Tagged: PolicyHumanitarianAid

End of milk quotas: cities and regions are concerned about the implications and are calling for steps to safeguard the incomes of all producers

Meeting yesterday in Brussels, the members of the Commission for Natural Resources (NAT) of the European Committee of the Regions raised concerns about the impact of the abolition of milk quotas in the EU, particularly in disadvantaged and sensitive regions. In a draft opinion drawn up by René Souchon (FR/PES), President of the Auvergne region, they call on the European authorities to take urgent measures to safeguard the incomes of all milk producers.

In the positions it has previously taken on abolishing milk quotas, the Committee of the Regions (CoR) expressed its concerns about the plan to end quotas on 31 March 2015, and was highly critical of a measure likely to have an adverse impact on the EU’s environmental and territorial cohesion objectives. The CoR is concerned that this will accelerate the concentration of production in the most intensively farmed areas, harming sensitive or disadvantaged regions, including mountain regions but also so-called “intermediate” crop-growing and cattle-breeding regions. These fears are largely confirmed by the Commission’s latest report (published in June 2014) on the development of the market situation in the milk sector. “In light of the milk surplus and low prices recorded since summer 2014, the outlook is extremely worrying because in many Member States and regions, milk production is an essential pillar of the regional economy and of agricultural added value”, emphasised the rapporteur René Souchon, before adding, “It is essential to ensure a steady income for milk producers throughout the EU in order to maintain agriculture and preserve rural communities in all regions, in the interests of meeting the EU’s territorial cohesion objective”.  

In the draft own-initiative opinion adopted yesterday, NAT members call on the European authorities to take steps to safeguard the income of all milk producers, as is the case in most other major milk-producing countries, such as India, China, Japan, South Korea, Canada and the United States, which have maintained or even strengthened their support and protection for the dairy sector.

The draft opinion calls for the following in the short term:

  • to quantify how many jobs, how much added value and how many public goods would be lost in “intermediate” and disadvantaged zones if milk production was abandoned;
  • to make contracting more effective by expanding the mechanism to the whole industry, including in particular large-scale retailers – contracting seeks to formalise a long-term commercial relationship between a producer and their client with the aim of ensuring adequate production in an outlet;
  • to improve the operation of the European Milk Market Observatory, and put in place the necessary resources for it to become a genuine steering mechanism, and not just a tool for post hoc observation;
  • to immediately enhance the safety net for a limited period in order to cope with the looming crisis, pending the introduction of another mechanism;
  • to take urgent steps to safeguard the income of all milk producers, and to examine in particular the European Milk Board proposal.

In the medium term:

  • to harmonise the compensation payments for natural handicaps , financed 100% by the EU budget, to restore milk collection aid, to support the promotion and development of the “Mountain produce” label for dairy products, subject to an adequate level of food self-sufficiency;
  • to encourage the preservation of dairy production , particularly using more mixed and hardy breeds which make use of the grasslands, rather than production from very specialised herds which consume ever increasing amounts of cereals and soya;
  • to draw up a major rural development plan for all countries which have small herds and where dairy farms are in the majority. It seems like their future may be at risk following the abolition of quotas, even though these farms remain the foundation of rural communities.

The NAT commission

The Commission for Natural Resources (NAT) coordinates the work of the Committee of the Regions in the areas of rural development and the common agricultural policy, fisheries and maritime policy, food production, public health, consumer protection, civil protection and tourism. It brings together 112 regional and local elected representatives from the 28 EU Member States. The commission’s chair is José Luís Carneiro (PT/PES), mayor of Bilbao.

East Asia and the Pacific: Remarks at the U.S. Embassy Tokyo

Date: 02/05/2015 Description: Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman addresses reporters during her visit to Tokyo, Japan, on January 30, 2015. - State Dept ImageUNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Good afternoon. It’s terrific to be here, but let me start actually on a more sober note – I want to express the condolences of my country, the President of the United States, the Secretary of State, and all of my countrymen for the loss of yours, and our fervent hopes and prayers that Kenji Goto returns home safely. Unfortunately, the United States has been through this sort of experience, and we know how difficult it is. We are in solidarity with Japan in every way.

I have had excellent conversations here in Japan. As was noted, this is the last stop on a long trip. It actually began not here in northeast Asia, but in Berlin for a G7 political directors’ meeting. I was in Zurich, for two days of negotiations with Iran, and then in Beijing, Seoul, and now Japan.

I have taken this as my first trip in 2015 because the President and the Secretary, this administration and I are very focused on the Asia-Pacific rebalance. And it made sense that we begin a series of what will be high-level visits throughout this year, in recognition of that rebalance. Our alliance with Japan – the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in Asia – continues to mature and develop. We are modernizing our security alliance through investments in new capabilities. We’re also revising the 1997 U.S-Japan Defense Guidelines to further ensure Japan’s security, improve interoperability, advance our cooperation with other partners, and enhance our contributions to peace and security.

Meanwhile, we’re enhancing our economic relationship, and we are two of the most fundamental economies in the world. We are doing this both bilaterally and regionally, by negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). And I am very optimistic that TPP will in the near future come to a positive point of closure. President Obama has reiterated very recently his commitment to working with Congress to secure a trade-promotion authority, as well as the importance of concluding this ambitious TPP to support jobs and economic growth in all the TPP economies.

Through TPP, our two countries are also helping lead the nation and the region to higher standards for trade. And to achieve these ambitious goals, we’re also working to resolve the remaining bilateral issues between us. In my recent trip in the region, it’s been clear to me that everybody wants to become part of TPP over time; and that TPP is a magnet for the development of trade and a strong economy here in Asia.

Our negotiators have made a lot of progress in recent weeks. There are some tough issues remaining. We are all working to resolve these as soon as possible, so that together we can reap the economic benefits of this agreement.

Regional prosperity, of course, goes hand-in-hand with security. You can’t have prosperity without security, and it’s hard to have security without prosperity. I just came, as I mentioned, from Beijing and Seoul. There is a natural imperative to work together to address threats like North Korea’s banned nuclear and missile programs, and to lower tensions in the East and South China Seas. We are working to build an effective regional architecture, including through institutions like ASEAN, the East Asia Summit, and APEC. We do this because these institutions work for principles of fairness and rule of law and against the notion that might makes right. We know they are essential to peace and prosperity and to the security of all countries, large and small.

Beyond our bilateral and regional work, we are also strengthening our global partnership to counter violent extremism. Japan has played a critical role in the global coalition against ISIL and provided very generous humanitarian assistance across the affected area. Prime Minister Abe’s trip to the Middle East in mid-January further advanced Japan’s engagement on this issue. And needless to say, fighting the terror of ISIL is a top priority for all of us in the world.

Japan has also, helpfully, condemned the Russian annexation of Crimea and supported strong sanctions to deter continued Russian aggression in Ukraine. Japan has also demonstrated firm commitment to the people of Ukraine, providing humanitarian assistance and critical financial support to the Ukrainian government.

We are also two of the biggest contributors to the Green Climate Fund, which helps developing countries counter the impact of climate change. This is one of the most crucial issues in the year ahead, as we approach the Paris conference, with Japan having pledged $1.5 billion to the Green Climate Fund.

On Ebola, Japan over the last year has donated about $150 million and also provided medical professionals to the WHO response. Japan has worked to alleviate health challenges and poverty across Africa and, quite frankly, across the world, for many years.

Throughout the past decades, Japan has demonstrated firm support for upholding human rights and democratic principles throughout the world.

Of course, the real foundation of our relationship is formed by the ties between our people. When I was a high school student, my pen pal – we used to have pen pals then – no Twitter, no Internet, no social media – my pen pal was a young Japanese schoolgirl. That was my introduction to Japan. Thousands of students make the journey between our two countries each year, and we want more, because they make lifelong friendships through those experiences. Unfortunately, the numbers of Japanese students in the United States are down from their peak in the 1990s, and while they are up for Americans going east, the absolute numbers are still low. In recognition of the seriousness with which both countries take this issue, our governments formed a taskforce that issued a variety of recommendations to increase student exchanges. We’re working with our Japanese partners to implement those recommendations.

In closing these brief remarks, I want to note – as I know you are all aware – that this is the year of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. It offers us an opportunity to celebrate the stunning success of the U.S.-Japan partnership over these past 70 years – a partnership that has fostered, and continues to promote, peace and prosperity across the region. We welcomed Prime Minister Abe’s New Year’s remarks. I believe firmly that all parties have an interest in working together in handling commemorations this year in a way that truly promotes reconciliation and strengthens relationships.

With that, let me re-emphasize our belief that whatever challenges arise, you will find Japan and the United States side by side, meeting them together. I look forward to continuing my work with my Japanese counterparts, and I look forward to your questions. Thank you.

QUESTION: My name is Mochizuki. I’m with the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun. Thank you very much for doing this, and welcome to Japan. Let me start with a question about ISIL, the Islamic State. As you know, the Japanese government has been struggling to release Kenji Goto, who has been taken hostage by ISIL for a long time. And now the Jordanian government, who has been cooperating with Japan, is now saying that they can swap the prisoner in Jordan who is a terrorist in prison for 10 years, with the Jordanian pilot who has been taken hostage by the ISIL. So my question is, do you agree with such a kind of swap between prisoners and hostages? And also, we really want to express our gratitude to you because you expressed your solidarity with the Japanese people, but what kind of support can we expect from the U.S. government with this situation? Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: I think you will all appreciate and understand that it is best for me not to answer your question – that what is most important right now is our support for the Japanese people and for Japan’s government and to do everything to bring Kenji Goto home. We will leave that to the discussions that are going on and the decisions that are being made by the government of Japan.

QUESTION: Isabel Reynolds from Bloomberg. On the same topic, you mentioned the Prime Minister’s speech in the Middle East and how you welcomed Japan’s contributions to the War on Terror. Are you at all concerned that the fact that this hostage crisis came immediately after that speech would make Japan waiver in its commitment to the War on Terror?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: There is nothing I have seen and nothing I have heard in my meetings here or in all of my contacts and discussions with my colleagues that leads me to any other conclusion but that Japan, like every other country in the world, believes strongly that the threat of terror must end and that all countries must do whatever we can to stop this inhumane set of acts.

QUESTION: Hello, my name is Kazuhiro Kuge from Kyodo News. Thank you for this opportunity. My question is about the meeting with Mr. Sugiyama tonight. What will be the main agenda of the meeting with Mr. Sugiyama, and could you give us some examples and details, if possible?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: In all of my discussions today – which have been excellent, including with your national security advisor and deputy foreign minister, and with some of your scholars as well, and again at dinner with Sugiyama-san – we have covered a range of issues: bilateral – how to strengthen our alliance to make it even stronger than it already is – and it’s an extraordinary alliance – all of the bilateral concerns and issues that we work on together. We’ve discussed regional issues including some that I mentioned in my opening remarks, and also global issues. We’ve discussed everything from the DPRK, which is both a regional and a global issue, to the Iran negotiations. We have discussed the situation in Ukraine. We’ve discussed the world economy. We have discussed the G7. So everything from the work we’re doing on the U.S-Japan Defense Guidelines to what the world is going to look like in this century. It’s been very wide-ranging – as one would expect in a relationship that is this deep and this strong, where we work side by side on virtually every issue of concern in the world.

QUESTION: Anna Fifield from the Washington Post. On North Korea, I’m sure you heard in Seoul this week that South Korea is very much now in engagement mode talking about dropping sanctions, talking about a summit with Kim Jong-un, and they could hardly be more different from your position, the American position, looking at increasing sanctions, the President talking about the inevitable collapse of North Korea. So how concerned are you about the fact that you allies now seem to be going in different directions and seem to be out of sync on North Korea, and how much does that complicate your efforts to get them back to the nuclear table?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Actually, I think there is absolutely no daylight between us and South Korea, and no daylight among any of the partners that are working as part of the Six-Party process – of course except North Korea, with which there is quite a bit of daylight. But with the other partners: none. And I had extensive discussions in both China and in Seoul, and of course here in Japan, and everyone is on the same page. We are completely supportive of President Park’s initiative to have discussions bilaterally with North Korea. She has said that denuclearization is the topic for those conversations, and we agree that that is the priority, as do all of our partners. Special Envoy Sung Kim was just here in Tokyo meeting trilaterally, and he has also had consultations with other partners including China and Russia. And everyone is on the same page: Denuclearization remains the priority. No one – no one – is taking any pressure off of North Korea. We expect there to be no further provocations, and we expect that North Korea will begin to take concrete steps to show that it is serious about denuclearization and making sure that this threat is removed from northeast Asia and from the world.

QUESTION: My name is Shota Sato. I work for TBS television in Tokyo, but I will ask my question in Japanese.

(Via interpreter) It is the 70th anniversary that we are marking this year after the end of World War II, and Prime Minister Abe intends to issue “Abe’s Statement.” There used to be a Murayama Statement and a Koizumi Statement and so forth, and the outline might be the same but the details will be different from the prime minister’s statement. Do you have any assessment or reaction to this?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: As I said, where the 70th anniversary is concerned, we see this as a time to really mark how much progress has been made in those 70 years and what we all have ahead of us. We understand that history remains, and we know that countries in the region are discussing the past as well as looking ahead to the future. And from the United States’ perspective, whatever the countries together resolve, whatever reconciliation works, whatever will strengthen relationships in the region is a good outcome. And we anticipate that we will have that good outcome, because my sense in all of my talks here in northeast Asia is that everyone wants to look ahead to an even better, brighter, stronger future here in northeast Asia, and in the world.

QUESTION: My name is Sakae Toiyama. I’m from Ryukyu Shimpo, Okinawa press. Let me ask my question in Japanese.

(Via interpreter) We have the Futenma issue in Okinawa with U.S. Forces in Japan. Last November, a governor opposed to the relocation of Futenma to Henoko was elected in Okinawa, and many Okinawans are opposed to the relocation. So I would appreciate your views on this, and what kind of discussion did you have during your stay in Japan about the Futenma relocation? Thank you.

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well of course Futenma came up in my discussions, because it’s an issue of great concern for all of us. The U.S. and Japan have worked very hard to find a resolution that will work for everyone. We expect that the relocation will proceed along the lines that have been agreed, and the U.S. will do everything it can to deal with any impacts that concern the people of Japan.

QUESTION: Anthony Rowley, Singapore Business Times. This is perhaps only peripherally related to today’s subject, but as you are aware, 21 countries recently signed a memorandum of understanding in Beijing tentatively to join what is known as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. Do you expect the United States to support that initiative, and if so, what will be the essential conditions that the United States will require?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Thank you. Actually, the Asian Investment Bank came up in my conversations on this trip. The United States’ position on this is that we will consider any infrastructure structure that helps to increase the prosperity and security of the region. But we want to make sure that any such bank or any such structure lives by international rules and norms, creates a fair playing field, and is in line with the other institutions that currently exist. Don’t replicate, but add to the strength and the value that they hope to bring to the table. So that is the basis on which we believe everyone should take a look at this idea.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, Madame Secretary. Mainichi Newspaper – my name is Omae. One more time, I have a question about ISIL. In the future, which kind of alliance or partnership do you expect with Japan? For instance, the EU is currently discussing the strategy against terrorism, so do you have any particular thing in your mind?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: Well, the expectations – the expectations that I think Japan and every other country of the over 60 countries that are part of the anti-ISIL coalition – want, is to over time – because it will take time – to degrade and then take out ISIL. But this is not just a military campaign. That’s only one part of the anti-ISIL effort. There is also a need for humanitarian assistance, because there are so many refugees and internally displaced people, particularly out of Syria, as a result of ISIL’s actions. There is a need to deal with the issue of foreign fighters, people who go particularly to Syria and even Iraq to fight with ISIL and then may return to their home countries and create terror there – as we have seen unfortunately in the last weeks. There is an effort to counter violent extremism.

What can we do so that young people don’t think their future rests with q terror organization, but rests with a better education and building a strong economy so they have a job? It is also a strategy that involves strengthening and supporting the government of Iraq as it tries to gain control, and maintain control, of its country in the face of the threat of ISIL. So there are many prongs to this effort – stopping the financing mechanisms for ISIL. Countries around the world are doing different things to try to deal with this issue and to ensure that this threat is eliminated. This will take a considerable period of time to achieve, but there is intent from more than just the 60 countries, because many countries are doing this bilaterally or on their own even if they aren’t part of the anti-ISIL coalition.

QUESTION: Nishimura with Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper. Japan is expecting a visit from Russian President Putin this year. What kind of outcome do you expect if it happens with the timing when Russia and Ukraine have a serious issue?

UNDER SECRETARY SHERMAN: The decision about visits is a decision for any country to make, not for the U.S. to make for another country, so I will leave it for Japan to make its own decision. What I will say, which the European Union in its Foreign Affairs Council meeting reinforced yesterday, is that Russian aggression in Ukraine in support of the separatists is continuing and getting worse. The aggression in Mariupol last week that left 30 dead, including women, children, the elderly as well as over 100 injured, is something that must stop. And the European Union yesterday – and we are certainly in concert with this – said the sanctions would continue and that they would consider additional sanctions if this aggression continues.

There are many places where we work with Russia on challenges around the world. Certainly Russia is an important partner in the Six-Party Talks and an important partner in the P5+1 negotiations with Iran, but in Ukraine and on the issue of Ukraine, Russian support for the separatists and for the aggression which has taken place, for the attempt to annex Crimea, is something that should not be happening. The world community is responding to that in every way, as it must.

Thank you.

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STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY LT. GEN. SERETSE KHAMA IAN KHAMA,

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY LT. GEN. SERET…

13/11/14

1. Madam Speaker, before we begin may I request that we observe a moment of silence for those of our citizens who have departed from us during the past year. Thank you. 2. Honourable Members, it is my pleasure to once more present an updated assessment of how Government intends to move Botswana forward by seizing opportunities to secure our future. 3. As this is the first session of the 11th Parliament, let me preface my remarks by welcoming the newly elected members of this Assembly. Let me further congratulate you Madam Speaker on your own election.

STATE OF THE NATION ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY LT. GEN. SERETSE KHAMA IAN KHAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF BOTSWANA, TO THE FIRST SESSION OF THE ELEVENTH PARLIAMENT – “MOVING BOTSWANA FORWARD”

 

INTRODUCTION

 

1. Madam Speaker, before we begin may I request that we observe a moment of silence for those of our citizens who have departed from us during the past year. Thank you.

 

2. Honourable Members, it is my pleasure to once more present an updated assessment of how Government intends to move Botswana forward by seizing opportunities to secure our future.

 

3. As this is the first session of the 11th Parliament, let me preface my remarks by welcoming the newly elected members of this Assembly.  Let me further congratulate you Madam Speaker on your own election.

 

4. Today’s gathering is an outcome of our 11th consecutive general election. As is our tradition, the ballot was conducted in a peaceful, free and fair manner. For this we can once more thank Batswana in general, as well as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and other individuals and organisations that helped to ensure the poll’s success.

 

5. In any democracy elections are the means to the greater end of forming a Government capable of translating the popular will into public service delivery. We who have the honour of sitting in this House are accountable to the hundreds of thousands who entrusted us with their votes. Although divided in their choices, the voters were united by a shared desire for a better future. It is, therefore, our responsibility to ensure that together we deliver that future by at all times putting the national interest before our own.

 

6. Last month my party, the Botswana Democratic Party, was re‐elected on the basis of a detailed manifesto that promised to secure our common future by building on our past achievements. Today, before this House I reaffirm our commitment to honour that pledge.

 

7. In as much as we recognise that a government of and by the people is not an event but a process; this administration shall continue to engage Batswana across the country about their concerns through various fora and media, from the venerable realm of dikgotla to the digital world of interactive online communication. It was as a result of wide-ranging consultation that our manifesto was predicated on what we understood to be our citizens’ core aspirations. These include achieving:

 

• Job creation for sustainable livelihoods and income generation;

• Food security through continued agricultural renewal;

• Expanded access to land and housing ownership;

• Access to world-class quality education that caters to current and future needs;

• Citizen, including youth, economic empowerment;

• Dignity for all through the eradication of poverty;

• Zero tolerance for corruption in all of its manifestations;

• Elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV; and

• Government reform that leverages on the application of new technologies. 

 

8. Each of these commitments is based on realistic analysis of where our country is and needs to go in order to meet the reasonable expectations of its people, while improving our global standing in an ever more competitive world. Taken together they are consistent with our broader vision of achieving inclusive sustainable development that upholds the dignity of all.

 

ECONOMIC OUTLOOK

 

9. Madam Speaker, owing to the prudent economic and financial management by my Government, the country was able to survive the 2008/09 global financial crisis and economic recession with minimum impact on the domestic economy. We were able to save jobs in both the public service and private sector, as well as continued to provide essential public services to our people.

 

10. Having successfully weathered the storm of the economic downturn, we can look forward to better days ahead, with economic growth buttressed by reduced inflation. These positive trends should allow us to revive some of our postponed projects, along with outstanding issues affecting the conditions of service among public employees. Our optimism is in part based on forecasts of continued, albeit still fragile, global economic recovery, with worldwide output projected to grow by 3.3% in 2014 and 3.8% in 2015.

 

11. Turning to the domestic economy, the gross domestic product (GDP) at current prices stood at P124 billion in 2013 and it is projected to expand to P136.5 billion in 2014. In real terms, the GDP grew by 5.8% in 2013, and is projected to grow by 5.2% in the current year, driven by both the mining and non-mining sectors.   Within the non-mining sector, retail and hospitality industries, as well as agriculture are experiencing growth.

 

12. Average national inflation continued to decline from 8.5% in 2011 to 7.5% in 2012 to 5.9% in 2013 and further to 4.5% in September 2014, which is well within the Bank of Botswana objective range of 3 to 6%. This positive trend gives us confidence in our ability to maintain a low inflation environment, which is necessary for domestic enterprises to compete in the global market.

 

13. In terms of our fiscal management, Government succeeded in restoring a balanced budget during 2012/13 financial year, after four years of budget deficits. For the 2013/14 financial year we were able to collect P 48.9 billion, up from the P 41.7 billion received in 2012/13, while total expenditures and net lending for 2013/14 amounted to P 41.73 billion. This resulted in a budget surplus of P7.2 billion, largely due to the good performance of the mineral sector. For 2014/15 a budget surplus of P1.3 billion is currently projected. These savings will allow us to reduce our debt burden and rebuild our financial reserves.

 

14. To sustain a positive balance sheet will, however, require expanded revenues. Here I can report that we were able to collect P48.9 billion in the 2013-14 financial year, up from the P41.7 billion received in 2012-13. The 2013/14 outturn for expenditure and net lending was P41.7 billion.

 

EMPLOYMENT

 

15.  Madam Speaker, to be meaningful to Batswana, economic growth has to be accompanied by expanded employment, which is why our manifesto listed job creation at the top of our aspirations. To reiterate what I said in my own message to the voters, of all our campaign promises tackling unemployment is the most important one. While there has been some progress in recent years, current estimates put unemployment among those 18 and above at just over 17%. Although this reflects a modest reduction since 2007, it has been insufficient to absorb all those seeking employment, especially among our talented youth. We can and shall do more.

 

16. Our Economic Diversification Drive (EDD) is a key instrument for job creation. Since its 2010 inception, EDD has been facilitating employment generating business opportunities by promoting the consumption of local products. While our immediate focus has been leveraging public procurement in support of domestic industries, as we move forward our emphasis will shift to developing greater internal capacity for export-led growth, while continuing to value local goods and services.

