Tagged: PolicyJusticeFreedom

CALENDRIER du 13 avril au 19 avril 2015

(Susceptible de modifications en cours de semaine)

Déplacements et visites

Lundi 13 avril

President Jean-Claude Juncker meets with Mr Vítor Caldeira, President of the European Court of Auditors and with Mr Henri Grethen, European Court of Auditors’ Member Luxembourg.

Mr Frans Timmermans reçoit M. Jean-Louis Nadal, Président de la Haute Autorité pour la transparence de la vie publique.

Mr Frans Timmermans receives Mr Peter Faross, Secretary General of The European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME).

Ms Federica Mogherini and Mr Johannes Hahn attend the Informal Ministerial Meeting with Southern Partners on the future of the European Neighbourhood Policy, Barcelona, Spain.

Mr Andrus Ansip receives Mr Thierry Breton, Chairman and CEO of Atos.

Mr Valdis Dombrovskis makes a European Semester country visit to Rome; meets Mr Pier Carlo Padoan, Minister of Economy and Finance; Mr Giuliano Poletti, Minister of Labour, Mr Ignazio Visco, Governor of the Bank of Italy, and social partners.

Mr Maroš Šefčovič gives an opening speech at the Renewable Energy Economy Forum 2015 organised by the German Association for Renewables (BEE); Hannover.

Mr Maroš Šefčovič attends the Hannover Messe in Germany.

Mr Jyrki Katainen receives social partners about the Investment Plan.

Mr Jyrki Katainen receives the Confederation of European Paper Industries.

Mr Jyrki Katainen participates in EP Committee on International Trade (INTA).

Mr Jyrki Katainen delivers keynote speech at inaugural conference of EP intergroup.

Mr Günther Oettinger participates in Hannover Messe in Germany: speaks at the policy reception of the German Engineering Association (Verband Deutscher Maschinen- und Anlagenbau, VDMA) and Deutsche Messe on “Digital production – is Europe missing its opportunity?”.

Mr Neven Mimica attends the 7th World Water Forum in Daegu and Gyeongbuk in the Republic of Korea.

Mr Miguel Arias Cañete receives Mr Julio Rodriguez, Executive Vice President of Global Operations of Schneider Electric.

Mr Karmenu Vella in Riga (13-15/04). (13/04) visits the company Brivais Vilnis; meets representatives of local NGOs and Fisheries Advisory Council. (14/04) delivers speech at the Informal Environment Council. (15/04) attends the Informal Environment Council (joint meeting of the Environment and Energy ministers); delivers opening statement at the Green Bridge Forum.

M. Pierre Moscovici à Paris: rencontre M. Wilfried Guerrand, membre du Conseil d’administration du groupe Hermès et M. Jean-Noël Tronc, Directeur Général de la SACEM.

Mr Jonathan Hill delivers a speech at an event with the CEOs of SMEs organised by Eurochambres in Brussels.

Ms Violeta Bulc receives the representatives from the European Construction Industry Federation.

Ms Violeta Bulc receives Sir Graham Watson.

Ms Violeta Bulc receives Members of the Slovenian National Parliament.

Ms Elżbieta Bieńkowska attends Hannover Messe in Germany:delivers a keynote speech at the Forum “Global Business and Markets”, meets with Mrs Angela Merkel, German Chancellor and with Mr Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India.

Ms Vĕra Jourová in Berlin, Germany: meets with Mr. Heiko Maas, Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection, Ms. Maria Böhmer, Minister of State and with Dr. Thomas de Maizière, Minister of Interior.

Ms Margrethe Vestager delivers a keynote speech “In Varietate Concordia” at Syddansk Universitet on nation states and nationalism in Odense, Denmark.

Mr Carlos Moedas in Jordan: participates in the conference “Addressing shared challenges through Science Diplomacy: the case of the EU – Middle East regional cooperation”.

 

Mardi 14 avril

Informal Environment Council (14-15/04)

President Jean-Claude Juncker receives Ms Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Minister-President of the Saarland and members of the Saarland regional government.

President Jean-Claude Juncker receives Mr Milo Đukanović, Prime Minister of Montenegro

President Jean-Claude Juncker receives Mr Jean-Claude Trichet, former President of the European Central Bank.

Mr Frans Timmermans receives Mr Ton Heerts, Chairman of the Dutch Federation of Trade Unions (FNV) and Ms Catelene Passchier, Vice-Chair of the FNV.

Mr Frans Timmermans receives representatives of the Forum of Jewish Organisations of Flanders (FJO – Forum der Joodse Organisaties).

Ms Federica Mogherini in Lübeck, Germany: visits Willy Brandt House with Mr Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German Minister for Foreign Affairs and Mr Laurent Fabius, French Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development; attends discussion with students; attends G7 Ministerial meeting.

Ms Kristalina Georgieva attends the official opening of the exhibition “The Saga of the Thracian Kings – Archaeological Discoveries in Bulgaria” in the Louvre, Paris.

Mr Andrus Ansip speaks at a policy dialogue on transforming traditional businesses and creating jobs at the European Policy Centre.

Mr Andrus Ansip participates in the meeting of the Working Group of the European Parliament Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee on the Digital Single Market in Brussels.

Mr Andrus Ansip receives Mr Edgar Berger, Chairman and CEO, International Sony Music Entertainment, Mr Stu Bergen President, International Warner Recorded Music, Mr Richard Constant General Counsel, Universal Music Group International, Ms Frances Moore CEO, International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), Ms Olivia Regnier, Director European Office and European Regional Counsel, International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).

Mr Jyrki Katainen at the Investment Plan roadshow in the Netherlands: meets with Mr Bert Koenders, Foreign Minister; Mr Mark Rutte, Prime-Minister and Mr Jeroen Dijsselbloem, Finance Minister as well as the provinces, business leaders, students and stakeholders.

Mr Günther Oettinger participates in Hannover Messe in Germany: speaks at the event “Industry 4.0 – Made in Germany”  along with Mr. Sigmar Gabriel, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, and Prof. Dr. Johanna Wanka, Federal Ministry of Education and Research, and representatives of the industry; delivers a keynote speech ‘Europe’s Future is Digital’; meets with representatives of the industry, start-ups and research: Dr. Andreas Gruchow, Member of the Management Board of Deutsche Messe; Prof. Dr. Peter Gutzmer, Vice-President and CEO of Schaeffler; Mr. Thies Hofmann, Vice President of Business Development at Konux; Mr. Hermann Lertes, owner and CEO of H. Lertes GmbH & Co; Mr. Bernd Leukert, Member of the Executive Board of SAP; Mr. Daniel Siegel, founder of EliSE; Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Wahlster, Director and CEO of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI); Lucas Wintjes, Senior Vice PresidentSales and Industry Sector Management Factory Automation at Bosch Rexroth.During the day, Mr Oettinger also visits different stands, notably of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, H2FC European Infrastructure Project, OWL Clustermanagement, Microsoft, T-Systems, Siemens, Weidmüller, Endress+Hauser, ABB.   

Mr Johannes Hahn attends breakfast meeting hosted by CIDOB in Barcelona.

Ms Cecilia Malmström receives Members of the Slovenian Parliament.

Ms Cecilia Malmström receives Mr José Manuel González-Páramo, EU chairman of the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue (TABD).

Mr Neven Mimica attends the 7th World Water Forum in Daegu and Gyeongbuk in the Republic of Korea.

M. Pierre Moscovici reçoit M. Branko Grčić, vice-Premier Ministre Croate, Ministre du Développement Régional et des Fonds Européens et M. Boris Lalovac, Ministre des finances croate.

M. Pierre Moscovici reçoit une délégation du groupe parlementaire SPD du Bundestag.

M. Pierre Moscovici reçoit M. Patrick Kron, président-directeur général du groupe Alstom.

M. Pierre Moscovici reçoit M. Anton Hofreiter, co-président du groupe parlementaire des Verts au Bundestag.

M. Pierre Moscovici reçoit M. Jean-Dominique Senard, Président du groupe Michelin.

Mr Jonathan Hill receives Mr Mihály Varga, Hungarian Finance Minister.

Ms Violeta Bulc receives the representatives from the European Association with tolled motorways, bridges and tunnels.

Ms Violeta Bulc receives Mr James Hogan, CEO of Etihad.

Ms Elżbieta Bieńkowska meets with Mr Krzysztof Kurzydłowski, Professor at the Warsaw University of Technology.

Ms Elżbieta Bieńkowska receives Mr Patrcik Kron, CEO of Alstom.

Ms Vĕra Jourová in Berlin: meets with the Consumer Federation, with the Federation of German Industries, with Ms. Manuela Schwesig, the Minister for Family, Elderly, Women and Youth and with Dr. Meyer-Landrut, the Head of the European Policy Division in the German Chancellery

Mr Tibor Navracsics announces the winners of EU Prize for Literature 2015 at London Book Fair, London.

 

Mercredi 15 avril

College meeting

European Parliament plenary session (Brussels)

Informal Energy Council (15-16/04)

President Jean-Claude Juncker and the College receive the Spanish King Felipe VI.

Ms Federica Mogherini attends G7 Ministerial meeting in Lübeck, Germany.

Mr Andrus Ansip receives the Board of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

Mr Valdis Dombrovskis attends the Governing Council of European Central Bank in Frankfurt, Germany.

Mr Jyrki Katainen participates in a Committee of the Regions conference on the Investment Plan.

Mr Jyrki Katainen receives CEOs from German Insurance companies.

Mr Johannes Hahn receives Mr Milo Đukanović, Prime Minister of Montenegro.

Ms Cecilia Malmström in Paris: meets the Prime Minister of France, Mr Manuel Valls; participates in the citizen dialogue “Parlons d’Europe” (Centre d’études européennes de Sciences Po); meets theChief of Staff of President of France, Mr Jean-Pierre Jouyet; visits the Assemblée Nationale; meets the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Development, Mr Laurent Fabius; visits an SME.

Mr Neven Mimica attends the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington DC.

Mr Christos Stylianides meets with Mr Nicos Anastasiadis, President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicosia, Cyprus.

Mr Jonathan Hill receives Mr Patrick Odier, President of the Swiss Bankers’ Association.

Mr Jonathan Hill receives Mr Alexander Erdland, President of the German insurers’ association (GDV).

Mr Jonathan Hill gives a keynote speech at the British Bankers’ Association Reception, Brussels.

Ms Elżbieta Bieńkowska receivesrepresentatives of the Flemish Government.

Mr Tibor Navracsics gives a speech and hands over the European Heritage Label Award with Ms Silvia COSTA, Chair of Committee on Culture and Education of the EP, at the Ceremony, Brussels Solvay Library.

Ms Corina Creţu in Romania: visits EU-funded projects and meets with Mr Ioan Rus, Romanian Minister of Transport.

Mr Carlos Moedas receivesProf. Wolfgang Schuerer, Chairman of the Foundation Lindau Nobel Laureate.

Mr Carlos Moedas receives Mr Paulo Moniz, Vice-Rector of the Universidade da Beira Interior (UBI).

 

Jeudi 16 avril

President Jean-Claude Juncker receives Honorary Senator award in the European Senate, Düsseldorf-Neuss.

Ms Federica Mogherini attends Global Conference on CyberSpace 2015, The Hague.

Ms Kristalina Georgieva meets the winners of this year’s Juvenes Translatores award at a Special Award ceremony in Brussels, Belgium.

Mr Valdis Dombrovskis visits Washington and Boston, USA (16-20/04): attends the IMF and World Bank Spring meeting, gives a speech at the Atlantic Council and participate in G7 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors meeting; has bilateral meetings with M5s Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the IMF, Mrs Janet L. Yellen, Chair of the US Federal Reserve, and Mrs Natalie Jaresko, Ukrainian Finance Minister and Mr Ivaras Abromavichus, Ukraine’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade. (20/04) gives a lecture at Harvard University’s Center for European Studies.

Mr Jyrki Katainen at the Investment Plan roadshow in Bulgaria: meets Mr Boyko Borissov, Prime Minister; Mr Rosen Plevneliev, President; Mr Tomislav Donchev, Deputy Prime Minister; Mr Bojidar Lukarski, Minister of Economy and as well as business leaders, investors, MPs and students.

Ms Cecilia Malmström receives Ms Mari Kiviniemi, Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD.

Ms Cecilia Malmström receives Ms Monica Mæland, Norwegian Minister of Trade and Industry.

Mr Neven Mimica attends the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington DC.

Mr Karmenu Vella delivers keynote speech at the Ocean Energy Forum (Hotel Crown Plaza, Brussels).

Mr Karmenu Vella attends the conference “The Atlantic our Shared Resource – Making the Vision Reality” (Palais d’Egmont, Brussels).

Mr Karmenu Vella receives members of the German Parliament.

Mr Pierre Moscovici in Washington (16-19/04): participates in a Public roundtable organised by the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) on the theme ‘The recovery in Europe – the way forward’, delivers a speech at the World Bank / EIB conference on Climate Finance and has bilateral meetings.

Mr Christos Stylianides in Belgrade, Serbia: meets Mr Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Minister; Mr Nebojša Stefanović, Minister of Internal Affairs; Mrs Jadranka Joksimović, Minister and Mr Relief Marko Blagojević, Director of the Office for Reconstruction and Flood.

Mr Christos Stylianides Belgrade, Serbia: visits the Emergency Centre and attends the ceremony for Serbia’s entry into the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

Mr Jonathan Hill receives Mr John Rishton, CEO of Rolls Royce.

Mr Jonathan Hill receives Mr Michael Meehan, CEO of Global Reporting Initiative.

Mr Jonathan Hill delivers a speech at the event organised by the Centre for European Reform, London.

Ms Violeta Bulcin Madrid, Spain: meets with Ms Ana Pastor, Minister for Public Works, visits with Mrs Inés Ayala Sender, MEP; Mr Luis De Grandes; Mr Izaskun Bilbao, MEP and Mrs Tania Gonzáles Peñas, MEP; and with Mr Íñigo Méndez de Vigo, Secretary of State for European Affairs.

Ms Elżbieta Bieńkowska receivesMrs Monica Mæland, Norwegian Minister of Trade and Industry.

Ms Elżbieta Bieńkowska meets with representatives of THALES: Mr Serge Adrian, Senior Vice-President; Mr Pawel Piotrowski, Country Director Thales Poland and Mr Marc Cathelineau, Senior Vice-President EU-NATO-UN.

Mr Andrus Ansip and Ms Elżbieta Bieńkowska co-chair a roundtable discussion on cross-border parcel delivery with chief executives of national postal operators.

Ms Vĕra Jourová receives Mr Selakovic, Serbian Minister of Justice

Mr Tibor Navracsics gives a lecture as guest lecturer about the European Commission at Corvinus University, Budapest.

Ms Margrethe Vestager in Washington DC, USA (16-17/04): participates in the American Bar Association Antitrust Section’s 2015 Spring Meeting; meets with Ms Edith Ramirez, Chairwoman of the Federal Trade Commission; meets with Mr J. Baer, Assistant Attorney General of the Department of Justice William; meets with Mr Michael Lee, Senator and Chairman of the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee; delivers speech on “Competition policy in the EU: Outlook and recent developments in antitrust” at the Peterson Institute for International Economics; meets with Ms Amy Klobuchar, Senator and Ranking Member of the Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee.

Mr Carlos Moedas delivers an opening speech at the conference “The Atlantic – a Shared Resource: making the vision reality”, Palais d’Egmont, Brussels.

Mr Carlos Moedas delivers the keynote speech at the European University Association’s conference, Antwerp.

 

Vendredi 17 avril

Ms Kristalina Georgieva receives MsNathalie Loiseau, director of France’s Ecole Nationale d’Administration.

Ms Kristalina Georgieva receives Mr Jean-Pierre Bourguinon, President of the European Research Council.

Mr Andrus Ansip participates in the Global Conference on CyberSpace 2015 in The Hague, Netherlands.

Mr Jyrki Katainen at the Investment Plan roadshow in Hungary: meets Mr Viktor Orbán, Prime Minister and members of the Hungarian National Assembly’s Committee on European Affairs and the Committee on Economics, as well as SMEs, investors, NGOs, research institutes and students.

Mr Günther Oettinger speaks on the occasion on ‘Energy meets Digital’ ofthe Europa Forum Lech in Austria.

Ms Cecilia Malmström in Maastricht, the Netherlands: delivers speech “EU Trade Policy: Why should European Citizens care?” at the Jean Monnet Lecture, organised by the Maastricht University (Crowne Plaza Hotel)

Mr Neven Mimica attends the World Bank and with Mr Pierre Moscovici participate in International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington DC.

Mr Karmenu Vella receives the representatives from the environmental NGOs Green 10.

Mr Christos Stylianides in Zagreb, Croatia: visits the Parliament of Croatia, meets with, Mrs Kolinda Grabar Kitarović, President of Croatia and Mrs Vesna Pusić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign and European Affairs

Mr Christos Stylianides in Gunja, Croatia: visits a site of the 2014 floods to see recovery and rehabilitation projects.

Mr Phil Hogan and Mr Carlos Moedas in Ireland: take part in the round table discussion in Glanbia, visit the Teagasc Food & Research Centre, Moorepark and the O’Brien Centre for Science, University College Dublin (UCD), Belfield.

Mr Jonathan Hill delivers a speech at a Reuters Newsmaker Event, London.

Mr Jonathan Hill meets Mr Terry Scuoler, CEO of the Manufacturers’ Organisation (EEF).

Ms Violeta Bulc in Madrid, Spain: participates at the “Forum Nueva Economía”, meets with the representatives of the of the Joint Committee for the EU and Committee for Public Works of the Spanish Parliament and the Spanish Senate; meets with representatives of enterprises in different transport sectors, CEOE transport council

Ms Elżbieta Bieńkowska participates at the conference: “I have a right – citizen on the EU internal market” in Wrocław, Poland.

Mr Tibor Navracsics and MrJyrki Katainen at the Investment plan Road-Show, Budapest, Hungary.

Ms Margrethe Vestager in Washington DC, USA (16-17/04): participates in the American Bar Association Enforcers Roundtable on enforcement priorities from leading antitrust authorities in the world; participates in Roundtable on banking reform at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

 

Samedi 18 avril

Mr Neven Mimica attends the World Bank and with Mr Pierre Moscovici participate in International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington DC.

Ms Violeta Bulc attends the Global Show for General Aviation in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

 

Dimanche 19 avril

Mr Neven Mimica attends the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington DC.

Mr Miguel Arias Cañete participates at the Major Economies Forum (MEF) on Energy and Climate, Washington DC.

Ms Margrethe Vestager delivers keynote speech on transition from Minister to Commissioner at the Danish Seamen’s Church in New York, USA.

Prévisions du mois d’avril:

20/04 Foreign Affairs Council (Luxembourg)

20/04 Agrifish Council (Luxembourg)

20-22/04 Informal Epsco Council

21/04 General Affairs Council (Luxembourg)

24-25/04 Informal Ecofin Council

27-30/04 European Parliament Plenary Session (Strasbourg)

 

Prévisions du mois de mai:

07/05 Foreign Affairs (Trade) Council

08/05 Foreign Affairs (Defence) Council

11/05 Eurogroup

12/05 Ecofin Council

18/05 Foreign Affairs Council

18/05 EYCS (Education and Youth) Council

18/05 EYCS (Culture and Sport) Council

18-21/05 European Parliament Plenary Session (Strasbourg)

21-22/05 Eastern Partnership Summit

26/05 Foreign Affairs (Development) Council

27/05 European Parliament plenary session (Brussels)

28-29/05 Competitiveness Council

31/05 Informal Agrifish Council

 

Prévisions du mois de juin:

01-02/06 Informal Agrifish Council

08/06 TTE (Energy) Council (Luxembourg)

08-11/06 European Parliament Plenary Session (Strasbourg)

09-10/06 Informal Cohesion Council

10-11/06 EU-CELAC Summit

11/06 TTE (Transport) Council (Luxembourg)

12/06 TTE (Telecommunications) (Luxembourg)

15-16/06 JHA Council (Luxembourg)

15/06 Environment Council (Luxembourg)

16/06 Agrifish Council (Luxembourg)

18/06 Epsco (Employment) Council (Luxembourg)

18/06 Eurogroup

19/06 Ecofin Council (Luxembourg)

22/06 Foreign Affairs Council (Luxembourg)

23/06 General Affairs Council (Luxembourg)

24/06 European Parliament plenary session (Brussels)

25-26/06 European Council

Permanence DG COMM le WE du 11 au 12 avril:

Anna-Kaisa Itkonen, +32 (0)460 764 328

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

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

Speeches: Combatting Terrorism: Looking Over the Horizon

Thank you, Ruth. It is great to be here at SAIS – a place that has always emphasized an interdisciplinary approach to international affairs and a place well suited for this discussion about the need to address underlying causes of violent extremism in order to support current efforts to defeat terrorist networks.

From Copenhagen to Cairo, from Paris to Peshawar, in Nigeria, Libya, and China, violent extremists have perpetrated bombings, kidnappings, and shootings this year. Violent extremism is spreading geographically and numerically, and every corner of the globe is at risk. No country or community is immune. Intelligence officials argue that terrorism trend lines are worse than at any other time in modern history; despite the tactical successes of our intelligence gathering, military force, and law enforcement efforts, terror networks are spreading and new threats are emerging around the world. Accordingly, the United States and its allies in the fight against terrorism must strengthen our comprehensive strategy to address the underlying drivers that fuel the appeal and spread of violent extremism. That is precisely why President Obama recently hosted the White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism. Joining with leaders of foreign governments, international organizations, the private sector and civil society, President Obama and Secretary Kerry launched a global effort to address the enablers of violent extremism in order to prevent the emergence of new terror threats.

It is worth putting this pivotal moment in historical context.

As we look back on the terrorist challenge of past decades, several broad phases are discernible. We saw terrorism in the 1970s, 80s, and even 90s largely in the context of political movements, nationalists and separatists, regarding terror as a tactic used most often for political gains. Our national and international organizations dedicated to addressing these movements were modest, and our response paired political, criminal justice and law enforcement efforts.

In the 1990s, however, terror attacks against U.S. targets at home against the World Trade Center and abroad against the U.S. Embassies started to shift our thinking about and approach toward terrorism. It was no longer seen only as a foreign political challenge. Of course, after the 9/11 attacks against the United States, the U.S. mobilized anew, developing extraordinary military and intelligence capabilities focused on better understanding, tracking, and where necessary, attacking terrorists and terror networks. Working closely with a small number of partners, we also developed intelligence networks and refined military operations to detect terrorists and foil their plots, and we enhanced border security, law enforcement, and other tools to protect the homeland. With the killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011 and of countless other terror leaders, al-Qa’ida’s core was beaten back.

Yet despite the world’s devotion of enormous military and intelligence resources – as well as human treasure – the threat of violent extremism persists. Over the past 13 years, violent extremist movements have diffused and proliferated. Increasingly, they have sprung from within conflicts worldwide. And they have exploited grievances and divided societies in order to further their own aims. Weak, illegitimate, and repressive governments inadvertently created opportunities for terrorists to capitalize on popular resentment of governments make common cause with local insurgents, the discontented, and criminal networks, and operate in poorly governed territory. Additionally, terrorist methods and goals have diversified. They now control large territories in several regions of the world.

Let me offer specific illustrations of these dynamics: Tehrik-e-Taliban has long exploited local grievances in the tribal belt along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in order to sustain itself. Members of Al-Qa’ida’s network in East Africa blended with militants from the Council of Islamic Courts to create al-Shabaab. In the loosely governed expanses of the Sahel, extremists including AQIM associated with disenfranchised Tuareg tribes to expand its power base. In Libya, Ansar al-Sharia exploited post-Gaddafi factional violence to cement itself in the Libyan landscape. And the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or Daesh today, dramatically expanded its reach and power by capitalizing on Sunni political disenfranchisement in Iraq. The rise of Daesh is on all of our minds, but it is only one manifestation of a trend that we have witnessed over the last decade. Violent extremist groups have been expanding their control and resonance in South Asia, the Sahel, the Maghreb, Nigeria, Somalia, and in the Arabian Peninsula.

Of course, the U.S. approach and that of our partners in the fight against violent extremism has been adapting as well. We continued to pursue military force to go after terrorist leaders plotting to attack the U.S. or its interests and continued to refine our intelligence capabilities. We proved adept at taking key terrorists off of the battlefield. We also adopted more comprehensive approaches toward terrorism and violent extremism, adapting to the evolving threats we faced. For example, we placed greater emphasis on building the capacity – including military, intelligence, and civilian – of our partners to address threats within their own borders and region, as well as expanding efforts to reduce the radicalization that was leading individuals to join terrorist groups. We strengthened the international counterterrorism architecture by working with our Western allies and Muslim-majority partners to launch the Global Counterterrorism Forum in 2011. This platform allows experts from around the world to share good practices and devise innovative civilian-focused approaches to addressing the terrorist and violent extremist threats freed from the politics and process of traditional multilateral bodies. That same year, the U.S. inter-agency Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communication was created to more effectively counter the violent extremist narrative. And the U.S. sought to place greater emphasis on the role of law enforcement and the wider criminal justice system in preventing terrorism and bringing terrorists to justice within a rule of law framework, thereby strengthening the international cooperation that is so essential to addressing the threat. More broadly, from his first day in office, President Obama has made clear that to be successful, all of our efforts to counter terrorism and root out the violent ideology that underpins it, must be done consistent with American values and be rooted in respect for human rights.

Still, the threat of violent extremism continues to metastasize in different dimensions. A new variant of terrorist threat is foremost on our minds today. Some of the most violent extremist groups, such as Daesh or Boko Haram, differ from Al Qaeda, because they are not similarly devoted to dogmatic treatise, militant hierarchy, or simply destroying existing state authority. Many of these new actors they seize land, resources, and population to consolidate geographic control and advance their apocalyptic visions. They violate human rights in the most egregious ways imaginable, exacerbate communal differences, and lure foreign fighters to incite violence around the world. These groups destabilize entire regions and inspire, if not actively plot, attacks on the US homeland and against our allies. They violate and undermine every aspect of the progressive norms and order that the international community painstakingly built from the ruins of World War II. They pose very real threats to U.S. interests and to international stability as they propagate and violently pursue their nihilistic goals.

The international community has responded accordingly. ISIL’s sudden and dramatic rise has animated a robust military coalition to defeat it, which the coalition will most certainly do. But physically dislodging terrorist safe havens requires a comprehensive and costly military effort, and removing violent extremists from the political landscape of failed states or failing communities is a long-term process. The most effective and useful way to address the metastasizing threat of violent extremism is to prevent its spread through less costly and destabilizing methods, to better enable the success of the our military efforts to defeat terrorism where it already has rooted. The long game lies in building an international coalition to prevent the rise of the next ISIL.

This requires a clear-eyed view of why these groups have been successful. It is not solely because of their extremist ideology, as important as it is to counteract the vitriolic incitement. These groups are more opportunistic and cynical. For example, Boko Haram exploits unrelated local grievances and decades of neglect of the Muslim north. Daesh, a successor to the former al-Qa’ida in Iraq, emerged from the inferno of Syria’s civil war and capitalized on Iraq’s political difficulties. Al Shabaab drew its strength from Somalia’s state failure, rampant corruption, and inter-clan rivalry for resources, and these conditions allow the group to continue governing rural parts of Somalia. As the group was militarily dislodged from city centers, it began seeking common cause with aggrieved minorities along Kenya’s coast, using attacks to stoke ethnic and religious tensions.

The adaptation of terror organizations highlights the need for us to continue adapting our approach to violent extremism. These realities demand thinking about violent extremism not simply in terms of individual radicalization but also in the context of dynamics that make entire communities vulnerable to radicalization, co-optation, or exploitation.

How can we most effectively do this? We know there are many forces that drive individuals to violence. Current research, including interviews with former violent extremists or rehabilitated terrorists consistently reveals that there is no single driver of violent extremism. Rather, there are a number of common ones including: boredom, intergenerational tensions, the search for greater meaning in life, perceived adventure, attempts to impress the local community, a desire for increased credibility, to belong or gain peer acceptance, and revenge.

Similarly, there is no one driver of community-wide radicalization. Participants in last month’s White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism cited social rejection, political disenfranchisement, and economic exclusion as underlying conditions conducive to the spread of violent extremism. Yet the phenomenon of political, economic, and social marginalization as a driver of violent extremism is not new, nor is it synonymous with any one region, religious tradition, or culture. Marginalization is a strong “push factor” for many individuals and groups, and it creates a vulnerability to ideological and charismatic “pull factors.” Extremist narratives therefore become more intellectually and emotionally attractive to these marginalized communities.

Support for violent extremism does not take hold only under illiberal, authoritarian regimes; it festers anywhere liberty is denied. Even in societies with legal frameworks that guarantee respect for human rights, extremists have found resonance by exploiting real or perceived social and economic discrimination. While we may not know the precise reasons why the Charlie Hebdo attackers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi resorted to terrorism, we can see how violent extremists seek to exploit discontentment. In the low-income housing projects outside of Paris where the brothers grew up, the youth unemployment rate stands at more than 25 percent, and residents often complain of unresponsive law enforcement in the face of soaring crime and blatant hiring discrimination.

Although not the sole driver of violent extremism, marginalized and alienated groups provide “seams of vulnerability” for terrorists to exploit in their efforts to recruit and seek support. Simply put, people who think that they have nothing to lose and that playing by the rules of the system provides no avenue to opportunity or success become more susceptible to being drawn to violent radical actions to upend the status quo. We must therefore anticipate and monitor, if not ideally stitch up, these seams of vulnerability. This is the concept of preventing the rise of violent extremism before it becomes a terrorist threat. To execute this prevention strategy wisely, we need to refine how we think about policies and programming to enhance our understanding of what makes communities vulnerable to radicalization, co-optation, or exploitation by violent extremists, and we need a strategy to prioritize the allocation and alignment of resources to address first those seams most vulnerable to terrorist exploitation.

This preventive approach requires policymakers and experts to expand their focus beyond today’s dangerous threats. They must look to include communities that have not yet become terror safe havens or active conflict zones but that show susceptibility either to ideological radicalization or simply to making common cause with foreign terrorist organizations. Effective prevention requires us to work not in violent extremism “hot spots,” safe havens, or in active conflict but at the periphery – the places that terror networks will seek to penetrate as they expand their spheres of influence or as they are displaced from their current safe havens.

Prevention through addressing vulnerabilities on the periphery of terror networks broadens available interventions to include diplomatic, political, and economic tools. These approaches are possible in non-crisis environments, where bilateral cooperation is stable, development professionals have access to target populations, civil society organizations exist, youth can attend school, and adults devote their energies to economic activity, not fighting – all necessary conditions for development assistance and related interventions to take root and lead to improvements in governance and long-term economic growth.

A focus on broader interventions to address underlying factors on the periphery creates new opportunities for success in the struggle against violent extremism. Not every potential partner can participate in a military coalition, and many states are committed to international assistance programs that can be tailored to this particular challenge. A prevention approach further enlarges the coalition of effective interveners to include civil society and the private sector, who find it challenging to work in crisis zones. Civil society organizations, especially local voices, actors, and networks are essential, since they have intimate knowledge and authentic credibility to mediate disputes and misunderstandings, among communities or with state actors. Civil society organizations are especially well-suited to partner with women and youth, two groups critical for successful community resilience. For example, during last month’s White House Summit, a civil society leader from a West African country described the long, difficult process she undertook to earn the trust of a group of local imams in order to start a book club program to teach critical thinking and reasoning skills at several madrassas. Only a local actor could have won the imams’ trust, underscoring why one of non-state actors are so critical for prevention work.

The private sector can also play a role on the periphery. Building alliances with the private sector strengthens community resilience, by providing more economic opportunity to citizens and showcasing new innovation, growth, and connectivity. More private sector growth can offer another way to dampen the appeal of extremism and stabilize communities.

President Obama hosted the Summit to draw more attention to the importance of addressing the broad enablers of this extremism and to highlight the role of local communities and civil society in this effort. The President defined the Summit goal as “preventing [violent extremist] groups from radicalizing, recruiting or inspiring others to violence in the first place,” and he challenged the international community, to come up with a positive, affirmative antidote to the nihilism that terrorists peddle: “If we’re going to prevent people from being susceptible to the false promises of extremism,” he said, “then the international community has to offer something better.” The event may well prove to be a pivotal moment in the global struggle against violent extremism, opening the way to a more comprehensive, affirmative, and far-reaching effort to prevent the spread of terrorist networks.

The meeting convened an unprecedented diversity of stakeholders from more than 65 governments, civil society leaders from more than 50 countries, and two dozen private sector institutions, who engaged in an honest, straight-forward discussion about the broader enablers of violent extremism and its effects on their communities. “We know that poisonous ideologies do not emerge from thin air,” United Nations Security General Ban Ki-moon declared, as he pointed to “oppression, corruption, and injustice” as drivers of violent extremism. He cautioned that “all too often counterterrorism strategies lack basic elements of due process and respect for the rule of law.” Dr. Peter Neumann of the International Center for the Study of Radicalization cited evidence that social and political marginalization render people receptive to violent extremism. Jordan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Nasser Judeh addressed the role of Islam and called for an interfaith unity. “Religious authorities representing all religions on the face of this earth,” he said, “must unite on a narrative that discredits extremist ideology, dispels its foundations, and preaches moderation and interfaith harmony.”

