilities were employed effectively further endorses the sustained investment required to maintain the many and varied elements of our modern international system.

Now, these accomplishments are real, they are valuable, and in many cases they contribute directly to our national security. There are also, to be sure, areas in where the international system falls short, and while I have alluded to several already, they bear repeating.

First, there is one suite of issues that I believe represents one of the UN system’s biggest sustained failures. That is, of course, the treatment of Israel-Palestine issues.

There remains a persistent, corrosive bias against Israel in many UN fora, including the UN General Assembly, the Human Rights Council, UNESCO, and beyond. It is made manifest in resolutions and commissions of inquiry, and reinforced by incendiary language and bloc voting. This bias diminishes every international body in which it is allowed to persist, and does nothing to advance the vision of a two-state solution in the Middle East.

Recently, more assertive Palestinian action has compounded the challenge. They have sought to elevate their status in the General Assembly and elsewhere across the UN system. They sought and won member state status at UNESCO, which triggered a legislative requirement that the U.S. cease funding that organization. They signed the Rome Statute and are seeking to employ the ICC to adjudicate questions that should be left to negotiations to resolve.

This appropriation of the international system is more than a dangerous precedent. It poses a threat to the legitimacy and viability of institutions, and provides ready ammunition to those who would seek to diminish U.S. leadership across the international system.

In a similar vein, the UN system is frequently and justifiably criticized for providing open venues for rogue states and bad global actors. I’ll brace myself for the laugh track when I tell you that Venezuela is on the Security Council and China, Russia, and Cuba are members of the Human Rights Council. Bloc voting can result in counterintuitive outcomes, and bad actors are sometimes determined to employ multilateral venues to advance goals antithetical to the hosting organization.

I think we can all agree that these realities are unfortunate at best and all too often corrosive and damaging. And there are times when the system in which we’ve invested so much just doesn’t perform as well or as quickly as we’d want – for example WHO being so slow off the mark in responding to the Ebola crisis.

Finally, in the category of shortcomings we need to make special note of continued management, transparency, and accountability failings. Such failings have a profound impact on the international system – damaged credibility, diminished impact, and justifiable exposure to critics. In this category I would include a long history of poorly managed or mismanaged budgets, a sclerotic personnel system, an opaque response to crises such as sexual exploitation and abuse by UN peacekeepers.

The United States is at the forefront of efforts across the UN system to promote the positive evolution in the management cultures of all organizations and agencies. Sometimes we feel a little lonely in that position, but our sustained focus on these issues is beginning to make a difference. There is more budget transparency and accountability in many organizations today. There are more robust investigation tools. There is momentum toward addressing the lack of uniform whistleblower protections.

These steps and others are important, but we must be unrelenting in our demand for continuous, thoughtful evolution of the UN’s psychology and physiology.

In order to see that evolution realized, member states must care, and many do, including of course the United States. We care because we’ve built this system to manage shared responses to global challenges. As many before me have said, if the United Nations didn’t exist, we would almost certainly have to invent it – and I’m not sure in today’s world, that we could.

The United Nations at 70 shows some of its age, to be sure. But the questions facing the global community today demand an invigorated international system, not an internment. And that system is trying to get a lot done this year – in its 70th year – from major negotiations on post-2015 and climate, to peacekeeping reform, to addressing the threats of (inaudible) by violent extremism, to negotiations around the UN budget, to major discussions on internet governance and cyber security and Security Council reform. And let’s not forget the geopolitical shifts that underlie all these questions – from a revanchinist Russia to an increasingly assertive India, China, and Brazil.

Indeed, in some ways this seems like a test year for the UN system: can it still deliver on the kinds of big-ticket multilateral agenda items it is trying to get done? Can it prove that it has evolved and is continuing to evolve to take on new challenges? Will we and other member states continue to see value in using this system – will it continue to deliver for us?

These important questions will all be tested as the year proceeds, and I hope I’ve given some flavor today of why it’s so important that the answers continue to be “yes.”

For now, I want to thank you very much for your attention this afternoon, and I look forward to our conversation.

Press Releases: Joint Communique AUSMIN 2014

Begin Text:

Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop, Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston, Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel met on 12 August in Sydney for the annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN).

On the 29th anniversary of the first AUSMIN, the talks reaffirmed the Alliance’s important contribution to the peace, security, and prosperity of the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions as well as its enduring value in addressing contemporary and evolving challenges in the regions and throughout the world. The Alliance is a cornerstone of our strong and dynamic bilateral relationship, which is based on shared values and close friendship.

1. The Australia-United States Alliance

Australia and the United States reaffirmed the strong state of bilateral defence and security cooperation under the Alliance, as demonstrated through a decade of operations together in Afghanistan and Iraq.

With the signature today of the legally-binding Force Posture Agreement between Australia and the United States, we reaffirmed our commitment to work towards full implementation of the Force Posture Initiatives in Australia. The agreement provides a robust policy and legal framework and financial principles for implementation of the force posture initiatives announced in 2011. It demonstrates the United States’ strong commitment to the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions and Australia’s firm support for the US rebalance. The agreement also reaffirms our mutual intent to deepen our relationship and regional security through expanded cooperation together and with other countries in the region.

Australia and the United States welcomed the larger US Marine Corps presence under the third rotational deployment currently in Darwin and discussed the way forward for enhanced aircraft cooperation. They discussed the potential for additional bilateral naval cooperation and welcomed the significant, wide-ranging series of port visits planned for 2015. They also asked their respective officials to develop practical options to enhance naval training and exercises in Australia and the region.

Acknowledging the high-level of interoperability between Australian and US Special Forces, both sides supported fostering these links to address shared threats and enhance capacity within the region.

The two countries committed to continue to work together to counter the growing threat of ballistic missiles in the Asia Pacific region, including by establishing a bilateral working group to examine options for potential Australian contributions to ballistic missile defence in the region.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their intention to continue strategic planning collaboration between their respective defence departments, to develop common approaches to regional security challenges, and to harness opportunities for greater defence cooperation across the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

They highlighted the importance of the bilateral Exercise Talisman Sabre to continue to enhance Australia-US interoperability, practise our joint collective capabilities, and demonstrate mutual resolve in maintaining joint defence readiness under the Alliance. They emphasised the importance of civilian agency participation in the Exercise and the desire to strengthen our capacity to deliver humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and incorporate ‘women, peace and security’ objectives into our combined planning. They planned to hold the next round of the bilateral Political-Military Talks at the earliest opportunity.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to practical space cooperation, encouraged by recent steps towards establishing combined operations. They welcomed the significant progress made toward establishing the C-Band space surveillance radar and the Space Surveillance Telescope in Australia. They reiterated support for regional and global efforts to strengthen the safety, security and sustainability of space, including finalising the International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

Australia and the United States welcomed continued high-level bilateral cooperation on defence science and technology. The rise of increasingly sophisticated and complex threat environments, combined with continued resource pressures, makes the development of affordable capabilities an imperative. This includes diverse areas such as cyber, electronic warfare, hypersonics, as well as integrated intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance technologies.

Australia and the United States reflected on defence industry collaboration between the two countries. Over the last decade, Australia has agreed to purchase important capabilities from the United States, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, EA-18G Growler, P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft and E-7A Wedgetail early warning aircraft. These shared platforms and capabilities provide opportunities to maintain and enhance bilateral interoperability.

Both countries emphasised that international law, including the United Nations Charter and, where relevant, international humanitarian law, applies to state conduct in cyberspace and reaffirmed that Australia and the United States would act in accordance with their obligations.

Both countries welcomed the expansion of bilateral trade and investment, driven by the strong affinities between our economies. They noted the dynamism and diversity in the economic relationship, including the significant level of business engagement across a broad spectrum of economic activity. Both countries looked forward to celebrating the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement on 1 January 2015. The Agreement has deepened economic integration and boosted both economies.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed the importance of their people-to-people ties. The two countries also noted this year as the 65th anniversary of the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, which has supported the professional growth of close to 5,000 students and scholars, and enriched bilateral relations.

Both countries welcomed the growth in cooperation on innovation, energy, science, technology and health. Bilateral innovation cooperation will strengthen our work on cutting edge issues, ranging from neuroscience to clean energy and energy efficiency, to research on global ocean acidification, to information technology and bio-preparedness.

2. Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to comprehensive engagement in the rapidly developing Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Australia expressed support for the United States’ role in underpinning the regions’ security, stability and prosperity. The United States welcomed the important contribution that Australia’s wide-ranging engagement in those regions continues to make to security and stability.

They recognised regional economic integration and development as essential to the future prosperity of Australia and the United States, and of the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions as a whole. They supported economic initiatives that foster growth and market openness, and deepen economic integration in those regions and globally.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their strong commitment to concluding an ambitious, high quality, comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement (TPP) as soon as possible. This will deepen regional integration, open new trade and investment opportunities, create jobs, and support economic growth.

They pledged to work closely in support of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation’s (APEC) agenda to advance economic integration across the Asia Pacific region, especially in the areas of trade and investment liberalisation, structural reform and regulatory coherence, enhancing global value chains, improving supply-chain performance, combating corruption, promoting cross-border education cooperation, and women’s economic empowerment.

Australia and the United States shared their views that the East Asia Summit (EAS) is the premier regional forum for dialogue and cooperation on the political, security, strategic and relevant economic challenges confronting the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. They will work more closely together, and with EAS partners, in continuing to enhance the EAS’ role, through deepening its agenda on maritime security, non-proliferation and disaster response, and building synergies with other regional forums.

Australia and the United States welcomed the practical cooperation fostered under the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+) and expect to cooperate closely to ensure an open dialogue on key regional security issues. They intend to build confidence through maritime security and maritime domain awareness, non-proliferation and disarmament, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-terrorism, space and cyber security. Both countries strongly supported the ARF’s work on preventive diplomacy and also noted their partnership in encouraging the ARF and ADMM+ to develop a regional strategic multi-year exercise plan to coordinate and improve the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief activities. They reaffirmed their support for the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF) as an important avenue for regional discussion of maritime issues. They are working closely together in taking forward a workshop on maritime environmental pollution in October 2014 under the US-led Expanded ASEAN Seafarer Training (EAST) initiative.

The two countries underscored their shared interest in the maintenance of peace and stability, respect for international law, unimpeded lawful commerce, and upholding freedom of navigation and overflight in the East China and the South China Seas. They called on claimants to refrain from actions that could increase tensions and to clarify and pursue claims in accordance with international law, including as reflected in the Law of the Sea Convention. They reaffirmed support for the rights of claimants to seek peaceful resolution of disputes, including through legal mechanisms such as arbitration under the Law of the Sea Convention. They opposed unilateral attempts to change facts on the ground or water through the threat or use of force or coercion.

The two countries emphasised the need for South China Sea claimant states to build upon the framework for managing disputes set forth in the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, including the commitment of ASEAN states and China to “undertake to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.” They encouraged claimant states to reach consensus on what types of activities should be permissible and what types of activities should be avoided in areas that are in dispute. They underscored that such a voluntary arrangement would serve as a good faith gesture among all parties and could help facilitate the early completion of a meaningful Code of Conduct in the South China Sea. The United States and Australia affirmed their support for a voluntary ‘freeze’ by claimants on activities in disputed maritime areas.

Australia and the United States acknowledged the significance of Indonesia’s third direct presidential election. They recognised the significant contributions of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in leading his country, and welcomed Indonesia’s leadership role in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Both countries look forward to working closely with Indonesian President-elect Joko Widodo and his administration after his inauguration in October. They affirmed their desire to seek opportunities to enhance joint cooperation with Indonesia on defence as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Affirming the longstanding and enduring friendship among Australia, the United States and the people of Thailand, both countries recognised that Thailand faced complex challenges that only the Thai people could address. They noted that Australia and the United States had expressed concern about the military coup. They looked forward to a transition to civilian rule and a return to democracy, stressing the importance of inclusive processes which reflect the will of the Thai people. They also stressed the importance of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Australia and the United States welcomed Burma’s commitment to political, economic and social reforms and encouraged further efforts towards constitutional reform, free and fair elections in 2015, and protecting the rights of all people in Burma. They also welcomed ongoing efforts to reach a nationwide ceasefire with ethnic armed groups and encouraged an inclusive political dialogue with stakeholders to achieve a lasting peace. They acknowledged steps that Burma has taken regarding non-proliferation, including its signature of the Additional Protocol with the IAEA in September 2013, and agreed on the importance of Burma severing all proscribed activities with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, in accordance with relevant UN Security Council resolutions. They supported Burma’s deepening engagement with the international community and acknowledged its chairmanship of ASEAN and the East Asia Summit in 2014.

Australia and the United States welcomed Japan’s efforts to make a greater contribution to international peace and stability, including through its decision to allow for the exercise of its UN Charter right to collective self-defence. They undertook to maintain strong bilateral security relationships with Japan and committed to enhance trilateral security and defence cooperation, including through the Trilateral Strategic Dialogue and further developing existing trilateral exercises.

The two countries committed to intensify their collaboration with the Republic of Korea to promote stability on the Korean Peninsula, in the wider region and globally, through expanded trilateral security and defence cooperation and by working together in bodies such as the UN Security Council, including on peacekeeping, counter-proliferation, maritime cooperation and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to building positive and constructive relations with China, including by pursuing dialogue on strategic security issues and by expanding practical cooperation in support of their common interest in maintaining regional peace and stability, and respect for international law. They will endeavour to strengthen their comprehensive and cooperative relations with China, including through stronger economic engagement, and to encourage China to make further progress in respect for human rights. They welcomed China’s contributions to United Nations peacekeeping operations and international efforts to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden, as well as its participation in the 2014 Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC). They looked forward to joining China for the inaugural iteration of Exercise Kowari, a trilateral defence exercise to be conducted in Australia in October.