 

17.  So far a total of P13.3 billion worth of goods and services were recorded since the inception of the initiative. Out of this figure, the value of local manufacturers and service providers (EDD purchases) amounted to P590.5 million for 2010/2011, P1.8 billion for 2011/2012 and 2012/2013 and P2.3 billion for 2013/2014. Over one thousand enterprises have so far been registered under the EDD Programme, which has contributed to the employment of 28,000 Batswana.

 

18. We have already begun implementing our EDD Medium to Long Term Strategy, to develop sustainable sectors for economic growth and diversification. A leading example is the Leather Sub-sector Strategy, which is focused on the establishment of a Leather Park in Lobatse at a total cost of about P225 million. Government has agreed to finance the park’s primary infrastructure, a Common Effluent Treatment Plant, estimated to cost P102 million, while other components of the project will be financed through private sector investment.

 

19. Government had also budgeted over P20 million to provide temporary assistance for over 12 months to support 34 textile companies, employing 2,912 workers.

 

20. While the nurturing of SMMEs, support for existing industries and value addition remain critical in our achievement of job creation, we further anticipate that over the next few years local formal sector employment will be generated with the emergence of new economic opportunities through the synergies generated by the development growth nodes or clusters across the country.

 

21. In the Chobe region, for example, we anticipate an expansion of opportunities in tourism, construction, transport services and agriculture resulting from the construction of the road and rail bridge at Kazangula and phase one of the water pipeline to Pandamatenga, along with associated infrastructure. It is estimated that when completed these two mega-projects will create over 9000 permanent jobs.

 

22. Additional emerging labour intensive opportunities are already being generated in our urban areas, as reflected in Selebi-Phikwe’s development as a metallurgical hub, the continued growth of Gaborone as a global diamond as well as regional technical services centre, and Francistown’s growth as a nexus for trade and transport. We further anticipate additional jobs through synergies generated by new mining activities, the continued expansion of commercial agriculture and the development of Trans-Kgalagadi road and potential rail corridor.

 

COMPETITIVENESS    

 

23. A key to unlocking these job creation opportunities will be increasing our global competitiveness. To improve our competitiveness ranking in the area of goods market efficiency we have tightened our market monitoring for greater efficiency in the provision of goods and services, while the Competition Authority is reviewing mergers and potential cartel activity involving both local and foreign companies.

 

24. Madam Speaker, job creation is inevitably linked to investment. In this respect the latest FDI Intelligence report indicates that Global Greenfield FDI showed signs of recovery, increasing by an estimated 11% from 2012 to 2013. The increase in local investment has been even greater, with UNCTAD’s 2014 World Investment report showing Botswana having grown by 27% in 2013.

 

25.  The Botswana International Trade Centre (BITC) continues to promote our country as a competitive location for investment, making business contacts and generating leads. During the 2013-2014 financial year, BITC helped realise a total combined investment capital of just over 1 billion pula, of which P 642 million was from foreign direct investment (FDI) and P449 million came from new domestic investments. In 2012/13, BITC further recorded P1.9 billion worth of goods and services exported into the region and beyond, of which P738 million was attributable to financial and international business services by the financial services cluster.

 

26. Botswana was ranked number one in the 2014 Baseline Profitability Index, surpassing Hong Kong as a location for medium to long term returns on investment. In essence the Index suggests that investors can expect to do well here once they have established themselves in our market.

 

27. Government is, furthermore, working to limit the number of licenses and permits, while allowing mixed land use zoning, adopting risk based approach for Environmental Impact Assessments and Management Plans, and decentralising the management of electricity connections.

 

28.  Government has also embarked on a National Work Ethic programme to promote productivity. So far, 254 facilitators have been assessed to implement the programme, which commenced in May 2014.

 

29. The drafting of a Bill which will provide the legal framework for the establishment of Special Economic Zones and the Special Economic Zone Authority is being finalized.

 

30. The Rural Development Council (RDC) has been upgraded as the national consultative body to promote and coordinate the implementation of rural development policies and programmes. As a result community based projects such as the Zutshwa Salt Project and the Mogobane Irrigation Scheme, to mention some, have been resuscitated.

 

CITIZEN EMPOWERMENT

 

31. Madam Speaker, it is pleasing to note that to date, CEDA has funded 5,462 enterprises with a total value of nearly P8.55 billion, in the process creating over 48,935 thousand jobs.  During the 2013/14 financial year, CEDA assisted 151 new enterprises with a total monetary value of P152 million, collectively generating 1042 new jobs.

 

32. Since its inception, LEA has also facilitated the creation of 4995 new jobs, including 568 in the ongoing financial year. The Authority has further trained a total of 9,317 entrepreneurs. In an effort to inculcate an entrepreneurial culture, LEA embarked upon the Entrepreneurship Awareness Workshops among secondary school leavers, vocational trainees and prison inmates; over 26,000 of whom have been trained.

 

33. Madam Speaker, through the Botswana Bureau of Standards (BOBS), we have encouraged our small and medium enterprises to implement quality assurance activities within their businesses. Progress has been made in certification of goods especially in the building and construction industry. To further ensure that prescribed goods entering our borders comply with domestic standards, a BOBS office has been opened at the Tlokweng Border.

 

RULE OF LAW

 

34. Madam Speaker, adherence to the rule of law remains a cornerstone to our national development. It is thus encouraging that independent comparative surveys, as well as domestic polling, consistently place us among the best in the world as well as first in Africa in terms of our upholding the rule of law while ensuring the safety and security of all our citizens. These surveys include:

 

• 2014 Ibrahim Index of African Governance, where we ranked first in the category of safety and security;

• World Justice Project’s 2014 Rule of Law Index, where we were ranked 25th in the world as well as first in Africa;

• 2014 Global Peace Index where we were at 36th place, ranking above half of European countries surveyed;

• 2014 Legatum Index for Governance and Rule of Law, where we were ranked 28th in the world; and

• 2013 Global Democracy Index, where besides ranking 35 out of 167 countries we achieved a near perfect score in the area of civil liberties.

 

35.  In light of such reputable findings it is unfortunate to say the least that some individuals, working through foreign as well as domestic media, including rumour mongering on social media, have attempted to instil the perception of Batswana living in fear. This is in an apparent effort to undermine this country’s longstanding and shared record of peace, order and good Government.

 

36. While the mass circulation of false and malicious reports intended to incite undue alarm may be aimed at promoting the political agenda of some, it is at the collective cost of tarnishing the image of the country as a whole. It is also a threat to the economy we all must depend upon for our livelihoods. Such disinformation should therefore be rejected with contempt by all peace-loving Batswana. All citizens, residents and potential visitors to Botswana can be confident that this Government will continue to both abide and uphold the rule of law without fear or favour.

 

37. Let me, nonetheless, also observe that we have not, and shall not, allow past achievements or international accolades to breed complacency as we recognise that, here as elsewhere, criminal activity is constantly evolving and increasingly sophisticated. We therefore remain determined to pursue a zero tolerance approach to all forms of criminal activity, including corruption.

 

38. To counter emerging domestic and trans-national challenges the Police Service has deployed integrated law enforcement strategies to combat all forms of criminality and anti-social behaviour. This has involved an ongoing redirection of resources to deal with violent and intrusive, cross border and cyber based criminal activities.

 

39. Whilst total recorded crime excluding road traffic violations rose by 4.7% during the year 2013, significant reductions were, however, registered in respect of violent and intrusive crimes.  Offences in this category, which included burglary, store breaking, robbery, house breaking, threats to kill, murder, rape, motor vehicle and stock theft, declined by 15.4%.

 

40. Road traffic management poses an additional policing challenge. Analysis of road accidents shows a youth bias, expressed in reckless driving, often aggravated by the influence of alcohol. As a result of the increase in the intensity of road policing initiatives, the number of detected road traffic offences rose by 32.4%, while there was a corresponding decrease in the number of fatal road accidents by 2.6%.

 

41. Madam Speaker, the Department of Prisons and Rehabilitation continues to improve security in the prisons and rehabilitation of offenders. While overcrowding has been a problem in some of the Prison institutions, there has been substantial reduction in congestion since 2008. In June 2014 there were 3824 offenders held in prisons, which was 13% below the authorised holding capacity.

 

42. Madam Speaker, the internal and external challenges of today’s constantly changing security landscape, call for a structurally aligned, strategically focused and adequately resourced, as well as highly trained and motivated, defence force. The BDF will thus continue to evolve its structures and strategies to defend the nation, while continuing to provide assistance to other law enforcement agencies in combating crime, including poaching.

 

ACCESS TO JUSTICE

 

43. Madam Speaker, as was most recently demonstrated in the Judgments of the High Court and the Court of Appeal upholding the constitutionality of the Standing Orders of this very House, our Judiciary continues to independently and effectively deliver on its constitutional mandate of settling disputes, both large and small, without fear or favour.  This Government will, as always, respect decisions of the Courts and expects all citizens to do the same.  Equally, we must all display tolerance and recognize everyone’s right to approach the Courts for the resolution of any legal issue no matter how strongly we may disagree.

 

44. To improve everyday access to justice several special court projects like the stock theft, maintenance, traffic, small claims and most recently corruption court have been put in place so as to speed up and improve the case disposal rates, while promoting greater access to justice by simplifying court rules and processes to make them more user friendly.  In addition a Court Annexed Mediation will be in place by the end of the current financial year.  This f

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

1:49 p.m. EDT

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

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

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

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

Lara.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: I —

QUESTION: — nature of the conversation was or —

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

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Marie?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

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

QUESTION: Go ahead.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Can I go back to Maliki very —

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

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

MS. HARF: Since yesterday.

QUESTION: — since yesterday, is there a concern —

MS. HARF: There may have been, though.

QUESTION: Right.

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

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

MS. HARF: Well, I —

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay.

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

QUESTION: Right.

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

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

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

Lara.

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

MS. HARF: I am not. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Okay.

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

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Marie —

MS. HARF: His house in Baghdad?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: I’ll check.

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

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: Have we discussed Iraq?

QUESTION: Iraq, sorry.

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

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

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

QUESTION: Thank you.

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

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: Should Iran have the right to small arms —

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: One on Afghanistan?

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: So the government has —

MS. HARF: Thirty days.

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

MS. HARF: Well, there’s —

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

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

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

MS. HARF: Exactly.

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

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

QUESTION: Well, the Iraqis.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Yeah, but —

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

QUESTION: I understand that.

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: I’m aware of the history.

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

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: There are senior people who have —

QUESTION: Who – can you —

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

QUESTION: Why can’t you say —

MS. HARF: Because we —

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

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

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

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

Yeah.

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

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

QUESTION: I’m all about big thoughts today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay.

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

MS. HARF: In what way?

QUESTION: Political influence.

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: We’re working on it.

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

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

QUESTION: Right. But there have also been —

MS. HARF: Strikes.

QUESTION: — (inaudible) strikes.

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: No.

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

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

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

MS. HARF: Yes, yes.

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

MS. HARF: Yeah.

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

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

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

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — or have the manpower to do.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

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

QUESTION: And where would people go?

QUESTION: Marie, you mentioned —

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: So land is a possibility?

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

QUESTION: Everything.

MS. HARF: Everything, yes.

QUESTION: Okay.

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

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: On Afghanistan?

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: Let me check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

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

QUESTION: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: A DART team.

QUESTION: DART team.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does that mean —

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

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Anything else on Iraq today?

Afghanistan.

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

MS. HARF: Was that today?

QUESTION: Yes.

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

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

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

QUESTION: And does —

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

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: Well —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we do a new topic?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can we do – talk about Russia?

MS. HARF: We can.

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: Right.

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

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

QUESTION: Marie, the way I saw the —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

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

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

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Thanks.

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

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

QUESTION: Thanks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes.

QUESTION: Change of topic?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: We believe —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Do you know how much that amounts to?

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

QUESTION: Okay. Can you take that?

MS. HARF: I will check.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

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

MS. HARF: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: Savagery?

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

MS. HARF: Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scott.

QUESTION: Burma?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

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

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

QUESTION: — ASEAN Regional Forum?

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

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

QUESTION: But don’t you think the —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

(Laughter.)

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

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

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

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

QUESTION: Even if —

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

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

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

QUESTION: The inmates are running the asylum.

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

QUESTION: Okay.

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

QUESTION: Fine.

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

QUESTION: No doubt.

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

QUESTION: No doubt. But —

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

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

MS. HARF: I don’t.

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

MS. HARF: Okay, Elise.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Let’s take a step back.

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

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

QUESTION: But if you’re —

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

QUESTION: But how do you —

MS. HARF: I really don’t.

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

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

MS. HARF: I’m sorry.

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

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

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

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

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

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: But how does allowing this person to benefit –

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

QUESTION: — encourage further reforms?

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

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

MS. HARF: Not at all.

QUESTION: — to the government that yeah, well —

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

QUESTION: Okay. Well, we can agree —

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

QUESTION: I’m not exhausted.

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

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

MS. HARF: I can check.

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

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t.

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

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

QUESTION: There’s just two.

QUESTION: Can we – let me ask —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SECRETARY KERRY: Can I add one thing to that?

FOREIGN MINISTER BISHOP: Sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you want to talk to the security?

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

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

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

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

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

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.

# # #

Daily News of 2014-07-31

MEX 14 / 31.07

DAILY NEWS

31 / 07 / 14

G-7 Leaders Statement on Ukraine

G-7 leaders joined yesterday in expressing their grave concern about Russia’s continued actions to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence. “This week, we have all announced additional coordinated sanctions on Russia, including sanctions on specific companies operating in key sectors of the Russian economy. We believe it is essential to demonstrate to the Russian leadership that it must stop its support for the separatists in eastern Ukraine and tangibly participate in creating the necessary conditions for the political process.”, said G-7 leaders in a joint statement. “We remain convinced that there must be a political solution to the current conflict, which is causing rising numbers of civilian casualties. We call for a peaceful settlement of the crisis in Ukraine, and underline the need to implement President Poroshenko’s peace plan without any further delay.”

Read the full statement online .

June 2014: Euro area unemployment rate at 11.5%; EU28 at 10.2%

The euro area (EA18) seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 11.5% in June 2014, down from 11.6% in May 2014, and from 12.0% in June 2013. This is the lowest rate recorded since September 2012. The EU28 unemployment rate was 10.2% in June 2014, down from 10.3% in May 2014, and from 10.9% in June 2013. This is the lowest rate recorded since March 2012. These figures are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.
Eurostat estimates that 25.005 million men and women in the EU28, of whom 18.412 million were in the euro area, were unemployed in June 2014. Compared with May 2014, the number of persons unemployed decreased by 198 000 in the EU28 and by 152 000 in the euro area. Compared with June 2013, unemployment fell by 1.537 million in the EU28 and by 783 000 in the euro area. European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion László Andor commented: “The unemployment figures for June 2014 confirm the first signs of economic recovery we have been seen in Europe over the past year. But while job destruction seems to have come to a halt, the reduction of unemployment has only been very modest so far. Our objective must be to create the right macroeconomic conditions for sustainable recovery and for Member States to implement structural reforms such as the Youth Guarantee to ensure that the recovery is job-rich. Only then will we see the creation of hundreds of thousands of jobs every month, and an end to these excessively high and unacceptable levels of unemployment.”

Other news

Bank transfers: Single Euro Payments Area to bring easier payments and transfers in euro area from 1 August

The Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) creates a true European Single Market for retail payments in euro where and transfers, direct debits and payments between Member States are as easy and fast as the equivalent domestic transactions. It will become operational in all eurozone countries on 1st August 2014. It will also apply to euro-denominated transactions in non-eurozone countries from 30th October 2016. SEPA will greatly facilitate euro payments for citizens and businesses and increase competition between banks.

Commission adopts French programme to use €499 million from Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived

The European Commission has approved today the French Operational Programme to use the new Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived (FEAD). France, the first Member State to have its FEAD programme adopted, will receive 499 million euros in current prices in the period 2014-2020 to support the provision of food aid to those most in need in the country (complemented with €88 million from national resources). Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor, commented: “I welcome the swift adoption of the French operational programme. The Fund for European Aid to the Most Deprived will play a key role to help Europe’s most vulnerable citizens with food or other basic goods. In many Member States severe material deprivation is on the rise and many households cannot afford a meal. I am looking forward to approving the programmes of all the other Member States, so that the rest of the 3.8 billion euros available can be put to the best use in our fight against poverty”.

Protecting Intellectual Property Rights: Customs authorities detain nearly 36 million fake goods at EU borders in 2013

Customs authorities in the EU detained almost 36 million items suspected of violating intellectual property rights (IPR) in 2013, according to the Commission’s annual report on customs actions to enforce IPR. Although this is less than previous years, the value of the intercepted goods still represents more than € 760 million. Today’s report also gives statistics on the type, provenance and transport method of counterfeit products detained at the EU’s external borders. See also the Q&A: MEMO/14/501 .

EU develops new driverless car parking system – so you never waste another minute looking for a space

There are only a few minutes before your flight check-in closes, or before your train departs, but you now have to spend precious time hunting for a free space at the airport or station car park. Imagine leaving your vehicle at the main entrance and letting the car do the rest on its own. Researchers from Germany, Italy, the UK and Switzerland are working on this, and successful tests took place at Stuttgart airport earlier this year. €5.6 million of EU funding is invested in the system which will be available in the coming years. Vice President Neelie Kroes said:We need to think ahead and find smarter ways to move, to save time, money and our environment. Who wouldn’t want to save time parking their car?

Compromise found: Part of EU fleet can continue fishing in Mauritanian waters until end of 2014

EU vessels fishing shrimps and small pelagics in Mauritanian waters in the framework of the EU-Mauritania Fisheries Protocol will be able to continue to do so until 15 December 2014. This is part of the compromise which EU negotiators found last night in Nouakchott after the Mauritanian authorities had upheld the position that all EU vessels would have to leave Mauritanian waters as of 1 August 2014. According to the agreement found, Mauritania accepted EU fishing activities for a period of 24 months as part of the bilateral Fisheries Protocol, hence the shrimps and small pelagics fisheries which started in January 2013 can continue, whereas those EU vessels which had been fishing tuna and demersals since August 2012 during a transitional period will need to leave Mauritanian waters today. Furthermore, the EU and Mauritania agreed to continue the discussions for a renewed Fisheries Protocol so to allow the full EU fleet to resume their activities soon. More information

Flash estimate – July 2014: Euro area annual inflation down to 0.4%

Euro area annual inflation is expected to be 0.4% in July 2014, down from 0.5% in June, according to a flash estimate from Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Looking at the main components of euro area inflation, services is expected to have the highest annual rate in July (1.3%, stable compared with June), followed by non-energy industrial goods (0.0%, compared with -0.1% in June), food, alcohol & tobacco (-0.3%, compared with -0.2% in June) and energy (-1.0%, compared with 0.1% in June).

Aides d’État: la Commission conclut que la cristallerie belge Val Saint-Lambert a reçu des aides d’État incompatibles; autorise la vente de certains de ses actifs

La Commission européenne a conclu que certaines des mesures d’aide octroyées par la région wallonne à Val Saint-Lambert SA (VSL) ont conféré à l’entreprise un avantage indu sur ses concurrents, en violation des règles de l’UE en matière d’aides d’État. VSL doit à présent rembourser ce montant, majoré des intérêts, pour atténuer les distorsions de concurrence engendrées par l’octroi de ces aides incompatibles avec le marché intérieur européen.

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of Pirelli’s steel tyre cord business by Bekaert

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the steel tyre cord business of the Italian company Pirelli by its Belgian-based rival NV Bekaert SA. Steel tyre cord is used to reinforce radial tyres and has a major impact on their safety and performance. The Commission concluded that the acquisition would not raise competition concerns as the merged entity’s customers, which are large, multinational tyre companies, have countervailing buyer power which is further strengthened by over-capacity in the steel tyre cord market. In addition the Commission found that Bekaert will continue to face effective competition from a number of other strong competitors located outside the European Economic Area (EEA), in particular in Belarus, Korea and China. The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7230 .

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Uniqa Life by Uniqa Insurance Group.

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Uniqa Life of Italy by the Uniqa Insurance Group (Uniqa) of Austria. Uniqa Life is a life insurance company active only in Italy, while Uniqa is an Austrian-based insurance group offering products and services in all insurance sectors (life, non-life, re-insurance) in a number of European Economic Area (EEA) countries. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not raise competition concerns given the very low combined market shares resulting from the transaction. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7298 .

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of GEA’s heat exchanger business by private equity company Triton

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of sole control over the German heat exchanger business of GEA by the private equity company Triton of Jersey. Triton invests in medium-sized businesses in Northern Europe, in particular in Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and the five Nordic countries. GEA’s heat exchanger business manufactures a broad portfolio of heat exchangers serving different applications such as power, climate and environment or oil and gas. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not raise competition concerns, because the overlaps between the activities of Triton’s portfolio companies and GEA’s heat exchanger business are limited. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7306 .

Mergers: Commission approves acquisition of Doeflex by INEOS in plastic compounding sector

The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Doeflex Compounding Limited (Doeflex) of the UK by INEOS AG (INEOS) of Switzerland. Doeflex is a PVC compounder with a single manufacturing facility located in Swindon, UK, controlled by two individuals. INEOS is a global manufacturer of petrochemicals, speciality chemicals and oil products. Among other activities, INEOS produces commodity S-PVC E-PVC, plasticizers and S-PVC compounds in the European Economic Area (EEA). The Commission examined the effects of the merger on competition in the area of S-PVC compounding and more specifically for the manufacture and sale of dry blended and gelled compounds in North Western Europe, Western Europe and the EEA. S-PVC compounds are intermediate products between S-PVC and end-products. They are obtained by blending additives such as plasticisers, heat stabilisers and pigments with S-PVC. S-PVC compounds are then further processed to produce end-products such as pipes, window and door frames, cables, etc. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not raise competition concerns because the merged entity would continue to face strong competition after the merger and customers would still have sufficient alternative suppliers in the market for S-PVC compounds and its sub-segments. The Commission found, in particular, that other strong players, such as Kem One, which recently acquired Solvay’s compounding business, and Begra will continue to compete with the merged entity in these markets. The Commission also found that in spite of the vertical links between INEOS’s upstream activities in S-PVC, E-PVC and plasticizers and its compounding business, the proposed transaction does not affect INEOS’s ability and incentives to shut out competitors from the S-PVC compounds market or customers from access to supplies because INEOS was already vertically integrated pre-transaction and the addition of Doeflex’s business has limited impact on the pre-existing situation because of its limited size. More information will be available on the competition website, in the Commission’s public case register under the case number M.7132 .

Mergers: Commission clears acquisition of Bull by Atos

The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the acquisition of Bull S.A. by Atos S.E., both of France. Atos delivers IT services, including managed services, business process outsourcing, consulting & systems integration and cloud & enterprise software. Bull is active in the development of High Performance Computing (HPC) supercomputers and uprange servers, in the design, building and managing of data centres, HPC infrastructure and cloud computing solutions, in the consulting as well as integration and maintenance of critical business applications and in the design, consulting and integration of end-to-end security solutions. The Commission concluded that the proposed acquisition would not give rise to competition concerns, given the parties’ moderate combined market positions resulting from the proposed transaction and the presence of a number of strong players that are active on the respective markets. The transaction was examined under the simplified merger review procedure. More information is available on the Commission’s competition website, in the public case register under the case number M.7308 .  

Speeches: ASEAN and America: Partners for the Future

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you, Phil. I’m glad to be in San Francisco, and with all of you here at the Commonwealth Club.

You’re here today because you understand the importance of Asia to America. This is especially evident in a Pacific Coast state like California. More than 5.5 million Asian-Pacific Americans live in California, and millions more Californians do business, study, or otherwise benefit from their ties with the region. California exported nearly $70 billion in goods to the region last year, more than any other state. And Asia matters to the entire United States – to our economy, to our security, to our families.

