Tagged: Turkey-EU

Cornerstones of the new EU Energy Union

Vice-President Šefčovič speech at EUFORES 15th Inter-Parliamentary Meeting on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

Vienna

Ladies and gentlemen,

Two weeks ago, the European Commission adopted the Energy Union Strategy. I then called it the most ambitious energy project since the European Coal and Steel Community of the 1950s, because what we want to achieve, is nothing less than a fundamental transition of our energy system. We want to set our economy on a new, sustainable trajectory. As one Member of the European Parliament summarized it in a single image: we want to move from a Community of Coal and Steel to a Union of Sun and Wind.

Such an overarching strategy can only succeed if we work together across institutions and stakeholders at all levels: European, regional, national and local. Just like we worked together within the Commission, across portfolios, bringing together 14 Commissioners and 16 DGs. I am therefore very grateful for the opportunity to discuss the Energy Union directly with you – parliamentarians from across Europe, civil society, and businesses. Your contribution will be crucial to achieve the goals of this forward-looking energy and climate change policy.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Energy Union is a big step towards an energy market that is economically sustainable, environmentally friendly, and socially inclusive. An energy market that is integrated, interconnected, resilient and secure. It is a ‘triple win’ strategy, because it will benefit citizens, businesses, and the environment.

For that, we set out a series of concrete actions – both legislative and non-legislative – in the five dimensions that I presented to the European Parliament in my hearing and that, next week, the European Council will hopefully confirm:

  • First, securing our supply. Member States, and citizens, should know that they can rely on neighbouring countries when faced with possible energy supply disruptions. That is what the word ‘solidarity’ means in the energy field; that is how we can build more trust between Member States. We are therefore working on a series of measures to diversify our energy resources and supply routes. Next week, for instance, I will attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), in Kars, Turkey; a project that will bring gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field through Turkey, into Europe. It is this kind of projects we need. But security of supply means much more than only gas, however important gas will remain for years to come. Security of supply means – and I would even say: it means first and foremost – becoming more energy efficient, knowing that for every 1% improvement in energy efficiency, EU gas imports fall by 2.6%.
  • Energy security also means: building a single energy market will allow energy to flow freely across EU countries as a fifth European freedom. This internal market is the second dimension of the Energy Union Strategy.By removing technical and regulatory barriers of cross-border energy flows, consumers will enjoy the fruits of a increased competition – lower prices and better service!
  • The third, fourth and fifth dimensions go hand in hand with the first two and go to the core of today’s conference and the work you do at EUFORES, namely: increasing energy efficiency, decarbonising our economy and investing in innovative renewable sources of energy.

This covers a very broad range of issues, which will require the full involvement of many commissioners. Let me just mention three issues, amongst many other issues, that I intend to give a serious push in the weeks and months ahead.

First, to tap the full potential of energy efficiency of buildings. The figures clearly show why more action is needed in this field: currently, 75% of Europe’s building stock is not energy efficient; buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions in the EU. About 35% of our buildings are over 50 years old. They eat energy! While older buildings consume about 25 litres of heating oil per square meter per year on average (some even up to 60 litres!), new buildings only need three to five litres on average. So we can – and should – do better.

Second, as the importance of the local level increases, we should pay more attention to initiatives at the local level, of course in full respect of the principle of subsidiarity. Smart Cities are an excellent example of how the municipal level can play a major role in the transformation of the energy market that we’re looking for. Last week I met an impressive delegation of mayors who shared several good examples of successful initiatives from all over Europe:

  • the German city of Heidelberg created an entire neighbourhood with only passive buildings, (in the city quarter of Bahnstadt. The neighbourhood is powered by district heating, primarily sourced from renewables with smart energy consumption meters, creating local jobs and a passive housing knowledge cluster for future projects.
  • Helsinki is a leader in heating and efficiency standards. 90% of the city is serviced by the district heating system with over 90% efficiency.
  • in the north of France, the city of Loos-en-Gohelle transformed its coal mine into a regional research centre of sustainable development. Visitors now face the surreal image of solar panels in front of the mine’s spoil tips.
  • and I could go on…

These examples showcase the various local initiatives which should be replicated across Europe, and I would add: with a particular emphasis on Central and Eastern Europe.

And third, we have to develop an energy and climate-related technology and innovation strategy to maintain Europe’s global leadership and competitiveness in low carbon technologies. Europe has all the necessary elements to become a global hub and a world leader in renewable technologies. It is in this field – in the field of low-carbon renewable energy sources, in the field of energy efficiency, in the field of smart appliances and smart grids – that Europe can regain its competitive edge! Smart grids are the European shale.

We must better focus our research and innovation policies, we must create synergies between energy and ICT (very appealing to young people), and between research and industry. New industries will emerge that will strengthen our economy and further support job creation across Europe.

It is in this context that I would also like to underline the importance of ecodesign and energy labelling. Not only because this framework will deliver by 2020 energy savings that are roughly the equivalent of annual primary energy consumption of Italy, not only because consumers can save several hundreds of euros per household per year, but also because there is a clear business case. If countries such as Brazil, China, Korea, South Africa and others adopt equipment energy labelling schemes similar to ours, it creates a market for our companies. Let us be the first mover and set the standards!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Strategy is written, the principles have been established, the real work starts now. We will start up a series of specific actions, such as:

  • developing a ‘Smart Financing for Smart Buildings’ initiative to facilitate access to existing funding instruments;
  • we will propose a strategy for heating and cooling; it’s an important hook, because as many of you told me: the energy crisis is first and foremost a heating crisis;
  • we will dedicate a significant share of the European Fund for Strategic Investments to energy efficiency and renewable energy;
  • we will review the Energy Efficiency Directive, as well as the Directive on Energy Performance of Buildings;
  • we should bring together potential investors and solid projects. There are investors willing to invest, and there is a need for smart investments, so let us connect the dots and remove obstacles
  • and we will develop, without delay, the robust governance framework that the Energy Union needs in order to deliver on its promises, including to make sure that we reach the targets set by the October European Council.

Through these and other measures, we will make sure that the principles we endorsed – such as the ‘energy efficiency first-principle – are transformed into reality and become operational.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The first reactions to the Energy Union Strategy have been positive and supportive, in the European Parliament, the Environment and Energy Council, amongst mayors, consumers, business associations, think tanks, and academia. Do not underestimate the importance of such reactions: they really help to create the positive dynamics needed to seize the current momentum and to implement what is on the table.

I therefore hope that throughout this process, I can continue to count on your support, whether you are a parliamentarian, entrepreneur, researcher, civil society activist or a citizen, and I am looking forward to your comments and ideas in today’s discussion and over the five years to come.

Thank you.

The EU at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia – Supporting global recovery

On 15 and 16 November 2014, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy will participate in the 9th edition of the G20 summit in the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane, Australia.

At the G20 summit in Brisbane (Australia) the President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, will push for the adoption of a strong Brisbane Action Plan on Growth and Jobs to put the G20 collectively on a higher growth trajectory.

This and the European Union’s views on other key issues on the summit agenda (financial regulation, tax avoidance/tax evasion, development, anticorruption and energy matters) are reflected in the joint letter by the two Presidents to EU Heads of State and Government of 21 October 2014.

A background briefing by Commission and Council representatives will be held in the Berlaymont press room (for accredited journalists only) on Monday 10 November at 9am.

Background

The G20 leaders’ process has been co-initiated in 2008 by the European Union. The G20 members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.

The European Union thus is a full member of the G20 and is usually represented at G20 summits by the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council.

The Brisbane Summit is the 9th edition of the Group of 20 (G20) Summit of the world’s major advanced and emerging economies. Together, the G20 members represent around 90% of global GDP, 80% of global trade and two-thirds of the world’s population. This year, Australia welcomes Spain as a permanent invitee; Mauritania as the 2014 chair of the African Union; Myanmar as the 2014 Chair of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN); Senegal, representing the New Partnership for Africa’s Development; New Zealand; and Singapore. The 10th edition of the G20 Summit will be hosted by Turkey in 2015.

