Tagged: SecurityCouncil

Speeches: Remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations

(As Delivered)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Press Releases: Daily Press Briefing – March 10, 2015

1:19 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Two from the AP, Justin in the front row. It’s going to be a big day. (Laughter.) Michael Gordon’s son, Chris, is here who, as we all know, had an interview with Secretary Kerry, I think, before his dad, not to raise a sensitive issue but – (laughter) – just joking.

Okay. I don’t have anything new, so why don’t we start with what’s on your mind.

QUESTION: You have nothing new at all? All right.

MS. PSAKI: I have many things new. I don’t have anything to start off as a topper, I should have said.

QUESTION: All right. Since we all want to turn our attention, I think, to some press conference that might be happening a little later in New York, let’s try to get through this quickly.

MS. PSAKI: I’ve heard such a thing may be happening today —

QUESTION: Indeed. Can we —

MS. PSAKI: — from the media.

QUESTION: Can we start with Iran? The White House today went further than it did yesterday regarding the letter, calling it a flagrant partisan attempt to interfere in the negotiations, reckless, irresponsible and misguided. I assume that you would agree with those —

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Yes.

QUESTION: — those terms. The author of the letter was on a television show this morning talking about what his reasoning is behind – or the main author of the letter talking about what his reasoning is behind it. I’m a little bit confused because the reasons that he said for writing this letter appear to be exactly the same reasons – the same thing that the Administration is negotiating for. Can I just go through a couple of these?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: It said that Congress won’t accept a deal because we’re committed to stopping Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Is that not the Administration’s point of view?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to go point by point through out-of-context points, Matt. I think the same —

QUESTION: Well, this is not —

MS. PSAKI: Let me make a point here. The same principal author of the letter made clear that their goal was to undermine these negotiations. That’s the issue we’re taking with the letter.

QUESTION: I understand. But is it not the Administration’s goal to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon?

MS. PSAKI: Of course it is. But what’s —

QUESTION: Okay. That’s number one. Number two —

MS. PSAKI: What’s your contextual point here?

QUESTION: — Iran’s leaders need to understand that any deal that gives them a path to a bomb today, tomorrow, 10 years, 15 years from now will not be accepted by the United States Congress. Would such a deal be accepted by the Administration?

MS. PSAKI: If a path to – say that one more time.

QUESTION: If Iran’s leaders need to understand that any deal that gives them a path to a bomb today, tomorrow, 10 years, 15 years from now will not be accepted by the United States Congress.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, can we —

QUESTION: Will such a deal be accepted by the Administration?

MS. PSAKI: — can we get to the point of why you’re raising these points?

QUESTION: I want to —

MS. PSAKI: Because I think we were – we’ve been pretty clear about what issue we were taking with the letter signed by 47 senators.

QUESTION: Right. I’m asking you, though, based on what he said this morning, his goal and the goal of the signors of this letter appear to be exactly what the Administration has said its own goal is. Is that not correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, as we outlined yesterday, we believe – and as my colleagues at the White House have spoken to extensively – and I – well, I’ll get to this point – this type of letter, which was signed by 47 members of the Senate, is harmful to American national security because it inserts these members into the middle of very sensitive negotiations, negotiations that have historically for not just decades, but centuries, taken place between the president, the executive branch, and foreign countries.

Furthermore, as we’ve seen historically – or not just seen historically, as we know historically – we believe that there should be continuity from president to president in terms of U.S. foreign policy. Of course, there are differences of agreement, but you can’t – representing that you’re going to change things or you’re going to change the policy is what we see as the issue here.

QUESTION: Right. I’m just – he was asked what would an acceptable deal look like to you, and his response was: “complete nuclear disarmament by Iran.” Is it your understanding that Iran currently has nuclear weapons?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve spoken extensively to —

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: — our concerns about Iran’s —

QUESTION: Is it not, in fact, the case that what the Administration is negotiating for, the deal that it wants to see would result in Iran never – not being able to have a nuclear weapon and the dismantlement of what infrastructure it —

MS. PSAKI: Of course, Matt, but I’m not going to respond anymore to —

QUESTION: Okay. So —

MS. PSAKI: — an interview done by the author who already has done the damage of putting the letter out.

QUESTION: Okay. So the – my – I guess my question is: The goal that he outlines and the other signatories of the letter presumably outline is the same as the Administration’s goal, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Clearly, there’s a problem because they don’t believe you. Can you think of a reason why 47 members of the Senate would think that the Administration is bent on allowing Iran or giving Iran a pathway to develop a nuclear weapon?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak for what their thinking is. I think we’ve spoken to what our view is on the letter.

QUESTION: Is the Administration’s position – opponents of the emerging deal, or what looks like it’s going to be, have adopted the slogan, “No bomb for Iran.” Is it not the case that the Administration, given what it said, could adopt the same slogan?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not putting out new slogans here. Do you have a specific additional question?

QUESTION: I’m saying, is no bomb for Iran the goal of the Administration?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve stated our goal many times. Do we have —

QUESTION: Which is that, right?

MS. PSAKI: We’re not going to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Do we have more on Iran before we continue?

QUESTION: I have one.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Justin.

QUESTION: Some argue that the letter amounts to treason, that it’s a violation of the 1799 Logan Act.

MS. PSAKI: It’s a big day for John Adams, isn’t it?

QUESTION: Yeah, right. So what’s your take on that? Do you think it is in violation of the law?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not aware of any conversations within the United States Government regarding whether Senator Cotton and the other signatories violated the Logan Act. This is a legal question, so I’d certainly defer to others on that.

QUESTION: Okay. So but do – but generally, you think it’s within their legal rights? You’re not —

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to do legal analysis.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve spoken to what our concerns are, Justin, which is a combination of the fact that we believe it’s harmful to America’s national security for anyone to insert themselves into the middle of a very sensitive negotiation, and the long history we have of working cooperatively with nations around the globe in seeking to advance our interests where we allow bipartisanship issues to stop at the water’s edge.

Go ahead, Michael.

QUESTION: Jen, if there is an Iran agreement, it could very well last for 15 years, which would be through the next presidency and beyond and several presidents could have to administer this agreement, then there could be actions required by the Congress in terms of removing sanctions. Why shouldn’t an agreement of that duration, which requires some congressional action at some point to remove sanctions, be submitted to the Congress in some form for approval or a vote of some kind?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we have envisioned – I will get to your question, but let me just reiterate: We have envisioned a role for Congress – there has been in the past, there is right now, and there will be in the future. Congress had a role in building the sanctions regime, to your point, and so at some point in the duration of this agreement, Congress will be heard on the sanctions relief and there will be a role for Congress to play in lifting sanctions down the line as part of the agreement.

Also to your point, that would be some time from now, because as we know, that’s not something that we’re discussing as an immediate part of this discussion. This is not – it wouldn’t be accurate, and I talked about this a little bit yesterday, but it wouldn’t be accurate to call this – it’s not – I’m not – I know you’re not comparing it to a treaty, but it’s different from past – there are comparisons I think I could make to some historic examples, but this is a multilateral understanding between many countries, including the P5+1 and the Iranians. So there’s a role for Congress to play not just in consultations, which is something that’s ongoing, but obviously as part of the sanctions regime, which would be the implementation of it.

QUESTION: But the role that you envision Congress playing, just to be clear, and I know you addressed this before but just to make it as clear as possible —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — you do not envision presenting this multilateral agreement to Congress for any kind of vote as to whether they think it’s in the nation’s interest, even though it’s going to be an agreement of huge consequence and for a significant duration. Is that fair?

MS. PSAKI: And that’s one of the – correct, but that’s one of the reasons we have been consulting very closely with them. There have been a range of hearings, both public hearings, many, many private hearings to hear from them, to discuss with them the status of the agreement.

QUESTION: And so my last question is: Why do you not think it’s appropriate to ask the Congress to vote on it?

MS. PSAKI: We think Congress has an appropriate role, the one that I’ve outlined. We’re not considering a different role for Congress.

QUESTION: Jen, can you explain how —

QUESTION: (Off-mike) —

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Oh, sorry.

QUESTION: — well, why it’s not a treaty?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me – I think I talked about this a little bit yesterday, so let me see if I can go back to some of the points I made then. Let’s see. So a treaty – unlike a treaty or other types of international agreements in which parties are generally required to take similar actions themselves, this deal will primarily reflect the international community putting strong limits on Iran’s nuclear program and Iran making verifiable and enforceable commitments to adhere to those limits. So these are political understandings between a multi – several countries, as you know, through the P5+1.

QUESTION: So wait, hold on, hold on. Just – I mean, the fact that it’s several countries doesn’t preclude it from being a treaty. You have United Nations treaties, you’ve had the Potsdam Treaty or the Treaty of Versailles.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So what is it that – is it the fact that the responsibilities are Iran’s and you don’t negotiate an international treaty on Iranian obligations? Is that —

MS. PSAKI: It’s not about Iran. It’s about what would be needed to be agreed to and committed to by all sides.

QUESTION: But why can’t that be —

QUESTION: Well, could it be —

QUESTION: Why isn’t that a treaty? I mean —

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we can get you the specifics of what compose or what requires a treaty legally, Brad.

QUESTION: But I guess the question is: Do you know, was there a decision made? It seems to me that an international agreement like this could be a treaty if all sides wanted it to be a treaty and that was agreed to. Do you know if it was ever discussed with —

MS. PSAKI: Discussed with whom?

QUESTION: Well, among – inside the Administration but also with the rest of the P5+1 and also with the Iranians if it – it’s just whether or not, hey, maybe instead of a political agreement here, we should make this a treaty that has to be ratified and adopted by all of the – all of the governments, however that works in each country.

MS. PSAKI: Our objective, Matt, has been obviously getting to a point of agreeing to the components that would prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon.

QUESTION: I guess —

MS. PSAKI: That’s been the focus.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to read out in terms of other discussions.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, it’ll be interesting to know if there was ever any consideration of should we make this a treaty and then there was a discussion about that.

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: And then —

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I mean, but you had —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: — just – sorry to —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Not to belabor this point, but you guys spent many months talking about the format for how you would create an agreement. And clearly, one of the things that had to have been discussed at some point was what are we actually going to agree to. Is it a treaty, an understanding, a memorandum, a handshake, a tea – a sharing of tea? I mean, you had to have figured out —

MS. PSAKI: A sharing of tea. I don’t think that was an option. But —

QUESTION: That is a contract in some places in the world.

MS. PSAKI: Fair enough.

QUESTION: You had to have a discussion on what you were actually going to agree to. How did that come about that you decided political framework or whatever?

MS. PSAKI: Not going to outline that further, and I wouldn’t assume that what you just outlined is correct in terms of discussions. Again, our focus has been on technical details and on trying to reach the content of political commitments – on what the political commitments would be by the participants. That’s been the focus of the discussions.

QUESTION: What would be the potential difference between – in terms of the role of Congress – a treaty versus a political agreement?

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure we can get you the historical —

QUESTION: Okay. Now —

MS. PSAKI: — documentation on that, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. The flip side of this argument: The Iranians, have they conveyed to you in any way that as a result of this letter, they may not have confidence in the United States of America and they may soon not – to sign an agreement? Have they?

MS. PSAKI: No. Let me also just speak to some historical examples, which may help you a little bit, Brad, under – or perhaps not. I don’t want to speak to what will help you or not. But historically, under many administrations, the United States has pursued important international security initiatives through nonbinding arrangements where that has been in our national interest. In the arms control and nonproliferation area alone, some representative examples include the U.S.-Russia deal to remove chemical weapons from Syria, the Proliferation Security Initiative, the Nuclear Supplier Group Guidelines, the Missile Technology Control Regime. There’s a lot of precedent for this being political commitments made by all sides.

QUESTION: In that statement you just described them as nonbinding.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that’s a legal term, Matt.

QUESTION: I mean, presumably everyone who agrees to this – if there is something to agree to – is bound by it. Right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, yes. But there’s legal terminology —

QUESTION: All right. And —

MS. PSAKI: — so obviously there’s differences you use depending on what it is.

QUESTION: — in your answer just previously you said that no, the Iranians have not – has there been any contact between the Secretary and Foreign Minister Zarif or —

MS. PSAKI: No, there has not.

QUESTION: — Under Secretary Sherman or —

MS. PSAKI: I can speak to the Secretary. I don’t believe there’s been other discussions —

QUESTION: Okay. The foreign minister – the Iranian foreign minister said today that this letter shows that the United States Government cannot be trusted. Would you agree with that assessment?

MS. PSAKI: As we’ve said, and I think you and I have discussed before, this has never been about trust. This has been about coming to a point where both sides agree to political commitments about what steps they’re willing to take.

QUESTION: All right. And is it your view that whatever damage you say that this letter has caused is done and is – in other words, you think that the damage is over, or is it going to bleed into the next round of negotiations? And can the damage that you say has been done be repaired?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is, again, I mean, a negotiation, of course, between nations, not individuals, not between political parties. And so we certainly anticipate the negotiations will be able to proceed from here.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, so if that is the case, what’s the big deal?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve stated what the big deal is. This is inserting – this is 47 members of Congress from one party inserting themselves into an international negotiation.

QUESTION: Right. Well, I understand that you’re – that people are – in the Administration are offended by this and think that it is – it shows a lack of respect. But if it really doesn’t affect the negotiations at all, from your point of view, why get so upset about it?

MS. PSAKI: Because it’s important to convey that when leaders of other countries are doing business with the United States, they’re doing business with all of the United States. And so this is a – was an effort to insert themselves into a sensitive negotiation. That’s the issue we raised with —

QUESTION: Jen, just to clarify Matt’s point —

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: — when you were giving examples of agreements, national security agreements —

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Sure.