As a Pacific power and a trading nation, we can’t afford not to be in the Asia-Pacific. That’s why President Obama decided, before he even took office, to institute a long-term, strategic emphasis on the region. And I’m confident that strategy will extend far beyond his presidency, because we have strong bipartisan support for it – both parties understand the importance of Asia.

Now, there is a lot going on in Asia today, from the dramatic rise of China and the historic reforms in Burma, to the ongoing threat from North Korea’s pursuit of nuclear weapons, to the dangerous tensions in the South China Sea.

And while I know that as a topic, “strengthening regional institutions” probably ties for last place with “corporate tax policy” in its headline-grabbing power, it’s one of the most consequential undertakings in terms of American interests. And that’s what I’d like to discuss with you today — namely, the effort to shape a rules-based order that is stable, peaceful, open and free.

First let me say that the region I am responsible for–East Asia and the Pacific–is a diverse one. Northeast Asia, Oceania–which includes Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific island states–and then Southeast Asia, are all quite different.

Northeast Asia is home to two of our important treaty allies – Japan and the Republic of Korea. We’ve modernized defense cooperation with both countries to address the very real threat posed by North Korea. And we’ve deepened economic engagement through free trade agreements such as the one reached with South Korea.

Northeast Asia is also home, of course, to China–with which we’ve dramatically increased our engagement.

I was with Secretary Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and other Cabinet officials earlier this month for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue covering nearly every area of our relationship with China, from concrete steps to combat climate change and wildlife trafficking, to preventing nuclear proliferation on the Korean Peninsula and in Iran, to facilitating business and investment between our two countries.

These exchanges show the conviction of both sides – as the world’s two largest economies, two of the strongest military powers, and the two largest carbon emitters – to cooperate on the world’s toughest problems whenever we can. And just as important, they show our shared commitment to tackle problem areas frankly and openly, instead of merely agreeing to disagree on issues like human rights or intellectual property protection.

Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific island states are extremely important partners. We’ve upgraded our defense cooperation with our Australian treaty ally, and we’re working to create jobs and shared prosperity with both Australia and New Zealand through the TPP trade agreement.

We’re also working with the vulnerable island states to protect the environment. Last month, Secretary Kerry hosted the “Our Ocean” conference, a first-of-its-kind diplomatic effort rallying heads of state, scientists and advocates from the Pacific Island nations and beyond to protect this shared resource.

But in many respects, the dynamic center of the region is Southeast Asia, and the ten countries that make up ASEAN.

Let me first say a few words about each.

Our ally the Philippines is a stable democracy with strong economic growth. We completed an enhanced defense cooperation agreement during President Obama’s visit in April, which enables us to better address common security challenges and provide relief for disasters, such as Typhoon Haiyan. Our economies also continue to grow closer, with two way trade reaching $24 billion last year.

We have strong partners in Indonesia and Malaysia, both pluralistic and tolerant Muslim-majority nations with growing economies. Indonesia’s recent presidential election shows the strength of their democracy. And President Obama’s recent visit to Malaysia highlighted our growing economic, people-to-people, and security ties.

Singapore is an influential and effective economic, diplomatic and security partner. Brunei is a major energy producer that, while small, has been a valuable partner for us on crucial regional issues like renewable energy and free trade.

Vietnam, of course, has a complicated history with the U.S. But our relations are now flourishing. Trade is increasing dramatically as Vietnam’s economy grows. And we’re forging closer security ties, even as we encourage greater political openness and respect for human rights.

We cooperate with Laos and Cambodia on a range of development issues, and we also push them to adhere to global standards of human rights.

With our longtime treaty ally Thailand, despite the recent setback of a military coup, we remain committed to our enduring friendship.

Perhaps no other country shows the promise of this region better than Burma, which has made a turn of historic proportions towards democracy and reform.

But that turn is by no means complete. Burma faces many challenges, and the success of its reform process is by no means certain. Burma is working to negotiate a lasting peace to end the world’s longest running civil war. It is grappling now with the key issue of constitutional reform, of military versus civilian control over its government, and of who it deems eligible to serve as head of state.

It continues to face hard choices in determining how to resolve an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State. On that issue, we have seen some positive movement in the past week, as the government announced its intent to welcome the return of assistance providers, like Doctors Without Borders, and put forth its strategy on how to bring access to livelihoods and security back to populations that have been living tenuously for many months because of ethno-religious violence and discrimination.

Secretary Kerry will be very focused on seeing how this process is proceeding, when he visits in early August. He, and then President Obama when he visits in November, will be keen to get a sense of Burma’s preparedness for its landmark elections next year. The world will be watching, and we will continue to stand with the government and people of Burma as they enter this testing period. So we will continue to press Burma’s leaders to protect and respect all of their peoples, and their human rights and fundamental freedoms. And we will continue to support that country’s transformation.

That’s the overview of Southeast Asia today. The region’s economic dynamism and strategic importance has made it a particular focus of this administration – the ‘rebalance within the rebalance,’ if you will.

These ten countries have many differences, but they are bound by the conviction that they can achieve more together than they can apart. But before we talk about where they’re headed, it’s important to know how they came together.

Today’s ASEAN began in 1967 when the Vietnam War was heating up, and the Cold War seemed never-ending. In this uncertain world, five Southeast Asian nations signed a Declaration that they would support each other as they sought to build prosperous, independent states.

Now, nearly half a century after its founding, ASEAN has doubled to 10 nations with more than 620 million people, and a GDP of $2.2 trillion.

As Southeast Asia has grown and developed, ASEAN’s relations with the U.S. have grown as well. Under our Trade and Investment Framework Agreement signed in 2006, we have deepened our economic ties.

Since President Obama decided in 2009 to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation–a treaty that ASEAN has extended to key neighbors–we’ve deepened our political ties as well. This is shown by the President’s decision to participate annually in the East Asia Summit, as he will again this year in November. This commitment to enhanced engagement with ASEAN is a key feature of the rebalance.

And we’re strengthening our ties with ASEAN across the entire U.S. government. Take this past April, when Secretary Hagel, USAID Administrator Raj Shah, and U.S. Pacific Commander Admiral Sam Locklear hosted defense ministers from the ASEAN nations in Hawai’i. This was the first-ever ASEAN meeting here in the United States–a recognition that our security and prosperity are more intertwined than ever before.

For instance, California already sells over $11.6 billion worth of goods to ASEAN. Exports to ASEAN support more than 90,000 California jobs [in 2012]. And both of those numbers can grow a lot more. Your state also stands to gain from more tourists and students from the region.

And ASEAN matters to the entire United States. We had $206 billion worth of trade in goods last year. ASEAN is our fourth-largest export market and trading partner. With a diaspora reaching across America, the region contributes to our culture. And sitting astride vital trade routes, it is important to our security.

A stable Southeast Asia that meets the aspirations of its people–for economic growth, clean air and water, education, and a voice in how they’re governed–is in America’s national interest. And one of the best, most efficient ways for America to help the region meet its aspirations is by investing in ASEAN.

Strengthening regional institutions is a long-term strategy. We pursue it because it’s essential to building the foundations for progress–from ease of trade, travel and transport, to systems for resolving legal disputes, to the ability to act together on pressing issues like environmental protection. We all benefit from a rules-based system.

Strong institutions harness a powerful force. A force you see in both daily life and in international politics–peer pressure. In fact, ASEAN shows that the best way to create positive peer pressure in the long term is through strong institutions.

ASEAN is working towards forming a cohesive economic community by next year through lower barriers and increased trade volumes with each other. For the U.S. economy, this will mean easier and more efficient market access to all 10 ASEAN countries. And in the longer term, a more prosperous ASEAN will be able to buy more American exports–from farm products to manufactured goods, to services.

Even as ASEAN pursues its ambitious agenda of internal integration, it has taken on the challenge of bringing the entire Asia-Pacific region closer together. This fills an important gap – APEC is a forum for economic cooperation, but there was no forum in the region where countries could deal with political, security, and humanitarian issues.

So in 1997, ASEAN started meetings with Japan, South Korea, and China… then with Australia, India, and New Zealand… and four years ago with the United States and Russia, bringing the number of world leaders attending what is now known as the East Asia Summit to 18.

The growth of the East Asia Summit shows ASEAN’s measured advance on the international stage as the hub that connects the region.

Less visible than the leaders’ summit, but even larger, is the ASEAN Regional Forum, an annual gathering of foreign ministers and other senior officials representing 26 countries from Pakistan to the Pacific Rim, and the EU.

This is perhaps the region’s most important ministerial meeting of the year, and it takes place in a few weeks in Burma. Secretary Kerry and his counterparts will discuss political and security issues, and begin fleshing out the agenda for the East Asia Summit, or EAS, which President Obama plans to attend in November.

Why the emphasis on EAS? In Europe, we’ve seen for decades how a region can develop effective institutions tailored to their unique needs, such as NATO and the OSCE. Those organizations have helped tackle regional, political, security and humanitarian problems. We believe the EAS can become the premier forum for addressing pressing issues in the Asia-Pacific region. But it is relatively new, and members are still trying to shape it to increase its usefulness and effectiveness.

We joined EAS because, as an Asia-Pacific nation, we want to be at the table for a strategic discussion about how we build and shape the institution over time.

Let me give you a little preview of the issues that will be at the top of Secretary Kerry’s agenda. We expect to advance collaboration on issues ranging from non-proliferation to humanitarian assistance and disaster response.

Disaster response is incredibly important, since the Asia-Pacific is hit by 70 percent of all natural disasters, costing the region $68 billion annually over the past ten years.

We have worked closely with partners, including China, on improving regional responses to problems and accidents such as oil spills, for example. We are supporting the EAS declaration on Rapid Disaster Response, helping spread the lessons learned in the Philippines from the recent Super-typhoon Haiyan, and working to improve the capabilities of ASEAN’s Centre for Humanitarian Assistance and disaster relief.

We’ve also teamed up with regional partners to develop a strategic plan for exercises that will prepare us to better coordinate delivery of life-saving relief in future disasters. And we are preparing to host an ARF climate change adaptation workshop to help countries protect their people from this growing problem.

In addition to advancing these areas of collaboration, we will have frank discussions about pressing political and security challenges. In recent months, the main security challenge facing ASEAN has been tensions in the South China Sea.

This is, of course, most important to the countries with overlapping territorial and maritime claims there. Let me note up front that the U.S. is not a claimant and does not take a position on others’ claims to land features in the South China Sea. So the United States can be impartial. And we are impartial; we are not taking one claimant’s side against another.

However, peace and stability in the South China Sea is important to the international community, because the South China Sea is essential to the global economy. Up to 50 percent of the world’s oil tanker shipments, and over half of the world’s merchant tonnage, pass through the South China Sea. National interests like freedom of navigation, international law, the peaceful settlement of disputes, and unimpeded commerce are at stake.

Rival maritime and territorial claims have existed here for decades, as countries jostle over islands, shipping lanes, historically rich fisheries, and more recently, oil and gas reserves.

The claimants have, at various times, shown that cooperation in the South China Sea area is possible. They have jointly explored for and managed resources. The Philippines and Indonesia peacefully settled a 20-year maritime boundary dispute just outside the Sea earlier this year. China and Vietnam have settled similar issues in the past. And some claimants have jointly developed energy resources further away from disputed land features.

In 2002, the ASEAN nations and China signed a Declaration on Conduct in the South China Sea. The Declaration, among other things, said that the parties would resolve disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law, and would refrain from actions that would escalate disputes, such as setting up new outposts on unoccupied features. And they agreed to work toward a more detailed Code of Conduct.

But tensions have flared over the years as well, and this year, they are running high. No claimant is solely responsible for the state of tensions. However, big and powerful countries have a special responsibility to show restraint. China’s recent pattern of assertive, unilateral behavior has raised serious concerns about China’s expansive claims, and its willingness to adhere to international law and standards.

Tensions spiked recently when China sent a deepwater drilling rig and armed ships into an area near the Paracel Islands that Vietnam also claims. The resulting weeks-long confrontation resulted in damaged ships, including the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel, and damaged relations, including anti-Chinese riots in Vietnam.

At the same time, public evidence indicates the claimants are upgrading outposts on small land features in the South China Sea. What worries me is that China’s projects are far outpacing similar upgrades that other claimants are making. This important, resource-rich area should not be heavily militarized.

And actions off the water can raise tensions as well.

All parties should be able to bring disputes for adjudication under international law if they conclude that regular diplomatic efforts will not succeed. The Philippines has done this in a dispute with China over the validity of its claim that a 1948 Nationalist Chinese map “proves” that China owns the land and water within a “9 dash line” in the South China Sea.

But instead of engaging constructively and arguing its case as the Tribunal has proposed, China has pressured the Philippines to drop its case, and attempted to isolate the Philippines diplomatically.

International law, not national power, should be the basis for pursuing maritime claims in the South China Sea.

The United States works to lower tensions and help the parties peacefully manage their disputes in several ways. We have told the claimants – including the Chinese – directly and at the highest levels, of our growing concern. And we’ve encouraged all sides to avoid provocations and make clear claims based on international law.

We’re working with ASEAN and the international community to promote regional structures and arrangements, like a meaningful Code of Conduct, to lower tensions and manage disputes.

Rules and guidelines work best when they’re agreed to by the parties, through institutions that build habits of cooperation.

The U.S. is also investing more than $156 million in the civilian maritime capabilities of allies and partners in the area over the next two years. This includes equipment, training, and infrastructure. And it augments our own security presence in the region, which has been enhanced by the rebalance.

These are steps the U.S. is taking. But the claimants are the ones who must manage and settle the disputes. They are the ones who must generate the peer pressure – who must hold themselves to high standards, and then set an example for each other.

For instance, China and ASEAN already committed under the 2002 Declaration on Conduct to avoid activities that “would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

However, these problematic activities are not well defined. We are urging China and the other claimants to have a conversation about what activities are acceptable to each of them – both to help reduce tensions now, and manage differences in the long run.

We have called for claimant states to define and voluntarily freeze problematic activities. The exact elements of a freeze would be decided by consensus among the claimants, and would not prejudice the competing claims.

We’ve offered these ideas, in greater detail, both in public and in private. And we plan on advancing this important discussion at the upcoming ASEAN Regional Forum meeting in Burma.

Over time, strong institutions can influence the conduct of all their members, helping to avoid conflict and incentivize peaceful resolution of disputes. We see beneficial outcomes of positive peer pressure with environmental issues, in trade, and human rights. It doesn’t work every time, but it’s responsible for enormous progress.

The Asia-Pacific region has almost limitless potential, if it can avoid the pitfalls ahead. Strong institutions are key – not just to avoid and resolve disputes, but also to lower barriers to trade, and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The U.S., as a resident Pacific power and participant in many of the region’s institutions, will do all we can to strengthen those institutions even further.

We do this through our alliances and our security partnerships–and through our growing business and people-to-people ties, in which California plays an incredibly large role. And together, the American people and our government will continue to help provide a foundation of peace and stability on which the region can grow.

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – July 28, 2014

1:36 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Welcome back.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you. I was going to make up a story, but I couldn’t come up with a good one. So I injured it over the course of the last couple of weeks. So this boot will be with me for about six weeks.

With that, I have one item at the top for all of you, and I wanted to – the Secretary, as you know, just returned late Saturday night from a trip that included stops in Egypt, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Paris, and Tel Aviv. And I wanted to just give you an overview of the last 10 days or so, what has transpired and where we stand today.

So let me first reiterate that the objective of the United States has been and remains stopping the rocket fire against Israeli citizens and bringing about negotiations through – that can lead to a longer-term ceasefire. Our first step – our next step, I should say, here that we’re working toward is a humanitarian cease-fire. That’s what the Secretary has been calling for; that’s what the discussion has focused on. That would not only significantly de-escalate the violence, but it would also allow urgently needed food and medicine to the people of Gaza, and that’s one of the reasons we think it’s so important.

As you all know, two weeks ago – about two weeks ago, the Egyptians put forward a cease-fire proposal that was accepted – that was supported by the United States and endorsed, certainly, by Secretary Kerry and accepted by Israel and rejected by Hamas. At that point, the war began to escalate – shortly after, I should say, the war began to escalate dramatically. And there were no serious conversations going on about how to further initiate a cease-fire. Demonstrations were increasing in the West Bank and the situation was spinning out of control. And casualties, as we all know because we all saw press reports on both sides, were increasing and there were no serious negotiations in place.

So in our view as we watched, as violence escalated, there did not appear to be a clear path to a ceasefire or an end to the violence. President Obama, as you all know, asked Secretary Kerry last weekend to travel to the region, which he did late last Sunday night, first to Egypt to build on the Egyptian ceasefire. Every step of the way through this process we’ve been consulting with and coordinating with our allies, including Israeli and Egyptian partners. And over the past week, and I know many of you have been tracking this closely, but Secretary Kerry has remained engaged with many of the key actors in the region, including Prime Minister Netanyahu, President Abbas, President Sisi, and, of course, Ban Ki-moon, in efforts to negotiate a humanitarian ceasefire.

So, as a part of this effort, it was essential to engage, as it has – as has been done in the past, including in 2012, with countries that have the most influential relationship with Hamas. This is what happened, of course, in 2012 and with the Egyptians, and this time the primary interlocutors are the Qataris and the Turks. And so as a part of that effort, the Secretary has been very closely engaged with Foreign Minister Davutoglu and Foreign Minister Attiyah, parties that we feel have the most leverage with Hamas.

So this gets us to late last week. The Secretary was obviously in the region for several days and there were several meetings with all of the interlocutors, including with the Israelis. And as you know, the Secretary traveled there. And let me be clear, during that meeting there were a range of press reports out there. So part of my effort here is to provide accurate information about what happened last week. There was never a formal U.S. proposal presented. As part of our ongoing consultations we sent them a clearly labeled confidential draft of ideas, sent an order to get Israeli comments, as part of an effort closely coordinated with the Israelis to explore a possible basis for a cease-fire.

This draft was – of ideas was based on the Egyptian proposal that they had supported from just a couple of weeks before that. So it was based on – and I shouldn’t say – not just supported, but the Israeli cabinet formally accepted. So we were surprised and were obviously disappointed that a confidential draft was leaked to the press. Our discussion draft and the Egyptian proposal both called for the immediate cessation of hostilities, the opening of broad – of border crossings, and mediation by the Egyptians on other core issues.

It’s also important to note that the Egyptian proposal accepted by the Israeli cabinet did not make any mention of demilitarization or of tunnels or of rockets. That was not in the proposal from two weeks ago that the Israeli cabinet approved and Hamas rejected. It also made no mention of the need for disarmament, and it underscored the need for discussions between Israel and the Palestinians. In effect, this proposal called for Hamas to cease hostilities that – to cease hostilities, and this was a proposal that Israel had accepted 10 days earlier. The main difference was there was additional language on humanitarian assistance for the Palestinians, something that the Israelis have historically supported. It did not include any of the demands that Hamas was making when Secretary Kerry arrived, including the release of prisoners.

Moreover, the document also reflected the need for negotiations to address the issues necessary for an enduring solution to the conflict, meaning there’s a great deal of history here, there’s a great deal of mistrust here. There – the document didn’t address every issue that each side is being presented – has presented or has spoken out about that’s of concern to them. We all know that the Israelis’ position on the importance about demilitarization – we all know their position. That’s a goal, of course, we support. We know the Palestinians care about opening up the crossings and restoring normal life for the people of Gaza. These are exactly the kind of issues that need to be addressed as a part of negotiation.

So that leads us to where we are now. The Secretary has, of course, been very closely engaged, continues to be. He has been over the course of the weekend. He has been this morning as well. Our focus now is on short-term cease-fires that can build on each other. The longer there’s a reduction in violence, the more likely it is that the parties will be able – will come to the table and talk, and that is our focus at this point. The Egyptians remain prepared to host a negotiation in Cairo. We would support that, and of course the United States would participate at a high level.

So over the course of the last week, clearly we’ve seen violence. We’ve – there’s ongoing violence. That’s of concern. That’s why we’re so focused on bringing an end to this. But we’ve also seen engagement and discussion about short-term cease-fires; we’ve seen negotiations with the parties that wasn’t happening. We’ve also seen an increase in international support where, of course – as is evidenced by the Security Council statement. Obviously we’re going to continue working on this, and the Secretary, of course, will remain very closely engaged.

That was long, I realize, but —

QUESTION: Yeah, it was long.

MS. PSAKI: — it’s been a lot that’s been happening.

Go ahead, Matt.

QUESTION: I was going to congratulate you. I think you might have set a record for the length of the opening monologue.

MS. PSAKI: It’s a complicated issue and we think that —

QUESTION: Yeah, can I ask —

MS. PSAKI: — laying out the facts is important. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I ask what compelled you to take up, I don’t know, seven to 10 minutes of your opening here to, I mean —

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, that there has been a lot of confusion out there in reports about what has been happening, what the focus of our efforts is, and what our goal is, and we felt it was important to lay that out.

QUESTION: Well, I mean, you use the word “confusion.” The White House just a little while ago, the Deputy National Security Advisor Mr. Blinken was up there and said that he – it was his opinion, and I presume this is the opinion of the Administration, that some of these leaks were either misinformed leaks or they were attempts to misinform. How unhelpful – or how angry are you? How unhelpful do you believe the Israelis, or at least some Israelis have been in this issue? And how angry are you at what you claim to be a serious misrepresentation of what the Secretary was trying to do?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think let me just reiterate first that the Secretary’s goal is to bring an end from the – to the rocket fire and the rocket attacks coming from Hamas and impacting the people of Israel, and I think that’s important for everybody to remember. This is, I think we’ve certainly noted, the difference between what is discussed privately and what is noted in public accounts from anonymous sources. And no one is calling to complain about the Secretary’s handling of the situation or his engagement in this effort overseas. And our view is it’s simply not the way that partners and allies treat each other.

So it was important, in our view, to lay out on the record what the facts are about what has happened here, and we’re certainly hopeful that we can all focus moving forward on how we achieve a ceasefire and not on other misinformation campaigns.

QUESTION: When you say – so you accuse – you’re accusing at least some in the Israeli Government of waging a misinformation campaign? Is that —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any information on the sources, Matt.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: But obviously there’s a great deal of information out there that’s inaccurate.

QUESTION: When you say that this is not the way friends and allies should treat each other, you’re referring to Israeli treatment of Secretary Kerry and of his – of the Administration’s attempt to get a ceasefire together?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there are obviously some anonymous sources that are out there that are speaking on behalf of the views of the Israeli Government. Whether or not that is an accurate depiction of their position is not for me to make a judgment of, but —

QUESTION: So how serious is this, in terms of jeopardizing the relationship?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think – I think Israel remains an incredibly important partner. The Secretary has been closely engaged in this over the course of the weekend. His – this is not about him, and his view is this is not about him. But I think we all feel that we need to focus on laying out the facts and not undergoing an effort to distort what our effort is focused on here.

QUESTION: The Israeli – the main Israeli – well, there has been a huge chorus of very, very harsh criticism of the Secretary in the Israeli media and in social media as well, claiming – some of it claiming that the Secretary has – is now pro-Hamas and that the only reason that he went into this was to save Hamas. Can you address – the argument goes Hamas was losing militarily, and he comes in and demands an immediate ceasefire, calls for an immediate ceasefire, and then the argument goes that the only reason he’s doing this, the sole reason that he’s doing this, is to save Hamas so that it can live to fight another day, I guess.

MS. PSAKI: Well, thank you for that opportunity, Matt. I’ll say that the Secretary’s reason for engaging in this, as he is, is to end the rocket attacks from Hamas that are going into – that have threatened Israel. That’s his focus. I think anyone would be hard pressed to find a stronger partner and ally with Israel than Secretary Kerry, not just over the course of the last year in his efforts with the peace process, but the entire time he was in the United States Senate.