Australia and the United States underscored their serious concern that Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) behaviour undermined the stability of the entire region and called on the DPRK to cease its threats and provocations, comply with its international commitments and obligations, including by abandoning its nuclear, missile and proliferation activities. They expressed their deep concern for the welfare of the North Korean people and the abducted citizens of other countries, called on the DPRK to implement the UN Commission of Inquiry’s recommendations for ending the ongoing systematic, widespread, and extreme violations of human rights, and reiterated that those responsible must be held to account.

Both countries welcomed their close cooperation with affected countries in the region and beyond during the initial surface search for missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. This joint effort was a powerful example of regional cooperation. Australia, Malaysia and China continue the search, with an intensive underwater search of 60,000 km2 due to start in early September after a bathymetric survey.

Australia and the United States recognised India’s position as the world’s largest democracy and an important economic and strategic power in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. They intend to work with India to expand trilateral cooperation, including on shared challenges such as maritime security, energy security, and ensuring economic growth, and through collaboration in regional institutions.

They recognised the important role that the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) played as the only ministerial-level grouping that spans the Indian Ocean region. They intend to continue to support IORA’s work to facilitate closer cooperation in the Indian Ocean region. As IORA Chair, Australia reaffirmed its intention to develop a stronger policy agenda for IORA and welcomed the United States’ participation as a Dialogue Partner at the Council of Ministers Meeting to be held in Perth on 9 October.

The two countries expect to further enhance maritime security cooperation, including combating piracy and promoting regional security, stability and freedom of navigation, by working closely together under the US-led Combined Maritime Forces in the Indian Ocean and through the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (ReCAAP), which the United States will join in September.

Australia and the United States encouraged Fiji’s progress toward holding elections on 17 September. They will continue to work together with other international partners to support elections and democratic reforms in Fiji.

They reaffirmed their commitment to assist the Pacific Island countries in realising their goal of a stable, secure and prosperous region. They welcomed the adoption of a new Framework for Pacific Regionalism by Pacific Islands Forum Leaders at their July meeting. Both countries welcomed the election of Dame Meg Taylor of Papua New Guinea as the first female Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat.

They undertook to continue to work together in pursuit of the sustainable management of oceans and fisheries, which are among the key development challenges in the Pacific and globally. They reaffirmed their commitment to cooperative efforts to address illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Australia and the United States will endeavour to continue to provide development assistance that fosters economic growth and prosperity in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. They intend to continue supporting development programs that reduce poverty by promoting innovation, gender equality, education and health, and collaborate on the provision of humanitarian assistance.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their shared commitment to advance gender equality and the status of women and girls. In particular, they recognised that women’s economic empowerment is a significant driver of growth and development, and planned to work together to promote women’s employment and economic opportunity, particularly in the Asia Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.

3. Global challenges

Australia and the United States plan to work together through the G20 toward achieving their shared goals of promoting strong, sustainable, and balanced global economic growth and employment, and increasing the resilience of the global economy, including by strengthening infrastructure investment, enhancing trade and building cooperation on energy, including on energy efficiency. The United States shared Australia’s ambition for G20 members to boost the collective GDP of members by more than two per cent above current projections over the next five years.

Recognising the challenges climate change poses to security, Australia and the United States intend to continue to work through the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change process to negotiate a new, ambitious climate agreement applicable to all countries by 2015 to take effect in 2020.

The United States welcomed Australia’s engagement on the Global Health Security Agenda, which seeks to accelerate progress toward a world safe and secure from infectious disease threats and to promote global health security as an international security priority.

The United States welcomed Australia’s strong contribution during its term on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and our shared efforts to reach constructive and practical solutions to international peace and security issues. Both countries are continuing to work closely to tackle serious challenges before the Council, including the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis in Syria, protection of civilians in conflict zones, effective implementation of sanctions, countering the international terrorist threat and regional weapons proliferation.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Russia’s purported annexation of Crimea has no basis in international law.

Both countries condemned Russia’s support for and enabling of the continued destabilisation of eastern Ukraine; destabilisation which led to the shooting down of a passenger airliner, Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, killing all 298 on board. Both countries affirmed their commitment to completing a full international investigation into the attack¬¬– an appalling tragedy and terrible act of senseless violence – including through implementation of UNSC Resolution 2166 on MH17.

Australia and the United States condemned in the strongest possible terms the actions of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and other armed opposition groups in Iraq. They welcomed the nomination of Dr Haider al-Abadi as Prime Minister-designate, and encouraged him to form a new and inclusive Iraqi Government as soon as possible. They called on all Iraqi leaders to work closely together and adopt a unified approach to addressing the country’s challenges. The two countries indicated their deep concern about recent developments in northern Iraq and their commitment to work together and with other partners to undertake humanitarian operations to relieve besieged communities and to combat the threat posed by ISIL.

The two countries discussed the worsening humanitarian, social and political crisis in Syria and reaffirmed the urgent need for a political solution to the conflict consistent with the Geneva Communiqué. They also called for all nations to cooperate in applying pressure to those responsible for the crisis, the Assad regime and violent radical extremists, and to provide humanitarian aid for the civilian population suffering from the conflict. They expressed their intention to continue to work through the UNSC to press the parties to the conflict, and particularly the Syrian regime, to adhere to the provisions of UNSC Resolution 2139 on the protection of civilians and humanitarian access and UNSC Resolution 2165 on humanitarian access.

They intend to continue to work closely together and with the international community to address the national security risks posed by foreign fighters in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, and the impact of their return, particularly in Southeast Asia. They will work together also in developing a set of established best practices for addressing this threat at the national level, including through legislation, border security, immigration and consular policies.

Australia and the United States reaffirmed their intention to continue assisting the Government of Afghanistan as it assumes full responsibility for the security of Afghanistan post-2014 and works to increase stability and prosperity. They welcomed the commitment of the parties to form a government of national unity.

They acknowledged the importance of Pakistan to South Asian stability and welcomed Prime Minister Sharif’s commitment to economic reform. They committed to continue to work with Pakistan to help it address ongoing security and development challenges, including its critical energy needs.

Australia and the United States called on Iran to continue engaging constructively with the P5+1 to negotiate a joint comprehensive plan of action to resolve international concerns about its nuclear program, and called on Iran to resolve all outstanding issues related to its nuclear program – particularly those concerning its possible military dimensions – and fully and urgently to implement Iran’s Framework for Cooperation agreed with the International Atomic Energy Agency. They urged Iran to take tangible steps to improve the country’s human rights situation and to cooperate fully with the UN Special Rapporteur.

Both countries reaffirmed their commitment to working with Israel and the Palestinians, the United Nations and international partners to support the resumption of direct negotiations towards a just and lasting two-state solution. They expressed the need for an unconditional, prolonged ceasefire that significantly de-escalates the violence and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities. Both countries are providing urgently needed humanitarian assistance to Gaza in addition to carrying through with existing commitments for development assistance to the Palestinian Territories.

The two countries called on Egypt to demonstrate its commitment to inclusive democracy, economic reform, human rights and fundamental freedoms in the interests of long-term stability. They expressed their deep disappointment about the recent decision by an Egyptian court to impose lengthy jail sentences on journalists, including Australian reporter Peter Greste. They pledged to continue representations at senior levels of the Egyptian Government to underline their concerns about the restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt, including the targeting of journalists simply for doing their jobs. They called for the resolution of these cases as soon as possible.

Australia and the United States continued to support counter-terrorism cooperation and capacity building in South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Africa, and through the Global Counter-Terrorism Forum. Australia and the United States reaffirmed intelligence cooperation and sharing as core elements of the Alliance that make a vital contribution to managing threats.

They reaffirmed their shared commitment to continue to work closely and cooperatively to help prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery. The use of chemical weapons in Syria served as a stark reminder of the gravity of this threat and the two sides reiterated their condemnation of Syria’s actions. They noted the contributions of the annual Australia-US Counterproliferation Dialogue in coordinating responses to proliferation threats in the Southeast Asia region and elsewhere, and committed to continue to put priority on this cooperation in the future.

The two countries encouraged the earliest entry into force and effective implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), while recognising that the international trade in arms is a legitimate commercial activity. The ATT provides an important means of preventing and eradicating illicit trade in small arms.

4. AUSMIN 2015

The United States offered to host the next AUSMIN meeting in 2015.

End Text

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

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: June 30, 2014

1:38 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Monday. So I just have one item at the top. Secretary Kerry – as the White House announced, Secretary Kerry will be visiting Panama July 1st, which is tomorrow, to attend the inauguration of Panama’s president-elect, Juan Carlos Varela. We congratulate President Varela on his victory and Panama’s history of peaceful democratic transfer of power. We have a growing trade relationship, excellent security cooperation, and share many of the same concerns on regional and multilateral issues. Panama is also an important partner of the United States, and we look forward to continuing our close relationship.

During the inauguration, Secretary Kerry will also meet with other Central American leaders to discuss the issue of unaccompanied children who have illegally crossed the border to the United States. A sustainable solution to this urgent situation requires a comprehensive approach to address issues of security, prosperity, and governance, all of which play a role in migration, especially the migration of unaccompanied minors. We hope to continue working with the Central American and Mexican Governments to address the complex root causes of migration and identify ways the United States and countries in the region can more effectively contribute to the effort.

Secretary – I’m sorry, Vice President Biden was in Guatemala just a few weeks ago where he announced a U.S. assistance to increase the capacity of these countries, and I know the President will have an announcement later this afternoon. But the Secretary’s meetings will be part of our effort to engage with these governments and discuss the root causes of these issues.

QUESTION: Sorry. The President will have an announcement on what?

MS. PSAKI: I think you saw on the news or in the newspapers earlier today the President would have more to say on assistance they’re announcing.

QUESTION: Oh, on immigration.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Right. So before – this is —

MS. PSAKI: Did you get a haircut, Matt?

QUESTION: I did.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. (Laughter.) Noted. Noted for the transcript. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I notice you haven’t said anything of it. Anyway – (laughter) – when you talk about Panama’s peaceful – tradition of peaceful transfers of democratic power, I assume you’re talking about recent tradition, yes?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I was not making —

QUESTION: Not U.S.-assisted —

MS. PSAKI: — a large, sweeping, historic claim there.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But go ahead.

QUESTION: Before we get back to that and other things, the breaking news just from the last 20 minutes or so about the Israelis finding the bodies of the three kidnapped teenagers, I’m wondering, one, are you aware of it? And if you are, what do you have to say about it? And two, have you been in contact with the Israelis, or the Palestinians for that matter?

MS. PSAKI: I have seen – we have seen the reports. I don’t have anything to confirm from here. I would point you to the Government of Israel. Certainly as we’ve said many times throughout the course of the last several weeks, the kidnapping, and of course any harm that has been done to these teenagers is a tragedy. We’ve been in close touch with the Israelis and the Palestinians over the course of the last several weeks. I don’t have any new calls to update you on as of this morning.

QUESTION: Okay. If there are any, can you expedite —

MS. PSAKI: Can we send them up? Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: — letting us know?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In – since this began, you and the Administration in general have been urging restraint, calling on both sides to show restraint. Does that remain your message even with this new development?

MS. PSAKI: It certainly does. We have, as you noted, been in touch with both sides and have been urging continued security cooperation, that the Israelis and the Palestinians continue to work with one another on that, and we certainly would continue to urge that despite – in spite of, obviously, the tragedy and the enormous pain on the ground as a result.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Wait, I just have one more.

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just go one at a time. Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: The Israelis have all along said that Hamas was behind this. You have said that signs indicate that Hamas was involved, but you have stopped short of saying that you’re 100 percent certain of it. Presuming that the Israelis do provide you or you come up with your own 100 percent confirmation that it was involved, would that change – and I realize this is a hypothetical, but would Hamas’s involvement in something like this be cause for the Administration to rethink its support for the Palestinian – the new Palestinian Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, let me first say there’s nothing new as it relates to our view in this specific case, and as we’ve noted in the past – but it’s worth noting again – there are some similar circumstances that we have seen. I’m not going to make a prediction, of course. We do look at all kinds of information as it relates to our relationship with the Palestinians, our relationship with any entity that we work with. So I’m not going to make a prediction. I don’t know what the outcome will be of the final findings.

QUESTION: There were also, I think, fourteen – more than a dozen rockets that were fired into southern Israel from Gaza today. Is that something that would make you rethink your position as it relates to the Palestinian Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, renouncing violence is one of the requirements, according to the Quartet, and one of the United States requirements. And as we said in the beginning when the first announcement of the technocratic government was made, we’re going to continue to review and take a look at the circumstances on the ground on a daily basis if needed.

QUESTION: All right. But I mean, quite apart from whether they played any role in the killing of the three teenagers, there were these rocket attacks today. Is that – does that comport with a renunciation of violence?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, we would condemn any type of violence along those lines against the Israelis. And we expect, and President Abbas has on many occasions also renounced this type of action. And there’s a certain responsibility in conveying that to any entities that the Palestinians are tied with.

QUESTION: Yeah, but if I shoot you at the same time as saying I renounce violence, that doesn’t really make much sense. So —

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the point —

QUESTION: — what you’re saying, though, is that apart from the teenagers – because we don’t – you don’t know – you’re not sure of the circumstances – just the rocket attacks themselves are not cause to have you rethink your relationship with the government.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as we have stated from the beginning, and the point I was trying to make, is that we would be constantly reviewing as it relates to action on the ground, whether they are abiding by the components that they have – the pledges that they made at the beginning. So I don’t have anything new to predict for you or outline, but we look at all of the circumstances that happen on the ground as we evaluate our relationship.