QUESTION: — that Congress didn’t vote on, you said that from a legal perspective, the examples you gave were nonbinding. So is it – are you saying that this Iran agreement, if it materializes, from a legal perspective is also nonbinding? It’s somehow binding politically, but from an international legal perspective it’s not binding?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I used the example of Syria, right, as an example. This framework was not legally binding and was not subject to congressional approval. It outlined steps for eliminating Syria’s chemical weapons and helped lay the groundwork for successful multilateral efforts to move forward. So I’m just conveying what we’re talking about as it relates to the political understandings and what we’re discussing with the parties.

QUESTION: I guess maybe this a question you could ask the lawyers, because I’m sure it’s not there. But I mean, if it was nonbinding, why did the Syrians comply with it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we – there was an agreement – there were discussions, and they agreed to certain terms.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: And then it went to the OPCW and then it went to the UN. So —

QUESTION: Actually, in the case of the security – the Syrian agreement, there was a Security Council vote, which I think made it binding.

MS. PSAKI: Well, that – I just said. And then it went to the UN to the Security Council vote.

QUESTION: Right. So could this —

QUESTION: But you’re not going to have that in this agreement.

QUESTION: Exactly. Could you go for —

MS. PSAKI: I’m just – I don’t have more to outline for you in terms of the implementation of a political understanding that doesn’t yet exist.

QUESTION: Wait. Just to clarify, is it legally binding or not, this Iran agreement? Will it be legally binding from an international legal perspective if you negotiate this agreement, or will it be something lesser than that, a political commitment?

MS. PSAKI: I understand your question, Michael. What I’m referring to is the political commitments in terms of what the next additional steps would be. I’m not sure how much farther or more information we would have. I’m certainly happy to check with our team and see if there’s more we can clarify.

QUESTION: The problem is is that you’ve stressed over and over again this is not about trusting, right? This is about verifying. But then you’re saying that these are political commitments but not necessarily binding. It would seem to me that if this wasn’t about trust, you would want them to be binding, not political commitments, which are your word. That’s what a political —

MS. PSAKI: Well, Brad, we’re talking about specifically how pieces —

QUESTION: Political commitment just means “I will do this.”

MS. PSAKI: It is not that. We’re talking about how specifically pieces would be agreed to between the parties. In terms of the implementation of it, I’m sure we will talk about that at the time we would have an agreement.

QUESTION: Since I don’t understand then what a political – as I understand a political commitment, it means a person or a political entity saying, “I will do this; I commit to doing this.” How is that not anything other than giving your word?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Brad, if we get to the point where we have a framework, where we have an agreement, I’m sure we will have a discussion about how things will be implemented.

QUESTION: I’m just asking for the concept of political commitment. What does that mean, beyond giving your word?

MS. PSAKI: I just gave you additional examples of how that has been implemented and how it has worked in the past.

QUESTION: The Iranians have talked about this, whatever it is, that if anything happens, that it being – the idea that the UN Security Council would at least endorse it if not enshrine it in some kind of a resolution. Is that something that you think would be useful?

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to get ahead of how this would be implemented at this point in time.

QUESTION: So —

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done between now and then.

QUESTION: Okay. But then can you understand the – if you can’t talk about how it’s going to be implemented, can you understand the concern that people have when you tell them, “Trust us”?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we’re saying that, Matt.

QUESTION: No, “Trust us to deliver a good deal. If we can’t get a good deal, then there will be no deal.”

MS. PSAKI: The discussion about a good deal or a bad deal is about the content of the deal. We agree it’s about the content of the deal that we would have to discuss —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: — and defend and obviously have a discussion with Congress about.

QUESTION: And – but the content of the deal also includes its implementation, right?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: And if you can’t get into how it would be implemented, then there are obviously open questions —

MS. PSAKI: There is not an agreement yet at this point in time, Matt.

QUESTION: I understand. But – so you can understand that the questions are open and that people would have concerns about them. Correct?

MS. PSAKI: We will certainly have a discussion about the content and every component of this if and when there is a framework and an agreement.

QUESTION: Do your experts believe that perhaps there is a lack of understanding of the United States Constitution on the part of the senators that signed this letter? I mean, there are legal —

MS. PSAKI: I would pose that question —

QUESTION: — there are constitutional experts that say —

MS. PSAKI: I would pose that question to them, Said.

Do we have any more on Iran before we continue?

QUESTION: Yeah. I have one more.

MS. PSAKI: I know we have a limited amount of time.

QUESTION: One more.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: So you said that Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif hadn’t spoken in the last couple of days. Was the last time that they’ve actually spoke the in-person meeting last week?

MS. PSAKI: I believe that’s correct, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And then the EU is hosting a meeting on Monday with the European foreign ministers in the P5+1.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Which —

QUESTION: Is the Secretary going to be involved?

MS. PSAKI: — they just put out, I think, in the last hour.

QUESTION: Right. Will Secretary Kerry be involved in those?

MS. PSAKI: No, he wouldn’t be. It’s an EU meeting.

Any more on Iran?

QUESTION: Can I have one more on Iran? Iran.

MS. PSAKI: Iran? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. Your objection to this letter is because the content or just because they have reached out to the Iranian Government directly?

MS. PSAKI: I think – just – I want to just make sure we get to as many issues as possible and I have talked about this extensively yesterday and today, as have my colleagues —

QUESTION: I’m asking —

MS. PSAKI: — so I’m going to point you to the transcript.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Look, I’m asking —

MS. PSAKI: Abigail, go ahead.

QUESTION: Because I have follow-up question on this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’m asking this because two years ago, around 20 senators from the U.S. wrote directly to Indian prime minister economic reforms idea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Then again, more than 120 House of Representative members wrote a letter to the Indian prime minister.

MS. PSAKI: Do you remember the content of the letters?

QUESTION: Yeah. It was for the economic reforms in India. They had expressed concern and wanted Indian Government to —

MS. PSAKI: It’s an entirely different thing. We’re talking about inserting yourself into international negotiations that are ongoing —

QUESTION: So both are different.

MS. PSAKI: — that involve the executive branch.

Go ahead, Abigail.

QUESTION: Sorry —

QUESTION: And you have no objection to those letters, right?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have those letters in front of me. Go ahead. I don’t believe we have expressed any though.

QUESTION: One of the responses of Foreign Minister Zarif was he said that if the next administration revoked an agreement with the stroke of a pen, it would be a blatant violation of international law. Is that an accurate —

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to speak to Foreign Minister Zarif’s comments.

QUESTION: One more Iran?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: A quick question, madam. Many countries wants Iran to stop the nuclear program. And also, as far nuclear program and dissensions are concerned, are you going after those who are helping Iran as far as their nuclear program is concerned? And also, who is buying their oil under this international sanction?

MS. PSAKI: Who is buying their oil? We do reports on this every year, Goyal, so I would point you to that. There’s a lot of information available.

QUESTION: One last thing on the broader issue here.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You said that it’s important for the Iranians and the rest of the world, in fact, to know that this agreement is being negotiated by you and the other others – but on the United States side, by the entire United States. And wouldn’t it make more sense, if that’s the argument you want to put forth, to have congressional buy-in, to have the House and the – or the Senate, at least, in this case —

MS. PSAKI: Well, that would change centuries of historic precedent for how international negotiations work, so —

QUESTION: Right, but some of the most important treaties that the United States has signed – or international agreements, I should say, that the United States has signed, have been treaties. Not to say that there haven’t been one – important ones —

MS. PSAKI: There have been some, yes. There have been some that are not.

QUESTION: Right. But if your argument is that this letter undermines the U.S. position because it makes it look like the entire government, all branches of it, aren’t behind this agreement —

MS. PSAKI: Well, that wasn’t exactly what I was intending to say.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we know members of Congress have their own views – Democrats and Republicans, members from both parties – and they’ve spoken out publicly about that for years now. We don’t expect nor would we attempt to change their right to freedom of speech.

QUESTION: And this will be my last one. Is it the suspicion of the Administration that the 47 senators who signed this letter are not – is it your suspicion that they are not interested in any deal?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speak on their behalf. I think this type of step doesn’t show support for our efforts to achieve a deal.

QUESTION: Do you think they have been highly influenced by the speech made by the Israeli prime minister last week?

MS. PSAKI: I encourage you – it sounds like you need to get yourself to the Senate and ask them some questions.

QUESTION: But Madam, are you —

MS. PSAKI: I think we need to move on, because we have a limited amount of time here, I think, because of – for – to be responsive to the request. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Do you have any update on Ambassador Lippert?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Ambassador Lippert – you may have seen he gave a press conference when he came out of the hospital this morning. I can – I’m happy to touch on some of the points that he made during that. He obviously thanked the South Korean Government. He thanked the doctors. He has been – his heart has been warmed by the outpouring of support from the people of South Korea. That’s what he spoke to. He didn’t give an indication of when he’d return, but obviously, we’re pleased to see that he’s home with his family and will continue his recovery.

QUESTION: Jen —

QUESTION: Can you tell us about (inaudible)? Can you tell us about any additional security measures taken to protect the ambassador since the attack?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into specifics. I think we have said that we’ve been working with the South Korean Government to make sure he has the security that he needs.

QUESTION: And getting to the topic of the press conference that shortly will be held in New York —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — that is, to the emails. I’m wondering if you were able to get an answer to the question yesterday and from before about whether the servers had been checked to make sure that – no answer to that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on the server. I have a couple of other updates, but go ahead.

QUESTION: There was – okay. Well, there was a report this morning that this vetting or that this review of the emails that you all are going to have to do of this 55,000 pages is going to cost millions and millions of dollars. Is that accurate?

MS. PSAKI: It is not accurate. The cost and work of reviewing Secretary Clinton’s emails for release would’ve been roughly the same regardless of whether she had a state.gov email or a personal email and regardless of where her email was housed. The story said, of course, millions that’s – the cost and work would have had to be done regardless, because you’d have to review these documents as part of a FOIA process, so —

QUESTION: So, in fact, it will cost millions, it’s just not – it wouldn’t cost any more than what it would have had it been a state.gov —

MS. PSAKI: Millions – I don’t have a cost estimate for you. I don’t anticipate we would, but millions is far outstated regardless.

But I think the important point here – one other point – is that this is – has generally been a paper process, so the review paper-wise, which is one of the points made in the story, is generally how any FOIA process would be done.

QUESTION: So the – are you suggesting, then, that her office handing over the emails in large boxes of paper, aside from any environmental concerns this current Secretary might have about that, that is standard – that’s how this stuff is usually done?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: I mean, doesn’t that seem to be a waste of a lot of —

MS. PSAKI: Paper? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Paper and man/woman power, having to go through and sort – I mean, look, paper cuts – there are all sorts of risks here. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Paper cuts is a risk.

QUESTION: Wouldn’t it make more sense to have this stuff on an electronic database that’s easily searchable?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there is some long precedent here for how this is done. I’m not saying that this is how it will always be done. As you know, we are updating – the entire government is updating how they do many, many processes.

QUESTION: Well, right, but —

MS. PSAKI: But one – well, let me just make one point. There is some desire at times when people request FOIAs – and I’m sure there are some people in here who have submitted FOIA requests – to see the original documents and notes that may have been made and things along those lines, and so there is some history here in terms of why, but it’s traditionally been a paper process. Whether or not it should be, that’s a larger question.

QUESTION: Right. Well, maybe it would be both, which doesn’t exactly save the paper, but at least people can search and more quickly, presumably, take – would take much less time.

MS. PSAKI: Your point is a valid point.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: What I was trying to convey is that this is how it’s typically been done, so —

QUESTION: All right. And then last one from me on this: Democratic members of the House – the Select Committee on Benghazi have written – asked Secretary Kerry to expedite the release – or the review and the release of the 300 emails that were relevant to – that you turned over. And I’m just wondering if you have a response to that.

MS. PSAKI: So that is consistent with what we have been discussing internally. Let me just give you just a brief update on kind of where we are. We’ll review the entire 55,000-page set and release in one batch at the end of that review to ensure that standards are consistently applied throughout the entire 55,000 pages. We said we expect the review to take several months. Obviously, that hasn’t changed. The release will be posted on a publicly available website. I will have more information about that hopefully soon.

The only documents from that 55,000 pages that we will review for a separate earlier release are the approximately 300 emails already produced to the Select Committee. Those will be reviewed and released prior to completion of the entire set. Those will also, of course, be posted and made publicly available online.

QUESTION: So in other words, even if you haven’t filed a FOIA request, you’re going to be able to see these – you’re going to put them up publicly anyway so anyone can see them?

MS. PSAKI: The 300 page – all of them?

QUESTION: No – well, both.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. They’ll be publicly available.

QUESTION: All – not just the Benghazi ones?

MS. PSAKI: We’re just using FOIA standards. Yes. We’re using FOIA standards, but they’ll be publicly available.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you have any idea – I realize that it might be hard for 55,000 pages for you to have an estimate of how much time it will take to go through them by hand, but on 300, it seems a little bit easier. I mean, are we talking weeks?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s 900 pages, which is the 300 emails. It is shorter than 55,000 technically —

QUESTION: By —

MS. PSAKI: — by mathematics. I don’t have —

QUESTION: Technically, but actually —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an estimate on that particular piece. I can check and see if there’s more specificity.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Let me just add one more thing, and I think Brad asked this last week. Specific FOIA redaction criteria has included and would include, since we’re following the same standards, national security, personal privacy, privilege, and trade secrets among others. As per our regular process, we will identify the basis for any redactions. And that’s, I think, something that Brad asked about last week.

QUESTION: And just one last thing.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you know, did anyone ask – given the amount, the volume of this, did you all ask for a electronic version of it as well as the paper?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe so, Matt. I think this has been handled in a specific way for some time.

Go ahead, Justin.