But one of the reasons I laid that out in great detail, as I did, is because there’s a lot of information that is inaccurate about what our efforts were about, what they were focused on. The reason that he engaged with the Qataris and the Turks, who are, of course, countries that we regularly engage with about a range of issues, was because they – but on this particular issue is because they have an influential role to play in engaging with Hamas. You can’t have a ceasefire where Israel agrees to a ceasefire and the other side isn’t agreeing to a ceasefire. That doesn’t help make Israel safer, and that’s our primary objective.

QUESTION: Okay. It sounds as though you think the Administration believes that someone in Israel or multiple people in Israel were actually trying to sabotage – maybe I’m wrong, tell me if that’s – were actually trying to sabotage a cease-fire. Is that an accurate reading of your —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to ascribe motivations, but certainly I think those who want to support a cease-fire should focus on efforts to put it in place and not on efforts to criticize or attack one of the very people who’s playing a prominent role in getting it done.

QUESTION: All right. I’ll wrap up and let other people —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I have one more question and that is: Why are these critics wrong? Why is it not – why should it not be a part of a cease-fire that Hamas demilitarize and disarm? I mean, it would seem to make perfect sense if that’s the ultimate goal, or not even the ultimate goal. Should – why shouldn’t it be the short-term goal as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think demilitarization is something the United States certainly supports. But in the meantime, people are dying every day, whether it’s children in Gaza or Israeli soldiers. And what we want to see is an immediate end to the violence so we can have a discussion about these core issues. That is certainly one of them the Israelis have presented as an important issue to address, and we support that. But in the meantime, that can’t be a precursor for a cease-fire, and a humanitarian cease-fire that very importantly would allow essential medical and food – medical assistance and food to get in to the people of Gaza.

QUESTION: Sorry, indulge me one more time.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu just gave a speech, which you’re probably aware of, and he said that they won’t stop until they take care of all the tunnels. Is that problematic for you?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the tunnels are an issue that we recognize as a legitimate threat to Israel, and I think all of you are familiar with this issue. But the way we see it, it would be very challenging, as the Israelis experience every day, to wake up and worry about the threat of terrorists coming in through tunnels into your country. They have been working on address it – on addressing the tunnels. We think that they can be addressed in a way that doesn’t escalate combat. So that’s a part of the discussion that’s being had.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to – you mentioned that nobody was ringing to complain about the Secretary’s presence and his efforts. Do you mean nobody on the official side was – no Israeli or Egyptian or Palestinians were complaining, on the Palestinian Authority side?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But how do you explain the torrent of criticism in the Israeli media that Matt already referred to? The Secretary was described to – as a bull in a China shop, that he believes he could just go in and by his mere presence trying to effect a cease-fire. How do you – what do you say to all those critics who just say that he just isn’t the person to be able to negotiate this cease-fire deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s hard for me to ascribe the motivations, but I think it’s important to note that prior to the Secretary’s visit to the region, there were no discussions going on about a cease-fire. There was not a focus in the international community of what was happening on the ground. Of course there’s more work to do. There is – we need to end the violence. We’re not going to be satisfied until that happens. But it does raise the question, not all, but are there some who oppose a cease-fire or don’t want to see a cease-fire happen?

QUESTION: So do you believe – is there any sense, perhaps, that the Secretary, through his failed efforts earlier this year to get a comprehensive Middle East peace treaty, may have in some way hampered or compromised his ability to negotiate in this situation? If a few months ago, both the Israelis and Palestinians felt that they could say no to the Secretary on something which was much broader, does that not give them a renewed focus or ability to say no this time around or something?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not. I don’t think – we don’t think that those two issues have anything to do with each other. I think the fact that the peace process is not currently ongoing has left a vacuum for violence to fill it, but there are also a range of events, as we all know, including the death of the three teenagers, that has increased the tensions in the region. The factor that our – that we feel is different from, say, 2012, are – there’s a couple of factors. And that’s really, I think, what’s making it more challenging.

One is clearly there’s a different relationship between the Egyptian Government and Hamas. Obviously, they have the lead on this. It’s an Egyptian proposal, but the prior government essentially negotiated the ceasefire, and at this point we’re working, of course, through the Qataris and the Turks and in cooperation with the Egyptians. But that’s a different scenario.

There are also different politics on the ground. There’s increased regional tensions. And Israel – their effort has gone farther earlier than it did a couple of years ago. And the Secretary himself, as we were discussing this with him over the weekend, he was engaged, as you may know, in the 2012 effort. And his view is that the process and the dynamic is completely different. And obviously we’re dealing – the different challenging set of circumstances is certainly a contributing factor to our process.

QUESTION: And we talked a little bit about what Israel would like to see out of a ceasefire, including what Israel’s aim is, including getting rid of the tunnels. But on the other hand, is there an acceptance on the American side that Hamas isn’t just going to agree to a ceasefire for a ceasefire’s sake, because they did that in 2012 and there was supposed to be an opening up of Gaza, there was supposed to be a lifting of the blockade, there was supposed to be an opening up of the Rafah Crossing, and that hasn’t happened.

And so this time, I think there’s a sense that they’re holding out for something more. They actually want guarantees that these things will happen. Is there some sympathy in the American – on the American side with that position?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there’s certainly an understanding that the Palestinians want to see greater access, improved economic opportunity; that’s, of course, a reference to the crossings. And certainly, the border crossings would be a part of any discussion. There are other demands that they have put out there. I think our view is that the need for humanitarian – a humanitarian ceasefire is based in part on the fact that there is a dire situation on the ground where there is a need to get in medical assistance, food, that sort of assistance. And in order to have this discussion about those difficult issues, we need to see a de-escalation.

QUESTION: So the bottom line is a ceasefire first, then further negotiations? Is that what you see?

MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Jen, just to follow up on this point. I mean, it’s not only the crossing. You’re aware that there is a siege, basically, that has Gaza cut off from the rest of the world, and it’s in the air, in the sea, fishermen are not allowed to fish and so on. So you do support lifting the siege, at least on the humanitarian basis, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think there are larger issues here that will need to be discussed as a part of a longer-term negotiation. That’s going to be – the Egyptians would have in all likelihood the lead on that. So our – my point is that we’re talking about a ceasefire where those issues are not addressed in advance, because that will delay it further. And what we want to do is de-escalate the tension, put it – bring a pause, so that we can have a discussion about those issues.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, I know you are focused on bringing a pause – as you said, maybe a 24-hour humanitarian cease-fire. But in light or in view of the speech that was just made by Prime Minister Netanyahu and seeing how this whole thing morphed from going after the perpetrators of the kidnapping, and going after the rockets, now going after the tunnel, this thing is really expanding. Are you concerned that there may be a reoccupation of Gaza?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think we’re concerned about the increasing level of violence we’ve seen over the last several weeks. That’s why we’re focused on stopping it. There are a range of issues at play here that are part of the discussion, but again, I think I reiterated what our focus and – is on.

QUESTION: Just very quickly, a follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Are you aware of any efforts that are ongoing now by the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to bring along Hamas members and maybe Islamic Jihad members and go to Cairo to talk to the Egyptians perhaps to refrain their proposal? Are you aware of that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, President Abbas has been very engaged in this process. We know there have been some comments out today about his view, which we’ve been in touch with people close to him and are not accurate, and we expect there’ll be a clarification of those. But we – they have stated, and in fact, one of his top advisors stated yesterday during a Sunday show appearance that they would be willing to engage in a negotiation in Egypt. So I’d point you to that.

QUESTION: Right. And this effort, or at least the effort with the Qataris and Turks and so on, with this now over, is it – do we have something other than that? Do we have a follow-up on that, the meeting in Paris and so on? Do we have anything new?

MS. PSAKI: The effort is ongoing, Said —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: — and the Secretary’s been engaged with all of these parties consistently throughout the weekend, and I expect that will continue through the course of the next several days. And Foreign Minister Davutoglu, Foreign Minister al-Attiyah remain two of the key interlocutors who have influence with Hamas.

QUESTION: Considering how you have spoken to the Egyptians, the Israelis, the Palestinian Authority and (inaudible) and so on, has anyone from the negotiating team been to Gaza to see what is it like on the ground?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve seen – it doesn’t take a visit to see the photos and the video and the horrible circumstances that people are living in on the ground.

QUESTION: Yeah. I wanted to ask you – you mentioned twice, I think, why the U.S. is engaging with Qatar and Turkey. And I’m just wondering if this is in response to criticism in the media or from the Israeli Government.

And on a related note, you talked about Egypt being the lead. You also talked about the relationship between Hamas and Egypt changing. I’m wondering if there’s any consideration in the Administration about whether Egypt should be the lead given the hostility towards Hamas that you see in Egyptian state media, and the distrust that Hamas has for Egypt. Are they the right people to play that role?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, again, there’s a range of interlocutors from the international community that are now engaged in this effort, including the UN, including the United States, including European countries. The Egyptians have played a role. They proposed the first of this year ceasefire proposal. They are open to hosting negotiations in Cairo, and we feel that’s absolutely the appropriate lead.

On your first question, the reason I mentioned that – and it goes back to what I said about the difference between public comments – or I should say anonymous public comments – and what’s discussed privately. I think in a negotiation, there’s certainly an understanding that you have to engage with both parties. Otherwise, you’re having a negotiation with yourself. So there’s an understanding of that, and our role in working with the Qataris and the Turks on this – though I should note, again, we work with them on a range of issues, of course – is to – is because of their – the influential role they can play with Hamas. So I would say it’s more about the public accounts than it is private conversations.

QUESTION: Would you – I mean, can you understand Israeli concern with you dealing so closely, particularly with the Turks, after the really inflammatory comments that have been made by not only Prime Minister Erdogan, but by Foreign Minister Davutoglu as well?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, let me say that those comments were inflammatory and certainly not just unhelpful, but offensive. And we don’t agree – we don’t even talk to Hamas, as you all know, and certainly we don’t agree with those comments that were made by the Turks. But at the same time, when we’re talking about a dire situation on the ground and one where people are dying, people are living under threat every day, it’s important to engage with parties who can have an influence with Hamas.

QUESTION: Right, but you can understand Israel’s concern with that, can you not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly understand their concern with the comments, of course.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, for any – when the leaders of a country make comments like that, can they really be expected to be – can you really expect the Israelis to be on board with anything that they’re going to do as it relates to this specific issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there has to be a – I think the question is: What’s the alternative? There has to be a way to engage with Hamas. The United States doesn’t, Israel doesn’t. This is the best path at this point to engage.

QUESTION: So if it was not very much of a difference, as you say, between the Egyptian – the initial Egyptian proposal and this Friday proposal, why weren’t the Egyptians in Paris?

MS. PSAKI: Because the purpose of our trip to Paris was not to negotiate. The parties weren’t even in Paris, as you know.

QUESTION: I know.

MS. PSAKI: The Israelis weren’t there either. The purpose was to brief the international community on what was happening.

QUESTION: Right. But if you – but the fact of the matter is that by getting up there in Paris with the Turks and the Qataris – and the Europeans, but the Turks and the Qataris – and not the Egyptians being – not having them there as well, can you see how people might take that as a turning away from the Egyptian proposal and a wholehearted embrace of Qatar and Turkey, with whom Israel has huge problems?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just reiterate what the purpose was, because the Secretary did a press conference with the Egyptians the night before we went to Paris.

QUESTION: I understand that.

MS. PSAKI: They fully knew we were going there to meet – that he was going there to meet with the Europeans. It was important to hear from the Qataris and the Turks for the Europeans too, because they had been engaged with Hamas. We had not been. So the purpose was to brief them and continue to build support in the international community.

QUESTION: Okay. That would suggest that – well, let me ask first: Are you saying in your – all your comments here that the leak of – this document that was leaked, this confidential document that you said was leaked, that that is accurate? That that is the document that was given to the Israelis to peruse and decide whether they liked it or not?

MS. PSAKI: As much as this piece of paper is a document, yes.

QUESTION: Right, this piece of paper. And I’m recognizing you’re saying it’s not a formal proposal, whatever. It was the ideas that they were going to discuss. But those are accurate, right?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Did the Egyptians sign off on those?

MS. PSAKI: The Egyptians were fully engaged in every aspect of our discussions.

QUESTION: Does that mean that they signed off on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well —

QUESTION: Because I think the argument that – the argument that’s being made by some Israel is that this deviated substantially from their – from the Egyptian initial proposal, which you say that’s just wrong. But I’m wondering if you can say with certainty that the Egyptians on that Friday signed off on this one-page or whatever – however many pages it was – list of ideas.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I understand what you’re asking, but I still think contextually it’s important to note this was not a document getting sign-off from. This was based on the Egyptian proposal —

QUESTION: Well, the Israelis certainly thought that it was.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m conveying that —

QUESTION: They voted on it.

MS. PSAKI: I’m conveying that a confidential draft of ideas, perhaps, was not something that was ready for a vote by the Israeli cabinet.

QUESTION: So they acted prematurely in rejecting it?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’ll let you make your own judgment, Matt.

QUESTION: But still, I want to get to the – back to the answer: Did the Egyptians sign off on the confidential draft of ideas?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they were engaged, and no one was asking for anyone’s sign-off at that stage in time. But I would ask all of you to take a look at the – both proposals and note what the differences are, which they’re very minimal.

QUESTION: What – are you willing to offer them up?

MS. PSAKI: I think they’re appearing publicly. I also —

QUESTION: So that means you are confirming that what has been out there is – what is out there is accurate?

MS. PSAKI: It’s accurate in the sense that three days ago, it was an informal draft of ideas that was given on a confidential basis and we asked for responses on. It’s not currently something that is relevant to the discussion.

QUESTION: It’s not? I thought —

QUESTION: Really? I thought they voted —

QUESTION: I thought it was.

MS. PSAKI: Hmm?

QUESTION: I thought it was. No?

MS. PSAKI: Currently not. Where our focus is —

QUESTION: It’s dead?

MS. PSAKI: Our focus right now is on the short-term humanitarian ceasefire.

QUESTION: Right. That’s what I thought this was.

MS. PSAKI: Well, this was a longer document or a longer description.

QUESTION: Well, what are the – the problem that the Israelis have with it is that it doesn’t – apparently that they have with it is that it didn’t address demilitarization and disarmament. But that’s a – and what you’re saying is that that’s a longer-term – I don’t understand why you’ve – you’re so angry with the Israelis that you pulled this whole – this paper off the table?

MS. PSAKI: No, that’s not at all the case, Matt.

QUESTION: All right. I don’t get it.

MS. PSAKI: I think things have moved forward since then over the course of the last several days. So I’m just saying it’s an old discussion, but it’s still out there with a bunch of information that isn’t accurate, which is why we decided to —

QUESTION: Well, things have certainly moved as – I don’t know if they’ve moved forward or backward. But why isn’t that still – that is no longer the basis of what you’re trying to do? Those ideas?

MS. PSAKI: Our basis is what I just outlined, which is —

QUESTION: But what’s going to come next? How’s the next proposal going to differ from this one?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the – what we’re discussing with both sides at this point is a humanitarian cease-fire, where the longer-term issues would be addressed at the later – at a later basis, simple as that.

QUESTION: But I thought that’s what that was?

MS. PSAKI: It is that. (Laughter.) But what I’m saying is that that draft of ideas is not a paper that’s being litigated and going back and forth with edits at this point in time. It hasn’t been for days.

QUESTION: Seeing how this would incrementally work, so you have like a 24-hour proposal followed by seven-day cease-fire, and then during that time things begin to happen or negotiations begin to happen with the involvement of, let’s say, Qatar, Egypt, and so on. Is that what it is?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think we’d certainly support a longer-term ceasefire, if we could achieve a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire. What we’re doing right now is we’re taking it day by day, and we’re hopeful that with each ceasefire we can build on the last. Because if there’s a pause, we feel that’s going to be the best opportunity for negotiations.

QUESTION: And just to follow up on Jo’s question as of a little while ago, when she said that the 2012 agreement calls for opening the crossing, lifting the siege, doing all these things, which none of it has happened – now strategically, if there is an agreement strategically, would the United States be willing to sort of guarantee that these steps, whatever steps are taken, to lift the border crossing, to open them, and so on? Would it guarantee such a thing?

MS. PSAKI: I think I’m not going to get into guarantees from here, Said. Obviously, there’s ongoing —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish.

QUESTION: Oh.

MS. PSAKI: There’s ongoing discussions. We are certainly aware of the issues that are important and have been discussed publicly by both sides, and they would certainly be a part of a negotiation.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

QUESTION: Now just to get us right, you’re just suggesting a 24-hour ceasefire, followed by another 24-hour cease-fire, followed by another 24-hour ceasefire —

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’d certainly support longer than 24 hours. But what our goal is is to have agreement on short – even if they’re short-term ceasefires by the parties so that – and – that we can build on, so that we can have a pause in the violence and have an opportunity to negotiate.

QUESTION: But that doesn’t actually address any of these issues that we’ve talked about here, on either the Israeli or the Hamas side.

MS. PSAKI: It does address allowing food and medical equipment in. It does address bringing a temporary end to the violence and threat of rocket attacks. That’s, right now, an important first step. And there’s no question the larger longer-term issues need to be negotiated and addressed.

QUESTION: But I think the Israeli concern about these – the short-term ceasefires is it simply gives Hamas time and space to regroup and refocus its rockets. It doesn’t actually achieve, other than – I understand that humanitarian – the humanitarian argument, but I wonder whether either party is actually very interested in a humanitarian ceasefire for the time being.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that has been the basis of our discussion. We’ve seen some agreement over the weekend on short-term humanitarian ceasefires. Certainly we would support a much longer-term ceasefire, and we would – we have advocated for that and you’ve seen the UN advocate for that and in the readout of the President’s call advocating for that. What we’re talking about is a step that we think could be an important next step or important steps in the process, and that’s why our focus is on that at this point in time.

QUESTION: And I just wondered if you had any issue or comment on Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif’s round of telephone calls he’s been making in the region yesterday to various different parties, including – and not just the region, but also with the EU and the UN, to try and also on their part effect some kind of truce. Does that concern you at all that the Iranians are getting involved, or do you welcome it? What would be your response?

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t spent a lot of time reading about his comments or his calls. I think our focus is on calling for a ceasefire, bringing an end to the violence on the ground. Efforts to put that in place I think we’d be comfortable with.

QUESTION: But in the same way that any country that has influence is – has been asked to use its influence, would you not ask Iran as well on the same – in the same vein to do so with Hamas?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly publicly. That hasn’t been our focus at this time because we’ve been working with other countries, as you know, who we are engaging with in issues aside from the nuclear issue to play a role in influencing Hamas.

QUESTION: Ukraine?

QUESTION: I have one more, broadly.

QUESTION: I have one.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thank you. Two questions related to this unusual level of vitriol about the Secretary. One is, do you guys have a theory or a sense as to why? Is this an attempt, an Israeli attempt to deflect blame? And I know you’re going to – I think I know what your answer is going to be, but secondly, has there been any outreach to the Secretary from Israeli officials to apologize or explain?

MS. PSAKI: Well, first, I would say I’m, of course, naturally not going to ascribe the motivation or the reason for the different leaks or anonymous comments that we’ve seen out there. But I do think that laying out the details of what has happened and the level of specificity that I did – and I appreciate all of your patience – helps convey what the facts are. And that’s why I did it.

On the second question, what’s important to note here is that the Secretary has been engaged, as has Ambassador Shapiro, as has Frank Lowenstein, with Israeli officials and others in the region basically nonstop – many calls a day with them. The focus of the discussions are about next steps and what to do next. It’s not about any – there haven’t been complaints about his handling or his engagement or involvement, so it’s almost a separate track than what we’re seeing in the public comments.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) acknowledgement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that has not been the focus of the discussions in any way, shape, or form.

QUESTION: Just following on from that, more broadly in terms of the U.S.-Israel relationship under the Obama Administration – more specifically the second term. This is not the first time that we have seen vitriol and very harsh criticism of the Secretary – directed at the Secretary from Israel and its supporters in the United States and elsewhere. And I’m – without ascribing a motive to what might be behind that, does the Secretary himself feel that he is still in a position to be able to deal with the Israeli Government and to be someone who can be effective in both this current Gaza situation, but also in the longer term in terms of peace talks and a peace process with the Palestinians?

MS. PSAKI: Yes. And we certainly understand, as we’ve seen in past occasions, that when there is a difficult political situation or security situation, tensions can rise and we’ve seen that in the past. But Secretary Kerry considers Prime Minister Netanyahu a friend. He has been, as I said earlier, I would be hard pressed – I think anyone would be hard pressed to find a stronger supporter for Israel than Secretary Kerry, and his engagement in the region and his efforts in this regard has been in close coordination and cooperation with the Israelis. So I would say that he will remain engaged; they have welcomed his engagement in this effort, and that will continue – he will continue his effort.

QUESTION: One, you just – they welcomed his engagement in this effort? My understanding was the Israelis fought tooth and nail, didn’t want him anywhere near this.

MS. PSAKI: Well, over the last – I think the fact that he has been engaged in perhaps a half a dozen calls or more every day with them shows you that they’re open to his engagement.

QUESTION: And second, you say that the Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu are friends and will remain friends. Who else is Secretary Kerry friends with in the Israeli Government?

MS. PSAKI: In the world?

QUESTION: Defense minister? No, in the Israeli Government. Other Israeli officials. Defense Minister Ya’alon?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I need to list a —

QUESTION: Foreign Minister Lieberman?

MS. PSAKI: — do a listing of his friends. It’s fair to say —

QUESTION: Minister Steinitz?

MS. PSAKI: — he has a range of friends in Israel, including in the government.

QUESTION: Uri Ariel? (Laughter.) Can you name one other person in – maybe one minister in —

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into a naming. I was —

QUESTION: But you already did. You named – you’ve named Prime Minister Netanyahu. So how many of his cabinet members do you think the Secretary could consider friends of his?

MS. PSAKI: I think when the Secretary has an issue he will raise that privately. But he has a range of friends in the government and in Israel, and certainly has been a strong supporter and continues to be.

QUESTION: Would you like to see those friends stand up for him now?

MS. PSAKI: I think, Matt, our focus here is on the ceasefire effort —

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: — but it was important to lay out the facts on the ground.

Israel or a new issue?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Israel? Go ahead.

QUESTION: The same issue. I mean, you mentioned humanitarian aid, and then you mentioned short-term ceasefire. I mean – sorry – humanitarian ceasefire and short-term ceasefire, and then long-term cease-fire which was the aim. I mean, the seven-day proposal was – is that the short-term or the long-term or the —

MS. PSAKI: Well, the seven day was the initial proposal.

QUESTION: What’s the long term for you?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, we’d support that or a continuation of that. I think we would like to see a permanent ceasefire, if that was possible, certainly. But right now we’re focused on short-term proposals that can build on each other. Let me just note in addition to having access to humanitarian assistance into Gaza, we also announced last week additional funding – $47 million for humanitarian assistance. That’s something that we’re continuing to work on with the international community as well.

QUESTION: So can you say now you are working on humanitarian ceasefire now?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: And it’s – the same talks are taking place with the counterparts at the sides?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. The other question related to draft of ideas that you mentioned, is still that draft of ideas on the table or it’s off the table?

MS. PSAKI: It’s not – the focus of the discussion at this point is on immediate short-term ceasefires that we – that can build on each other. This is a – sort of a discussion from several days ago, but it was worth – we felt it was worth clarifying.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) now; can we say that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a range of issues that are raised in there that will certainly be a part of a discussion, so in – security issues, including greater access to – increased access and economic opportunity for the Palestinians. So there are issues that have been the everlasting issues in this case that will be discussed and negotiated over the course of time. But in terms of a document that is being negotiated back and forth, no, there’s not line edits going back and forth between the parties.