For more information:

Joint letter from the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council ahead of the Brisbane G20 Summit: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-14-600_en.htm

G20 website of the Australian Presidency: https://www.g20.org/

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

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

July 28, 2014

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

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

1:10 P.M. EDT

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

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

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

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

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

So with that, I present Tony Blinken.

MR. BLINKEN:  Josh, thank you. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Q    And when you talk about this force that’s building up  — the Russians are building up, are they preparing a Russian invasion of Ukraine?

MR. BLINKEN:  One of the things that we believe Russia has been trying to do is, for example, to get the Ukrainians to take some action that they can then use as “justification” for some kind of intervention — so-called humanitarian intervention, or so-called peacekeeping intervention.  So that’s one of the things that we think is in the potential Russian playbook.

The other thing they’re doing, most significantly, is increasing the supply of heavy equipment, weapons and fighters to the separatists across the border.  And this is well documented in what we’ve seen; it’s well documented in social media.

Q    In talking about that buildup and the heavier artillery, are we talking about more surface-to-air missile capability?

MR. BLINKEN:  We are talking about multi-rocket launchers — that’s one of the things we’re seeing — artillery pieces, tanks, armored vehicles, and the concerns, as I said at the outset, about increasingly heavy weaponry.  And I think there’s a reason for this, and the reason is that on the battlefield itself the Ukrainians are doing very well against the separatists in trying to regain the sovereignty of their entire country.  So Russia’s proxies are right now on the losing end of the fight.  And that’s why we think Russia is doubling down.

Q    Do you think there are still Buk missile launchers within Ukraine at this point?

MR. BLINKEN:  We believe that there are SA-11s that are still within Ukraine, including potentially in separatists’ hands.

Q    A two-parter.  How did you arrive at $37 billion spent to defend the ruble?  And second, are there any other security things you’re looking at besides rocket launchers and tanks and heavy equipment? 

MR. BLINKEN:  I think the $37 billion has actually been fairly well documented in the financial press and by other statements that have been made.  We can get you the backup for that.

And in terms of the military equipment that the Russians are providing, again, those are the main elements, but there are certainly other things that are going in.  But in terms of heavy weaponry, those are the critical elements.

Q    You’ve been talking about actions that have been taken this week by the EU and U.S.  I want to go back to something that Josh said from the podium Friday about Russia and Putin were culpable for the downing of Flight 17.  Is there a chance, is there a possibility that Putin could be charged in the International Crimes Court with war crimes, by any chance, with all of this that’s going on right now?

MR. BLINKEN:  When it comes to Russian culpability, I think the record is clear.  The Russians have been directly supporting the separatists with the provision of weapons.  We believe that the SA-11 that was used to shoot down the Malaysian airliner came from Russia.  We don’t know who was operating it.  We believe the weapon itself came from Russia.  The three top leading separatist leaders are all Russian nationals.  So it’s clear that Russia has a significant influence over the separatists and could, if it so desired, get them to cease and desist.

So, in that sense, there is a clear and ongoing culpability by Russia for events in eastern Ukraine and for a failure to de-escalate the situation, and indeed, for the context in which all of this is happening, including the shoot-down of the airliner.

In terms of pointing to exactly who pulled the trigger, that we don’t know yet and we’ll see if we can develop that information.  But the bottom line is this:  Through its ongoing support and increasing support for the separatists, Russia bears responsibility for everything that’s going on in eastern Ukraine.

Q    So you’re saying technically he could be brought before the International Crimes Court?

MR. BLINKEN:  Look, I don’t want to get ahead of anything.  Again, the main point is to emphasize that Russia bears responsibility and has the ability to actually de-escalate this crisis by moving it onto a diplomatic track.  That is what we’d most like to see.

Q    I don’t know if you’re aware of reports that just came now that Gaza Central Hospital has been hit, and 10 more dead Palestinian children.  You said that the United States is Israel’s best friend, which I tend to agree with you.  You also provide them with $3 billion a year, and you give them the Iron Dome that saved countless lives.  How come you don’t have any leverage over Israel to extract a humanitarian cease-fire that would last for seven days?  Does that mean that you basically have no influence over them, or that just Israel doesn’t care?

MR. BLINKEN:  First, I haven’t seen those specific reports. Second, the record is clear:  Israel has repeatedly accepted cease-fires that Hamas has rejected.  So the bottom line on that is clear.

Let me say more generally, no country can abide rockets raining down on its people or terrorists tunneling underground to kill or kidnap its people.  We have consistently and repeatedly defended Israel’s right to defend itself.  Hamas intentionally targets civilians.  And indeed, Iron Dome, thankfully, is there and has protected many of those civilians.  And it uses the Palestinian people as human shields, wrapping them around its weapons and strategic sites. 

In contrast, Israeli policy is to avoid civilian casualties. Indeed, it holds itself to the highest standards to take every precaution to avoid those casualties.  But the fact is, despite its efforts, the civilian suffering in Gaza is great and growing every day.  So the practical reality is that it is difficult for Israel to meet its own high standards.  Civilian casualties are increasing.  It’s especially heartbreaking to see children suffering in this crisis.

This is a problem we have grappled with in Iraq and then in Afghanistan because we, too, hold ourselves to these standards.  It’s incredibly difficult to sustain them.  But I think this underscores the urgency of getting an unconditional, immediate, humanitarian cease-fire.

Q    — said yesterday — just a quick a follow-up — that he wants Gaza demilitarized.  What does that mean in terms of a long-term strategy or a peace negotiation or now as we talk in the next week or so?

MR. BLINKEN:  As I said, we support an immediate, unconditional, humanitarian pause leading, we hope, to a sustainable cease-fire.  We also believe that any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must also lead to the disarmament of terrorist groups.  And what we intend to do is to work closely with Israel, regional partners and the international community to achieve this goal.
MR. EARNEST:  Ann, I’ll give you the last one, then we’ll let Tony go.

Q    Thank you very much.  On Russia, if all the impact of all of these sanctions and all the threat of sanctions are as dire as you’ve described, why hasn’t Putin blinked?

MR. BLINKEN:  He has to make a strategic decision.  And you’re exactly right, he hasn’t made it yet.  We’ve seen him on a regular basis pull back tactically, say the right things in public while he’s doing the wrong things behind the scenes.  So he’s clearly sensitive to the pressure that’s being exerted.  But it’s precisely because we’ve not yet seen a strategic turn from Putin that we believe it’s absolutely essential to take additional measures.  And that’s what the Europeans and the United States intend to do this week.

MR. EARNEST:  Thank you, Tony.

MR. BLINKEN:  Thanks, Josh.  Thank you.

Q    Thank you, Tony.

MR. EARNEST:  All right before we move on to other topics, I do want to do one thing at the top.  And I believe we have a slide that goes along with this — there it is.  Today we got some very good news about Medicare’s financial future.  In the President’s first year in office in 2009, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security trustees projected the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund would not be able to pay its bills in 2017, just three years from now.  Today’s new date is 2030 — 13 years later than that projection in 2009, an improvement that is thanks in part to the reforms of the Affordable Care Act, such as efforts to reduce hospital spending on preventable readmissions.  And today’s date, you’ll note, is actually even four years later than was projected just last year.

A couple other relevant statistics that are included in the report:  Furthermore, per-capita growth, or the amount spent per Medicare beneficiary has slowed dramatically in recent years, falling to one-third of what it was, and to nearly zero last year — helping to restrain overall growth in Medicare spending even as millions of baby boomers enter the program. 

In addition, the trustees project that the Medicare Part B premium will not increase, which would make 2015 the second year in a row that premiums in Medicare stay flat.

While today’s report focuses on Medicare, it reflects broader trends in the health care system toward much slower growth in costs, a trend that has continued into 2014.  Over the 50 months since enactment of the Affordable Care Act, health care prices have risen at a slower rate than over any comparable period in 50 years. 

So that is a report that is being released as we speak, and so there will obviously be some more details included in that report later today when you get a chance to review it.

So with that, Nedra, do you have any additional questions today?