QUESTION: And those were the announcement – you just read the updates that you mentioned, right?

MS. PSAKI: Those are, I believe, the updates —

QUESTION: You said you had updates.

MS. PSAKI: — that I have, yes.

QUESTION: Okay. One of the things we expect Secretary Clinton to say today was that Colin Powell did it too essentially, that he used a private email account. And in fact, his people have said that that account has been shut down for some time, and they suggested that they don’t really have access to it. So my question is: Are you satisfied with the records-keeping job that Secretary Powell has done and with the documents that he’s handed over to you, per your last request?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me give you a quick update – actually, this is another update on former secretaries. Also we intend to – I think some have asked about the letter sent to secretaries. We intend to release that as well, the text of that letter, so hopefully soon. Former Secretary Rice – I’m just going to go through all of them if that’s okay – responded to the Department’s letter and informed us that she did not use personal email for official business. Early in March of this year, General Powell advised – and I think he’s spoken to this publicly as well – that he used a personal email account during his tenure as Secretary of State. He did not take any hard copies of emails with him when he left office and has no record of the emails, with the account he used having been closed for a number of years. Former Secretary Albright advised that she did not use email as secretary and has no records in her possession.

I think we are all aware, broadly speaking, that email is an imperfect process, and obviously, we have taken and we will continue to undertake steps consistent with national standards to update what we’re doing in the federal government. And I have spoken to in the past what Secretary Kerry is doing and how we preserve and archive his emails and his documents, and that reflects our commitment to doing that. But clearly, there were more technological changes prior to our efforts to do this.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, The Washington Post reported this morning that a Foreign Affairs Manual update dated October 30th, 1995 mentions the emergence of something called “electronic mail,” and it noted that all employees must be —

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) That brings us all back, doesn’t it?

QUESTION: — yeah, it does; you’re right – and that all employees must be aware that these are important and, quote, “must be preserved.” So to say that it’s an imperfect thing and that he didn’t know what he was doing and they’re all gone now —

MS. PSAKI: Well, but —

QUESTION: — that doesn’t – I mean, they knew in 1995 that they had something here worth keeping.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Justin, with all due respect, I don’t have from 20 years ago the FAM —

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: — nor do I think that’s exactly a silver bullet. I think we’re talking about how former secretaries archived their emails and the challenge of doing so. Certainly —

QUESTION: Are you satisfied with the way Powell archived his emails?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly we respect the fact that former Secretary Powell responded to our request and looked through what was possible, and we’re going to move forward.

QUESTION: What was it? A silver bullet? (Laughter.) Are you accusing one or several former secretaries of state of being werewolves or something? I mean, what is – what does that – (laughter) – I mean —

MS. PSAKI: I’m referring to Justin’s quote from The Washington Post.

QUESTION: Well, what you’re saying – what he —

QUESTION: Well, no. I think he was quoting the FAM. Weren’t you?

QUESTION: I was quoting the FAM.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: And essentially what you’re saying is ignorance of the law is justifiable. And —

MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all what I’m suggesting, Justin. I’m suggesting you’re referring to a line – I don’t have the FAM from 20 years ago in front of me – from one report. I don’t have the FAM in front of me. I can certainly check and see if there were certain policies, if there were regulations. The FAM is not a regulation; it’s recommendations. So suggesting that a line saying that you should be cognizant of your email is indicative of somebody violating something I don’t think is a direct connection.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: But just following up on the question that I asked yesterday —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — about the FAM, and not necessarily —

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: — regarding emails, but about the whole thing, the whole voluminous FAM.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Everyone who works for this building, from the Secretary on down, is – every employee, including the Secretary, whoever that is, is – “bound” may be not the right – is supposed to follow the guidelines in that. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, you make an effort to follow the guidelines. Yes, absolutely.

QUESTION: Well, making an effort is not the same as following them. And I recognize that it’s not a law, but it is policy, and guidelines —

MS. PSAKI: They’re guidelines for the entire Department.

QUESTION: But everyone is expected to follow them.

MS. PSAKI: They’re guidelines for the entire Department.

QUESTION: And —

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, there’s – the FAM is a large document. So —

QUESTION: Change of subject?

QUESTION: I just want to understand something here. So it is a guideline and not a law.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Does that – doesn’t that leave a great room of discretion or latitude for employees to do whatever they want?

MS. PSAKI: No, it doesn’t. It’s very specifically written. But I think it’s important to differentiate between a guideline and a law.

Go ahead, Lesley. New topic?

QUESTION: Change of – yeah, new topic.

QUESTION: One thing.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure, Elliot. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wanted to clarify on the 300 emails.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are those going to be released publicly at the same time that they’re transferred to the Select Committee on —

MS. PSAKI: They’ve already been transferred to the Select Committee.

QUESTION: Oh, they have. Okay. Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, a couple weeks ago. So this would be about publicly releasing them, which requires sort of a certain type of review.

QUESTION: Got it. Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, does the State Department have a comment on Myanmar’s violence?

QUESTION: Can I follow up on (inaudible) though?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. And then we’ll go to Lesley.

QUESTION: Yeah, I had a —

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: When Secretary Clinton needed to communicate classified information, how did she do it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, I would let Secretary Clinton and her team speak to that. I think they have spoken to or we have spoken to the fact that this is an unclassified email that was used here. There are many ways to get classified information, and many secretaries get them through paper. So I don’t have any more of an update for you. I’d point you to Secretary Clinton.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I have a – in her book Hard Choices, Mrs. Clinton has said that she used – she fell in love with her iPad. When she was Secretary of State, do you know if she used her iPad for —

MS. PSAKI: I was not working here at the time, so I would certainly point you to Secretary Clinton and her team on whether she used an iPad and what she used it for.

QUESTION: Can I —

MS. PSAKI: Another email question, or —

QUESTION: No.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, well let’s go to Lesley, and then we’ll go to you.

QUESTION: So a Myanmar – do you have a comment on the violence? Myanmar police beat students, monks, journalists calling for academic freedom. Any comment on that? And where does the U.S. stand?

MS. PSAKI: The protests, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: We urge the Government of Burma to respect the right of protestors to assemble peacefully as a means of expressing their views. Freedom of assembly is an important component of any democratic society. We condemn the use of force taken against peaceful protestors. We are deeply concerned by reports of violence by police and other individuals against protestors and journalists in Letpadan. We are deeply concerned by the reports of arrests and will continue to closely monitor the situation.

To your second question, we are, of course, in regular contact with the Government of Burma. We’ve repeatedly called on all parties to exercise restraint at this point. We are speaking to all the relevant parties and our international partners to ascertain the specific cause of the clashes, and we’re also working to confirm the number of individuals arrested and injured.

QUESTION: Thanks.

QUESTION: Another subject?

MS. PSAKI: Nicolas, go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can we go to Sharm el-Sheikh?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Apart from meeting with President Sisi, you announced yesterday —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — are you aware of further additional meetings between Secretary Kerry and other leaders? Palestinian sources said this morning that you would be meeting with President Abbas.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I expect there will be, and we’re still finalizing those details. Let me see if there’s anything that we – is finalized that we can get around to you about additional meetings beyond the conference he’s going there for.

QUESTION: Related to the (inaudible) meeting with Abbas —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Today King Abdullah, one of your allies, spoke to the European parliament in Strasburg, and he said that putting off or deferring the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict only adds fuel to the extremists and so on, all that rhetoric that he uses. Do you agree with him?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we’ve said many times in the past that the lack of a peace agreement provides or allows for a vacuum that often is filled by other sources. So I think that’s consistent. I’d have to look at his comments, though, Said.

QUESTION: Yeah. He also said that the time has come (inaudible). I mean he’s sort of underscoring a line of urgency, so to speak.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, we all feel an urgency. We see an urgency, but as you know, there’s an election going on in Israel, and it’s up to the two parties to determine whether they’re willing to take the steps to move forward. Let’s go ahead.

QUESTION: On Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Thank you. Today – oh, sorry. Yesterday, Senators Corker and Menendez asked the Administration to submit a report to Congress on plans to provide in defense lethal assistance to the Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: The Freedom Support Act report?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The deadline was February 15th, but it probably wasn’t submitted to Congress. So do you have any schedule for sending it to Congress?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the reports are currently undergoing an interagency review. We’re committed to delivering these reports to Congress as soon as possible. The situation – as you know, because we discuss this in here almost every day – is extremely fluid. We want to ensure that Congress has the most complete and up-to-date information, so we hope to submit that soon.

QUESTION: And could you clarify what agency is in charge of doing the report? Is it White House, State Department —

MS. PSAKI: Well, the – President Obama delegated to the State Department certain reporting requirements in the Ukraine Freedom Support Act, but there are several agencies who weigh in on the content.

QUESTION: And another question. Yesterday, the president of European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, expressed – there was a publication when he called for creation of European army – European Union army.

MS. PSAKI: European Union arming Ukraine?

QUESTION: No, in Europe.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, arming —

QUESTION: As a —

QUESTION: No, an (inaudible) army –

QUESTION: — armed force of Europe.

QUESTION: — for the EU.

MS. PSAKI: An army for the European Union. Oh, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry. I was misunderstanding what you were saying. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah.

QUESTION: So (inaudible).

QUESTION: Do you have any comments on that?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the EU. No, I don’t —

QUESTION: I thought they have NATO.

QUESTION: No, but many of European Union countries are members of NATO, and the United States has legal obligations —

MS. PSAKI: I understand. I don’t think we’ve seen the EU countries speak to that, though.

QUESTION: Venezuela?

MS. PSAKI: Venezuela? Sure.

QUESTION: Yesterday, President Maduro had a three-hour speech in which he charged that the United States and President Obama particularly had mentioned the seven names and that was a clear signal that he wants to oust – to bring his government down, and as a response named the – one of the seven, the intelligence chief as minister of the interior, justice, and peace. Your reaction to that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say the sanctions that we announced yesterday are directed at individuals – human rights abusers and corrupt individuals, not the Venezuelan people or the economy. There are specific reasons why each of those individuals under the executive order were sanctioned. The United States remains an important trading partner, is actually Venezuela’s largest trading partner, and despite the statements to the contrary from Venezuelan officials, we are not promoting instability in Venezuela. Rather we believe respect for democratic norms and human rights is the best guarantee of Venezuela’s stability. Hence our executive order. So allegations that these actions are an attempt to undermine the Venezuelan Government are false. The goal of these sanctions is to persuade the Government of Venezuela to change their behavior.

Let me touch on one thing, because I think somebody asked it yesterday. It came up on the background call, which is the specifics of the language used in the fact sheet that stated that this was a national emergency. I think it’s important for everybody to understand – I think Elliot asked this yesterday if I remember – that this is how we describe the process of naming sanctions, and there are 20 to 30 other sanctions programs we have. So if you look at similar fact sheets – I understand people look at the context of what’s happening on the ground, but it’s consistent with how we announce and how we describe putting sanctions and putting these executive orders in place.

QUESTION: There’s another angle here. President Maduro is using this action by the President as an excuse to ask today and probably will get special powers, like President Chavez did several years ago, to allow him to do anything he wants to. And he’ll probably get that today.

MS. PSAKI: I haven’t seen those announcements. I think our view, obviously, continues to be that he needs to spend more time listening to the views of the Venezuelan people. So that’s what we would recommend.

QUESTION: The – one more?

MS. PSAKI: Anymore on Venezuela before we continue?

QUESTION: The —

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The charge d’affaires, Maximilian Arvelaez, was called today by the minister of the exterior, Delcy Rodriguez. Do you have any readout on the meeting, what they talked about?

MS. PSAKI: The recall of the charge back to Venezuela or another meeting are you referring to?

QUESTION: Another meeting, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any readout of that. We’ve been having ongoing discussions about their desire to have a dialogue about our presence in Venezuela. I don’t have any specific readouts, though.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s go to —

QUESTION: I’ve got another one on this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Cuban state press is saying today that Fidel Castro penned a letter to President Maduro congratulating him for his, quote, “brilliant and valiant speech in the face of U.S. brutal plans.” First of all, do you have a reaction to that? And could this kind of rhetoric affect ongoing talks between the U.S. and Cubans?

MS. PSAKI: Discussions on the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba will continue as planned, so no, we do not. On the first part, I think I would go back to what I stated about our intention here. It’s not promoting unrest in Venezuela, as was suggested in the speech, or undermining Venezuela’s economy or its government. It’s making clear and sending a strong message about how – about the fact that we don’t accept human rights abusers, corrupt officials – it’s the sanctioning of seven individuals and giving the President the authority to do more as needed.

QUESTION: So there’s no —

QUESTION: So you

Secretary's Remarks: Remarks at the 28th Session of the Human Rights Council

Let me start by thanking the Council’s president, Joachim Rucker, for convening this session. And I particularly appreciate the opportunity to be here at such an extraordinarily important time not only for the future of this body, but for human rights around the globe. President Obama believes deeply in the mission of the Human Rights Council, and he recognizes the importance of engagement – U.S. engagement; other engagement – and leadership within the organization. He made the decision to re-engage shortly after he became President because he knew it is vital for the United States and for allies to have a seat at the table as the HRC sets its priorities and implements its agenda.

The moral standard that summons us all here and unites us in common action does not belong to any one nation or continent. The fundamental struggle for dignity has been a driving force in all human history worldwide, and what drives us are a set of universal values and aspirations. We in America know well that even in our own journey, there is still more work to be done. We also know that it is because of the courage and commitment of citizens in each generation that the United States has come closer and still works to always live up to its founding ideals. Our journey has not been without great difficulty or, at times, contradiction. But I think we can fairly say that we have dared to discuss these challenges openly and hold ourselves accountable, including through our free press and unyielding commitment to protecting freedom of expression. And even as we acknowledge the challenges of our history and those that we continue to face today, I can say, I think safely, I don’t know any other country that has worked harder to promote human rights than the United States of America. And we are proud of that.