QUESTION: So the other – which is like a follow-up to Matt’s question, which is like: Are – the Egyptian side was aware of the content and the spirit and the text of this draft of ideas, or were out of the loop?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely aware. We were living in Cairo for five days. The Secretary spoke with Foreign Minister Shoukry multiple times a day and we were very closely involved. And again, it was based on the Egyptian proposal, and so they are obviously a key interlocutor and key lead on this effort.

QUESTION: Yes, there is another thing, which is the two issues of demilitarization of Hamas or Gaza, and the same time crossing that was proposed by – to facilitate crossing to Gaza, whether it’s Egyptian or other sides. Is – are – these issues were discussed? You say they’re going to be discussed or this was proposed to be discussed in negotiations. Are these issues, two issues were part of the deal or the talk and the draft of ideas or not?

MS. PSAKI: It was not mentioned in either – and I would encourage you, and anyone can follow me on Twitter. I tweeted the Egyptian proposal from just two weeks ago. It has all of the details in there. You’ve seen the list of – the draft of informal ideas that’s out there as well in the press. I would encourage you to compare the two. No, there was not a specific mention of demilitarization. Of course that’s something we support. There was a mention of security issues, which has been how it’s been described in many of these documents in the past.

QUESTION: So, wait, wait. I wasn’t aware that the Egyptian proposal could fit into 140 characters.

MS. PSAKI: I tweeted a link.

QUESTION: Oh, there you go.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you for your clarification. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Okay. I have – these are going to be very brief.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: They have to do with Israel. They don’t have to do with this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One, I asked Marie —

MS. PSAKI: And then I’ll go to Ukraine, which I would bet is the next issue, but —

QUESTION: Yes. One, I asked on Friday about this 15-year-old Palestinian-American kid who’s been held. Do you have any update on him?

MS. PSAKI: I do. Let me just find that in here, Matt. We can confirm that Mohamed Abu Nie, a U.S. citizen, was arrested on July 3rd during protests in the Shuafat neighborhood in East Jerusalem. The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv is providing consular assistance. A consular official assisted him on July 17th – visited him, I should say – and attended his hearing on July 22nd. The Embassy’s also in contact with his family and his lawyer. Considering his age, we are calling for a speedy resolution to this case. He is now – this 15-year-old has now been held for three weeks in Israeli custody and has seen his parents only once briefly during that night, and so we are certainly gravely concerned about the detention of an American citizen child.

QUESTION: Seen only once by that – the night that he was arrested, is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: I would have to check on exactly when his parents saw him, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Have you – you’ve made this – you made your concerns known to the Israelis on this, yes?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have you gotten a response from them? Is there any sign that they are going to act speedily to – I mean, he’s been in custody for – since July 2nd. That’s 20 – how many days is that?

QUESTION: Twenty-six.

QUESTION: Twenty —

QUESTION: July 27th?

QUESTION: Twenty-six days.

QUESTION: Yeah, 26 days.

QUESTION: I mean, is it appropriate for – I mean, well, one, are you aware that this kid did anything wrong?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more details other than to say he – we did not – just in terms of why we just saw him recently, he didn’t immediately inform Israeli authorities that he was a U.S. citizen. So obviously, as soon as we learned that, we contacted Israeli authorities to schedule a consular visit.

QUESTION: Are you – have the Israelis done anything wrong, as far as you know, in terms of this case? Are you – I noticed that you’re not calling for him to be released immediately. You’re calling for a quick, speedy resolution to the case, suggesting that you’re not sure that the Israelis have acted inappropriately.

MS. PSAKI: Well, our role is to ensure he’s being afforded due process under local laws and international standards, and obviously we’re providing all consular access and we’ll continue to be engaged.

QUESTION: Are you able to give us details of charges he’s facing and what conditions he’s being held in? Is he in an adult prison or is he in a juvenile section?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we understand he faces charges of rock-throwing, attacking police, carrying a knife, and leading protests. We —

QUESTION: Leading —

MS. PSAKI: And leading protests, yes. We are concerned about allegations that he’s been mistreated while in custody. We obviously take all such allegations seriously, raise them with authorities as appropriate.

QUESTION: Well —

QUESTION: But do you know whether he’s being – sorry, Matt. Do you know whether he’s being held in adult jail or a juvenile section?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail. We can certainly check for you, Jo.

QUESTION: So when I asked if you would – were worried that – if you were – there were concerns that the Israelis had acted in appropriately, that sounds like there is concern, because you say that —

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re concerned about allegations that he’s been mistreated.

QUESTION: What are the allegations?

MS. PSAKI: Hmm?

QUESTION: What are those allegations?

MS. PSAKI: That he’s been mistreated. I think there’s allegations out there that he’s been beaten, but we don’t have – I don’t have any more details other than the allegations that have been out there.

QUESTION: Can we move to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: One more on this? Sorry. Just a brief one, sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are you aware of reports that there’s an arms deal between Hamas and North Korea that’s about to go through, and do you have any comment on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re certainly aware of press reports regarding pending arms sales from North Korea to Hamas. We have long highlighted the global security and proliferation threat posed by North Korea, and we continue to work to stop North Korea’s proliferation activities with partners in the Security Council and throughout the international community. But I’m not going to have any other comment on the specific allegations.

QUESTION: So does that mean you have no independent confirmation of this or just —

MS. PSAKI: It means I have no other comment on it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So let’s first of all start talking about the satellite images that were released on Sunday. Do we know where they came from, the veracity of them? Let’s start with those.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we wouldn’t have put them out publicly if we didn’t feel confident about the accuracy. Obviously, we declassify information as we can to make it available to all of you and to the American public and the international community, and that was the case here.

QUESTION: Well, do we know which satellites these images came from? Who’s – who owned them, for instance?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to be able to get into any greater level of detail.

QUESTION: All right. Let’s talk about the timing of them being released. Why did we choose over the weekend, first of all?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think everybody works on the weekend. I think all of us do, and we felt it was important to put this information out publicly. It shows engagement by the separatists and with support from – with – of Russian artillery in this effort. As you know, we’ve been concerned about that engagement and that escalation, and this provides a further example of that.

QUESTION: And the means that they were released – as I understand it, the first time that we saw them was released on the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine’s Twitter account. Is that accurate?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we sent them out publicly for everyone to see from the State Department, so I think I – we sent them pretty broadly.

QUESTION: So what is it that the State Department is hoping to achieve from these? What kind of response, first of all, does the State Department have given the evidence that these satellite images are showing?

MS. PSAKI: Response to what specifically? Response to the satellite images, response to escalation?

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we’ve been long concerned about the fact that the Russians have been supplying, supporting, arming the separatists. We – as we have information that shows and backs up those concerns, we make that information available. We have put in place, as you know, a range of sanctions, including an additional set of sanctions last week. We fully expect the Europeans will do additional sanctions soon. And this shows the world what those concerns are and why it’s important to focus on the engagement of Russia in Ukraine.

QUESTION: So Secretary Kerry spoke with Foreign Minister Lavrov over the weekend. To what detail was this – were these satellite images discussed, and how will these satellite images affect U.S.-Russia relations moving forward?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not about the satellite images. The satellite images provide evidence of what we’ve been saying publicly for some time now. They didn’t discuss the satellite images. They did discuss Secretary Kerry’s concern about the Russians’ continuing assistance and support for the separatists. And the Secretary certainly made clear he doesn’t buy the claim that they are not involved and they’re not engaged in this effort. So that was a part of the discussion. They also discussed the Secretary’s trip over the past week and the situation on the ground in Gaza.

QUESTION: Jen, what exactly in those images was declassified?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look at the specific images, Matt. There was some information that we have from our own sources that we put out publicly for the first time.

QUESTION: But the satellites – they were Digital Globe, right? This is not U.S. spy satellites taking – they were credited to Digital Globe, which is a commercial satellite company. So those pictures in themselves weren’t subject to classification, were they?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to look back and see what information was newly available from those satellite photos.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, you all have the packet of them.

QUESTION: Right. No, I’m just wondering what in there was declassified? What prior to Sunday – what information in that – in those four pages was classified prior to Sunday when they were released?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one —

QUESTION: The analysis?

MS. PSAKI: — there weren’t images released previously that I’m aware of that showed that Russian forces had fired across the border at Ukrainian military forces, and that Russian – there was some, of course, that Russian-back separatists have used heavy artillery. But this was, again, further evidence and further information that we made available to – in order to show what we have concerns about. That’s why we put it out publicly.

QUESTION: Right, okay. And – so that, and I – I think everyone appreciates the fact that you’re going to efforts to put out the – to put out evidence that you say backs up the claim. But does, in fact – do, in fact, those images show Russian artillery being fired into Ukraine from inside Russia? Does it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the images showed —

QUESTION: I mean, clearly you’re not going to have video, real-time video or whatever – or maybe you do, I don’t know – but that doesn’t show – it doesn’t show that. It shows pockmarks on the ground, and then it’s got arrows drawn in, which could – so, I mean, maybe you could have an analyst or someone come and explain exactly what this is. But, I mean, to – I’m certainly not an intelligence analyst or expert in reading what these satellite photos mean. But to the casual observer, if you just showed them the pictures without the arrows drawn on them and without the text – I mean, it just looks like there’s a bunch of holes in the ground.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think the images showed things such as ground scarring at a multiple rocket launch site on the Russian side of the border oriented in the direction of Ukrainian military units within Ukraine. It showed self-propelled artillery only found in Russian military units on the Russian side of the border oriented in the direction of the Ukrainian military unit. It showed a range of specifics that I think you can lead – lead you to a conclusion.

QUESTION: Okay. You’ve seen the Russian Defense Ministry came out this morning and said that basically – I mean, I guess not surprisingly, said that these are fake; they don’t show what you purport that they do show. Do you have any response to that?

MS. PSAKI: I think that strains credibility, that claim.

QUESTION: Their claim that it’s fake?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And so —

QUESTION: Why?

QUESTION: D

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

1:48 p.m. EDT

QUESTION: Good afternoon.

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

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: Okay.

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

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

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

MS. HARF: Okay.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Right.

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

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

MS. HARF: That it was one-sided —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: — in nature.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Right. But —

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

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

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

QUESTION: All right. On the FAA decision —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

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

MS. HARF: Totally inaccurate.

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

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

QUESTION: Right.

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

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

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

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

MS. HARF: I don’t have a readout yet.

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

MS. HARF: Yeah.

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

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

QUESTION: I understand.

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

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

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

QUESTION: Right. But —

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Got you. Okay.

MS. HARF: Yep.

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

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

QUESTION: Right. But the —

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

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

QUESTION: Well, the Secretary was – Matt —

QUESTION: Yeah.

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

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: Sure.

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

MS. HARF: Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: There’s no confirmation —

QUESTION: Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay.

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay. Sure. Oh, sorry.

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

QUESTION: Right. So, but on that —

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

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

MS. HARF: Secretary —

QUESTION: He’s never nervous?

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

QUESTION: No, no. I understand that.

MS. HARF: Yep.

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

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

QUESTION: He is not nervous.

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

QUESTION: And can you speak for your other colleagues?

MS. HARF: I’m not —

QUESTION: Was anyone on the plane —

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

QUESTION: No, it’s not —

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

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

MS. HARF: We’re going back to Said.

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

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

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

MS. HARF: Take that up with the FAA.

Yes.

QUESTION: I will.

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

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

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

MS. HARF: We believe this one today was.

QUESTION: — this one is one-sided?

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

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

MS. HARF: Well, we have evidence —

QUESTION: Do you have solid evidence?

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

QUESTION: Now I just want to go —

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

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

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

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

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

QUESTION: The Egyptians are talking about their proposal publicly.

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

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

MS. HARF: You called them inflexible.

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

MS. HARF: Right.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: You cannot confirm that report.

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

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

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes, Nicole.

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

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

QUESTION: One more on the flight cancellations.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

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

QUESTION: I haven’t been critical or conspiratorial.

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

QUESTION: Senator —

MS. HARF: I can’t wait for this.

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

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

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

MS. HARF: It’s ridiculous.

QUESTION: — doing this to punish Israel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Right, right.

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

QUESTION: Same topic, real quick.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. HARF: Great.

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

MS. HARF: We are remarkably consistent.

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

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

QUESTION: Please.

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

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

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

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Anything else on this?

QUESTION: On (inaudible).

MS. HARF: No. If your hand —

QUESTION: No.

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

QUESTION: I was wondering if the Department has any comment on reports or Ukrainian Government claims that two more planes have been shot down from Russia.

MS. HARF: Yes, we have seen those reports. We are still looking into them. We have, of course, seen a history of the separatists shooting down planes in the past, I think about a dozen before MH17. And look, if true – and we hopefully will be able to confirm whether it’s true soon – it would only be further evidence that Russian-backed separatists are using advanced surface-to-air weaponry less than a week after shooting down a civilian airliner and killing 298 people. Again, it’s hard to imagine any of this happening without Russian support.

QUESTION: Dovetailing off that, I mean, you said to me yesterday that the fighting is by and large outside of the 25-mile radius of the crash site.

MS. HARF: Forty kilometer —

QUESTION: Yeah. Or whatever.

MS. HARF: — or whatever. But numbers matter.

QUESTION: At this point, I think it was three miles outside of the crash site. I mean —

MS. HARF: No. I think you have wrong information there. There hasn’t been – they have maintained – the Ukrainians have maintained a ceasefire. The 40-kilometer ceasefire they have declared around the crash site, the Ukrainians have maintained it.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you concerned that a break in ceasefire could impede the investigation?

MS. HARF: Well, obviously, we would be concerned about the separatists not upholding a ceasefire. The Ukrainians have repeatedly shown their willingness and ability to do so.

QUESTION: India?

QUESTION: No.

QUESTION: Wait. Can I continue on Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You’re kidding, right?

QUESTION: Well, yesterday – this is sort of related Ukraine, I guess, and Russia. Yesterday the intel community said they were going to lay out evidence sort of backing their assertions about who brought down Malaysia Airlines 17. They did lay out a bunch of different things, but they didn’t actually lay out the real documentation that supports those assertions. Why haven’t we seen —

MS. HARF: I’m not sure exactly what you’re looking for. Well, they did a couple things yesterday. They showed – they walked through an intelligence assessment case and they talked about some additional pieces of declassified information that I can walk through today that bolsters our case that we know what happened here. They also showed imagery of training facilities; they showed imageries of the site, including a trajectory based on classified information that they were able to provide that showed the trajectory of the SA-11. So those are important, and let’s get – let me finish —

QUESTION: Yeah, go ahead.

MS. HARF: — and then you can keep following up.

So a couple things they said yesterday, which I think are significant which we had not set before, that the audio data provided to the press – and we talked a lot about these open source reports, right, these audio messages that people have said are certain people or that prove things – they were provided to the press by the Ukrainians. It was evaluated by the intelligence community analysts, who confirmed these were authentic conversations between known separatist leaders.

And then another key point they talked about yesterday, and we can talk more about the rest of this, is the – this notion the Russians have put out there about a Ukrainian fighter jet. They’ve argued that an Su-25 fighter might have shot down the aircraft with an air-to-air missile. They have judged that engagement would be implausible for the following reasons: The Su-25 is a ground attack aircraft. The only missiles it carries are short-range – excuse me – are short-range, infrared-guided missiles. Ground photography from the crash site is consistent with the expected damage from a surface-to-air missile, but it is – does not correspond, in fact is inconsistent with what we would expect to see for an air-to-air missile, as Russia claims.

Third, Russia – this is a little separately here – has also released a map with the alleged locations of Ukrainian SA-11 units within range of the crash. This is another red herring they’ve put out there. We are confident that this information is incorrect. The nearest Ukrainian operational SA-11 unit is located well out of the range from both the launch and the crash site. So part of their case yesterday was not only giving more information about what we know, but giving our professional, technical assessment of some of the Russian claims that, I think, we have tried to increasingly knock down.

QUESTION: When you said – when they – when you said they showed evidence of this, what do you mean by that, “they showed”? They – I mean, did they have a presentation? I —

MS. HARF: Well, they – they did. They did. They showed some imagery, they showed a number of images; they showed some maps, they showed some graphics. I’m happy for you to get in touch with DNI Public Affairs, who can probably give you that packet that they showed. They showed some – one of the maps that we actually have posted on our Facebook page and our Kyiv Embassy that shows the trajectory of the SA-11 missile. That trajectory is based on classified information. I can’t detail all of what that information is, but that is based on the information we have.

QUESTION: And some of the evidence U.S. is relying on are social media postings and videos made public by the Ukrainian Government. Have those all been authenticated?

MS. HARF: Again, that’s why I said the audio data, which is part of the social media, has been authenticated by the intelligence community analysts. Social media is obviously only one part of the puzzle here. It’s something we look at, but obviously, we back everything up to the extent that we can when we can with other intelligence as well.

QUESTION: Marie.

MS. HARF: Matt.

QUESTION: On your three things that you say were new: one, on the audio data being analyzed and being authenticated. That was not new yesterday. That was actually in the statement that the Embassy in Kyiv put out on Sunday morning —

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: — before Secretary Kerry appeared on those —

MS. HARF: That the intelligence community had authenticated all of it? I – it’s my understanding that that was not all out there on Sunday, but I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Well, I believe it was. But I mean, there’s no – it doesn’t —

MS. HARF: Okay. Well, I disagree with you, but I’m happy to check.

What’s the next thing?

QUESTION: Well, you can look at the statement. I mean, it says that they’ve been authenticated. So I would say that that wasn’t new.

MS. HARF: Okay. Happy to check.

QUESTION: Secondly, I’m not sure that – I know that there were some suggestions that the Ukrainian fighter plane shot down this – with a missile, but the —

MS. HARF: So the Russians have basically had a couple of alternative explanations.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: There was the Ukrainian fighter jet. I think we – the intelligence community went to great lengths yesterday to show why that’s not the case.

The other – one of the other things they said was that it was a Ukrainian SA-11 system that the Ukrainians had fired. Again, I think they made very clear why that’s not also the case.

QUESTION: But the theory that – or the – I don’t know what you would – the suggestion isn’t necessarily that the Ukrainian jet – I mean, you have – you’ve discovered that the Ukrainian jet was in the vicinity, but it was not capable of shooting (inaudible) down —

MS. HARF: No, I can’t confirm that there was even a Ukrainian – we have no confirmation that I have seen that there was a Ukrainian jet.

QUESTION: Oh, that there was even —

MS. HARF: I’m not saying there wasn’t. I just can’t confirm it.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: But regardless, the notion that this kind of Ukrainian jet the Russians are talking about could have done this with the kind of missile and the kind of debris we’ve seen – it just doesn’t match up.

QUESTION: Because I think the suggestion is that whoever fired this missile may have been shooting for that plane, like what we saw today in terms of a shoot-down.

MS. HARF: Which in no way makes it better.

QUESTION: Well, I’m not saying it does. I’m not saying it does at all, but it’s not —

MS. HARF: And I don’t know what the intentions are of whoever was on the ground pushing the button. I don’t.

QUESTION: And the last thing about this —

MS. HARF: Clearly – well clearly, I know the intentions were to launch a sophisticated missile and to kill people. Whether those – they were trying to kill Ukrainian military officers or civilians, we’re still waiting to find out.

QUESTION: I – yeah, okay. I’m not arguing that one is better than the other.

MS. HARF: Okay. I know.

QUESTION: I’m not saying that.

MS. HARF: Just responding to your question.

QUESTION: I’m just saying – and then on the – this trajectory thing that you said was put out by the Embassy —

MS. HARF: I didn’t say that was new yesterday. We posted that a few days ago.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, if you just look at that – a lay person looking at it, it’s a line drawn on a satellite photo with no – nothing to back it up.

MS. HARF: Well, as I said, it’s based on a series of classified information —

QUESTION: Which we have to —

MS. HARF: — which we are —

QUESTION: — we have to take the leap of faith to believe that – right?

MS. HARF: Well, Matt, we are trying to put as much out of this out —

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: — information out about this as possible. We are trying very hard to do so. It is a process that takes, I think, more time than any of us, certainly you or I, would like.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: But I think I would make the point that it’s much more time-consuming to declassify real evidence than to make it up, which is what the Russians have been doing for days now.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, be that as it may, are you saying that at some point, the IC is hopeful to —

MS. HARF: We are working to —

QUESTION: — that they will be able to put —

MS. HARF: We’re working to get more information declassified and put out there as quickly as we can. It’s just a difficult process (inaudible).

QUESTION: Okay. But do you understand that given the conflicting claims, no matter how ridiculous you say the other side’s version is and no matter how implausible it might be – but saying that you’ve put together the imagery showing the root of this —

MS. HARF: Trajectory.

QUESTION: — trajectory showing imagery.

MS. HARF: Just one piece. It’s one piece of evidence.

QUESTION: Well, I know, but anyone can draw a line on a map. They can. I mean, I’m not saying that —

MS. HARF: That’s not what our intelligence community does. That’s not what the U.S. Government does when we go out there and present a case to the world. We have —

QUESTION: So —

QUESTION: Can I just —

MS. HARF: Wait. We have to protect sensitive sources and methods. We have to, because if we don’t, we won’t be able to get this kind of information in the future if they’re compromised because of a declassification. Believe me, I want to be able to declassify more.

QUESTION: Right, okay.

MS. HARF: They want to be able to declassify more. And it’s not about a leap of faith. We are laying out a very comprehensive argument based on a number of different pieces, right. So if you look at all of them in totality —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: — look at the entire picture, it presents a very compelling case about the kind of missile, where it was fired from. Those are the two key pieces, right. The kind of missile that took down this plane we are very confident is an SA-11, we are very confident it was fired from Russian-controlled territory. We are very confident that the two alternate stories the Russians put forward aren’t plausible.

Who put their finger on the trigger? We still need to find that out.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: But suffice to say, the Russian separatists we believe fired this, in general, could not be doing what they’re doing without the Russians. And responsibility lays at the feet of President Putin, not just for this but for every incident that we have seen throughout this conflict, period.

QUESTION: All right. So Putin is – it’s Putin whose fault this is; that’s what you’re saying?

MS. HARF: I think I was just pretty clear.

QUESTION: What you’re saying – okay. So you said that – you say it’s a very compelling case, but you – it is a circumstantial case, is it not?

MS. HARF: It is a case based on a number of different pieces of evidence, Matt – across the board, a number of different pieces. Whether you’re looking at what we talked about yesterday, whether you’re looking at what we’ve seen on social media, whether you’re looking at the kind of SA-11 which is a missile that essentially gets fired straight up does what it does, and that’s exactly what we saw in this case as well.

So we’ve laid out a very detailed case. We will continue to declassify as much as we can. But again, we’ve been very open about our assessments here. The Russians have repeatedly lied about what’s happening on the ground. They said there weren’t troops in Crimea when there were troops all over Crimea. So there’s just no credibility on their side. And I understand the need to put out more information, but look, the notion that they’ve shot down dozens – over a dozen planes now – and this is just the one that wasn’t them – also just doesn’t pass the common sense test.

QUESTION: Marie —

QUESTION: Okay. Hold on a second. So – but – and I understand the – your desire to protect sources and methods, but we have here an incredible tragedy where almost 300 people died.

MS. HARF: I agree.