The delegates outlined an ambitious, affirmative action agenda to address violent extremism. Governments, civil society, the private sector, and multilateral bodies committed to take action, both collectively and independently, in eight broad areas:

  • Encouraging local research and information-sharing;
  • Expanding the role of civil society, especially the role women and youth;
  • Strengthening community-police and community-security force relations;
  • Promoting the counter-narrative and weakening the legitimacy of violent extremist messaging;
  • Employing educational approaches and amplifying mainstream religious voices to build resilience;
  • Preventing radicalization in prisons and rehabilitating and reintegrating violent extremists;
  • Identifying political and economic opportunities for communities vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment;
  • Providing development assistance and stabilization efforts.

Several delegations have already pledged commitments in support of this comprehensive agenda. The United Nations will convene a special event this year to bring faith leaders from around the world together to promote mutual understanding and reconciliation. Japan announced a $15.5 million contribution to build capacity in the Middle East and North Africa to counter terrorism and violent extremism, including by strengthening community resilience. The European Union will create a Round of Eminent Persons from Europe and the Islamic world to encourage intellectual exchanges and promote dialogue on the cost and ramification of terrorism in our societies and to launch additional programs on how to link education and countering violent extremism. Norway will significantly expand its support for education training programs targeting populations at risk of radicalization and contribute $600,000 to the Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, and the Republic of Korea will engage IT companies to develop new initiatives to counter violent extremism.

Several delegations pledged support for counter-messaging initiatives. With European Union support, Belgium is establishing the Syria Strategic Communications Advisory Team to develop a communications strategy to provide subtle counter-narratives. The African Union has pledged to work through the Network of African Journalists for Peace to launch a continent-wide, counter-violent extremism messaging campaign, and through its Against Violent Extremism Network, Google Ideas is challenging the terrorist narrative, by leveraging and trumpeting the testimonials of more than 500 rehabilitated former extremists from 40 countries.

In addition, many countries and organizations, including Albania, Algeria, the African Union, Australia, Denmark, Djibouti, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Norway, and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, are already planning to host follow-on regional or thematic summits in an effort to involve more countries, civil society organizations, and companies in this process.

The Summit’s commitment to preventing violent extremism widens the aperture on the problem and invites deployment of development and broader foreign assistance programs to those communities particularly vulnerable to radicalization to violence.

The United States’ is committed to this multilateral action agenda. The U.S. is already working through the Global Counterterrorism Forum to support community-oriented policing in South Asia, the Horn of Africa, the Sahel, and elsewhere; nurturing entrepreneurship and strengthening innovation in emerging markets through our Global Entrepreneurship Summits and the Global Innovation through Science and Technology program; and rallying our partners across a broad array of sectors—including heads of the entertainment and technology industries, philanthropists, and policy makers—to expand economic opportunities for vulnerable and marginalized communities. In addition to the $188 million in programs that the State Department and USAID are already dedicating to implementation, President Obama has requested nearly $400 million in additional resources in the 2016 budget for the State Department to support a wider range of counterterrorism partnerships, including programs to address violent extremism.

Stay tuned for progress on this effort. President Obama invited Summit participants to reconvene at a leaders’ summit on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in September, when heads of governments, organizations, and corporations will announce the programs and policies they have undertaken to address the drivers of violent extremism and implement the action agenda. The Summit agenda ultimately promises to identify areas of greatest risk to violent extremism and help prioritize the deployment of resources and expertise to prevent terrorism from taking hold.

Several Summit participants called the meeting a milestone in the global effort against violent extremism and a turning point for the U.S. in moving toward a holistic approach that embraces Muslim and marginalized communities, as well as the role of civil society and the private sector. The challenge now is to build on this momentum so that it produces practical and tangible outcomes. It is an opportunity to supplement, expand, and innovate for the next generation. We can complement a counterterrorism strategy that has had success in addressing immediate threats with a more comprehensive approach to prevent the emergence of new threats. This preventive approach is affirmative: by employing a broad range of tools, including diplomatic, political, development, and communications levers, it seeks to empower individuals and their communities to resist extremism without the risk of further alienating them. This approach may also prove more sustainable in employing a wider array of actors and interventions to prevent terrorist threats from expanding or emerging in the first place.

Although preventing violent extremism entails harnessing a broader toolkit than intelligence gathering, military force, and law enforcement has built to date, it does not mean that development assistance or strategic communications will replace security interventions in countering terrorism. The United States government will continue to defend the American people and its interests abroad by targeting and eliminating current terrorist threats. The President’s commitment to comprehensively preventing violent extremism will advance new tools to complement and enhance, not replace, current counterterrorism efforts.

The White House Summit already has spurred new investments and innovative programs to address the underlying drivers of violent extremism. Yet realizing this approach will not happen overnight, even here in the United States. It is, by definition, a generational effort. But the United States and our partners have embraced the need to look over the horizon, to get ahead of the next violent extremism challenge.

At the Summit, Secretary Kerry announced: “We can send a clear signal to the next generation that its future will not be defined by the agenda of the terrorists and the violent ideology that sustains them; we will not cower, and we will prevail by working together….Our collective security depends on our collective response.” When world leaders reconvene on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly in New York this September, they will have a historic opportunity to consolidate this more comprehensive approach to counterterrorism.

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

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes and U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

November 11, 2014

Intercontinental Hotel
Beijing, China

10:56 A.M. CST

MR. EARNEST:  Good morning, everybody.  It’s nice to see you all.  You don’t look nearly as bleary-eyed as I expected.  I’m joined today by Ben Rhodes, the President’s Deputy National Security Advisor, and Ambassador Mike Froman, who is the United States Trade Representative.

Ambassador Froman has, as you would expect, primarily focused on the aspects of the President’s trip that’s focused on the economy and strengthening the American economy and expanding economic opportunity for Americans back home.  That is, as you would expect, a core component of the President’s agenda while he out here so Mike has got a couple of things to talk to you about.

Then we’ll turn it over to Ben, who will do a review of some of the other aspects of the agenda that the President has been discussing in the context of these APEC meetings but also what we’ll be focused on in the context of the President’s bilateral meetings with President Xi that will begin later on this evening.

And then after that, the three of us will be up here to take questions you have on any topic.  We’ll do this for 45 minutes or so.  All right, Ambassador Froman, would you like to start us off?

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  Well, thanks, Josh, and I’d like to start with an announcement on an important breakthrough we had in our negotiations with China on the Information Technology Agreement, or ITA, and that’s news that the President just shared with his other APEC leaders at the leaders summit.

Last night, we reached a breakthrough in our ongoing efforts to expand the Information Technology Agreement.  This is a WTO agreement that eliminates tariffs on high-tech products among 54 economies, including the U.S. and China.  And to give you some idea of the importance of this agreement, the last time the WTO agreed to eliminate tariffs on IT products was in 1996 when most of the GPS technology, much of the medical equipment software, high-tech gadgetry that we rely on in our daily lives didn’t even exist.  In fact, since that time, global trade in these types of high-tech products have reached $4 trillion annually.  And despite the explosion of trade, the coverage of the ITA of products has never been expanded.

And so that’s why for the last two years, we’ve been working to –- very intensively –- with our global partners to expand the Information Technology Agreement.  But unfortunately, during the summer of 2013, those talks broke down due to disagreements over the scope of coverage -– what list of products would be covered by the agreement, with most countries, led by the U.S., working to achieve an ambitious outcome.

Since that time, the United States and China have been working to close our differences but without a breakthrough sufficient to resume the plurilateral negotiations in Geneva.  And that finally changed here last night with an agreement between the U.S. and China that we expect will pave the way for the resumption of ITA negotiations in Geneva and their swift conclusion.  And that will be the first major tariff-cutting agreement in the WTO in 17 years.  At a time when there have been a lot of FTAs and other regional arrangements, the WTO hasn’t actually cut tariffs in 17 years and the ITA presents the first opportunity to do that.

This is encouraging news for the U.S.-China relationship.  It shows how the U.S. and China work together to both advance our bilateral economic agenda but also to support the multilateral trading system.  And it also underscores the importance of institutions like APEC — regional organizations — APEC actually gave birth to the ITA back in 1996.  It’s always been a key part of the ITA –- APEC leaders have always called for swift conclusion of the ITA so this is another indication of the utility of forums like this.

Industry estimates have concluded that successfully concluding the ITA would eliminate tariffs on roughly $1 trillion of global sales of IT products.  It would contribute to global GDP $190 billion and would support up to 60,000 additional U.S. jobs in technology and manufacturing.  And by also boosting productivity around the world and particularly in developing countries.

So we’re going to take what’s been achieved here in Beijing back to the Geneva and work with our WTO partners.  And while we don’t take anything for granted, we’re hopeful that we’ll be able to work quickly to bring ITA to a successful conclusion, and that will help support good-paying jobs in the United States, where we lead the world in creating and selling made-in-America high-tech products that the world is hungry to buy.

Let me conclude just about — a word perhaps about TPP, which has obviously been another area of major focus while we’re here.  As you all know, President Obama convened the TPP leaders yesterday.  They had a very productive conversation.  It was a good opportunity to take stock of where we were in the negotiations, to provide political impetus and guidance in terms of resolving the remaining issues.  All the leaders made clear in that joint statement that we’ve narrowed many of the gaps.

There’s still work to be done, but the end of these important negotiations is coming into focus, and that’s awfully important to the United States from a number of perspectives — it’s with 40 percent of the global economy covered by TPP, some of the fastest-growing markets in the world successfully concluding TPP will help support jobs, promote growth, strengthen the middle class in the United States.  It’s a key part of our rebalancing strategy, it underscores how the U.S. is embedded in this region and how the economic wellbeing of this region is integrally related to the wellbeing of the economy in the United States.

And with that, I’ll turn it over to Ben.

MR. RHODES:  Great, I’ll just give a brief preview of the President’s upcoming meetings here in China, and then we can take your questions on Mike’s issues or any other issues in foreign or domestic policy.

With respect to the bilateral visit here to China, the two issues that we’ve highlighted over the course of the last two days I think are the key priorities that we were able to get down and closed out around this bilateral visit:  That is the visa announcement that was made yesterday, and then the bilateral understanding on ITA that was reached today.

I think what speaks to the significance and dynamism of the U.S. economic — U.S.-China economic relationship.  Today at APEC that is clearly going to be broadened out into a discussion in regional issues related to trade and economic cooperation, as well as a number of other areas.

But as you know, tonight the President will have a dinner with President Xi Jinping of China to kick off the state visit portion of our time here in Beijing.  And then tomorrow, the two leaders will have bilateral meetings, as well.

In addition to discussing and marking the progress that’s been made on these bilateral economic issues, they’ll also discuss a range of other bilateral and global issues that are of mutual interest to the United States and China.

Specifically I’d expect there to be a discussion around our cooperation on clean energy and climate change as our two countries prepare for the ongoing international climate negotiations heading into next year.

We’ll have a discussion of a number of regional security issues, among them our shared commitment to denuclearization on the Korean Peninsula, as well as the security environment in the broader Asia Pacific region, including our interest in maritime security and the situation in the South and East China Sea.  We’ll discuss our military-to-military relationship and what we can do to develop greater dialogue and cooperation and confidence-building measures working together.

There will certainly be a discussion of the ongoing talk in Iran with Iran over its nuclear program.  And Secretary Kerry will be joining the President from Oman, where he’s been in a trilateral dialogue with the Foreign Minister of Iran and Cathy Ashton from the European Union.

Cybersecurity, of course, will be an important focus for the President given some of our concerns related to cybersecurity and the theft of intellectual property.  Afghanistan is an area where we are looking to cooperate with China.  We very much welcomed President Ghani visit here to Beijing earlier in the year and believe that China can be a partner in promoting development and stability in Afghanistan going forward.

Global issues like Ebola and ISIL will certainly be a part of the discussion.  And we’ve worked with China to enlist them in the effort to fight the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa.  And then, of course, as is always the case when we meet with China we’ll have a discussion around areas where we have differences — not just cybersecurity, but issues related to human rights and universal values.

So there will be a very broad agenda.  I think we’ve already had very good progress on our leader economic priorities heading into the visit with the ITA and visa understandings that were reached.  I think that shows an ability to identify areas of practical cooperation with China even as we’re, of course, going to have differences on a range of other political, economic and security issues.

And so tomorrow we’ll have those believe meetings.  And then the President will be hosted at a lunch here.  He’ll have a chance to meet with a range of Chinese officials before leaving for the EAS and ASEAN summits in Naypyidaw.

So with that, we’ll move to questions.

MR. EARNEST:  Let’s get started.  Julie, do you want to take us up?

Q       I have one two for Mike and one for Ben also.  Mike, can you say exactly what the U.S. and China agreed to that led to the breakthrough?  And, Ben, with the Obama and Xi bilat starting, the President has invested a lot of personal time in trying to build a relationship with Xi.  At the same time, China continues to be provocative on cyber and maritime issues.  How do you see their personal relationship at this point?  And how does that affect their conversations over the next two days?

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  Sure, so the ITA is basically a list of tariff lines that are to be covered by tariff elimination.  And we now have agreed to more than 200 tariff lines representing about a trillion dollars of trade to be covered by the ITA.  And some of the — for the last six months we’ve been focused not just on the quantity of the lines, but the quality of the lines.  And the lines that have the greatest potential, for example, for U.S. exports, where the U.S. plays a leading role, areas of expected future growth.  So things like high-end semiconductors where there are tariffs up to 25 percent currently.  We already export over $2 billion of high-tech, high-end semiconductors even with 25 percent tariffs.  Eliminating those tariffs will obviously expand that trade significantly.  It’s an area where we have a comparative advantage, and where we can support a lot of good well-paying American jobs.

Same thing on medical equipment, MRIs, CAT scans.  We export more than $2 billion of those products a year, and they face high tariffs around the region — 8 percent in some places, as well as tariffs elsewhere.  This will eliminate those tariffs and allow us to expand our exports.

Same is true on some of the high-tech instruments that have become components in advanced manufacturing that we’re very much involved in.  So those were some of the issues that we had a breakthrough on that will allow the negotiations now to move forward in Geneva.

MR. RHODES:  Sure, Julie, on your second question, the President has invested a good deal of time and energy in his relationship with President Xi.  I think if you look at the breadth of the agenda, it’s clearly, as Secretary Kerry said, the most consequential bilateral relationship in the world.  And what they were able to do at Sunnylands is cover this whole spectrum of issues.  And, in fact, actually the ITA came up at Sunnylands so this was an area of focus on our trade agenda.

And I think what the President was able to do is convey in that meeting his thinking on all these issues, both strategically and at a tactical level, and he was able to hear the same from President Xi.  Again, Xi Jinping has clearly established himself as a strong and assertive leader here in China.  And the way we look at the relationship is there, at any given time, are going to be areas where we can identify ways to make progress and then there are going to be areas where we’re going to have differences.

And I think we’ve been opportunistic in saying, okay, where do we have an agreement that we can drive the relationship forward on something like visas or ITA.  But on, frankly, the global security issues like Iran and North Korea, the Chinese have been constructive partners.  In the Iran negotiations, they have played a constructive role in being unified with the P5-plus-1, in pressing Iran to take this opportunity to demonstrate that their program is peaceful.  In North Korea, they’ve taken a very strong line to support the notion that denuclearization has to be the goal of any discussions with North Korea.

When we look at the global issues, we’ve encouraged China to play a more assertive role on things like Ebola.  We want them to be stepping up to the plate and kicking in more resources so we welcome the desire from China that is clearly on display here at this summit to play a role in the international community commensurate to its economic and political standing, and its standing as the world’s most populous nation.

At the same time, we’re going to be very clear when we believe that China’s actions are actually pushing outside the boundaries of what we believe to be the necessary international norms that govern the relations between nations and the ways in which we resolve disputes.  And so when we see things on cyber security where we have Chinese actions that disadvantage U.S. businesses or steal intellectual property, we’re going to be very candid about that.

On maritime security, what we’ve said is we’re not a claimant, but there cannot be a situation where a bigger nation is simply allowed to bully smaller nations.  There has to be a means of resolving disputes through international law and international cooperation through discussion between China, for instance, and ASEAN countries on the South China Sea, dialogue between China and Japan on issues related to the Senkakus.  And to that end, actually, we welcomed the meeting yesterday between President Xi and Prime Minister Abe as an opportunity to reduce the tensions between those two countries.

So I think the benefit of the personal relationship is that they know where they’re coming from.  There’s no mystery in our position on these issues, there’s no mystery on the Chinese position.  What we need to do is find when there’s an opening, we take it, and we run through that opening, we work together.  And when there’s a difference, we’re just going to keep raising it repeatedly with China, raising it in international forums like this and try to find ways to encourage China to work within an international system that ultimately is going to be the best way of delivering stability, prosperity, security to this part of the world and also dealing with global challenges.

Q       One for Ambassador Froman and one for Ben.  Ambassador, what are the remaining sticking points when it comes to TPP?  And you say the end of negotiations are coming into focus –- what specifically does that mean?  Do you have a timeline in your head for when there might be an actual deal?  And, Ben, can you talk a little bit about what, if any, specific asks President Obama will have on Ebola and ISIS when he meets with President XI?

MR. EARNEST:  Okay, so just to repeat –- I’ll try to repeat the questions just so everybody can hear them.  So the question about TPP –- final sticking points and timeline for completion, and then any requests that President Obama will make related to ISIS -– ISIL and Ebola.  So, Mike, do you want to go first?

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  Well, with TPP, it’s a two-track negotiation.  There’s market access and then there are the rules.  In market access, we’ve made very significant progress with most countries, including Japan, on agriculture and on autos we’ve made progress.  We’re not done yet, there are still outstanding issues, but we have made quite good progress there in recent weeks.

On the rules issues, we’re working to close out issues and narrow differences on the remaining.  I’d say areas that there are still issues we need to work through include intellectual property rights, state-owned enterprises, the environment –- those are three examples of areas where we’re paying particular attention to, to try and further narrow the differences and find appropriate landing zones.

In terms of the end coming into focus, these negotiations are an ongoing reiterative process.  And at every stage, we close out issues, we narrow differences, we try and find landing zones, and then we try and build consensus around them.  And I think it’s becoming clearer and clearer what the final landing zones might look like, but we still have some work to do, both to define them and then build support for them.

Q       But can you put any type of timeline —

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  We’re going to complete it as soon as we achieve the ambitious, comprehensive high standards we set out for ourselves and we’re all working very hard to do that.  There’s a lot of momentum, all the countries are very focused on doing that, but we want to make sure that we get it right.

MR. RHODES:  Kristen, I think on Ebola we’ve encouraged the Chinese and they have made commitments, both financial commitments in the provision of health care workers and support for health care infrastructure in West Africa.  So I think we’ve welcomed those commitments.  We are always encouraging nations to consider ways to do more, but also to galvanize international action — as we head into the G20, for instance.  So I think at the G20 this will be a topic among the countries in Brisbane.  And China obviously has a key role to play there.  So I don’t want to suggest that it’s kind of the lead item on the agenda but I think given the focus that we have on Ebola right now, we want to make sure we’re understanding what the Chinese contributions are, and then how we can work together on a collaborative basis heading into the G20 to get the international community to continue to step up and provide resources.

On ISIL, with respect to China, we obviously wouldn’t anticipate them playing a role in the military coalition.  I think all the countries here in the Asia Pacific region share the concern about foreign fighters going to and from Iraq and Syria, so we can have a discussion around those issues.  I think regionally, too, of course we’ve made clear that any lasting solution is going to have to deal with the political situation inside of Syria.  So it’s an opportunity to exchange views about how to bring about the type of transition that could ultimately end the civil war in Syria.

So I think more likely that they’re going to spend a lot of their time on some of the other issues that I mentioned –- Iran, North Korea, cyber, mil-mil relations, Asia Pacific –- but we want to make sure China is invested on the global agenda that we’re focused on and I think Ebola and ISIL clearly plays into that, particularly on the Ebola front where they can kick in significant resources.

And Ebola is an area where what we said to the Chinese is, there’s both the commitments you can kick in here on Ebola with respect to money and health care workers and infrastructure but also how we’re thinking about infectious disease going forward, and how we have the Global Health Security Initiative where nations are anticipating what’s going to be needed if there are additional outbreaks of different diseases.  And we’ve seen airborne diseases here in the Asia Pacific region.  So I think we want to make sure that when we talk about China playing a bigger role ono the world stage, it’s exactly those types of issues where they can bring resources and expertise to bear in fighting not just Ebola but future infectious disease.

Q       Ambassador Froman, please.  What about the TISA, the Trade in Services Agreement?  There was hope that maybe some steps ahead could have been done also on that subject within the WTO.  Also do you think that you could every close quickly the TPP without a TPA?  And thirdly, what about the development bank for investment in infrastructure that China is building up?  Is the U.S. now open to have it and maybe to participate in it?

MR. EARNEST:  I’ll just repeat the questions.  The Trade in Services Agreement in the context of the broader trade negotiations.  A question about TPA and — what was the last one?  The development bank.

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  Well, we’ve had quite good progress over the course of this year on the Trade In Services Agreement negotiations.  Several rounds and countries putting on the table offers.  And we have a robust work program going into next year as well.  So there is a lot of work being done on that.  But I would just put in the context of today’s announcement.  I think that the ITA announcement is a significant step in terms of showing the vitality of these plurilateral agreements where countries – likeminded countries can come together and make progress in trade liberalization, whether it’s in Geneva, the WTO, or elsewhere.  So ITA, we took a major step forward today.  TISA is well on its way, the Trade In Services Agreement.  And we have a very good work program ahead.  And earlier this year, we launched the Environmental Goods Agreement negotiation, which also includes China and we hope to work well with China and the other parties in the Environmental Goods Agreement to make progress on that in the coming year or so as well.

On TPP and TPA, our view has always been that the President has made clear that of course he would like to get a Trade Promotion Authority, he’d like to finish TPP consistent with it being an ambitious, comprehensive, high-standard agreement as soon as possible.  And we are working in parallel tracks on that, that ultimately the only guarantee that a trade agreement earns the support of Congress is that we bring back a good agreement.  And our focus is on bringing back an agreement that meets those standards.

On the infrastructure front, obviously the U.S. is very active in the G20 and a variety of other forums, including here at APEC, in talking about the importance of infrastructure and financing for infrastructure.  We have been a strong supporter of the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.  And we think it’s important that whatever mechanisms are put in place, they live up to the high standards of the multilateral development banks in terms of procurement practices, environmental practices; that they have the very highest standards that exist for international lending.

Q       For Ben.  Ben, before you left on the trip, I think you met with NGOs that were doing work on human rights and democracy in Burma.  What message were they giving to you?  And how do you respond to them when they say, as they maybe have to journalists, it’s not a bump in the road on the reforms when you have the violence going on in some parts of the country.  I think the violence — you have to do more to stand up to — how did you talk to them about that?  And also, how do you carry that message forward in Burma?  What notes will you strike so that the United States doesn’t look like they’re maybe lecturing but rather trying to encourage further —

MR. EARNEST:  Just to repeat the question for everybody else in the room.  Question about how you respond to concerns that have been raised by human rights advocates about the slow pace of progress in Burma, and how does that impact the message that you’ll deliver to Burmese officials when the President is there later this week.

Q       (Inaudible.)

MR. RHODES:  Well, David, I did meet with a number of NGOs, human rights advocates, a number of Burmese separately from that as well who are engaged in civil society there.  I also talked to a lot of the congressional staff that is focused on these issues, given Congress’s interest.  And I think our message is – let me just step back here.  On the one hand, what we’ve seen in the last five years in Burma is transformational.  The opening of a country that had been completely closed off for decades, the opening of some political space, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the release of political prisoners, and the initiation, really, of a kind of politics in Burma that just didn’t exist several years ago.  But it’s a country with enormous challenges and enormous needs.  It has a lot to do.

And you don’t complete those types of transitions quickly or easily.  This is going to take years to work through all the different issues that have to be addressed inside of Burma.  However, I think we need to be practical about the timelines associated with those transitions.  When we look at, for instance, Indonesia, the President met with the newly elected President of Indonesia yesterday.  It took many years for them to work through elections and constitutional reforms and dealing with different ethnic groups in the country.  So we’re taking a view here in Burma that this is enormous opportunity for the people inside the country, enormous opportunity for democratization.  However, I think that we are concerned about areas where we do not see progress and where we see significant challenges.  And I think there are really three broad categories that we’re going to be focused on heading into this visit.  One is the ongoing process of political reform in the country.

And, again, what I said to the people I met with is that we share the same objective here –- we share the objective of there being a credible election next year in the parliamentary elections in which the Burmese people can choose their leadership but we also share the objective of supporting the process of constitutional reform inside of Burma.  One election isn’t going to fix all the problems.  There needs to be constitutional reform that enables there to be a fuller transition from military to civilian rule, that enables Burma to choose their own leaders.  And the President will definitely be discussing the progress in planning for those elections but also the progress on, and the need for constitutional reform.  And that’s something that he’ll talk to Thein Sein and Aung San Suu Kyi about.

Secondly, there is the issue in Rakhine State.  And here I think is we’ve seen the most troubling difficulties with the humanitarian situation deteriorating in Rakhine State.  A very specific issue having to do with the treatment of the Rohingya population there.  And there, too, I think we share the same objective of the human rights community.  We want to see better humanitarian access to the Rohingya, to help alleviate the humanitarian situation.  We would like to see a long-term plan, an action plan that does not rely on camps but rather allows people to settle in communities and pursue development within the country.  And we would like to see a process where the Rohingya can become citizens of Burma without having to self-identify as something other than who they are, which is citizens of –- prospective citizens of Burma.

So We’ve been working very hard in the country, working with other countries to try to bring a focus on the situation in Rakhine State, and it will certainly be front and center in the President’s discussions.

Then the third area is the ethnic insurgencies and the ceasefires that have been reached.  Here, I think the government has made a good deal of progress.  They have reached individual ceasefires with many of the different ethnic group.  The Kachin is one that we’ve been particularly focused on of late.  But they’re working to translate that into a nationwide ceasefire that can lead into a process of reconciliation that addresses the underlying issues of ethnic political participation, of economic development in the ethnic areas, and the role of the military as well.

And we believe that there’s a real opportunity here for the government to move forward with this plan.  But again, it has to be one that doesn’t just put a lid on things, but addresses the underlying challenges and works towards the type of federal union that I think has been contemplated in many of the discussions with the ethnic groups.

So we’re coming at a time where a lot of these are in flux.  But the fact of the matter is they can be dealt with through politics — and that’s new in Burma.  That doesn’t mean it’s perfect, but it means that people are going to get around the table; there’s going to be a process for reviewing the constitutional amendments.  There’s going to be elections.  There are going to be talks ongoing with the ethnic groups.  And so we want this opening to continue to move forward.  We want the trajectory to continue to be one of progress.

And the United States can best — I think to sum up my message, the United States can best move that forward by engagement.  If we disengage, frankly I think that there’s a vacuum that could potentially be filled by bad actors.  But when we’re at the table, when we’re pressing these issues, we’re bringing more attention to the situation in Rakhine State.  We are working to bring the parties together in the political process.  We can help facilitate and support through development assistance the implementation of the nationwide ceasefire.

So I covered a lot of ground there, but the bottom line here is I think that we share the same objectives with the advocacy community here.  We are pursuing those objectives through engagement, and we’re clear-eyed about where there’s been progress and where there needs to be more.  And we believe we can best move that along by the President raising this with Thein Sein, with Aung San Suu Kyi.  But you’ll notice he’s also meeting with civil society, he’s meeting with young people.  We’re sending the message that we’re engaging very broadly in this country because we care deeply about its future and we see a real opportunity, but that opportunity can only be seized if they continue moving in the right direction and don’t let some of the recent very significant challenges through the reform off course.

MR. EARNEST:  Carol.

Q       I have one for each of you actually.  On the ITA, can you explain what the difference this one is going to make to the tech industry given that — and how it will impact consumers, and if China got any concessions in this breakthrough?  And then, Ben, you mentioned that Obama and Xi are going to talk about military-to-military cooperation.  Can you guys talk on those building measures?  And have you guys reached agreements on notifying each other about military activities and on a code of conduct for encounters in sea and air?

Josh, on the net neutrality announcement, can you talk about why you guys did that now and what you’re trying to accomplish, and what sort of pushback can you expect from the new Congress?  And whether or not the President has talked to Comcast about it?

MR. EARNEST:  Mike, I’ll let you go first.  Do you want to repeat the question for — I think I lost track by the end.

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  The benefits of ITA.

Q       Right.  (Off mic) and how it’s going to affect consumers.

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  Well, in these tariff reduction agreements, it obviously benefits both the producers who can now sell more of their product, but also the consumers — because they’ll see access to products more easily.  And when you’re talking about medical devices, for example — medical equipment, like MRIs and CAT scans, and a whole variety of implantable devices — that means better health care for people all over the world.

The tariffs range as high as 25 percent for some of the next generation semi-conductors; 30 percent for loud speakers; 30 percent for certain software media; 30 percent for video game consoles.  So some of the tariffs are in the 5 to 8 percent range, some are in the 25 to 30 percent range.  And right now the trade in these cover lines is about $1 trillion, and we’d expect it to grow significantly for the benefit of consumers and the benefits of producers, including a lot of products made in the United States.  We export over a billion dollars of these products right now, even with these barriers in place, and that will help support more jobs in the United States.

Q       (Inaudible)

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  In trade negotiations there’s always issues of how the obligations are phased in over time, and that will be part of what’s discussed in Geneva.

MR. RHODES:  Sure, on the specific nature of the confidence-building measures with the Chinese and mil-mil ties.  I don’t want to get ahead of the discussions, but we’ve certainly been focused on both just simply the lines of communication with China, but also how to address some of the challenges we’ve seen recently, for instance, with respect to circumstances where we certainly came a little too close for comfort between the United States and Chinese military assets.  And so we’re looking at what practical things can be done to build confidence and have more transparency.  So we’ll keep you updated on that.  I don’t want to get ahead of the leaders.

But the bottom-line principle is, first of all, it’s incredibly important that we avoid inadvertent escalation and that we don’t find ourselves having an accidental circumstance lead into something that could precipitate conflict.  So there’s enormous value in that type of dialogue.

And the second point I think is it’s good for the region if the United States and China are able to have greater transparency between our militaries.  I think that will ultimately promote stability.  And we’ve encouraged that type of transparency across the region — whether it’s an ASEAN code of conduct or whether it’s the type of dialogue that President Xi and Prime Minister Abe had yesterday.  This is something that we’ve been encouraging all of our partners to do — to be more transparent, to build confidence, develop practical means to avoid an inadvertent escalation.

So it will be an important topic of their meeting, and we’ll keep you updated on it.

Q       So just the two things that —

MR. RHODES:  I mean, there are those and then there’s just the broader nature of our military-to-military relationship and how we interact, how we have exchanges.  So I think we’ll have more to say on this, but I don’t want to get ahead of the leaders.

MR. EARNEST:  And then before we move on to — just on the net neutrality question that you raised earlier, Carol — I know that there are members of Congress on both sides of this issue who have made their views known.  The White House has been in touch with the business community on a variety of issues, as we always are.  And I know that this is something that, again, on both sides of this issue they are very strongly held views.

The position that the President articulated in the statement that was released today is consistent with the President’s previously expressed strongly held views about the important of an open Internet; that the Internet has been the source of innovation, that it’s been good for the economy, in particular in the United States.  And putting in place a regulatory regime that does not allow some of those companies to sort of extend some preferential treatment to some content is an important way that we can protect the freedom and openness that’s associated with the Internet that will ensure that it continues to be a space that’s open to innovation and progress.

But again, this is something that has been — has engendered strongly held views on both sides, so I would anticipate this will continue to be a pretty robust debate in the political sphere back home in the United States.

I will say that in terms of the timing of this announcement, it is not related to this specific trip; that there are some regulatory decisions that are due.  And the President felt like this was an appropriate time to, again, reiterate his views about the important principle that’s at stake here.

Ed.

Q       Ben, I had a question about Putin in terms of — I know it was just a brief conversation so far.  But can you say anything that happened there?  But also more importantly moving forward what you hope to accomplish, what message you hope to send to Putin because we’ve heard again and again that sanctions are working against Russia.  And certainly we’ve seen the ruble in the last couple days — there’s been an economic impact.  But the administration put out a statement a day or two ago saying that heavy artillery and tanks are being sent to the front line basically by Russia.  And that’s your own assessment.  So doesn’t that suggest that the sanctions are not stopping them from this heavy influence inside Ukraine?

MR. EARNEST:  The question is about the exchange between the President — President Obama and President Putin yesterday and the impact of sanctions on influencing Russia’s actions in Ukraine.  Ben, you want to take that.

MR. RHODES:  Sure.  Well, first of all, their interaction, as I think we said last night, it was very brief.  The leaders greeted each other as the President greeted many leaders.  They did not have the substantive exchange that they do today on the margins of APEC, where I think there’s a lot more time.  We’ll certainly let you know.