President Obama and I support the HRC for a simple reason: We believe in its mission and its possibilities. We know that at best this council can be a valuable means for reminding every nation of its commitments and obligations and holding countries accountable when they fail to meet international standards. It can help countries to respond successfully to respond to domestic human rights challenges, as we’ve seen firsthand in Cote d’Ivoire and elsewhere, and advance global norms like LGBT rights. It provides a means for self-evaluation on the part of individual nations, including through the universal periodic review process. And we have seen this type of self-examination and engagement with the international community actually produce real process on the ground.

And, of course, the HRC can play a critical role in shaping the global response to situations where human rights violations have reached levels that stagger the imagination and shock the conscience. And sadly, that is the case in far too many countries today. In parts of the Middle East and Africa, violent extremists have made it clear that not only do they have zero regard for human rights, they have zero regard for human life, period. We’ve seen groups like Daesh burn human beings alive, barbarically behead prisoners, sell girls into slavery, and execute widely and indiscriminately. And recently, the UN reported the horrifying ways that Daesh treats even its most vulnerable captives: crucifying children, burying children alive, hand-picking mentally challenged children to serve as suicide bombers and kill even more innocent people. Almost every week brings new examples of just how far the evil of these groups reaches.

But we also know that the best antidote to violent (inaudible) – best ally is civil society, that activists, journalists, community organizers, critical thinkers, all of whom reject extreme ideologies while showing people a way to express hopes and grievances peacefully. So it is especially troubling that so many people in so many places are facing grotesque restrictions on their freedoms and rights from their own governments, including in some cases their right to life.

In Syria, those who escape the horrific attacks of extremist thugs do so only to face a brutal dictator who gasses his own people, starves them as a weapon of war, and continues to barrage them with barrel bombs that fall on their schools, their hospitals, their mosques, their children and women indiscriminately. Anyone who has seen the images will never forget them – in the images of the Caesar photos, maimed bodies, people with their eyes gouged out, emaciated prisoners. It defies anybody’s sense of humanity.

In North Korea, tens of thousands of people live as virtual slaves in 2015. There is no freedom of expression, worship, or political dissent. Kim Jong Un executes those who disagree with him, purging his country of anyone he knows or imagines to be disloyal. For decades, the government has subjugated its citizens, starving them, torturing them, incarcerating them, or worse. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives.

And then there’s the crisis in Ukraine, and here I urge the council: Look at the facts. Do not allow yourselves to be misled. In Crimea and in the separatist-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine, men, women, and children are being killed. They’re being tortured, they’re being raped and sexually assaulted, detained arbitrarily, abducted for ransom, forced into labor, prosecuted and persecuted because of who they are and where they worship. And that is what is happening, and it’s up to the HRC to shed light on it and to help to hold accountable those who violate those human rights.

The bottom line is that too many people in too many places are facing unbearable realities. We cannot accept that – we, all of us collectively – and we do not accept that. And this council, working with governments across the globe, can help to create a future that is much brighter than the present or the past. I believe it is fair to say that we are already making historic progress, gains. And I’m proud to say that since 2009, the United States has been privileged to join with many of you and work hard in order to achieve those gains. Consider the unprecedented resolutions this council has passed to respond to threats facing civil society, to better protect the human rights of LGBT persons, to promote freedom of religion and freedom of expression, including through resolution 16/18. Consider the indispensable role the HRC has played in encouraging leaders to live up to their promises and commitments in countries such as Burma and Sri Lanka, where there are opportunities for real change. Consider the mountain of evidence we’ve compiled detailing horrific human rights abuses by government forces and terrorists in Syria.

The wheels of justice may not turn as rapidly as all of us would wish, but the foundation for establishing justice is being prepared. Consider how the Commission of Inquiry created by this council changed the conversation regarding the DPRK’s appalling record on human rights. As a result of the COI’s conclusions, the Security Council put the DPRK on its agenda, a clear condemnation of what is happening in the country and an important acknowledgment of the link between human rights and international security and peace. And consider the great work of the special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, which spotlighted violations there. Make no mistake, these are all significant accomplishments. The more the international community understands about specific human rights violations, the greater the pressure will be on bad actors to change course. And eventually – not always overnight, but eventually – that pressure often translates into the kind of change that saves lives and expands freedom.

My government believes that together we can continue to make progress and help this body fulfill its mandate to make the world a better and safer place. But for that to happen, we have to get serious about addressing roadblocks to our own progress. And the most obvious roadblock, I have to say to you, is self-inflicted. I’m talking, of course, about HRC’s deeply concerning record on Israel. No one in this room can deny that there is an unbalanced focus on one democratic country. No other nation has an entire agenda item set aside to deal with it. Year after year, there are five or six separate resolutions on Israel. This year, there was a resolution sponsored by President Assad concerning the Golan. How, I ask, is that a sensible priority at the very moment when refugees from Syria are flooding into the Golan to escape Assad’s murderous rule and receive treatment from Israeli physicians in Israeli hospitals?

It must be said that the HRC’s obsession with Israel actually risks undermining the credibility of the entire organization. It has the potential to limit the good that we have to do. No one should doubt for a second that the United States will measure these things, I hope, fairly and dispassionately, but we will oppose any effort by any group or participant in the UN system to arbitrarily and regularly delegitimize or isolate Israel, not just in the HRC but wherever it occurs. When it comes to human rights, no country on earth should be free from scrutiny, but neither should any country be subject to unfair or unfounded bias.

My friends, the United States absolutely remains deeply committed to this important mission, and we certainly intend to remain deeply involved in the HRC, which is why we are running for reelection. When the stakes are as high as they are today – and believe me, they could not be higher – when people in every corner of the globe are denied the rights that they deserve, the HRC must live up to the standards upon which it was created. Together, we have to be the voice for those who are silenced by their leaders. We have to be a ray of light for those who spend their days locked away without cause, many times in anonymity, in dark and dank cells somewhere in the world. We have to be the source of hope for those who fear that their suffering may never end or never even be recognized. This is the kind of organization – this council – that the world desperately needs. But it needs us, all of us, to dare greatly and to live up to the highest standards. And this is the kind of organization that, when it does that, can help all of our nations live up to the ideals that we share. Thank you. (Applause.)

Press Releases: Remarks at a Press Availability

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, good afternoon, everybody, and thank you. And I apologize for keeping you waiting for a few minutes.

A little while ago, as I think you know, I had the opportunity to address the UN Human Rights Council here in Geneva. And since the United States made the decision to re-engage on the council, we have worked hard to try to drive a number of significant steps to be able to bring new levels of international attention to some of the world’s most egregious human rights violations, and also to focus on some of the worst abusers – particularly, obviously, we have focused on North Korea and Syria.

We’ve also worked hard to try to create new mechanisms that explore and address serious human rights infringements on the freedom of assembly, expression, and religion, and the rights of LGBT people. And as many of you know, just the other day, I had the privilege of making the appointment for Randy Berry as the first special envoy for global LGBT rights for the State Department.

Because of the important progress that we have seen over the course of the past five years, the United States very much continues to believe in the potential of the Human Rights Council, and we’re dedicated to try to work for its success. At the same time, however, as I mentioned earlier, we recognize that there are places where it needs to improve, and most notably, as I cited earlier, has been the excessive bias, in our judgment, on one country, on Israel. So we wanted to make it clear today that we think that that is an impediment that stands in the way of the progress that should be achieved here when we look at the wide array of the world’s ills and the many challenges that we need to speak out on with respect to human rights.

I made it clear that the United States will oppose any effort by any group or any participant to abuse the UN system in order to delegitimize or isolate Israel. And we think it’s important that for the right – for the council to be able to achieve the breadth of goals that it is faced with – the breadth of the – to address the breadth of the challenges that it currently faces, it really needs to break out of an older mold and begin to put the time and energy and major focus on some of those most egregious situations. And that is really what has happened within the Council over the course of the last five years, particularly if you look at the commission of inquiry work that has been done with respect to the DPRK and other work it has done.

I also met this morning with Foreign Minister Lavrov. And we spent a fair amount of time discussing Syria, Ukraine, ISIS, and Iran. I reiterated the urgency of Russia’s leaders and the separatists that they back implementing the full measure of the commitments under the Minsk agreements and to implement them everywhere, including in Debaltseve, outside Mariupol, and in other key strategic areas. And I underscored this morning that if that does not happen, if there continue to be these broad swaths of noncompliance, or there continues to be a cherry-picking as to where heavy equipment will be moved back from without knowing where it’s been moved to, or if the OSCE is not able to adequately be able to gain the access necessary, then there would be inevitably further consequences that will place added strain on Russia’s already troubled economy. Now, obviously, Ukraine is just one of the issues, as I mentioned, that we focused on. And it’s only one of the issues, frankly, on which the United States and Russia together are focused.

This morning, Foreign Minister Lavrov and I also spoke at some length about Syria. The situation in Syria actually grows worse, if that’s possible for people to imagine. Almost three-quarters of the entire country is now displaced people – half of them refugees in mostly Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, but many of them displaced within the country and unable to move because of ISIL, Daesh, al-Nusrah, the regime, or some other extremist group.

So we spoke at length about steps that might be able to be taken in order to try to see if there is a potential of common ground. And we agreed that there is no military solution; we agreed there is a need for a political solution; and we agreed on the need of those countries who have been supporting people in this endeavor, in this conflict, to be able to search yet again to see whether or not there is a path either to Geneva 1 or to some hybrid or some means of ending the violence. And one of the things that drives that interest, that common interest, is the reality of Daesh, the reality of what is happening to Syria as a result of the presence of Daesh there and its use of Syria as a base for spreading its evil to other places.

We also talked about the Iran nuclear negotiations, where we are, together with the other P5+1 members – where we are all focused simultaneously on the need to elicit from Iran answers to questions about their nuclear program – not just answers for today, but answers that are capable of lasting well into the future in order to be able to provide people with a confidence that the program is, indeed, a peaceful nuclear program.

We continue to believe, all the members of the P5+1, that the best way to deal with the questions surrounding this nuclear program is to find a comprehensive deal, but not a deal that comes at any cost, not a deal just for the purpose of a deal; a deal that meets the test of providing the answers and the guarantees that are needed in order to know that the four pathways to a nuclear bomb have been closed off. And that is the task. And we hope it is possible to get there, but there is no guarantee.

Sanctions alone are not going to provide that solution. What needs to happen is that Iran needs to provide a verifiable set of commitments that its program is in fact peaceful. And that average people and experts alike looking at that verifiable set of commitments have confidence that they are sustainable, that they are real, and that they will provide the answers and guarantees well into the future.

Any deal must close every potential pathway that Iran has towards fissile material, whether it’s uranium, plutonium, or a covert path. The fact is only a good, comprehensive deal in the end can actually check off all of those boxes.

Now, I want to be clear about two things. Right now, no deal exists, no partial deal exists. And unless Iran is able to make the difficult decisions that will be required, there won’t be a deal. Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. That is the standard by which this negotiation is taking place, and anyone who tells you otherwise is simply misinformed.

Now, we are concerned by reports that suggest selective details of the ongoing negotiations will be discussed publicly in the coming days. I want to say clearly that doing so would make it more difficult to reach the goal that Israel and others say they share in order to get a good deal. Israel’s security is absolutely at the forefront of all of our minds, but frankly, so is the security of all the other countries in the region, so is our security in the United States. And we are very clear that as we negotiate with Iran, if we are able to reach the kind of deal that we’re hoping for, then it would have to be considered in its entirety and measured against alternatives.

Second – I cannot emphasize this enough. I have said this from the first moment that I become engaged in this negotiating process, President Obama has said this repeatedly: We will not accept a bad deal. We have said no deal is better than a bad deal, because a bad deal could actually make things less secure and more dangerous. Any deal that we would possibly agree to would make the international community, and especially Israel, safer than it is today. That’s our standard. So our team is working very hard to close remaining gaps, to reach a deal that ensures Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively and verifiably peaceful, and we have made some progress, but we still have a long way to go and the clock is ticking.

That’s why I will leave here momentarily to head to Montreux to meet with Foreign Minister Zarif and continue the negotiations. And in the days and weeks ahead, we’re going to answer a very simple question. We’re going to find out whether or not Iran is willing to make the hard choices that are necessary to get where we need to be. I’m happy to take a few of your questions.

MS. PSAKI: Michael Gordon, New York Times. Right over here.

QUESTION: Sir, Minister Lavrov asserted in his address that the ceasefire in Ukraine was being consolidated, but you made clear that Russia cannot expect to consolidate its gains in Debaltseve and avoid economic sanctions. Did Minister Lavrov offer you any assurances that Russia would arrange for the separatists to pull back from Debaltseve? And how long is the Obama Administration prepared to wait before imposing those additional sanctions you’ve been talking about? And did he have any response to your assertion to Congress last week that Russians have lied to your face?

And lastly, you’re meeting shortly with Foreign Minister Zarif on the Iran issues. You told Congress last week that you hoped to know soon, “whether or not Iran is willing to put together an acceptable and verifiable plan.” What do you need to hear from Mr. Zarif today, and what do you need to get done over the next three days to stay on track for the framework accord? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Michael, first of all regarding Russia, it’s clear from the conversations that I’ve had with President Poroshenko as well as with Foreign Minister Lavrov, and the conversations that we’ve had in Washington in the aftermath of the Minsk negotiations, that there was not a clarity with respect to Debaltseve, which we obviously saw play out in the drama of the soldiers who were left there and who were fighting and who eventually fought their way out, with many being killed. What is critical here is that the maps that were agreed to show several different areas of drawback on both sides from the line of contact and according to the size of the weapon, the gauge of a particular weapon, they have to pull back different amounts.