Q    I do.  Can you give us your response to the VA deal?  Does the President think it does enough to solve the problem with the health care system?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Nedra, this compromise has been announced between House Republicans and the chair of the Senate Veterans Committee.  We certainly welcome that announcement.  There are a couple of reasons based on published reports that we’re encouraged by that compromise.

The first is, as you even heard me mention on Friday, there are much-needed reforms that need to be implemented into the Veterans Administration.  The President and others have called for those important management reforms to be implemented, and again, based on press reports, the indications of those reforms are that many of them are included in this bill.

The second thing — and this is really important — on July 16th, Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson called for Congress to provide VA the additional resources necessary to deliver timely, high-quality care to veterans through a strengthened VA system while also temporarily using care in the community to help ensure veterans can get the care they need when they need it.

When he asked for those additional resources to address some very specific concerns that he had laid out, that was something that had previously not been part of the debate as it relates to this VA reform package.  So the inclusion of these additional resources at the strong urging of the Acting Secretary is a positive step in the right direction, and something that we think will be very important to the success of some of the reforms that are contemplated by this bill.

In addition, this proposal for on a temporary, as-needed basis to allow some veterans to get some access to care in the community is also the kind of thing that could address the immediate need that many veterans have, but by adding these additional resources over the long term, we feel like those are benefits and care that can be provided through the VA.

So the details of this compromise have yet to be unveiled, so I don’t want to get ahead of the announcement that is planned for Capitol Hill later today.  But the early reports are positive.

Steve.

Q    Josh, Susan Rice was on MSNBC a while ago.  She talked about a grave and deepening concern at the civilian casualties in Gaza.  What exactly would you like the Israelis to do?  Are you calling on them to call off the offensive?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Steve, we have said many times — I think Tony just had the opportunity to say that we defend Israel’s right to defend themselves.  In fact, you could make a case, and many Israeli political leaders do, that they have a responsibility to make sure that they’re taking steps militarily to account for the safety of civilians on the Israeli side of the border.  This is, after all, the Israeli population that elected them, and they are in the best position to determine what steps are necessary to protect their citizens.  That is their right.

At the same time, Israel leaders often say that they have in place very high standards to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians on the other side of the border, as well.  That stands in stark contrast to the strategy that is deployed by Hamas and other extremist groups in Gaza that are intentionally targeting civilians on the other side of the border.  They are also intentionally using civilians on their side of the border to try to essentially shield their equipment and their personnel from Israeli military activities.  So there is a stark contrast in the approach that’s taken by the Israelis and taken by Hamas and other extremist groups. 

That said, as I mentioned, Israel and their political leaders often talk about the high standards that they put in place for their military operations to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians — innocent civilians on the Palestinian side of the border.  Based on published reports, it’s apparent that there is more that they should do to live up to those standards that they have set.  And that is something that we routinely encourage them to do, while defending their right to defend themselves.  The President reiterated that in his phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday.

Michelle.

Q    For months, we’ve been talking about increasing sanctions against Russia, and sort of the ultimate would be these sweeping sectoral sanctions.  So can you explain why that hasn’t happened now?  Why is this not the time to go that far, and still do these kind of slow, incremental building sanctions?

MR. EARNEST:  I would say that the sanctions regime that the President rolled out about a week and a half ago, the day before the downing of the Malaysian Airlines jetliner, did take a step in that very direction.  These were sectoral sanctions that were aimed at specific entities in the defense, financial and energy sectors. 

There was an indication from our European partners that they were taking the preliminary steps necessary to implement similar sanctions in their own right, but those steps have not yet been taken by the Europeans.  That is something that was discussed by the President and his counterparts in Western Europe earlier today, as Tony mentioned.

So there have been some steps that the United States has taken to put in place and impose economic costs against President Putin and the Russian regime.  Tony detailed the economic impact that those sanctions were having.  But as Ann rightly pointed out in her question, it is true that the costs have not yet led to the kind of strategic re-evaluation that we would like to see the Russians undertake.  That is why the international community is actively considering imposing additional costs by having the Europeans increase the amount of sanctions that they have currently levied.  It’s also why the United States is considering additional steps that we could take that would pose additional economic costs on Russia and on President Putin.

Q    Well, so the question was really — I mean, we all know that it’s sort of these very precise, let’s pick this bank or that bank; it’s not on the entire Russian banking system.  Do you think there’s still any leverage left in doing it that way?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m certainly not an expert in terms of the way that these tools are deployed.  But it is our view that there is additional leverage that can be gained.  That is certainly why they’re being contemplated both by leaders in Western Europe, but also by those who do have an expertise in this field in this country. 

As Tony documented, there are a number of economic consequences that Russia has already had to bear in terms of the outflow of private capital, in terms of the downward revisions in their economic projections.  We’ve also seen Russia expend significant sums of money to try to shore up the strength of their own currency.

So there are a number of steps that Russia has taken, and a number of outside evaluators who have reviewed the situation to confirm our suspicion that the economic costs have taken a toll on the Russian economy but they have not yet led President Putin to re-evaluate his strategy in Ukraine.  And that ultimately is our goal.

Bob.

Q    Josh, a quick follow-up on the VA bill.  Is $10 billion enough?  They’ve unveiled it up on the Hill, so is $10 billion enough to take care of the system with its deep, deep troubles right now?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we’re still evaluating the specifics and details of their package, so I don’t want to get — I don’t want to say any more than I already have.  But in the next couple of days, we may be in a position to comment on that a little further.

Cheryl.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  The House and Senate are very divided on the border supplemental right now.  If they can’t come to agreement by the end of the week, what is the practical effect?  Can you wait until September?

MR. EARNEST:  Cheryl, I would refer you to the individual agencies for the impact that Congress’s failure to pass the supplemental appropriations request would have on their ability to perform the functions that they are required to perform. 

We are hopeful that Congress will take the kind of action that is required.  Both Democrats and Republicans have spoken quite publicly about their concerns about the situation at the border.  This administration has been really clear about what we feel like we need in terms of resources to deal with the influx that we saw of those who were apprehended at the border earlier this summer.

So there’s a detailed package that we’ve put forward.  As I mentioned last week, the Speaker, at a news conference at the end of the week, said that he was still discussing this matter with members of his own caucus.  That was a pretty disappointing development in the part of this administration.  We put forward a detailed package — I happened to bring it with me right here — it includes very detailed numbers about what we feel is necessary.

I noticed that the new Republican Whip was on one of the Sunday shows yesterday and noted that the administration was asking for a — what he described as a blank check.  It makes me think he’s not sure — that he doesn’t know what a blank check is.  We’ve actually been very specific about the numbers that we feel are necessary to deal with this problem and to address the range of concerns that many people have raised about those who have been apprehended at the border.

So we hope that there will be prompt congressional action on this that is in line with their rhetoric on this issue.

Q    Can I follow on that?

MR. EARNEST:  Sure, Wendell, go ahead.

Q    Why isn’t the change in the 2008 law on non-contiguous migrants’ deportation part of that package?  The President had indicated that he supported a change and his advisors say that changing that law would be necessary to send the kids at least from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador back as rapidly as those from Canada and Mexico.  So why is that not a part of that package?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, you would have to talk to members of Congress about how they want to put this all together.  What we believe is most important is ensuring that the federal government has the resources necessary to address the range of challenges that are posed by this situation.  Remember, it includes some additional security at the border in the form of surveillance equipment.  It also includes the ability of the federal government to open and operate additional detention centers so that we can detain those individuals who have been apprehended at the border.  It includes some funding for HHS that would allow them to evaluate the basic health needs of those individuals who have been apprehended, both to meet their humanitarian needs, but also to ensure the safety of the broader communities in which they’re detained.

It also includes funding that would allow these repatriation flights to take place so that we could more quickly return those individuals that have been apprehended here to their home countries.  It also, of course, includes additional resources to ensure that those who are apprehended at the border receive the due process to which they’re entitled.  So this means hiring new judges and prosecutors and asylum officials to ensure that that can take place.