QUESTION: I’ll stop after this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: You think right now that they are abiding by the requirements?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas and the technocratic government that doesn’t involve members of Hamas, yes, they are making every effort to. Obviously, when there are incidents of violence, when there are rocket attacks, those are certainly cause for concern and we take every incident into consideration.

QUESTION: Jen?

QUESTION: So —

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m sorry, I would’ve stopped after that, but I – you are sure, you’re convinced that the Palestinian Government is making – what you just said, “making every effort” to abide by its commitments? That’s the U.S. position?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, what I’m —

QUESTION: I —

MS. PSAKI: Matt, what I’m conveying is President Abbas has, as you know, renounced violence. He has condemned attacks. He has been a cooperative partner in an effort even with as it relates to the three teenagers over the last several weeks. Does that change the fact that we are concerned and could certainly condemn these rocket attacks and other incidents that occur? Certainly it doesn’t change that, but again, this is not a black-and-white issue.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Follow-up on that, Jen, if I may. The technocratic government that you spoke of, as far as you’re concerned, they have not – they are doing everything possible to refrain from the use of violence, rhetoric or otherwise. Right?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So you are convinced that they are doing all they can to sort of keep the lid on as far as violence is concerned?

MS. PSAKI: President Abbas and —

QUESTION: And his technocratic government that is a national unity government.

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ve stated it a few times, Said, but go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. Let me just go back to the breaking news. As far as – you have not heard anything yourself about the – to confirm the murder of the three teenagers?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen the reports. I don’t have anything to confirm from here.

QUESTION: Okay. Now as far as you know, the Israelis have not informed you that these bodies were found and therefore we’re going to do one, two, three, four; have they?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything else to update you on.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the total closure of Hebron and its environ?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything new to update you on.

New topic?

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu —

MS. PSAKI: Or go ahead, Roz.

QUESTION: Yeah. Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Sunday that the government had been able to identify two members of Hamas as being responsible. I know that you can’t confirm the discovery of the bodies. Do you know whether they shared this information with their U.S. counterparts either in Tel Aviv or here in Washington over the weekend about these two suspects?

MS. PSAKI: We have regular consultations and discussions. I don’t have anything further to outline for you in this regard.

QUESTION: Something else related to Israel also.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu on Sunday called for an independent Kurdish state. Do you – what’s your position, what’s your reaction to his comment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the view of the United States is that a united Iraq is a stronger Iraq, and especially at this challenging and grave security – at a time of a grave security situation on the ground, we think it’s even more important that all parties – the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds – remain united against the threat they face, and all countries should support that effort.

QUESTION: Does that mean your position is at odds with Israel’s position on Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: I’ll let you make your own conclusions, but that’s the position of the United States.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry, but I just want to go back to the kidnapping.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of the three teenagers is a U.S. citizen, or dual citizen.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: To the best of your knowledge, have any demands been made like ransom demands or anything to the U.S. Government?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything new to update you on on this particular incident.

Well, could we – or go ahead —

QUESTION: Just —

MS. PSAKI: — and we’ll go to Jo. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just one more thing.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I mean, it’s clearly that the U.S. position now is at odds with not only Israel, but also Turkey, which has recently said that it will welcome an independent Kurdistan in Iraq. On the other hand, many other people actually see America as being more on the side – like, in alliance with Iran over Iraq, as both countries have stepped up their military and political support for the al-Maliki government to combat the insurgency, the Sunni insurgency. Is that true?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure – can you – what is your specific question? Sorry, go ahead.

QUESTION: Like, the specific question is that are the United States and Iran unlikely allies in Iraq to combat the Islamic – Sunni Islamic militants?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t put it in those terms. We’ve stated before from this podium and the Secretary has stated that certainly ISIL is a threat to the region, including Iran. There is a – it is a threat, ISIL is a threat to all of the people of Iraq, whether they’re Sunni, whether they’re Shia, whether they’re Kurds. And that’s why we’ve been so – been such strong advocates of moving the political process forward urgently to form a government, and of all parties to be united.

We’re all certainly familiar with the aspirations of the Kurdish people, and that hasn’t changed and has been the case for many years now. But the threat they’re facing requires unity and that’s why we’ve been emphasizing it so strongly.

QUESTION: What do you mean you are – you understand the aspiration of the Kurdish people?

MS. PSAKI: I think we all have seen the comments that have been made over the course of not just last week, but long before that.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Can I just stay with ISIL —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — which have renamed themselves today the Islamic State, just IS, I believe. Does this mark a change in their offensive? Does it make the ground conditions more difficult for the Iraqi people and the Syrian people? What is your reaction to the news that they’re trying to establish this caliphate over Iraq and Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen these types of words or comparable claims from ISIL before. This declaration has no meaning to the people in Iraq and Syria. It only further exposes the true nature of this organization and its desire to control people by fear and edicts. It emphasizes even more so that this is a critical moment for the international community, for countries in the region, for all of the Iraqi people to unite against the threat that they face.

QUESTION: Does it show that in some ways, the group believes – is assuming more confidence that they believe that they are on a winning track here?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s, again, their strategy of using a repressive ideology and of conducting acts of ruthless terrorism against their people, against people across the region, has been consistent for some time now. So in our view, this claim, these words, this declaration is consistent with that and not a new – not providing new information.

QUESTION: And – sorry.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Tomorrow the Iraqi parliament is due to meet.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Following the visit by Secretary Kerry to Iraq and Erbil, do you believe in this building that there will be an outcome which will start paving the way towards a new Iraqi Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you noted, that was a big focus of the Secretary’s meetings last week, not just in Iraq but in – with leaders in the region, and in fact even with his European counterparts. And tomorrow in – we are continuing to urge, I should say, Iraqis, Iraqi leaders to come to an agreement on the three critical posts that are key to forming Iraq’s next government – the speaker, the president and prime minister – so that government formation can move forward as quickly as possible. We don’t want to predict how quickly the outcome will occur. We will leave that to them, but they have – during meetings with Secretary Kerry have committed to moving forward quickly, have committed to abiding by the process. So we will see what happens in the course of the coming days.

QUESTION: Given this announcement, how urgently is the U.S. viewing this development, especially in light of the fact that it just put in what many would argue is a small number of military advisors to help the Iraqi military figure out what it can or can’t do to stop these fighters from continuing their march onto Baghdad?

MS. PSAKI: And Roz, I’m sorry, which – are you – which announcement?

QUESTION: About the ISIL, IS, whatever they call themselves.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: What are they – what are officials doing about it? How does this change what the U.S. is trying to do, for example, to help Baghdad defend itself against these fighters?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as I stated, but I’m happy to reiterate, these words – we’ve seen these types of words come from ISIL before. It’s consistent with their claims in the past. It doesn’t mean anything to the people of Iraq and the people of Syria. We remain both committed to a diplomatic process, and obviously, as you noted, military advisors have started arriving on the ground. We’ve continued to expedite our assistance and equipment as well, and we’re taking every step in that regard.

So I wouldn’t overemphasize the impact of the claim. We’re continuing to take steps, including the discussions the Secretary had all of last week, on the political front to encourage the government to move forward with formation, but also to consider how we can best help address the threat on the ground.

QUESTION: Do you have any sense of what consultations are being held at the Secretary’s level, at the under secretary level with their counterparts, not just in the Middle East but in Europe as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Secretary – I think it was read out on Friday that he spoke with President Barzani. He also spoke with Foreign Minister Davutoglu over the weekend. I think it’s safe for all of you to assume that he’ll be in – closely engaged in diplomatic conversations with both counterparts in the Middle East as well as Europe over the course of the coming days.

QUESTION: Jen, did you have any comment or did you comment on the Iraqis receiving four or five Sukhoi fighters, Russian fighters —

MS. PSAKI: I think Marie may have spoken to this —

QUESTION: — a couple days ago?

MS. PSAKI: — on Friday, but I’m happy to speak to it as well.

QUESTION: Could you?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We understand and have certainly seen reports about the purchase of equipment. I would remind you that Iraq has purchased military equipment from a range of countries in the past, including Russia, including the Czech Republic, South Korea, and others to fulfill their legitimate defense needs. We have a robust FMS program that will continue and we’ve expedited in recent days. And certainly, we are not surprised that Iraq would take steps to work with other countries in the region as they have for some time to gain the equipment that they need.

QUESTION: And you don’t have any problem with them receiving these Russian fighters?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t —

QUESTION: I mean, because you’re holding your deliveries for fear of falling in the wrong hands —

MS. PSAKI: We’re not holding our —

QUESTION: — and this could —

MS. PSAKI: I think that’s incorrect information.

QUESTION: Sorry. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But in terms of the first question, we don’t oppose legal Iraqi efforts to meet their urgent military requirements. In fact, as you know, we’re expediting our own assistance, and they have purchased military equipment from a variety of countries in the past, and so it’s not a surprise that that has continued.

QUESTION: Can I ask you if you – on the caliphate and Kurdistan questions.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you oppose a caliphate idea in general? And if you do not – because you actually recognized one and had an ambassador to the last one, the last Ottoman – the Ottoman empire – why you would, if you are opposed – or sorry, if you’re not opposed to a caliphate in – is it just – let me rephrase this completely.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is it just this group forming a caliphate that you’re opposed to, or an al-Qaida-like group, a repressive group? Or is it the whole idea in general that you don’t like, of Muslims coming together under one person?

MS. PSAKI: I think the concern I’m expressing is about this specific group —

QUESTION: This specific – okay.

MS. PSAKI: — this extremist terrorist group, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. So then on the Kurdistan question, and about what Prime Minister Netanyahu said, there are a lot of people who think that this – that an independent Kurdistan is basically inevitable, especially – and it – and its being – its potential statehood is being accelerated by what’s going on on the ground now. Why is the United States so wedded to the post-World War I borders?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, obviously, it’s up to the Iraqi people to determine what their future will be, not the United States.

QUESTION: So it’s —

MS. PSAKI: I think our specific concern right now is that the largest threat they face is the threat of ISIL and that they should be united and focused on that and working together and continuing to work together. As you know, the Peshmerga and the Iraqi security forces have been working closely together over the last several weeks.

QUESTION: So in the end, in the long run, though, if all of Iraq was to agree to split, you would not be opposed if they were to do that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to speculate on what the future will hold. What we’re looking at right now is the immediate threat that is posing a threat to the very security and stability of Iraq.

QUESTION: But you do agree that Kurdistan is basically conducting itself as a sovereign nation? I mean, it imports, exports goods, including the export of oil to Israel and so on.

MS. PSAKI: Well, you’re familiar, Said —

QUESTION: I know, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: — because we’ve talked about it quite a bit, what our position is on the export and import of oil as well, and we believe that should go through the central Iraqi Government.

QUESTION: I’ve got another Iraq-related question —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — which has to do with the —

QUESTION: You’re saying because ISIL is the bigger threat and they all need to confront this threat together. But the Kurdish forces have said it publicly that they’re not going to fight ISIL unless they fight – attack them. So they are going to just look and see the conflict and —

MS. PSAKI: Well —

QUESTION: — they don’t want to be dragged into a sectarian war. That’s what they phrase – how they phrase it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, but the Peshmerga, the Kurdish forces, have been working closely with the ISF over the past several weeks to confront this threat. And one of the points the Secretary made when he was there meeting with leaders was the fact that they do need to be united, they need to continue to band together against this threat. And it’s not just a threat to Baghdad; it’s a threat to all of Iraq and it’s a threat to all of the region.

QUESTION: So you’ve seen the story – you will have seen the story in The New York Times today about Blackwater —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and the State Department calling off an investigation into its activities after your lead investigator was allegedly threatened. I’m wondering what you have to say about that.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a great deal to say about it, and I’m happy to take any questions that you have. I certainly understand the interest. I will note that the story referenced this as an investigation. This was not an investigation. These were ongoing contract reviews that we do on a regular basis. That’s what the individuals were on the ground doing.

Obviously, as you all know, this is an ongoing legal case, so there’s very little we can say. But again, I know there are specific questions here, so I’m happy to take them if I can.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, an ongoing legal case has to do only with Nisour Square.

MS. PSAKI: You’re correct.

QUESTION: This apparently happened before that —

MS. PSAKI: You’re right.

QUESTION: — so it would not be part of the ongoing legal case, correct?

MS. PSAKI: You’re right. It is —

QUESTION: Unless, of course, you have – there is another case that we don’t know about which involves the State Department against Blackwater.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not referencing a different legal case.

QUESTION: All right. So —

MS. PSAKI: I’m just referencing the context here, which I think is relevant.

QUESTION: All right. So was the internal review – or, sorry, the – what did you say – it was the something – contract review. Was the contract review halted because of a threat?

MS. PSAKI: As I understand, there were steps taken at the time given threats that were – people faced. But I don’t have any additional information on it.

QUESTION: So you’re saying – so that part of the story you’re confirming? You’re saying that the – that someone employed by Blackwater in Iraq threatened a State Department auditor – however you want to call it – who was conducting a contract review, and that resulted in the review being called off?

MS. PSAKI: No. I apologize.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Let me – I understand that there were reports of threats. Obviously, we take any of that seriously. I don’t have any additional information beyond what I just shared.

QUESTION: Do you know what the result of the contract review was in question here? Was there a result or was it – or did it end? Did the review not come to an end?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any additional information. Again, I understand the interest.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: This was seven years ago, so we’re looking to track down more.

QUESTION: I understand this predates your time and even this Administration, but this building stays the same pretty much as it goes through —

MS. PSAKI: I understand. I’m not – I’m certainly validating your questions. I just don’t have more information than what I’ve provided.