But, Ed, I think — first on the message and then on the situation in Ukraine specifically, on Ukraine, we continue to be deeply troubled by Russia’s activities.  And I guess to take your question head-on, the sanctions are clearly succeeding and having an impact on the Russian economy.  There’s no question that if you look at every metric from the status of the ruble, to their projections for growth, that the Russian economic picture is grim and getting grimmer because of the sanctions.

The sanctions have yet to sufficiently affect Russia’s calculus as it relates to Ukraine.  That’s why we continue to impose them.  That’s why we continue to be very clear about where we need to see better Russian action, specifically, as you said, we’ve seen the continued provision of support to the separatists, including heavy weapons that are in complete violation of the spirit of the Minsk agreement.  And what our message is to Russia is there’s an agreement that you reached with the government in Kyiv, and you just abide by that agreement.  The separatists must abide by that agreement.  And escalating the situation by providing these types of weapons into Ukraine is clearly not in service of that process.

And what Russia will find is, if they continue to do that, it’s a recipe for isolation from a broad swath of the international community.  It’s a recipe for the type of economic disruption they’ve seen from the sanctions going forward.

So our message is one of resolve in insisting upon the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.  It’s a message that there is a road map here through the Minsk agreement that should be followed.  And the President will certainly I think express that view publicly and privately in the coming days and weeks.

I think more broadly with Russia, I think at the same time we’ve had differences with them on Ukraine, we’re working to pursue an Iran agreement.  We’re working in a range of areas where we can make progress together.  But clearly what we’ve seen is a troubling focus from President Putin on the situation in Ukraine that is going to demand a response from the international community going forward, just as it has the last several months.  And the United States is going to be committed to leading that response.

MR. EARNEST:  Mark.

Q       Thank you.  Just a question for Mike and then a question either for Mike or Ben — if more appropriate.

On the trade talks, Mike, I’m paraphrasing, but you said earlier the best way to get Congress to pass a TPP deal is to bring them a very good agreement.  And some trade analysts say that that sort of has it backwards, that you sort of need to get the TPA authority first because that allows you to obtain concessions from trading partners.

I’m wondering sort of whether you think you can get those concessions without the President having TPA, and whether foreign leaders have pressed the President in the wake of the elections to try to get that authority from Congress.

And then secondly on cyber, the working group that Secretary Kerry set up on the cybersecurity issues obviously stopped working after the charges were brought against the Chinese military officers for hacking.  Will President Obama in his talks with President Xi encourage him, ask him to resume the dialogue of that working group?

MR. EARNEST:  So just to restate the two issues on the microphone, the second question was about the cybersecurity working group and the relationship between the U.S. and China and how the President will raise that with President Xi when they discuss it tomorrow.

And then the first question was related to does the Ambassador feel as if he can reach a good agreement with other countries without having TPA authority first, right?  Okay.

Ambassador Froman.

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  Well, our approach has always been to pursue both in parallel and to make clear that ultimately, again, as I said the only guarantee that agreement gets the support of Congress is that it is a good agreement and meets that ambitious, comprehensive, high-standard outcome that we have sought to achieve.

I think — we have an ongoing discussion with our trading partners.  They follow our political system very closely, and we have made clear — and I think they understand — that every country has its domestic processes to go through on trade agreements.  And we’re responsible for ours, and they’re responsible for theirs.  And as the President has made clear that he wants to work with leaders in Congress, Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress, to advance the trade agenda, that has allowed our negotiations to continue.  So we’re continuing to work in parallel to close out the TPP negotiations consistent with the high standard that we’ve set for ourselves.  And we’re continuing to work with Congress to achieve trade promotion authority with as broad bipartisan support as possible.

MR. EARNEST:  Ben, do you want to do the cyber?

MR. RHODES:  Yes, Mark, it’s certainly the case that after those charges were brought we did see a chill in the cyber dialogue.  I think the fact that we pursued those cases demonstrates that we’re not going to simply stand idly by.  If we see activity that we don’t like, that we can call out, we’re going to do that.

At the same time, though, we do believe that it’s better if there’s a mechanism for a dialogue where we can raise concerns directly with one another.  So I think President Obama will highlight the importance of having a means to have a cyber-dialogue so that our governments can share information.  We can be direct about areas of concern.  We can try to find ways to build confidence in that space, as well.

So it is something where we’ve been very firm in our position.  We did see a Chinese reaction to those charges.  Again, we’re going to continue to call out behavior as we see it.  But I think the message in the bilat today, and has it has been going forward, is better for us to have a means to have a dialogue, just as we do on a whole host of other issues through the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, so that we can be more transparent.

MR. EARNEST:  Major.

Q       Ben, on Ukraine, I’m just trying to get a sense, if the President wants to use this venue for the G-20 as an opportunity to engage Putin directly and say, what’s happening in Ukraine right now?  Which seems to be an escalation after several months of relative calm, to protest in a very specific way, and to convey that message to him directly.

Secondarily, can you in any way shape or form provide any clarity on the status al-Baghdadi?

MR. EARNEST:  So just to repeat the two questions.  The first is does the President plan to raise directly with President Putin the concerns that the United States has about their actions on Ukraine either while we’re here at APEC or in the context of the G-20 meetings.

And then an update on the latest assessment about the strike against ISIL that may have had impact on al-Baghdadi.

Ben, do you want to —

MR. RHODES:  Well, Major, I think our position on Ukraine is well known, and it’s manifested in our sanctions and our policy.  So I don’t think we’re necessarily looking to focus to make this a — to go out of our way to try to make the focus of these multilateral Ukraine in the way that we did when we were in Europe, when it was obviously a more natural venue.

That said, I think if the President has the opportunity to talk President Putin, I know he’ll be expressing the need to highlight and get back to the Minsk agreement and express concern over these latest reports.

I also know that other leaders share those concerns, as well.  And yesterday, for instance, with Prime Minister Abbott, we discussed the situation in Ukraine.  He’s obviously very focused on the MH17 investigation and the need for there to be justice for Australian families.  So it’s not simply the United States.  You have a number of leaders — Chancellor Merkel, Prime Minister Abbott, a number of other European leaders — Prime Minister Cameron — who share our concerns.

And so this is not just simply a U.S. view.  I think it’s probably held among many of our friends and allies.  And so I can’t predict exactly what will happen except to say that I know where different nations stand, and I know that that’s what they’ve been saying to the Russians.

Q       Is it fair to interpret, Ben, then that you don’t consider what’s happening right now to be particularly alarming?

MR. RHODES:  We do consider it to be particularly alarming.  That’s why we’ve spoken out about it.  I guess what I’m saying is our position is very clear on this, and the pathway out of this is very clear.  It’s to get back to the Minsk agreement.  And the pattern of imposing consequences on Russia when we see an escalation is also established, as well.

So again, I could anticipate knowing how these meetings go that as the President has an opportunity to engage with leaders like Chancellor Merkel, for instance, on the margins of the G-20, this will certainly come up.  And again, I was just highlighting that President Putin knows full well where we stand.  And we’ve made that clear through not just our words, but our policies, our sanctions.  And that’s go to continue to be our approach here.

On Baghdadi, we cannot confirm his status at this point.  As you know, we did take a strike that successfully hit a number of ISIL vehicles that we assessed was associated with ISIL leadership.  We obviously take time to do due diligence to get an understanding of what the impact was.

The message I think is very clear, though, which is that we’re not going to allow for a safe haven for ISIL and its leadership and its fighters in Iraq or Syria.  And they had for months.  They were able to operate freely.  And I think what they’re finding now — whether it’s outside of Kobani, whether it’s in Anbar province, whether it’s in northern Iraq, whether it was that strike outside of Mosul — that if they move, we’re going to hit them.

Q       Just to clarify — you’re saying you don’t —

MR. RHODES:  I don’t have an update on his status.  No.

MR. EARNEST:  Josh.

Q       Two for Ben.  The first one on Indonesia and the second one in China.  At the meetings yesterday, were there any — meeting yesterday between the President and President Widodo, was there any discussion of Hambali, the terrorist suspect that’s been locked up at Guantanamo for more than 10 years.  I think President Bush at one point promised to return him to Indonesia for trial.  Regardless of whether it came up, what’s going to happen to that individual?  Is there any plan to do anything with him or just keep him at Guantanamo indefinitely?

And then on the Chinese front, given the concerns about press freedom in China, can you explain the President’s decision to do a written interview with the Xinhua Agency, since the Chinese leaders have been criticized in the past for insisting on sort of canned interviews with American news outlets?

MR. EARNEST:  The two questions.  Did the President discuss with the Indonesian leader the status of an Indonesian terror suspect that’s being held at Guantanamo?  And the decision-making behind the President’s decision to do a written interview with Xinhua.

Ben, do you want to take those?

MR. RHODES:  Yes.  Well, on the first question, it did not come up in the discussion.  Counterterrorism did, ISIL did.  We discussed ways to share information.  And we have a good relationship with Indonesia on information sharing related to counterterrorism.  And so those issues were addressed.

But on his specific status, I’ll have to check, Josh, on exactly what the status of his case is.  As you know, we’ve reviewed each one and have a very rigorous process to determine who is cleared for transfer, who is not.  So we can get back to you on that.

On the second question, look, it’s very — when we go on trips, this is something we do everywhere.  As you know from covering us, we tend to do written interviews with outlets when we arrive in a country.

Our view is on the one hand, we need to engage.  And the more the President’s voice can be heard in a country the better because people understand where we come from.  So we do engage Chinese media.  We engage CCTV in the Briefing Room every day.  We engage Xinhua.

At the same time, we’ll raise issues of press freedom.  And the President has raised it directly with President Xi in their believe meetings.  We’ve raised our concerns about the status of some U.S. media organizations and the treatment — the adjudication of their visas.  We’ve raised, again, our concern on having more free access to information here — not just as it relates to the news media, but as it relates to Internet.

So these are things that we will consistently raise, but again, I think better for the President’s voice to get out and to be heard in a country.  We use those interviews as important venues to address different issues.  But in no way does that diminish the fact that we have concerns about the press freedom here in China, just as we do in a range of other countries that we’ve visited who have — who are on a spectrum of how they treat the press.

MR. EARNEST:  Mr. Acosta.

Q       Yes, just to follow up on that with Ben.  What does the President see as his legacy with China?  Is it more engaging with China, but not changing China’s behavior?  Because I was struck by something the President said yesterday with Prime Minister Abbott that press freedoms he likes, that those are U.S. values.  But he does not expect China to have those traditions, to follow those traditions.  Why not?  Why not publicly with Xi push the Chinese to adopt a more American value system on press freedoms and human rights?

MR. EARNEST:  To repeat the question again.  Jim’s question is about who aggressively the President pushes the Chinese on some of the human rights concerns that the President himself has spoken about pretty publicly.

Q       And how that fits into his legacy?

MR. EARNEST:  Yes, and how that fits into his legacy, with that relationship.

MR. RHODES:  Yes, so I’ll start with the human rights piece.  Jim, the President doesn’t just see these as American values.  There are certain things that are universal values.  They’re embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations.  And they should be able to take root in any society.  When you talk about freedom of speech, freedom of association, again, America has championed those values, but we believe that they are universal.

I think what the President is speaking about is the fact that China is at a different stage of development.  Obviously, it has different traditions.  But we do raise these issues.  And we do believe that certain things are universal, the right to, again, speak your mind, access information, to freedom of assembly.  And so it’s something that we’re going to press.  It’s something that comes up in every meeting.  It’s something that we raise publicly, as well.  And at the end of the day, again, I think the people of China are going to determine the future of their country.  But we want to make sure that just as we want China to live up to the rules of the road, we want them to live up to the rules of the road on universal values.

In a place like Hong Kong, that involves respect for freedom of assembly.  It also involves the people of Hong Kong being able to select their own leaders, as was agreed to, to choose their own leadership, again, which was the one county, two systems notion.

In terms of the President’s legacy, I think there’s — what did we get done with China.  On a bilateral basis to, again, improve the American economy, to save the global economy — and coordinated action with China was critical to that — to take the steps we’ve taken on this trip that will promote U.S. exports, promote more tourism and investment in the United States.  All that will have a positive economic impact for America and the American people.

Then I think, however, we want to look at where do we enlist China in regional and global efforts.  Because, again, we want them to play a bigger role.  We want them to be a part of international climate negotiations because you can’t deal with climate change unless China is coming to the table in a serious way.

We want them to be a part of settling disputes and resolving disputes around maritime security in the region.  We want them to be part of pursuing an agreement with Iran over its nuclear program.  So China kind of fits into the type of international order we’re trying to build in which nations are invested in solving problems.

And that very much speaks to rebalance, the signature Asia Pacific policy of the President’s.  We want to see this region more prosperous, more cooperative; again, a place of robust American engagement in ways that support our economy; support the security of our allies and the civility of the region; support the values we care about in a place like Burma where we have an ongoing transition.  And that mitigates the risk of conflict that could derail the extraordinary progress we see here.

So again, when we look at his legacy, it’s going to be where do we move the ball forward bilaterally in ways that benefit the American people?  How do we embed China, working with them, in an international system that can solve problems like climate change and maritime security?  And how is this region a more stable, prosperous and secure place which has robust American engagement.  They’re critical to all those things.  And human rights in our view is a part of the international norms that we uphold.

So just as we care about maritime security and cybersecurity, we care about universal values.  And that’s going to be a part of how we judge the status of the relationship.

Q       You mentioned Iran a couple of times.  If I could just follow up on that.  November 24th is coming up very quickly.  Do you foresee a scenario where that deadline might be put back a little bit?  And you’ve seen Netanyahu’s comments, where he seems to be pretty upset about Khamenei tweeting about the (inaudible) and what do you make of that?

MR. EARNEST:  Can you repeat the question?

MR. RHODES:  Yes, so the question.  Was the states of the Iran negotiations heading to the 24th and the Israeli Prime Minister’s comments on the Supreme Leader’s tweet.

On the first question, what we’ve been focused on is driving towards what progress can we make towards an agreement for the 24th.  We have not focused on discussions with Iran on extending those discussions because we want to keep the focus on closing gaps.

Secretary Kerry was meeting into the night in Oman.  He’s currently on a plane, set to arrive in Beijing.  He will give the President an update on where things stand and what progress he made, so President Obama will hear directly from him about the status of the talks.

And then there are negotiations scheduled in Vienna where we’ll see where we can get by the 24th, and we’ll keep people posted on where things stand.

With respect to the — first of all, the sentiments expressed by the Supreme Leader’s office in that tweet.  They’re obviously outrageous.  It’s the type of rhetoric we’ve seen from the Iranian leadership for years.  We completely reject it, of course.

The fact of the matter is what we’ve always said is even as we pursue this effort around diplomacy on the Iranian nuclear program, that’s about addressing a security concern of the United States and Israel and the international community.  If we can prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, that’s in all of our interests.

At the same time, it doesn’t lessen our concern over other Iranian behaviors, including the virulent anti-Israeli rhetoric that has been a part of their political tradition.  So we’ll continue to speak out against that.

With respect to the agreement itself, though, what we would say is, again, if we can verifiably discern that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon, that it’s program is for peaceful purposes, that’s a good thing.  That’s far better than an outcome where Iran is back to trying to accumulate more stockpile, enriching at a higher percent and getting more breakout capacity.  So we’ve already frozen their nuclear — the progress of their nuclear program.  We’ve rolled back the stockpile just during these negotiations.

If we can get a comprehensive agreement, we would say that would be in the interest of American national security and also the security of our friends and allies.

MR. EARNEST:  We’re nearing the one-hour mark here, so we’ll just do two more.  Ching-Yi and then Jim Avila, I’ll let you wrap up.  Go ahead.

Q       Thank you, thank you, Josh.  First question is to Ambassador Froman.  According to interview with Xinhua, President Obama say our summit will also be an opportunity to make progress toward ambitious bilateral investment treaty.  So what kind of progress?  What kind of breakthrough that we can expect about the VIT?

And also the second question is to Ben.  Other than ITA and the visa, what else deliverables that the U.S. is looking forward to reaching this time.  Thank you.

MR. EARNEST:  Repeat the question so everybody can hear.  Ambassador Froman, an update on progress related to the VIT negotiations.  And, Ben, what other deliverables do you anticipate out of the meetings between President Obama and President Xi.

Ambassador Froman?

AMBASSADOR FROMAN:  Well, as you may recall it was about a year and a half ago that China agreed to negotiate a bilateral investment treaty on the basis of what we call a negative list, which is to open up their economy but for specific carve-outs that they negotiate with us.  And that was a major step forward, as were some of the other provisions that we agreed to then.

Since that time we’ve had very good discussions in the bilateral investment treaty channel.  We’ve had a series of rounds to walk through our model of it and to talk about how it would be applied in the case of China.  We have further work to do.  Next year, early next year, China has agreed to give us their first version of their negative list.  And it will be very important if we’re to achieve early progress in these negotiations that that list be as short and as focused, as narrowly tailored as possible.  And we’re encouraging our Chinese counterparts, including while we’re here for this visit and around this summit to focus on making that list as narrow and as short as possible so that we can proceed with negotiations and make progress next year.

MR. RHODES:  I, of course, will let the leaders speak to the specific deliverables.  I think we certainly focused on the visa issue and ITA in these first couple of days because of the economic theme of APEC and the venue of the CEO forum.  So again, I think the President’s meeting will certainly address economic issues.  But I think we’ll also d

Two Europes or One Europe?

European Commission

[Check Against Delivery]

José Manuel Durão Barroso

President of the European Commission

Valedictory speech by President Barroso

European Parliament plenary session

Strasbourg, 21 October 2014

Mr President, Honourable Members,

First of all, I would like to thank you for the invitation to address this Parliament in what would be the last time I have this opportunity. In fact, we are coming to the end of my second mandate as the President of the European Commission and I am very happy to be here with you and my colleagues to present to you our bilan, since this is my second Commission, I think I can also refer to the last ten years.

I want to share with you my feelings, my emotions, what I think about the way the European Union has responded to these very challenging times and what I think are the most important challenges for the future.

I think you can agree with me that these have been exceptional and challenging times. Ten years of crisis, and response of the European Union to this crisis. Not only the financial and sovereignty debt crisis – let’s not forget at the beginning of my first mandate we had a constitutional crisis, when two founding members of the European Union rejected, in referenda, the Constitutional Treaty. So we had a constitutional crisis, we had a sovereign debt and financial crisis, and in the most acute terms we now have a geopolitical crisis, as a result of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

The constitutional crisis that we had was in fact solved through the Lisbon Constitutional Treaty. The reality is that at that time, many people were saying that it would be impossible for the European Union to find a new institutional setting. And in fact there were moments of ambiguity and doubt. But basically, we could keep most of the acquis of the European Union, including most of the new elements of the Lisbon Constitutional Treaty, which was ratified by all Member States including those that today seem to have forgotten that they have ratified the Lisbon Treaty.

More recently – because I learned to leave to the end the economic issues because they are still with us – we had this very serious challenge and threat to our stability, in Europe, coming from the unacceptable behaviour of Russia regarding Ukraine. And we took a principled position. We offered Ukraine an association agreement and a free trade agreement and I am happy that, in spite of all the difficulties, Ukraine was there, signing and ratifying the association agreement, and I want to congratulate this Parliament, because the same day at the same hour the Parliament in Ukraine was ratifying this agreement, you were also ratifying the agreement showing you can offer hope to Ukraine as part of the European family of nations.

At the moment I am speaking to you, this crisis is not yet solved – we know that. But I think we can be proud that we have kept a position of principle, that we have condemned in the most unequivocal terms the actions of Russia and that in fact an association agreement was ratified, not only with Ukraine, but also with Georgia and Moldova because I believe we have a duty to those countries that are looking to Europe with their spirit and their hope to share with us the same future and because they want to share with us the same values.

At this moment we are still mediating and, today, there is a meeting mediated by the Commission on energy with the Russian government and the Ukrainian government, so a political negotiated solution is possible, we are working for that. It is in the interest of all the parties to have a political agreement, but a political agreement that respects the principles of international law, a political agreement that respects the right of country that is our neighbour to decide its own future and a political agreement that respects the sovereignty, the independence of that country. So, we should be proud of what we have been doing in this very challenging geopolitical crisis.

And we also had the financial and sovereign debt crisis. The reality is that the crisis was not born in Europe, but the fact is that because we were not prepared, because the Euro-area had not yet the instruments, we were very much affected by it – not only in financial terms, in economic terms, in social terms and in political terms. I think this crisis was probably the biggest since the beginning of the European integration process in the 50s of the last century. Let’s now put things into perspective.

Dear Members of Parliament,

Let’s remind ourselves what was the main opinion of most analysts in the economic and financial media, or even many of our countries or outside of Europe, about what could happen: everybody was predicting Greek exit, Greece exiting the Euro, and, of course, Greece exiting Euro would certainly, immediately have had a cascading effect in other countries, a domino effect that was indeed already felt in countries such as Ireland or Portugal. But let’s not forget, Spain was also under very heavy pressure, and Italy. We were staring into the abyss. I remember well what happened in discussions in the margins of G20 in Cannes in 2011, I remember well when analysts were predicting with almost unanimity a Greek exit and at least 50% of them were predicting the implosion of the Euro. And what happened? Not only was there no exit of the Euro, now we are to welcome the 19th member of the Euro, Lithuania will join us in the 1st of January 2015. And not only did Greece not leave the Euro area, it has enlarged and the European Union has been enlarging as well. This is a point that has been very much underestimated in our analysis.

2004, the year I had the pleasure and the honour to assume the leadership of the European Commission, do you remember that we were 15? Today, we have 28 countries. So we have almost doubled the membership of the European Union during this crisis. Is there a better proof of the resilience and the capacity of adaptation of our Union? The fact that we were able to remain united and open during the crisis I think confirms the extraordinary resilience and the strength of the European Union and this should not be underestimated.

I know that, for some, these things do not count for much. They are in a way making an idealisation of the past; they dream probably of a closed Europe; they think Europe was better when half of Europe was under totalitarian communism. I don’t think that. I think Europe today is better than when half of Europe was under communism. The fact that the European Union was able, during all this crisis, to open, to consolidate and to unite on a continental scale almost all of Europe around the values of peace, of freedom and of justice, I think it is a great thing we should commemorate and not to be ashamed of, as some seem to be.

So, this is I think also a reason to commemorate. Many people were predicting, as you probably remember, those of you following these issues at that time, that the European Commission would not be able to function with 25 or 27 or 28 Members, that the European Union would be blocked. The reality is that the European Union was not blocked by the enlargement; the reality that I can share with you now is that sometimes it was more difficult to put together some of the founding Members of the Union than all the 28 countries of Europe.

So I think we should be proud of that as well, collectively, because the European Union was able to remain united and open during the crisis. And when I say open, I mean it in all senses of the word, including with an open attitude towards the world. For instance, when we have promoted a proactive climate agenda after the failure of the Doha Development Round and the Doha trade talks. And we are now leading in that sense, because I believe that trade can be one of the best ways to support growth globally and in the European Union. Or when we, because it was an initiative of the European Union, went to the former President of the United States of America, inviting him and convincing him to organise the first G20 meeting at Heads of State or Government level, because that was a way of having a global cooperative approach and to avoid the return to ugly, nasty protectionism. That could be a temptation in times of crisis. So we were able to keep Europe not only united and, in fact, enlarging its membership, but also open to the rest of the world.

But now, are we stronger or are we weaker? I know that the most critical people today will say that we are weaker. But are we really?

In fact, when the crisis erupted, we had almost no instruments to respond to it. We were facing, as it was said at that time, an unprecedented crisis. Yet we had no mechanisms, for instance to support the countries that were facing the immediate threat of default. A lot has been done. We have collectively, the Commission and the Member States and always with the strong support of the Parliament, we have created a new system of governance. We have today a much more reinforced governance system than before, including with unprecedented powers for the community institutions, and we have done everything to keep the community method at the centre of our integration. For instance, the Commission today has more powers in terms of governance of the Eurozone than before the crisis. The European Central Bank has today the possibility to make direct supervision of the banks in Europe, something that would have been considered impossible earlier; it would have been almost unimaginable before the crisis. And I remember when we spoke about the banking union, when I gave an interview saying that we need a banking union, I received some phone calls from capitals saying ‘Why are you speaking about the banking union? This is not in the Treaties’. And I responded, ‘Yes it is not in the Treaties, but we need it if we want to fulfil the objective of the Treaties, namely the objective of stability and growth’. And today we have a banking union.

Honourable members,

If we look at things in perspective and we think where we were ten years ago and where we are now, we can say with full rigour and in complete observance of the truth that today the European Union, at least in the euro area, is more integrated and with reinforced competences, and we have now, through the community method, more ways to tackle crisis, namely in the euro zone. Not only in the system of governance in the banking union, but also in the legislation of financial stability, financial regulation, financial supervision.

We have presented around 40 new pieces of legislation that were all of them approved by the European Parliament. And once again I want to thank you, because in almost all those debates the European Parliament and the European Commission were on the same side of the debate and were for more ambition, not less ambition for Europe. And so today, I can say that we are stronger, because we have a more integrated system of governance, because we have legislation to tackle abuses in the financial markets, because we have much clearer system of supervision and regulation. So, I think we are now better prepared than we were before to face a crisis, if a crisis like the ones we have seen before should come in the future.

Of course, you can say that there are many difficulties still. Yes, and I am going to say a word about this in a moment regarding the prospects for growth, but please do not forget where we were. We were very close to default, or, to use a less polite word, to a bankruptcy of some of our Member States. And look at where we are now. From the countries that had to ask for adjustment programmes, Portugal and Ireland exited the programme successfully. Ireland is now one of the fastest growing countries in Europe. And in fact all the others that were under the imminent threat of collapsing, are now in a much more stable mood. Spain, that asked for a programme for the banks, also has improved successfully. So in fact only two countries of all those, because we should not also forget the Central and Eastern European countries that also had adjustment programmes, even if they were not yet in the euro area, only two countries are still completing their adjustment programmes.

The deficits now on average in the Eurozone are 2.5%. This is much less than in the United States or in Japan. So, in terms of stability, we are much better now than before. By the way, the Eurozone has a trade surplus. The European Union in general now will have a surplus in goods, in services and, for the first time in many years, in agriculture.

I am saying that because very often the opinion in some of the political sectors is that we are losing with globalisation. This is not the case. Some countries of our Union in fact are not winning that battle, but on average we can say that Europe is gaining the global battle in terms of competition, namely in terms of trade and investment.

But of course, growth is still timid. I think that basically we cannot say that the crisis is completely over, because threats remain, but we have won the battle of stability. Today nobody in the world will honestly bet on the end of the euro. The euro has shown that it is a very strong, credible and indeed stable currency. The reality is that our growth is still timid and clearly below expectations.

So what can we do for growth? This is the important question. And for that I need to make a reminder once again. I know very well that very often the European Union policy and namely the European Commission policy has been presented as completely focused on austerity. I think this is a caricature.

We have constantly asked at least for three important lines – fiscal consolidation certainly, for the countries that are feeling the pressure of the markets. It would be completely irresponsible if they could not frontload a programme of rigour to correct their public finances, but we have always said with equal vigour, probably some would not like to listen, the need for structural reforms, for competitiveness, because the reality is that even before the crisis we were growing under our potential, that is the reality, and with serious problem of lack of competitiveness in some of our countries and so that is why we needed more ambitious structural reforms.

But we have also argued in favour of investment. I have always said that we need more investment, public and private investment. Private investment will come the more we show that we have competitive economies that we can attract private investment. Indeed I am now happy to see that most of our countries, certainly at a different pace, but they are pursuing ambitious structural reforms that would have been considered completely impossible before the crisis.

And the reality is, if we want to be honest in terms of the analysis that the countries that have suffered the most during the financial crisis were precisely those that have lost in terms of cost competitiveness before the crisis. And now, for instance the reforms that have been made by Spain, by Ireland, by Portugal, by Greece, are impressive.

Now, apart from the political consolidation and the structural reforms, we have always seen the need for more investment. Private investment, but public investment as well. You will remember the debate about the MFF. President Schultz remembers certainly. We were together in many meetings asking the Member States to do more in terms of investment and the most important instrument we have at European level for investment is the Multiannual Financial Framework, that is around one trillion euros.

So if there is not more ambitious investment it was not because of a lack of ambition of this Commission, or a lack of ambition of this Parliament. It was because of the opposition of some capitals. This is the reality. We are for solid investment, targeted investment for growth. Not only with the MFF. Remember the proposals that for instance here in the State of the Union speeches with you I have put forward. The increase of the capital for the EIB that finally was agreed. The project bonds that the Member States have accepted, but only as pilot project bonds. The facility that we have created for SMEs with loans from the EIB and funds from the structural funds, from our budget. Unfortunately only two countries wanted to pursue that line.

Or, for instance, the programme for youth, the Youth Guarantee that we have proposed and that the Member States have agreed. But now with the Youth Employment Initiative, only two countries have accepted to have a dedicated programme for youth employment.

So, my dear colleagues, let’s be clear: we are for investment. I wish all the best to the new Commission and to my friend and colleague Jean-Claude Juncker, to have the support of the Member States for a more ambitious investment programme for the next years. I believe this is possible now, I believe the awareness is much bigger on this matter. But once again this is part of a comprehensive strategy that combines fiscal consolidation with structural reforms and investment, and, of course, all the measures taken by us in terms of the banking union and in terms of financial regulation for stability.

And I’m saying this with this vigour because I think it would be now a mistake, after everything we have done, to give up, to show less determination, to abandon the road of structural reform. I think we have done a part of the job, stability is broadly there, growth, even if it is slower than what we would like to have, but now we need determination to complete the reforms so that sustainable growth, not growth fuelled by debt, excessive public or private debt – because such growth is artificial, it’s a fictional growth, and afterwards, sooner or later, we would pay the price – but sustainable growth – that I believe it is possible if we continue the courageous path of reforms and a stronger governance for the European Union.

I don’t have the time now to go over all the other policies we have been developing over the years. But let me just highlight one or two, because I think they are very much at the moment of decision, and I think they are important.

I’m extremely proud that is was my Commission in my first mandate, in 2007, that put forward the most ambitious programme for climate protection in the world. And we are still leading in the world in terms of the climate agenda.

In fact, we were able to join the climate agenda with the energy security agenda, and I’m saying that because this week we are going to have an important discussion in Brussels at Heads of State and Government level, and I hope that the European Union will keep its leadership role – of course not to be isolated but to have others, because we have a responsibility towards our planet. And this is was certainly one of the great advances of these years, that the European Union was able to make the most important and bold steps in terms of fighting climate change.

Another area where I think we could very proud is – in spite of all the restrictions because of our financial situation – that it was possible in the MFF to get 30% more for Horizon 2020, for research and technology. I think there is a great opportunity now for us to do more in that area, as also in the culture side, with our Creative Europe programme.

The reality is that in some areas it was possible, in spite of the economic and financial crisis, to increase investment at European level.

But I’m also very proud that in spite of the pressures of our budgets, we could always be there in terms of development aid and neighbourhood policy.

Whenever there was a big tragedy in the world, from the tsunami in Indonesia to the recent Ebola crisis, from the Syrian refugee crisis to Darfur, we were there, we were among the first. And I think we, Europeans, should also be proud of that, because we are still, together with our Member States, the most important donor for development aid in the world. That is something that corresponds very much to our values and I’m happy that in spite of all the crises we did not abandon our obligations in terms of development cooperation.

I have already said a word about trade. I think it is very important to keep an ambitious trade agenda, an open Europe but for free and fair trade. And the Commission has concluded a record number of agreements, not only with South Korea, Singapore, Central America – the first region to reach an agreement -, Peru, Ecuador, recently with Canada, with Western Africa, Eastern Africa and Southern Africa. And I could also mention some others that are now progressing, like Japan, the United States and also an investment agreement with China.

So we are the most important trade bloc in the world. We are the biggest economy in the world.

And I’m saying that because today I know it’s very fashionable the pessimism, the defeatism about Europe, what I call the intellectual glamour of pessimism. But I believe that we have a good record to show and I believe that together, collectively, we are much stronger and we can better defend our interests and protect our values.

Dear colleagues – I call you colleagues because I believe we have been sometimes in discussions but we have been colleagues in this great enterprise that is the European project -, I think politically we have some lessons to draw.

One is that we have shown great resilience. I think we can say that the forces of integration are stronger than the forces of disintegration. And I believed that day and night, sometimes in very dramatic moments, sometimes when I had to make dramatic appeals to some capitals: to the richer countries, asking them to show more solidarity; and to the poorer countries asking them to show more responsibility.

Sometimes we have done it very discretely, it’s true. The European Commission is probably more discreet than others. I did not want the Commission to be part of the cacophony of different voices during the most acute moments of the crisis. It was extremely market sensitive that situation. But I can tell you, in my full conscience, that we have done everything we could with existing instruments to avoid the fragmentation of the euro or to avoid a division in the European Union. And I very often had to call on my colleagues in the European Council, Heads of State and Government, to show the ethics of European responsibility.