QUESTION: Is that – protecting sources and methods are more important than getting —

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: — to the bottom of who —

MS. HARF: Well, those two things aren’t mutually exclusive here. A, if we think an investigation can go forward, then we’ll get to the bottom of what happened here. We believe we do have a good assessment about the things I’ve talked about. The investigation about who did it specifically to a person is ongoing. But look, part of the reason we protect sources and methods is because we want to be able to see these things in the future if they tragically – something like this were to happen again in the same area, the way we found out information this time. So —

QUESTION: So you’re saying that – but just to be clear, that the imagery, the trajectory imagery that you have that —

MS. HARF: In that one sheet, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Right, right, right, exactly.

MS. HARF: I think it’s the green line.

QUESTION: That is – yes, that there are sources and methods for how you know that trajectory —

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: — that people are concerned are going to be somehow —

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: — tainted if —

MS. HARF: Correct. Not just tainted, but compromised.

QUESTION: That are going to be compromised if you —

MS. HARF: Yes, correct.

QUESTION: I mean —

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: Okay. I guess —

MS. HARF: Having spent six years in the intelligence community —

QUESTION: I know. That’s what I – I know that’s what —

MS. HARF: — I know there are a variety of ways we can figure these things out, many of which are quite sensitive and many of which I think we don’t want to lose.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: So look, believe me, I’m pushing my colleagues at the DNI —

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: — as much as I love these —

QUESTION: Do you – but I —

MS. HARF: — conversations with you about this. We are pushing and they’re pushing, and we’ll see if we can get more.

QUESTION: Okay. But do you – I mean, would you expect —

MS. HARF: I have no prediction.

QUESTION: — or you don’t know? You don’t expect more or you —

MS. HARF: I have no idea.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Look, I think there will be. I think we’re just working through it.

QUESTION: Okay. One other thing that’s unrelated to the intel.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Are you aware of the reports that several journalists have been detained or kidnapped – one a Ukrainian, the other one a Brit? Do you know anything about this?

MS. HARF: I saw some reports about some journalists. I think we’re still trying to track down the facts there. I’ll see if there’s more after I get off the podium.

QUESTION: Okay. Ambassador Pyatt had tweeted something about —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — one of the —

MS. HARF: Yeah. Obviously, we are concerned about these reports. Let me see if there’s more details.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you – you said the blame lays at Mr. Putin’s feet just now.

MS. HARF: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: Does that mean that they are involved in issuing the orders issued down there?

MS. HARF: I didn’t say that. I said that these Russian separatists who we strongly believe fired this missile would not be there operating without the support of President Putin and the Russian Government, would not have been trained without the support of President Putin and the Russian Government, would not be armed without the support of President Putin and the Russian Government. They would not be there doing what they’re doing, period, so they could fire an SA-11 without the support of President Putin and the Russian Government. Yes, direct responsibility lays there.

QUESTION: And also – okay. I wanted to ask you also on integrity of the crash site.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Who’s in control now? I mean —

MS. HARF: Let me see if I – the Dutch are leading – give me one second – the investigation.

Just a couple quick updates. The black boxes are now in the United Kingdom. The reason for doing so is that the British have a specific kind of aircraft forensics laboratory needed, and the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch is a highly respected and capable investigation authority.

Let me answer a few more taken questions from yesterday, and then I’ll get to your question, Said.

QUESTION: Sure.

MS. HARF: Not all of the remains were, tragically, handed over yesterday. Potentially, the remains of some 100 people are still missing. We don’t have exact numbers. Obviously, it is critical that international investigators, led by the Dutch, receive immediate and full access to the crash site.

In terms of access to the site, we – they have on the ground in Ukraine begun the difficult work of piecing together exactly what happened here. Today, we understand that they do have better access than they’ve had in the past days. We are, though, troubled by reports of looting, evidence tampering, and the failure to transport, as I just said, all of the remains of all of the victims to Kharkiv and into Dutch custody. So that is the latest I have in terms of the situation and the investigation.

QUESTION: India?

QUESTION: On Ukraine itself?

MS. HARF: On Ukraine?

QUESTION: Hold on.

MS. HARF: Yeah, on Ukraine.

QUESTION: Based on the intelligence information that you released yesterday and what you have been saying today, it looks like it was a case of mistaken identity by the Ukraine separatists that hit the Malaysian plane.

MS. HARF: That’s not what they said at all.

QUESTION: That’s what you are concluding, right?

MS. HARF: No. That’s not what I said either. I said we don’t know yet the intentions of the people who fired the SA-11 from the pro-Russian separatist-controlled territory. We just don’t know what their intentions are.

QUESTION: So my question is —

MS. HARF: It may – they may have been targeting a civilian airliner; they may have been targeting a Ukrainian fighter jet, which they’ve done over a dozen times now. Either way, they’re clearly trying to kill people with an SA-11.

QUESTION: So when the Malaysian Airlines was passing through that part, there were some other passenger planes which was crossing that area, including one of Air India, which was under 25 miles away from the Malaysian planes. And then plane carrying Indian prime minister was passed around one hour before that.

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard that.

QUESTION: Do you know from intelligence information that any of these planes were – could have been a target or could have been hit by these missiles here?

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard – I haven’t heard that.

QUESTION: Can you check?

MS. HARF: I can check. I haven’t heard it, though.

QUESTION: One more?

MS. HARF: Ukraine?

QUESTION: Staying on India?

QUESTION: One more?

MS. HARF: No, let’s stay on Ukraine.

QUESTION: Ukraine, one more.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Thank you.

Madam, what message do you have for the grieving families from this terrible incident? What they are asking the United Nations and the United States and the global community: Are we safe to fly in the future, and what steps are you going to take in the future that such incident doesn’t happen? Because many families believe not only these terrorists here in this area, but many other terrorists may have access also to the similar weapons, including in Pakistan or Afghanistan, and anybody could be the next target.

MS. HARF: Well look, I think you heard the President speak about this. I spoke about it at the beginning of the briefing, that one of the reasons, if not the most important reason, that we are so committed to finding out what happened here is so we can hold the people who did it accountable, that people cannot get away with shooting civilian airliners out of the sky. That’s just wholly unacceptable, and that countries that support these kind of separatists, like we’ve seen Russia do, also need to be held accountable. And that’s why you’ve seen additional sanctions; that’s why we’ve said there could be further steps, because that’s just not something that we will allow, that we will stand by and watch, and we do need to get to the bottom of what happened here.

QUESTION: Do you believe, Madam, that other terrorists like al-Qaida in Pakistan or Abu Baghdadi in Iraq, who have challenged already India, U.S., and other countries – that they may have similar weapons?

MS. HARF: I can check and see who else we think has these weapons. I just don’t know that off the top of my head.

QUESTION: Thank you, Madam

MS. HARF: Thank you.

QUESTION: Marie, Senator —

MS. HARF: Yes – no, let’s stay on Ukraine.

QUESTION: One more on Ukraine.

Senator Carl Levin called this an act of war. What is your response?

MS. HARF: Well, look, we’ve been very clear about what’s happening in eastern Ukraine. You have separatists backed by a foreign country who have invaded and been killing people with impunity, who’ve been shooting down Ukrainian military jets, who’ve been – who’ve now taken down a civilian airliner, who’ve been terrorizing populations in eastern Ukraine.

I would also note, just for balance here, that there have been some areas liberated by Ukrainian forces, where people are able to go about their lives without the fear of separatist violence. The Ukrainian Government is providing food and water and hope, I would say, to the residents in those liberated areas. And one of the main places they have restored electricity, water, and train service is to Slovyansk, which we’ve talked about. It was on July 9th, so it was a little while ago. But we have seen steady progress in terms of them regaining territory.

QUESTION: But is this alleged act by the separatists, or by Russia, an act of war?

MS. HARF: I don’t think I have any more terminology to put around it, Lucas. I’m happy to check and see.

QUESTION: An act of terror?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check and see if there’s more terminology I’d like to put around it.

QUESTION: Your – when you say that the blame for this lies directly at President Putin’s feet, does that also mean that you think that his call – some – seemingly more conciliatory call yesterday for – to support a full and open investigation, do you think that’s duplicitous? Is that —

MS. HARF: Well, I just think that the words need to be backed up by actions, which, unfortunately, we haven’t seen very much of from the Russians lately.

QUESTION: Got you. I had one question semi-related to this.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: That is yesterday you talked about the French going ahead with their transfer of this Mistral ship to the Russians. It turns out today that the Brits have also been continuing to —

MS. HARF: I don’t think that’s actually —

QUESTION: Is that not correct?

MS. HARF: — accurate. No. And I’m not sure it’s in my book here. I have – they put out a statement very strongly denying this.

QUESTION: Denying it, okay.

MS. HARF: I will send it to you as soon as I get off the podium. I’m not sure I stuck it in my book here, but —

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: — they have gone on the record.

QUESTION: And denied the earlier reports. Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes, so —

QUESTION: So in other words —

MS. HARF: — I’m sorry I don’t have it.

QUESTION: No, no, it’s okay.

MS. HARF: Apologies to my British colleagues who may be watching.

QUESTION: You don’t need to – I’m not asking you to respond on behalf the British Government. But I’m just saying —

MS. HARF: No, no, no, but they – no, but I did have that and I wanted to – we’ll get it to you.

QUESTION: But you accept their denial and you don’t have any questions about their —

MS. HARF: We don’t have any questions about the British.

QUESTION: What about French?

MS. HARF: Period, sort of full stop. Well, we have big questions —

QUESTION: Ever?

MS. HARF: — about whether they would go through with something like that, yes.

QUESTION: So what is the latest? How long ago, how many days has it been that you raised it?

MS. HARF: Well, we raise it consistently with the French. The Secretary has spoken again today to French Foreign Minister Fabius. I don’t have a full readout of that call, but needless to say, I think it’s been raised recently.

QUESTION: And is it that the U.S. wants to just cancel that transaction, or just not to ship it until they start behaving properly?

MS. HARF: I don’t think we think it’s appropriate to provide that kind of material to the Russians at this time. I’m not sure what form that would look like, but we just don’t think they should do it. However they don’t do it, they shouldn’t do it.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Ukraine. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: In your statement last night, Marie, at 9:58, you congratulated the European Union’s Foreign Affairs Council, and you said, quote, “Today the Council agreed to accelerate preparation of additional sanctions.”

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But no new additional sanctions were taken. Was that really a disappointment to the West, to the United States?

MS. HARF: Well, they talked about a number of additional things they could do. No, I mean, I put out a statement saying quite positive things and I don’t have much more to add beyond that.

QUESTION: But wouldn’t you like to see

Press Gaggle by Press Secretary Josh Earnest en route Joint Base Andrews, 6/27/2014

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

June 27, 2014

Aboard Air Force One
En Route Joint Base Andrews

12:02 P.M. CDT
 
MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  It’s nice to see you all.  I hope you enjoyed the day or two we spent in the Twin Cities.  I know for some of you that was a homecoming.  The President certainly enjoyed the opportunity to spend some time outside of Washington, D.C. 
 
I might just add at the top that I think the last 24 hours have served as a rather apt illustration of the different approaches that are pursued by our elected leaders in Washington, D.C.  On the one hand, you have a President who is bound and determined to do anything he can, either working with Democrats and Republicans in Congress or working around Republicans, to make progress on policies that would expand economic opportunity for the middle class. 
 
On the other hand, you have Republicans in Congress who seem just as bound and determined to use every means at their disposal to try to stop the President from moving the country forward.  And in effect, that seems to preserve some of the built-in advantages that benefit the wealthy and the well-connected.  And I think you can anticipate that the President will be spending more time in the weeks ahead sort of demonstrating his determination to benefit middle-class families, and highlighting the starkly different approaches.
 
Q    Josh, was this speech his kickoff for his role heading to the midterms?
 
MR. EARNEST:  No.  I would characterize this as yet another opportunity for the President to highlight the stark difference in approaches that I was talking about at the beginning. 
 
Q    Josh, I wanted to ask you about the situation in Ukraine.  Russia is already threatening trade sanctions against Ukraine for signing a political and economic pact with the EU.  If Russia follows through with that, would that constitute the kind of destabilizing actions that would prompt U.S. sectoral sanctions?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, let me start with some comments that I do have on this.  As you know, there were some conversations that took place between President Poroshenko and members of the U.N. — I’m sorry, the European Council earlier today.  The European Council and the United States will continue to seek immediate and positive stabilizing action from the Russian government.  Comments from President Putin, like the ones that you cited, are meant to intimidate the Ukrainian government, and are simply unhelpful.
 
As the Council said, we expect that by Monday, June 30th, this coming Monday, that the following steps will be taken:  First, that there’s an agreement on a verification mechanism monitored by the OSCE for the ceasefire and for the effective control of the border between Ukraine and Russia.  Second, that there be a return to Ukrainian authorities of all three border checkpoints.  Third, that the remaining OSCE observers who have been held hostage will be released along with all of the other hostages that have been taken.  And fourth, that there would be the launch of substantial negotiations on the implementation of the peace plan that President Poroshenko put forward. 
 
Let me also use this opportunity to reiterate our call for President Putin to move Russian combat forces away from the border, to cease support for separatists, and to urge separatists to abide by the ceasefire and disarm.  Together, these actions would send a clear signal that Russia is interested in a diplomatic settlement resulting in stability in eastern Ukraine.
 
We’ve talked frequently about the potential that Russia has and that President Putin personally has to play a constructive role in de-escalating the conflict there.  And these are some examples of the kinds of steps that we’d like to see by Monday to demonstrate his commitment to playing that constructive role.  Threats of trade sanctions would be a pretty good example of the kinds of things that we would consider unhelpful.
 
The fact of the matter is, the kinds of agreements that Ukraine and Georgia and Moldova signed today are the kinds of agreements that should be decisions made solely by those sovereign governments.  And the undue influence by outside actors is completely inappropriate.
 
Q    You mentioned June 30th.  What’s the significance of that deadline?  Do sanctions follow the day after?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, we have demonstrated — well, I guess I would say that we have signaled a clear willingness to act in concert with our partners and allies to further isolate Russia.  There have already been some steps that have been taken that have isolated Russia from the international community as a result of the unhelpful actions of the Russians, and additional unhelpful actions would lead to additional economic costs that would have to be borne by Russia.  That is an option that remains on the table. 
 
Q    June 30th is a pretty important day then. 
 
MR. EARNEST:  It is an important day in the context of seeing Russian action on the steps that I just outlined.  I’m not prepared to draw a clear line between these steps and sanctions at this point, but suffice it to say that the threat of sanctions only looms larger, and economic costs would increase, if Russia fails to take these actions.
 
Q    So all four of these actions are prerequisites in your mind?
 
MR. EARNEST:  All four of these are very specific steps that we would like to see the Russians take in advance of Monday.  And failing to take them only increases the likelihood that additional economic costs could be imposed.
 
Q    Can you tell us about the meeting this afternoon on the VA?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I can tell you that the President is planning to meet with the acting head of the Veterans Administration, Sloan Gibson, and Rob Nabors, who’s the Deputy Chief of Staff that the President sent over to the VA to look into so many of the problems that have been uncovered in recent weeks at the VA. 
 
I don’t have a readout in advance of that meeting, but I know that we are working to try to provide you some information at the conclusion of that meeting about what they discussed.
 
Q    What about the timing for naming a new Secretary of the VA?  Is that going to be a topic of discussion?  Is that imminent today, next week?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have any update for you in terms of the timing.  That remains a very high priority of this administration to install new leadership at the VA, to start putting in place some of the reforms that, frankly, were initiated by the previous VA Secretary, and have also been recommended by some of the other individuals who are looking at the problems at the VA.  I know that the inspector general is working hard at this.  You know that Mr. Nabors is also working hard to put together a report assessing some of the problems at the VA and maybe offering up some reforms.
 
So there’s some very important work that needs to get done at the VA, and that work will be enhanced when there is new permanent leadership at the VA.  I don’t have an update for you in terms of timing, but that search remains a high priority. 
 
Q    After that guy at the Cleveland Clinic withdrew, did that kind of put you guys back to starting all over again in your search?
 
MR. EARNEST:  No, it didn’t.  It didn’t.  We’ve had an ongoing process for some time, and we’ve made some progress in that process.
 
Q    You’ve narrowed the choices?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think it’s fair to say that we’ve made a lot of progress, and it remains a high priority.  But I’m not in a position to offer up any guidance in terms of timing at this point.
 
Q    Josh, the President several times on this trip seemed be very critical of the news media.  Why was he sort of stressing that message on this trip in particular?  He seemed to also sort of be tying in the news media with the Republicans of just focusing on false scandals and the wrong storylines. 
 
MR. EARNEST:  That’s not how I interpreted his remarks.  My interpretation is that so much of what — that what Washington is focused on seems to be materially different than what people all across the country are focused on.  I don’t see that as an indictment of the news media.  I see that —
 
Q    He said you won’t hear these things covered, you won’t see this on the nightly news; we had a conference the other day on working families, that wasn’t on the nightly news a lot.  I mean, these are the things he was saying several times.  At the fundraiser he said it as well.  You don’t see it?  I mean, the White House has said he doesn’t watch TV news, but yet he was very critical of the TV news.  How does he know what they’re covering or what they’re not?
 
MR. EARNEST:  To say that he’s not a regular viewer doesn’t mean he’s not aware of what’s on it.  But look, I think what the President is trying to highlight is his commitment to focusing on those issues that are the subject of so many discussions around kitchen tables in middle-class homes all across the country.  And those issues may not be as sexy or as intellectually captivating as some of the other things that are on the news more regularly, but it doesn’t mean that they’re less important to millions of families all across the country.
 
In fact, at least to this President, those kinds of discussions about balancing work and family obligations, and expanding economic opportunity, and better access to job training and a college education — these are the kinds of bread-and-butter issues that, again, aren’t necessarily sexy issues, but they have been the primary motivation for this President’s agenda since he decided to enter the presidential race in early 2007.
 
And that’s not an indictment of any specific news organization, but it is an indictment I think of Republicans who are focused on different priorities.  After all, they were ostensibly elected by their constituents to focus on the kinds of issues that will have the most direct impact on the lives of their constituents.  All I can say is that’s what the President is focused on.  And I think that what we have seen is a pretty apt comparison between a President who’s bound and determined to do everything he can to benefit middle-class families, and Republicans in Congress who are bound and determined to stop the President from making progress on behalf of middle-class families.
 
Q    There have been general polls that say that, in the midterms, that Republicans are likely to pick up seats in the House and potentially win the Senate.  If that’s true, then why does the President believe that maybe the public does actually believe in what this Republican message that he’s so critical about is actually translating better than his own message?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, the fact is that these sort of electoral polls are going to go up and they’re going to go down.  I think what the President is interested in is having a broader national conversation about what we can do to make sure that Washington, D.C., remains responsive and in touch with the concerns that are expressed and experienced in the everyday lives of so many middle-class families. 
 
That’s one of the benefits of holding up the story of Rebekah Erler, from Minnesota — that so many of the controversies and political conflict that’s highlighted on the evening news isn’t just relevant in her life as much more basic elements of what are we going to do to make quality childcare less expensive; what are we going to do to make it a little easier for somebody to take off work if a child or a parent gets sick; what are we going to do to make sure that middle-class families have an opportunity to send their kids to college and save for retirement, and also have enough money set aside to take a modest vacation with their kids.
 
These are basic fundamental issues.  And again, I understand why these issues are in the evening news every night.  I understand why they’re not on the front page of an influential newspaper like The Washington Post.
 
Q    Why not?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, because, again, they’re not as sexy.  Maybe they don’t make —
 
Q    If you’re going to say something about the Post, the Post won a Pulitzer for explanatory journalism about poverty this year — Eli Saslow.  So I just want to point that out.  Some of our best-read content.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Again, I did not mean that as a criticism of the Post.
 
Q    I know.
 
MR. EARNEST:  I genuinely didn’t.  It’s not an intentional jab to suggest that The Washington Post is an influential newspaper.  It actually is.
 
Q    I know, I appreciate that.  You said it wasn’t on the front page.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s not on the front page every day I think is the point that I’m making.  It has been on the front page.  And I remember Eli did some good work where he traveled to Kentucky and sat with people were signing up people who were benefitting from Obamacare.
 
Q    And he wrote a book about the President’s letters that you got, if I recall.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Yes.  So there’s good work that’s done.  But again, that’s not the — again, those aren’t the blaring headlines on the front page of the Post.  And I don’t mean that as a criticism of the people who are making those decisions.  I just want to suggest that there is a difference — that while the stories that are being covered and getting front-page attention are leading the network news are interesting, and in many cases very important to the future of this country.  The conflict in Iraq in has been in the news and on the front page of The Washington Post a lot.  That’s an important issue.  But there are also important issues related to the day-to-day challenges experienced by middle-class families.
 
And I think what the President is saying is that even if they’re not on the front page of The Washington Post every day, they are at the top of his mind every day when he wakes up and goes to work in the Oval Office.
 
Q    Josh, let’s talk about landmines and the announcement this morning that the U.S. will stop acquiring them.  What is the current size of the U.S. stockpile of landmines?  And are they currently being used anywhere in the world?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I’m not in a position to detail the inventory of landmines that are in the U.S. stockpile.  I can tell you that there was a commitment that was announced today that the United States will not produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel landmines in the future, including to replace existing stockpiles.  And what that means is we were signaling our clear aspiration to eventually accede to the Ottawa Convention.
 
Now, that does raise the question in the minds of some defense experts about the defenses that are in place along the border between North Korea and South Korea.  And let me just be clear that the announcement today in no way signals a reduction in our commitment or our ability to assist in the defense of our allies in South Korea.  This is an issue that’s going to require some additional study.  And eventually, we would like to find a way that we can, like I said, continue the robust defense that’s in place of our allies in South Korea while eventually acceding to the Ottawa Convention. 
 
Q    So is it those concerns about the situation on the Korean Peninsula that is keeping the U.S., despite this announcement, from immediately just starting to destroy our stockpile or at least committing not to use them?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I don’t think I’m in a position to sort of give you a thorough analysis of all the reasons that we may not be ready to accede to that convention today.  But I do think it is a notable adjustment of U.S. policy that we are now articulating our desire to be able to accede to the Ottawa Convention. 
 
But again, we do that knowing that our commitment to protecting our allies in South Korea has in no way been diminished.
 
Q    And on Syria, on the announcement of the President’s request for half a billion dollars to help train the rebels, does that signal that the situation in Iraq and in Syria has basically become one regional conflict?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, there are certainly regional elements to the violence and destabilizing activity that we’ve seen in that region.  There’s no doubt about that.   
 
I think what the announcement that you’ve seen represents a couple of things.  The first is, there has been a — there’s already been a wide range of efforts in place to support moderate elements of the Syrian opposition.  We’ve talked about in the past that this includes a significant amount of humanitarian assistance that’s been provided to the opposition but also to countries in the region who are dealing with the consequences of the violence and instability that has racked that country.  We’ve also seen the provision of a wide range of both military and non-military assistance to the Syrian opposition — to moderate elements of the Syrian opposition, I should say.
 
So the second thing is that this is an announcement that additional vetting has been done that makes the U.S. government and the Obama administration in particular more comfortable with providing additional assistance to moderate elements of the Syrian opposition.  And that’s an important next step. 
 
Ultimately, though, one element of our policy hasn’t changed, which is that finally resolving the situation in Syria is going to require a diplomatic solution.  And it’s no doubt that it’s a little disheartening that a diplomatic solution seems quite a ways off, but that continues to be, in our judgment, the only resolution to that ongoing conflict.
 
Q    Is there an expectation for timing on how Congress will take up that request?  And is it too little, too late already? 
 
MR. EARNEST:  No, I don’t think so, primarily because I think that they are — this may be, at the risk of sounding naïve and overly optimistic, an area where there could be some bipartisan common ground. 
 