QUESTION: Do you know whether —

QUESTION: Are you aware that —

QUESTION: Do you know whether because of this incident that any steps were taken to essentially keep the contractors in their place? The story suggested that the contractors felt that they were above the authority of the U.S. Government and had undue sway over certain Embassy personnel. Are there policies in place that basically say to contractors, “You are here under the good graces of the U.S. Government and you need to know what your place is”?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure how to address your question, Roz. I’m not sure exactly what your question is. Maybe you can repeat it.

QUESTION: Well, essentially, if someone comes in, whether from the IG’s office, Inspector General’s office, or from some other auditing firm that’s supposed to have the ability to talk to people, to look at records, to figure out if everything is being done according to rules and regulations – if that person’s ability to do his or her job is proscribed because someone feels that he and his colleagues are above review, what’s done to keep that from happening?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the reason – let me just say, broadly speaking, the reason why contract reviews or any reviews are done are to take a look at circumstances on the ground and make sure they are happening to – with all – taking all of the precautions and taking the appropriate process and pursuing the appropriate process. When there are findings that they are not, certainly those are reviewed and taken into account. I don’t have anything more specific in this case, but that’s why reviews, broadly speaking, are done – to look at the information and ensure that contractors or any individuals are operating at the top capacity.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Let me try one more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Certainly in places that are warzones, and Iraq in 2007 was clearly still a warzone as far as the U.S. Government was concerned, it is understandable that in the middle of a crisis that people’s relationships will stray beyond normally accepted bounds of behavior. Are there rules in place today for people who are serving for the State Department in high-risk zones and the contractors with whom they work? Are there rules clearly spelling out what the extent of their professional relationship can be?

MS. PSAKI: Sure, broadly speaking; let me take it and see what information we can provide.

QUESTION: Can you also take the question as to whether there – this contract review was undertaken either because of any concern that this company was operating somehow outside of the bounds that it should have been, or if that kind of concern arose during the review?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, sure.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: New topic?

QUESTION: I have just a – very quickly. This happened, of course, in 2007, but there are allegations at the time that in fact higher-ups in the State Department took the side of Blackwater against the State Department auditor. Could you find out if that is the case?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more information. I’m happy to take the —

QUESTION: Because right after that —

MS. PSAKI: Said, let me finish. I’m happy to take the questions that have been addressed. I don’t think I have anything more, so let’s move on to a new subject.

QUESTION: Because this just —

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Lesley. We’re moving on. Go ahead, Lesley.

QUESTION: North Korea says they’re going to try the two detained Americans. Have you had any notice on this, and any comment from you?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we are aware of reports that U.S. citizens Matthew Miller and Jeffrey Fowle will face trial in North Korea. There’s no greater priority for us than the welfare and safety of U.S. citizens abroad. Out of humanitarian concern for Mr. Fowle and Mr. Miller and their families, we request North Korea release them so they may return home. We also request North Korea pardon Kenneth Bae and grant him special amnesty and immediate release so he may reunite with his family and seek medical care.

Beyond the reports, Lesley, I don’t have any other official independent information, I guess I should say. I can also convey that the embassy of Sweden in North Korea visited Mr. Fowle on June 20th and Mr. Miller on May 9th and June 21st. And the embassy, of course, regularly requests consular access to all U.S. citizens in North Korean custody.

QUESTION: Do you —

QUESTION: Do you know, are they being held in the same place?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information on that. I’m happy to check and see if there’s more we can provide.

QUESTION: Presumably, because you are now able to give their names, they’ve signed these privacy waiver things?

MS. PSAKI: They have.

QUESTION: So can you tell us under what circumstances they were both arrested and what charges they might be facing?

MS. PSAKI: There isn’t information – additional information we’re going to share. They – yes, they did sign a Privacy Act waiver, but it doesn’t obligate the Department to share all information about each case and each circumstances, especially when it comes to ensuring or taking every step we need to to help return them home.

QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait, wait.

QUESTION: So you cannot give us any indication of the charges they could be facing?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information to provide.

QUESTION: Quite apart – this is a new one on me, and I’ve been – quite apart from this case, are you saying that if someone signs a Privacy Act waiver, if we ask a question, you don’t have – you still don’t have to answer it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think Privacy Act waiver gives us the ability to provide more information, and we do that as often as we possibly can. And there are some cases where it’s not in the benefit of the case or the individuals to provide more information.

QUESTION: But you make that decision, not the person?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are cases – there are processes that we undergo to ensure we can provide as much information as possible, and there are times when it’s not appropriate to. This is one of those times.

QUESTION: Well, let’s not talk – forget about this case. Just in general, I don’t get it. So if I sign a Privacy Act waiver saying I want you to tell the world about my case someplace, and one of my colleagues here asks you a question about it, you can say, “Well, he signed the waiver but we just don’t feel like telling you what the information is, so we’re not going to?”

MS. PSAKI: That’s not exactly how it works, Matt. But —

QUESTION: Well, I don’t understand. If I —

MS. PSAKI: — we provide as much information as we can.

QUESTION: If I – as you can? But if I’ve authorized you to go out and speak and tell – and say what happened to me and what my condition is and everything, you can still decide to say no, we’re not going to —

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think if —

QUESTION: You can say nothing?

MS. PSAKI: — if you were detained, you would want us to take steps that are in the best interests of your safety and security, wouldn’t you?

QUESTION: Well, yeah – if I’ve signed the waiver saying I want my story to be told, I would expect you to tell my story if I’m – if you were asked about it, not to say – to tell people —

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure you’ve seen a Privacy Act waiver and what they look like.

QUESTION: I have.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not exactly stating that. So we make decisions about what information is appropriate to provide in the best interests of citizens who are detained overseas. And we will —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: For that matter, you could say that you’re not going to release any information ever, no matter what – no matter whether the thing – whether it’s signed or not.

MS. PSAKI: I think we try – make every effort to release as much information as we can.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So in this case, you can’t confirm that they’re facing trial? Even if you’re not going to tell us what the charges are, you cannot confirm independently that they’re facing trial?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t. And that’s not related to the Privacy Act waiver; that’s related to the fact that these are reports. We don’t have additional information to provide.

QUESTION: So the Swedish Embassy hasn’t been able to convey that information to you, or they haven’t been given that information?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more information to provide.

QUESTION: And can you give us an idea of what the Embassy might have told you about their state of health when they saw them on June 20th and 21st?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t. I’m happy to check with them and see if there’s more to provide. Obviously, we’re requesting their release for humanitarian purposes. I will see if there’s more on their health that we are able to provide to all of you.

QUESTION: I imagine that you’ve been in touch with the families of both these men?

MS. PSAKI: We have been over the course of time. I don’t have any new timing on that, but I can also check on that question as well.

QUESTION: Did the families make any request of this building to not release certain information about their loved ones, in particular why they chose to go to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to be able to provide any more information.

QUESTION: Can you just say in general, because we have these cases coming up every so often involving U.S. citizens – the U.S. doesn’t have diplomatic relations with North Korea. I assume that if I just decided I wanted to go, it would be very difficult for me to go without facing some sort of repercussion. What can be done to dissuade people from trying to go?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t track the travel of United States citizens. But obviously, we put Travel Warnings out, Roz —

QUESTION: Yeah, but if I —

MS. PSAKI: — to make sure people understand the circumstances they’re walking into.

QUESTION: But certainly if I’m coming back through Dulles and I’m going through border control, I’m going to get the once-over – maybe the once-over when they see that I have a visa from D.P.R.K. in my passport. What can be done to dissuade people from going and almost certainly getting themselves into trouble every time an American steps foot on North Korean soil?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s one of the reasons that we provide regular updates that are available on the State Department website, that we talk about frequently. All of you report about these cases as well. So I would encourage you to continue to do that.

QUESTION: I think one of the – the older man, if I’m not mistaken, apparently was arrested after people found a Bible in his hotel room. And we all know how the D.P.R.K. feels about Christianity. Is it an unnecessarily provocative act for those who think that they’re trying to spread the gospel to try to go to North Korea, knowing that they’re running the risk of being arrested, being treated however the North Koreans are able to cover up whatever they do to them, and then expecting the U.S. Government to come to their rescue even though, if you have a blue passport, you expect your government to come save you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I think we are focused on the health and safety and well-being of United States citizens wherever they are in the world, and we take every step to ensure they either are returned home or they are safe. We have consular access. You know how we feel about freedom of religion and freedom of – and being able to express that. But certainly, the reason we provide information about a range of countries is to ensure people know what circumstances they’re walking into. And I don’t have the North Korea Travel Warning in front of me, but I can assure you that it suggests strongly not to travel at all to North Korea.

Go ahead, Ali.

QUESTION: Well, I had just two quick questions on that. Do you have any more on at what level the communication between the State Department officials and the families of the men who have been detained have been taking place?

MS. PSAKI: I do not. I can take that in the list of questions as well.

QUESTION: Sure. And then in the Travel Warning, there’s plenty of caveats about the fact that these travel companies can’t provide for safety of individual Americans. But I’m wondering, does this Department take a position on these companies actually doing these tours and seemingly, at times, willfully pulling – putting American citizens in danger? Do you take a position on the – just the merits in general of these tours being conducted?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to get that specific. But clearly, any tour company or any individual can access the information that we make available about travel and the warnings of travel to North Korea as well as other countries. And so I think that states pretty clearly where we stand about any type of travel.

QUESTION: North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: North Korea? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. North Korea, as you know, has launched the SCUD missile last September – no, no, last Saturday. Sorry. And then Marie – your colleague Marie told us that we are always concerned whenever they launch anything. So what about this time? Do you have some readout, or —

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of reports that North Korea launched two projectiles from its east coast on June 29th, so just yesterday. We’re continuing to closely monitor North Korean activities and the situation on the peninsula. We urge North Korea to refrain from taking provocative actions and instead fulfill its international obligations and commitments, but I don’t have any further information on the type or specific details of the projectiles launched in this case.

QUESTION: As you know, President Park and Xi Jinping of China is going to meet this week. Does the United States ask something of both China or South Korea to send a message to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as two of our vital partners in the Six-Party Talks that we engage with closely on the threat from North Korea, I’m certain – and I would refer you to them, but I would bet that this will be a part of their discussion and we’ll continue to engage closely with both China and Japan as it – or, sorry, China and South Korea as it relates to their discussions. And certainly, as you know, we also encourage dialogue and restraint as it relates to relationships in the region as well.

QUESTION: One more thing. Japan will also continue to talk to North Korea about abduction issues after this. Are you consulting with Japan with regard to this timing and with the sanction?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we support Japanese efforts to resolve the abductions issues, and we encourage them to do so in a transparent manner, and we’d refer you to them for more information about their talks.

QUESTION: Can I just stay on North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: North Korea this morning proposed that the two Koreas should halt hostile military activities later on this week. This appears to be ahead of the visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping. What is your reaction to this? Is this something that’s welcome or is it just a cynical ploy by Pyongyang to try and have some kind of image of being peace-loving ahead of the visit?

MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, we certainly support improved inter-Korean relations. But with these specific exercises, these are defense-oriented and they’re designed to enhance the ability to respond to any potential contingency that could arise. They’re designed to increase readiness to defend South Korea and protect the region, and they occur around the same time every year and are a regular part of what happens in the region. So we’ve seen these calls before, and we certainly see the value in these exercises and the value in them continuing.

QUESTION: So you’re not going to halt the exercises ahead of the visit by Xi Jinping to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: I would refer you to the Department of Defense, but I’m not aware of any plans to do that.

QUESTION: One more (inaudible). Under Six-Party Talks, does the U.S. have any optimistic plan to resumption of Six-Party Talks future or near – within this year?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, the – it remains in the ball – the ball remains in North Korea’s court to take steps to abide by their international obligations in the 2005 Joint Statement. They haven’t shown an indication of their plans to do that, so I don’t have any prediction of a resumption.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In an hour or so, or less than an hour – 40 minutes from now – the cease-fire is supposed to expire. I noticed that there was another four-way phone call today between President Putin, Chancellor Merkel, President Hollande, President Poroshenko. And I’m wondering – and out of that, it looks like everyone kind of agreed that it should be extended with the exception of maybe Poroshenko, because I’m not sure that it has been extended yet.

Do you support an extension of the cease-fire and do you think that the Russians have met the – or taken steps to meet the criteria that was laid out by the EU on Friday to do by today?

MS. PSAKI: Well, whether to extend the cease-fire is a decision that Ukraine and only Ukraine will make, and we’d certainly support the decision, whatever decision that they make. But it takes two to implement a cease-fire, and to answer your second question, there are still ongoing reports of fighters from Russia and Russia-backed separatists continuing to attack Ukrainian Government positions. There are still troops on the border. There are still armed militants in Ukraine with – who are posing a threat to the Ukrainian people. So there are steps that we’ve long been calling for that are a part of what President Poroshenko has been calling for that Russia has not done.

Now they have taken some steps that have been positive steps moving forward, but there’s a great deal more that they need to do in order to de-escalate the situation.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that the – well, first of all, how – this cease-fire doesn’t seem to have been much of a cease-fire at all from the very beginning. But I’m wondering what you – because there have been a lot of reports of violations on both sides. But I’m wondering if you – if the U.S. Government’s understanding or the U.S. Government’s position is that the Ukrainian Government’s violations of the cease-fire have come in response – only in response to them being attacked themselves in self-defense. Is that your understanding?

MS. PSAKI: That is my understanding of what’s happening on the ground, and the Ukrainians were the ones who called for the cease-fire and exhibited admirable restraint in trying to implement the cease-fire, but there were steps that were taken from Russian-backed separatists that certainly didn’t abide by it.