But one of the lessons I draw from this is that if eventually it was possible to come to decisions, it is true that it was sometimes extremely painful and difficult. And took time. We have said also, and I think it is something that we can all agree: democracy is slower than the markets are.

The Commission would have preferred, and I’m sure this Parliament as well, decisions to be bolder, more comprehensive, faster. But we are a Union of democratic states, we are not a super state. And we have to respect different sensitivities.

One of the conclusions I draw from these ten years of experiences is the need to cooperate between institutions. I know sometimes it is more popular to put forward impossible ideas and to criticise others. But I firmly believe that we need to engage with different institutions, that it is not a solution to oppose the countries to the European Union. On the contrary, we have to show to our countries that they are stronger if they are part of the European Union. That we are not diluting their national identity but, on the contrary, we are asking them to share their sovereignty so they can project better their interests globally. I’m firmly convinced of this.

And I’m saying this to you now, as I am leaving in a few days: my only interest is that these lessons are learned so that we do not repeat some mistakes in the future. At the same time, I think we can say that it is not through confrontation but through cooperation that we can attain our objectives.

At the moment I prepare to hand over this very challenging and interesting job to my good friend Jean-Claude Juncker, I want to say here, on my behalf and on behalf of all my colleagues of the Commission, that we wish the new Commission all the best, that they have a great challenge ahead of them but that they could count also on our support. And I’m sure of the support that this Parliament is going to give to them.

Because, Mr President, the relations were not always perfect. But I think you can agree that we were able to establish a fruitful relationship between the Parliament and the Commission.

I’ve been in this Parliament more than 100 times. There was never a Commission that was so often represented in the Parliament as my two Commissions. We have established this cooperation and I’m so grateful because this Parliament, sometimes with very strong demands, was always supportive of the community method, was always supporting the community institutions. And I believe this is very important for the future of Europe.

My dear colleagues of the European project,

The way to solve the problems we have in Europe is not through revolution and even less through counter-revolution. It’s by compromise, it’s by reform. Evolution and reform. We have to reform to adapt to the new challenges but not with new clashes between the institutions, not with clashes against our countries. And I believe that if this idea of strong cooperation putting the European common good above all else, I think my colleague and friend Jean-Claude Juncker and his new Commission will have success, of course based on the support I’m sure you are going to give them.

Because the European Union is a union of values. In these last days I had to face many journalists and they asked me ‘what was your most emotional moment? Which moment did you prefer?’ And I have many, and I also had very difficult ones, to be honest. But one of my most emotional moment was when, on behalf of the European Union, together with Martin Schulz and the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, we received the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the European Union.

I think this was a powerful reminder sent to us from the global community that we count in this world and that what we do is very important. That the values that were at the origin of the creation of our Union, namely the value of peace, are still at our essence today. And that we have to fight for them.

And I think is the moment I really said I want to share with all those in the different institutions, including this Parliament, that have been working for a united, open and stronger Europe. And when I leave this office, with all my colleagues at the Commission, I can tell you that we have not achieved everything we could, or everything we would have liked to have achieved, but I think we have worked with the right conscience, putting the global interest of the European Union above specific interests. And I believe that now there are conditions to continue to do work for a united, open and stronger Europe.

I thank you for your attention.

Auf wiedersehen, goodbye, au revoir, adeus.

Muito obrigado, thank you very much.

Following the statements of the Members of the Parliament, President Barroso made the following closing remarks:

Mr President,

I should like to take up a number of the points raised by the previous speakers. Firstly, I believe that proof that we – and by “we” I mean the Commission of which I have had the honour of being Presidentare on the right track lies in the fact that the criticisms have come from the opposite ends of the spectrum, though often couched in the same terms, resolutely ignoring the difficulties and extraordinary challenges that we have had to face and failing to put forward any coherent response.

The truth is that we have been through possibly the worst economic and financial crisis we have seen since the countries of Europe began to come together and that it was not the European Union or Europe that spawned the crisis. This is what some defenders of national sovereignty, as they like to call themselves, do not or will not understand. It was not Europe that created excessive private debt or caused the financial sector to behave irresponsibly. Quite the opposite – this all took place under national scrutiny, or rather lack thereof. Europe is the answer. We now have one of the most ambitious regulatory and supervisory systems in the world, if not the most ambitious. In other words, saying that Europe is worse off because of the European Union is simply not true. It shows a complete lack of respect and a lack of intellectual rigour. Europe is not responsible for the financial crisis, which had its roots in the United States. Europe had its weaknesses, but what the European Union did was to respond. The blame for this does not lie with the European Union, and I believe this is something that all those who share the European ideal – be they at the left, right or centre of the political spectrum – should have the courage to state, because by remaining silent we will be reinforcing the populist rhetoric of the extreme right and extreme left.

I listened carefully to those of you who said that populism was on the rise and who laid the blame for this at the door of the European Union. Ladies and gentlemen, this is not true. It is abundantly clear that populism and xenophobia exist outside the European Union. Look at the anti-immigrant incidents that have taken place in Switzerland. Look at what happened in Norway when that terrorist killed all those young people because he was opposed to a multicultural Europe. Look at the Tea Party movement in the United States. Is Europe to blame for America’s Tea Party movement?

We are currently seeing an aggressive form of populism around the world, which espouses arguments from both the left and the right. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference. So to say the European Union is responsible for this shows a lack of intellectual rigour and a lack of political integrity. What we have to do, as Europeans, is to demonstrate that it was not Europe that caused the crisis or the public debt in the Member States. There was little that Europe could do when, for example, one Member State falsified its accounts. This is something Europe had to face. The first initiative of my second Commission was to ask the Member States to give us more powers to supervise national statistics, because in my first Commission this was rejected. And not by Greece. It was rejected by the big Member States, which were reluctant to hand more powers over to the European Union. So if we really want to have a debate, let us be quite clear and strict in terms of intellectual integrity and political candour.

Ladies and gentlemen, there is one thing that I would like to say to you with the greatest of conviction. The team that I have had the honour of heading has worked with enormous commitment and diligence, whilst always putting Europe’s interests first. There is something that I want to say to you, since this is a political assembly with a wealth of political dynamics, but where the emphasis is always on the common European good. My Commission was not made up of colleagues from the EPP, socialists or liberals. It was made up of people who worked for Europe. My party is the EPP and I am proud of that, but, as President of the Commission, my party is Europe and that is the message I wish to convey, in particular to the major forces of the pro-European centre-left and centre-right.  Differences must, of course, be aired, but they must not be allowed to weaken the pro-European camps. We cannot hand the extreme right or extreme left anything else on a plate. Pro-European forces must come together. They must have the courage to defend Europe. They must do so at national level, and not just here in Strasbourg. We need a major coalition of this nature for Europe because I believe that we have the strength to win the battles of the present and those of the future.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Remarks by the Vice President at the John F. Kennedy Forum

The White House

Office of the Vice President

For Immediate Release

October 03, 2014

Harvard Kennedy School
Boston, Massachusetts

6:37 P.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, Dean, you did that introduction exactly like my sister wrote it sounds like.  (Laughter.)  Thank you.  That was very, very generous of you.

And as we used to say in the Senate, please excuse the point of personal privilege.  There are three reasons why I’ve won the races I’ve won and why I sustained winning, and they’re right here in this front row.  The first one is my sister, but also the guy who got me through the 1972 campaign is one of the best political strategists I have ever known, and a man who is — as Frank — is that you, Frank, back there?  Frank Fahrenkopf, the former chairman of the Republican Party.  We’ve known each other a long time, back to the days when we really liked one another, Republicans and Democrats.  (Laughter.)  We still do.  It’s great to see you, Frank.

But as Frank can tell you and anyone else can tell you that the one thing when you hire a political consultant that you most are concerned about — and I mean this sincerely — is will they reflect your values.  This guy that I’m about to introduce to you has more integrity in his little finger than most people have their whole body, but is the reason I overcame that deficit — John Marttila, a native Bostonian here. 

And the guy sitting next to him who has fought in Vietnam and came back to fight against the war in Vietnam and has become my friend.  And if you ever have to — that old joke, if you have to be in a foxhole, this is the guy you want with you, Professor Tommy Vallely (ph).  Tommy, it’s great to see you.  I didn’t expect to see you.

And it’s great to be here.  And I have one plea, don’t jump.  (Laughter.)  Don’t jump.  It’s good to be back.

I understand that Senator Markey may be here.  I hope for his sake he’s not and he’s out campaigning because — but I was told he might be, and Congressman Delahunt, two fine friends.  If they’re here I want to acknowledge them.

Folks, “all’s changed, changed utterly.  A terrible beauty has been born.”  Those are the words written by an Irish poet William Butler Yeats about the Easter Rising in 1916 in Ireland.  They were meant to describe the status of the circumstance in Ireland at that time.  But I would argue that in recent years, they better describe the world as we see it today because all has changed.  The world has changed.

There’s been an incredible diffusion of power within states and among states that has led to greater instability.  Emerging economies like India and China have grown stronger, and they seek a great force in the global order and global affairs. 

Other powers like Russia are using new asymmetrical forms of coercion to seek advantage like corruption and “little green men,” foreign agents, soldiers with a mission but no official uniform.  New barriers and practices are challenging the principles of an open, fair, economic competition.  And in a globalized world, threats as diverse as terrorism and pandemic disease cross borders at blinding speeds.  The sheer rapidity and magnitude, the interconnectedness of the major global challenges demand a response — a different response, a global response involving more players, more diverse players than ever before.

This has all led to a number of immediate crises that demand our attention from ISIL to Ebola to Ukraine — just to name a few that are on our front door — as someone said to me earlier this week, the wolves closest to the door.

Each one in its own way is symptomatic of the fundamental changes that are taking place in the world.  These changes have also led to larger challenges.  The international order that we painstakingly built after World War II and defended over the past several decades is literally fraying at the seams right now.

The project of this administration, our administration at this moment in the 21st century, the project that President Obama spoke about last week at the United Nations is to update that order, to deal with these new realities, but also accommodate and continue to reflect our enduring interests and our enduring values.

And we’re doing this in a number of ways.  First, by strengthening our core alliances; second, building relationships with emerging powers; third, defending and extending the international rules of the road that are most vital; and fourthly, confronting the causes of violent extremism.  But all of this rests on building a strong, vibrant economy here at home to be able to underpin our ability to do anything abroad.

So tonight I want to talk to you about our efforts and provide, as best I can, an honest accounting of what it’s going to take for America to succeed in the beginning of the 21st century.

The first thing we have to do is to further strengthen our alliances.  Many of the challenges we face today require a collective response.  That’s why we start from a foundation of the strong alliance we’ve had historically in Europe and in Asia, a feature of American strength unmatched by any other nation in history and built on a sacred commitment to defend one another, but also built on shared political and economic values.

One of the cornerstones of our foreign policy is the vision we share with our NATO allies of a Europe whole and free, where every nation can choose the path it wishes with no interference.  But that vision has been recently challenged.  We’ve seen aggression on Europe’s frontier.  And that’s why we’ve moved to mobilize our NATO allies to step up and provide significant security assistance to Ukraine. 

Each of the 28 NATO allies has now committed to providing security assistance to Ukraine, including over $115 million from the United States.  And as we respond to the crisis in Ukraine, we are determined that NATO itself emerge stronger from the crisis thrust on us by Russia.  With our allies, we are increasing deployments on land, sea and in the skies over Central and Eastern Europe.

And at the most recent NATO Summit in Wales, the Alliance agreed to create a Rapid Response Force to make sure that NATO is ready and can respond to any contingency.  And we’re increasing exercises and capacity building with non-NATO nations, countries in European — on Europe’s eastern frontier to ensure that they too can exercise their right to choose their own future, and that NATO’s door remains open.

But beyond mutual defense, we’re working closely with Europe on everything from trade to counterterrorism to climate change.  But we have to be honest about this and look it squarely in the eye, the transatlantic relationship does not sustain itself by itself.  It cannot be sustained by America alone.  It requires investment and sacrifice on both sides of the Atlantic, and that means ensuring that every NATO country meets its commitment to devote 2 percent of its GDP to defense; establishing once and for all a European energy strategy so that Russia can no longer use its natural resources to hold its neighbors hostage.  Reaching a final agreement on the so-called Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, the new mechanism to try to strengthen the economic engines to sustain our mutual efforts in Europe and at home.

To the East, for six decades, America’s alliances in Asia have made possible the security and stability that has flowed from — that has allowed the economic miracle.  When I met not long ago and I met many, many hours with President Xi — I probably had dinner alone with him over 22, 23 hours over two five-day periods, talking about — I mentioned that America — I made clear that America is a Pacific power and we will remain a Pacific power.  And us in the area is the reason for the existence of a stability in Asia for the past 50 years.  That’s why it’s essential that we modernize our Pacific alliances, updating our posture and expanding our partnerships to meet the new challenges we face.

America today has more peacetime military engagements in the Asia Pacific than ever before.  By 2020, 60 percent of our naval assets and 60 percent of our air power will be stationed in the Pacific.  We’re supporting Japan’s efforts to interpret its constitution to allow it to play a larger security role.  We’ve signed enhanced defense cooperation agreements with the Philippines.  We’re strengthening our missile defense capabilities in the region to deter and defend against North Korea.  And three years ago, we had no forces in Australia; today, we have more than a thousand Marines rotationally deployed in Darwin.  And we have a growing partnership with Vietnam, in no small part — by the way — to the work of Tommy Vallely and his colleagues actively engaged in regional organizations like ASEAN.

We have an historic opportunity as well to build a new relationship with Burma if we get lucky.  But our Asian allies also have tough choices to make.  We cannot do this on our own.  It will relate to their willingness to work closely and more closely with one another.  As the President and I have done in meetings with the leaders of Japan and South Korea, we’re going to continue to promote trilateral cooperation among our allies and partners in the Pacific to make the most of those ties that will benefit the entire region if we succeed.

In the Middle East, our alliances are also crucial.  We will never waver from our steadfast support for Israel, and we’re working alongside a coalition of Arab partners and countries from around the world to confront ISIL. 

So even as we strengthen our traditional alliances, we’re building wider coalitions to bolster the world’s ability to respond to these emerging crises.

Take Ebola.  A horrific disease that is now a genuine global health emergency.  Our Centers for Disease Control, USAID and our military have taken charge of that world epidemic.  We are organizing the international response to this largest epidemic in history.  The President rallied the world at the United Nations last week, mobilizing countries from all around the world to act, and to act quickly.  We’re deploying over 3,000 American soldiers to West Africa to support regional civilian responses and advance the effort in fighting the disease of Ebola.

The second thing we have to do besides strengthening our alliances and cooperation, we have to effectively manage our relationships with emerging powers of the 21st century.  And that means putting in the effort to realize the potential of America’s friendship with emerging democratic partners like Brazil and President Dilma, President Peňa Nieto in Mexico, Prime Minister Modi in India, who just made a historic visit to the United States this week.

Each of these relationships has a significant potential to genuinely, genuinely promote shared interest and shared ideals.  But each one has to overcome domestic politics, bureaucratic inertia, and a significant legacy of mistrust over the last century.  But there is great potential here, but there is no guarantees.  There is no substitute for direct engagement and an unstinting effort to bridge the gap between where we are today and where we can and should be tomorrow.

The world in which emerging powers and responsible stakeholders promoting common security and prosperity has yet to arrive, but it’s within our grasp to see that happen.  That’s why we’ve embraced the G20 as a model for economic cooperation.  That’s why it’s also important that we fully support international institutions like the IMF, fund them and reform and modernize them to better serve all nations.

But managing our relationship with China is the single most essential part of the strategy at which we must succeed.  Even as we acknowledge that we will often be in competition, we seek deeper cooperation with China, not conflict. 

Nowhere is it written that there must be conflict between the United States and China.  There are no obvious, obvious impediments to building that relationship.  And we’re committed to building up that partnership where we can, but to push back where we must.  The President plans to visit China this fall as part of his second trip to Asia this year.  This is the kind of engagement that is necessary for us to come together and do consequential things.

At Sunnylands, when he met with President Xi last, they reached an historic agreement on the super pollutant known as HFCs, hydrofluorocarbons.  And our hope is that this year we can continue to expand our cooperation with China on climate and environment, but also be very direct about our differences.  That’s why in a five-hour meeting I had with President Xi this past December — after they had several days earlier announced unilaterally an air defense identification zone, contrary to international law — I sat with President Xi and I told him bluntly, Mr. President, understand one thing.  We do not recognize it, we do not honor it, and we’re flying a B-52 through it.  Understand. (Laughter.)  No, I’m serious.  I’m not asking you to do anything.  I’m not asking you to renege.  Just understand — we will pay no attention whatsoever to it.  It’s important.  It’s important that in emerging relationships there be absolute, frank, direct discussions.
 
That’s why we’ve made clear as well that freedom of navigation must be maintained in the South China Sea.  But that’s also why President Obama has been direct in public and private with China’s leaders on cyber theft.  And as the world watches Hong Kong’s young people take to the streets peacefully to demand respect for their own rights, we’ll also never stop standing up for the principles we believe in that are universal — democratic freedoms and human rights.

President Xi asked me, why do we focus on human rights so much?  I’m serious.  And I gave him a direct answer — which is almost unique to the United States; it doesn’t make us better or worse, but unique to the United States.  I said, Mr. President, even if a President of the United States did not want to raise human rights abuses with you to have a better relationship on the surface, it would be impossible for him or her to do that — for the vast majority of the American people came here to seek human rights and freedom.  It is stamped into our DNA.  It is impossible for us to remain silent.  Again, he took it on board — and it’s important to understand why we do it.  It is not a political tool.  It is who we are.
 
To build these robust relationships with emerging powers, we also have to demonstrate staying power — which is hard and costly — in places that will do the most to shape the world that our grandchildren are going to inherit.  That’s why our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region depends in no small part on completing a trade initiative known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  And that’s the whole Pacific — from Peru all the way to Japan. 
It’s a partnership that will stitch together the economies of 12 Pacific nations, stretching from South America to Asia, united behind rising standards regarding labor, the environment, and fair completion.  Once completed, these trade agreements we are negotiating across the Atlantic and the Pacific will encompass nearly two-thirds of the global trade in the world, and can shape the character of the entire economic global economy.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership also has a profound strategic — not just economic — strategic element to it.  Because deeper economic ties cement our partnerships but, most of all, help small nations resist the blackmail and coercion of larger powers using new asymmetric weapons to try to achieve their ends in other countries.

And this brings me to the Western Hemisphere, a vital part of the Pacific equation, but where there’s another great opportunity.  The President asked me to oversee our hemispheric relations.  And for the first time in history, you can truly envision a Western Hemisphere that is secure, democratic and middle class, from northern Canada to southern Chile, and everywhere in between.  But we have to overcome centuries of distrust.  We can no longer look at the region in terms of what we can do for it.  The question is what can we do together in this hemisphere.  And the possibilities are endless.

On energy, North America is literally — not figuratively — the epicenter of energy in the world today.  There are more rigs, gas and oil rigs in the United States pumping today than every other nation in the world combined.  Combined.  North America will account — meaning Mexico, China and Canada — for two-thirds of the growth of global energy supply over the next 20 years.  By 2018, the United States will be a net exporter of natural gas, and most projections show North America will be totally energy independent by 2020, and the United States shortly thereafter.
 
Look at the hemisphere in terms of trade.  Forty percent of all our exports stay in this hemisphere — 40 percent.  We have $1.3 trillion in trade in a yearly basis just in North America, including $1.3 billion per day with Mexico alone.
 
On security, we partnered with Colombia and Mexico and others to combat the scourge of drug trafficking.  We’re helping Central American countries address the root causes of poverty and violence and migration.

But to realize the potential of our partnerships in the region, we have to be present, we have to build that trust — which is why I’ve made five trips to Latin America just in the last — and to South America as well — just in the last 18 months.
 
It’s why we have to pass immigration reform here in the United States.  It’s one thing to say we respect the rest of the Americas, the majority of which are Hispanic.  But it’s another thing to say I respect them and yet not respect the immigrant population that’s the Hispanic community of the United States.  It does not connect.

The single most significant thing we can do to fundamentally change the relationship in terms of trust and commitment is to pass immigration reform.  Those of you who travel to or are from Central and South America know of what I speak.  Because respecting immigrants from the Americas is part of how we show that we really have changed our view, that South and Central America is no longer our back yard; it is our front yard.  It is our partner.  The relationship is changing.  And when it changes fully the benefits for us are astounding.

The third thing we need to do — and are doing — is to defend and extend the international rules of the road and deal with asymmetrical threats that are emerging.  The international system today is under strain from actors pushing and sometimes pushing past the limits of longstanding important international norms like nonproliferation and territorial integrity.  That’s why we insisted that Syria remove its chemical weapons stockpile and the means to manufacture them.  So we assembled under great criticism a coalition with Russia and others to remove Syria’s chemical stockpile.  That’s why have made it clear to Iran that we will not allow them to acquire a nuclear weapon.  So we’ve put together the single most effective, international sanctions in history to isolate Iran, and to push them back to the negotiating table.

Elsewhere, actors are subverting the fundamental principle of territorial integrity through the use of new asymmetric tactics, the use of proxies to quietly test the limits and probe the weaknesses across boundaries and borders on land and sea; the use of corruption as a foreign policy tool, unlike any time in modern history, to manipulate outcomes in other countries in order undermine the integrity of their governmental institutions.  That’s exactly what’s happening in Ukraine today. 

Putin — President Putin was determined to deny Ukraine and the Ukrainian people the power to make their choices about the future — whether to look east or west or both.  Under the pretext of protecting Russian-speaking populations, he not only encouraged and supported separatists in Ukraine, but he armed them.  He sent in Russian personnel out of uniform to take on the Ukrainian military, those little, green men.

    And when that wasn’t enough, he had the audacity to send Russian troops and tanks and sophisticated, air-defense systems across the border.  But we rallied the world to check his ambitions and defend Ukrainian sovereignty.  We didn’t put boots on the ground. 

Putin sought to prevent a free and open election.  We rallied the world to help Ukraine hold quite possibly the freest election in its history.  Putin sought to destabilize Ukraine’s economy.  We provided a billion dollars directly from the United States and worked with the IMF on a $27 billion international rescue package to keep them from going under.

Putin sought to keep Ukraine weak through corruption.  We’re helping those leaders fight back corruption, which by the way is an issue that demands our leadership around the world, by helping them write new laws, set up a new judiciary and much more.  Putin sought to hollow out Ukraine’s military the last 10 years, and he was very successful.  But we rallied NATO and NATO countries to begin to build that military capability back up.  Putin sought to keep secret Russian support for separatists who shot down a civilian airliner.  We exposed it to the world, and in turn rallied the world.  And remember this all began because Putin sought to block Ukraine’s accession agreement with the European Union.  Well, guess what:  That agreement was signed and ratified several weeks ago.

Throughout we’ve given Putin a simple choice:  Respect Ukraine’s sovereignty or face increasing consequences.  That has allowed us to rally the world’s major developed countries to impose real cost on Russia.

It is true they did not want to do that.  But again, it was America’s leadership and the President of the United States insisting, oft times almost having to embarrass Europe to stand up and take economic hits to impose costs.  And the results have been massive capital flight from Russia, a virtual freeze on foreign direct investment, a ruble at an all-time low against the dollar, and the Russian economy teetering on the brink of recession.

We don’t want Russia to collapse.  We want Russia to succeed.  But Putin has to make a choice.  These asymmetrical advances on another country cannot be tolerated.  The international system will collapse if they are.

And to state the obvious, it’s not over yet.  And there are no guarantees of success.  But unlike — the Ukrainian people have stood up.  And we are helping them, leading and acting strategically. 

The fourth element of our strategy is countering violent extremism.  As you know, we’ve engaged in a relentless campaign against terrorists in Afghanistan, in the so-called FATA, in Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere.  This campaign against violent extremism predates our administration, and it will outlive our administration.  But we’ve made real progress against al Qaeda’s core and its affiliates since 9/11.  But this threat of violent extremism is something we’re going to have to contend with for a long time. 

Today, we’re confronting the latest iteration of that danger, so-called ISIL; a group that combines al Qaeda’s ideology with territorial ambitions in Iraq and Syria and beyond, and the most blatant use of terrorist tactics the world has seen in a long, long time.  But we know how to deal with them.

Our comprehensive strategy to degrade and eventually defeat ISIL reflects the lessons we have learned post-9/11 age about how to use our power wisely.  And degrading them does not depend upon an unsustainable deployment of hundreds of thousands of boots on the ground.  It’s focused on building a coalition with concrete contributions from the countries in the region.  It recognizes outside military intervention alone will not be enough.  Ultimately, societies have to solve their own problems, which is why we’re pouring so much time and effort into supporting a Syrian opposition and Iraqi efforts to re-establish their democracy and defend their territory.  But this is going to require a lot of time and patience.

The truth is we will likely be dealing with these challenges of social upheaval not just in Iraq and Syria, but across the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring, which will take a generation or more to work itself out. 

We can’t solve each of these problems alone.  We can’t solve them ourselves.  But ultimately — and we can’t ultimately solve them with force, nor should we try.  But we can work to resolve these conflicts.  We can seek to empower the forces of moderation and pluralism and inclusive economic growth.  We can work with our partners to delegitimize ISIL in the Islamic world, and their perverse ideology. 

We can cut off the flow of terrorist finance and foreign fighters, as the President chaired the hearing in the United Nations Security Council on that issue just last week.  We can build the capacity of our partners from the Arab world to Afghanistan to solve their security problems in their own countries with our help and guidance.  The threat posed by violent extremists is real.  And I want to say here on the campus of Harvard University:  Our response must be deadly serious, but we should keep this in perspective.  The United States today faces threats that require attention.  But we face no existential threat to our way of life or our security.  Let me say it again:  We face no existential threat — none — to our way of life or our ultimate security.

You are twice as likely to be struck by lightning as you around to be affected by a terrorist event in the United States.

And while we face an adaptive, resilient enemy, let’s never forget that they’re no match for an even more resilient and adaptive group of people, the American people, who are so much tougher, smarter, realistic and gutsy than their political leadership gives them credit for.

We didn’t crumble after 9/11.  We didn’t falter after the Boston Marathon.  But we’re America.  Americans will never, ever stand down.  We endure.  We overcome.  We own the finish line.  So do not take out of proportion this threat to us.  None of you are being taught to dive under your desks in drills dealing with the possibility of a nuclear attack.  And I argue with all of my colleagues, including in the administration, the American people have already factored in the possibility that there will be another Boston Marathon someday.  But it will not, cannot — has no possibility of breaking our will, our resolve, and/or our ultimate security.

Which brings me to the fifth and final point, the strength of America’s economy.  Without a strong economic foundation, none of which I have spoken to is possible — none of it.  It all rests on America remaining the most vibrant and vital economy in the world. 

And America is back.  America remains the world’s leading economy.  I got elected when I was 29 years old, as was pointed out, and I was referred to in those days as a young idealist.  And I’m today — if you read about me among the many things that are often said, good and bad, I’m always referred to as the White House Optimist, as if somehow, as my grandpop would say, I fell off the turnip truck yesterday.  (Laughter.)

I’m optimistic because I know the history of the journey of this country.  And I have never been more optimistic about America’s future than I am today, and that is not hyperbole.  We are better positioned than any other nation in the world to remain the leading economy in the world in the 21st century. 

We have the world’s greatest research university.  We have the greatest energy resources in the world.  We have the most flexible venture-capitalist system, the most productive workers in the world.  That’s an objective assertion.  We have a legal system that adjudicates claims fairly, protects intellectual property.  Don’t take my word for it.  AT Kearney has been doing a survey for over the last I believe 30-some years.  They survey the 500 largest industrial outfits in the world.  They ask the same question:  Where is the best place in the world to invest?  This year, America not only remains the best place in the world to invest by a margin larger than any time in the record of the survey, but Boston Consulting Group right here, a first-rate outfit, surveys every year American corporations with manufacturing facilities in China and asks them what are they planning for next year.  This year, the response was 54 percent of those invested in China said they planned on coming home.

I don’t know how long I’ve been hearing about how China — and I want China to succeed, it’s in our interest they succeed economically — about how China is eating America’s lunch.  Folks, China has overwhelming problems.  China not only has an energy problem, they have no water.  No, no, not a joke — like California.  They have no water.  (Laughter.)  It is a gigantic and multi-trillion-dollar problem for them.  We should help them solve the problem. 

Ladies and gentlemen, raise your hand if you think our main competition is going to come from the EU in the next decade.  Put your hands up.  (Laughter.)  I’m not being facetious here now, I’m being deadly earnest.  We want — it is overwhelmingly our interest that the EU grow, and that China grows, because when they don’t grow, we don’t grow as fast.  But, ladies and gentlemen, relative terms, we are so well-positioned if we act rationally, if we invest in our people.

A recent study points out that American workers are three times as productive as workers in China.  It matters in terms of where people will invest their money, where jobs will be created.  And one of my — I was in and out of Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina over twenty-some times.  As Maggie will remember, I was the voice that kept hectoring President Clinton to lift the arms embargo and take on Milosevic, which he did, to his great credit.

And one of my trips to Kosovo, I had a Kosovar driver, meaning he was Muslim, a Kosovar driver and who spoke a little English.  And I was going up to Fort Bondsteel, which is right outside of Pristina, a fort that was being built on a plateau.  And it was a rutted, muddy road, and we were — the tires were spinning to get up there, but there were all these cranes and bulldozers and all these incredible movement.  And my driver very proudly sort of looked down like this and looked out the window and he pointed at me and he said, Senator, America, America.  And we were literally at a gate – and, Tommy, you know, the old pike that came down across this rutted road in red and white striped.  And standing to the right of the gate, stopping us, were five American soldiers.  An African American woman, who was a master sergeant; a Chinese American — I forget the rank; an African American man; a woman colonel, and a Hispanic commanding officer.  And I tapped him on the soldier and I said, no, no, and I meant it so seriously — there’s America.  There’s America.  Until you figure out how to live together like we do, you will never, never, never make it. 

America’s strength ultimately lies in its people.  There’s nothing special about being American — none of you can define for me what an American is.  Can’t define it based on religion, ethnicity, race, culture.  The uniqueness of America is that we are a group of people who agreed on — whether we say it, whether we’re well-educated or not, whether we say it in terms of basic agreements but we really do believe without saying it, “We the People.”   “All men are created equal, endowed by their Creator.”  Sounds corny.  But that’s who we are.  That’s the essential strength and vibrancy of this country.

And that’s why it’s our obligation to lead.  It’s costly.  It takes sacrifice.  And sometimes it’s dangerous.  But we must lead — but lead in a more rational way, as I hope I’ve outlined for you, because we can.  We can deal with the present crisis, and it is within our power to make a better world.

You’re a lucky group of students.  I’m not being solicitous.  You’re lucky because you are about to take control at a time where one of those rare inflection points in the history of the world, in this country.  Remember from your physics class in high school, if you didn’t have to take it in college.  I remember my physics professor saying an inflection point is when you’re riding down the highway at 60 miles an hour and your hands are on the steering wheel, and you turn it abruptly 2, 5, 10 degrees one way or the other, and you can never get back on the path you were on.
 
We are at an inflection point.  The world is changing whether we like it or not, but we have our hands on the wheel.  The only time you get a chance to bend history a little bit are these moments of great change.  And if we’re wise, if we have courage and resolve, and with a little bit of luck we can all make the world a better place — for real.
 
God bless you all and may God protect our troops.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  

END
7:20 P.M. EDT

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: August 21, 2014

2:22 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone, and I’m very sorry for the delay. I hate to do that, but thank you for your flexibility and bearing with us today. Just one item at the top, and then, Deb, I will turn it over to you.

One year ago today, the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad launched a deadly chemical weapons attack on the suburbs of Damascus, where more than 1,000 people were killed. The Assad regime’s unconscionable and indiscriminate attack on August 21st, 2013 used cruel weaponry that has long been internationally condemned, further exposing the regime’s total disregard for human life.

Though we removed and have now destroyed the most dangerous chemicals in the regime’s declared stockpiles, a number of critical issues remain unresolved, including discrepancies and omissions related to Syria’s chemical weapons declaration to OPCW. These and our other concerns must be fully resolved.

The haunting images of unspeakable human suffering on that day and throughout every other day of this tragic conflict remind the international community that Assad long ago forfeited his legitimacy to lead the Syrian people, of the need to hold the Assad regime accountable for this and other atrocities against the Syrian people perpetrated during this conflict, and of the urgency of addressing all dimensions of the Syrian crisis. The United States remains steadfast in our resolve to continue working with key allies and partners to do so.

Deb.

QUESTION: Hi.

MS. HARF: Hello.

QUESTION: I’d like to start with Foley, if I could.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: The United States has always said that it’s never going to negotiate with terrorists, and I was just wondering that in light of this particular case, what kind of discussion is going on now within the Administration about negotiating with terrorists or paying ransoms or —

MS. HARF: None, none. We do not make concessions to terrorists. That includes – we do not pay ransoms. One of the main ways ISIL has been funded throughout this conflict has been from ransom payments that others have paid. We believe just in 2014 that that’s in the millions of dollars. So we believe that paying ransoms or making concessions would both put our – all Americans overseas at greater risk for kidnapping and in harm’s way, but that ransoms would also fund and finance exactly the groups we are trying to degrade their capabilities.