So, frankly, due at least in part to our travels to Minnesota, I haven’t seen all of the reaction from leaders from both parties on Capitol Hill to this request for additional funding for overseas contingency operations, but we’ll see.  Hopefully, Congress will act pretty quickly.
 
I know that, at least rhetorically, there have been some influential Republican members of Congress who have indicated that this would be a good thing to do, but I would understand if they’d want to take a look at our proposal and consider it more carefully before eventually taking action.  But hopefully, that can be done quickly, and action in the legislature can be done quickly as well.
 
Q    Our reports have armed drones flying over Iraq, and then also Iranian drones doing surveillance.  So any reaction or updates on the President’s thinking with what’s going on in Iraq?  And then secondly, there’s reports that Khattalah is going to be back in the U.S. as soon as this weekend, so any updates on or briefings that he’s had on that? 
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, first let me say that I think that we have acknowledged — well, I know that we have acknowledged that we have increased the amount of intelligence-gathering and surveillance equipment in Iraq, including surveillance drones.  This is part of our effort to try to get a better sense about what’s actually happening on the ground in Iraq as it relates to the strength of ISIL.  So that’s something that we’ve previously talked about, and that is an effort that is ongoing.  And we have acknowledged publicly that the increase in resources now allows us to have around-the-clock eyes on the situation in Iraq.
 
In terms of armed drones, I’d say two things about that.  For operational details, I’d refer you to my colleagues at the Department of Defense.  But the second thing is that the President has reiterated his commitment many times to making sure that we have the resources in place and the equipment in place to provide for the protection of U.S. personnel in Iraq.  There have been other moves that have been announced by the Department of Defense to ensure that those resources and that equipment and those capabilities are at the ready.  That included the movement of an aircraft carrier in the region and other Navy vessels to provide for the protection of U.S. personnel in Iraq.  But in terms of individual operational changes in our posture, I’d refer you to the Department of Defense. 
 
In terms of Abu Khattalah, I don’t have any updates in terms of the timing of his arrival in the United States to stand trial. 
Q    Week ahead?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I do have a week ahead. 
 
Q    I have one before the week ahead.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Sure.
 
Q    We haven’t seen Rebekah’s letter, although the President quoted from it extensively in his speech.  Are we going to get to see that?  If not, why?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Only because the letter included some personal details about her family’s situation that I think she — rather, pretty understandably didn’t want to share.
 
Q    Could you just redact those?  (Laughter.)  You could.
 
MR. EARNEST:  We probably could, but I think at this point we’ve shared as much of the letter that we’re going to share at this point.
 
Q    And just one quick one.  Martin Indyk’s resignation as the Mideast peace envoy — I know his deputy has stepped up as an interim.  Will the President replace — announce a full-time permanent replacement for that position?
 
MR. EARNEST:  That’s a good question.  I’ll have to take that question.  I actually would suggest that you check with my colleagues at the Department of State.  They may have a better sense of that. 
 
The President is certainly appreciative of all that Mr. Indyk has done in pursuit of trying to find a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  He’s done really important work.  He’s an expert in this area.  He’s returning to the Brookings Institution, but we anticipate that he will continue to be involved in this administration’s efforts to try to resolve that situation.
 
We have complete confidence in his deputy who is going to take over.  And this is a process in which the United States continues to be engaged.
 
The week ahead:
 
On Monday, the President will welcome back to the White House Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.  The visit will highlight our close relationship with Chile and our strong partnership with the Bachelet administration on advancing peace and global security, social inclusion and free trade.  The President looks forward to consulting with President Bachelet on U.N. Security Council matters, other multilateral and regional issues, and ongoing negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as on expanding educational exchanges and deepening our collaboration in the areas of energy, science and technology.  The Vice President will also participate.  It sounds like a long meeting.
 
In the afternoon, the President will host a reception at the White House in recognition of LGBT Pride Month.  The First Lady will also attend that reception.

On Tuesday, the President will hold a Cabinet meeting and attend a couple of other meetings at the White House. 

On Wednesday, the President will host top economists for lunch to discuss ways to accelerate economic growth, expand opportunity, and improve the competitiveness of the American economy. 
 
On Wednesday [Thursday], the President will attend meetings at the White House.
 
On Friday, the President and First Lady will celebrate the Fourth of July by hosting military heroes and their families for an Independence Day celebration with a barbeque, a concert, and a view of fireworks on the South Lawn.  Some White House staff and their families from across the administration will also attend this event for the concert and fireworks viewing.  The event will be streamed live at whitehouse.gov/live.
 
Q    Can I ask about the economists?  This is the second recent lunch he’s having with economists.  Is it the same group?  And what did he learn from the first one, and what does he hope to learn from this one?
 
MR. EARNEST:  It’s a different group of economists.  And as you know, the President is always on the look for some outside-the-box ideas for ways that we can strengthen America’s economic competitiveness and expand economic opportunity for the middle class.
 
So again, I think the President is looking forward to what he would describe as a pretty open-ended discussion.  He’s looking for people who are legitimate experts in this field to bring their ideas.  And the President has put forward a lot of good ideas already.  He’s going to continue to push those ideas, but he’s also not going to stop looking for new ideas, some outside-the-box ideas — maybe even some ideas that might cause Republicans to drop their strident opposition to policies the President supports that could, again, move the country forward.
 
So the President is looking forward to the discussion.  I wouldn’t expect any major announcements out of the lunch, but I can tell you that it’s an opportunity for the President to have the kind of conversation and to draw out the kinds of ideas that he thinks would be good for the country.
 
Q    But there’s these two recent meetings.  And I mean, I’ve been doing this for about a year or so, and I don’t recall him having lunch with economists before.  Is there something about right now or the time that we’re in right now that would cause him to look for these fresh ideas, these out-of-the-box ideas?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, two things about that.  Like most Americans, the President has lunch every day — and we don’t tell you about who has lunch with him.  So that’s part of it.  But the President has periodically over the course of his administration looked for opportunities to sit down with experts in a wide range of fields to talk to them about their ideas for the kinds of policies that would strengthen the country.  And this is just the latest example.  There is no one thing that has precipitated this series of meetings.  But the President really enjoyed the discussion that he had with economists a couple of weeks ago, and he’s really looking forward to next week’s discussion as well.
 
Thanks, guys.

END
12:30 P.M. CDT

Remarks by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice Keynote Address at the Center for a New American Security Annual Conference

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

June 11, 2014

Remarks by National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice
“The Strength of American Leadership, the Power of Collective Action”

Keynote Address at the Center for a New American Security Annual Conference
Washington, DC

As Prepared for Delivery

Thank you so much Richard for that kind welcome.  And, to my good friends and former colleagues— Michele Flournoy and Kurt Campbell— I can’t help but note how well-rested you both look.  I’m only a little bitter.  Still, I want to thank you for your stellar service to our country both from inside government and now, again, as leading thinkers on national security.

CNAS, which you founded, does a remarkable job of preparing our next generation of national security leaders.  That work is critical, because our nation needs bright, dedicated young women and men who care deeply about our world.  We need a diverse pipeline of talent ready and eager to carry forward the mantle of American leadership.  So, thank you all. 

As President Obama told West Point’s graduating class two weeks ago, the question is not whether America will lead the world in the 21st century, but how America will lead.  No other nation can match the enduring foundations of our strength.  Our military has no peer.  Our formidable economy is growing.  We are more energy independent each year.  Our vibrant and diverse population is demographically strong and productive.  We attract hopeful immigrants from all over the world.  Our unrivaled global network of alliances and partnerships makes us the one nation to which the world turns when challenges arise.  So, American leadership is and will remain central to shaping a world that is freer, more secure, more just and more prosperous.

At West Point, President Obama outlined how America will lead in a world that is more complex and more interdependent than ever before.  As we move out of a period dominated by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we will lead by drawing on every element of our national power.  That power starts with our unparalleled military might, used wisely and when necessary to defend America’s core interests – the security of our citizens, our economy, and our allies.  We will lead by strengthening effective partnerships to counter an evolving terrorist threat.  We will lead by rallying coalitions and marshaling the resources of our partners to address regional and global challenges.  And, we will lead by standing firm in defense of human dignity and equality, while steering the course of history toward greater justice and opportunity for all. 

Today, I’d like to focus on one pillar of that strategy—mobilizing coalitions.  Indeed, galvanizing the international community to address problems that no one nation can solve alone is the bread and butter of our global engagement.  And, in many ways, it’s both the hardest and the most important element of how America leads on the world stage.          

This concept is not new.  Collective action has long been the hallmark of effective American leadership.  The United Nations, NATO and our Asian alliances were all built on the foundation of American strength and American values.  American leadership established the Bretton Woods system and supported open markets, spurring a rapid rise in global living standards.  Nor is this approach the province of one political party.  It was President Reagan who negotiated the Montreal Protocol, hailed today as our most successful international environmental treaty.  President George H.W. Bush insisted on UN backing and assembled a broad coalition before sending American troops into the Gulf.  And, President Clinton led the campaign to enlarge NATO, opening Europe’s door to the very nations who, as Secretary Albright put it, “knocked the teeth out of totalitarianism in Europe.”  Our history is rich with successes won not as a lone nation, but as the leader of many. 

Now, our approach must meet the new demands of a complex and rapidly changing world.  The architecture that we built in the 20th century must be re-energized to deal with the challenges of the 21st.  With emerging powers, we must be able to collaborate where our interests converge but define our differences and defend our interests where they diverge. Our coalitions may be more fluid than in the past, but the basics haven’t changed.  When we spur collective action, we deliver outcomes that are more legitimate, more sustainable, and less costly.   

As global challenges arise, we turn first, always, to our traditional allies.  When Russia trampled long-established principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and international law with its illegal annexation of Crimea, the United States rallied the international community to isolate Russia and impose costs. With American leadership, the world condemned the seizure of Crimea through an overwhelming vote in the UN General Assembly.  We expelled Russia from the G8.  Last week, the G7 met for the first time in 17 years, and we continued to concert our approach to Ukraine and other pressing global challenges.  We’ve reinforced the unity of our NATO Alliance and bolstered our commitment to Article 5.  President Obama has pledged to invest an additional $1 billion to bolster the security of our Eastern European allies against threats or intimidation.  More U.S. Army and Air Force units are now deployed to Central and Eastern Europe, more American ships patrol the Black Sea, more American planes police the Baltic skies.  And, meanwhile, with the support of the international community, Ukrainians have the chance to write a new chapter in their history. 

By working in lockstep with the EU and other partners, we imposed sanctions that are biting the Russian economy.  The IMF, the World Bank and private sector estimates all suggest that $100-200 billion in capital will flow out of Russia this year, as investors move their money to more reliable markets.  Russia’s economy contracted in the first quarter, and the IMF has declared that the country is likely in recession.  Its credit now rates just above junk status.  Russia has lost standing, influence, and economic clout by the day.  With our closest partners—Europe, the G7 and other key allies —we continue to send a common message:  Russia must cease aggression against Ukraine, halt support for violent separatists in the East, seal the border, and recognize the newly elected Ukrainian government.  If Russia does not, it faces the very real prospect of greater pressure and significant additional sanctions.

The speed and unity of our response demonstrates the unique value of America’s leadership.  Unilateral sanctions would not have had the same bite as coordinated efforts with the EU.  American condemnations alone do not carry the same weight as the UN General Assembly.  Bilateral U.S. assistance to Ukraine could not match the roughly $15 billion IMF program.  And, for our Eastern allies, American security guarantees are most powerful when augmented by NATO’s security umbrella.  

The United States’ commitment to the security of our allies is sacrosanct and always backed by the full weight of our military might.  At the same time, we expect our partners to shoulder their share of the burden of our collective security.  Collective action doesn’t mean the United States puts skin in the game while others stand on the sidelines cheering.  Alliances are a two-way street, especially in hard times when alliances matter most. 

As we approach the NATO summit in Wales this September, we expect every ally to pull its full weight through increased investment in defense and upgrading our Alliance for the future.  Europe needs to take defense spending seriously and meet NATO’s benchmark—at least two percent of GDP—to keep our alliance strong and dynamic.  And, just as we reassure allies in the face of Russia’s actions, we must upgrade NATO’s ability to meet challenges to its south—including by reinforcing the President’s commitment to build the capacity of our counterterrorism partners. 

Likewise, our historic alliances in Asia continue to underwrite regional stability, as we move toward a more geographically distributed and operationally resilient defense posture.  In the face of North Korea’s increasing provocations, we’ve developed a tailored deterrence strategy and counter provocation plan with South Korea, and we are updating our defense cooperation guidelines with Japan for the first time in almost two decades.  We aim also to deepen trilateral security cooperation and interoperability, which President Obama made a central focus of his summit with the leaders of Japan and Korea in March and his trip to the region in April. 

Improved coordination is a necessity in the Middle East as well.  The 35,000 American service members stationed in the Gulf are a daily reminder of our commitment to the region and clear evidence that the United States remains ready to defend our core interests, whether it’s disrupting al-Qa’ida or preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon.  At the same time, we look to our partners, both individually and through the Gulf Cooperation Council, to cooperate on missile defense and develop other critical deterrence capabilities, including in the spheres of counter-piracy, maritime security, counterterrorism and counter-proliferation. 

America will always maintain our iron-clad commitment to the security of Israel, ensuring that Israel maintains its qualitative military edge and can protect its territory and people.  Equally, we consistently defend Israel’s legitimacy and security in the UN and other international fora.  In turn, we expect Israel to stand and be counted with the US and other partners on core matters of international law and principle, such as Ukraine.

Drawing on the strength of our alliances and the reach of our partnerships, the United States’ brings together countries in every region of the world to advance our shared security, expand global prosperity, and uphold our fundamental values.    

Let me start with our shared security.  To responsibly end our war in Afghanistan, President Obama first rallied our NATO allies and ISAF partners to contribute more troops to the coalition, surging resources and helping Afghan forces take charge of their nation’s security.  As we bring America’s combat mission to an end, we’ve enlisted our allies and partners to make enduring commitments to Afghanistan’s future—so that Afghan Security Forces continue to have the resources they need, and the Afghan people have our lasting support.

Partnership is also the cornerstone of our counter-terrorism strategy designed to meet a threat that is now more diffuse and decentralized.  Core al-Qa’ida is diminished, but its affiliates and off-shoots increasingly threaten the U.S. and our partners, as we are witnessing this week in Mosul.  The United States has been fast to provide necessary support for the people and government of Iraq under our Strategic Framework Agreement, and we are working together to roll back aggression and counter the threat that the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant poses to the people of the region.  Yet, as President Obama said at West Point, we must do more to strengthen our partners’ capacity to defeat the terrorist threat on their home turf by providing them the necessary training, equipment and support.  That is why the President is asking Congress for a new Counterterrorism Partnership Fund of up to $5 billion to assist nations on the frontlines of terrorism to fight al-Qa’ida, its affiliates, and groups that embrace its violent extremist ideology.   

To shrink terrorist safe-havens and end civil conflicts, which can be breeding grounds for transnational threats, we continue to lead the international community to strengthen the foundations of peace and security.  The U.S. is the largest supporter of UN peace operations, which both reduce the need to deploy our own armed forces and mitigate the risks that fragile and failed states pose.  When violence in South Sudan broke out in December, and the world’s youngest country reached the brink of all-out war, the United States led the Security Council to augment the UN mission in South Sudan and re-focus it on protecting civilians, while we recruited, trained and equipped additional peacekeepers.  Since December, nearly 2,000 more troops have surged into South Sudan, with approximately another 1,700 expected this month. 

In Syria, by contrast, we have seen the failure of the UN Security Council to act effectively, as Russia and China have four times used their vetoes to protect Assad.  With fighting escalating, terrorist groups associated with al-Qa’ida are gaining a greater foothold in Syria, the horrific humanitarian costs are mounting, and the stability of neighboring countries is threatened.  So, while Russia and Iran continue to prop up the regime, the United States is working with our partners through non-traditional channels to provide critical humanitarian assistance and, through the London-11 group, to ramp up our coordinated support for the moderate, vetted Syrian opposition— both political and military.      

Yet, even as we strongly oppose Russia on Syria and Ukraine, we continue to work together to eliminate Assad’s chemical weapons and to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.  We built an unprecedented sanctions regime to pressure Iran while keeping the door open to diplomacy.  As a consequence, working with the P5+1, we’ve halted Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon and rolled it back in key respects.  Now, we are testing whether we can reach a comprehensive solution that resolves peacefully the international community’s concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and bolsters our shared security.

In today’s world, the reality is: many transnational security challenges can only be addressed through collective action.  Take the threat of nuclear material in terrorist hands.  One unlocked door at any of the facilities worldwide that house weapons-usable material is a threat to everyone.  That’s why President Obama created the Nuclear Security Summit.  So far, 12 countries and 24 nuclear facilities have rid themselves of highly-enriched uranium and plutonium.  Dozens of nations have increased security at their nuclear storage sites, built counter-smuggling teams, or enhanced their nuclear security training.  Our nuclear security regime is stronger today, because we created a coalition to address the problem, and we’ll keep the momentum going when we host the fourth Nuclear Security Summit in 2016.

Consider, as well, infectious diseases like MERS, bird flu or Ebola, which present yet another type of threat to our security.  In 2012, 80 percent of countries failed to meet the World Health Organization’s deadline for preparedness against outbreaks.  The international community needed a shot in the arm.  So, the United States brought together partners from more than 30 countries and multiple international institutions to develop the Global Health Security Agenda, which we launched in February.  Our strategy, backed by concrete commitments, will move us towards a system that reports outbreaks in real time and ensures nations have the resources to contain localized problems before they become global pandemics.

As we confront the grave and growing threat of climate change, the United States is leading the world by example.  As National Security Advisor, part of my job is to focus on any threat that could breed conflict, migration, and natural disasters.  Climate change is just such a creeping national security crisis, and it is one of our top global priorities. 

Our new rule, announced last week, to reduce carbon pollution from power plants by 30 percent compared to 2005 levels is the most ambitious climate action ever taken in the U.S.  It’s the centerpiece of our broader climate action plan.  And, as we work toward the meeting in Paris next year to define a new global framework for tackling climate change, we’re challenging other major economies to step up too.  We’re working intensively with China, the world’s biggest emitter, to bend down their emissions curve as fast as possible.  We’ve built international coalitions to address short-lived climate pollutants like black carbon, HFCs and methane.  And, we’ve led in encouraging private investment in green infrastructure projects overseas, while reducing incentives for high-carbon energy investment.    

Our security also relies on defining and upholding rules that govern our shared spaces—rules that reject aggression, impede the ability of large nations to bully smaller ones, and establish ways to resolve conflicts peacefully.  A key element of our Asia Rebalance is collaborating with our partners to strengthen regional institutions and international norms.  That’s why we are working with ASEAN to advance a code of conduct for the South China Sea that would enhance maritime security, reinforce international law, and strengthen the regional rules of the road. 

Similarly, we are building partnerships to set standards of behavior to protect the open, reliable, and interoperable Internet, and to hold accountable those who engage in malicious cyber activity.  That’s why we’re working with our partners to expand international law enforcement cooperation and ensure that emerging norms, including the protection of intellectual property and civilian infrastructure, are respected in cyberspace.   For example, last week, working with 10 countries and numerous private sector partners, we successfully disrupted a “botnet” that had been used to steal hundreds of millions of dollars and filed criminal charges against its Russia-based administrator.  Last month, the Department of Justice indicted five Chinese military officials for hacking our nation’s corporate computers, making it clear there’s no room for government-sponsored theft in cyberspace for commercial gain.  We are working with our allies through efforts like the Freedom On-Line Coalition and the Internet Governance Forum to preserve the open Internet as driver for human rights and economic prosperity.

This brings me to the second key reason we mobilize collective action—to expand our shared prosperity.  In 2009, facing the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, President Obama led to establish the G20 as the premier forum for international economic cooperation.  We needed more voices at the table, writing the rules for the global economy and committing to dramatic measures to restore growth.  Our efforts included mobilizing more resources for the IMF and World Bank to support the most vulnerable countries.  And, thanks to a broad and concerted international effort, the global economy has turned the corner.

Last year, we played a key role in enabling the 157 members of the WTO to reach a landmark agreement that will modernize the entire international trading system.  In every region of the world, we’ve brought nations together to increase trade and develop high-standard agreements to further boost growth and job creation.  This is a key pillar of our rebalance to Asia, where we’re working with 12 economies, representing almost 40 percent of global GDP, to finalize an ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership.  With the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, we’re taking what is already the largest trading partnership in the world to a new level.  To increase trade both within Africa and between Africa and the United States, we will join with Congress to extend and update the African Growth and Opportunity Act before it expires next year. 

In regions brimming with economic potential, including Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia, we’re supporting entrepreneurship and fostering private sector investment.  Our Power Africa initiative will double access to electricity across the continent through more than $15 billion in private sector commitments.  We’re assisting young people throughout Africa and South East Asia to develop their business and entrepreneurship skills, as well as their leadership. 

As we approach 2015, we’re pressing our partners to deliver on the Millennium Development Goals and to devise bold new goals that will guide the next phase of the fight against poverty.  Building on the extraordinary progress in many developing countries, our approach isn’t simply about pledging more money, it’s about bringing together resources and expertise from every sector to do more with what we have and to support models of economic growth that fuel new markets.  We’re building public-private partnerships, investing in academic breakthroughs, supporting non-profits that translate ideas into action, and creating stronger connections among them all.   

Take, for example, the progress we’ve made in agricultural development.  Back in 2009, at the G8 meeting in L’Aquila, President Obama made food security a global priority backed by billions of dollars in international commitments.  In 2012, the President launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which has now grown to ten African countries, more than 160 companies, and delivered more than $7 billion in responsible planned investments in African agriculture.  And through our Feed the Future partnerships, millions of smallholder farmers are planting better seeds, using better fertilizers, and seeing their incomes rise. 

Which leads me to the third key reason we mobilize collective action.  For, however much we might like to, we rarely can force nations to respect the rights of their citizens.  So we must catalyze the international community to uphold universal values, build broad coalitions to advance human rights, and impose costs on those who violate them.  

Human rights must be protected for everyone, especially traditionally marginalized communities such as ethnic or religious minorities, LGBT persons, migrant workers, and people with disabilities.  That’s why President Obama decided to join the UN Human Rights Council, so we could lead in reforming that flawed institution from within.  In fact, we have made it more effective.  Because of our efforts, the Council has spent far more time spotlighting abuses in Qadhafi’s Libya, Syria, Sudan, North Korea and Iran than demonizing Israel. 

At the same time, the Open Government Partnership initiated by President Obama in 2011, has grown from eight countries to 64, all working together to strengthen accountable and transparent governance.  Our Equal Futures Partnership unites two dozen countries in a commitment to take concrete steps to empower women in their societies both economically and politically.  And, as civil society comes under attack in more and more places, we’re bringing countries and peoples together to counter restrictions and strengthen protections for civil society.

Moreover, we’ve focused the global community on elevating that most basic aspect of human dignity—the health and well-being of the most vulnerable people.  We’re partnering with nations that invest in their health systems.  We’re working with NGOs to improve child and maternal health, end preventable diseases, and make progress towards a goal that was inconceivable just a decade ago—the world’s first AIDS-free generation. 

Across all these vital and far-reaching challenges, we continue to bring the resources of the United States and the reach of our partnerships to bear to forge a safer and more prosperous world.  Our goals are bold and won’t be realized overnight, but the essence of U.S. leadership, as always, remains our ambition, our determination, and our dauntless vision of the possible – the pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons; a world where extreme poverty is no more; where people are free to choose their own leaders; and where no child’s potential is cut short by a circumstance of her birth. 