QUESTION: So the Administration’s position is that the Ukrainian Government has and still is taking – is still showing admirable restraint in trying to keep the cease-fire alive and that violations are the fault of the Russian – of the separatists. Is that – that’s correct?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, and certainly we’d be concerned about any violations, but I’m not – don’t know if there were specific ones you’re speaking to or reports or anything.

QUESTION: No, just in general. Just what – not anything specific. And then on the sanctions issue, you are not – the Administration is not yet prepared to pull the trigger on new sanctions? Is that —

MS. PSAKI: Well, we remain prepared to impose additional sanctions, including sectoral sanctions should circumstances warrant, in coordination with our allies and partners. But I don’t have anything to announce for all of you today.

QUESTION: And my last one on Ukraine has to do with the refugee numbers. I asked Marie about this last week.

MS. PSAKI: I know you had a —

QUESTION: Yes, we had a bit of an exchange.

MS. PSAKI: An active debate.

QUESTION: Well, I wouldn’t say debate.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, discussion.

QUESTION: An active exchange. Is it still your position that the numbers offered by the UN last week of 110,000 are inaccurate or not credible, as she said?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think they certainly – the context here is incredibly important because the UN Refugee Agency claims less than 10 percent of the 110,000 that they have given as a number. 9,600 people have applied for asylum. That is a significantly lower number. So by noting that 110,000 Ukrainians have arrived in Russia, which we don’t have a validation of that either, it doesn’t give context of in what capacity or how. And it certainly doesn’t give validity to Russian claims that hundreds of thousands of people are pouring over the border seeking asylum in Russia.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, it seems to be a bit – I don’t know – disingenuous to say that because only a small number of these people have actually applied for refugee – for asylum and refugee status in Russia that – it seems to be disingenuous to say that 110,000 people haven’t fled. You —

MS. PSAKI: We’re still looking into – I know Marie said this on Friday —

QUESTION: But your argument – your position is not based on – it’s – tell me this: Is your position based on the fact that only – that less than 10 percent of 110,000 people have actually applied for – formally applied for refugee status?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s part of the context here. We’re still talking to the UN agency about how they arrived at these numbers, but I think that’s an important component of the context.

QUESTION: Okay, but that doesn’t – that doesn’t mean that 100,000 people didn’t flee. Just because they haven’t formally applied doesn’t mean that 100,000 haven’t fled, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it doesn’t mean that they have either, so I think we’re —

QUESTION: Well, I – yeah, but – I know, but the UN is starting from the position or telling you or telling the world that 110,000 people have fled, and it just seems a bit odd if you’re – if your argument is, well, only 10,000 of them actually applied for refugee status, that means that the whole figure if is wrong —

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think part of it is it’s unclear if they’re relying on Russian claims. And so we’re just in discussions with them about how they arrived at these numbers, and I think there’s some context that we felt was important to provide.

QUESTION: Okay, well, do you – and I had this – Marie and I had this exchange as well. I mean, is this the only case where you are not sure of the UN High Commissioner for Refugee’s numbers? I mean, why do you take their word – the numbers in Syria or outside of Syria, the numbers who have fled Syria if you’re not willing to take them on their – not willing to accept them in this case?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m certain if we had a question about the validity of the numbers there, we would have raised it as well. But I – again, we’re in conversations with them, and if there’s more to say, we’ll say it.

QUESTION: To the best of your knowledge, they have not responded with – what are you actually asking them? How did you get your numbers? And then —

MS. PSAKI: Where did you arrive at – how did you arrive at the numbers, exactly.

QUESTION: And are you going to tell them that they have to prove it once they tell you? I mean what do you – I just – I’m not sure what you’re looking for. It seems to me that in almost every other situation, you guys accept the information that’s given by the UNHCR, and this case is somehow different, and I don’t understand – I’m not exactly sure why. That’s – why is this case different than Syria where you also don’t have people on the – eyes on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: We’re just looking for more context and information on the numbers, and we’ll be in touch with them about how they arrived at them.

QUESTION: Question about the cease-fire in Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: About – I’m sorry, which piece?

QUESTION: Because it was unilateral, the cease-fire that was announced, I guess, unilaterally by Poroshenko, correct – by the president of Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So in this conversation today where they asked him to extend the cease-fire, it would be up to him to declare that since it is only one-sided?

MS. PSAKI: Up to President Poroshenko?

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Are you sort of leaning on him or are you asking him to extend the cease-fire?

MS. PSAKI: We’ve – it’s a decision for Ukraine and Ukraine —

QUESTION: I understand, but the —

MS. PSAKI: — only to make. Obviously, we’re in close consultations.

QUESTION: Are you encouraging him to extend the cease-fire?

MS. PSAKI: Again, it’s for – it’s a decision for Ukraine to make.

Let’s just do a few more. Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: On Nigeria. Is the United States still working with Nigeria on the abducted schoolgirls? There’s been really nothing in recent weeks. And are you guys still working with officials on this?

MS. PSAKI: We certainly are. The search for the kidnapped girls is ongoing. The Nigerians remain in the lead. We have a team that’s been on the ground for several weeks now. We’ll continue to evaluate additional resources, what additional resources we can provide. I wish I did have an update on it, but unfortunately there’s not one at this point to provide.

QUESTION: There’s been reporting over the weekend that some residents in northeastern Nigeria have basically formed their own militias because the Nigerian military can’t or won’t come into their areas to protect them from Boko Haram attacks. What has the U.S. been saying to Goodluck Jonathan and to his government about the need to mobilize their military and to be more proactive rather than having small groups of people who don’t have firearms going up against people with semiautomatic rifles?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, our discussions with Nigeria about addressing the threat of Boko Haram have been ongoing for months now. There’s no doubt there are challenges – challenges the Nigerian Government faces and those who are taking on this threat on the ground. And we’re certainly working with them to boost their capacity and advise them on how best to address it. But I’m not going to outline it further than that.

QUESTION: But doesn’t it worry people in this building that the security situation inside what is arguably the largest economy in sub-Saharan Africa – that people don’t feel they can trust their own security apparatus and that they have to take up weapons themselves to try to protect themselves from a vital security threat?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Roz, I’d remind you that we, the United States, has boosted our resources that we’re providing to the Nigerian Government in order to help them take on the threat of Boko Haram because of our rising concern about that threat. So we too feel that there needs to be increased capacity, and our resources and our efforts have also backed that up.

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: There are reports that there were a series of attacks yesterday in Borno State in four villages outside of the area where the girls were kidnapped. Explosives were thrown into churches and around 50 people were hurt – or killed. Do you have any reaction to that? Any information you can share?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have new information. I know there are similarities. It fits the – Boko Haram’s recent pattern in terms of target attacks and methods of attack. They haven’t seen – unless it’s happened in the last hour, I don’t think they have come out and claimed responsibility, but regardless of that, we condemn the reported attacks on four villages near Chibok. Our sympathies go out to the victims and their families. We remain committed to helping the Government of Nigeria address the threat posed by the criminal terrorist group. Our Embassy continues to support Nigerian efforts to bring about the safe recovery of the abductees and to advise the Government of Nigeria on its response.

And as I noted in response to Roz’s question, certainly, we all are concerned about the rising threat of Boko Haram, and we are – have been increasing our assistance as a result of that.

QUESTION: But to Roz’s point, we’ve got some leaders from the Chibok area who said that the military didn’t even bother to go and try and – attempt to try and go to the scene of this latest attack, which would – again, would suggest that they’re in completely – in complete disarray despite any efforts that the Americans might be offering them on the ground.

I mean, are you finding that they’re responsive to what you’re trying to aid them with, or are they just not listening at all?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I haven’t – I don’t have any validation of all of those reports, and what I know is that because of our concern about the threat that’s risen over the course of the last several months – obviously, the kidnapping, other attacks that have happened since then have prompted us to increase our assistance, to do more training, to do more to boost the capacity of the Nigerian military and of the Nigerian Government. So I don’t have anything to speak to as it relates to reports of whether or not they went to the villages because I don’t have any addi

FACT SHEET: The United States and New Zealand: Forward Progress

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

June 20, 2014

President Obama and Prime Minister Key today reaffirmed the longstanding friendship and common values shared by the United States and New Zealand and joint efforts to advance our sustained collaboration on multiple fronts.  In that spirit, the United States applauds New Zealand’s recent decision to open a consulate in Hawaii to expand and deepen the bilateral relationship.

Increasing Economic Growth, Jobs, and Trade

The United States and New Zealand are committed to creating new opportunities by increasing trade and opening markets, and we are working together to strengthen our economic relationship bilaterally as well as regionally.  The President and the Prime Minister share a commitment to completing a high-standard, comprehensive Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement that achieves the objectives to which TPP Leaders and Ministers agreed in Honolulu in 2011 as soon as possible.   This agreement, will contribute to economic growth and job creation in both of our countries and in the Asia-Pacific region and will build on our work together in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum.

Security, Defense, and Rule of Law

The United States and New Zealand share the goal of a stable and secure world, buttressed by the principles of peaceful resolution of disputes and respect for universal rights and freedoms.  Our two countries work side-by-side to support peace and stability both in the Asia-Pacific region and globally. 

In the Asia-Pacific region, the United States and New Zealand recognize the importance of regional institutions that promote rules and norms and foster cooperative efforts to address shared challenges.  As such, both countries are working with fora such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the ASEAN Regional Forum, the East Asia Summit, and the Pacific Islands Forum to strengthen these rules and norms. 

Regarding regional maritime disputes, the United States and New Zealand are united in supporting the peaceful resolution of disputes, the respect for international law and unimpeded lawful commerce, and the preservation of the freedom of navigation and overflight.  In the South China Sea, the President and the Prime Minister called on ASEAN and China to reach early agreement on a meaningful and effective Code of Conduct.  In discussing the need for diplomatic and dialogue to resolve disputes, the two leaders rejected the use of intimidation, coercion, and aggression to advance any maritime claims.  The two leaders reinforced the call for claimants to clarify and pursue claims in accordance with international law, including the Law of the Sea Convention. 

The United States and New Zealand are also collaborating to support free and fair elections in Fiji, which will enable that nation to return to democracy and the rule of law.

The United States and New Zealand share in joint efforts to build and sustain a peaceful, secure, and prosperous Asia-Pacific region.  The United States welcomes New Zealand’s participation in RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific Exercise), the world’s largest multinational naval exercise.  This will mark the first time a New Zealand navy ship will dock at Pearl Harbor Naval Base in over 30 years, a symbol of our renewed engagement on mutual defense and security, especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

Beyond the Asia-Pacific region, the President and the Prime Minister share a deep commitment to advancing global nuclear security, and our countries both contribute to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Nuclear Security Fund.  We are both members of the “Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction” and are working together to support mobile detection capabilities in Africa and Latin America.  We have also been active participants in the Nuclear Security Summit process, including the recent successful Summit hosted by the Netherlands in The Hague in March.

The United States welcomes New Zealand’s partnership with NATO.  As one of the Alliance’s global partners, New Zealand has contributed to NATO operations in Afghanistan and Bosnia, as well as counter-piracy efforts.  We look forward to continuing our political dialogue and security cooperation with New Zealand in the NATO context. 

The United States and New Zealand are committed to increasing our partnership in support of multilateral peace operations, including both United Nations peacekeeping as well as non-U.N. missions, such as the Multinational Force and Observers in the Sinai, which remain important tools for advancing global security.  New Zealand is providing military instructors to the U.S.-led Global Peace Operations Initiative, which trains peacekeepers prior to deployment, and both countries remain committed to making investments in the countries that contribute forces to U.N. and other peacekeeping operations. 

The United States welcomes New Zealand’s strong positions on other international issues, such as Russia’s occupation and annexation of Crimea, the conflict and ensuing humanitarian tragedy in Syria, and the continuing provocative actions of North Korea.  The United States welcomes New Zealand’s contribution to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to help people displaced by the current fighting in Iraq.  We are also working together in high-value, high-impact areas, such as developing amphibious as well as humanitarian and disaster relief capabilities.

Science, Climate Change, and the Environment

The United States is New Zealand’s most significant research, science and technology partner, sharing a long history of scientific cooperation, especially in Antarctica.  The U.S. Antarctic Program, operated out of Christchurch for over five decades, supports diverse scientific work ranging from astrophysics to biology, climatology, and volcanology.  Our two countries support efforts by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources to establish the world’s largest Marine Protected Area in the Antarctic Ross Sea. 

The United States and New Zealand continue to cooperate on science, technology, and health issues through the Joint Commission Meeting on Science and Technology Cooperation, which will next be held in New Zealand in August 2014.

The United States and New Zealand share a recognition of the threat of climate change and are taking a number of steps in the Pacific region and globally to address its effects.

·  As we take action at home to reduce carbon emissions, we are cooperating closely in pursuit of an ambitious 2015 climate change agreement applicable to all Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Our two countries intend to put forward our intended post-2020 mitigation contributions well in advance of the Paris climate conference.

·  As founding members of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Program and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, we work together to promote climate resilient sustainable development and renewable energy in the Pacific region.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the New Zealand National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research are working to build climate adaptation and resilience through new and improved climate services for Pacific island nations.

·  We lead efforts under the APEC “Friends of Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform.”  New Zealand will undertake a fossil fuel subsidy peer review in support of this effort.

People-to-People Ties

The United States and New Zealand celebrate our strong cultural and people-to-people ties. 

The President and the Prime Minister welcomed the creation of a $1.7 million New Zealand Harkness Fellowships Endowment Fund to support outstanding mid-career New Zealand leaders from the public, private, or NGO sector to undertake research and study in the United States.  Over the years New Zealand Harkness Fellows have made a significant commitment to New Zealand and to New Zealand’s relationship with the United States, and this Endowment Fund will ensure that legacy continues.