Q    But notwithstanding Democrat and Republican differences over the amount of funding, the Republicans say in order to approve some, they’re going to need to change that 2008 law.  Does the President support that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it is unfortunate that you would see them take an absolutist position on this.  We certainly do support Congress taking the necessary steps to give the Secretary of Homeland Security the flexibility he needs and the discretion that he can use to more efficiently and effectively enforce the law.  That is a priority of this administration.

But we should not allow the debate around what should be included in that language to hold up something that everybody agrees is necessary, which is additional resources that can be used by the federal government to meet the basic humanitarian needs of those individuals who are apprehended, but also provide funding that can be used to more quickly return those who are found by the courts to not have a legal basis for remaining in the country.

Chris.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  Some members of the Republican Whip team on that have suggested that they’ve gotten surprising support for what is a much smaller check than the one that the White House is asking for, and the $2.7 billion being put forth by the Senate is getting some pushback from Democrats like Joe Manchin, Mary Landrieu and doesn’t seem to have a lot of support on the Republican side.  And you also have a situation where Congress is in session for three and a half days this week.  So with the clock ticking, what do you see as the prognosis and what happens if none of this goes through?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there are those here in town and probably those of you here in this room that have a little bit more experience in evaluating congressional action than I do.  So I will leave that analysis and prognostication to the experts.  I’ll simply observe that this administration three weeks ago today put forward a very detailed request before Congress, and asking for those additional resources to address a problem that I think to a person every single member of Congress agreed existed. And what we have seen in Congress is a lot of talk, particularly from Republicans, but not a lot of willingness to act.  And that is rather unfortunate.

And we are hopeful that in the pivotal week that remains before Congress departs Washington for the traditional five-week recess that they’ll take the important steps that are necessary to ensure the federal government has the resources to deal with a problem that, again, I think every single member of Congress agrees exists.

Q    Can I also ask you about a Reuters’ report that just came out?  I don’t have any more details than this, that Netanyahu says Israel “must be prepared for protracted Gaza campaign.”  And I wonder if it’s possible that there could be a military victory for Israel, but a loss for them in both the political realm and the court of public opinion.  Can I get your reaction to that statement by Benjamin Netanyahu?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s hard to react to a statement that occurred while I was standing up here.  But let me say that it is the position of the United States that it is in the best interests of people on both sides of the border for a cease-fire to take effect.  And the reason for that is pretty simple, that as long as the violence continues across the border, there are going to be innocent civilians in harm’s way.  And having those innocent civilians face that extreme danger has already had terribly tragic consequences for both the Israeli people and the Palestinian people.  And that’s why we want to see that cease-fire put in place. 

There will be an opportunity once that cease-fire is in place for us to have discussions around the kinds of concerns that have legitimately been raised by the Israelis, in particular about Hamas’ repeated willingness to use tunnels and to fire rockets aimed squarely at doing harm to innocent civilians.

So it is the priority of this administration for a cease-fire to be put in place.  That is why you’ve seen Secretary Kerry doggedly pursue diplomacy to protect the lives of innocent civilians on both sides of that border.

Q    Moving on —

MR. EARNEST:  Sure, Ann.

Q    What are the two or three, maybe three or four absolute necessities that the President thinks Congress has to get done by the end of this week?  Would he ask them to delay their recess?  And would he ever consider skipping Kansas City?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, as we always say with the President’s travel, his trip to my hometown notwithstanding — (laughter) — as is always the case with the President’s travel, if there is a critically important function of the presidency that cannot be performed from the road, the President will not hesitate to change his schedule in order to fulfill those functions.  So I do not anticipate that anything that’s happening in Congress would require that at this point.  But if something does emerge, something unexpected does emerge, I’m sure that is something that the President would consider.

Q    Will he ask Congress to delay its break?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’ll let him speak to that.  If he decides that that’s what they should do, then he will say so.  At this point it’s the responsibility of the leaders in Congress to determine their own schedule.

There’s no doubt that there’s a lot of important work that needs to get done this week.  That includes continuing to follow through on these VA reforms on which an agreement was announced over the weekend.  So hopefully that can move forward without any delay or incident.

We certainly would like to see a step taken in terms of passing the supplemental appropriations request that this administration put forward several weeks ago to ensure that the administration has the resources necessary to deal with the problem at the border.

That being said, we could certainly address many of the problems at the border if Congress — if the House were to take action on comprehensive immigration reform legislation that’s already passed the Senate.  The Senate did their work more than a year ago.  Just by taking one simple vote, the House of Representatives could approve that legislation.  The President would sign it.  That would do more to improve our economy, create jobs and reduce the deficit than so many other things that Congress is debating right now.

I think what is the source of particular disappointment on this end of Pennsylvania Avenue, and I think of people in both parties across the country is to see that Congress — House Republicans in particular — are using this very valuable time to debate a piece of legislation that would allow House Republicans to file a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the President of the United States.  I certainly don’t think that rises to the level of a priority that so many of these other things Congress is ignoring right now. 

Let’s move around a little bit.  Leslie.

Q    Thanks, Josh.  With Secretary Kerry unable to get a cease-fire during his trip, and the President talking to Prime Minister Netanyahu last night in what sounded like pretty blunt terms — what are the next steps for the White House?  And do you — to follow up on a previous question, do you believe that there is any leverage left for the United States with Israel?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the United States remains deeply engaged in this effort.  Secretary Kerry has been leading that effort over the last week in terms of the dogged diplomacy that he’s been pursuing.  He’s been meeting with his counterparts not just in Israel and among the leaders of the Palestinian people, but also with his counterparts in Egypt and Qatar and Turkey and the Arab League, the U.N.  He’s been deeply engaged in these conversations in pursuit of a multilateral, international effort to try to bring both sides together and reinstate the terms of the 2012 cease-fire, to try to get those civilians who right now are in harm’s way into a safer position.  That’s been the focal point of our efforts, and we remain engaged in it. 

In terms of our relationship with Israel, the United States remains a strong ally of the nation of Israel.  American leaders say that; Israeli leaders say the same thing.  The best evidence that I have of that is the assistance that the United States has provided to the Israeli government to construct the Iron Dome system that right now is, thankfully, protecting so many Israeli civilians from these rockets that Hamas is firing.  So that relationship remains strong. 

And the reason that Secretary Kerry remains so committed to this effort is that — or at least is in part that we believe it is clearly in the interest of Israel’s long-term security for this cease-fire [violence]* to be brought to an end, and for negotiations between the Palestinian leaders and Israeli leaders to get started in terms of trying to eventually down the line reach this broader, two-state solution.

Roger.

Q    I want to go back to what Tony was saying about the sanctions and the outlook for them.  Is that — if I understood it correctly, the EU is going to go first with their sanctions and probably — or possibly this week, is that correct?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know that he was in a position to talk about the sequencing of the announcement.  But I do think that he committed to our expectation that we would see Europe act before the end of the week.

Q    Would the U.S. act before the end of the week?

MR. EARNEST:  Our position is that the options like that remain on the table, that the United States is prepared to impose additional costs on Russia for their destabilizing activities in Ukraine.  I’m not in a position to confirm for you whether any decisions have been made about carrying out that action or what those actions might look like.   As we’ve talked before, it would be a strategically unwise thing to do to talk about the details of those sanctions before they’re implemented. But I am in a position to confirm that those kinds of options remain on the table when it comes to the United States.

Q    One final — would the U.S. concentrate on any particular sector?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, if we have additional sanctions to announce, then we will be able to get into those kinds of details.  But at this point, it would be preliminary for me to do so.

Q    Josh?

MR. EARNEST:  Goyal. 

Q    Thank you.  Two questions.  One, some people in the Congress want to close down the 84-year-old Export-Import Bank.  And many small businesses are saying that it is helping small businesses export U.S. goods abroad and also creating thousands of jobs in the U.S.  My question is that some people in the Congress are saying that it is helping only the big companies.  What is the President’s action — or reaction about this bank?  Next month will expire the —

MR. EARNEST:  The President does believe that Congress should take steps to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank.  That’s not just the view of this administration and many Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, it’s also the view of organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce.  Those are two organizations that don’t often agree with the President when it comes to some aspects of American economic policy.