We’ve earned our unparalleled position in the world through decades of responsible leadership.  We affirm our exceptionalism by working tirelessly to strengthen the international system we helped build.  We affirm it daily with our painstaking efforts to marshal international support and rally nations behind our leadership.  We affirm it by taking strong action when we see rules and norms broken by those who try to game the system for their own gain.  As President Obama told those graduating cadets at West Point, “What makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions.” 

As we leave an era of American foreign policy dominated by war, we are in a much stronger position to shape a more just and secure peace.  In doing so, we will be vigilant against threats to our security, but we also recognize that we are stronger still when we mobilize the world on behalf of our common security and common humanity.  That is the proud tradition of American foreign policy, and that is what’s required to shape a new chapter of American leadership.

Thank you very much. 

The Brussels G7 Summit Declaration

Brussels, Belgium – 5 June 2014

1. We, the Leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, met in Brussels on 4 and 5 June 2014. This Group came together because of shared beliefs and shared responsibilities. We are profoundly committed to the values of freedom and democracy, and their universality and to fostering peace and security. We believe in open economies, open societies and open governments, including respect for human rights and the rule of law, as the basis for lasting growth and stability. For nearly forty years, we have shown through our actions that collective will can be a powerful catalyst for progress. Our efforts to address major global challenges have also been guided by a commitment to transparency, accountability and partnership with other concerned members of the international community. We remain bound together as a group by these values and this vision. Guided by these shared values and principles, we will continue to work together to meet the challenges of our times. We thank the European Union for hosting this Summit and welcome Germany’s Presidency.

Global Economy

2. Supporting growth and jobs remains our top priority. The global economy has strengthened since we met at Lough Erne, downside risks remain which will need to be managed carefully. Advanced economies are recovering, but continued and sustained growth is needed to bring down unemployment, particularly among young people and the long-term unemployed.

3. We will take further steps to support strong, sustainable and balanced growth, with a common goal of increasing the resilience of our economies. We will present ambitious and comprehensive growth strategies at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, to include action across a broad front including in the areas of investment, small and medium enterprises, employment and participation of women, and trade and innovation, in addition to macroeconomic policies. We will continue to implement our fiscal strategies flexibly to take into account near-term economic conditions, so as to support economic growth and job creation, while putting debt as a share of GDP on a sustainable path.

4. We agreed that 2014 will be the year in which we focus on substantially completing key aspects of the core financial reforms that we undertook in response to the global financial crisis: building resilient financial institutions; ending too-big-to-fail; addressing shadow banking risks; and making derivatives markets safer. We remain committed to the agreed G20 roadmap for work on relevant shadow banking activities with clear deadlines and actions to progress rapidly towards strengthened and comprehensive oversight and regulation appropriate to the systemic risks posed. We will remain vigilant in the face of global risk and vulnerabilities. And we remain committed to tackling tax avoidance including through the G20/Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Action Plan as set out in the agreed timetable, and tax evasion, where we look forward to the rapid implementation of the new single global standard for automatic exchange of tax information. We call on all jurisdictions to take similar action.

5. Trade and investment are key engines for jobs and growth. We reaffirm our commitment to keep our markets open and to fight all forms of protectionism including through standstill and rollback. We are committed to strengthening the rules-based multilateral trading system. We will protect and promote investment and maintain a level playing field for all investors. International standards for public export finance are crucial for avoiding or reducing distortions in global trade. Since we met at Lough Erne, we have made substantial progress on major trade negotiations: Canada-EU; Japan-EU; Canada-Japan; EU-US; the Trans-Pacific Partnership; and the Trade in Services Agreement. We aim to finalise them as soon as possible. We are committed to liberalising trade in environmental goods and services, including through an Environmental Goods agreement. We will work to conclude an expanded Information Technology Agreement as soon as possible. These agreements and initiatives can help support and will be consistent with the multilateral trading system and act as building blocks for future multilateral deals. We welcome the successful outcomes of the 9th World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial Conference. We will prioritise full and swift implementation of the Bali Package, in particular the Trade Facilitation Agreement. We will continue to provide, within our current Aid for Trade commitments, substantial support and capacity building to help implement this agreement, in particular to the benefit of the Least Developed Countries. We fully support efforts in the WTO to secure swift agreement to a balanced work programme for completing the Doha Round.

Energy

6. The use of energy supplies as a means of political coercion or as a threat to security is unacceptable. The crisis in Ukraine makes plain that energy security must be at the centre of our collective agenda and requires a step change to our approach to diversifying energy supplies and modernising our energy infrastructure. Under the Rome G7 Energy Initiative, we will identify and implement concrete domestic policies by each of our governments separately and together, to build a more competitive, diversified, resilient and low-carbon energy system. This work will be based on the core principles agreed by our Ministers of Energy on May 5-6 2014, in Rome:

  • Development of flexible, transparent and competitive energy markets, including gas markets.
  • Diversification of energy fuels, sources and routes, and encouragement of indigenous sources of energy supply.
  • Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, and accelerating the transition to a low carbon economy as a key contribution to sustainable energy security.
  • Enhancing energy efficiency in demand and supply, and demand response management.
  • Promoting deployment of clean and sustainable energy technologies and continued investment in research and innovation.
  • Improving energy systems resilience by promoting infrastructure modernization and supply and demand policies that help withstand systemic shocks.
  • Putting in place emergency response systems, including reserves and fuel substitution for importing countries, in case of major energy disruptions.

7. Based on these principles we will take the following immediate actions:

  • We will complement the efforts of the European Commission to develop emergency energy plans for winter 2014-2015 at a regional level.
  • Working with international organisations such as the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Renewable Energy Agency, and the international financial institutions, we will supply technical assistance, including leveraging the private sector, and facilitate exchanges with Ukraine and other European countries seeking to develop indigenous hydrocarbon resources and renewable energies, as well as to improve energy efficiency.
  • We will conduct assessments of our energy security resilience and enhance our joint efforts, including on critical infrastructure, transit routes, supply chains and transport.
  • We will ask the IEA, in close cooperation with the European Commission, to present by the end of 2014 options for individual and collective actions of the G7 in the field of gas security.

8. We will also:

  • Promote the use of low carbon technologies (renewable energies, nuclear in the countries which opt to use it, and carbon capture and storage) including those which work as a base load energy source; and
  • Promote a more integrated Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) market, including through new supplies, the development of transport infrastructures, storage capabilities, and LNG terminals, and further promotion of flexible gas markets, including relaxation of destination clauses and producer-consumer dialogue.

9. We ask our Energy Ministers to take forward this Rome G7 Energy Initiative and report back to us in 2015.

Climate Change

10. Urgent and concrete action is needed to address climate change, as set out in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report. We therefore remain committed to low-carbon economies with a view to doing our part to limit effectively the increase in global temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels. We affirm our strong determination to adopt in 2015 a global agreement – a new protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force under the convention applicable to all parties – that is ambitious, inclusive and reflects changing global circumstances. We will communicate our intended nationally determined contributions well in advance of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris (by the first quarter of 2015 by those Parties ready to do so) and call on others to follow our lead. We welcome the Climate Summit of the United Nations Secretary General in September and his invitation to all Parties to prepare for ambitious contributions and to deliver concrete action to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience. We look forward to a successful Summit.

11. We reaffirm our support for the Copenhagen Accord commitments to mobilise USD 100 billion per year by 2020 from a wide variety of sources, both public and private, to address the climate mitigation and adaptation needs of developing countries in the context of their meaningful and transparent mitigation actions. We welcome the adoption of the Green Climate Fund’s operating rules and the decision to commence its initial resource mobilisation in the coming months. We remain committed to the elimination of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies and continued discussions in the OECD on how export credits can contribute to our common goal to address climate change. We will strengthen efforts to improve measurement, reporting, verification and accounting of emissions and improve the reporting of international climate finance flows, consistent with agreed decisions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. We will work together and with others to phase down the production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFC) under the Montreal Protocol. We will also continue to take action to promote the rapid deployment of climate-friendly and safe alternatives in motor vehicle air-conditioning and we will promote public procurement of climate-friendly HFC alternatives.

Development

12. The pursuit of sustainable and inclusive development and greater prosperity in all countries remains a foundational commitment that unites our people and our countries. We continue to implement the commitments we have made at previous Summits. To be accountable we will provide a report in 2015 on progress toward their attainment.

13. We commit to work with all partners to agree an ambitious and universal post-2015 agenda, anchored in a single set of clear and measurable goals. That agenda should complete unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals. It should be centred on people and focused both on the eradication of extreme poverty, promoting development and on balancing the environmental, economic and social dimensions of sustainable development, including climate change. It should also promote peace and security, democratic governance, the rule of law, gender equality and human rights for all. We are committed to build a global partnership with shared responsibility and mutual accountability to ensure its implementation. We await the synthesis report of the United Nations Secretary General in the second half of 2014. We welcome the African Union’s common position.

14. We will continue to promote inclusive and resilient growth in Africa, working with governments and citizens in Africa to enhance governance and transparency, improve infrastructure, notably in the energy sector, eliminate trade barriers, facilitate trade and investment, and strengthen the responsible and sustainable management of natural resources and the revenues they generate. We welcome the active role of the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development in the process of reforming the Africa Partnership Forum.

15. Security and development are the prerequisite of a lasting peace in regions affected by the scourge of war, terrorism, organized crime, corruption, instability and poverty, notably the Sahel region, Somalia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Central African Republic. We welcome efforts by African partners and the African Union, supported by the international community, aimed at building their capacities to respond to crises and support stabilisation.

16. We confirm our strong commitment to the Deauville Partnership and our support to Arab countries in transition in their efforts to improve governance and stimulate inclusive growth and job creation, particularly for their youth and women. Our Foreign and Finance Ministers will meet in the margins of United Nations General Assembly, and the International Monetary Fund/World Bank Annual Meetings, to take forward the Partnership.

17. We remain committed to work towards common global standards that raise extractives transparency, which ensure disclosure of companies’ payments to all governments. We welcome the progress made among G7 members to implement quickly such standards. These global standards should continue to move towards project-level reporting. Those governments that are signing up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative standard will voluntarily report their revenues. We confirm our commitment to implement fully the extractive partnerships launched in 2013.

18. We today announce a new initiative on Strengthening Assistance for Complex Contract Negotiations (CONNEX) to provide developing country partners with extended and concrete expertise for negotiating complex commercial contracts, focusing initially on the extractives sector, and working with existing fora and facilities to avoid duplication, to be launched in New York in June and to deliver improvements by our next meeting, including as a first step a central resource hub that brings together information and guidance.

19. We will continue to work to tackle tax evasion and illicit flows of finance, including by supporting developing countries to strengthen their tax base and help create stable and sustainable states. We renew our commitment to deny safe haven to the proceeds of corruption, and to the recovery and return of stolen assets. We remain committed to prevent the misuse of companies and other legal arrangements such as trusts to hide financial flows stemming from corruption, tax evasion, money laundering, and other crimes, ensuring that beneficial ownership information is available in a timely fashion to financial intelligence units, tax collection and law enforcement agencies, for example through central registries or other appropriate mechanisms, leading by example in implementing the Financial Action Task Force and other relevant international standards and our national action plans in line with the principles we agreed at Lough Erne. Greater transparency in this area will help developing countries.

20. Recent events illustrate that corruption undermines trust in governments and limits economic growth. We will build on existing efforts, including in the G20, to take additional steps to prevent this. We continue our engagement to and support of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Bank’s Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative. We welcome the outcomes of the Ukraine Forum on Asset Recovery and look forward to the third Arab Forum on Asset Recovery. The G7 remains committed to working with governments and global financial centres to follow up on asset recovery efforts.

21. We remain committed to the Muskoka Initiative on maternal, newborn and child health, and welcome the call made at the Saving Every Woman, Every Child Summit in Toronto to accelerate progress on this global priority. In addition we are committed to ensuring sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights, and ending child, early and forced marriage and female genital mutilation and other harmful practices. The health and well-being of women and children are improved through ensuring universal access to affordable, quality, essential health services, strengthening health, education and child protection systems and improving nutrition and access to immunisation. We recognise the impact of the GAVI Alliance (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation) and welcome its efforts to expand access to vaccines to an additional 300 million children during 2016-2020. We welcome Germany’s offer to host the second replenishment in early 2015, reaffirm our commitment, and call on other public and private donors to contribute to the replenishment of the GAVI Alliance. We reaffirm our commitment to an AIDS free generation and to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria to reduce the burden of these three major infectious diseases on eligible countries and regions.

22. To address the threat posed by infectious diseases, we support the Global Health Security Agenda and commit to working with partner countries to strengthen compliance with the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) International Health Regulations and enhance health security around the world. We commit to working across sectors to prevent, detect and respond to infectious diseases, whether naturally occurring, accidental, or the result of a deliberate act by a state or non-state actor. That includes building global capacity so that we are better prepared for threats such as the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa and working together, in close cooperation with WHO, to develop a Global Action Plan on antimicrobial resistance.

23. We continue to strongly support comprehensive approaches to achieve global food security and nutrition. We look forward to the second International Conference on Nutrition in November 2014 and the Expo Milan 2015, which will provide a platform for the global post-2015 debate on sustainability and food and nutrition security. We continue to support the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition under strong African leadership and the successful completion of principles for responsible agricultural investment by the Committee on World Food Security. These will better enable smallholder farmers, especially women, to benefit from sustainable rural development. We continue to support the consistent implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, including by building on the land partnerships we launched in 2013 and the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme.

Ukraine

24. We welcome the successful conduct under difficult circumstances of the election in Ukraine on 25 May. The strong voter turnout underlined the determination of Ukraine’s citizens to determine the future of their country. We welcome Petro Poroshenko as the President-elect of Ukraine and commend him for reaching out to all the people of Ukraine.

25. In the face of unacceptable interference in Ukraine’s sovereign affairs by the Russian Federation, we stand by the Ukrainian government and people. We call upon the illegal armed groups to disarm. We encourage the Ukrainian authorities to maintain a measured approach in pursuing operations to restore law and order. We fully support the substantial contribution made by the Organisation for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to the de-escalation of the crisis through the Special Monitoring Mission and other OSCE instruments. We commend the willingness of the Ukrainian authorities to continue the national dialogue in an inclusive manner. We welcome the “Memorandum of Peace and Unity” adopted by the Verkhovna Rada on 20 May and express the wish that it can be implemented rapidly. We also encourage the Ukrainian parliament and the Government of Ukraine to continue to pursue constitutional reform in order to provide a framework for deepening and strengthening democracy and accommodating the rights and aspirations of all people in all regions of Ukraine.

26. The G7 are committed to continuing to work with Ukraine to support its economic development, sovereignty and territorial integrity. We encourage the fulfilment of Ukraine’s commitment to pursue the difficult reforms that will be crucial to support economic stability and unlock private sector-led growth. We welcome the decision of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to approve a $17 billion programme for Ukraine, which will anchor other bilateral and multilateral assistance and loans, including around $18 billion foreseen to date from G7 partners. We welcome the swift disbursement of macro-economic support for Ukraine. We support an international donor coordination mechanism to ensure effective delivery of economic assistance and we welcome the EU’s intention to hold a high-level coordination meeting in Brussels. We welcome ongoing efforts to diversify Ukraine’s sources of gas, including through recent steps in the EU towards enabling reverse gas flow capacities and look forward to the successful conclusion of the talks, facilitated by the European Commission, on gas transit and supply from the Russian Federation to Ukraine.

27. We are united in condemning the Russian Federation’s continuing violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine. Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, and actions to de-stabilise eastern Ukraine are unacceptable and must stop. These actions violate fundamental principles of international law and should be a concern for all nations. We urge the Russian Federation to recognise the results of the election, complete the withdrawal of its military forces on the border with Ukraine, stop the flow of weapons and militants across the border and to exercise its influence among armed separatists to lay down their weapons and renounce violence. We call on the Russian Federation to meet the commitments it made in the Geneva Joint Statement and cooperate with the government of Ukraine as it implements its plans for promoting peace, unity and reform.

28. We confirm the decision by G7 countries to impose sanctions on individuals and entities who have actively supported or implemented the violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and who are threatening the peace, security and stability of Ukraine. We are implementing a strict policy of non-recognition with respect to Crimea/Sevastopol, in line with UN General Assembly Resolution 68/262. We stand ready to intensify targeted sanctions and to implement significant additional restrictive measures to impose further costs on Russia should events so require.

29. The projects funded by the donor community to convert the Chernobyl site into a stable and environmentally safe condition have reached an advanced stage of completion. While recognizing the complexity of these first of a kind projects, we call upon all concerned parties to make an additional effort to bring them to a satisfactory conclusion and call upon project parties to keep costs under control. This remains a high priority for us.

Syria

30. We strongly condemn the Assad regime’s brutality which drives a conflict that has killed more than 160,000 people and left 9.3 million in need of humanitarian assistance. We denounce the 3 June sham presidential election: there is no future for Assad in Syria. We again endorse the Geneva Communiqué, which calls for a transitional governing body exercising full executive powers and agreed by mutual consent, based on a vision for a united, inclusive and democratic Syria. We strongly condemn the violations of international humanitarian law and human rights and indiscriminate artillery shelling and aerial bombardment by the Syrian regime. There is evidence that extremist groups have also perpetrated grave human rights abuses. All those responsible for such abuses must be held to account. We welcome the commitment of the National Coalition and Free Syrian Army to uphold international law. We deplore Russia and China’s decision to veto the UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution draft authorising referral to the International Criminal Court and demanding accountability for the serious and ongoing crimes committed in Syria.

31. We are committed to supporting the neighbouring countries bearing the burden of Syrian refugee inflows and deplore the failure to implement UNSC Resolution 2139 on humanitarian assistance. We urge all parties to the conflict to allow access to aid for all those in need, by the most direct routes, including across borders and conflict lines, and support further urgent action by the UNSC to that end. In our funding we decide to give particular support to humanitarian actors that can reach those most in need, including across borders. We call for the international community to meet the enormous funding needs of the UN appeals for Syria and its neighbours. We resolve to intensify our efforts to address the threat arising from foreign fighters travelling to Syria. We are deeply concerned by allegations of repeated chemical agent use and call on all parties in Syria to cooperate fully with the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding mission. We call on Syria to comply with its obligations under UNSC Resolution 2118, decisions of the Executive Council of the OPCW and the Chemical Weapons Convention to ensure the swift removal of its remaining chemical stockpile for destruction, and to destroy its production facilities immediately and answer all questions regarding its declaration to the OPCW.

Libya

32. We reaffirm our support for a free, prosperous and democratic Libya which will play its role in promoting regional stability. We express serious concern at the recent violence and urge all Libyans to engage with the political process through peaceful and inclusive means, underpinned by respect for the rule of law. We urge continued and coordinated engagement by the international community to support the Libyan transition and efforts to promote political dialogue, in coordination with the UN and with the UN Support Mission in Libya fulfilling its mandate in that respect. We ask all in the international community to respect fully Libyan’s sovereignty and the principle of non-intervention in its affairs. In this framework, we commend the proposal of the High National Electoral Commission, endorsed by the General National Congress, to convene the elections on June 25. We emphasise the importance of these elections in restarting the political process and appreciate the vital work of the Constitution Drafting Assembly.

Mali and Central African Republic

33. We welcome the ceasefire signed on May 23 by the Malian Government and armed groups in the North of Mali, thanks to efforts by the African Union, through its Presidency, and the UN. We reaffirm our strong commitment to a political solution and to an inclusive dialogue process that must start without delay, as prescribed by the Ouagadougou agreement and UNSC decisions. We fully support the United Nation’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali efforts in stabilising the country and, with the commitment of neighbouring countries, including Algeria, Mauritania and the Economic Community of West African States, in working for a durable settlement respectful of the unity, territorial integrity and national sovereignty of Mali.

34. We commend the role played on the ground in the Central African Republic by the AU-led International Support Mission to the Central African Republic, together with the forces sent by France and the European Union, to support the transition and encourage the Transitional Authorities to take urgent concrete steps toward holding free, fair, transparent and inclusive elections. We fully support the UN efforts in the areas of security, reconciliation, preparation of the elections, and humanitarian assistance.

Iran

35. We reaffirm our strong commitment to a diplomatic resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue and welcome the efforts by the E3+3, led by High Representative Ashton, and Iran to negotiate a comprehensive solution that provides confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme. We underline the importance of the continuing effective implementation by the E3+3 and Iran of the Joint Plan of Action. We call on Iran to cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency on verification of Iran’s nuclear activities and to resolve all outstanding issues, including, critically, those relating to possible military dimensions. We strongly urge Iran to fully respect its human rights obligations. We call on Iran to play a more constructive role in supporting regional security, in particular in Syria, and to reject all acts of terrorism and terrorist groups.

North Korea

36. We strongly condemn North Korea’s continued development of its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes. We urge North Korea to abandon all nuclear weapons and existing nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and to comply fully with its obligations under relevant UNSC resolutions and commitments under the September 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks. We call on the international community to implement fully UN sanctions. We reiterate our grave concerns over the ongoing systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations in North Korea documented in the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry, and urge North Korea to take immediate steps to address these violations, including on the abductions issue, and cooperate fully with all relevant UN bodies. We continue to work to advance accountability for North Korea’s serious human rights violations.

Middle East Peace Process

37. We fully support the United States’ efforts to secure a negotiated two-state solution. We regret that greater progress has not been made by the parties and urge them to find the common ground and political strength needed to resume the process. A negotiated two-state solution remains the only way to resolve the conflict. We call on both sides to exercise maximum restraint and to avoid any unilateral action which may further undermine peace efforts and affect the viability of a two-state solution.

Afghanistan

38. We renew our long-term commitment to a democratic, sovereign, and unified Afghanistan and our enduring partnership with the Government of Afghanistan based on the principles of mutual respect and mutual accountability. The first round of presidential elections and the provincial council elections marked a historic achievement, especially for the more than 2.5 million women who voted, and we look forward to the completion of the electoral process. We continue to assist the Government of Afghanistan to strengthen their institutions of governance, reduce corruption, combat terrorism, support economic growth, and counter narcotics. We continue to actively support an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of reconciliation.

Maritime Navigation and Aviation

39. We reaffirm the importance of maintaining a maritime order based upon the universally-agreed principles of international law. We remain committed to international cooperation to combat piracy and other maritime crime, consistent with international law and internationally recognised principles of jurisdiction in international waters. We are deeply concerned by tensions in the East and South China Sea. We oppose any unilateral attempt by any party to assert its territorial or maritime claims through the use of intimidation, coercion or force. We call on all parties to clarify and pursue their territorial and maritime claims in accordance with international law. We support the rights of claimants to seek peaceful resolution of disputes in accordance with international law, including through legal dispute settlement mechanisms. We also support confidence-building measures. We underscore the importance of the freedom of navigation and overflight and also the effective management of civil air traffic based on international law and International Civil Aviation Organization standards and practices.

Other issues

40. We reaffirm our commitment to the protection and promotion of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including religious freedom, for all persons. We recognise the need to show unprecedented resolve to promote gender equality, to end all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, to end child, early and forced marriage and to promote full participation and empowerment of all women and girls. We look forward to the Global Summit to End Sexual Violence in Conflict taking place in London later this month.

41. We reiterate our condemnation of terrorism and our commitment to cooperate in all relevant fora to prevent and respond to terrorism effectively, and in a comprehensive manner, while respecting human rights and the rule of law. We condemn the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by Boko Haram as an unconscionable crime and intend do everything possible to support the Nigerian government to return these young women to their homes and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

42. We confirm that non-proliferation/disarmament issues remain a top priority and welcome the G7 Non-proliferation Directors Group statement issued today.