Since 1948, when the Fulbright commission was established in New Zealand, more than 3,000 U.S. citizens and New Zealanders have participated in educational and cultural exchanges.  Each year, Fulbright offers approximately 80 scholarships to New Zealand and U.S. citizens to study, research, teach, or present their work in one another’s countries on issues ranging from climate change and energy, to public policy, business, law, and the arts.  New Zealand also hosts 15 National Science Foundation fellows each year. 

The United States and New Zealand recently committed to jointly fund the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Program to send twenty or more teachers to each other’s countries over the next three years.  There are more than 3,000 U.S. citizens studying in New Zealand and 1,200 New Zealand students studying in the United States, a nine percent increase over the previous year.

The indigenous peoples of the United States and New Zealand share deep historical ties, and the United States has sponsored Maori business leaders in the United States in an effort to connect Maori with Native American and Alaskan leaders. 

Meet the New High Commissioner for Human Rights

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Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced Friday that he will nominate Jordan’s Prince Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein to succeed Navi Pillay as the next UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Pillay will leave office on 31 August, after a single full term and two year extension.

Zeid’s selection followed consultations by Secretary General Ban with the permanent members of the Security Council, the heads of the United Nations’ regional groups and two interviews with the candidates for the post. Several names had been rumored to be under consideration, including  Marzuki Darusman, who wrote stinging reports on human rights violation in Sri Lanka and North Korea. The nomination will go to the UN General Assembly this summer and will almost certainly be approved by consensus or acclamation.

Prince Zeid will be the first Asian and the first Arab to head the Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights. The post was created through General Assembly resolution 48/191 in 1993 and functions as the top human rights post in the UN system. As Commissioner, Zeid will report directly to the Secretary General.

He served as Jordan’s ambassador to the United Nations until this past April. Given that Jordan began a two-year term on the UN Security Council in January and Zeid has been outspoken on human right concerns during those four months, his resignation sparked rumors that he was being considered for the post.

Zeid previously served as his country’s ambassador the United States and Mexico. From 2002 to 2005, he served as the first President of the International Criminal Court’s Assembly of State Parties, overlapping with Pillay’s term as a justice of the Court (2003-2008). He led the informal negotiations on the elements of crimes under the Rome Statute and later chaired the working group on defining aggression as a crime during the Kampala review conference. He had earlier been the advisor to Secretary General Kofi Annan on sexual exploitation in UN peacekeeping and chaired the consultative committee of UNIFEM, one of UN Women’s predecessor agencies.  Earlier in his career, he had served as a political affairs officer in the UN peacekeeping mission during the Yugoslavia conflict.

Pillay has been a thorn in the side of several states from the beginning. Her nomination in 2008 was initially opposed by the United States due to her views on abortion rights, and her position on the Israel/Palestine disputes led the U.S. to only support her re-appointment to a truncated two-year term.  She directly accused Syrian President Bashir al-Assad of commiting war crimes after a 33-month investigation and called for its referral to the International Criminal Court. She has likewise called for an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by the Sri Lankan government during that country’s civil war and reported continued oppression of Tamils and religious minorities. This week, she spoke out against the Chinese crackdown on Tiananmen Square protestors 25 years ago, the highest ranking UN official to comment on the anniversary.

Zeid is likely to follow in Pillay’s footsteps as a formidable critic of governments in regard to their human rights records. In February, he co-authored the Security Council resolution on Syria that condemned the “attacks against civilians by all kinds of prohibited and non-prohibited weapons” and “crimes against humanity” taking place in the conflict. Last year, Prince Zeid joined other diplomats in calling for a boycott of a UN meeting organized by the UN General Assembly President considered by many to simply be a forum to complain about the treatment of Serbs in war crimes tribunals. In April, he used the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide to challenge the international community to act on the crisis in Central African Republic, stating that ”It is … clear we still do not care enough; not enough to act immediately, overwhelmingly, in those cases where an intervention is needed.”

Peggy Hicks, the global advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, noted that Zeid will be challenged “to speak frankly about the record of silencing civil society, crushing peaceful protests, which is endemic” in the Middle East.

Zeid was a candidate for UN Secretary General along with Ban Ki-moon in 2006. He ran on a platform of “A 21st Century United Nations,” in which he outlined five core principles which he felt would allow the organization to respond the crises more effectively. His late entry into the race cost him political momentum and his candidacy quickly sank. During the first color-coded straw poll, his candidacy was “discouraged” by one of the permanent members and he soon withdrew.

If Zeid serves the customary two four-year terms, he will be the United Nations’ top human rights officer until 2022.

His successor as Jordan’s ambassador to the United Nations will be Dina Kawar, who will be the sixth female member currently serving on the Security Council, a record for the body.

Canada’s Defence Relations in the Asia-Pacific Region

As a Pacific country, Canada considers its relations with its Asia-Pacific neighbours a priority. Canadian security and prosperity are linked to the vitality of Asia’s economy and the stability of the region. In support of this agenda, the Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are committed to strengthening peace and security in the region and enhancing their engagement in Asia-Pacific.

From our commitment of resources towards humanitarian and relief efforts following Typhoon Haiyan, to our participation in regional military exercises and high-level defence fora, we are proud of the steps that we have taken in recent years to bolster defence relations and increase cooperation with Canada’s partners in the Asia-Pacific region.

Multilateral Defence Relations and Regional Military Exercises

Multilateral Defence Relations

Contemporary defence and security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, such as criminal networks, territorial disputes, natural disasters, terrorism, as well as concerns about the freedom of movement at sea can reach beyond the borders of a single state and affect the security and defence of the entire region. Responding to these challenges and mitigating their effects demands multilateral, regional responses: concerted, cooperative efforts that involve many countries pooling their resources, coordinating their efforts, and increasing interoperability between armed forces.

Multilateral defence relations are an important component of Canada’s overall engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. From a defence perspective, DND/CAF supports Canada’s diplomatic relationships in part by participating in a number of high-level multilateral defence meetings and conferences. An important example is the annual International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Asia Security Summit in Singapore. This premier, inter-governmental event is a crucial venue for dialogue on the security and defence of the region, and is attended by ministers and chiefs of defence from Asia-Pacific and beyond. This year, General Tom Lawson, chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces and Richard Fadden, Deputy Minister of National Defence, attended the Summit, which was an opportunity to exchange best practices and discuss opportunities for increasing collaboration with Asian partners and other traditional partners and allies in areas such as peacekeeping, civil-military relations, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief.

Another important example of high-level defence conferences that support Canada’s defence relations is the United States Pacific Command Chiefs of Defence Conference. This important meeting is attended by chiefs of defence including General Lawson, as well as other senior military leaders in the Asia-Pacific region. At the Chiefs of Defence Conference, these senior military leaders discuss mutual security challenges and encourage security cooperation.

Perhaps the most important example of Canada’s multilateral relations in the Asia-Pacific region is Canada’s engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN as well as its member states (Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) which dates back to 1977. As the cornerstone of Canada’s multilateral relations in the Asia-Pacific region, ASEAN provides a forum for Canada to take part in an important dialogue on regional defence and security issues.

Under the ASEAN organizational umbrella, Canada also participates in the ASEAN Regional Forum, which is designed to strengthen cooperation amongst member states to foster peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region. Canada is committed to contributing further to the Asia-Pacific security architecture and has announced its interest in participating in the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus and the East Asia Summit. The CAF have also taken part in other regional exercises such as the ASEAN Regional Forum’s disaster relief exercise (DiREx).

Regional Military Exercises

The CAF is involved in a number of regional exercises that support multilateral defence relations. For example, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) continues to be engaged in a number of military exercises and deployments throughout the Asia-Pacific region. These cooperative endeavours serve to foster invaluable relationships and connections between the RCN and the navies of other countries in the region. For example, More than 1,000 Canadian sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen will participate in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), the world’s premier combined and joint maritime exercise, from June 27 to August 1, 2014, in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime military exercise, involving forces from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, People’s Republic of China, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States. Canada has participated in every iteration since RIMPAC’s inception in 1971.

Canada is also a major participant in the Ulchi Freedom Guardian Exercise, which tests the operational control of the combined forces on the Korean peninsula. For the last 3 years, the CAF contingent has been the largest amongst the Sending States.  Canada also participated in the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercise series in South Korea for the past 2 years, which is a field training exercise designed to improve the combined and joint operational posture of South Korean and U.S. military forces.  

Canada also participates in the KHAAN QUEST series of exercises, hosted by the Mongolian Armed Forces and co-sponsored by the Mongolian Armed Forces, U.S.Army Pacific and the Alaskan Air National Guard, under the U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian and Civic Assistance program. The exercises are designed to enhance individual and professional readiness and tactical interoperability in the delivery of humanitarian assistance between regional partners. This year the exercise will take place from 18 June to 2 July.

Bilateral Defence Relations

Bilateral, country-to-country defence relations between Canada and individual Asia-Pacific states are another important component of Canada’s defence relations in the region. In addition to bilateral defence relations with partners in the Asia-Pacific region as described below, Canada signed a Canada-U.S. Asia-Pacific Defense Policy Cooperation Framework with the U.S. in November 2013. This Framework provides the foundation for Canada and the U.S. to coordinate the conduct of recurring and mutually reinforcing defence-related engagement activities with our Asian partners. 

Bilateral Defence Relations: North East Asia

In support of a whole-of-government approach that seeks to enhance Canada’s bilateral relationships with North East Asian countries, the DND and CAF are engaged in initiatives in China, Japan, and South Korea.

Canada recognizes that China is an important economic and military power. The DND and CAF have growing relations with the Ministry of National Defence of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and will continue to engage in dialogue about  issues of regional and international security. Canada has been advancing this emerging bilateral defence relationship through several high-level meetings in March 2012, and June 2013 in China involving senior DND and CAF officials and China’s People’s Liberation Army officials.  At the 2013 meeting, Canada and China agreed to establish a Defence Coordination Dialogue to discuss defence issues of mutual concern and affirmed their intent to establish a Cooperation Plan Initiative between the People’s Liberation Army and Canada’s Defence Team, which would guide defence-related activities. Building on these exchanges, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of National Defence, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, and the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Tom Lawson, met with General Chang Wanquan for a bilateral exchange in Ottawa in August 2013.  At the meeting, Minister Nicholson and General Chang signed the Cooperation Plan Initiative.

Japan is a valued regional and global security partner. We share a common set of values and interests, including promoting and upholding democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, access to open markets, arms control, and disarmament. These values  have created steady defence relations between Canada and Japan on a number of regional and global issues. Bilateral agreements, such as the 2010 Canada-Japan Joint Declaration on Political, Peace and Security Cooperation greatly contribute to deepening this defence relationship. Canada also cooperates with Japan on issues such as defence policy, interoperability and cross-services, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, disaster prevention and emergency response and peacekeeping. During a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on September 23, 2013, Prime Minister Harper announced agreement in principle on a Treaty. Known as the Canada-Japan Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), the Treaty, once approved by both countries’ parliamentary processes, will be a milestone for the bilateral defence relationship.  The ACSA will enable Canadian Armed Forces and Japan’s Self-Defense Force units to exchange basic goods and services wherever both forces are cooperating, such as during training, exercises, and a limited range of operations, notably humanitarian assistance missions.

Canada has long enjoyed positive bilateral defence relations with the Republic of Korea. These defence relations have a foundation in the Canadian contribution to the Korean War and have evolved into a rich history of strong political and economic partnerships and cooperation. This relationship continues to advance.  Contributing to this relationship are a number of high-level visits, such as  Prime Minister Harper’s March 2014 visit to Seoul. Canada also fosters bilateral relations with South Korea through bilateral defence agreements, such as the Mutual Logistics Support Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which enables improved logistical exchange and increased interoperability between Canada and South Korea’s military forces.

Canada and South Korea continue to explore new areas and avenues of cooperation, including through enhanced collaboration during key regional forums, and, specifically by continued CAF participation in exercises on the Korean Peninsula, such as Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle.  

Bilateral Defence Relations: South East Asia

While Canada engages its South East Asian partners multilaterally through ASEAN, the DND/CAF are also growing defence relations and initiatives with our South East Asian neighbours on a bilateral basis. These defence relations reflect the priority the DND/CAF place on mutual security and cooperative interests. Some examples of bilateral defence cooperation across the region include:

  • High-level meetings, such as then-Minister of National Defence MacKay’s bilateral visits to Singapore and Thailand, in June 2012 during which Canada highlighted CAF/DND activities in South East Asia and emphasized our desire to contribute to security in the region. In 2012, General Lawson also attended the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) Chiefs of Defence Staff Conference and met with numerous Asia-Pacific counterparts. General Lawson also visited Thailand in 2013;
  • Ship visits, such as the February 2013 visit of HMCS Regina to Port Klang, Malaysia, and Manila, Philippines; and, 
  • Defence education cooperation in locations such as Brunei, for example, which hosted the Commandant of the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in winter 2013.

Bilateral Defence Relations: Oceania

Located in the Central and South Pacific Ocean, Canada has long enjoyed positive bilateral defence relations in Oceania, particularly with Australia and New Zealand, which are both members of the Five Eyes intelligence community.

Defence relations between Canada and Australia are deep and enduring, with Australia being one of Canada’s closest partners in the Asia-Pacific region and globally. We share a common outlook on international security issues as well as a like-minded approach to operations.  We have a solid foundation of defence cooperation including exercises, training, academic exchanges, high-level visits and current operations in Afghanistan. 