QUESTION: What about a family, if they particularly wanted to negotiate?

MS. HARF: That’s the U.S. Government’s position. I can only speak for us. I don’t want to speak for any family that would ever be in this kind of situation and what decisions they would make.

QUESTION: Would that be, like, illegal though? It would be illegal?

MS. HARF: Would it be illegal?

QUESTION: Uh-huh.

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer.

QUESTION: What do you know about this confirmation that they asked this – for a ransom of $132.5 million?

MS. HARF: For those kind of details that I know the family has spoken to and others, we’re not going to be confirming or talking about those details in any way of those conversations.

QUESTION: Did the government get any kind of a forewarning that they were – or did they threaten that they would kill him? Did the U.S. Government get any kind of advance —

MS. HARF: Well, we did not. The U.S. Government did not —

QUESTION: — notice of this?

MS. HARF: — have contact with ISIL, so let’s set that aside. We’re not going to get into the details of any possible communications between the captors and families or anyone else. I think it’s not really our place to do that. What we do know, and what I will say, is that every day Jim Foley and these other Americans are in the captivity of ISIL, their lives are at risk, and we know that. But for more specifics, I’m just not going to get into those.

QUESTION: Okay, I have some more but we’ll go around.

MS. HARF: Okay, let’s go down the first row.

QUESTION: Do you know —

MS. HARF: Lesley, and then —

QUESTION: Do you know if – how does it impact the U.S. when European countries pay for the ransom of their – of citizens that are held captive? How does that affect how – perhaps, treatment of U.S. hostages?

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen any comparison of how it affects other hostages. What I have – do know and what I just said is that we believe – the United States Government believes very strongly that paying ransom to terrorists gives them a tool in the term – in the form of financing that helps them propagate what they’re doing. And so we believe very strongly that we don’t do that for that reason. And as I said, in 2014 alone, I think ISIL’s gotten in the millions of dollars from kidnapping of Western citizens, and obviously we believe very strongly that we need to cut off their funding and cut off their ability to operate, and don’t want to put other American citizens in harm’s way.

QUESTION: Do you have a figure, an updated figure – I think somebody asked yesterday, but you didn’t have it – was how many – what is the U.S. estimate as far as hostages that ISIS has in its —

MS. HARF: Overall?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: We’re not going to get into the specific numbers. We don’t want to put too many specifics out there, obviously, while they’re still being held. I – we talked to – we can talk a little bit about the operation, if you want, that we talked about last night, but there are – that operation was intended to rescue Mr. Foley and a small number of other Americans. We’re not going to go into more specifics than that for their security reasons.

QUESTION: Was it just one operation?

MS. HARF: There was, yes. The one they spoke about last night? Yes.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: That was one. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And there’s been no other operations before that, or even attempts?

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t confirm one way or the other reports or any other specifics about special operations undertakings. We did not have the preference to in this case either, but when it became clear that several press outlets had the story and were going to be publishing it, we were forced to acknowledge it.

QUESTION: Could you tell us when that operation took place?

MS. HARF: It was earlier this summer. Won’t give more specific details than that.

QUESTION: July?

MS. HARF: Earlier this summer.

Yes.

QUESTION: Again on the ransom policy. Is there the beginning of a debate within the Administration on the ransom policy when you compare, as my colleague pointed out, when you compare what European countries are doing and when you see that, for example, the two French journalists who were held with James Foley are free and alive?

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard that there’s a debate inside the U.S. Government. We have had this policy in place for a very long time. It’s in place to protect our citizens overseas and also to not provide terrorists with the funding they need to continue to carry out their heinous acts. So this is a longstanding policy, one that I think we believe in is the best way to keep people safe overseas and not give more incentive for other Americans to be kidnapped.

QUESTION: Marie —

QUESTION: Marie, which countries have – which countries does the U.S. believe have actually paid ransoms?

MS. HARF: I know there are a variety of reports out there. I don’t have details to confirm for you on that.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. talking with its allies, in the EU in particular, about strengthening the existing sanctions against al-Baghdadi and others in IS in order to basically underscore the need to starve them of funding, if you believe that this is critical to defeating this organization?

MS. HARF: We are. And just a couple of things I got a funding. There were a lot of questions about this yesterday, so I got some facts on this. We did – the State Department did designate al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIL, in October 2011, as well as the spokesman for ISIL just recently. They’re designated as Specially Designated Global Terrorists under an executive order. So obviously, this prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in transactions with these officials. And one of them, Said, was the person you asked about who had been arrested in Kuwait. We had seen reports of his release after being arrested. We’re seeking more information on those; can’t confirm those one way or the other. But he’s one of those that the Treasury Department had designated. They designated five additional people as well.

ISIL’s funding comes from many sources. It comes from criminal activity in Iraq and Syria; bank heists, as we saw in Mosul; extortion; robberies; smuggling; and kidnapping for ransom, as well as raiding villages and towns. It also controls some petroleum facilities in eastern Syria. It does also receive some money from outside donors, which I think is something folks in here asked about yesterday.

Just two quick points, and then you can follow up. We don’t have information that governments have supported them. Private fundraising networks increasingly rely upon social media to solicit donations and communicate with donors and recipient opposition groups or terrorist organizations. It also enables fundraisers to solicit donations from supporters in countries where otherwise it would be banned, such as Saudi Arabia.

And then finally, fundraisers collect money through events held at private residences, wire transfers, informal financial transfer systems at mosques. We’ve seen some of this in the past. These tactics aren’t new, but that’s also one of the ways ISIL raises money.

QUESTION: But again —

MS. HARF: Go ahead, Roz. Wait. Roz, a follow-up.

QUESTION: Yeah. But again, going back to the point about your suggestion that other governments have indeed given money to IS in order to get the safe return of their citizens, what is the U.S. Government doing to try to impress upon these other governments that doing so undercuts the very legitimacy of the sanctions regime and possibly creates more of a security risk to the U.S., to other countries than just the short-term and very —

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: — understandable desire to get people home?

MS. HARF: Right. We’re having the conversation. We’ve had it for some time. I don’t have more specifics on that for you. I’m happy to check and see if there are.

Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any figure on the actual amount of money that ISIS has? I mean, there were figures today —

MS. HARF: Let me see.

QUESTION: — that talks about something like $3 billion. Are you aware of that?

MS. HARF: I could check on that, Said. I think my colleagues at the Treasury Department might have some more on that. I don’t know if I have an overall number here. They do have quite a bit of money —

QUESTION: Okay. And you’re saying —

MS. HARF: — quite a bit.

QUESTION: Yeah, I’m sorry. And you’re saying that most of that money is – or these revenues come from kidnappings and ransoms and so on?

MS. HARF: And criminal activities like attacking banks —

QUESTION: Maybe drugs?

MS. HARF: — raiding towns, things —

QUESTION: Dealing in drugs or doing something like this —

MS. HARF: Things like that.

QUESTION: — or dealing in arms?

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard that, but you know.

QUESTION: Okay. Now can you tell us – I think the GlobalPost said that they received a message that ISIL was intending to kill Mr. Foley. Have you heard about that?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to confirm those specifics one way or the other. They can speak to those specifics. I know they have.

QUESTION: Okay. Now on the operation itself – the operation, the failed operation, whatever – now it’s similar in many ways to Eagle Claw, which was done in 1980, maybe. Was there any assets left behind in this case?

MS. HARF: No, not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: Were there any military – U.S. military assets or —

MS. HARF: Check with the Defense Department, but not to my knowledge.

QUESTION: But to the best of your knowledge, they didn’t leave any equipment or —

MS. HARF: Correct. And as folks have said – and again, the Defense Department can speak to this better – the intelligence picture dictated the timing of the operation. They unfortunately were not present. There were a number of fatalities on the other side, none on the U.S. side. And once it was determined the hostages were not present, the U.S. forces left.

QUESTION: Well, obviously, to conduct the operation, there must have been quite solid intelligence in this case.

MS. HARF: Correct. And the President believed —

QUESTION: So what could possibly have gone wrong?

MS. HARF: Well, the President believed there was sufficient intelligence to launch this operation. Look, this – the intelligence picture is a very difficult one. And as we all know, and having come from that world, you can develop an intelligence picture, and the President felt it was sufficient enough to act on, particularly given the danger we believe the hostages are in. And sometimes, unfortunately, these things happen.

But I will say, setting aside this one operation, every single day before and after that operation and today, we have many, many resources, every tool at our disposal, to try and find these people and bring them home. That work is ongoing.

QUESTION: And my last question on this: I remember some – a couple years ago or maybe a year and a half ago, former Ambassador Ryan Crocker said that it was a wrong policy not to have engagement with Syria, not to have a mission in Damascus, because that does compromise your ability to sort of source out intelligence and so on. In retrospect, is it – was it a wrong policy not to have any kind of contact with Syria?

MS. HARF: Not – well, we make decisions on our embassy based on security reasons and other considerations, and that decision was made a long time ago. But I will say that we have enormous intelligence resources dedicated not just to finding and bringing these hostages home, but also to the overall picture in Syria as well. And in terms of the intelligence, the President and his advisors believe the information that we possess, which is collected through various sources over a period of time, combined, obviously, with the very real threat, warranted the action we took. Everybody involved in the operation performed exactly as they were supposed to. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the outcome that we all would have hoped for.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up on this?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Number one, do you know of any instances where Mr. Foley tried to escape?

MS. HARF: I don’t have those details.

QUESTION: Number two, do you believe that Mr. Sotloff is still alive?

MS. HARF: Again, not going to get into any of those details or questions.

QUESTION: To investigate Foley, Attorney General Holder and FBI Director Comey have said they want to use sort of traditional law enforcement to do this. Has there been any outreach to the powers in the area to facilitate U.S. personnel, or will there be to conduct —

MS. HARF: From a law enforcement perspective?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: I can check with our law enforcement colleagues. Obviously, there will be a criminal investigation, as there always is when there is an American citizen death overseas, as the FBI and DOJ can speak to. There’s also an ongoing intelligence community focus on this to determine who may have been responsible, ongoing intelligence capabilities being put forward to see possibly how those people could be held accountable as well.

QUESTION: And if I can —

MS. HARF: They work in concert with each other, though.

QUESTION: And if I can follow up on that, in just the past 10 minutes or so, Buck McKeon, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has asked for an investigation as to how the leak came out. A moment ago, you sort of gave an explanation saying, well, there was a number of news organizations that had this and so we felt it was compelled —

MS. HARF: Absolutely. We had no intention of ever making this public, period – I want to be very clear about that – for the operational security both of the special operators and also of the remaining hostages. It became clear to us when a number of news outlets, including some represented in this room, came to the U.S. Government recently with very detailed information that had been provided to them. I have no idea who provided it. We were forced at that point to acknowledge it, given they were – many of these outlets, if not all of them, were going to run stories one way or the other.

QUESTION: But that said, then is Chairman McKeon’s call for a probe wrongheaded?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen the call specifically, so I don’t want to comment on it. But as I think I made clear from the Administration perspective, we did not have an intention of making this public.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. frustrated that the attempted raid was leaked to several in the media?

MS. HARF: We know how this all works, and I understand there is a huge interest in what we might do as the United States Government to bring our people home. I fully recognize that. We had briefed the families on it. Congress was notified, of course, in a classified way at the time. So I don’t want to be overly critical of it; I was just explaining how it eventually did come out. We were not planning to put it out, but once it did we were forced to acknowledge.

QUESTION: How does this hurt future U.S. efforts to try to get the remaining hostages back?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d refer to my colleagues at the Defense Department for a tactical assessment of that. Obviously, we want every tool in the toolbox available to us. If in the future we were to undertake similar operations, we would obviously want those available to us, which is why a lot of the operational details we are still not releasing or talking about or confirming on the operational side for that reason so we can preserve that ability to use that in the future.

QUESTION: And you might have gotten into this yesterday, but can you describe at this point what kind of support the U.S. Government is providing to the Foley family, especially given that trying to repatriate his remains is pretty well nigh impossible?

MS. HARF: We have – since we learned of his capture, the State Department, the FBI, officials from the intelligence community and the White House and others have been in touch with the Foley family and the Sotloff family. We have remained in close contact with them. The State Department and the FBI reached out when we got notified, unfortunately, of what had happened, and we are providing assistance to the family in any way we can. There is the question of repatriation. As you mentioned, it is a difficult one. We believe it’s an important one. We will help in any way we can, but it will be difficult.

QUESTION: Change of topics?

MS. HARF: Anything else on this?

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: The same topic.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: First one is related to there are some reports about that the Twitter accounts of ISIL are stopped or banned or whatever. I don’t know their exact – is this all the accounts or part of the accounts or what —

MS. HARF: Well —

QUESTION: — how these —

MS. HARF: — so I’d let Twitter speak more broadly to this, but the State Department and the Defense Department did reach out to social media sites like Twitter and YouTube, particularly the night the video and the photos were released, to highlight for them accounts that may be violating their own usage policies. And so they – and Twitter, I think, has talked about this on the record – will take action when there are things that violate those policy, like these kind of videos or photos. So broadly speaking, I think Twitter can speak to their own policies, but that’s the communications we’ve had.

QUESTION: Talking about ISIL, it’s like yesterday you described all these confrontation may take place more and more, and the question is now in the area is like and all the people are asking is make a difference now in the type and the scope and the tactics of confrontation with ISIL than it was like 10 days ago or a week ago?

MS. HARF: Well, let’s – two points on that. As I said yesterday, we don’t rule anything out in terms of protecting our people or bringing those to justice who have hurt our people wherever country that’s in. And I’m not indicating decisions made in any way, shape, or form, but I just want to be very clear that we maintain the ability and retain the capability to go after people who harm our citizens wherever they are. So let’s do Point A there.

Point B is we’re still very focused, and let’s not lose sight of what we’re doing in Iraq that’s been going after ISIL, both obviously setting aside the humanitarian situation but outside – around Mount Sinjar, helping break the siege there by hitting ISIL targets, protecting Erbil, helping the Iraqis take back the Mosul Dam from ISIL. We are very focused on going after ISIL strategically when it impacts the goals the President laid out in Iraq, and we’re looking long-term at how we can do that more going forward. But we are engaged very heavily right now in fighting them and in helping to build capability of the Iraqis to do that.

QUESTION: The reason I am asking you this question because you are mentioning Mount Sinjar and Erbil and all these things, but the real issue now is becoming different. I mean, even they are announcing ISIL people in their message, whatever the recorded messages and other messages, that now we are in a war with America.

MS. HARF: This is not about ISIL versus the United States. I think I made that clear yesterday. They are killing anyone who gets in their way – Sunni, Shia Muslims, Christians, Yezidis, Iraqis, Syrians – anyone who gets in their way, and now an American. So this is not about what the United States is or isn’t doing. This is about ISIL’s stated commitment to murder, rape, enslave people who don’t agree with their ideology and who get in their way. And I think the more we can say that – because it’s true – it’s important for people to remember that as they look at the overall picture.

QUESTION: The reason that I’m asking this question because it’s – it – I mean, I – in realities and in politics is matter how they look to us or how they look to United States. It’s not how they – we look to them or we are seeing it. It’s like – but they are announcing that it’s a war against America. Right or wrong, that’s what they are saying.

MS. HARF: Well, they can say whatever they’d like. But what I am making clear is that’s not what ISIL represents, and they don’t represent any religion. They are at war with everybody they come into contact with. And that’s why we are very focused, when we outline goals, on attacking their targets when they threaten those goals; on helping the Iraqis gain in capability to fight this threat on their own; and, to be very clear, holding people accountable when they hurt our people. That’s something we’re very focused on and that’s certainly what will be a guiding principle of our action going forward.

QUESTION: The other concern which is usually raised to those who have some kind of memory, which is like 30 years ago, 40 years ago, whenever these kind of confrontations were happening – like in the case of Beirut, the Marines barrack and others – the next step of United States was to withdraw from the confrontation.

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think that’s been universally true. Look at Afghanistan. When we were attacked, we took the fight to them.

QUESTION: I’m just trying to – I mean —

MS. HARF: I know. I’m just bringing a different historical comparison forward, that I think this Administration particularly has shown – very willing to, no matter how long it takes, find people who have killed Americans, who have harmed Americans, and bring them to justice. We have a history of that. There’s – that’s something we’re certainly very, very committed to here.

QUESTION: You think, Madam —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: We’re all going to do one at a time here.

QUESTION: One more.

QUESTION: Sorry.

MS. HARF: Let’s start here on this and go across and then go to Roz.

QUESTION: You think, Madam, this is going to be major discussion of issue at the United Nations upcoming General Assembly meetings, and because who is funding them and who’s arming them and how to stop this new – many people call new face of terrorism or al-Qaida?

MS. HARF: I think it will be. And as we’ve talked about a little bit, the President will be chairing a Security Council session on foreign fighters, particularly Syria and Iraq. I think it will be an incredibly important decision – or discussion, excuse me – around the General Assembly. When you have this many world leaders in one place, I don’t know, quite frankly, how it couldn’t be.

QUESTION: And you think you need major powers with you like China and Russia?

MS. HARF: We need everyone who will join us in this fight against ISIL.

QUESTION: Marie —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yes, Elliot. I’m —

QUESTION: — can you stay on that – on the same —

MS. HARF: Yeah, but I’m going to go across. I’m going to go across, as I said I was going to. I will get to all of you.

Yes, Elliot.

QUESTION: Yeah, thanks. I wanted to follow up on something you just said on your outreach to Twitter and other social media. You said you let them know of content that violated their own —

MS. HARF: That may – yeah, so they – their usage policies. So there are certain things that violate those policies. Obviously, the kind of videos we’ve seen do, and we would ask for them to be taken down in accordance with their usage policies.

QUESTION: Right. So – but you guys wanted the video down, but —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — you didn’t make the argument to them that it was terrorist propaganda? It was on the —

MS. HARF: I can look at what their – I don’t know what, exactly, their usage policy says in terms of what is okay and what’s not. But in terms of that specifically in the video, it was because of the graphic nature of it.

QUESTION: Okay. And is there any —

MS. HARF: But – there may be more details in their policy.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Thank you.

Well, according to the Guardian – sorry. According to the Guardian, the person who killed James Foley is a British jihadist, and he’s the leader of a British group – a group of fighters in Syria. Is the information correct? Have you confirmed his identity?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re working on that right now, working very closely with the United Kingdom. Prime Minister Cameron came out yesterday and said it’s looking increasingly likely that it was a British citizen, so we are working with them on that. We are concerned about the fact that a number of Westerners, including a small number of Americans, have joined this fight. So that is something we’re working very, very closely with them on right now.

QUESTION: Do you know – according to the Guardian, the – Britain’s security services said there are increasing numbers of homegrown terrorists leaving the country to fight in Syria and Iraq. So you said you’re – you have those kind of concerns you will have a similar trend in the U.S., right?

MS. HARF: I think it’s a much smaller number, but we are concerned about foreign fighters going there. It will be a key topic of conversation at the General Assembly.

QUESTION: Are you going to take any actions to deal with the situation?

MS. HARF: We’ve been taking a number of actions, I think, to deal with the situation. Look, we have tried to work with countries in the region to crack down on the flow of foreign fighters from anywhere. I think there are fighters from over 50 countries now that we assess have joined the fight on the side of ISIL. So we’re very focused on dealing with this and working with other countries in the region to really crack down on the places and ways they can get in. But once they’re in Syria, the Syria-to-Iraq pipeline, unfortunately, has become quite porous, and there’s been a lot of fighters going back and forth over that border.

QUESTION: As we know, there is a second hostage in ISIL, and are you going to call on ISIL to release him?

MS. HARF: Yes, I did yesterday.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes, yes. On —

QUESTION: Yeah, just —

MS. HARF: — ISIL?

QUESTION: Yeah. Back for a second to that UNGA summit thing.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it an invitation thing only – invitation only or —

MS. HARF: It’s a Security Council session, so I’m assuming all the members of the Security Council will be present. I don’t know beyond that what participation will look like.

QUESTION: Okay. So it’s not like you’re sending – invitations already went out and —

MS. HARF: I think – oh, no, no.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I don’t think any invitations have gone out. I think we’re still working through those details.

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: Marie —

MS. HARF: Yes, on this. Staying on ISIL?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: On the general broader fight against ISIL, while President Obama, the British prime minister, and also the French president and foreign minister, they all spoke about this – that they need to get moving, the French foreign minister also suggested – well, the president suggested an international conference on the subject and that there should be a universal strategy. Apparently, the foreign minister has said that they would invite regional countries, including Iran, to that conference. Iran’s foreign minister today has said that Tehran —

MS. HARF: I think there was a little garble here. Do you want me to – about Foreign Minister Zarif’s comments?

QUESTION: Tehran is in touch with a number of countries. Number one, is the U.S. one of those countries discussing this? And they have conditioned their cooperation in fighting ISIL upon the relief of all nuclear sanctions.

MS. HARF: So let’s just talk about this for a little bit. There were – there was a story that Foreign Minister Zarif had linked its help with ISIS in Iraq to a lifting of Western sanctions. We have seen the story. We do not believe that the report is accurate.

We understand that the Iranian foreign minister – and you’re never going to believe this – quoted in the story as referring to Iraq the country was actually referring to Arak, the Iranian nuclear facility. We’ve looked at the language a couple of times, actually, and think he was not linking in that specific quote fighting ISIS in Iraq to lifting of Western sanctions. He was talking about making progress on Arak, the nuclear facility, to lifting of Western sanctions.

Right, I know. It’s almost unbelievable.

QUESTION: But this was a Farsi report.

MS. HARF: Yeah, and our —

QUESTION: And they can’t – the spelling is totally different.

MS. HARF: I know, and our – but we think there was a mistranslation. Our Farsi speakers have taken a bunch of looks at it and think that he was referring to that. I’ll let him speak for himself, and if he wants to clarify and disagree with me – I am not a Farsi speaker – I’m sure he would have or his people would have further clarification. But on that particular AFP report, I just wanted to —

QUESTION: Actually, I cited a Farsi report on that.

MS. HARF: Yeah, but it came from a translation of the Farsi, and we think that was not accurate. I know it’s very —

QUESTION: Then what about his comment about – that Tehran is in touch with a number of countries on possible cooperation and participation in a conference?

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t have more details on that article, but on that specific point I just wanted to be clear on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I know. It’s very odd, actually.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: What’s your assessment of Iran’s role? Are they helping in fighting ISIS in Iraq, or they are just watching?

MS. HARF: I don’t have an assessment of that. I am happy to check. We think any country in the region should play a role if they can, a positive role in helping fight ISIL, and a huge part of that is through promoting and helping the Government of Iraq as it gets up on its feet and is inclusive. So I think that, obviously, if there’s a positive role Iran can play, they should play a positive role.

QUESTION: Thank you. Can we change topics?

MS. HARF: Anything else on this?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Yeah, and I’ll go to you in the back. Yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. Just a couple more.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: I just wondered if you had any comment on – there’s some analysts who are looking at this on the flip side and saying that ISIL knows that the U.S. is not going to pay ransoms, okay? And so they – that gives them an incentive to kill Americans that they captured because then they can get more money out of the Europeans when they are asking for ransoms there.

MS. HARF: But on the —

QUESTION: Do you think there’s anything going on with that?

MS. HARF: I don’t, Deb. And on the flip side of that, if they knew we paid ransoms, they would kidnap more Americans because they would think they would get more money, and we don’t want to fund terrorism.

QUESTION: Okay. A couple more things.

MS. HARF: We feel very strongly about that.

QUESTION: You mentioned all the different places that they’re getting their money. Do you have any idea of, like – not what percentage, but do they get a small amount from ransoms or just a large amount or —

MS. HARF: Let me see if I have —

QUESTION: Is there any kind of —

MS. HARF: I don’t know if I have percentages of that. Let me see what I have here.

QUESTION: I mean, should we think it’s a big amount?

MS. HARF: Yeah, most of it is from criminal and terrorist activities. That’s – a small portion is from outside donors.

QUESTION: Okay. And on the outside donors, do you know which countries we’re talking about?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s private citizens. It’s not —

QUESTION: Yeah, I understand. No governments.

MS. HARF: It’s not any governments. We’ve worked very hard with a number of particularly Gulf countries, whether it’s Kuwait or Qatar, obviously other countries as well on this.

QUESTION: Okay, and then just one more. I know you can’t talk about the operation, but can you tell us if there were any other non-kinetic type approaches to getting him back?

MS. HARF: Non – I mean, we’re putting a lot of intelligence resources towards this.

QUESTION: Were there any other ideas that were being pursued?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to outline specifics, particularly because we still have hostages there. So we’re looking at a wide range of options, every tool at our disposal, to try and get – find them, locate them, and then return them home. But I’m not going to outline specifics so we have the ability to use them if we want to.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Anything else on this? Yes, in the back.

QUESTION: Different subject.

MS. HARF: Well, Said’s taking us to a different subject.

QUESTION: Can we go to Gaza?

MS. HARF: We can.

QUESTION: Marie, are there any efforts ongoing by the Administration, by the Secretary of State in particular, to broker some sort of a cease-fire? Because there were statements yesterday by the Israelis that this can go on for a very long time, and the humanitarian situation is really getting —

MS. HARF: Well, we do remain concerned about the developments. The Secretary has been engaged with a number of relevant parties. We also condemn Hamas’s targeted attack on Ben Gurion Airport and Hamas’s threat against civilian aviation. So that’s something that is unacceptable. The rocket fire needs to stop. And we do want them to return to cease-fire talks, so that is something we are certainly still pressing with relevant parties.

QUESTION: Okay. But to the best of your knowledge, there are no actually ongoing activities —

MS. HARF: Our —

QUESTION: — to broker a cease-fire by the Secretary of State?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve never been playing the brokering role.

QUESTION: I mean – okay, trying to mediate or get the —

MS. HARF: Well, he’s been playing the role he’s been playing throughout the cease-fire talks, which is discussing and helping where we can with the different parties.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, I asked you yesterday about Israel and about the commission, and you said that you trust Israel investigating itself.

MS. HARF: We call on them to.

QUESTION: You call on them. So do you trust their past efforts that they have done or future efforts to investigate themselves? I mean —

MS. HARF: Well, it’s not about trust. It’s about seeing if their investigation’s done, and we keep pushing that with them.

QUESTION: Okay. Now, should they investigate each case on its own, case by case? For instance, the reason I ask this, apparently a Palestinian boy, a teenager, was taken at gunpoint by the Israeli army as a human shield for five days. I mean, he describes and details what happened and so on. So should these incidents, if they happen – first of all, do you condemn these incidents?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have any idea what incident you’re talking about, and I’m sorry about that.

QUESTION: Okay. Well —

MS. HARF: We think they should investigate any allegation of wrongdoing or of civilian deaths that arise. Yes, we do.

QUESTION: Would you raise with them the abduction of a 16-year-old, Ahmad Abu Raida, on the 23rd of July, and they haven’t —

MS. HARF: I can check into that case.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I can check.

QUESTION: Now let me also ask you – another development just occurred. Apparently, the holdup on the missiles to Israel was just lifted. Is that likely to —

MS. HARF: Really?

QUESTION: Well, or apparently until then – on the way of being resolved —

MS. HARF: There was never —

QUESTION: I don’t know. I mean, could you tell us whether —

MS. HARF: There was —

QUESTION: Was there any new – any change in the status?

MS. HARF: Let me check. Let me check on the status. The – there was not a hold. The process was moving forward, as I said.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: We had just put some additional steps into place. So let me see if it’s progressed further. I can check on that. I hadn’t heard that, but it very well may have.

QUESTION: Okay. But are you concerned that this would add to the – sort of the explosive power that Israel has been sort of deploying limitlessly almost, using bunker busters and so on, killing large number of civilians and so on? Wouldn’t that exacerbate the situation?

MS. HARF: Well, Said, we’ve always said we will continue to support Israel militarily. They are facing a very serious threat. We’ve also said throughout this conflict that they need to do more to protect civilian casualties, and we believe we can do both.

QUESTION: Mm-hmm. My last question on this. There’s also a fear that there is likely the spread of some sort of germ and microbes and diseases among civilian population in Gaza, which could conceivably also be communicated in the neighboring areas and so on. Are you discussing with the Israelis the likelihood of the breakout of disease?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that specifically, but we are very concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, particularly the large number of internally displaced peoples and all the things that go along with that, whether it’s needing food or water or medical care. So we are concerned and discussing it.

I’m going to go to the back here. I promised you.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie.

QUESTION: On Gaza.

QUESTION: I have one on the same subject.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie.

MS. HARF: Just wait one second.

Yeah, okay.

QUESTION:  On South Korea. I just learned the secretary of U.S. Treasury Department Cohen visit to South Korea right now. Can you tell us what is the purpose of his visit to South Korea?

MS. HARF: Let me check. I knew he was there. Let me check with my colleagues at Treasury, and we’ll get you something – or they should have some information about his visit.

QUESTION: Do you think the United States will have a new individual sanctions against North Korea?

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t tend to preview sanctions before we announce them, but it’s been an ongoing conversation that David Cohen and others have had with the South Koreans. I’m sure he’s there, though, talking about a range of Treasury-related issues.

Elliot, did you have one on Gaza?

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you know – what can you say about – apparently, this week EU diplomats in the UN have been pushing for a UN Security Council resolution to end the conflict in Gaza and restart peace talks. Do you know anything about that, or can you —

MS. HARF: I don’t have any specifics on that and hadn’t seen those reports. We’re obviously looking at a range of ways to get a cease-fire in place here, and if that could involve some UN action, I’m sure we would have that conversation. But nothing to preview or announce.

QUESTION: But broadly speaking, the U.S. would support a UN Security Council resolution?

MS. HARF: I think it depends on what it looks like. Depends what it looks like.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Syria, just one minute?

MS. HARF: You can, yes.

QUESTION: You mentioned that there are a small number of American jihadist fighters in Syria. So do you have an accurate number?

MS. HARF: Let me see if I – I’m not sure I have a number. Just give me one second on this. No, just a small number. We think that there are approximately 12,000 fighters from at least 50 countries in Syria – foreign fighters – including a small number of Americans that may have traveled to Syria since the beginning of the conflict. They may all not still be there.

QUESTION: But it could be dozens, it could be hundreds or —

MS. HARF: Small number. I’ll check and see if there’s more clarity.

QUESTION: And do you know if some of these people have already returned to the United States?

MS. HARF: Obviously, that’s something we’re very concerned about. I don’t have any information on that.

QUESTION: Marie, on this very issue, a lot of these fighters have come from Europe and go to Syria. Apparently, they cross the border with Turkey. Are you talking to Turkey to perhaps tighten up control over their border?

MS. HARF: We’re talking to all of the bordering countries to help cut off foreign fighters from going into Syria.

QUESTION: Because as it seems, people with European passports can travel easily in to Turkey and out and —

MS. HARF: It’s a huge concern. Yeah, it’s a huge concern.

Yes.

QUESTION: A couple of points on the Ukraine. Russians are pushing for the Security Council supporting a cease-fire in western Ukraine while the humanitarian assistance from Russia is being delivered. I was wondering if the United States is in support of this initiative.

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that initiative. What we would support is the parties on the – we know there has to be a cessation of hostilities during any sort of humanitarian delivery. There’s ongoing discussions right now about inspections and what that will look like. But we’ve called on Russia to use its influence with these separatists to get them to hold their fire. The Ukrainians have said they’ve committed to do that, but the separatists keep firing and keep the hostilities going. So in terms of Security Council, I don’t have anything on that. But we think that the separatists – they could do this on their own without the Security Council.

QUESTION: Okay. And there is another thing I wanted to ask you. There is this group here in the United States which calls itself Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. They —

MS. HARF: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity?

QUESTION: For sanity, yes.

MS. HARF: How am I not a member of that? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I don’t know. I don’t know.

MS. HARF: That’s interesting. I have never heard of this. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: They wrote either two or three memoranda on the Malaysian airliner crash in Ukraine, in which they criticized the Administration for both what it said and how it said about this tragedy. I was wondering if the U.S. Government still stands by its conclusions that it made public —

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: — earlier about that.

MS. HARF: One hundred percent, we still stand by them. I am not aware of that report. I would say it probably is the opposite of its name, but I don’t have any further comment on something I haven’t seen.

QUESTION: And the other thing is —

MS. HARF: I got a little laugh there.

QUESTION: — do you think it might – those conclusions of yours might get updated or —

MS. HARF: We always update our analysis as we get new information, but the information we have from the MH17 crash with – which happened a number of weeks ago, was very strong and very much led to the conclusion that we said at the time, that this was shot down from Russian separatist-controlled territory by a surface-to-air missile that the separatists have. And so look, we’ll continue – the investigation’s ongoing in The Hague in terms of looking at the black

box. I understand some of the remains will be returned to Malaysia today. That’s ongoing, but the evidence shows what happened here very clearly.