Right now, the OSCE has complained to us, at least, that they have not been granted full access to be able to make those judgments, and particularly the end zones as to where items that have been withdrawn have actually been placed, whether they’ve been placed there or not.

So there’s been a kind of cherry picking, a piecemeal selectivity to the application of the Minsk agreements. And as we all know, shooting, shelling has still been going on and people have still been killed over the course of these last days. So there is not yet a full ceasefire, and it’s extremely difficult for the full measure of the Minsk agreement, which includes a political component, to begin to be implemented until you actually have the full measure of security that comes with OSCE monitoring and an actual ceasefire. So our hope is that in the next hours, certainly not more than days, this will be fully implemented. I might add, a convoy that came through from Russia passed across the border into the eastern part of Ukraine without being properly inspected also.

So these are the issues I raised with the foreign minister. He assured me that they are intent on seeing to it that the accord – that the agreements are, in fact, implemented. He said he would get back to me with respect to a number of the issues that I raised. And our hope is, indeed, that this will prove to be a road to further de-escalation rather than a road to disappointment, potential deception, and further violence. But that’s going to have to play out, obviously, over the course of the next few days. So I’m very hopeful that it will, in fact, be the start of a change which would be an improvement for everybody.

With respect to Iran, I really just articulated – I just said it – France doesn’t have to answer questions here, Germany doesn’t have to answer questions here, Great Britain doesn’t have to, China doesn’t, Russia doesn’t, the United States doesn’t. We’re not the ones who have been pursuing a program outside of international norms. Iran has posed the questions over the course of time sufficient to invite United Nations sanctions, United Nations Security Council resolution, and IAEA outstanding questions. Iran needs to answer those questions and Iran needs to give confidence to the world that its many articulations of a peaceful program can have the confidence of verification. Every arms agreement in history has been subject to verification to clear levels of access and knowledge and insight, transparency, that allow people to be able to measure that program.

And one of the reasons I make it clear to people that we’re not going to accept a bad deal is because we know that whatever agreement is reached here doesn’t suddenly get stuffed in a drawer and put away and disappear to be implemented; it is going to be scrutinized by people all over the world – leaders of countries, scientists, nuclear experts, every NGO involved in nonproliferation – not to mention, obviously, all the countries in the region most affected by the choices we are making, and all of the members of the United States Congress House and Senate.

This is going to be highly judged and we’re aware of that, and frankly, we would be either – well, I’m not going to – we just – we’re not about to jump into something that we don’t believe can get the job done. Now, there may be disagreements; if somebody believes that any kind of program is wrong, then we have a fundamental disagreement. And clearly, sanctions are not going to eliminate just any kind of program. You can’t bomb knowledge into oblivion unless you kill everybody. You can’t bomb it away. People have a knowledge here. The question is: Can you provide an adequate level of the management of intrusive inspections; structured, tough requirements; limitations; all the insights necessary to be able to know to a certainty that the program is, in fact, peaceful?

That’s what the IAEA was set up to be there for, that’s what the NPT is, that’s what the additional protocol – the NPT is. There are all kinds of tested components of this. This isn’t happening at first blush. This has been in effect for a long time with a lot of countries, and there are ways to be able to make certain that a program is peaceful and the test – what we’re looking for in the next days, Michael, is adequate satisfaction that this program is, in fact, going to be complying with its own promises, that it is a purely peaceful nuclear program.

MS. PSAKI: Frédéric Koller from Le Temps.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. You just said on Iran that sanctions cannot eliminate problems. And I would like to know – with the Ukrainian situation, it seems the conflict in Ukraine becomes more and more conflict between Russia and Western countries – Russia and United States. And I would like to know how to deal with these problems, knowing that United States threatens now Russia with more sanctions if the Minsk agreement is not implemented. And a few years ago, you were here in the – at the hotel – Intercontinental Hotel, and you started – well, it was Hillary Clinton at the time who started with this reset policy with Russia. What went wrong with Russia? And how to deal now with Russia? Comprehensive agreement somehow is needed between Russia and United States, I guess to deal with —

SECRETARY KERRY: How what? I’m sorry. I missed the last part. How to?

QUESTION: How to deal with Russia. We understand that Russia needs something more to build a new confidence with the United States and Western countries. When we hear Mr. Lavrov this morning at the Human Rights Council, he has very strong statement against United States and its values – it’s kind of clash of values. How to deal with today’s Russia?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, it may be a clash of realities. I don’t see it as a clash of values. It seems to me that on sanctions, there’s a real distinction between sanctions that are calculated to have an impact on a nuclear program which is one set of choices for a particular country, and sanctions which are broadly adopted by many nations because of a violation of a norm of international law and which particularly have an impact on the – particularly have an impact on Russia’s choices at this particular moment, given a lot of other variables like oil prices, other exigencies that Russia faces.

So sanctions have obviously had a significant impact on Russia, and you try to use them in order to make a point about the choices that are available. And in the case of Russia, the ruble has gone down 50 percent, there’s been about $151 billion of capital flight, the bonds of Russia are now judged to be junk bonds, and the economic predictions are that Russia will be going into recession this year. So it’s obviously had a profound impact, but not sufficient that President Putin has decided that he isn’t going to pursue his particular strategy. It may change at some point in the future, but those are the things you have to weigh in deciding what alternative policies you may pursue or what alternative choices may be available.

I suspect that President Putin, as the months go on, is going to have to really weigh those things. And we’ve tried to make it clear to him and particularly to the Russian people we’re not doing this to hurt the people of Russia, we’re not doing this to make life difficult for all Russians. We’re doing this to try to affect the choices that their leaders are making in order to uphold the norms of international law. We’re here in a UN facility, and the United Nations is critical to the upholding of international standards of behavior. And the world has worked hard since World War II to try to adhere to a set of global norms of behavior, particularly with respect to respect for territorial integrity.

One of the cries that came out of the World War II experience was we can’t allow nations to make land grabs running over the territorial integrity of external borders, as we saw in the period leading up to and then during World War II. So we’ve really ingrained in international behavior this notion of the value of international borders and of upholding the sovereignty and integrity of nation states. That sovereignty and integrity has been violated over the course of the last months, and that’s the purpose of the sanctions that we put in place.

But our hope is, obviously, that we can get back to a better place of cooperation with Russia. I personally – I think President Putin misinterprets a great deal of what the United States has been doing and has tried to do. We are not involved in multiple color revolutions, as he asserts, nor are we involved in a particularly personal way here. We are trying to uphold the international law with respect to the sovereignty and integrity of another nation. And others have joined us. The fact is that Europe has the same sense of commitment to this. And our hope is that we can persuade President Putin and Russia that we’re prepared to cooperate with them as soon as they are genuinely prepared to uphold the agreements that they signed and to live by these international standards.

We have happily been able to find cooperation continue on other issues. Russia has been helpful in the context of the P5+1 talks. Russia was extremely engaged and essential in our success in getting chemical weapons out of Syria in the arrangement that we reached right here in Geneva. And we were able to work together to do that. Russia is sitting with us even now, as I discussed with you, and talking about ways we might – might, I underscore – be able to try to make some progress with respect to Syria and with respect to Daesh.

So even in the midst of this major disagreement over Ukraine, we are still finding ways to cooperate together, and I hope that if we can work through Ukraine, we will get back to a place where we are finding more to be able to cooperate on and less to disagree on. And I’m not going to get into resets or non-resets, but I think that sometimes events get in the way of the best-laid policies. But both countries have indicated, I think, a maturity with respect to the willingness to try to find ways to cooperate notwithstanding this fundamental disagreement over Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Unfortunately, we need to get on the road for our next meeting, so this will conclude this press availability. Thank you, everyone.

New Data on Food Waste

A new study shows that reducing consumer food waste could save the global economy up to $300 billion annually by 2030.  “Globally, the food wasted by consumers is worth $400 billion a year, and this could jump to $600 billion in the next decade, as the profligate middle class expands in developing countries, the group said. Cutting the amount of food consumers discard by between 20 and 50 percent could save between $120 and $300 billion yearly by 2030, said the report for the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, an international group chaired by former Mexican President Felipe Calderon.”  (TRF http://yhoo.it/17BwGaW)

ISIS Gets Worse…”In their latest onslaught, Islamic State militants have carried out a relentless campaign in Iraq and Syria this week against what have historically been religiously and ethnically diverse areas with traces of civilizations dating to ancient Mesopotamia.  The latest to face the militants’ onslaught are the Assyrians of northeastern Syria, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, some of whom speak a modern version of Aramaic, the language of Jesus.” (Dallas Morning News http://bit.ly/1ETPkpx)

Africa

Eighteen people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a crowded bus station in northeast Nigeria on Thursday, while a second bomber was shot dead before he could detonate his explosives, witnesses told AFP. http://yhoo.it/1BBNXhR

Fearful villagers have been fleeing their homes in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo as the army pursues Rwandan Hutu rebels in a new offensive, a resident said on Thursday  (AFP http://yhoo.it/1FyWQpN)

Ghana’s President John Dramani Mahama on Thursday promised decisive action to fix the country’s worsening electricity crisis, which has wreaked havoc in the once bourgeoning economy. (AFP http://yhoo.it/17BwGI1)

The head of the Nigerian Army has visited soldiers in the northeastern town of Baga, telling troops that the conflict against Boko Haram will soon be over. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1LKKrRI)

The World Bank is working with other development finance institutions to raise some $500 million to modernize weather and flood forecasting services in Africa. (TRF http://yhoo.it/1BBN217)

Rwandan President Paul Kagame arrives in Paris Friday, his spokeswoman said, but for a UN meeting and is not expected to meet French officials while in the country, which he accuses of complicity in the 1994 genocide. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1LKKtt5)

The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor travelled to Uganda on Thursday following the arrest of a top commander of the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army rebels. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BBNSe3)

Any further delays to Nigeria’s election would be unacceptable and the opposition will take the government to court if the election commission chief is forced out, presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari said on Thursday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FyX0gS)

MENA

The Obama administration’s commitment to take in potentially thousands of Syrian refugees is raising national security concerns among law enforcement officials and some congressional Republicans who fear clandestine radicals could slip into the country among the displaced. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BBLFzx)

How much is a vote worth? In Egypt’s Sadat City – a sprawling, industrial center filled with the young and unemployed – it costs the same as it did under Hosni Mubarak: blankets, sacks of fertilizer and affordable healthcare. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1LKJ2uy)

The number of Christians abducted by the Islamic State group in northeastern Syria has risen to 220 in the past three days, as militants round up more hostages from a chain of villages along a strategic river, activists said Thursday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1LKKoFG)

Yemen’s Shiite rebel leader lashed out at Saudi Arabia on Thursday, accusing it of seeking to split the country following his group’s power grab, as a U.N. envoy met the embattled Yemeni president who has fled the capital, Sanaa. (AP http://yhoo.it/17BvMeC)

The head of UNESCO says she is “deeply shocked” at footage showing Islamic State group militants using sledgehammers to destroy Iraqi artifacts, and she has asked the U.N. Security Council president for an emergency meeting on the protection of Iraq’s cultural heritage. (AP http://yhoo.it/17BwIPW)

Asia

Thailand’s parliament voted overwhelmingly on Thursday in favor of a bill that restricts political demonstrations, something critics fear will be used to smother dissent after martial law is lifted. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BBLELK)

North Korea has told rival South Korea that it plans to unilaterally raise the minimum wage for North Koreans employed by southern companies at a jointly run industrial park starting in March, officials said Thursday. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BBLN1Y)

Almost every Pakistani citizen has a cellphone, but from now on, Big Brother is checking to make sure their name, number and fingerprints are on record. The measures are meant to tighten control of cellphones and avert their use for militant attacks after the Taliban massacre two months ago at a school in Peshawar. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BBLIv3)

The Americas

Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan arrives in Cuba on Thursday to help prod negotiators from the Colombian government and leftist guerrillas to clinch a peace agreement. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1AwUtUH)

Chinese state-owned banks loaned $22.1 billion to Latin American countries last year, helping to keep afloat struggling economies that have been hit hard by a fall in prices for oil, minerals and other commodities that they export, according to new numbers released Thursday by the U.S. think tank the Inter-American Dialogue. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BBN7Sv)

About 10,000 people marched in Haiti’s capital Wednesday to protest what they say is chronic mistreatment of their countrymen in the neighboring Dominican Republic, where many Haitians have long lived in the shadows. (AP http://yhoo.it/1LKIK73)

Just two days ahead of a second round of talks on restoring diplomatic ties frozen for five decades, Cuba and the United States staked out competing demands to ensure progress. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BBLy6Z)

The jubilation that greeted the announcement of U.S.-Cuban detente two months ago has faded to resignation for many Cubans who are realizing they’re at the start of a long process unlikely to ease their daily struggles anytime soon. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BBLAMf)

The full-page ad in Mexico’s national newspapers was unusual, if not unprecedented: 20 powerful business groups and think tanks publicly scolding the government for not doing its job. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BBLC6O)

Spain says it plans to deport 34 top members of violent Latin American street gangs operating in the Spanish capital. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BBMW9M)

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is backing efforts by South American nations to re-launch a dialogue between Venezuela’s government and opposition following new reports of violence. (AP http://yhoo.it/17BwGrt)

Argentina

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed allegations that Argentine President Cristina Fernandez tried to cover-up the involvement of Iranian officials in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center, easing a crisis for her government fed by the death of the prosecutor who brought the case. (AP http://yhoo.it/1FyWY8G)

Argentina’s congress passed a law Thursday creating a new intelligence service after the mysterious death of a prosecutor who had accused the president of a cover-up in his probe of a 1994 bombing targeting Jews. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1LKKCfX)

Argentina named the president’s chief of staff, Anibal Fernandez, as the new Cabinet chief on Thursday in a reshuffle that comes as the government faces a political crisis. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FyWUpv)

…and the rest

Despite stern talk and solemn pledges from NATO, a British-based think tank says some alliance member nations are cutting their spending on defense. (AP http://yhoo.it/1LKKygk)

Opinion/Blogs

Global Dispatches Podcast: What We Know About What We Don’t Know About Development (UN Dispatch http://bit.ly/17BCvFf)

The complex story of India’s job-producing and environment-destroying coal mines (Humanosphere http://bit.ly/1DvnWye)

Five myths about governance and development (World Bank http://bit.ly/1LNx7OD)

Roundup of Recent Writing on the Humanitarian Fallout from Boko Haram (Sahel Blog http://bit.ly/1BCbrUe)

Vulnerable families bear the brunt of Norway’s crackdown on asylum seekers (Guardian http://bit.ly/1BCbRKl)

My Friend Died Last Week – Tax Could Have Saved His Life (From Poverty to Powerhttp://bit.ly/1LNxMPP)

The poverty alert (Economist http://econ.st/1DvnLmM)

Discussion

comments…

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – January 16, 2015

2:07 p.m. EST

MR. RATHKE: Good afternoon, everybody. I imagine many of you were also watching the press availability at the White House, so understand why we’re a little bit late today. I have a couple of things to mention at the top – three, actually, to be precise.