Recent high-level visits that support and foster defence relations with Australia have included then-Minister of National Defence MacKay’s visit to Australia in 2011. The trip was successful in strengthening the relationship and resulted in commitments to hold ministerial meetings, policy talks, and chief of defence meetings regularly.  Both the Minister and Chief of the Defence Staff General Lawson met with their Australian counterpart at the Shangri-La Dialogue in the spring of 2013 and have interacted over the last year at various NATO Ministerial and Chiefs of Defence meetings. Canada also has a Canadian defence attaché posted to Australia that is cross-accredited to New Zealand.

Canada and New Zealand also enjoy a robust history of defence cooperation. Historically, the CAF and the New Zealand Defence Forces (NZDF) have worked together in a number of international security operations, such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, and East Timor. A number of high-level visits have also taken place recently between Canada and New Zealand, such as the between the two countries’ Defence Ministers in September 2011, and Chief of the Defence Staff, General Tom Lawson’s meeting with his New Zealand counterpart in May 2013 during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

Since 2005, the CAF and the NZDF have participated in CANZEX (Canada New Zealand Exchange), a program that includes joint training and enhances cooperation and interoperability between our militaries. The CAF also participates in programs such as REGULUS, a Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) training program.  The CAF recently participated in Operation RENDER SAFE 2013, Australia’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal support to the nations of the South West Pacific region.  In the case of New Zealand, the CAF participated in the 2013 edition of Exercise SOUTHERN KATIPO, which is a multi-nation, tri-service exercise to practice operational planning, execution and command and control of a deployed Combined Joint Task Force during an amphibious operation.

Bilateral Defence Relations: South West Asia

South West Asia covers the area from Afghanistan in the west to India in the east, and extends north as far as the former Soviet republics and south into the Indian Ocean. Canada has deep links to this region, which includes several members of the Commonwealth. A significant number of Canadian families trace their roots back to South West Asia, and Canada has made a major effort to promote security in the region, most significantly through our mission in Afghanistan.

Canada has an important and expanding relationship with India. Canada and India share common values, including a commitment to democracy and pluralism. High-level visits, such as Prime Minister Harper’s visit in 2012 and Governor General David Johnston’s visit of 2014, have underscored the importance of this relationship. Canada and India are exploring areas for future defence cooperation, including training exchanges.   Such activities help strengthen the defence and security relationship and promote cooperation.

Pakistan remains an important partner for Canada in the global fight against terrorism, and Canada and Pakistan continue to work together to enhance defence and security in the region. High-level visits supporting this relationship have included the May 2012 visit by Pakistan’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Khalid Shaheem Wynne, and the visit of Chief of Defence Staff General Lawson to Islamabad in March 2014.

Canada’s enduring relationship with Afghanistan continues after our military training mission ended in March 2014.  Canadians will not forget the sacrifices of the 158 CAF members who died working on behalf of Canada to help bring security to the Afghan people.  To ensure the future stability of a secure and democratic Afghanistan, Canada continues to provide financial support to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Canada’s ultimate goal remains to sustain the gains that have been made since the fall of the Taliban regime and help Afghans rebuild Afghanistan into a viable country that is better governed, more stable and secure, and never again a safe haven for terrorists.

The Military Training and Cooperation Program

An important instrument of defence diplomacy and part of the whole-of-government approach stated in the Canada First Defence Strategy, the Military Training and Cooperation Program (MTCP) involves:

  • Enhancing peace support operations’ interoperability among Canada’s partners;
  • Expanding and reinforcing Canadian bilateral defence relations;
  • Promoting Canadian democratic principles, the rule of law and the protection of human rights in the international arena; and,
  • Achieving influence in areas of strategic interest to Canada. 

The MTCP operates a number of training programs throughout the Asia-Pacific region, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Thailand. Other regional MTCP activities have included:

Adding Japan as an implementing partner of the MTCP. As an implementing partner, Japan contributed to the program by providing instructors/lecturers on the MTCP Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) tactical courses conducted in Tanzania (2012) and Senegal (2013), as well as on a UN Military Observer Course conducted in Indonesia (March 2014).

  • Naming Indonesia as an MTCP “Centre of Excellence”, with CAF and Indonesian forces partnering to provide training in Indonesia to military personnel from Asia-Pacific MTCP member states. Indonesia is both a priority member state of the MTCP and one of its top recipients (both in terms of budget and positions on courses). The MTCP provided training to over 180 personnel, including 45 positions in 2013-14 in courses on topics such as English language, peacekeeping, and public affairs, in addition to staff training such as National Security Studies and Canadian Security Studies. A successful Peace Support Seminar was conducted at the Indonesian Peace and Security Centre in July 2012 in partnership with the Indonesian National Armed Forces, which was followed by a Public Affairs Workshop in the fall. In 2013-2014, DND sponsored another Peace Support Workshop, a Civil Military Relations Workshop, and a UN Military Observer Course in Indonesia. In 2014-2015, the Directorate of Military and Training Cooperation (DMTC) plans to sponsor two Public Affairs workshops as well as a Strategic Peace Support Operations Course in Indonesia.
  • Offering 23 vacancies to Malaysia (up from 10 positions in 2012/2013) for courses in 2014-2015 for English-language training, staff training and peacekeeping operations. As of August 2014, DMTC will also post a logistics officer to support the Malaysian Peacekeeping Centre.
  • Granting 20 placements to Mongolian Armed Forces personnel in 2014-2015 for courses on English and French languages, peacekeeping missions, and junior officer-staff training.
  • Providing training over 150 military members from the Philippines since 1998. Members of the armed forces of the Philippines have participated in a variety of courses through the MTCP, as well as staff officer development training and peace support operations training.
  • Training over 354 Thai officers in Canada since 1985. In 2014-2015, 28 Thai officers will be offered training in peacekeeping, staff officer development, and English-language training.

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Remarks by the President at the United States Military Academy Commencement Ceremony

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

May 28, 2014

U.S. Military Academy-West Point
West Point, New York

10:22 A.M. EDT
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  And thank you, General Caslen, for that introduction.  To General Trainor, General Clarke, the faculty and staff at West Point — you have been outstanding stewards of this proud institution and outstanding mentors for the newest officers in the United States Army.  I’d like to acknowledge the Army’s leadership — General McHugh — Secretary McHugh, General Odierno, as well as Senator Jack Reed, who is here, and a proud graduate of West Point himself. 
 
To the class of 2014, I congratulate you on taking your place on the Long Gray Line.  Among you is the first all-female command team — Erin Mauldin and Austen Boroff.  In Calla Glavin, you have a Rhodes Scholar.  And Josh Herbeck proves that West Point accuracy extends beyond the three-point line.  To the entire class, let me reassure you in these final hours at West Point:  As Commander-in-Chief, I hereby absolve all cadets who are on restriction for minor conduct offenses.  (Laughter and applause.)  Let me just say that nobody ever did that for me when I was in school.  (Laughter.) 
 
I know you join me in extending a word of thanks to your families.  Joe DeMoss, whose son James is graduating, spoke for a whole lot of parents when he wrote me a letter about the sacrifices you’ve made.  “Deep inside,” he wrote, “we want to explode with pride at what they are committing to do in the service of our country.”  Like several graduates, James is a combat veteran.  And I would ask all of us here today to stand and pay tribute — not only to the veterans among us, but to the more than 2.5 million Americans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as their families.  (Applause.)
 
This is a particularly useful time for America to reflect on those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom, a few days after Memorial Day.  You are the first class to graduate since 9/11 who may not be sent into combat in Iraq or Afghanistan.  (Applause.)  When I first spoke at West Point in 2009, we still had more than 100,000 troops in Iraq.  We were preparing to surge in Afghanistan.  Our counterterrorism efforts were focused on al Qaeda’s core leadership — those who had carried out the 9/11 attacks.  And our nation was just beginning a long climb out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.
 
Four and a half years later, as you graduate, the landscape has changed.  We have removed our troops from Iraq.  We are winding down our war in Afghanistan.  Al Qaeda’s leadership on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated, and Osama bin Laden is no more.  (Applause.)  And through it all, we’ve refocused our investments in what has always been a key source of American strength:  a growing economy that can provide opportunity for everybody who’s willing to work hard and take responsibility here at home.
 
In fact, by most measures, America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world.  Those who argue otherwise — who suggest that America is in decline, or has seen its global leadership slip away — are either misreading history or engaged in partisan politics.  Think about it.  Our military has no peer.  The odds of a direct threat against us by any nation are low and do not come close to the dangers we faced during the Cold War.
Meanwhile, our economy remains the most dynamic on Earth; our businesses the most innovative.  Each year, we grow more energy independent.  From Europe to Asia, we are the hub of alliances unrivaled in the history of nations.  America continues to attract striving immigrants.  The values of our founding inspire leaders in parliaments and new movements in public squares around the globe.  And when a typhoon hits the Philippines, or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help.  (Applause.)  So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation.  That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.
 
But the world is changing with accelerating speed.  This presents opportunity, but also new dangers.  We know all too well, after 9/11, just how technology and globalization has put power once reserved for states in the hands of individuals, raising the capacity of terrorists to do harm.  Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors.  From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums.  And even as developing nations embrace democracy and market economies, 24-hour news and social media makes it impossible to ignore the continuation of sectarian conflicts and failing states and popular uprisings that might have received only passing notice a generation ago.
 
It will be your generation’s task to respond to this new world.  The question we face, the question each of you will face, is not whether America will lead, but how we will lead — not just to secure our peace and prosperity, but also extend peace and prosperity around the globe.
 
Now, this question isn’t new.  At least since George Washington served as Commander-in-Chief, there have been those who warned against foreign entanglements that do not touch directly on our security or economic wellbeing.  Today, according to self-described realists, conflicts in Syria or Ukraine or the Central African Republic are not ours to solve.  And not surprisingly, after costly wars and continuing challenges here at home, that view is shared by many Americans.
 
A different view from interventionists from the left and right says that we ignore these conflicts at our own peril; that America’s willingness to apply force around the world is the ultimate safeguard against chaos, and America’s failure to act in the face of Syrian brutality or Russian provocations not only violates our conscience, but invites escalating aggression in the future.
 
And each side can point to history to support its claims. But I believe neither view fully speaks to the demands of this moment.  It is absolutely true that in the 21st century American isolationism is not an option.  We don’t have a choice to ignore what happens beyond our borders.  If nuclear materials are not secure, that poses a danger to American cities.  As the Syrian civil war spills across borders, the capacity of battle-hardened extremist groups to come after us only increases.  Regional aggression that goes unchecked — whether in southern Ukraine or the South China Sea, or anywhere else in the world — will ultimately impact our allies and could draw in our military.  We can’t ignore what happens beyond our boundaries.
 
And beyond these narrow rationales, I believe we have a real stake, an abiding self-interest, in making sure our children and our grandchildren grow up in a world where schoolgirls are not kidnapped and where individuals are not slaughtered because of tribe or faith or political belief.  I believe that a world of greater freedom and tolerance is not only a moral imperative, it also helps to keep us safe.
 
But to say that we have an interest in pursuing peace and freedom beyond our borders is not to say that every problem has a military solution.  Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures without thinking through the consequences — without building international support and legitimacy for our action; without leveling with the American people about the sacrifices required.  Tough talk often draws headlines, but war rarely conforms to slogans.  As General Eisenhower, someone with hard-earned knowledge on this subject, said at this ceremony in 1947:  “War is mankind’s most tragic and stupid folly; to seek or advise its deliberate provocation is a black crime against all men.”
 
Like Eisenhower, this generation of men and women in uniform know all too well the wages of war, and that includes those of you here at West Point.  Four of the servicemembers who stood in the audience when I announced the surge of our forces in Afghanistan gave their lives in that effort.  A lot more were wounded.  I believe America’s security demanded those deployments.  But I am haunted by those deaths.  I am haunted by those wounds.  And I would betray my duty to you and to the country we love if I ever sent you into harm’s way simply because I saw a problem somewhere in the world that needed to be fixed, or because I was worried about critics who think military intervention is the only way for America to avoid looking weak.  
 
Here’s my bottom line:  America must always lead on the world stage.  If we don’t, no one else will.  The military that you have joined is and always will be the backbone of that leadership.  But U.S. military action cannot be the only — or even primary — component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.  And because the costs associated with military action are so high, you should expect every civilian leader — and especially your Commander-in-Chief — to be clear about how that awesome power should be used.
 
So let me spend the rest of my time describing my vision for how the United States of America and our military should lead in the years to come, for you will be part of that leadership.  
 
First, let me repeat a principle I put forward at the outset of my presidency:  The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it — when our people are threatened, when our livelihoods are at stake, when the security of our allies is in danger.  In these circumstances, we still need to ask tough questions about whether our actions are proportional and effective and just.  International opinion matters, but America should never ask permission to protect our people, our homeland, or our way of life.  (Applause.)  
 
On the other hand, when issues of global concern do not pose a direct threat to the United States, when such issues are at stake — when crises arise that stir our conscience or push the world in a more dangerous direction but do not directly threaten us — then the threshold for military action must be higher.  In such circumstances, we should not go it alone.  Instead, we must mobilize allies and partners to take collective action.  We have to broaden our tools to include diplomacy and development; sanctions and isolation; appeals to international law; and, if just, necessary and effective, multilateral military action.  In such circumstances, we have to work with others because collective action in these circumstances is more likely to succeed, more likely to be sustained, less likely to lead to costly mistakes.
 
This leads to my second point:  For the foreseeable future, the most direct threat to America at home and abroad remains terrorism.  But a strategy that involves invading every country that harbors terrorist networks is naïve and unsustainable.  I believe we must shift our counterterrorism strategy — drawing on the successes and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan — to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold.
 