QUESTION: Marie, I know that you touched upon the crash site itself and what happened to it earlier this week. Do you have any more information? What is going on? Who controls the crash site? What happened to the remains?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding the separatists do. In terms of remains, just give me a second, Said. Let me pull up what I have here. I think I have something. Yes, the first group of remains of Malaysian victims of the shoot-down will arrive tomorrow in Kuala Lumpur. Again, would take this opportunity to express our condolences for the families of those killed in this horrific plane crash. Obviously, we’re very focused on investigating and holding people responsible.

As I said earlier, their initial report of the investigation into the cause is expected by the end of August. We have contributed to the investigation both information and expertise through the Department of Justice, the NTSB, and FBI. That was a question I took from Matt the other day.

QUESTION: And the ESAT that you deployed to the Embassy in Kyiv, are they still there?

MS. HARF: The NTSB people?

QUESTION: No, no, no.

MS. HARF: I’m sorry, who are —

QUESTION: ESAT team. It was the – it was the —

MS. HARF: Oh. That’s a good question. I’m not sure.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I believe they may – let me check on that for you. It’s a good question.

What else?

QUESTION: On Russia?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: There’s a report that there’s going to be an expert-level meeting next month on INF consultations. Do you have any confirmation of that?

MS. HARF: So just – we have made clear to Russia that we want to talk about this. We’ve notified them of our determination to do so in a senior level bilateral dialogue immediately, with the aim of assuring the U.S. that Russia will come back into compliance. We don’t have a date set for that yet. I think we’re still working out details.

QUESTION: So you say senior – so your preference would be for a senior level, not an expert level?

MS. HARF: Senior level bilateral dialogue.

QUESTION: Okay, so – yeah, go ahead.

QUESTION: Sorry, but —

QUESTION: Yeah, no problem.

QUESTION: — it’s a follow-up to that.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: The Russians actually said today that it’s going to take place in September, expert level talks in September. Do you have anything on that?

MS. HARF: Okay. Let me check with our team. I know this is what —

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: — we had notified them that we wanted to do, so let me check on those conversations for you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has been nominated for governing AK Party – to lead the governing AK Party – and then being a prime minister succeeding President-elect Erdogan. What would be your assessment on this?

MS. HARF: Well, I understand this is a nomination. There’s a process that has to play out now. We look forward to working with whoever is the next prime minister. And I think we’ll refrain on further comment until that process is over.

QUESTION: And Mr. Davutoglu is someone that the Secretary works very well with, yes?

MS. HARF: The Secretary has worked very closely with Foreign Minister Davutoglu – has spoken to him a number of times this week – very closely on Gaza, on other issues as well.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION:   Pakistan. Madam, first of all I want to set the record straight. Yesterday, my question on Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, comparing with the Iraqi prime minister, those were not my views, but those were the views from Mr. Qadri and Mr. – the cricket player —

MS. HARF: Imran Khan.

QUESTION: — Imran Khan.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: And they have repeated again yesterday the same comment, but they also included (inaudible) and also Hosni Mubarak of Egypt. My question is today: Do you really take these huge demonstrations and the leaders behind them seriously?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re monitoring the demonstrations. Obviously, we think there should be a space in Pakistan for peaceful expression of views. So it’s something we’re looking at. We are in no way involved in the process or the discussion between the parties. Any suggestion to the contrary is completely false. So we’re watching it, but we do think that there needs to be peaceful dialogue and no attempts to change Pakistan’s government through extra-constitutional attempts. So Nawaz Sharif is prime minister; that’s who we will keep working with, as we will with a number of people in Pakistan as well.

QUESTION: And finally, if there were any contacts between Islamabad and Washington about this current situation?

MS. HARF: Ambassador Olson meets quite frequently with a range of officials, and I believe that’s where the contact has occurred.

QUESTION: Thank you, madam.

MS. HARF: And thank you for clarifying on yesterday.

QUESTION: Thank you, madam.

MS. HARF: Yes. Elliot.

QUESTION:  Thailand?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The —

MS. HARF: Skipping around the world today.

QUESTION: Yeah. The legislative assembly has selected the former army – well, the soon-to- be former army chief as prime minister. Do you have any response to that?

MS. HARF: Yes. We hope that the selection of an interim prime minister is a step in a process that leads to the establishment of inclusive democratic institutions and a freely and fairly elected civilian government. We have urged the interim government, once formed, to institute an inclusive reform process that reflects the diversity of views within Thailand, and do remain concerned about the limits on space for freedom of speech and assembly.

QUESTION: Have you heard anything from your colleagues in Thailand about how long he will be interim prime minister?

MS. HARF: We have not. We have not. I know they had talked about some dates for elections, but I haven’t heard more details on that.

QUESTION: Well, if I’m not mistaken, the last time they said was October 2015.

MS. HARF: That’s what I had heard last as well.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more updates for you.

QUESTION: Okay. And I think the last time we heard about the review of U.S. aid to Thailand was maybe a couple months ago.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Are there any updates?

MS. HARF: There’s not. By law, we cannot resume our legally restricted assistance to Thailand until a democratically elected government takes office.

QUESTION: But in terms of the specific elements that are being withheld, are there any others from the last time we heard?

MS. HARF: Nothing new. Nothing new on that.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: What else?

Yes, in the back.

QUESTION:  Central African Republic.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Earlier this week there were reports of renewed clashes involving international peacekeepers and militants in Bangui. In light of this ongoing unrest in spite of the presence of the international peacekeepers, is the U.S. considering any additional engagement in the CAR to help stem some of this unrest?

MS. HARF: Well, we have been very engaged on this issue and know that the violence there has to stop. We’ve urged all parties to fully abide by and implement the July 2014 cessation of hostilities agreement. We have initiated efforts and are supporting the regional mediation efforts of others to reconcile the parties in the conflict. Just a few points on that.

We’ve committed up to $100 million for equipment, airlift, and training for African and French peacekeeping troops in the CAR. It includes 37 trucks given to the AU mission, an additional 200 vehicles that will start arriving as MISCA transitions to the UN peacekeeping operation in mid-September.

We also remain committed to holding individuals accountable. We’ve implemented UN Security Council and U.S. targeted sanctions against five individuals; believe these are important steps that we’ve taken. I don’t have any additional steps to preview, but we have been engaged in both supporting the peacekeeping and holding people accountable.

Yes. Yes, here, and then to Ali.

QUESTION:  A very light one, offbeat one.

MS. HARF: Can I guess what it is? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Yes. Is it correct that the State Department sent a cable to its ambassadors to ban them from participating —

MS. HARF: Not – it wasn’t – it’s not limited. It’s not just about ambassadors. Federal government ethics rules prevent us from using our public offices, such as – high public offices such as ambassadors for private gain, no matter how worthy the cause is. And this is, of course, a wor

PM delivers remarks in Brampton

Brampton, Ontario – 12 August 2014

Prime Minister Stephen Harper today delivered the following remarks at India’s National Day Gala in Brampton:

“Thank you very much.

“Good evening.

“Namaste.

“I want to thank everybody for that warm welcome and just tell you how delighted I am to be here.

“Thanks of course to our masters of ceremonies, to Parm Gill and Angie Seth for kicking us off tonight.

“Also special greetings to all guests from all levels of government who are here with us tonight, both Canadian and international, to Consul General Mishra.

“Particularly to my colleagues from the Government of Canada, and I know they’ve already been introduced.

“There are way too many for me to name but look we’ve got a great turn out.

“I’d like them all to stand up one more time.

“Give all my colleagues from the Parliament of Canada your warm greeting.

“You will know ladies and gentleman that our Government has, in fact we’re proud to have, eight Canadians of Indian descent serving in our caucus.

“In fact, there are today more men and women who were born in India serving in Canada’s Parliament than at any other time in our country’s history.

“Let me also just recognize a few people who worked so hard to make this occasion such a tremendous success.

“Obviously first, my introducer, for her leading role in helping to drive the organization of this great event – she asked me 67 times to attend – let’s give her one more round of applause, my introducer, Dr. Senator Asha Seth.

“Now to be fair, the Senator was working with a great team, so let’s also show our appreciation once again to the other members of the Canada India Friendship Group and to members of the Advisory Board.

“Thank all of them for their great work in putting this tremendous event together.

“Now, ladies and gentlemen, I know tonight we’re a couple of days early but I would like to personally wish each of you, I would like to in fact wish all Indo-Canadians a very happy India Independence Day.

“In a matter of days, Prime Minister Modi will do, for the first time, what each of his predecessors have done: raise the deep saffron, white and green flag of India above the Red Fort in New Delhi.

“So, on behalf of the Government of Canada and indeed, I know, all of the people of Canada, let’s extend our best to Prime Minister Modi and the Indian people as they mark 67 years of independence.

“Now ladies and gentlemen, Canada’s relationship with India is special because despite the great differences between our two countries, we have growing economic ties, we have vast people-to-people ties, and all of these things are cemented together by common values: democracy, justice, pluralism, peace, human rights, the rule of law.

“And in what is a very uncertain and divided world, it is comforting to know that Canada has certain friends, like India, who share these values.

“Now ladies and gentlemen, in preparation for tonight’s event, I could not help but reflect on how much has changed here in Canada and around the world since my first visit to India back in 2009.

“Five years ago, our Government was navigating Canada through the midst of the worst global economic crisis since the Great Depression.

“Indeed, much has changed.

“With regards to the global recession, whereas Canada was the last G-7 country to feel its impact, we have been the first country to recover from it.

“And today, despite challenges and uncertainties around the world – challenges and uncertainties that do continue to impact us – Canada’s economy is strong, it is growing, creating good jobs and opportunities for hard-working Canadians.

“There are more Canadians working today than at any time in our country’s history.

“Today, Canada is also widely rated as the best country in the G-20 in which to do business.

“We have the soundest financial sector in the world.

“And we have the most prosperous middle class, among significant developed economies.

“We have lowered taxes and, next year, years ahead of other countries, we are going to balance the budget here in Canada.

“Now thinking again back to my trip to India in 2009, Canada then had free trade agreements with only five countries in the entire world.

“Since then, we have expanded that by almost 10 times.

“Today, we have free trade agreements, agreements in principle, with 43 countries.

“Put another way, Canada has secured free trade agreements with nearly a quarter of the world’s countries, and Canadian businesses are going to have tariff-free access to more than half of the total global economy, including, as you know, with the European Union and the Republic of Korea.

“Now it’s my hope – it’s our Government’s hope – that over the years to come Canada and India will continue to develop our own economic and trading relationship.

“And that is, of course, another area where things have changed greatly since 2009.

“We can rightly say that the chill that characterized relations between Canada and India for decades is a thing of the past.

“Before our Conservative Government came to office, Canada’s relationship with India had been essentially frozen for most of the period since the 1970s.

“Since taking office our Government has worked hard to revitalize and strengthen Canada-India relations.

“We have concluded a Social Security Agreement, an historic Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, and we have launched our own bilateral Canada-India free trade negotiations.

“Know that our Government will continue to work to break-down barriers that hinder bilateral trade and investment, and that senior members of our Government will continue to visit India.

“Just a couple of years ago I had the great fortune, as the Senator mentioned, of returning to India.

“Because one trip was obviously not near enough to even to scratch the surface of that large, ancient and fascinating civilisation.

“In fact, my second trip to India was the longest bilateral visit any Canadian Prime Minister has ever made to any country in the world.

“And we have been following up on that – we now have eight Canadian consular and trade promotion offices operating across the Republic of India, a number we are looking to add to.

“These offices are helping to facilitate visa and immigration applications, and they’re helping to create more opportunities for Canadian businesses in places such as New Delhi and Bangalore, Chandigarh in Punjab, and Ahmedabad in Gujarat.

“The state of Gujarat in particular – the state where Prime Minister Modi served as chief minister for more than a decade – is home to some of the brightest and best entrepreneurial minds in the world.

“Our Government sees tremendous potential for growth in collaboration with this regional economic powerhouse and we have been working hard to make this a priority for several years.

“Canada was pleased to serve as an official partner for Vibrant Gujarat 2011.

“And two years later, at Vibrant Gujarat 2013, not only did Canada serve as an official partner, but Minister Jason Kenney travelled all the way to Gujarat to represent Canada at the summit and to address all of its attendees.

“Ladies and gentlemen the bottom line is this: the bottom line is that the friendship between Canada and India is stronger, it is stronger than it has ever been and that is something that we all, in both of our countries, should be very proud of.

“Now ladies and gentlemen you should also know that our Government’s efforts to strengthen Canada-India relations go beyond expanding bilateral trade and investment, for example, through immigration reform.

“Canada’s past has been shaped by the millions who came from elsewhere and Canada’s future will depend on the millions yet to come.

“Yet, for far too long, previous governments, as you know, chose to ignore problems in Canada’s immigration system as if they would just fix themselves.

“Instead, the problems only intensified and the wait times got longer.

“Back then, if you had applied to become a permanent resident from India you could expect to wait five or six years for your application to be processed.

“It was that bad.

“As the immigration backlog grew, so too did the irritation of those patiently waiting their turn.

“Worse still, economic opportunities were denied not just to individuals from India, to immigrants, but to Canada itself.

“When our Government took office, we immediately got to work and tackled those problems head on.

“And I should tell you, ladies and gentlemen, that our Government’s reforms have been working and they have been working well.

“Today, the permanent residency approval rate for applicants from India is more than 85 per cent.

“I should add that these men and women don’t have to wait another four or five or six years for their residency because our Government has reduced processing times for recent applicants down to just one year.

“In 2005, fewer than twenty-five hundred student visas were granted to Indian students.

“Last year, our Government granted more than fourteen thousand such visas.

“More Indian students than ever before are studying at Canadian universities, and because our Government has made it easier for these bright young minds to qualify for permanent residency and to work, we hope these students, many of them, will stay and put their Canadian degrees to use right here in Canada.

“Our Government has also made the CAN+ program in India a permanent feature of our immigration system, meaning that persons who have travelled to Canada or the United States in the recent past can be fast-tracked for a visitor visa.

“Our CAN+ program has a 95 per cent approval rate, making more Indians able to visit Canada as tourists or to do business.

“By the way, did I mention ladies and gentlemen that this newest change to our immigration program was just announced by Chris Alexander last month in New Delhi, during his first trip to India as Canada’s new Minister of Citizenship and Immigration – congratulations!

“Look we all know that immigration enriches this country, and our Government’s ongoing reforms mean that more immigrants will be able to contribute to their maximum of their capacity, and that is good for everyone.  

“Today, India is Canada’s top source country for immigrants.

“And of course, this explains why Canada’s Indo-Canadian community is more than 1.2 million strong and continuing to grow.

“The Indo-Canadian community has a proud and rich history in our country.

“This community – the Indo-Canadian community – is comprised of ordinary people doing extraordinary things in business and in finance, in academia and medicine, in technology and agriculture, to list just a few areas.

“I want to give you just one example.

“Close to ten years ago, Naval Bajaj came to Canada from India with only $600 in his pocket.

“But he had big dreams, and he had energy and ambition.

“And ladies and gentlemen, in Canada, he also had opportunity.

“With hard work and determination, Naval eventually became a business consultant with 7-Eleven Canada and he is also a business owner himself.

“He has led two trade missions for Canada back to his home country.

“And he was the youngest ever elected president of the Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

“He also happens to be a member of the Canada India Friendship Group Advisory Board.

“Now ladies and gentlemen, I tell you that in my travels across Canada I meet many people like Naval.

“Men and women relentlessly pursuing their goals to build a better, more prosperous life for themselves and their families, and helping this country immensely in the process.

“In fact, I know that this room is full of people just like that.

“In my travels, I have also observed that wherever Indian immigrants settle, wherever they choose to put down roots, to start businesses, to raise families, be it Vancouver, Calgary, Montreal, Toronto or right here in Brampton, not by coincidence, those places thrive.

“I believe this is because Indo-Canadians possess a strong ethic of work and education, and an unwavering commitment to faith and to family.

“And these are the things that underlie not only the Indo-Canadian community’s success, but Canada’s success as a country as well.

“So look, let me just conclude tonight – I know you’re all anxious to get on with the meal – let me just conclude by taking this opportunity to thank each one of you.

“To thank all of you for choosing Canada.

“Thank you for contributing to Canada.

“Thank you for loving Canada.

“Because whether you’ve been here for one, 10 or 50 years, Canada is your country.

“Again, congratulations everyone on this tremendous event, and thanks once more for the invitation.”

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.

# # #

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest and Deputy National Security Advisor Tony Blinken, 7/28/2014

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

July 28, 2014

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

**Please see below for a correction marked with an asterisk.

1:10 P.M. EDT

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Hope you all enjoyed your weekend.  It’s nice to see you on this Monday afternoon.

We are starting pretty close to on time today, which is a nice, new trend, hopefully that we’ll be able to continue.  The reason for that is I have alongside with me here today the President’s Deputy National Security Advisor, Tony Blinken, who is going to talk to you about a telephone call that the President convened with some of our allies in Europe today. 

I know that over the last couple of weeks you guys have had a lot of questions about what the President is doing in terms of leading the international community’s response to the downing of the Malaysian Airlines jetliner a couple of weeks ago now.  There have also been, obviously, a series of coordinated efforts to increase international pressure on Russia for the actions that they have taken in Ukraine.

So Tony is here to give you a detailed readout of that telephone conversation that the President convened today and answer any questions you may have about our ongoing efforts to coordinate the imposition of economic costs on the Russian regime.  He probably only has 10 or 15 minutes here, so we’ll go through that part of it relatively quickly and then I’ll be around to answer remaining questions you may have.

But I would encourage you, as you’re thinking about the questions you want to ask Tony, to focus on the Russia and Ukraine situation.  I know that there are a lot of newsy developments in Gaza as well, so he can take one or two of those before departing.  But we have to limit this to 10 or 15 minutes. 

So with that, I present Tony Blinken.

MR. BLINKEN:  Josh, thank you. 

Good afternoon.  Let me start by giving you a readout of the President’s videoconference with Prime Minister Cameron of the United Kingdom, President Hollande of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, and Prime Minister Renzi of Italy.  I should add that Chancellor Merkel was actually on the phone; the others were on a videoconference.

The primary focus of the conversation today was to talk about Ukraine, and they discussed next steps concerning the crisis there, but also efforts to achieve a cease-fire in Gaza, and the situations in Iraq and Libya.

On Ukraine, they stressed the continued need for unrestricted access to the shoot-down site of Malaysia Air Flight 17 to allow for the recovery of the victims’ remains and for international investigators to proceed with their efforts.  They agreed on the importance of coordinated sanctions measures on Russia for its continued transfer of arms, equipment and fighters into eastern Ukraine, including since the crash, and to press Russia to end its efforts to destabilize the country and instead choose a diplomatic path for resolving the crisis. 

Concerning Gaza, the President noted that Israel has the right to take action to defend itself.  The leaders agreed on the need for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian cease-fire, noting shared concern about the risk of further escalation and the loss of more innocent life.

On Iraq, they discussed the security challenges, welcomed developments in the political process, and urged the swift completion of government coordination and hopefully an inclusive government that results from that.

And then, with respect to Libya, they agreed on the need for an immediate cease-fire among the militias of Tripoli, calling for the seating of the newly elected Council of Representatives, and underscoring support for the U.N. in seeking a resolution to the conflict.  They condemned any use of violence to attack civilians, intimidate officials, or disrupt the political process.

Having said that, let me just spend a few minutes if I can on Ukraine to put this in context.  This was, I think by our count, about the 50th call or videoconference the President has had with his European counterparts since the beginning of this crisis.  And ever since Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea and its campaign to destabilize Ukraine, the President has led the international effort to isolate Russia for its actions in Ukraine, to support Ukraine itself, and to reassure our allies.

This effort has produced major strategic gains.  We’ve created space for Ukraine to hold successful presidential elections despite Russian efforts to disrupt them.  And that’s produced the strongest leadership Ukraine has seen since the end of the Cold War.  We’ve created space for Ukraine to sign an association agreement with the European Union despite Russian efforts to prevent that.  And recall that the former President Yanukovich’s last-minute about-face on signing that association agreement is exactly what precipitated this crisis in the first place.  And we’ve forged a robust financial support package for Ukraine led by the IMF.

None of these things just happened.  They were the result of a major, sustained effort by the President to lead the international community.

All of that said, the challenge to Ukraine remains acute.  Ukrainian forces are right now making major gains to regain sovereignty in the east, but at the same time, Russia is doubling down on its own efforts to support the separatists and destabilize the country.  Indeed, it is cynically using all of the attention focused on the crash of MH17 as a cover and distraction for its own efforts.  It’s increased the provision of heavy weaponry across the border.  We’ve seen convoys of tanks, multiple rocket launchers, artillery and armored vehicles.  There’s evidence it’s preparing to deliver even more powerful multiple rocket launchers. 

It is firing from positions inside of Russia into Ukraine — something that we documented this weekend.  And we’ve seen a significant re-buildup of Russian forces along the border, potentially positioning Russia for a so-called humanitarian or peacekeeping intervention in Ukraine.

So there’s urgency to arresting these developments, to ending the efforts to destabilize Ukraine.  And the urgency is this:  First, everything we’re seeing is a real drag on the Ukrainian economy.  The military expenditures that Ukraine has to make are a drag, and the fact that Luhansk and Donetsk, which represent 15 percent of Ukrainian GDP and about 25 percent of its manufacturing exports, are basically taken out of the Ukrainian economy equation is also a drag on the economy.

Second, the longer this goes on there’s the risk of further outrageous actions by the separatists or by Russia that deepen the international crisis.  So there’s a need to take further action now to convince Russia to change course and cease its efforts to destabilize Ukraine. 

On the call, the European leaders clearly shared this assessment and a determination to act.  We expect the European Union to take significant additional steps this week, including in key sectors of the Russian economy.  In turn, and in full coordination with Europe, the United States will implement additional measures itself.

Our purpose here, again, is not to punish Russia, but to make clear that it must cease its support for the separatists and stop destabilizing Ukraine.

Let me just finish by putting this in a larger context.  Everything we’ve seen as a result of Russia’s actions and the actions that the President has led in the international community over these many months has turned what is happening in Ukraine into a strategic loser for Russia.  First, we’ve seen a dramatic impact on the Russian economy by the sanctions that the United States, Europeans and others have taken. 

These are acknowledged by the Russian Finance Minister and, indeed, the Deputy Prime Minister, even Putin himself.  Sberbank, the largest bank in Russia and a proxy for the larger economy, a month ago, in announcing a steep decline in profits, said, “In particular, recent events in Ukraine significantly impacted the dynamics of the Russian economy.”

We’ve seen the financial markets go up and down, the ruble hitting lows, the Central Bank has had to spend $37 billion to defend the ruble, about 8 percent of its foreign exchange holdings.  The result is higher borrowing costs and a decrease in the value of Russian savings. 

Capital flight — $70 billion in the first half of this year, more than all of 2013 combined.  And projections for the entire year put it at between $100 billion and $200 billion. 

Foreign investment is drying up.  Investors are looking for stability; they’re looking at countries that keep their international commitments; they’re looking at countries that have connected to the international economy.  On all three counts, Russia is giving them great pause.  The credit rating for Russia was cut to just above the junk level; financing yields are frozen; Russian companies are not issuing bonds to raise capital. And as we’ve seen overall, Russia is heading for economic contraction, not growth, a significant reversal from just a few months ago.

Let me add as well, there’s talk that Russia has “won Crimea.”  But the fact of the matter is what’s happened is it’s lost Ukraine.  Ukraine is more united in a Western orientation than ever before and has a much greater sense of national identity.  We’ve produced, as I mentioned before, the space for elections and the signing of the association agreement with the European Union. 

Crimea itself is becoming a dead weight on the Russian economy — $7 billion a year at least in budget and pension support; $50 to $60 billion required over the next several years for critical infrastructure.  And Russians themselves are asking why this money is being spent in Crimea and not in Russia.  There’s downward pressure on defense spending; there’s downward pressure on discretionary spending as a result of this.

We’ve seen the actions in Ukraine reenergize NATO.  There’s a deeper commitment to Article 5.  NATO itself, it now has a virtual regular presence, a continuous air, land and sea presence on the territory adjacent to Russia.  And we’ll see what happens at the NATO summit, but there’s at least the prospect now for reversing the downward trend in defense spending.

We’ve seen on energy reform a jolt to the Europeans to take real steps to decrease dependence, to diversify supply, to upgrade infrastructure, to develop new sources.

And then, finally, I would say this:  For the Russians and for President Putin, power equals a combination of geopolitical influence and economic strength to provide for the Russian people.  There was a recent survey in Russia — the top two priorities of the Russian people were evenly split:  international influence and creating the conditions for individual prosperity.  As a result of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and as a result of the leadership we’ve exerted, both of those are in jeopardy.  And so is President Putin’s compact with his own people.

There is a way out:  Integrate Russia with the international economy, diversify away from fossil fuels, and play by the rules. That is still on offer.  That is still a possibility.  We would like nothing better than to resolve this crisis in Ukraine diplomatically.  And that’s now up to President Putin.

Q    Thank you very much for this update.  Could you also update us on the U.S. response to the criticism that Senator Kerry has come under in Israel after his attempts to implement a cease-fire there?  Is that damaging to the U.S.-Israel relationship?

MR. BLINKEN:  Let me say this about Secretary Kerry:  Israel has no better friend, no stronger defender.  No one has done more to help Israel achieve a secure and lasting peace.  He has been tireless in his efforts.  And I think that Israel and many countries and friends around the world recognizes exactly that.

Q    Has the President raised this in his call with the Prime Minister yesterday?  Or have U.S. officials been complaining about the criticism to counterparts in Israel?

MR. BLINKEN:  No.  Look, what you see, I think, unfortunately on a regular basis, are people leaking things that are either misinformed or attempting to misinform.  And in particular, with regard to criticism that was levied by undisclosed sources about the proposal for a cease-fire, the proposal that was criticized was not a U.S. proposal, it was a draft to illicit comments from the Israelis.  It was basically a discussion paper based on the original Egyptian initiative.  Virtually every element that unidentified sources complained about was in the initial Egyptian proposal and agreed to by Israel 10 days before.

In that, there was no mention of the need for disarmament. The document underscored the need for discussion between Israel and Palestinian factions.  It called for the opening of border crossings.  It did not make mention of tunnels.  All of this, again, in the Egyptian proposal that the Israelis had accepted and unfortunately Hamas did not.  The document also reflected the strong view that we have that demilitarization as well as reconstruction in Gaza are critical agenda items for any negotiations that follow a cease-fire.

So the bottom line on this is that what was leaked, unfortunately, was I think an effort to misinform or was just misinformed.

Q    The sanctions that we’ve seen so far have been fairly targeted against Russia.  Would you describe the sweeping nature of what you’re talking about later this week being coordinated between Europe and the United States?

MR. BLINKEN:  I don’t want to get ahead of where the Europeans are or where we are, and we’ll see that in the days to come.  But what we know is this:  The Europeans made clear last week that they were prepared to act in key sectors of the Russian economy, including the financial sector, the arms sector, the energy sector.  And so I think you can anticipate actions in those areas.  Similarly, they’re looking to broaden criteria by which they can sanction people or entities.  And I think one of the things they’re looking at is to bring in some of the cronies of President Putin. 

So we’ve already seen with the sanctions to date, as I went through a few moments ago, a very serious impact on the Russian economy.  And indeed, it’s the sanctions themselves and then the climate of tremendous uncertainty they create, even with the prospect of more sanctions, that has led to capital flight, investment drying up and the growth projections going down to basically zero.

Q    And when you talk about this force that’s building up  — the Russians are building up, are they preparing a Russian invasion of Ukraine?

MR. BLINKEN:  One of the things that we believe Russia has been trying to do is, for example, to get the Ukrainians to take some action that they can then use as “justification” for some kind of intervention — so-called humanitarian intervention, or so-called peacekeeping intervention.  So that’s one of the things that we think is in the potential Russian playbook.

The other thing they’re doing, most significantly, is increasing the supply of heavy equipment, weapons and fighters to the separatists across the border.  And this is well documented in what we’ve seen; it’s well documented in social media.

Q    In talking about that buildup and the heavier artillery, are we talking about more surface-to-air missile capability?

MR. BLINKEN:  We are talking about multi-rocket launchers — that’s one of the things we’re seeing — artillery pieces, tanks, armored vehicles, and the concerns, as I said at the outset, about increasingly heavy weaponry.  And I think there’s a reason for this, and the reason is that on the battlefield itself the Ukrainians are doing very well against the separatists in trying to regain the sovereignty of their entire country.  So Russia’s proxies are right now on the losing end of the fight.  And that’s why we think Russia is doubling down.

Q    Do you think there are still Buk missile launchers within Ukraine at this point?

MR. BLINKEN:  We believe that there are SA-11s that are still within Ukraine, including potentially in separatists’ hands.

Q    A two-parter.  How did you arrive at $37 billion spent to defend the ruble?  And second, are there any other security things you’re looking at besides rocket launchers and tanks and heavy equipment? 

MR. BLINKEN:  I think the $37 billion has actually been fairly well documented in the financial press and by other statements that have been made.  We can get you the backup for that.

And in terms of the military equipment that the Russians are providing, again, those are the main elements, but there are certainly other things that are going in.  But in terms of heavy weaponry, those are the critical elements.

Q    You’ve been talking about actions that have been taken this week by the EU and U.S.  I want to go back to something that Josh said from the podium Friday about Russia and Putin were culpable for the downing of Flight 17.  Is there a chance, is there a possibility that Putin could be charged in the International Crimes Court with war crimes, by any chance, with all of this that’s going on right now?

MR. BLINKEN:  When it comes to Russian culpability, I think the record is clear.  The Russians have been directly supporting the separatists with the provision of weapons.  We believe that the SA-11 that was used to shoot down the Malaysian airliner came from Russia.  We don’t know who was operating it.  We believe the weapon itself came from Russia.  The three top leading separatist leaders are all Russian nationals.  So it’s clear that Russia has a significant influence over the separatists and could, if it so desired, get them to cease and desist.

So, in that sense, there is a clear and ongoing culpability by Russia for events in eastern Ukraine and for a failure to de-escalate the situation, and indeed, for the context in which all of this is happening, including the shoot-down of the airliner.

In terms of pointing to exactly who pulled the trigger, that we don’t know yet and we’ll see if we can develop that information.  But the bottom line is this:  Through its ongoing support and increasing support for the separatists, Russia bears responsibility for everything that’s going on in eastern Ukraine.

Q    So you’re saying technically he could be brought before the International Crimes Court?

MR. BLINKEN:  Look, I don’t want to get ahead of anything.  Again, the main point is to emphasize that Russia bears responsibility and has the ability to actually de-escalate this crisis by moving it onto a diplomatic track.  That is what we’d most like to see.

Q    I don’t know if you’re aware of reports that just came now that Gaza Central Hospital has been hit, and 10 more dead Palestinian children.  You said that the United States is Israel’s best friend, which I tend to agree with you.  You also provide them with $3 billion a year, and you give them the Iron Dome that saved countless lives.  How come you don’t have any leverage over Israel to extract a humanitarian cease-fire that would last for seven days?  Does that mean that you basically have no influence over them, or that just Israel doesn’t care?

MR. BLINKEN:  First, I haven’t seen those specific reports. Second, the record is clear:  Israel has repeatedly accepted cease-fires that Hamas has rejected.  So the bottom line on that is clear.

Let me say more generally, no country can abide rockets raining down on its people or terrorists tunneling underground to kill or kidnap its people.  We have consistently and repeatedly defended Israel’s right to defend itself.  Hamas intentionally targets civilians.  And indeed, Iron Dome, thankfully, is there and has protected many of those civilians.  And it uses the Palestinian people as human shields, wrapping them around its weapons and strategic sites. 

In contrast, Israeli policy is to avoid civilian casualties. Indeed, it holds itself to the highest standards to take every precaution to avoid those casualties.  But the fact is, despite its efforts, the civilian suffering in Gaza is great and growing every day.  So the practical reality is that it is difficult for Israel to meet its own high standards.  Civilian casualties are increasing.  It’s especially heartbreaking to see children suffering in this crisis.

This is a problem we have grappled with in Iraq and then in Afghanistan because we, too, hold ourselves to these standards.  It’s incredibly difficult to sustain them.  But I think this underscores the urgency of getting an unconditional, immediate, humanitarian cease-fire.

Q    — said yesterday — just a quick a follow-up — that he wants Gaza demilitarized.  What does that mean in terms of a long-term strategy or a peace negotiation or now as we talk in the next week or so?

MR. BLINKEN:  As I said, we support an immediate, unconditional, humanitarian pause leading, we hope, to a sustainable cease-fire.  We also believe that any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must also lead to the disarmament of terrorist groups.  And what we intend to do is to work closely with Israel, regional partners and the international community to achieve this goal.
MR. EARNEST:  Ann, I’ll give you the last one, then we’ll let Tony go.

Q    Thank you very much.  On Russia, if all the impact of all of these sanctions and all the threat of sanctions are as dire as you’ve described, why hasn’t Putin blinked?