First, Ukraine. It is one year to the day since Ukraine’s former government passed the so-called Black Thursday laws, draconian laws that denied the right to peaceful protest and freedom of speech. Ukraine has come an enormous distance since then to meet its people’s aspirations. And the current government remains committed to advancing important reforms, despite ongoing violence in eastern Ukraine. These steps include last year’s free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections, the signing of an association agreement with the European Union, and a focus on anti-corruption efforts, including this week’s move by Ukraine’s parliament to increase the independence of the judiciary. These are critically important steps to help the country move forward, and we congratulate the people of Ukraine on how far they have come in such a short time, especially on this significant anniversary. And we continue to stand with them as they press forward on critical reforms.

Second item is Libya. We welcome yesterday’s announcement that the UN-led talks in Geneva will continue next week, and we applaud those Libyans who are participating. We reiterate our strong support for this UN effort and urge all parties invited by Special Representative Leon to engage in dialogue aimed at producing a unity government that the international community can support. The United States remains committed to working with the international community to help the Libyan people and the government build an inclusive system of governance to address core needs, to provide stability and security, and to address the ongoing threats.

And then the last item, the Secretary’s travels. As many of you have seen, Secretary Kerry was in Paris today where he met with Foreign Minister Fabius and President Hollande to offer condolences after last week’s attacks. He also laid wreaths at Hypercache Market and the Charlie Hebdo office with Foreign Minister Fabius. And the Secretary also laid a wreath at the site of the fallen policeman near the Charlie Hebdo office. He then met with the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and they both gave remarks. So a very moving day expressing U.S. support and underscoring our deep ties and ongoing, intensive cooperation.

Before leaving Paris, the Secretary met with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif who was also in town for previous scheduled meetings, and they followed up on the ongoing nuclear negotiations in Geneva.

That’s what I have at the top. Brad.

QUESTION: Since you just brought it up, do you have a fuller readout of what the Secretary and Foreign Minister Zarif spoke about?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have a further update on or details on the conversations. Of course, they’ve met a few times this week in Geneva, and then they followed up today. Of course, the focus is on the nuclear talks. I would also highlight, of course, that as we’ve said many times when asked if other topics come up in these conversations, we always mention our concern for American citizens in Iran. And so in that regard, nothing different to report.

QUESTION: So there were already reports from Iran that the Secretary and Mr. Zarif spoke specifically about the Washington Post reporter. Do you know what the Secretary said or what he – what sentiment he —

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have that level of granularity. But of course, we continue to call for his immediate release – that is Jason Rezaian – as well as the immediate release of detained U.S. citizens Saeed Abedini and Amir Hekmati, and for the Iranian Government to assist us in locating Robert Levinson so that all can be returned to their families as soon as possible.

Okay. Anything on that topic?

QUESTION: A follow-up on Iran?

MR. RATHKE: On that topic? Yeah..

QUESTION: You saw the President say today there’s a 50-50 chance of a diplomatic deal. Given the discussions over the – I mean, Paris was the second meeting this week. How would you describe those talks going?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to get into the details of exactly what they discussed. Of course, the Secretary is focused on the Iran nuclear issue, and that’s why he went to Geneva for those to meet with Foreign Minister Zarif. There was an opportunity today because they both happened to be in Paris and so they held another meeting, but I’m not going to characterize further the nature of the discussions.

QUESTION: So this is a matter of taking advantage of —

QUESTION: Any plans —

MR. RATHKE: Just – yeah.

QUESTION: So it was simply a matter of taking advantage of the timing to keep talking? There wasn’t any sense that there was an urgency for this meeting? I mean, people can coincidentally be in the same place and not need to meet.

MR. RATHKE: Right. No, but they both happened to be in Paris. They took the opportunity to meet. I wouldn’t go further beyond that.

QUESTION: Do you know if they said they’d meet again or when they would meet again?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have any details like that. Of course, they’ve met a number of times in the past. But I don’t have anything to preview as far as when the next meeting might be.

QUESTION: Do you have more of a readout on the ongoing discussions in Geneva?

MR. RATHKE: Well, the discussions in Geneva are ongoing, as you say, Roz. There have been bilats over the last couple of days, not only bilateral meetings with Iran but since other P5+1 countries are there, there have been U.S. bilats with other countries that are involved in the process. I don’t have details to read out of those. And then Sunday is the day when there will be a meeting in the P5+1 format. So those are ongoing. I don’t have details to read out from them.

QUESTION: So you’re not able to say whether they’re focused on any particular technical issues or dealing with any reports of efforts to, for example, try to enhance the capability of Bushehr reactor?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have any readout to give from the talks that are ongoing in Geneva.

QUESTION: Can I ask you about Bushehr? Because I asked Wednesday, and I think Marie said at the time that she would look into it. Do you have a response to the talk about two additional reactors coming online at some point?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’re aware that there was an announcement, and so we’re reviewing the details that surround it. I don’t have a specific comment on that. But in general, the construction of light-water reactors is not prohibited by the UN Security Council resolutions, nor is it in contradiction to the JPOA. And we’ve been clear in saying throughout the negotiations that the purpose of these negotiations is to ensure that – to ensure verifiably that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for civilian and peaceful purposes. So the talks that are ongoing are focused on closing off the possible pathways to acquiring a nuclear bomb. That remains our focus. But I don’t have more specific reaction on that particular announcement.

QUESTION: I’m a little confused because – are you saying that a light-water reactor can have no effect on a potential military nuclear program? Because you’re saying that your goal is to close off all pathways, and then you say light-water reactors are essentially okay.

MR. RATHKE: No, I didn’t say that – I didn’t say that it’s okay. I said that it is —

QUESTION: You said it is not —

MR. RATHKE: — not prohibited, not prohibited by the UN Security Council resolutions, nor does it violate the JPOA. That’s —

QUESTION: So you’re not concerned by them increasing their – you’re not concerned by this activity?

MR. RATHKE: I didn’t say that we weren’t concerned. But I said —

QUESTION: Are you concerned by this activity?

MR. RATHKE: What I would say is that the whole purpose of the negotiations with Iran is to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program is exclusively for civilian and peaceful purposes, and that that is verifiable. So I’m not going to get into one part or another of the dialogue happening in the negotiations, but just to reiterate that our point is closing off the pathways to acquire a nuclear bomb. I’m not going to offer a technical —

QUESTION: Hasn’t part of that effort been to —

MR. RATHKE: — analysis of light-water reactors from the podium.

QUESTION: Hasn’t part of that effort been to lower Iran’s enrichment capacity that was seen as a major breakthrough of the JPOA?

MR. RATHKE: Again, I’m not going to get into details of the negotiations —

QUESTION: I haven’t even asked the question yet.

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: I mean, if you —

MR. RATHKE: I can see where you’re going, but go ahead.

QUESTION: If you want to deny that the JPOA was —

MR. RATHKE: Go ahead, finish.

QUESTION: Okay. Doesn’t – I mean, if they’re building two new reactors, wouldn’t that imply that they need more enrichment to feed them?

MR. RATHKE: Well —

QUESTION: I don’t see how this is – you have such a neutral position on this, given that it seems to go against all your efforts.

MR. RATHKE: All I’ve simply outlined is the Security Council resolutions which have certain requirements and are – anyone can read, also the JPOA, that in our view the construction of light-water nuclear reactors is not prohibited by those two documents. That’s separate from saying whether it’s a matter of concern and whether it’s an issue of discussion. I’m not going to get into what’s being discussed in the room either in the bilateral talks with Iran or in the P5+1 talks.

QUESTION: I didn’t ask you that. I mean, I’m only talking about what’s been publicly spoken about by the Iranians, not what’s been conveyed in the room.

MR. RATHKE: Right. And what I’ve said is that we’re aware of the announcement and we’re reviewing the details. So we’re looking at this. I’m not offering a final position on what we think about that announcement. We’re aware of it and we’re reviewing it to understand it better.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

MR. RATHKE: Anything else on Iran?

QUESTION: Yes.

MR. RATHKE: Go ahead.

QUESTION: During this Vibrant Gujarat event where Secretary Kerry was in attendance, there was a delegation led by one of the top advisors of the Iranian president. What is the U.S. view on the cooperation and the business deals that India and Iran are going ahead with? Are they not coming under the sanctions, or we are just turning a blind eye to whatever is going on?

MR. RATHKE: I wouldn’t suggest we’re turning a blind eye to anything. But I’m not familiar with that report. And of course —

QUESTION: It’s not a report but a —

MR. RATHKE: Of course, Vibrant Gujarat was an event organized by the Indian side, so I would refer you to them for any – for any details about participation. But beyond that, I don’t have – I don’t have in front of me an analysis of Iran-India ties, so I don’t have feedback on that.

QUESTION: I’m not asking for the participation. The participation and the – Prime Minister Modi’s pictures with the Iranian guy are all over on his website, on Indian external affairs, everywhere, with the flag of Iran and India behind them. I’m asking that if the – whatever comes out of this meeting and there is a business cooperation that is – do these cooperations falls under the U.S. sanctions, or not?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t know the details of whatever discussions are that you were referring to, Tejinder. So I’m not in a position to analyze them from here. But of course, our – the existing sanctions, both the UN sanctions as well as U.S. sanctions and sanctions by many other partners, remain in effect. That’s part of the JPOA approach. But I’m not going to get into the – into analyzing agreements to which the U.S. Government might not be privy and certainly which I’m not familiar with.

Nicolas.

QUESTION: Can we talk about the aftermath of the attacks in Paris?

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: There have been very serious clashes in Pakistan, Karachi, outside the French consulate. Three people have been injured, including an AFP photographer. One, I’d like to have your reaction to that; two, does the U.S. share the concerns or the anger sometimes of some Muslim populations about these cartoons; and would you advise the French authorities and maybe the publisher of Charlie Hebdo to be super cautious for the circulation and distribution of this newspaper?

MR. RATHKE: Well, with respect to Karachi, we’re aware of these reports. I don’t have any details that I can confirm from here, but we certainly urge all to refrain from violence, exercise restraint, and respect the rule of law. For further details, I would refer you to the Pakistani authorities and to the French Government for details of what precisely happened.

Now on the question of the cartoons, I think this is something we’ve spoken about, I know Marie addressed the last couple of days. And I think we stand by that point of view. First of all, no act of legitimate journalism, however offensive some might find it, justifies an act of violence. That’s, I think, an important starting point. Now there is content published around the world every day that people might take issue with, but that doesn’t mean that we question the right of media outlets to publish information. Our view is that media organizations and news outlets often publish information that’s meant to cause debate, to stir debate. And while we may not always agree with any particular judgment or every item of content, the right to publish that information is one that we – that is fundamental and that we see as universal. So I think that’s about as far as I would go in commenting on that.

QUESTION: Apparently there are more and more clashes. There have been clashes also in Niger. So do you fear that it could trigger more violence in the Muslim world?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t have an analysis to offer on that, I think, though our view on freedom of speech and freedom of the press is clear.

Anything on the same topic?

QUESTION: On the investigative side —

MR. RATHKE: Yeah.

QUESTION: — the raids in Belgium overnight, the ongoing reports of arrests of people who may be co-conspirators in the Paris attacks – what cooperation is the U.S. Government providing to the French and Belgian Governments as they try to run these cases down?

MR. RATHKE: Right. Well, of course we are aware of the reports from a number of countries about police operations. We’re monitoring the situation in Belgium very closely. Belgium certainly has our full support and solidarity in its counterterrorism efforts. Now, you didn’t ask, but just to make it clear, the U.S. diplomatic presence in Brussels, they are – they all are open – maybe they’re not open now, since it’s later in the day. But anyway, they’re open for business as normal and we are coordinating with our partners. But I’d refer you to the Belgian Government for details. We, of course, are supportive and we’ve got active and ongoing law enforcement and information sharing arrangements with our allies in Europe, and naturally those contacts continue, especially given what’s been going on.

QUESTION: So you’re helping? Is that what you’re saying?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I’m not going to read out any specific information sharing or so forth, but we are supportive and we stand with our Belgian allies in their counterterrorism efforts.

QUESTION: What about the content of the AQAP video? Have there been any more efforts to —

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have anything new to add to what’s already been said about the video.

Yes, Abbie.