But that is an area where this administration agrees that the Export-Import Bank plays a positive role in creating jobs and creating opportunities for American businesses to succeed by opening up markets around the world.

Q    Second question — oh, by the way, it has also created jobs between India and U.S. trade.  Second question is that as far as U.S. ambassador to India is concerned, you think U.S. will have an ambassador before Prime Minister Modi visits the White House end of September?  And second, what is happening as far as Mr. Modi’s address to the Congress?  Is White House is supporting it?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have any personnel announcements at this time, Goyal.  But when we have any updates in terms of appointing an ambassador to India, we’ll let you know.

Q    And address — U.S. address, Mr. Modi’s address to the U.S. Congress, is White House supporting it, the President?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of those conversations.

Bill. 

Q    Josh, there was an unusual editorial in The New York Times yesterday, I’m sure you saw, urging the lifting of the prohibition against — the federal prohibition against marijuana. What is the White House’s position on that?  Would you endorse that?  It’s been there for 44 years.  Maybe too long and time to change it?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I did read the editorial yesterday, Bill.  The administration’s position on this issue has not changed.  We remain committed to treating drug use as a public health issue, not just a criminal justice problem. 

In light of state laws that legalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana by adults in Colorado and Washington, the Department of Justice issued updated guidance last August to federal prosecutors in all states.  That guidance reiterates that marijuana remains an illegal substance based on the laws that Congress has passed.  But it also recognizes that we have limited enforcement resources, and that those resources are best used to address the most significant threats to our communities.

That was the policy before The New York Times editorial, and it continues to be our policy today.

Q    So does that mean that if other states follow Colorado and Washington, the administration would also give them a green light to go ahead and legalize marijuana without federal interference?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not sure a green light is the technical term that the Department of Justice has used.  (Laughter.)  But in terms of the guidance that might be offered to those states, I’d refer you to the Department of Justice.

Q    “Blessing” or whatever word you’d want to use.

MR. EARNEST:  The Department of Justice issued guidance like that.  So if there are other states that are contemplating these kinds of steps, you should check with the Department of Justice about that.

Yes, ma’am.

Q    Thank you, Josh.  Yesterday, North Korea military member had announced that North Korea will attack United States, and especially they point to the White House and Canada with using their nuclear missiles.  What is your comment on their threatening like this?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I have not seen the reports of those specific threats.   I would encourage you to check with my National Security Council colleagues about that.  The United States remains very committed to our alliance with the Republic of Korea, and that alliance allows us to have a strong military-to-military relationship with South Korea to ensure their security.  The United States remains committed as ever to the safety and security of the Republic of Korea.

Q    So you don’t have a strong reaction to them?  Because this is the first time they mentioned the White House and Pentagon specifically.

MR. EARNEST:  Again, I’m not in a position to comment specifically in reaction to those comments because I have not seen them. 

Q    Can I follow on Israel please?

MR. EARNEST:  Let’s move around a little bit.  Zeke. 

Q    Thanks, Josh.  Just with regards to the President’s trip tomorrow, can you give us any reason why is he staying an extra night in your hometown if he’s not doing a fundraiser as you said on Friday?

MR. EARNEST:  At my own personal recommendation.  (Laughter.)  No, look, we’ll have a little bit more about the President’s trip tomorrow.  This will be an opportunity for the President to spend some time in that wonderful community.  He’s going to spend some time talking to individuals who have written him a letter.  You’ve seen on the last couple of trips the President has taken across the country, he’s spent a little extra time in the community to visit with those who have written him letters about the way that individuals in these individual communities are benefiting from some of the policies the President is putting forward and how they could benefit from some of the policies the President is pushing on Congress to implement.  So we’ll have some more detail on that tomorrow.

Q    Tuesday night or Wednesday?

MR. EARNEST:  The President is departing tomorrow.  He’ll remain —

Q    — the letters segment, when he’s going to visit people, is that going to be —
MR. EARNEST:  I believe he’ll have the opportunity to do that both Tuesday evening, as well as on Wednesday. 

Q    One other real quick, just on Secretary Kerry.  Those leaked conversations or however you want to categorize them, is that jeopardizing the U.S. government’s ability to have candid conversations with the Israeli government?  Or do you envision any sort of lasting impact on sort of the relationship between the Obama administration and the Israeli government as a result of these leaks?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think Tony made clear that we were disappointed to read them.  But I do not anticipate that they are going to have much of an impact on the very strong, robust relationship that exists between the United States and our allies in Israel.

Q    And, finally, does Secretary Kerry coming back to the United States and the President conducting that phone call yesterday and the one today, is this a shift — is the President going to take a more active personal role now that Secretary Kerry’s efforts have at least temporarily failed?  Is the President going to try to use his own convening authority?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I do anticipate that the President will continue to be in regular touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu.  That has been the case over the last several weeks of this crisis that has been ongoing in Gaza.  And I do anticipate the President will continue to get regularly briefed by his team and will continue to be on the phone with his counterparts in the region who have concerns about the outcome here.  So I do think that the President will continue to be engaged in this. 

In terms of the next steps, those conversations will continue.  But ultimately, as we’ve said in similar circumstances as it relates to situations like this, it’s ultimately the responsibility of the two sides to come together.  What the international community and what the United States can certainly do is use our influence with both sides to press them to come to an agreement that’s in the best interest of their citizens.

As we’ve pointed out many times, we believe that a cease-fire is in the best interest of civilians on both sides of this conflict.  We just need the leaders of both sides to take the kinds of steps that will impose a cease-fire and allow the leaders to sit around the table and try to broker an agreement here.  And that’s what we’re going to continue to be focused on.

Q    But over the last week, Secretary Kerry was the point person in trying to bring those two sides together.  Has that changed this week?  Will the President be trying to bring the two sides to a multilateral agreement together?

MR. EARNEST:  I guess what I would say — the point that I’m trying to make, Zeke, is that I think there have been a range of officials who have been actively engaged in trying to resolve the situation — the President, first and foremost among them.  It was, however, the case last week that Secretary Kerry was the most senior U.S. official on the ground in the region trying to roll up his sleeves and broker an agreement between those who were involved in this situation. 

So those efforts will continue, even though Secretary Kerry is not actually in the region.  But if he needs to return, I’m sure that he will not hesitate to hop back on the plane and get back to work.

Chris.

Q    Josh, while you were at the podium, the Supreme Court of Appeals affirmed that Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.  It’s the third federal court appeals ruling and the latest in an unbroken string in rulings against the marriage ban since the Supreme Court ruling against DOMA last year.  Any thoughts on this latest decision and the unanimous string of these decisions against marriage bans?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Chris, I haven’t — as you pointed out, the decision was handed down while I was up here, so I have not had an opportunity to talk to anybody on our team who was able to analyze the decision.  But based on the way that you’ve described it, it does sound like the kind of decision that is consistent with the President’s views on this topic.  I think that’s the best I can do. 

All right, guys, we’ll see you tomorrow. 

END
2:04 P.M. EDT

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

1:36 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Welcome back.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was long, I realize, but —

QUESTION: Yeah, it was long.

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

Go ahead, Matt.

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

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

QUESTION: Yeah, can I ask —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

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

QUESTION: Sorry, indulge me one more time.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Just very quickly, a follow-up.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: The effort is ongoing, Said —

QUESTION: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: I know.

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

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

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

QUESTION: I understand that.

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Did the Egyptians sign off on those?

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Well —

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m conveying that —

QUESTION: They voted on it.

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

QUESTION: So they acted prematurely in rejecting it?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: It’s not? I thought —

QUESTION: Really? I thought they voted —

QUESTION: I thought it was.

MS. PSAKI: Hmm?

QUESTION: I thought it was. No?

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

QUESTION: It’s dead?

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: All right. I don’t get it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish.

QUESTION: Oh.

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

QUESTION: Yes, please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Ukraine?

QUESTION: I have one more, broadly.