MR. BLINKEN:  He has to make a strategic decision.  And you’re exactly right, he hasn’t made it yet.  We’ve seen him on a regular basis pull back tactically, say the right things in public while he’s doing the wrong things behind the scenes.  So he’s clearly sensitive to the pressure that’s being exerted.  But it’s precisely because we’ve not yet seen a strategic turn from Putin that we believe it’s absolutely essential to take additional measures.  And that’s what the Europeans and the United States intend to do this week.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Tony.

MR. BLINKEN:  Thanks, Josh.  Thank you.

Q    Thank you, Tony.

MR. EARNEST:  All right before we move on to other topics, I do want to do one thing at the top.  And I believe we have a slide that goes along with this — there it is.  Today we got some very good news about Medicare’s financial future.  In the President’s first year in office in 2009, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security trustees projected the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund would not be able to pay its bills in 2017, just three years from now.  Today’s new date is 2030 — 13 years later than that projection in 2009, an improvement that is thanks in part to the reforms of the Affordable Care Act, such as efforts to reduce hospital spending on preventable readmissions.  And today’s date, you’ll note, is actually even four years later than was projected just last year.

A couple other relevant statistics that are included in the report:  Furthermore, per-capita growth, or the amount spent per Medicare beneficiary has slowed dramatically in recent years, falling to one-third of what it was, and to nearly zero last year — helping to restrain overall growth in Medicare spending even as millions of baby boomers enter the program. 

In addition, the trustees project that the Medicare Part B premium will not increase, which would make 2015 the second year in a row that premiums in Medicare stay flat.

While today’s report focuses on Medicare, it reflects broader trends in the health care system toward much slower growth in costs, a trend that has continued into 2014.  Over the 50 months since enactment of the Affordable Care Act, health care prices have risen at a slower rate than over any comparable period in 50 years. 

So that is a report that is being released as we speak, and so there will obviously be some more details included in that report later today when you get a chance to review it.

So with that, Nedra, do you have any additional questions today?

Q    I do.  Can you give us your response to the VA deal?  Does the President think it does enough to solve the problem with the health care system?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Nedra, this compromise has been announced between House Republicans and the chair of the Senate Veterans Committee.  We certainly welcome that announcement.  There are a couple of reasons based on published reports that we’re encouraged by that compromise.

The first is, as you even heard me mention on Friday, there are much-needed reforms that need to be implemented into the Veterans Administration.  The President and others have called for those important management reforms to be implemented, and again, based on press reports, the indications of those reforms are that many of them are included in this bill.

The second thing — and this is really important — on July 16th, Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson called for Congress to provide VA the additional resources necessary to deliver timely, high-quality care to veterans through a strengthened VA system while also temporarily using care in the community to help ensure veterans can get the care they need when they need it.

When he asked for those additional resources to address some very specific concerns that he had laid out, that was something that had previously not been part of the debate as it relates to this VA reform package.  So the inclusion of these additional resources at the strong urging of the Acting Secretary is a positive step in the right direction, and something that we think will be very important to the success of some of the reforms that are contemplated by this bill.

In addition, this proposal for on a temporary, as-needed basis to allow some veterans to get some access to care in the community is also the kind of thing that could address the immediate need that many veterans have, but by adding these additional resources over the long term, we feel like those are benefits and care that can be provided through the VA.

So the details of this compromise have yet to be unveiled, so I don’t want to get ahead of the announcement that is planned for Capitol Hill later today.  But the early reports are positive.

Steve.

Q    Josh, Susan Rice was on MSNBC a while ago.  She talked about a grave and deepening concern at the civilian casualties in Gaza.  What exactly would you like the Israelis to do?  Are you calling on them to call off the offensive?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Steve, we have said many times — I think Tony just had the opportunity to say that we defend Israel’s right to defend themselves.  In fact, you could make a case, and many Israeli political leaders do, that they have a responsibility to make sure that they’re taking steps militarily to account for the safety of civilians on the Israeli side of the border.  This is, after all, the Israeli population that elected them, and they are in the best position to determine what steps are necessary to protect their citizens.  That is their right.

At the same time, Israel leaders often say that they have in place very high standards to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians on the other side of the border, as well.  That stands in stark contrast to the strategy that is deployed by Hamas and other extremist groups in Gaza that are intentionally targeting civilians on the other side of the border.  They are also intentionally using civilians on their side of the border to try to essentially shield their equipment and their personnel from Israeli military activities.  So there is a stark contrast in the approach that’s taken by the Israelis and taken by Hamas and other extremist groups. 

That said, as I mentioned, Israel and their political leaders often talk about the high standards that they put in place for their military operations to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians — innocent civilians on the Palestinian side of the border.  Based on published reports, it’s apparent that there is more that they should do to live up to those standards that they have set.  And that is something that we routinely encourage them to do, while defending their right to defend themselves.  The President reiterated that in his phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday.

Michelle.

Q    For months, we’ve been talking about increasing sanctions against Russia, and sort of the ultimate would be these sweeping sectoral sanctions.  So can you explain why that hasn’t happened now?  Why is this not the time to go that far, and still do these kind of slow, incremental building sanctions?

MR. EARNEST:  I would say that the sanctions regime that the President rolled out about a week and a half ago, the day before the downing of the Malaysian Airlines jetliner, did take a step in that very direction.  These were sectoral sanctions that were aimed at specific entities in the defense, financial and energy sectors. 

There was an indication from our European partners that they were taking the preliminary steps necessary to implement similar sanctions in their own right, but those steps have not yet been taken by the Europeans.  That is something that was discussed by the President and his counterparts in Western Europe earlier today, as Tony mentioned.

So there have been some steps that the United States has taken to put in place and impose economic costs against President Putin and the Russian regime.  Tony detailed the economic impact that those sanctions were having.  But as Ann rightly pointed out in her question, it is true that the costs have not yet led to the kind of strategic re-evaluation that we would like to see the Russians undertake.  That is why the international community is actively considering imposing additional costs by having the Europeans increase the amount of sanctions that they have currently levied.  It’s also why the United States is considering additional steps that we could take that would pose additional economic costs on Russia and on President Putin.

Q    Well, so the question was really — I mean, we all know that it’s sort of these very precise, let’s pick this bank or that bank; it’s not on the entire Russian banking system.  Do you think there’s still any leverage left in doing it that way?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m certainly not an expert in terms of the way that these tools are deployed.  But it is our view that there is additional leverage that can be gained.  That is certainly why they’re being contemplated both by leaders in Western Europe, but also by those who do have an expertise in this field in this country. 

As Tony documented, there are a number of economic consequences that Russia has already had to bear in terms of the outflow of private capital, in terms of the downward revisions in their economic projections.  We’ve also seen Russia expend significant sums of money to try to shore up the strength of their own currency.

So there are a number of steps that Russia has taken, and a number of outside evaluators who have reviewed the situation to confirm our suspicion that the economic costs have taken a toll on the Russian economy but they have not yet led President Putin to re-evaluate his strategy in Ukraine.  And that ultimately is our goal.

Bob.

Q    Josh, a quick follow-up on the VA bill.  Is $10 billion enough?  They’ve unveiled it up on the Hill, so is $10 billion enough to take care of the system with its deep, deep troubles right now?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we’re still evaluating the specifics and details of their package, so I don’t want to get — I don’t want to say any more than I already have.  But in the next couple of days, we may be in a position to comment on that a little further.

Cheryl.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  The House and Senate are very divided on the border supplemental right now.  If they can’t come to agreement by the end of the week, what is the practical effect?  Can you wait until September?

MR. EARNEST:  Cheryl, I would refer you to the individual agencies for the impact that Congress’s failure to pass the supplemental appropriations request would have on their ability to perform the functions that they are required to perform. 

We are hopeful that Congress will take the kind of action that is required.  Both Democrats and Republicans have spoken quite publicly about their concerns about the situation at the border.  This administration has been really clear about what we feel like we need in terms of resources to deal with the influx that we saw of those who were apprehended at the border earlier this summer.

So there’s a detailed package that we’ve put forward.  As I mentioned last week, the Speaker, at a news conference at the end of the week, said that he was still discussing this matter with members of his own caucus.  That was a pretty disappointing development in the part of this administration.  We put forward a detailed package — I happened to bring it with me right here — it includes very detailed numbers about what we feel is necessary.

I noticed that the new Republican Whip was on one of the Sunday shows yesterday and noted that the administration was asking for a — what he described as a blank check.  It makes me think he’s not sure — that he doesn’t know what a blank check is.  We’ve actually been very specific about the numbers that we feel are necessary to deal with this problem and to address the range of concerns that many people have raised about those who have been apprehended at the border.

So we hope that there will be prompt congressional action on this that is in line with their rhetoric on this issue.

Q    Can I follow on that?

MR. EARNEST:  Sure, Wendell, go ahead.

Q    Why isn’t the change in the 2008 law on non-contiguous migrants’ deportation part of that package?  The President had indicated that he supported a change and his advisors say that changing that law would be necessary to send the kids at least from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador back as rapidly as those from Canada and Mexico.  So why is that not a part of that package?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, you would have to talk to members of Congress about how they want to put this all together.  What we believe is most important is ensuring that the federal government has the resources necessary to address the range of challenges that are posed by this situation.  Remember, it includes some additional security at the border in the form of surveillance equipment.  It also includes the ability of the federal government to open and operate additional detention centers so that we can detain those individuals who have been apprehended at the border.  It includes some funding for HHS that would allow them to evaluate the basic health needs of those individuals who have been apprehended, both to meet their humanitarian needs, but also to ensure the safety of the broader communities in which they’re detained.

It also includes funding that would allow these repatriation flights to take place so that we could more quickly return those individuals that have been apprehended here to their home countries.  It also, of course, includes additional resources to ensure that those who are apprehended at the border receive the due process to which they’re entitled.  So this means hiring new judges and prosecutors and asylum officials to ensure that that can take place.

Q    But notwithstanding Democrat and Republican differences over the amount of funding, the Republicans say in order to approve some, they’re going to need to change that 2008 law.  Does the President support that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it is unfortunate that you would see them take an absolutist position on this.  We certainly do support Congress taking the necessary steps to give the Secretary of Homeland Security the flexibility he needs and the discretion that he can use to more efficiently and effectively enforce the law.  That is a priority of this administration.

But we should not allow the debate around what should be included in that language to hold up something that everybody agrees is necessary, which is additional resources that can be used by the federal government to meet the basic humanitarian needs of those individuals who are apprehended, but also provide funding that can be used to more quickly return those who are found by the courts to not have a legal basis for remaining in the country.

Chris.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  Some members of the Republican Whip team on that have suggested that they’ve gotten surprising support for what is a much smaller check than the one that the White House is asking for, and the $2.7 billion being put forth by the Senate is getting some pushback from Democrats like Joe Manchin, Mary Landrieu and doesn’t seem to have a lot of support on the Republican side.  And you also have a situation where Congress is in session for three and a half days this week.  So with the clock ticking, what do you see as the prognosis and what happens if none of this goes through?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there are those here in town and probably those of you here in this room that have a little bit more experience in evaluating congressional action than I do.  So I will leave that analysis and prognostication to the experts.  I’ll simply observe that this administration three weeks ago today put forward a very detailed request before Congress, and asking for those additional resources to address a problem that I think to a person every single member of Congress agreed existed. And what we have seen in Congress is a lot of talk, particularly from Republicans, but not a lot of willingness to act.  And that is rather unfortunate.

And we are hopeful that in the pivotal week that remains before Congress departs Washington for the traditional five-week recess that they’ll take the important steps that are necessary to ensure the federal government has the resources to deal with a problem that, again, I think every single member of Congress agrees exists.

Q    Can I also ask you about a Reuters’ report that just came out?  I don’t have any more details than this, that Netanyahu says Israel “must be prepared for protracted Gaza campaign.”  And I wonder if it’s possible that there could be a military victory for Israel, but a loss for them in both the political realm and the court of public opinion.  Can I get your reaction to that statement by Benjamin Netanyahu?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s hard to react to a statement that occurred while I was standing up here.  But let me say that it is the position of the United States that it is in the best interests of people on both sides of the border for a cease-fire to take effect.  And the reason for that is pretty simple, that as long as the violence continues across the border, there are going to be innocent civilians in harm’s way.  And having those innocent civilians face that extreme danger has already had terribly tragic consequences for both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people.  And that’s why we want to see that cease-fire put in place. 

There will be an opportunity once that cease-fire is in place for us to have discussions around the kinds of concerns that have legitimately been raised by the Israelis, in particular about Hamas’ repeated willingness to use tunnels and to fire rockets aimed squarely at doing harm to innocent civilians.

So it is the priority of this administration for a cease-fire to be put in place.  That is why you’ve seen Secretary Kerry doggedly pursue diplomacy to protect the lives of innocent civilians on both sides of that border.

Q    Moving on —

MR. EARNEST:  Sure, Ann.

Q    What are the two or three, maybe three or four absolute necessities that the President thinks Congress has to get done by the end of this week?  Would he ask them to delay their recess?  And would he ever consider skipping Kansas City?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, as we always say with the President’s travel, his trip to my hometown notwithstanding — (laughter) — as is always the case with the President’s travel, if there is a critically important function of the presidency that cannot be performed from the road, the President will not hesitate to change his schedule in order to fulfill those functions.  So I do not anticipate that anything that’s happening in Congress would require that at this point.  But if something does emerge, something unexpected does emerge, I’m sure that is something that the President would consider.

Q    Will he ask Congress to delay its break?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’ll let him speak to that.  If he decides that that’s what they should do, then he will say so.  At this point it’s the responsibility of the leaders in Congress to determine their own schedule.

There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of important work that needs to get done this week.  That includes continuing to follow through on these VA reforms on which an agreement was announced over the weekend.  So hopefully that can move forward without any delay or incident.

We certainly would like to see a step taken in terms of passing the supplemental appropriations request that this administration put forward several weeks ago to ensure that the administration has the resources necessary to deal with the problem at the border.

That being said, we could certainly address many of the problems at the border if Congress — if the House were to take action on comprehensive immigration reform legislation that’s already passed the Senate.  The Senate did their work more than a year ago.  Just by taking one simple vote, the House of Representatives could approve that legislation.  The President would sign it.  That would do more to improve our economy, create jobs and reduce the deficit than so many other things that Congress is debating right now.

I think what is the source of particular disappointment on this end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and I think of people in both parties across the country is to see that Congress — House Republicans in particular — are using this very valuable time to debate a piece of legislation that would allow House Republicans to file a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the President of the United States.  I certainly don’t think that rises to the level of a priority that so many of these other things Congress is ignoring right now. 

Let’s move around a little bit.  Leslie.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  With Secretary Kerry unable to get a cease-fire during his trip, and the President talking to Prime Minister Netanyahu last night in what sounded like pretty blunt terms — what are the next steps for the White House?  And do you — to follow up on a previous question, do you believe that there is any leverage left for the United States with Israel?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the United States remains deeply engaged in this effort.  Secretary Kerry has been leading that effort over the last week in terms of the dogged diplomacy that he’s been pursuing.  He’s been meeting with his counterparts not just in Israel and among the leaders of the Palestinian people, but also with his counterparts in Egypt and Qatar and Turkey and the Arab League, the U.N.  He’s been deeply engaged in these conversations in pursuit of a multilateral, international effort to try to bring both sides together and reinstate the terms of the 2012 cease-fire, to try to get those civilians who right now are in harm’s way into a safer position.  That’s been the focal point of our efforts, and we remain engaged in it. 

In terms of our relationship with Israel, the United States remains a strong ally of the nation of Israel.  American leaders say that; Israeli leaders say the same thing.  The best evidence that I have of that is the assistance that the United States has provided to the Israeli government to construct the Iron Dome system that right now is, thankfully, protecting so many Israeli civilians from these rockets that Hamas is firing.  So that relationship remains strong. 

And the reason that Secretary Kerry remains so committed to this effort is that — or at least is in part that we believe it is clearly in the interest of Israel’s long-term security for this cease-fire [violence]* to be brought to an end, and for negotiations between the Palestinian leaders and Israeli leaders to get started in terms of trying to eventually down the line reach this broader, two-state solution.

Roger.

Q    I want to go back to what Tony was saying about the sanctions and the outlook for them.  Is that — if I understood it correctly, the EU is going to go first with their sanctions and probably — or possibly this week, is that correct?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know that he was in a position to talk about the sequencing of the announcement.  But I do think that he committed to our expectation that we would see Europe act before the end of the week.

Q    Would the U.S. act before the end of the week?

MR. EARNEST:  Our position is that the options like that remain on the table, that the United States is prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for their destabilizing activities in Ukraine.  I’m not in a position to confirm for you whether any decisions have been made about carrying out that action or what those actions might look like.   As we’ve talked before, it would be a strategically unwise thing to do to talk about the details of those sanctions before they’re implemented. But I am in a position to confirm that those kinds of options remain on the table when it comes to the United States.

Q    One final — would the U.S. concentrate on any particular sector?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, if we have additional sanctions to announce, then we will be able to get into those kinds of details.  But at this point, it would be preliminary for me to do so.

Q    Josh?

MR. EARNEST:  Goyal. 

Q    Thank you.  Two questions.  One, some people in the Congress want to close down the 84-year-old Export-Import Bank.  And many small businesses are saying that it is helping small businesses export U.S. goods abroad and also creating thousands of jobs in the U.S.  My question is that some people in the Congress are saying that it is helping only the big companies.  What is the President’s action — or reaction about this bank?  Next month will expire the —

MR. EARNEST:  The President does believe that Congress should take steps to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.  That’s not just the view of this administration and many Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, it’s also the view of organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce.  Those are two organizations that don’t often agree with the President when it comes to some aspects of American economic policy.

But that is an area where this administration agrees that the Export-Import Bank plays a positive role in creating jobs and creating opportunities for American businesses to succeed by opening up markets around the world.

Q    Second question — oh, by the way, it has also created jobs between India and U.S. trade.  Second question is that as far as U.S. ambassador to India is concerned, you think U.S. will have an ambassador before Prime Minister Modi visits the White House end of September?  And second, what is happening as far as Mr. Modi’s address to the Congress?  Is White House is supporting it?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have any personnel announcements at this time, Goyal.  But when we have any updates in terms of appointing an ambassador to India, we’ll let you know.

Q    And address — U.S. address, Mr. Modi’s address to the U.S. Congress, is White House supporting it, the President?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of those conversations.

Bill. 

Q    Josh, there was an unusual editorial in The New York Times yesterday, I’m sure you saw, urging the lifting of the prohibition against — the federal prohibition against marijuana. What is the White House’s position on that?  Would you endorse that?  It’s been there for 44 years.  Maybe too long and time to change it?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I did read the editorial yesterday, Bill.  The administration’s position on this issue has not changed.  We remain committed to treating drug use as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice problem. 

In light of state laws that legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults in Colorado and Washington, the Department of Justice issued updated guidance last August to federal prosecutors in all states.  That guidance reiterates that marijuana remains an illegal substance based on the laws that Congress has passed.  But it also recognizes that we have limited enforcement resources, and that those resources are best used to address the most significant threats to our communities.

That was the policy before The New York Times editorial, and it continues to be our policy today.

Q    So does that mean that if other states follow Colorado and Washington, the administration would also give them a green light to go ahead and legalize marijuana without federal interference?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not sure a green light is the technical term that the Department of Justice has used.  (Laughter.)  But in terms of the guidance that might be offered to those states, I’d refer you to the Department of Justice.

Q    “Blessing” or whatever word you’d want to use.

MR. EARNEST:  The Department of Justice issued guidance like that.  So if there are other states that are contemplating these kinds of steps, you should check with the Department of Justice about that.

Yes, ma’am.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  Yesterday, North Korea military member had announced that North Korea will attack United States, and especially they point to the White House and Canada with using their nuclear missiles.  What is your comment on their threatening like this?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I have not seen the reports of those specific threats.   I would encourage you to check with my National Security Council colleagues about that.  The United States remains very committed to our alliance with the Republic of Korea, and that alliance allows us to have a strong military-to-military relationship with South Korea to ensure their security.  The United States remains committed as ever to the safety and security of the Republic of Korea.

Q    So you don’t have a strong reaction to them?  Because this is the first time they mentioned the White House and Pentagon specifically.

MR. EARNEST:  Again, I’m not in a position to comment specifically in reaction to those comments because I have not seen them. 

Q    Can I follow on Israel please?

MR. EARNEST:  Let’s move around a little bit.  Zeke. 

Q    Thanks, Josh.  Just with regards to the President’s trip tomorrow, can you give us any reason why is he staying an extra night in your hometown if he’s not doing a fundraiser as you said on Friday?

MR. EARNEST:  At my own personal recommendation.  (Laughter.)  No, look, we’ll have a little bit more about the President’s trip tomorrow.  This will be an opportunity for the President to spend some time in that wonderful community.  He’s going to spend some time talking to individuals who have written him a letter.  You’ve seen on the last couple of trips the President has taken across the country, he’s spent a little extra time in the community to visit with those who have written him letters about the way that individuals in these individual communities are benefiting from some of the policies the President is putting forward and how they could benefit from some of the policies the President is pushing on Congress to implement.  So we’ll have some more detail on that tomorrow.

Q    Tuesday night or Wednesday?

MR. EARNEST:  The President is departing tomorrow.  He’ll remain —

Q    — the letters segment, when he’s going to visit people, is that going to be —
MR. EARNEST:  I believe he’ll have the opportunity to do that both Tuesday evening, as well as on Wednesday. 

Q    One other real quick, just on Secretary Kerry.  Those leaked conversations or however you want to categorize them, is that jeopardizing the U.S. government’s ability to have candid conversations with the Israeli government?  Or do you envision any sort of lasting impact on sort of the relationship between the Obama administration and the Israeli government as a result of these leaks?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think Tony made clear that we were disappointed to read them.  But I do not anticipate that they are going to have much of an impact on the very strong, robust relationship that exists between the United States and our allies in Israel.

Q    And, finally, does Secretary Kerry coming back to the United States and the President conducting that phone call yesterday and the one today, is this a shift — is the President going to take a more active personal role now that Secretary Kerry’s efforts have at least temporarily failed?  Is the President going to try to use his own convening authority?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I do anticipate that the President will continue to be in regular touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  That has been the case over the last several weeks of this crisis that has been ongoing in Gaza.  And I do anticipate the President will continue to get regularly briefed by his team and will continue to be on the phone with his counterparts in the region who have concerns about the outcome here.  So I do think that the President will continue to be engaged in this. 

In terms of the next steps, those conversations will continue.  But ultimately, as we’ve said in similar circumstances as it relates to situations like this, it’s ultimately the responsibility of the two sides to come together.  What the international community and what the United States can certainly do is use our influence with both sides to press them to come to an agreement that’s in the best interest of their citizens.

As we’ve pointed out many times, we believe that a cease-fire is in the best interest of civilians on both sides of this conflict.  We just need the leaders of both sides to take the kinds of steps that will impose a cease-fire and allow the leaders to sit around the table and try to broker an agreement here.  And that’s what we’re going to continue to be focused on.

Q    But over the last week, Secretary Kerry was the point person in trying to bring those two sides together.  Has that changed this week?  Will the President be trying to bring the two sides to a multilateral agreement together?

MR. EARNEST:  I guess what I would say — the point that I’m trying to make, Zeke, is that I think there have been a range of officials who have been actively engaged in trying to resolve the situation — the President, first and foremost among them.  It was, however, the case last week that Secretary Kerry was the most senior U.S. official on the ground in the region trying to roll up his sleeves and broker an agreement between those who were involved in this situation. 

So those efforts will continue, even though Secretary Kerry is not actually in the region.  But if he needs to return, I’m sure that he will not hesitate to hop back on the plane and get back to work.

Chris.

Q    Josh, while you were at the podium, the Supreme Court of Appeals affirmed that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.  It’s the third federal court appeals ruling and the latest in an unbroken string in rulings against the marriage ban since the Supreme Court ruling against DOMA last year.  Any thoughts on this latest decision and the unanimous string of these decisions against marriage bans?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Chris, I haven’t — as you pointed out, the decision was handed down while I was up here, so I have not had an opportunity to talk to anybody on our team who was able to analyze the decision.  But based on the way that you’ve described it, it does sound like the kind of decision that is consistent with the President’s views on this topic.  I think that’s the best I can do. 

All right, guys, we’ll see you tomorrow. 

END
2:04 P.M. EDT

Foreign Policy Update

3:00 P.M. EDT

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MS. HARF: Thank you. Hello, everyone. It’s so good to be back here, I think for my fifth briefing they were saying, so looking forward to this one and, of course, to many more.

As you know, there’s a lot going on in the world. Secretary Kerry is currently in Cairo, working to see if we can make progress on getting a ceasefire with Gaza. I was in Vienna for the last few weeks working on the Iran negotiations on the nuclear program, lots going on there as well. Obviously, you’ve seen all of the news about Ukraine lately. I’ve spoken to it a number of times in the briefing over in the State Department, but I’m sure there are questions on that as well.

So with that, I think I’m going to go ahead and open it up to questions. I’m going to try and get to everyone, so go ahead. We’ll start here and I’ll work down the front and then move towards the back. And please say – I know most of you now, but please say your name and where you’re from as well.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. Sonia Schott. I am today with RCA in Colombia. My question is on Latin America. There are some news that the Venezuelan general Hugo Carvajal has been arrested yesterday in Aruba under the request of the U.S. I was wondering if you have any comments on that.

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that. I’m happy to look into it. I’m sorry, the first question I don’t have an answer to, but I hadn’t seen that. It sounds a little dubious to me, but we can check afterwards and get you an answer.

QUESTION: I have a second one, just —

MS. HARF: Okay. Then ask a second. Hopefully I can answer this one.

QUESTION: Okay. The opposition leader in Venezuela is facing a trial and presently his wife was here denouncing a lack of transparency. I was wondering if you have any comments on that too. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Well, look, we’ve said throughout the crisis in Venezuela that this is a decision for the Venezuelan people to make. There needs to be room for dissent. There needs to be room for opposition. We cannot see arrest of – for political reasons. We have to see a process go forward that’s inclusive. We haven’t seen a lot of progress there, but this is certainly a key priority for us. It’s not about the United States, as much as sometimes the regime would like to point at us. It’s about what the Venezuelan people want and indeed deserve. So I don’t have any more updates for you than that, but obviously, we want to see an inclusive process going forward.

Yes. I’m just going to go across the front here.

QUESTION: Shi Larasteve (ph), Voice of America, Persian TV. Yesterday, a group of Republican lawmakers unveiled a legislation which forces – if passed, forces the Administration, President Obama, to seek approval from the Congress for any final deal with Iran. What is the Administration’s strategy against these maneuvers?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. We are aware there’s new proposed legislation regarding the Joint Plan of Action, any final comprehensive Joint Plan of Action we would get to. But I’d make a few key points here. The first is that Congress has played a key role throughout the years in our policy towards Iran, most importantly by imposing very serious and significant sanctions on Iran to put the economic pressure in place that indeed has, in part, led us to the diplomatic place we are today.

But there are not 535 commanders-in-chief; there’s just one. And our diplomatic negotiating team led by the President and the Secretary and our team on the ground – I was just there for three weeks – really needs the space to be able to negotiate with the Iranians and with our partners to get to a comprehensive agreement. We have been clear with Congress that our goal is to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, to ensure their program is exclusively for peaceful purposes. But indeed, we need space to be able to get the right combination of pieces to eventually get there.

So we don’t support attempts by Congress to try to insert themselves into outlining what a final deal might look like; indeed, there are a number of different combinations that could get to our goals here, and we need the space to be able to get there. So we will continue to talk to Congress, to hear from them. We’d like to hear their ideas, but we don’t support this type of legislation.

Yes. I like your tie. It’s very festive.

QUESTION: Thank you, thank you. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: I do. I like it.

QUESTION: I like it too. (Laughter.) This is my special tie to get questions at briefings, (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: There you go. It worked, clearly.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: It worked.

QUESTION: My name’s Andrei Sitov. I’m with TASS, the Russian news agency. Thank you for doing the briefing. We do look forward to many more. Thanks for our friends at the FPC for hosting it.

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: A couple of things. On Ukraine, first off – and I quote – you said about 20 seconds ago, “There needs to be room for dissent. There needs to be room for opposition.” The Ukrainian parliament has just taken steps, so the Ukrainian Government supports those steps to dissolve their Communist Party. Isn’t it stifling the opposition, the criticism, political voices?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. I think I do believe what you’re referring to is draft legislation that hasn’t been approved that would ban the Communist Party. The Communist Party is not banned in Ukraine today. We do believe that all peaceful voices should be heard anywhere. So obviously, that’s something we feel is important in Ukraine and elsewhere. We will continue looking at the draft legislation as it goes through the process, but again, as of today, the Communist Party is not banned in Ukraine.

QUESTION: But do you support a ban? Do you support a ban?

MS. HARF: As I said, we’re not taking a position on the legislation other than to say that all peaceful voices should be heard in Ukraine.

QUESTION: And secondly, and more importantly, obviously, with the tragic loss of the Malaysian airplane, the Russian defense ministry have released their own tracking data and have called on others, specifically on the United States, to release yours.

MS. HARF: To release what?

QUESTION: So – the tracking data from – I understand it’s from the satellites, from what they saw from the satellites on that particular day. And they claim that there was a U.S. satellite directly above that spot on that particular day – maybe a coincidence, maybe not. They – again, have you seen their data? What do you think about their information?

And secondly, can we expect you to release yours?

MS. HARF: Well, we have released up to this point our assessment about what happened and we’ve released as much information as we can at this point, that we’ve been able to declassify that underlies that assessment. So we are continuing to work through releasing more. But I’d just make a few points, and then if you have follow-ups, we can – you wore the tie today; we can keep talking. So that’s okay.

So first, we, based on a variety of information, assess, believe that this was an SA-11 fired from an area controlled by Russian separatists inside Ukraine. We have released a photo which has the trajectory of that missile based on classified information. We can’t get into how we know that. We have released that. We have also released additional information about why the two alternative theories put forward by the Russians are not plausible – the first being that it was a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter that shot down the aircraft.

Very briefly, the reasons we do not believe that this is plausible is because the only missiles it carries are short-range infrared guided missiles. Ground photography from the crash site is consistent with expected damage from a surface-to-air missile of the kind the separatists have indeed used and bragged about having, does not correspond to the kind of – what we would expect to see from an air-to-air missile such as the Su-25 has.

So we have put forward our assessment, based on a variety of information about why we believe that it indeed was an SA-11 fired from Russian-controlled separatist area. We believe an investigation needs to go forward to determine exactly who had their finger on the trigger. We still don’t know that, don’t know the intentions behind why they did this. So we think an investigation should continue, but we will continue to put out more information as we are able to do so.

QUESTION: And —

MS. HARF: Do you want the microphone? Should we wait?

QUESTION: — about their own data, have you seen the data released by the Russians?

MS. HARF: I’ve seen some of the information put out by the Russians. Again, we feel very strongly in our assessment of what happened.

Yes, I am just going to go across the front here. So – and then I will get to the rest of the room. I promise.

QUESTION: Sungchul Rhee with SBS Seoul Broadcasting System from Seoul, Korea. I have two questions on Russia.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: First is that this morning, Russian Government expressed concern over United States plan to introduce missile defense system in Korea – U.S. camps. It was the – it was called THAAD – the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. What is your reaction to the – Russia’s statement here?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see that specific statement, but in terms of missile defense, we have very clearly said we are committed to missile defense but also to missile defense cooperation with Russia, which would enhance the security of both NATO and of Russia. I understand there are strong opinions here in Russia about missile defense, but we have been very clear that it is not aimed at them, that we are looking at a variety of other threats, and that we will continue talking to them and being transparent with them about why we’re doing what we’re doing.

I haven’t seen this —

QUESTION: You mean the North Korean threat?

MS. HARF: Well, we are looking at a variety of threats when we talk about NATO and now we’re often looking at Iran when we talk about other places, we do look at a threat from North Korea, but – a variety of threats we’re looking at, but they are not designed to deter anything from Russia. Indeed, we’ve said we will cooperate with Russia on missile defense.

QUESTION: My second question is: You are dealing with really a lot of global issues at the same time which really you’re juggling. And – but not a few critics are criticizing the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, questioning on – if President Obama is adequately dealing with all the issues at the same time effectively. Even General Jim Jones, a former national security advisor to President Obama, appeared on TV this morning and he was citing a seismic shift in the relations between the United States and Russia. What is your reaction to those issues?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a couple questions there and let me try to address all of them. I think in terms of our relationship with Russia over the time we’ve been in office in this Administration, we have always said we will work together when we can. If you look at – I mean, again, going back to Vienna where I was for the Iran talks, we and the Russians are in lockstep on the exact same side about how we deal with the Iranian nuclear threat. We work very closely together on that issue. That doesn’t take away from the fact that much of what I have talked about this week at the briefings and that we deal with right now in the Administration is very serious concerns about Russian activity in Ukraine. And I’ve been very – I think we’ve all been very outspoken about that in our serious concerns there.

So it’s complicated. We work together when we can and we very strongly disagree when we do. And all of those things happen at the same time because the world is a big place, and we have places where we do have overlapping interests like when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program. But very many places where we have very divergent interests as well, as you’ve seen with Ukraine.