QUESTION: Going back to Niger and the protests that he was mentioning, the U.S. Embassy in Niamey tweeted out: “Protesters burn churches, French flag, and other items in Zinder, chanting ‘Charlie is Satan. Let hell engulf those supporting Charlie.’” Is that cause for concern? Are there – is there any concern with people down there at the Embassy or is there anything on that situation?

MR. RATHKE: I wasn’t aware of that report, so we can certainly check and see if we have anything more for you. But of course, I would go back to what I said in response to Nicolas’ question – we certainly call on everyone to exercise restraint and to express their views peacefully, and we certainly reject any kind of violence.

QUESTION: Is there any expectation that the general Travel Warning that went out in recent days might be updated in light of these protests outside U.S. installations?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have any updates to that to announce. For those who are familiar with that worldwide caution, which was updated just recently, it’s quite detailed. And so I’m not aware of any move to change it in any way, but certainly it’s comprehensive and tries to give American citizens the best information and advice before going overseas.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: Do you have any confirmation of – apparently, the Saudis have postponed the flogging of the activist?

MR. RATHKE: Yes, we’re aware —

QUESTION: Apparently, they postponed it on medical grounds, that the doctor who carried out a pre-flogging checkup said – recommended that he does not go ahead.

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm. Well, we are – we’ve seen the reports, and to our knowledge, they’re accurate. I don’t have anything to contradict them. I would go back to what we’ve said on this all along in our January 8th statement: We are greatly concerned that human rights activist Raif Badawi started facing the punishment of 1,000 lashes in addition to serving a 10 year sentence for exercising his rights of freedom of expression and religion. So we call on Saudi authorities to cancel this brutal punishment and to review Badawi’s case and the sentence.

QUESTION: Do you have anything – the BBC is reporting that the case of this blogger has been referred to the supreme court by the king’s office.

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have anything to confirm that. I wasn’t aware of that.

Anything on this topic, or a new topic, Nicolas?

QUESTION: Nigeria?

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: We have reports coming from N’Djamena, Chad about army vehicles sent from Chad to Cameroon. And apparently, the Chad parliament has voted for supporting Nigeria and Cameroon in their fight against Boko Haram. Does the U.S. – were you notified in advance about this, and do you support this regional military response?

MR. RATHKE: Well, we’re not in a position to confirm precisely what sort of support Chad has offered. And – but we certainly support a regional solution to the problem of Boko Haram, and in particular through the establishment of a multinational taskforce. And now, there is additional security assistance to countries in the region in the fight against Boko Haram. That’s under full consideration. And I don’t have any detailed updates to provide about that, but it’s certainly something we are considering. And so that’s our view on the assistance. We certainly support regional approaches.

QUESTION: So Jeff, are you talking about that you support the creation of a new force, a regional force? Because you got the Ghanaian president today talking about considering creating a military force to fight Boko Haram. It’s unclear whether that’s a regional force or whether – I doubt he’s talking about a Ghanaian one.

MR. RATHKE: Mm-hmm. I don’t have details on that. I haven’t seen that report. So we can see if there’s more that we have to say and get back to you about that.

QUESTION: And do you know, perhaps, what the Secretary was talking about, about the – a new – the possibility of a new British-U.S. initiative to fight Boko Haram that he mentioned yesterday?

MR. RATHKE: Right. I don’t have anything new to read out about that.

Yes, Scott.

QUESTION: There was some concern about the conduct of Chadian troops in the Central African Republic when they intervened in that crisis. Does the United States carry any of those concerns into potential Chadian involvement in Nigeria?

MR. RATHKE: Well – I see. Okay. So you’re asking about Nigeria, though, in this particular case. I don’t have any views to offer on that. I understand the point you’re raising, so let us check into that and come back to you.

Brad.

QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the ICC preliminary probe in the Palestinian territories?

MR. RATHKE: Yes. Well, as we’ve made clear over the last couple of weeks, we are deeply troubled by Palestinian action at the ICC. Our position on this is clear, and we don’t think that the Palestinians have established a state, and we don’t think they’re eligible to join the International Criminal Court. I would highlight that many other countries share this view, and we’ve put out a lengthy position paper on that to which people can refer. So our —

QUESTION: But wasn’t there – I mean, this is a prosecutor of the —

MR. RATHKE: Right. That’s – so that’s – no, I wanted to start, though, just to remind.

QUESTION: Oh, okay.

MR. RATHKE: So to be clear, what the prosecutor announced today is not an investigation. It’s a preliminary examination. Now, I don’t have any further comment on it, and in general, as we’ve long said, the United States strongly opposes actions by both parties that undermine trust and create doubts about their commitment to a negotiated peace.

QUESTION: Okay, but —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: No, wait —

MR. RATHKE: No, go ahead.

QUESTION: Your comment – except for “no comment,” the rest was extraneous to the question, right?

MR. RATHKE: This – well this has just happened in the last couple of hours. I don’t have any further comment to offer on the announcement by the ICC prosecutor.

QUESTION: Would you hope that, if the prosecutor moves forward, he would examine the possibility of infractions by both sides and not just one side?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I don’t think we’re in the position of giving advice to the ICC prosecutor on that score.

QUESTION: Even on impartiality you don’t give advice?

MR. RATHKE: Well, again, we – going back to where I started, we don’t believe that the Palestinians have formed or established a state, and we don’t think they’re eligible to join the International Criminal Court, so —

QUESTION: But I don’t think this investigation necessarily hinges on that, because they still haven’t joined and this prosecutor is investigating regardless. So that comment – that notwithstanding, your point’s noted on the Palestinians, they’re not a member, and this thing has been opened nevertheless. So what’s your position on the investigation, not – or the preliminary examination, not the Palestinians’ course of action?

QUESTION: Is it an illegitimate preliminary examination?

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to characterize it. Again, this has just happened, so I’m not going to characterize it further at this point.

QUESTION: Both the Israeli prime minister and the foreign minister have condemned the ICC’s decision to open this preliminary exam. Would it be fair to say that the U.S. Government shares their view?

MR. RATHKE: Well, look, our view on the Palestinians joining the ICC I would go back to, so I’m not – I haven’t seen those particular statements by Israeli officials, so I’m not going to say anything one way or another about them. Again, this is an announcement that has just taken place. We’re looking at it. Our view is – on the broader question of the ICC, we don’t think the Palestinians have met the necessary requirements to be a part of it.

QUESTION: I’m not sure that’s the broader question. I think that’s a completely separate question, but —

MR. RATHKE: Well, I think —

QUESTION: — I don’t quite —

MR. RATHKE: — it’s certainly related, so —

QUESTION: Is it conceivable that the U.S. will appeal to the ICC to drop the preliminary examination?

MR. RATHKE: I’m not going to speculate about anything like that. As you know, we’re not a member of the ICC, but I’m not going to speculate about any particular steps.

QUESTION: Has the U.S. ever asked the ICC not to look into any particular case involving human rights violations?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have that at my fingertips, Roz. I’m happy to look, but I don’t have that.

QUESTION: Yeah, if you could, please.

MR. RATHKE: Tejinder.

QUESTION: I’m not asking you to speculate or – but this is a subject that’s being discussed in Delhi, and – that Delhi has a thick fog in the mornings. And usually – and so when the Air Force One goes, is it going – how is it going to land if there is a fog on that day? Will it go to Ahmedabad or Islamabad?

MR. RATHKE: It won’t surprise you that I’m not going to comment on the air operations of Air Force One. I’d refer you to the White House if you’ve got questions about that.

QUESTION: But this – I raised it here because it is being discussed in the State Department.

MR. RATHKE: It won’t surprise you that we are not going to comment on air operations of Air Force One for obvious reasons, I think.

Right. Nicolas.

QUESTION: Last question about the country we never talk about, Switzerland.

MR. RATHKE: Okay.

QUESTION: Is – do you have views about the surge of the Swiss franc, which apparently rocks the global currency market? Is it a source of concern for U.S. interest and American tourists going there?

MR. RATHKE: I’m not aware and I don’t think we normally comment on currency issues in that respect. I’ll —

QUESTION: You’re not aware of conversation between the two governments?

MR. RATHKE: Not that I’m aware of.

Yes, go ahead.

QUESTION: You put out a statement yesterday that Ambassador Sung Kim, the deputy assistant secretary for Japan and Korea —

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: — he will be traveling to Brussels next week to attend Japan trilateral forum. And Spokeswoman Marie Harf said at a Foreign Press Center briefing that this will be a key forum for discussion on trilateral cooperation between U.S., Korea, and Japan. Can you explain what this forum means and what it’ll be discussing, who else will be participating, and how it is related to Korea-Japan cooperation?

MR. RATHKE: Okay. I think, yeah, there are two different things here. Let me make sure and I want to highlight – I think Marie said this yesterday, but I can go over it again. So Ambassador Sung Kim, who is the special representative for North Korea policy – he’s also deputy assistant secretary for Japan and Korea – he’s traveling to Brussels in the next few days, January 19th and 20th, and he’s attending there the Japan trilateral forum. This is an event organized by the German Marshall Fund of the United States. It was established with the purpose of bringing together policy makers, intellectuals, journalists, business leaders from Japan, Europe, and the United States, and for dialogue on matters of mutual interest.

There is separately a – there will be a trilateral in Tokyo for Special Representative Sung Kim. He mentioned this in his testimony earlier this week. And if you’re interested in the details of the scheduling, I’d refer you to the Government of Japan. At this point, we don’t have details on that to announce right now.

So there are two different events. There is the event in Europe, which is not a government-to-government multilateral meeting. It is a meeting that brings together policy makers as well as people from outside of government. It’s Japan, Europe and the United States. Then there will be a trilateral in Tokyo, and that’s what Special Representative Kim was referring to in his testimony on the Hill earlier this week.

QUESTION: So the meeting in Brussels, that has nothing to do with Korea, right?

MR. RATHKE: Well, I wouldn’t say – I wouldn’t put it that way. There – he will be – of course, security in Northeast Asia is an important part of our relationship with Japan, as well as with our other allies and partners in Northeast Asia.

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MR. RATHKE: Yes.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MR. RATHKE: Go ahead, Lesley.

QUESTION: A new subject, or —

QUESTION: No, same subject.

MR. RATHKE: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I want to ask just about one that we already discussed here, and that is a – today, there were two analyses on – saying that last year was the Earth’s warmest on record. Given the Secretary’s interest in this, do you have any comment on that?

MR. RATHKE: Right. There – we, I think, have just released a statement by the Secretary on this, and if you haven’t seen it, I’m happy to quote it for you. It’s fairly short.

The – in the Secretary’s words: What’s surprising is that anyone is surprised that 2014 was the hottest year on record. The science has been screaming at us for a long, long time. We’ve seen 13 of the warmest years on record since 2000. Greenhouse gas emissions from human activity are at an all-time high, which we know leads to a warming planet. And we’re seeing higher than ever occurrences of extreme weather events like catastrophic droughts, storm surges, and torrential rain. These events are having devastating economic, security, and health impacts across the planet. So this report is just another sound in a steady drumbeat that’s growing increasingly more urgent. And the question isn’t the science. The question isn’t the warning signs. The question is when and how the world will respond. And as the Secretary closes: Ambitious, concrete action is the only path forward that leads anywhere worth going.

QUESTION: So how do these analyses bode for an important year in climate talks that – and they hope to reach in a – or efforts to reach a deal in December?

MR. RATHKE: Well, certainly, it only underscores the urgency. And the Secretary, of course, has been actively engaged. I would also refer you to the press availability over at the White House today where this was also discussed. So this only reminds, if any reminder was needed, how important it is to work toward the goals that the Administration has set.

Tejinder.

QUESTION: Do you have any readouts or confirmations of any talks with the Belgian counterparts or the EU counterparts in Brussels about this after the attacks —

MR. RATHKE: Well —

QUESTION: — and the arrests?

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have any specific meetings or exchanges to detail, but certainly, we stand in support of and solidarity with our partners in Europe. And as I said before, we have active security cooperation and information-sharing arrangements with them, and it’s precisely at a time like this when those are most important.

QUESTION: And was there any contact with —

MR. RATHKE: I don’t have any details to read out about those.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

MR. RATHKE: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:41 p.m.)

Security Council urged to act on alleged international crimes in North Korea

22 Dec 2014

Listen /

Ivan Šimonović. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The Security Council has been urged to take action to ensure that individuals and institutions in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) account for alleged international crimes they have committed.

That’s what the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, Ivan Šimonović, said as the Council met for the first time to discuss DPRK outside of the nuclear non-proliferation issue.

He said the crimes, identified in report by the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry, include extermination, murder, enslavement, torture, sexual violence, political violence, abductions and deliberate starvation.

Mr. Šimonović described the report as an “extensive charge sheet of international crimes” that has been brought to the Council’s attention.

“For the first time a UN-mandated body has qualified human rights violations in the DPRK in terms of international criminal law. This is significant in establishing individual and institutional accountability. But it also invokes the international community’s responsibility to take action to prevent and punish such crimes.” (25″)

Mr Šimonović said that an overwhelming majority of Member States in the UN Human Rights Council and the General Assembly as well as victims, survivors and civil society organizations around the world have asked the Security Council to take action on the report.

It includes referral of North Korea to the International Criminal Court and adoption of targeted sanctions, he added.

Stephanie Castro, United Nations

Duration: 1’35″

UN recommends prosecution of North Korean leaders at international court

19 Nov 2014

Listen /

UN General Assembly Hall. UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

A groundbreaking resolution which calls for the prosecution of leaders of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) for human rights abuses has been passed at the United Nations.

It’s the first time the UN General Assembly‘s human rights committee has voted to recommend the prosecution of senior North Koreans in the International Criminal Court, ICC.

One hundred and eleven countries voted in favour of the resolution and 19 against with 55 abstentions.