QUESTION: I have one.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

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

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

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

QUESTION: (Inaudible) acknowledgement?

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: In the world?

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

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

QUESTION: Foreign Minister Lieberman?

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

QUESTION: Minister Steinitz?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay.

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

Israel or a new issue?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. PSAKI: Israel? Go ahead.

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

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

QUESTION: What’s the long term for you?

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

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

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: I tweeted a link.

QUESTION: Oh, there you go.

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One, I asked Marie —

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

QUESTION: Twenty-six.

QUESTION: Twenty —

QUESTION: July 27th?

QUESTION: Twenty-six days.

QUESTION: Yeah, 26 days.

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Leading —

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

QUESTION: Well —

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: What are the allegations?

MS. PSAKI: Hmm?

QUESTION: What are those allegations?

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

QUESTION: Can we move to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

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

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

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

Go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Okay.

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one —

QUESTION: The analysis?

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Well, the images showed —

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Their claim that it’s fake?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. And so —

QUESTION: Why?

QUESTION: D

Foreign Policy Update

3:00 P.M. EDT

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MS. HARF: Thank you. Hello, everyone. It’s so good to be back here, I think for my fifth briefing they were saying, so looking forward to this one and, of course, to many more.

As you know, there’s a lot going on in the world. Secretary Kerry is currently in Cairo, working to see if we can make progress on getting a ceasefire with Gaza. I was in Vienna for the last few weeks working on the Iran negotiations on the nuclear program, lots going on there as well. Obviously, you’ve seen all of the news about Ukraine lately. I’ve spoken to it a number of times in the briefing over in the State Department, but I’m sure there are questions on that as well.

So with that, I think I’m going to go ahead and open it up to questions. I’m going to try and get to everyone, so go ahead. We’ll start here and I’ll work down the front and then move towards the back. And please say – I know most of you now, but please say your name and where you’re from as well.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you. Sonia Schott. I am today with RCA in Colombia. My question is on Latin America. There are some news that the Venezuelan general Hugo Carvajal has been arrested yesterday in Aruba under the request of the U.S. I was wondering if you have any comments on that.

MS. HARF: I hadn’t seen that. I’m happy to look into it. I’m sorry, the first question I don’t have an answer to, but I hadn’t seen that. It sounds a little dubious to me, but we can check afterwards and get you an answer.

QUESTION: I have a second one, just —

MS. HARF: Okay. Then ask a second. Hopefully I can answer this one.

QUESTION: Okay. The opposition leader in Venezuela is facing a trial and presently his wife was here denouncing a lack of transparency. I was wondering if you have any comments on that too. Thank you.

MS. HARF: Well, look, we’ve said throughout the crisis in Venezuela that this is a decision for the Venezuelan people to make. There needs to be room for dissent. There needs to be room for opposition. We cannot see arrest of – for political reasons. We have to see a process go forward that’s inclusive. We haven’t seen a lot of progress there, but this is certainly a key priority for us. It’s not about the United States, as much as sometimes the regime would like to point at us. It’s about what the Venezuelan people want and indeed deserve. So I don’t have any more updates for you than that, but obviously, we want to see an inclusive process going forward.

Yes. I’m just going to go across the front here.

QUESTION: Shi Larasteve (ph), Voice of America, Persian TV. Yesterday, a group of Republican lawmakers unveiled a legislation which forces – if passed, forces the Administration, President Obama, to seek approval from the Congress for any final deal with Iran. What is the Administration’s strategy against these maneuvers?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. We are aware there’s new proposed legislation regarding the Joint Plan of Action, any final comprehensive Joint Plan of Action we would get to. But I’d make a few key points here. The first is that Congress has played a key role throughout the years in our policy towards Iran, most importantly by imposing very serious and significant sanctions on Iran to put the economic pressure in place that indeed has, in part, led us to the diplomatic place we are today.

But there are not 535 commanders-in-chief; there’s just one. And our diplomatic negotiating team led by the President and the Secretary and our team on the ground – I was just there for three weeks – really needs the space to be able to negotiate with the Iranians and with our partners to get to a comprehensive agreement. We have been clear with Congress that our goal is to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, to ensure their program is exclusively for peaceful purposes. But indeed, we need space to be able to get the right combination of pieces to eventually get there.

So we don’t support attempts by Congress to try to insert themselves into outlining what a final deal might look like; indeed, there are a number of different combinations that could get to our goals here, and we need the space to be able to get there. So we will continue to talk to Congress, to hear from them. We’d like to hear their ideas, but we don’t support this type of legislation.

Yes. I like your tie. It’s very festive.

QUESTION: Thank you, thank you. (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: I do. I like it.

QUESTION: I like it too. (Laughter.) This is my special tie to get questions at briefings, (Laughter.)

MS. HARF: There you go. It worked, clearly.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: It worked.

QUESTION: My name’s Andrei Sitov. I’m with TASS, the Russian news agency. Thank you for doing the briefing. We do look forward to many more. Thanks for our friends at the FPC for hosting it.

MS. HARF: Absolutely.

QUESTION: A couple of things. On Ukraine, first off – and I quote – you said about 20 seconds ago, “There needs to be room for dissent. There needs to be room for opposition.” The Ukrainian parliament has just taken steps, so the Ukrainian Government supports those steps to dissolve their Communist Party. Isn’t it stifling the opposition, the criticism, political voices?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. I think I do believe what you’re referring to is draft legislation that hasn’t been approved that would ban the Communist Party. The Communist Party is not banned in Ukraine today. We do believe that all peaceful voices should be heard anywhere. So obviously, that’s something we feel is important in Ukraine and elsewhere. We will continue looking at the draft legislation as it goes through the process, but again, as of today, the Communist Party is not banned in Ukraine.

QUESTION: But do you support a ban? Do you support a ban?

MS. HARF: As I said, we’re not taking a position on the legislation other than to say that all peaceful voices should be heard in Ukraine.

QUESTION: And secondly, and more importantly, obviously, with the tragic loss of the Malaysian airplane, the Russian defense ministry have released their own tracking data and have called on others, specifically on the United States, to release yours.

MS. HARF: To release what?

QUESTION: So – the tracking data from – I understand it’s from the satellites, from what they saw from the satellites on that particular day. And they claim that there was a U.S. satellite directly above that spot on that particular day – maybe a coincidence, maybe not. They – again, have you seen their data? What do you think about their information?

And secondly, can we expect you to release yours?

MS. HARF: Well, we have released up to this point our assessment about what happened and we’ve released as much information as we can at this point, that we’ve been able to declassify that underlies that assessment. So we are continuing to work through releasing more. But I’d just make a few points, and then if you have follow-ups, we can – you wore the tie today; we can keep talking. So that’s okay.

So first, we, based on a variety of information, assess, believe that this was an SA-11 fired from an area controlled by Russian separatists inside Ukraine. We have released a photo which has the trajectory of that missile based on classified information. We can’t get into how we know that. We have released that. We have also released additional information about why the two alternative theories put forward by the Russians are not plausible – the first being that it was a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter that shot down the aircraft.

Very briefly, the reasons we do not believe that this is plausible is because the only missiles it carries are short-range infrared guided missiles. Ground photography from the crash site is consistent with expected damage from a surface-to-air missile of the kind the separatists have indeed used and bragged about having, does not correspond to the kind of – what we would expect to see from an air-to-air missile such as the Su-25 has.

So we have put forward our assessment, based on a variety of information about why we believe that it indeed was an SA-11 fired from Russian-controlled separatist area. We believe an investigation needs to go forward to determine exactly who had their finger on the trigger. We still don’t know that, don’t know the intentions behind why they did this. So we think an investigation should continue, but we will continue to put out more information as we are able to do so.

QUESTION: And —

MS. HARF: Do you want the microphone? Should we wait?

QUESTION: — about their own data, have you seen the data released by the Russians?

MS. HARF: I’ve seen some of the information put out by the Russians. Again, we feel very strongly in our assessment of what happened.

Yes, I am just going to go across the front here. So – and then I will get to the rest of the room. I promise.