But on the broader question of foreign policy, you’re right; the world is a complicated, dangerous place at times. We are dealing with very serious crises, whether you look at Gaza, whether you look at Ukraine, whether you look at the host of other issues we’re dealing with right now.

And what we’ve always said is that we will do a few things, right. We have, since the beginning of this Administration, rebuilt partnerships and alliances if you look all over the world. Because in these crises, you need friends and you need partners and you need allies. And so while you can never make the world a perfect place, you can help address these when you have people on your side helping you. So that’s one thing we’ve done in terms of these challenges.

And I think you’ve seen Secretary Kerry not hesitate to get on a plane and try and make progress here. We have been very actively engaged in diplomacy and diplomatic efforts on all of these crises. We believe that diplomacy in many of these instances is the best way to handle it. That’s why you see him flying all over the world, to try and make progress here, because we are deeply and personally present and engaged in trying to deal with these crises. But they’re difficult and the world is complicated, and there are no easy answers, and people who tell you there are either just not paying attention or aren’t telling you the truth – one of the two.

So I think we will keep working on all of them. We take each one individually. There’s a different way we deal with all of them, but we have a really great team who is working very hard to do so.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yeah, we can go back. Yes, yes.

MS. HARF: But you need a microphone, Andrei.

QUESTION: And just what is your biggest success story in terms of winning new friends? Thank you.

MS. HARF: Well, look, when we took office – I think you can look at when we took office in 2009, which feels like an eternity ago probably to all of us, a lot of our relationships had waned in Asia, in Europe, all around the world. There had been eight years of neglect, and in some cases outright disagreement. So we have worked very, very hard over the past, I think, now six years – is that how long it’s been? – to rebuild these alliances. If you look, again, at the P5+1 in Europe and how we’re working on Iran together, we built an international coalition on Iran – not just at the negotiating table through the P5+1, but with all of the countries that buy oil from Iran, with all of the countries who have put sanctions in place, whether it’s Japan, South Korea, the UAE, India, China, all of the countries we’ve brought together to put pressure on Iran. That was done with really painstaking diplomatic work, with people going all over the world and saying, “This is why you should join us,” even though it’s really tough for many of these countries economically.

So I think that’s just one way we’ve done it. But again, look, these are tough challenges that we face.

I’m actually going to go to New York for a question, if they can hear me.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie. With regard to the recent development in the Gaza Strip and the bombardment of the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun and the increasing number of innocent civilian casualties, what does the Secretary Kerry have to say about the recent development, and would that be categorized as a war crime from the U.S. Department of State perspective and precedents? And with regard to Iraq, and excuse me, I’m going to bundle my questions together —

MS. HARF: Let me do Gaza first. You stay there and I’ll come back to you for Iraq, okay? So I don’t forget. So just stay there. On the UNRWA school, we are deeply saddened, very concerned about the tragic incident at the UN facility today. We’re still trying to determine the facts. But I think the reason the Secretary is on the ground in Cairo, has been shuttling back and forth trying to get a ceasefire here is because this – everything that we see happening needs to stop. We are increasingly concerned about civilian casualties on the Palestinian side. We’ve seen many, many rockets being fired from Hamas into Israel.

So the Secretary is very committed to seeing if he can get a ceasefire here. Obviously, it’s very complicated and it takes a lot of work on all sides to get that done. So we will continue working on it and we are very concerned by the rising civilian casualties. We think the Israelis need to do more to prevent them, and we’ll keep talking to them about it.

Now your second question on Iraq.

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up on Gaza before we move to Iraq?

MS. HARF: Sure, you can. Yes.

QUESTION: For Gaza, there is an apparent war crime committed today. How does the United States justify this to its people, to the international community, within the principles and manners that the United States try to be a mediator in this conflict?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re still trying to get all the facts about what happened today, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions or put labels before we know all of the facts. What we do know is that Hamas has repeatedly kept rockets in civilian areas – in schools, in hospitals. But at the same time, we have told the Israelis and we have said publicly that they need to take more steps to protect civilian casualties, that they’re not doing enough. So we’ll get all the facts about this before we make a determination there.

But again, this just underscores why we believe a ceasefire is so critical to try to get in place. There are gaps between the two sides that remain. I don’t know if we’ll be able to, but we’re certainly working towards it for exactly this reason.

QUESTION: Moving along to Iraq, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is persecuting Christians, Shiites, Yazidis, people from the Shabak, just for their religious faith and affiliation. To add to the crisis, there is some reports speaking about that the ISIL government, or whatever we can call it, is now requiring all females to go through female genital mutilation surgeries. Would there be within the UN Charter – would the United States consider pushing into the Security Council, applying Chapter 7 for military action against the ISIL militias at this point?

MS. HARF: Well, just a few points in what you asked. We are aware there are conflicting reports about ISIL issuing a decree ordering female genital mutilation. We’re aware there are some conflicting reports here. We are gathering more information. We can’t confirm the details at this point. But that goes without saying that we clearly condemn strongly this abhorrent practice no matter where it is. We know it can lead to very serious health consequences. We know it’s affected approximately 130 million women and girls worldwide, which is an extraordinary number and which is really unacceptable.

So we’ll get more details on this. But more broadly speaking, we have seen ISIL or ISIS, whatever name we want to use, go to extraordinary lengths to kill civilians, to attack them, oftentimes just for their religion, which is – has absolutely no place at all in Syria or Iraq. That’s why we’ve tried to help the Iraqis fight ISIL certainly by providing support, by providing assistance. We are providing advice to them and also, of course, weapons. When it comes on the Syrian side, we have increased our support to the moderate opposition, including through asking Congress for some funding so we can equip and train them. So those efforts are all ongoing, and we’re trying to help both of those folks fight ISIL now. I don’t have anything to preview in terms of UN Security Council action, but clearly we believe we, acting in partnership with our friends in the region, can try and help them fight this threat because they have really – I mean, you see some of the Christian communities, some of the things they’re doing there. It’s just disgusting, and we need to help put it to an end.

Yes, let’s go to the back here in the white jacket. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Thanks for doing this briefing, Ms. Harf. My name is Maria Garcia. I’m with Notimex, the Mexican news agency. The U.S. Bishop Conference sent a letter today to Secretary Kerry, and they ask to change the trade and economic policies in Central America and also address issues of drugs here and the trafficking of armaments. I wonder if the Secretary has any knowledge of the document or – and if you have any thoughts about that.

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen the letter yet. You said it was sent today? Yeah. I’m sorry. I haven’t seen it, and I’m not sure if the Secretary has yet. As you know, he’s traveling, and I’m sure it will get to him soon. Obviously – and I was actually with the Secretary during his last trip there to Mexico City – there are a whole range of issues we’re working on in the region, including the security issues and when it comes to drugs and trafficking and those issues. We’ve talked a lot about the unaccompanied minors and children issue that we’ve seen coming across the border in such huge numbers lately. So there’s a whole range of issues. Trade, you mentioned, is one of them as well. So we’ll take a look at the letter when we get it, and I’m sure we’ll have some thoughts on it then. But suffice it to say, I don’t have any specific thoughts, because I haven’t seen it yet. I’m sorry.

Yes, let’s go right here in the middle, and then I’ll go to you. Let’s do you first, and then you’re next.

QUESTION: Hi. I’m Lauri Tankler with the Estonian Public Broadcasting. I got a couple questions on Ukraine —

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: — and Russia. So in your last briefing today, you already came out with the statement that you have evidence that Russia is shelling Ukraine from the —

MS. HARF: Firing artillery.

QUESTION: Yeah, firing from the Russian side of the border. What is that going to be – what does that mean in terms of that’s clearly an escalation? And what does that mean in the face of the threat of sectoral sanctions by the U.S.? Or what’s going to happen now?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a good question. You’ve seen us continue to impose increasingly tough sanctions throughout this conflict, including very recently. And we have more ready to go if we think it’s appropriate to do so. So we’ll talk with – we’re particularly talking with our EU and European partners about how we can all impose more costs on Russia here. We know they’ve already had an impact. I don’t have anything new to announce today in terms of what might come next, but we have more steps ready to go, and we are willing to use them if we see more escalation of this kind.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the European Union is under more and more criticism about not getting the decision done and pushing it forward to Tuesday and so on. Does the Administration still believe that it’s addressing the Russian question in lockstep with its European allies?

MS. HARF: Well, we do. We coordinate very closely on this, and we do think that the downing of MH17 should be a wakeup call for Europe. This happened in their backyard. There were many Europeans on this plane. This can’t go unpunished, so I think that’s a conversation we’re having. We do, at the same time, know that it is – Europe is much more economically intertwined with Russia than we are, for example, and we don’t want them to have to take steps that would adversely impact their economy while trying to impose costs on the Russians. So it is a balance, but we think there’s a way to strike it where they can impose more costs, and we’re encouraging them to do so.

QUESTION: But no criticism?

MS. HARF: I think I just encouraged them to do more, and I’ve said this should be a wakeup call, and we haven’t seen them do more yet, we saw them do a little bit coming out of the Foreign Affairs Council meeting this week. No criticism, but we will keep working with them. We know it’s hard, but we do think more costs need to be imposed.

Yes, I’m going to go to you, and then I’m going to go to New York next. So one more here, and then to New York.

QUESTION: Thank you. Inga Czerny for Polish Press Agency, PAP. Could you please tell us if it’s a good or bad thing that European Court of Justice in Strasbourg today found Poland guilty of helping the U.S. setting up the secret prison of CIA where people were tortured? And generally, how do you find the fact that Poland is being held accountable for this and in U.S. nobody was actually charged?

MS. HARF: Well, I saw those reports, and I think I, unfortunately, won’t be able to comment on them in any way. We obviously have a very close relationship with Poland today on a host of issues, but I just don’t have much more for you than that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike) when can we expect the report – the Senate report of the interrogation program?

MS. HARF: I would refer you to the Senate Select Committee on that. I think they probably have the best information on timing. I don’t know the timing, quite frankly.

Let’s go to New York for a question.

QUESTION: Paolo Mastrolilli of the Italian newspaper La Stampa. Thank you very much for doing this. You say that there are still gaps to fill in the negotiation for a truce in Gaza. Could you please elaborate on that and what are the hopes to (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Well, I wish I could, but we’re having these conversations privately and diplomatically to see if we can bridge those and aren’t going to detail the specifics in public. But this is complicated, and there’s a lot of issues that we need to deal with to get to a ceasefire, a lot of different partners we’re working with. The Secretary today has spoken with the Turkish foreign minister, the Egyptian foreign minister, the Qatari foreign minister, the Israeli prime minister, the French, the Brits, the Jordanians, a whole host of people, not all just on this topic, but to try and get everybody who has some influence with Hamas or with Israel to try and get us to a place where we can all agree on a ceasefire. Obviously we don’t talk to Hamas because we consider them a terrorist organization, but there are some of our partners who do. So we are trying to bridge the gaps through any means we can, but it’s hard and I don’t want to downplay how difficult it is.

Thanks. Let’s go to you in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Daniel Pacheco with Caracol Television from Colombia. Two questions. General Carvajal from Venezuela who was appointed in the consulate in Aruba was captured today. There are some reports that he sought for extradition. I don’t know if you maybe have something on that.

MS. HARF: I got – that was the first question I got asked.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: No, no, no, no. It’s okay. And I will say the same thing – that I hadn’t seen those reports and I don’t know the facts here. It sounds a little dubious to me, but I don’t know. So I will check and I will get you an answer, I promise.

QUESTION: This one is broader, so I’m sure you can say something.

MS. HARF: Let’s hope so.

QUESTION: President Putin was touring Latin America just before the Malaysian Airlines accident, the tragedy. He was welcomed in Argentina, in Brazil. He even met with President Santos, a big ally of the United States. Was this a very successful tour? Does this – what is your comment on this in times when you are constantly talking about isolating Russia economically and politically?

MS. HARF: Well, we do talk about isolating Russia, but as I also said a few minutes ago, we work with Russia. The Iran talks where I just was recently, we are on the same side of this issue, we are working together on the same side of the negotiating table. So we don’t believe these things are mutually exclusive, and we think other countries can and should have strong relationships with Russia, and we work with them on many issues.

So I’ve seen some of the reports from his trip there. I know a number of folks were in the region for the BRICS summit. And look, we believe countries should have relationships with other countries; doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make very clear when they disagree with them, which, of course, we do in this case.

Yes. Coming up to you.

QUESTION: Michael Ignatiou from Mega TV, Greece. Marie, you and other officials of the American Government, you are asking the Russians to withdraw from Ukraine, and you are doing this every day. But at the same time, you never ask your friend and ally, Turkey, for example, to withdraw from Cyprus. As you know, Turkey has occupied Cyprus for 40 years. What is the difference or differences between the two cases? Thank you.

MS. HARF: Well, I think there are many differences that I’m happy to talk about. In terms of Cyprus, we fully support the ongoing process under the auspices of the UN Good Offices mission; have urged both parties to seize the opportunity to make real and substantial progress toward a settlement that reunifies the island as a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation. We, as the United States, are willing to assist in any way we find useful.

I know that there are a lot of strong feelings on both sides of this issue, but there’s a process in place here to get a resolution here, and we fully support that process and can help in any way we can, but completely different situation.

Yes. I’m going to go to the gentleman in the middle back here with the blue shirt on. Yes, you.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. My name is Oliver Grimm for the Austrian newspaper Die Presse. I have a short follow-up, and then a question on public diplomacy.

MS. HARF: I just spent a lot of time in Austria. (Laughter.) It was lovely.

QUESTION: It was pretty nice, and I think I saw the pictures from the Secretary.

MS. HARF: It is.

QUESTION: The short follow-up on the European Court of Human Rights question on (inaudible): Can you just explain why the Administration wouldn’t comment on this court’s finding? I do recollect that you quite regularly comment on European legal findings by the European Court of Justice or the – so —

MS. HARF: Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t.

QUESTION: So if you could explain that. And then the second question would be about the reform of Voice of America. What do you make of criticism that the – I think it’s called the United States International Communications Reform Act that is in Congress now would sort of impinge on the editorial independence and the journalistic freedom of reporters working for Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and so forth by turning it into a public diplomacy tool as it is envisioned and planned in this legislation?

MS. HARF: Right, no. We support Voice of America remaining as it is, believe it’s a very important journalistic outlet. There may be some of you in the room from Voice of America or from other related outlets. And we, I don’t think, would support efforts to take away some of the independence like we’ve seen some people on the Hill want to do. So I don’t think that’s something we would support. We’ll keep talking to Congress about it, obviously.

On the first, we don’t always comment on those kinds of cases, particularly when they involve allegations about U.S. intelligence activities, so unfortunately I just don’t have more of a comment for you on that.

Yes, I’m going to go behind you to this woman whose hand is still up. Yes, in the black shirt.

QUESTION: Hi, Lisa Rizzolo from ARD German TV. And I know you were asked at your earlier briefing about the European Union putting out a statement about the execution in Arizona, and I just wanted to see if you’ve seen anything on that and if you have anything.

MS. HARF: I’m sorry. I literally ran over here right after the briefing and hadn’t seen it. I’ve seen some of the press reports about it. And if we can take a look and if there’s an additional comment to make, I’m happy to get it around to folks. Just running around a little bit today, sorry.

Let’s go right here on the left.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. I’m Chuanjun Wang from China’s Guangming Daily. As we know, last year in Sunnylands summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the new model of major-countries relationship with the U.S. During that time, President Obama and later high officials from the U.S. all give a positive reaction on that proposal, but recently, especially in the past three months, I noticed that during the meetings with the Chinese officials, the U.S. officials said and used the major – a new model of a major-power relationship with China, even in the SED, in the (inaudible). President Obama only used the new model of (inaudible), so I just wonder if the U.S. has changed the position on this new model and how U.S. and China should move forward regarding that.

MS. HARF: Right. Well, no, we haven’t. And you’re right, President Obama and President Xi made clear at Sunnylands last year that they are committed to building a historic bilateral relationship based on really two critical elements, and both are important. One, practical cooperation on areas where we do cooperate; and then two, constructive management of differences when they arise. And I think that is – both of those have been the hallmarks of our relationship going forward. At the S&ED, there were a number of very productive conversations that came out of those meetings. Again, cooperation where we can and constructive management of differences when we have them – those both underpin our relationship, and nothing on that has changed.

Yes. Let’s go in the middle here, and then I’ll come up front to you.

QUESTION: Michael Hernandez, Anadolu Agency. Today at the State Department, I believe you said that something like three times the Secretary has been in contact with Foreign Minister Davutoglu.

MS. HARF: He has. Today he’s spoken to him three times.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s among the most or the most that you outlined during the earlier briefing. I was wondering, what is behind this close consultation between the Secretary and foreign minister? What’s motivating it?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, it’s not – so just to be clear, he’s made – the count as I have on here, 15 or so phone calls today, many of them related to Gaza. So it’s part of his broader engagement on Gaza. He’s spoken to the Qatari foreign minister twice today as well. So it’s, at least with the Turks and others, related to how we can push the parties to a ceasefire in Gaza.

The other consultation, much of it has been on Ukraine and MH17.

Yes. I will go back here. Yes.

QUESTION: I’m Anwar Iqbal. I work for Pakistan Dawn newspaper. There is a Pakistani delegation here, and they met Deputy Secretary Burns and Dan Feldman and others – officials at State and White House. And there was an AP report suggesting that they are asking the United States to reconsider their withdrawal plan from Afghanistan, and they also had a discussion on the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan. So would you please like to comment on those?

MS. HARF: I haven’t gotten a full readout from those meetings yet. I know they discussed a wide range of issues. I can check and see, but I haven’t gotten a readout from those meetings yet.

Would you have one up here? Yes.

QUESTION: This week, Iraqis’ ambassador to Washington criticized the Administration for lack of support – military support for his country, and claimed that this creates vacuum which they are going to – willing to give to anybody to fill it. And they said Iran has offered literally to replace the United States. So what is the position?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a few points. No other country, I think, can do what the United States does in terms of support. We have been very supportive of the Iraqi Government. We have done that with assistance, with weapons, with advice, with training. There are some systems we’re still trying to get delivered, which the main holdup has been slowness on the Iraqi Government’s side throughout the years. But I think now they understand the severity of the situation, and we’re trying to get things delivered as quickly as possible. And we stand ready to assist in a number of ways.

But at the end of the day, this is not a problem we can fix for the Iraqis. It is a problem that needs to be fixed by them. We saw today a president being named. Next step is the prime minister, so we can hopefully soon have a new government in place that can put forward a strategy to deal with this terrorist threat as we go forward. And we’ll help them as they do it, but we can’t do it for them. So I think we are looking forward to working with the new government and seeing what else we could possibly do to help.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t work with Iran on Iraq. We have spoken on one occasion to Iran about it on the sidelines of another meeting, many weeks ago now. But look, we’re not going to coordinate with Iran on Iraq. What we’ve said is any country in the region, including Iran, should use its influence over different parties in Iraq to pull them together, to promote an inclusive government that – and that it’s the Iraqi army and security forces that need to fight this threat. It’s not militias; it’s not anything outside of the government. And so we’re encouraging all parties, including Iran, to do so.

Yes, and then I’ll go – actually, I’ll go to you. And then I’ll come back up to you, Andrei. Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: You’re welcome.

QUESTION: My name is Jae Sun Chang, Yonhap News Agency from South Korea. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui has said today that the United States should lower the bar for resuming the Six-Party Talks, and he also accused the United States of trying to achieve its target before the talks even resume. What’s your response?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see those specific comments, but we’ve worked very closely with the South Koreans and other partners on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We are very committed to it. We’ve said that the North Koreans need to take certain steps before we can get back to the table, and we’ll continue to have those conversations.

QUESTION: Many critics say the United States is basically ignoring this problem of North Korean nuclear program and – while this communist nation is strengthening its nuclear capabilities day by day and – do you see any urgency in the problem?

MS. HARF: We do, and we’re certainly not ignoring it. We see quite a bit of urgency. And I think that’s why, speaking to your previous question, we do think there should be a high bar here, that it is a very dangerous threat. We’ve seen increasingly provocative rhetoric coming out of North Korea, including with recent missile launches that are in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. So it’s an issue we have a whole team very focused on, are working with our partners and the rest of the Six-Party as well, to see if we can get back to the table here.

QUESTION: My last question is, South Korea and China earlier this week signed an agreement to establish a hotline between the defense ministry of the two countries. I think China is the second country to have – after the United States – to have a hotline with South Korea’s defense ministry. This is yet another sign of deepening relations between the two countries, and what is your response?

MS. HARF: Right. Well – and we think the concept of hotlines in general, particularly if you’re talking about territorial disputes in either the South China Sea or the East China Sea, tend to be a good idea. The Japanese have talked about doing this as well. So anything that can reduce tensions and try to get these disputes resolved peacefully we do think is a good thing. So those – that’s just one of those steps that we tend to, sort of across the board, like.

Yes, Andrei.

QUESTION: Marie, when we were talking about this incident with MH17, you said that you are for a full investigation —

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: — full and fair investigation and getting to know whose finger was on that button or whatever it was that launched the missile. So basically, it’s an open question yet for you?

MS. HARF: No, that’s not what I said. We know a couple – here’s what we know based on a very wide-ranging assessment, that it was – let me just – and then you can ask follow-up. We know where the missile was fired from; we know that it was an SA-11; we know the area is controlled by Russian separatists. We know that there were no Ukrainian SA-11s within the vicinity that could’ve been fired. We know the trajectory, we know where it hit, and we know where it came down. We know that Russia has been supplying the separatists with weapons and training them on these weapons.

Now who – which one of them actually had their finger on the button, you’re right, we don’t know that. We don’t. But we know where the missile was fired from. We know who fired it, who controls that – generally speaking – and who controls that territory, who’s been funding and arming and training these folks.

QUESTION: My original question was about prejudging, because on one of the other questions you said that – on the question about the Europeans and the sanctions against Russia, you said, yeah, it cannot go unpunished. So you already know whom to punish?

MS. HARF: We know who —

QUESTION: Which is prejudging.

MS. HARF: Well, no. We know who’s been supporting these separatists for months. We know that these separatists would not be in eastern Ukraine, able to do this, without the direct backing of President Putin and the Russian Government. They wouldn’t even be there without the Russian Government’s support. They wouldn’t have weaponry without the Russian Government’s support. Forgetting about this specific incident, they wouldn’t – they today, again, have been bragging about more Ukrainian fighter jets they’ve brought down.

So we will do a full investigation into MH17, but these separatists would not be there —

QUESTION: Marie —

MS. HARF: — without the support of the Russian Government.

QUESTION: — I don’t think you are right about that. I could tell you in response that without the government – Ukrainian Government planes flying over Ukrainian cities and bombing Ukrainian peaceful civilians —

MS. HARF: That’s not —

QUESTION: — there would be no need for the civilians to defend themselves.

MS. HARF: That’s not what’s happening here.

QUESTION: And it is what’s happening.

MS. HARF: It’s not.

QUESTION: And everybody knows that’s what’s happening.

MS. HARF: Well, we can agree to disagree —

QUESTION: But basically – yeah, I know.

MS. HARF: — on this.

QUESTION: I know.

MS. HARF: But we have a preponderance of evidence on our side here.

QUESTION: But the question that I wanted to ask about this was: Why is it that you are so adamant about not admitting even the possibility that the missile was launched mistakenly or deliberately by the Ukrainians? They had their own motives for that.

MS. HARF: They don’t, though. Let me just address that specific point. Russia did release a map with alleged locations of Ukrainian SA-11 units within range of the crash. We are confident that this information is incorrect. We have information that the nearest Ukrainian operational SA-11 unit is located well out of range from both the launch and the crash sites. So there were no Ukrainian SA-11s within the range. So again, we can’t make up our own facts here. We can’t go on hunches. We have pictures of where this was launched from. We can see the trajectory. And so what we need now, as President Putin himself has said, is a full investigation. We need to see that backed up with actions, and we need to see some accountability.

QUESTION: This is your information, not information coming from Twitter or from the Ukrainians or whatever?

MS. HARF: No, this is our information. We have eyes on this area and we’ve seen some of this. Yeah.

Yes, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Hello, Marie.

MS. HARF: Hi.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you so much for doing this. Atsushi Okudera from Asahi Shimbun, in Japan. The President Putin originally has a plan to visit Japan. And as you know, Japan is preparing for a peace treaty with Russia, and we have a territory issue – and a northern territory issues. So I’m just wondering that – are you supporting these – the Japanese efforts for resolving the – these – the country, territory —

MS. HARF: Well, we want Japan to have good relations with its neighbors and with other countries in the region. I don’t have more of a comment than that on what you asked about specifically. I think probably up to the Japanese to speak about that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Again, we believe that Japan should have good relationships with its neighbors. Japan is one of our closest alliances in the world. We work together on a whole host of issues, one of our most important friends that we have, and so we’ll continue working together.

QUESTION: And the same time, on the – DPRK abduction issues, you know?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Probably it’s on July 6th that Secretary Kerry spoke to Foreign Minister Kishida of Japan, and there is some report indicate United States is concerned about the lifting sanction or visiting. Prime Minister Abe is also – has also now – there is a possibility to visit North Korea. Do you – what is the position on that? Are you concerned about the visit to North Korea?

MS. HARF: Well, in terms of the abductions issue or whether the prime minister will go to North Korea, we support Japanese efforts to resolve the abductions issue in a transparent manner. I am aware of press reports indicating that Prime Minister Abe is actually not currently considering a visit to Pyongyang. I know there’s been some conflicting reporting out there, but I don’t think he is right now. I think the Japanese Government probably has the most up-to-date information on that.

Let’s do a few more. Yes, right here, and then I’ll go up to the lady in front of you.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie. I’m from China, with China News Service. Just now, you mentioned if it’s necessary, United States will have more steps to sanctions U.S. – the Russia if the tension escalated. So how do you define that? And yesterday, reports say the United States officials told CNN that the more troops moving to the border of the Ukraine. Is that one of them?

MS. HARF: Well, that’s certainly – we would consider that escalation, yes. Look, there’s not one blanket definition here. We take a look at the steps across the board that we’ve seen. We make assessments on a day-by-day basis. People are very focused on this. We have more steps ready to go if we are – if we decide to take them. But it’s an ongoing process here. And there is a diplomatic path forward. We have consistently said that even as we increase pressure, there’s a different path that Russia can choose to take. And I think hopefully they will do so.

Let’s do a couple more. Yes, you.

QUESTION: (Off-mike) mentioned the difficulties of the Europeans and you understand the difficulties of the Europeans in proceeding with sanctions against Russians given – Russia given the energy dependence. Can – and the IMF just warned today, actually, of the rising tensions, geopolitical tensions actually having an effect on oil prices. And I can tell you from experience the oil prices in Europe are much higher than what they are in the United States, especially in some countries like my own, which are also coming out of a very difficult crisis. Now, what can the U.S. do to assist Europe in its effort towards more energy security and diversification? Are you working with them on specific projects?

MS. HARF: We’re working together very closely. It’s a conversation we have all the time, because we know it’s difficult and we know that as more costs are imposed on Russia it will get harder for the Europeans across the board on this issue. So we work together to talk about energy flows, how we can help, energy independence, all of these issues, alternative energy, clean energy, basically how we can help relieve the pressure, if we can, by working together.

But it’s really a long-term issue. There are things we can do now, but it really is more of a discussion about what we do over the long term, so if there are crises like this we don’t have the same pressure and we can help Europe with its energy situation so we don’t have the same kind of considerations. But it is much more of a long-term issue, but we are working together at a number of levels now on that.

Yes. Let’s go – go ahead, here. Let’s do just a couple more. And we’ll go back here to folks who haven’t had a question yet next.

QUESTION: Hi. China has been proposing the Asian infrastructure development bank, and earlier this month I read news from China media who quoting – which quoting the South Korean media saying that U.S. high officials request South Korea not to support China on this issue. I just want get your comment on that. And also, what’s the U.S. position on the China’s Asian infrastructure development bank?

MS. HARF: I’m not actually familiar with that issue. So I’m happy to check with our folks and see if we have a position and what that is, and we can make sure we get it to you.

Let’s go to the back here for two of you who haven’t had questions yet.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. My name is Xavier Vila, Catalunya Radio in Barcelona. Are you aware of these – administration planning to send anyone, any observers to Scotland for the referendum in September and the Catalan one in November, or this is something that’s going to be controlled by the consulates and embassies in those areas? Thank you.

MS. HARF: I’m not aware of us sending anyone. I can check, but I’m not aware of that.

QUESTION: You’re not sending anyone?

MS. HARF: Yeah, not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yep. Let’s go right behind you, and then I’ll come up to you.

QUESTION: Yeah. This is Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News, Pakistan. A couple of days ago the former president Mr. Zardari was in town and had meeting with Vice President Joe Biden. So could you tell us something about that meeting, because there are too many speculations in Pakistan about that meeting. And secondly, U.S. expressing its concerns over the Haqqani Network, about their safe havens in North Waziristan (inaudible). Despite knowing that, the Pakistani military is – right now is in military operations going on there. So what type of concerns you have now about the Haqqani Network? Thank you.

MS. HARF: Well, on the first question, I think that the Vice President’s office is probably better able to speak about their meeting. I don’t have more details to share on that.

But look, we’ve long been very focused on the Haqqani Network, on their intent to cause instability in Afghanistan, to attack and kill U.S. citizens, which we’ve seen, and military service members particularly. And it’s been one of our top priorities to bring to bear sort of all of the elements of our power to help fight this threat, to degrade its capability to carry out attacks, to prevent it from raising money, and to prevent it from moving people around. So this remains one of our top priorities. We know it’s a challenge. We’re working to help particularly in Afghanistan fight this threat.

Anyone else? Let’s do just two more here. We’ll do right here, and then you can wrap us up.

QUESTION: My name is Inoue from Kyodo News Japan. Thank you for doing this.

MS. HARF: Good to see you.

QUESTION: I have a question about the SA-11. The SA-11 was apparently used by the separatists in Ukraine, that it – they are not state – they are non-state actor.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: So do you think this incident would have any implication when you’re considering – when you’re trying to ratchet up the assistance to Syrian opposite? Because they have asked you to provide like surface-to-air missiles, like MANPADS. So do you think this incident may have any impact to your – on your decision.

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve – sorry. Finish your question. Sorry. I jumped in there a little early. Look, when it comes to that issue, we have said for a very long time that we have concerns about providing those types of systems in Syria because of the risks. You just need to see the past few days to see that. And so our position on that hasn’t changed. Any assistance we’re providing to the opposition in Syria, it’s a judgment that you make. We want to make sure people are vetted properly, that you feel comfortable providing them with assistance, and that you calibrate that assistance so you don’t give them the types of assistance that could end up in the hands of some pretty bad people and that could do pretty bad things with them. So that’s why our position on that has remained consistent. We are – concerns about the risk of the system.

Last – we’ll do two more. Two more. In the back, and then you can wrap us up, up front.

QUESTION: Thank you. Short question on Ukraine. Do you still exclude delivering any military relief or assistance to Ukrainians to have them restore the sovereignty themselves?

MS. HARF: Right. So we’ve provided a great deal of assistance monetarily and with other kinds of support as well, material support to the Ukrainians. But they – look, there’s not a military solution here, right. We need to see de-escalation. Quite frankly, nothing we gave the Ukrainian military could put it on par with the Russian military, which is why there’s not a military solution here. The Ukrainians have a right to defend their people and their territory. We’ve seen them do that. We’ll continue supporting them, again with material and assistance and money. And we review all the requests that come in from them, because we do want to keep making decisions that will help them in the best way that we think is appropriate.

Last one. Yes. You have the honor of the last question.

QUESTION: Thank you. Voice of America, Persian TV. Last time when the truth was reached in Middle East conflict was during Morsy, friend of Hamas. How important is the role of Egypt now and how do you define the relationship between the United States and al-Sisi government?

MS. HARF: Well, Egypt is playing a crucial role. Obviously, the Secretary’s in Cairo. They have long played a role in these discussions. They have a peace treaty with Israel, for example. They also have a relationship with a Hamas. It’s different than it was under President Morsy, but they do have a relationship. But that’s why we’re also talking to countries like Qatar and Turkey and others who have other relationships they can use with Hamas to see if we can get to a ceasefire.

But our relationship with Egypt is much bigger than one administration there. It’s strategic. We have strategic interests, whether it’s security, particularly in the Sinai and on the Israeli border, whether it is economically helping Egypt undertake needed economic reforms to help their people, whether it’s pushing them on human rights and freedom of expression. When you have journalists in jail that have been subjected to these horrible sentences, we believe it’s important to have a relationship so we can raise concerns. It’s the best way to engage. So it’s a very broad, longstanding relationship, and the Secretary is there right now working very closely with them. They are committed to seeing if they can help with the ceasefire here, and we think there’s a critical role they have played and can play going forward.

MODERATOR: All right.

MS. HARF: With that?

MODERATOR: With that, thank you all for coming. Thank you, Marie.

MS. HARF: Thank you.

MODERATOR: This briefing is now concluded.

MS. HARF: Thank you all so much. We will see you soon.

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