China and Russia were amongst the countries that voted against.

Both countries have a veto on the Security Council, the only body with the legal authority to refer cases to the ICC.

In February this year a 400-page report was released by the UN Commission of Inquiry on human rights in the DPRK which documented “unspeakable atrocities” committed by the country.

They include torture and inhuman treatment in prison camps, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and abductions.

Stephanie Castro, United Nations

Duration: 1’00″

Press Releases: Joint Statement of the 2014 United States – Republic of Korea Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting

The text of the following statement was released by the Governments of the United States of America and the Republic of Korea on the occasion of the United States – Republic of Korea Foreign and Defense Ministers’ Meeting in Washington.

Begin Text:

Preamble

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel convened a “2+2” meeting with ROK Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se and Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo in Washington on October 24, 2014. The “2+2” session followed the Security Consultative Meeting (SCM) between Secretary Hagel and Minister Han at the Pentagon. Building on the vision for the Alliance expressed in recent summit meetings and through the Joint Declaration in Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the U.S.-ROK Alliance, the four Ministers reaffirmed the strength of the alliance in the face of existing security threats and new and evolving regional and global challenges. The United States reaffirmed its unyielding commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea under the Mutual Defense Treaty.

The Ministers recognized that the U.S.-ROK Alliance, over the past 60 years, has played an enormous role in maintaining regional stability and prosperity, and is stronger than ever before. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to further develop the Alliance into a global partnership that is more than just the linchpin of peace and stability in Northeast Asia. With a common understanding of the Alliance’s global capabilities, the Ministers committed to building on those capabilities to actively address emerging challenges to peace and security around the world, including Ebola and ISIL.

U.S.-ROK Alliance

The Alliance between the United States and the Republic of Korea, now in its 61st year, remains the linchpin of peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region. Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Yun acknowledged the extensive and continuing work by the U.S. Department of Defense and the ROK Ministry of National Defense, discussed at length during the SCM, and they welcomed the SCM Joint Communique, released earlier by the Defense Ministers of both countries.

Following up on the presidential decision in April 2014 that, due to the evolving security environment in the region, including the North Korean nuclear and missile threat, the current timeline for the transition of wartime operational control (OPCON) in 2015 can be reconsidered, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Yun welcomed that after productive consultations the two sides reached an agreement on the decision at the SCM to implement the ROK-proposed conditions-based approach to the transition of wartime operational control from the U.S. forces-led Combined Forces Command (CFC) to a new ROK forces-led combined defense command. The ROK reaffirmed that it will continue its efforts to build the necessary capabilities required to lead the Combined Defense, while the U.S. provided assurance that the United States will continue to remain committed to the defense of the ROK and the stability of the region.

The Ministers highlighted the importance of our longstanding, mutually beneficial cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and welcomed the significant progress made in negotiations on a new agreement, which will serve as a strong foundation for bilateral civil nuclear cooperation for the future. Both sides reaffirmed their commitment to conclude an agreement in a timely manner. The Ministers also praised the work of the U.S.-ROK Bilateral Cyber Policy Consultations and the 2nd U.S.-ROK Cyber Cooperation Working Group, and reaffirmed their shared objective of an open, interoperable, secure, and reliable cyberspace. Both sides looked forward to the next Consultations meeting, to take place in Washington in 2015.

The Ministers welcomed our shared commitment and partnership on nuclear safety and security, as well as the global non-proliferation regime, such as the IAEA, the Global Partnership, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, UNSCR 1540, the Proliferation Security Initiative and other key international mechanisms. They decided to work together to ensure a successful Nuclear Security Summit in 2016, to be hosted by the United States.

The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening cooperation on space, building on the first ROK-U.S. Civil Space Dialogue in July 2014 as well as the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Space Situational Awareness (SSA) Service and Information Sharing at the 4th ROK-U.S. Space Cooperation Working Group (SCWG) in September 2014. The Ministers also decided to cooperate closely in addressing challenges to space security and sustainability, particularly by encouraging the early adoption of the International Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities.

North Korea

The Ministers agreed that the denuclearization of North Korea is critical to lasting peace and security on the Korean Peninsula. Echoing the discussions at the SCM, the Ministers expressed their solidarity in the face of North Korean threats and urged North Korea to denuclearize and refrain from provocations. The Ministers also urged North Korea to return to credible and meaningful negotiations aimed at the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea. The Ministers underscored that North Korea cannot succeed in pursuing economic development without denuclearization and that it will remain isolated internationally unless it relinquishes all of its nuclear and missile programs and fully complies with its international obligations under the U.N. Security Council resolutions and commitments under the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement of the Six-Party Talks. The Ministers urged all countries, including the Six-Party Talks partners, to fully implement all sanctions and other measures set forth in the relevant UN Security Council resolutions.

The Ministers agreed on the need to establish a foundation for peaceful reunification as envisioned in the Initiative for Peaceful Unification on the Korean Peninsula proposed by President Park on March 28, 2014 and confirmed by President Obama during his April 2014 visit to Seoul. The Ministers called on North Korea to take positive actions that will lead to improved inter-Korean relations.

The Ministers also welcomed increased international attention on human rights in North Korea. The UN Commission of Inquiry’s report clearly documents the systematic, widespread, and gross violations of human rights taking place in North Korea. The United States thanked the ROK for its commitment to host a field-based structure to be established by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which will help enhance the international community’s awareness of ongoing human rights violations in North Korea and of the need to implement the COI recommendations.

Regional Issues

The Ministers recognized that trilateral security cooperation between the United States, the ROK, and Japan strengthens deterrence against the North Korean threat and expressed their intention to expand trilateral security cooperation and coordination, and decided to continue consulting on trilateral information sharing measures as discussed at the Shangri-La Dialogue in May 2014. The United States briefed the ROK, earlier this month, at the senior-level on the ongoing consultations with Japan on the revision of the U.S.-Japan Defense Guidelines, which will proceed in a transparent manner within the framework of the U.S.-Japan Alliance. The Ministers recognized the value of the Defense Trilateral Talks and the trilateral Foreign Ministers talks on the margin of the ASEAN Regional Forum.

The Ministers were in agreement on the importance of constructive cooperation with China through various forms of dialogue to further our shared goals of peace, stability, and prosperity. The Ministers emphasized the importance of maintaining peace and stability, ensuring maritime security and safety, and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. The Ministers shared the view on the need for full and effective implementation of Declaration on the Conduct (DOC) and the early adoption of a meaningful Code of Conduct (COC) by ASEAN and China.

The ROK Ministers highlighted the ongoing efforts to promote cooperation in the region, including the Park Administration’s signature Northeast Asia Peace and Cooperation Initiative (NAPCI), and plans to hold a NAPCI conference in Seoul on October 28. In the spirit of the Joint Declaration in May 2013, which states that the United States and the ROK are prepared to address common challenges and to seek ways to build an era of peace and cooperation in Northeast Asia based on the U.S.-ROK Alliance, the Ministers recognized the contribution that such a dialogue can make to addressing diverse regional challenges.

Global Partnership

The Ministers stressed the commitment of the United States and the ROK to combat the scourge of Ebola, emphasizing that it is not just a public healthcare issue affecting a limited region but a grave threat to the international community. Secretary Kerry outlined the U.S. effort to organize a thorough, coordinated international response to the spread of Ebola. Secretary Hagel reaffirmed the Department of Defense’s plans to establish a command center in Liberia, build more than a dozen Ebola Treatment Units (ETUs), and distribute kits with sanitizing equipment and medicine. The ROK has contributed more than $600,000 to the effort so far, and Ministers Yun and Han reaffirmed the ROK’s plans to contribute additional $5 million through the UN Ebola Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund and to send highly-skilled health care personnel to West Africa to help fight the further spread of the Ebola virus.

Acknowledging the grave humanitarian situation in Iraq, the Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to assisting the people of Iraq against the threat of ISIL and Foreign Terrorist Fighters. The United States thanked the ROK for its recent commitment of an additional $4 million in humanitarian assistance to Iraq. Both countries condemned the brutality of ISIL, underscoring that their actions violate the basic norms of humanity and civilization, and expressed their support for the international community fighting against the threat of ISIL. The Ministers also underscored the continuing need to assist Syrian refugees and reiterated their call for a political transition in Syria that ends the crisis.

Secretaries Kerry and Hagel expressed appreciation for President Park’s announcement at UNGA that the ROK would seek to enhance the quality of its overseas development assistance. They welcomed the ROK’s commitment to long-term sustainable growth in developing countries, recognizing its positive impact on peace, prosperity, and global security. Both sides also reaffirmed their close diplomatic and military cooperation in support of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Regarding the Iranian nuclear issue, the Ministers reaffirmed the importance of successfully reaching a comprehensive arrangement between Iran and the P5+1, deciding to continue to work together towards this goal by the November 24 deadline. The United States thanked the ROK for its support of the joint efforts in Afghanistan, particularly its participation in the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) in Afghanistan and development assistance, including its provincial reconstruction team. The ROK Ministers reaffirmed that the ROK would continue assistance efforts to Afghanistan even after the termination of the ISAF mission in 2014.

The Ministers reaffirmed their respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of Ukraine, and stressed that the international community does not recognize the purported annexation of Crimea by Russia. The Ministers called for the full implementation of the 12-point Minsk agreement.

The Ministers emphasized the importance of mitigating and adapting to climate change, particularly to achieve a new climate regime agreement by the 2015 Conference of the Parties in Paris. In May, the ROK hosted and the U.S. Secretary of Energy attended the 5th Clean Energy Ministerial, a high-level global forum to share best practices and promote policies and programs that encourage and facilitate the transition to a global clean energy economy.

Conclusion

The U.S.-ROK Alliance continues to benefit not only the United States and the Republic of Korea, but increasingly the Asia Pacific region and the world at large. Acknowledging that today’s meeting was very productive and useful, the Ministers decided to continue to hold close bilateral consultations to deepen and intensify our cooperation in growing areas of mutual interest.

Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela elected to serve on UN Security Council

16 October 2014 – In three rounds of voting the United Nations General Assembly today elected Angola, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain and Venezuela to serve as non-permanent members on the Security Council for two-year terms beginning on 1 January 2015.

The new members will serve on the Council until 31 December 2016.

Angola Malaysia, Venezuela and New Zealand were elected in the first vote. The Assembly then held two rounds of restricted balloting to elect Spain to fill the remaining seat on the Council open to the Western European and Other States Group. Turkey was the other contender for that seat.

The five overall seats available for election in 2014, distributed regionally, were: one seat for the African Group (currently held by Rwanda); one seat for the Group of Asia- Pacific Group (currently held by the Republic of Korea); one seat for the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, (currently held by Argentina); and two seats for the Western European and Others Group (currently held by Australia and Luxembourg). Lithuania will maintain for another year, the seat for the Eastern European Group.

The five permanent Council members, which each wield the power of veto, are China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Along with Lithuania, the non-permanent members that will remain on the Council until the end of 2015 are Chad, Chile, Jordan, and Nigeria.

A look behind the scenes of the election of the five new non-permanent members to the Security Counci. UN Photo/Yubi Hoffmann/Mark Garten

Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. Each of the Council’s members has one vote. Under the Charter, all UN Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.

The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorize the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.

The Security Council also recommends to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and the admission of new Members to the United Nations. And, together with the General Assembly, it elects the judges of the International Court of Justice.

And the Newest Members of the Security Council Are…

Update: Turkey lost to Spain in the third round of voting.

The General Assembly is holding elections today to replace five permanent members of the Security Council. The two year terms of Argentina, Australia, Luxembourg, Korea, Rwanda are expiring. They will be replaced by other members of their regional group. This means that there are two seats open for Africa and Asia, two seats open for the WEOG (Western Europe and Other Group) and one seat for Latin America.

This election would be a bit of a snoozer if not for the fact that Turkey is running in a competitive election for a seat.

The Latin American countries decided amongst themselves to nominate Bolivia for their one seat; and the African and Asian countries nominated Venezuela and Malaysia for their two seats. This means there’s one competitive election: Turkey, New Zealand and Spain are vying for the two seats being vacated by Luxembourg and Australia. (A candidate needs the support of two thirds of the General Assembly in order to win the seat.)

In practice this means the real drama will be whether or not the General Assembly wants to select a frontline state to the Syrian conflict as a battle rages just a mile from Turkey’s border in the Kurdish town of Kobane. And the answer is…

Now, both Turkey and Jordan — two of the countries arguably most affected by the Syria crisis — will now serve on the Security Council in 2015. In practice this may not change much. So long as veto-wielding members USA and Russia remain at loggerheads, the ability of the UNSC to determine the course of this conflict and its resolution will be limited.

But one area where this might affect outcomes is on the question of Palestinian statehood. Mahmoud Abbas is trying to gin up support for a Security Council resolution that would set a deadline for the two state solution and Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. Turkey would almost certainly be one more vote in favor of this measure.

The USA is opposed—and could veto it if it needed to. But the USA would very much like to avoid having to cast a veto, which would be diplomatically costly and embarrassing. One way to avoid a veto is by lobbying the other member states to vote against or abstain from the measure. If a Security Council resolution fails to gain 9 affirmative votes, it fails. This is precisely what happened in 2011, during the last big push by Palestine at the Security Council. The measure failed to get the requisite 9 votes (they were one shy), so the vote never occurred and the USA was saved from casting a veto.

This drama will unfold again this year at the UN Security Council. With Turkey on the council, the USA is more likely to face the uncomfortable decision of whether or not to cast a veto–which, in effect, could be read by many as a veto against the two state solution, which is a policy the USA adamantly supports. So again, this could be very awkward and damaging the US credibility on the Arab-Israeli conflict and possibly undermine foreign policy priorities elsewhere.  

Bottom line: these elections matter!

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