QUESTION: Sungchul Rhee with SBS Seoul Broadcasting System from Seoul, Korea. I have two questions on Russia.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: First is that this morning, Russian Government expressed concern over United States plan to introduce missile defense system in Korea – U.S. camps. It was the – it was called THAAD – the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. What is your reaction to the – Russia’s statement here?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see that specific statement, but in terms of missile defense, we have very clearly said we are committed to missile defense but also to missile defense cooperation with Russia, which would enhance the security of both NATO and of Russia. I understand there are strong opinions here in Russia about missile defense, but we have been very clear that it is not aimed at them, that we are looking at a variety of other threats, and that we will continue talking to them and being transparent with them about why we’re doing what we’re doing.

I haven’t seen this —

QUESTION: You mean the North Korean threat?

MS. HARF: Well, we are looking at a variety of threats when we talk about NATO and now we’re often looking at Iran when we talk about other places, we do look at a threat from North Korea, but – a variety of threats we’re looking at, but they are not designed to deter anything from Russia. Indeed, we’ve said we will cooperate with Russia on missile defense.

QUESTION: My second question is: You are dealing with really a lot of global issues at the same time which really you’re juggling. And – but not a few critics are criticizing the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, questioning on – if President Obama is adequately dealing with all the issues at the same time effectively. Even General Jim Jones, a former national security advisor to President Obama, appeared on TV this morning and he was citing a seismic shift in the relations between the United States and Russia. What is your reaction to those issues?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a couple questions there and let me try to address all of them. I think in terms of our relationship with Russia over the time we’ve been in office in this Administration, we have always said we will work together when we can. If you look at – I mean, again, going back to Vienna where I was for the Iran talks, we and the Russians are in lockstep on the exact same side about how we deal with the Iranian nuclear threat. We work very closely together on that issue. That doesn’t take away from the fact that much of what I have talked about this week at the briefings and that we deal with right now in the Administration is very serious concerns about Russian activity in Ukraine. And I’ve been very – I think we’ve all been very outspoken about that in our serious concerns there.

So it’s complicated. We work together when we can and we very strongly disagree when we do. And all of those things happen at the same time because the world is a big place, and we have places where we do have overlapping interests like when it comes to Iran’s nuclear program. But very many places where we have very divergent interests as well, as you’ve seen with Ukraine.

But on the broader question of foreign policy, you’re right; the world is a complicated, dangerous place at times. We are dealing with very serious crises, whether you look at Gaza, whether you look at Ukraine, whether you look at the host of other issues we’re dealing with right now.

And what we’ve always said is that we will do a few things, right. We have, since the beginning of this Administration, rebuilt partnerships and alliances if you look all over the world. Because in these crises, you need friends and you need partners and you need allies. And so while you can never make the world a perfect place, you can help address these when you have people on your side helping you. So that’s one thing we’ve done in terms of these challenges.

And I think you’ve seen Secretary Kerry not hesitate to get on a plane and try and make progress here. We have been very actively engaged in diplomacy and diplomatic efforts on all of these crises. We believe that diplomacy in many of these instances is the best way to handle it. That’s why you see him flying all over the world, to try and make progress here, because we are deeply and personally present and engaged in trying to deal with these crises. But they’re difficult and the world is complicated, and there are no easy answers, and people who tell you there are either just not paying attention or aren’t telling you the truth – one of the two.

So I think we will keep working on all of them. We take each one individually. There’s a different way we deal with all of them, but we have a really great team who is working very hard to do so.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yeah, we can go back. Yes, yes.

MS. HARF: But you need a microphone, Andrei.

QUESTION: And just what is your biggest success story in terms of winning new friends? Thank you.

MS. HARF: Well, look, when we took office – I think you can look at when we took office in 2009, which feels like an eternity ago probably to all of us, a lot of our relationships had waned in Asia, in Europe, all around the world. There had been eight years of neglect, and in some cases outright disagreement. So we have worked very, very hard over the past, I think, now six years – is that how long it’s been? – to rebuild these alliances. If you look, again, at the P5+1 in Europe and how we’re working on Iran together, we built an international coalition on Iran – not just at the negotiating table through the P5+1, but with all of the countries that buy oil from Iran, with all of the countries who have put sanctions in place, whether it’s Japan, South Korea, the UAE, India, China, all of the countries we’ve brought together to put pressure on Iran. That was done with really painstaking diplomatic work, with people going all over the world and saying, “This is why you should join us,” even though it’s really tough for many of these countries economically.

So I think that’s just one way we’ve done it. But again, look, these are tough challenges that we face.

I’m actually going to go to New York for a question, if they can hear me.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie. With regard to the recent development in the Gaza Strip and the bombardment of the UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun and the increasing number of innocent civilian casualties, what does the Secretary Kerry have to say about the recent development, and would that be categorized as a war crime from the U.S. Department of State perspective and precedents? And with regard to Iraq, and excuse me, I’m going to bundle my questions together —

MS. HARF: Let me do Gaza first. You stay there and I’ll come back to you for Iraq, okay? So I don’t forget. So just stay there. On the UNRWA school, we are deeply saddened, very concerned about the tragic incident at the UN facility today. We’re still trying to determine the facts. But I think the reason the Secretary is on the ground in Cairo, has been shuttling back and forth trying to get a ceasefire here is because this – everything that we see happening needs to stop. We are increasingly concerned about civilian casualties on the Palestinian side. We’ve seen many, many rockets being fired from Hamas into Israel.

So the Secretary is very committed to seeing if he can get a ceasefire here. Obviously, it’s very complicated and it takes a lot of work on all sides to get that done. So we will continue working on it and we are very concerned by the rising civilian casualties. We think the Israelis need to do more to prevent them, and we’ll keep talking to them about it.

Now your second question on Iraq.

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up on Gaza before we move to Iraq?

MS. HARF: Sure, you can. Yes.

QUESTION: For Gaza, there is an apparent war crime committed today. How does the United States justify this to its people, to the international community, within the principles and manners that the United States try to be a mediator in this conflict?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re still trying to get all the facts about what happened today, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions or put labels before we know all of the facts. What we do know is that Hamas has repeatedly kept rockets in civilian areas – in schools, in hospitals. But at the same time, we have told the Israelis and we have said publicly that they need to take more steps to protect civilian casualties, that they’re not doing enough. So we’ll get all the facts about this before we make a determination there.

But again, this just underscores why we believe a ceasefire is so critical to try to get in place. There are gaps between the two sides that remain. I don’t know if we’ll be able to, but we’re certainly working towards it for exactly this reason.

QUESTION: Moving along to Iraq, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant is persecuting Christians, Shiites, Yazidis, people from the Shabak, just for their religious faith and affiliation. To add to the crisis, there is some reports speaking about that the ISIL government, or whatever we can call it, is now requiring all females to go through female genital mutilation surgeries. Would there be within the UN Charter – would the United States consider pushing into the Security Council, applying Chapter 7 for military action against the ISIL militias at this point?

MS. HARF: Well, just a few points in what you asked. We are aware there are conflicting reports about ISIL issuing a decree ordering female genital mutilation. We’re aware there are some conflicting reports here. We are gathering more information. We can’t confirm the details at this point. But that goes without saying that we clearly condemn strongly this abhorrent practice no matter where it is. We know it can lead to very serious health consequences. We know it’s affected approximately 130 million women and girls worldwide, which is an extraordinary number and which is really unacceptable.

So we’ll get more details on this. But more broadly speaking, we have seen ISIL or ISIS, whatever name we want to use, go to extraordinary lengths to kill civilians, to attack them, oftentimes just for their religion, which is – has absolutely no place at all in Syria or Iraq. That’s why we’ve tried to help the Iraqis fight ISIL certainly by providing support, by providing assistance. We are providing advice to them and also, of course, weapons. When it comes on the Syrian side, we have increased our support to the moderate opposition, including through asking Congress for some funding so we can equip and train them. So those efforts are all ongoing, and we’re trying to help both of those folks fight ISIL now. I don’t have anything to preview in terms of UN Security Council action, but clearly we believe we, acting in partnership with our friends in the region, can try and help them fight this threat because they have really – I mean, you see some of the Christian communities, some of the things they’re doing there. It’s just disgusting, and we need to help put it to an end.