And the need for a new strategy reflects the fact that today’s principal threat no longer comes from a centralized al Qaeda leadership.  Instead, it comes from decentralized al Qaeda affiliates and extremists, many with agendas focused in countries where they operate.  And this lessens the possibility of large-scale 9/11-style attacks against the homeland, but it heightens the danger of U.S. personnel overseas being attacked, as we saw in Benghazi.  It heightens the danger to less defensible targets, as we saw in a shopping mall in Nairobi. 
 
So we have to develop a strategy that matches this diffuse threat — one that expands our reach without sending forces that stretch our military too thin, or stir up local resentments.  We need partners to fight terrorists alongside us.  And empowering partners is a large part of what we have done and what we are currently doing in Afghanistan. 
 
Together with our allies, America struck huge blows against al Qaeda core and pushed back against an insurgency that threatened to overrun the country.  But sustaining this progress depends on the ability of Afghans to do the job.  And that’s why we trained hundreds of thousands of Afghan soldiers and police.  Earlier this spring, those forces, those Afghan forces, secured an election in which Afghans voted for the first democratic transfer of power in their history.  And at the end of this year, a new Afghan President will be in office and America’s combat mission will be over.  (Applause.)
 
Now, that was an enormous achievement made because of America’s armed forces.  But as we move to a train-and-advise mission in Afghanistan, our reduced presence allows us to more effectively address emerging threats in the Middle East and North Africa.  So, earlier this year, I asked my national security team to develop a plan for a network of partnerships from South Asia to the Sahel.  Today, as part of this effort, I am calling on Congress to support a new Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund of up to $5 billion, which will allow us to train, build capacity, and facilitate partner countries on the front lines.  And these resources will give us flexibility to fulfill different missions, including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali.
 
A critical focus of this effort will be the ongoing crisis in Syria.  As frustrating as it is, there are no easy answers, no military solution that can eliminate the terrible suffering anytime soon.  As President, I made a decision that we should not put American troops into the middle of this increasingly sectarian war, and I believe that is the right decision.  But that does not mean we shouldn’t help the Syrian people stand up against a dictator who bombs and starves his own people.  And in helping those who fight for the right of all Syrians to choose their own future, we are also pushing back against the growing number of extremists who find safe haven in the chaos.  
 
So with the additional resources I’m announcing today, we will step up our efforts to support Syria’s neighbors — Jordan and Lebanon; Turkey and Iraq — as they contend with refugees and confront terrorists working across Syria’s borders.  I will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists and brutal dictators.  And we will continue to coordinate with our friends and allies in Europe and the Arab World to push for a political resolution of this crisis, and to make sure that those countries and not just the United States are contributing their fair share to support the Syrian people.
 
Let me make one final point about our efforts against terrorism.  The partnerships I’ve described do not eliminate the need to take direct action when necessary to protect ourselves. When we have actionable intelligence, that’s what we do — through capture operations like the one that brought a terrorist involved in the plot to bomb our embassies in 1998 to face justice; or drone strikes like those we’ve carried out in Yemen and Somalia.  There are times when those actions are necessary, and we cannot hesitate to protect our people. 
 
But as I said last year, in taking direct action we must uphold standards that reflect our values.  That means taking strikes only when we face a continuing, imminent threat, and only where there is no certainty — there is near certainty of no civilian casualties.  For our actions should meet a simple test:  We must not create more enemies than we take off the battlefield.
 
I also believe we must be more transparent about both the basis of our counterterrorism actions and the manner in which they are carried out.  We have to be able to explain them publicly, whether it is drone strikes or training partners.  I will increasingly turn to our military to take the lead and provide information to the public about our efforts.  Our intelligence community has done outstanding work, and we have to continue to protect sources and methods.  But when we cannot explain our efforts clearly and publicly, we face terrorist propaganda and international suspicion, we erode legitimacy with our partners and our people, and we reduce accountability in our own government.
 
And this issue of transparency is directly relevant to a third aspect of American leadership, and that is our effort to strengthen and enforce international order. 
 
After World War II, America had the wisdom to shape institutions to keep the peace and support human progress — from NATO and the United Nations, to the World Bank and IMF.  These institutions are not perfect, but they have been a force multiplier.  They reduce the need for unilateral American action and increase restraint among other nations. 
 
Now, just as the world has changed, this architecture must change as well.  At the height of the Cold War, President Kennedy spoke about the need for a peace based upon, “a gradual evolution in human institutions.”  And evolving these international institutions to meet the demands of today must be a critical part of American leadership. 
 
Now, there are a lot of folks, a lot of skeptics, who often downplay the effectiveness of multilateral action.  For them, working through international institutions like the U.N. or respecting international law is a sign of weakness.  I think they’re wrong.  Let me offer just two examples why.
 
In Ukraine, Russia’s recent actions recall the days when Soviet tanks rolled into Eastern Europe.   But this isn’t the Cold War.  Our ability to shape world opinion helped isolate Russia right away.  Because of American leadership, the world immediately condemned Russian actions; Europe and the G7 joined us to impose sanctions; NATO reinforced our commitment to Eastern European allies; the IMF is helping to stabilize Ukraine’s economy; OSCE monitors brought the eyes of the world to unstable parts of Ukraine.  And this mobilization of world opinion and international institutions served as a counterweight to Russian propaganda and Russian troops on the border and armed militias in ski masks.
 
This weekend, Ukrainians voted by the millions.  Yesterday, I spoke to their next President.  We don’t know how the situation will play out and there will remain grave challenges ahead, but standing with our allies on behalf of international order working with international institutions, has given a chance for the Ukrainian people to choose their future without us firing a shot. 
 
Similarly, despite frequent warnings from the United States and Israel and others, the Iranian nuclear program steadily advanced for years.  But at the beginning of my presidency, we built a coalition that imposed sanctions on the Iranian economy, while extending the hand of diplomacy to the Iranian government.  And now we have an opportunity to resolve our differences peacefully. 
 
The odds of success are still long, and we reserve all options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  But for the first time in a decade, we have a very real chance of achieving a breakthrough agreement — one that is more effective and durable than what we could have achieved through the use of force.  And throughout these negotiations, it has been our willingness to work through multilateral channels that kept the world on our side.
 
The point is this is American leadership.  This is American strength.  In each case, we built coalitions to respond to a specific challenge.  Now we need to do more to strengthen the institutions that can anticipate and prevent problems from spreading.  For example, NATO is the strongest alliance the world has ever known.  But we’re now working with NATO allies to meet new missions, both within Europe where our Eastern allies must be reassured, but also beyond Europe’s borders where our NATO allies must pull their weight to counterterrorism and respond to failed states and train a network of partners.
 
Likewise, the U.N. provides a platform to keep the peace in states torn apart by conflict.  Now we need to make sure that those nations who provide peacekeepers have the training and equipment to actually keep the peace, so that we can prevent the type of killing we’ve seen in Congo and Sudan.  We are going to deepen our investment in countries that support these peacekeeping missions, because having other nations maintain order in their own neighborhoods lessens the need for us to put our own troops in harm’s way.  It’s a smart investment.  It’s the right way to lead.  (Applause.) 
 
Keep in mind, not all international norms relate directly to armed conflict.  We have a serious problem with cyber-attacks, which is why we’re working to shape and enforce rules of the road to secure our networks and our citizens.  In the Asia Pacific, we’re supporting Southeast Asian nations as they negotiate a code of conduct with China on maritime disputes in the South China Sea.  And we’re working to resolve these disputes through international law.  That spirit of cooperation needs to energize the global effort to combat climate change — a creeping national security crisis that will help shape your time in uniform, as we are called on to respond to refugee flows and natural disasters and conflicts over water and food, which is why next year I intend to make sure America is out front in putting together a global framework to preserve our planet. 
 
You see, American influence is always stronger when we lead by example.  We can’t exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everybody else.  We can’t call on others to make commitments to combat climate change if a whole lot of our political leaders deny that it’s taking place.  We can’t try to resolve problems in the South China Sea when we have refused to make sure that the Law of the Sea Convention is ratified by our United States Senate, despite the fact that our top military leaders say the treaty advances our national security.  That’s not leadership; that’s retreat.  That’s not strength; that’s weakness.  It would be utterly foreign to leaders like Roosevelt and Truman, Eisenhower and Kennedy.
 
I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.  But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions.  (Applause.)  And that’s why I will continue to push to close Gitmo — because American values and legal traditions do not permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders.  (Applause.)  That’s why we’re putting in place new restrictions on how America collects and uses intelligence — because we will have fewer partners and be less effective if a perception takes hold that we’re conducting surveillance against ordinary citizens.  (Applause.)  America does not simply stand for stability or the absence of conflict, no matter what the cost.  We stand for the more lasting peace that can only come through opportunity and freedom for people everywhere. 
 
Which brings me to the fourth and final element of American leadership:  Our willingness to act on behalf of human dignity.  America’s support for democracy and human rights goes beyond idealism — it is a matter of national security.  Democracies are our closest friends and are far less likely to go to war.  Economies based on free and open markets perform better and become markets for our goods.  Respect for human rights is an antidote to instability and the grievances that fuel violence and terror.
 
A new century has brought no end to tyranny.  In capitals around the globe — including, unfortunately, some of America’s partners — there has been a crackdown on civil society.  The cancer of corruption has enriched too many governments and their cronies, and enraged citizens from remote villages to iconic squares.  And watching these trends, or the violent upheavals in parts of the Arab World, it’s easy to be cynical.
 
But remember that because of America’s efforts, because of American diplomacy and foreign assistance as well as the sacrifices of our military, more people live under elected governments today than at any time in human history.  Technology is empowering civil society in ways that no iron fist can control.  New breakthroughs are lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.  And even the upheaval of the Arab World reflects the rejection of an authoritarian order that was anything but stable, and now offers the long-term prospect of more responsive and effective governance. 
 
In countries like Egypt, we acknowledge that our relationship is anchored in security interests — from peace treaties with Israel, to shared efforts against violent extremism.  So we have not cut off cooperation with the new government, but we can and will persistently press for reforms that the Egyptian people have demanded.
 
And meanwhile, look at a country like Burma, which only a few years ago was an intractable dictatorship and hostile to the United States — 40 million people.  Thanks to the enormous courage of the people in that country, and because we took the diplomatic initiative, American leadership, we have seen political reforms opening a once closed society; a movement by Burmese leadership away from partnership with North Korea in favor of engagement with America and our allies.  We’re now supporting reform and badly needed national reconciliation through assistance and investment, through coaxing and, at times, public criticism.  And progress there could be reversed, but if Burma succeeds we will have gained a new partner without having fired a shot.  American leadership.
 
In each of these cases, we should not expect change to happen overnight.  That’s why we form alliances not just with governments, but also with ordinary people.  For unlike other nations, America is not afraid of individual empowerment, we are strengthened by it.  We’re strengthened by civil society.  We’re strengthened by a free press.  We’re strengthened by striving entrepreneurs and small businesses.  We’re strengthened by educational exchange and opportunity for all people, and women and girls.  That’s who we are.  That’s what we represent.  (Applause.)  
 
I saw that through a trip to Africa last year, where American assistance has made possible the prospect of an AIDS-free generation, while helping Africans care themselves for their sick.  We’re helping farmers get their products to market, to feed populations once endangered by famine.  We aim to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa so people are connected to the promise of the global economy.  And all this creates new partners and shrinks the space for terrorism and conflict. 
 
Now, tragically, no American security operation can eradicate the threat posed by an extremist group like Boko Haram, the group that kidnapped those girls.  And that’s why we have to focus not just on rescuing those girls right away, but also on supporting Nigerian efforts to educate its youth.  This should be one of the hard-earned lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, where our military became the strongest advocate for diplomacy and development.  They understood that foreign assistance is not an afterthought, something nice to do apart from our national defense, apart from our national security.  It is part of what makes us strong.
 
Ultimately, global leadership requires us to see the world as it is, with all its danger and uncertainty.  We have to be prepared for the worst, prepared for every contingency.  But American leadership also requires us to see the world as it should be — a place where the aspirations of individual human beings really matters; where hopes and not just fears govern; where the truths written into our founding documents can steer the currents of history in a direction of justice.  And we cannot do that without you.
 
Class of 2014, you have taken this time to prepare on the quiet banks of the Hudson.  You leave this place to carry forward a legacy that no other military in human history can claim.  You do so as part of a team that extends beyond your units or even our Armed Forces, for in the course of your service you will work as a team with diplomats and development experts.  You’ll get to know allies and train partners.  And you will embody what it means for America to lead the world.
 
Next week, I will go to Normandy to honor the men who stormed the beaches there.  And while it’s hard for many Americans to comprehend the courage and sense of duty that guided those who boarded small ships, it’s familiar to you.  At West Point, you define what it means to be a patriot.
 
Three years ago, Gavin White graduated from this academy. He then served in Afghanistan.  Like the soldiers who came before him, Gavin was in a foreign land, helping people he’d never met, putting himself in harm’s way for the sake of his community and his family, of the folks back home.  Gavin lost one of his legs in an attack.  I met him last year at Walter Reed.  He was wounded, but just as determined as the day that he arrived here at West Point — and he developed a simple goal.  Today, his sister Morgan will graduate.  And true to his promise, Gavin will be there to stand and exchange salutes with her.  (Applause.) 
 
We have been through a long season of war.  We have faced trials that were not foreseen, and we’ve seen divisions about how to move forward.  But there is something in Gavin’s character, there is something in the American character that will always triumph.  Leaving here, you carry with you the respect of your fellow citizens.  You will represent a nation with history and hope on our side.  Your charge, now, is not only to protect our country, but to do what is right and just.   As your Commander-in-Chief, I know you will.
 
May God bless you.  May God bless our men and women in uniform.  And may God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)
 
END
11:08 A.M. EDT