Yes, let’s go to the back here in the white jacket. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Thanks for doing this briefing, Ms. Harf. My name is Maria Garcia. I’m with Notimex, the Mexican news agency. The U.S. Bishop Conference sent a letter today to Secretary Kerry, and they ask to change the trade and economic policies in Central America and also address issues of drugs here and the trafficking of armaments. I wonder if the Secretary has any knowledge of the document or – and if you have any thoughts about that.

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen the letter yet. You said it was sent today? Yeah. I’m sorry. I haven’t seen it, and I’m not sure if the Secretary has yet. As you know, he’s traveling, and I’m sure it will get to him soon. Obviously – and I was actually with the Secretary during his last trip there to Mexico City – there are a whole range of issues we’re working on in the region, including the security issues and when it comes to drugs and trafficking and those issues. We’ve talked a lot about the unaccompanied minors and children issue that we’ve seen coming across the border in such huge numbers lately. So there’s a whole range of issues. Trade, you mentioned, is one of them as well. So we’ll take a look at the letter when we get it, and I’m sure we’ll have some thoughts on it then. But suffice it to say, I don’t have any specific thoughts, because I haven’t seen it yet. I’m sorry.

Yes, let’s go right here in the middle, and then I’ll go to you. Let’s do you first, and then you’re next.

QUESTION: Hi. I’m Lauri Tankler with the Estonian Public Broadcasting. I got a couple questions on Ukraine —

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: — and Russia. So in your last briefing today, you already came out with the statement that you have evidence that Russia is shelling Ukraine from the —

MS. HARF: Firing artillery.

QUESTION: Yeah, firing from the Russian side of the border. What is that going to be – what does that mean in terms of that’s clearly an escalation? And what does that mean in the face of the threat of sectoral sanctions by the U.S.? Or what’s going to happen now?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a good question. You’ve seen us continue to impose increasingly tough sanctions throughout this conflict, including very recently. And we have more ready to go if we think it’s appropriate to do so. So we’ll talk with – we’re particularly talking with our EU and European partners about how we can all impose more costs on Russia here. We know they’ve already had an impact. I don’t have anything new to announce today in terms of what might come next, but we have more steps ready to go, and we are willing to use them if we see more escalation of this kind.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the European Union is under more and more criticism about not getting the decision done and pushing it forward to Tuesday and so on. Does the Administration still believe that it’s addressing the Russian question in lockstep with its European allies?

MS. HARF: Well, we do. We coordinate very closely on this, and we do think that the downing of MH17 should be a wakeup call for Europe. This happened in their backyard. There were many Europeans on this plane. This can’t go unpunished, so I think that’s a conversation we’re having. We do, at the same time, know that it is – Europe is much more economically intertwined with Russia than we are, for example, and we don’t want them to have to take steps that would adversely impact their economy while trying to impose costs on the Russians. So it is a balance, but we think there’s a way to strike it where they can impose more costs, and we’re encouraging them to do so.

QUESTION: But no criticism?

MS. HARF: I think I just encouraged them to do more, and I’ve said this should be a wakeup call, and we haven’t seen them do more yet, we saw them do a little bit coming out of the Foreign Affairs Council meeting this week. No criticism, but we will keep working with them. We know it’s hard, but we do think more costs need to be imposed.

Yes, I’m going to go to you, and then I’m going to go to New York next. So one more here, and then to New York.

QUESTION: Thank you. Inga Czerny for Polish Press Agency, PAP. Could you please tell us if it’s a good or bad thing that European Court of Justice in Strasbourg today found Poland guilty of helping the U.S. setting up the secret prison of CIA where people were tortured? And generally, how do you find the fact that Poland is being held accountable for this and in U.S. nobody was actually charged?

MS. HARF: Well, I saw those reports, and I think I, unfortunately, won’t be able to comment on them in any way. We obviously have a very close relationship with Poland today on a host of issues, but I just don’t have much more for you than that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike) when can we expect the report – the Senate report of the interrogation program?

MS. HARF: I would refer you to the Senate Select Committee on that. I think they probably have the best information on timing. I don’t know the timing, quite frankly.

Let’s go to New York for a question.

QUESTION: Paolo Mastrolilli of the Italian newspaper La Stampa. Thank you very much for doing this. You say that there are still gaps to fill in the negotiation for a truce in Gaza. Could you please elaborate on that and what are the hopes to (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: Well, I wish I could, but we’re having these conversations privately and diplomatically to see if we can bridge those and aren’t going to detail the specifics in public. But this is complicated, and there’s a lot of issues that we need to deal with to get to a ceasefire, a lot of different partners we’re working with. The Secretary today has spoken with the Turkish foreign minister, the Egyptian foreign minister, the Qatari foreign minister, the Israeli prime minister, the French, the Brits, the Jordanians, a whole host of people, not all just on this topic, but to try and get everybody who has some influence with Hamas or with Israel to try and get us to a place where we can all agree on a ceasefire. Obviously we don’t talk to Hamas because we consider them a terrorist organization, but there are some of our partners who do. So we are trying to bridge the gaps through any means we can, but it’s hard and I don’t want to downplay how difficult it is.

Thanks. Let’s go to you in the back.

QUESTION: Thank you. Daniel Pacheco with Caracol Television from Colombia. Two questions. General Carvajal from Venezuela who was appointed in the consulate in Aruba was captured today. There are some reports that he sought for extradition. I don’t know if you maybe have something on that.

MS. HARF: I got – that was the first question I got asked.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: No, no, no, no. It’s okay. And I will say the same thing – that I hadn’t seen those reports and I don’t know the facts here. It sounds a little dubious to me, but I don’t know. So I will check and I will get you an answer, I promise.

QUESTION: This one is broader, so I’m sure you can say something.

MS. HARF: Let’s hope so.

QUESTION: President Putin was touring Latin America just before the Malaysian Airlines accident, the tragedy. He was welcomed in Argentina, in Brazil. He even met with President Santos, a big ally of the United States. Was this a very successful tour? Does this – what is your comment on this in times when you are constantly talking about isolating Russia economically and politically?

MS. HARF: Well, we do talk about isolating Russia, but as I also said a few minutes ago, we work with Russia. The Iran talks where I just was recently, we are on the same side of this issue, we are working together on the same side of the negotiating table. So we don’t believe these things are mutually exclusive, and we think other countries can and should have strong relationships with Russia, and we work with them on many issues.

So I’ve seen some of the reports from his trip there. I know a number of folks were in the region for the BRICS summit. And look, we believe countries should have relationships with other countries; doesn’t mean they shouldn’t make very clear when they disagree with them, which, of course, we do in this case.

Yes. Coming up to you.

QUESTION: Michael Ignatiou from Mega TV, Greece. Marie, you and other officials of the American Government, you are asking the Russians to withdraw from Ukraine, and you are doing this every day. But at the same time, you never ask your friend and ally, Turkey, for example, to withdraw from Cyprus. As you know, Turkey has occupied Cyprus for 40 years. What is the difference or differences between the two cases? Thank you.

MS. HARF: Well, I think there are many differences that I’m happy to talk about. In terms of Cyprus, we fully support the ongoing process under the auspices of the UN Good Offices mission; have urged both parties to seize the opportunity to make real and substantial progress toward a settlement that reunifies the island as a bi-zonal and bi-communal federation. We, as the United States, are willing to assist in any way we find useful.

I know that there are a lot of strong feelings on both sides of this issue, but there’s a process in place here to get a resolution here, and we fully support that process and can help in any way we can, but completely different situation.

Yes. I’m going to go to the gentleman in the middle back here with the blue shirt on. Yes, you.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. My name is Oliver Grimm for the Austrian newspaper Die Presse. I have a short follow-up, and then a question on public diplomacy.

MS. HARF: I just spent a lot of time in Austria. (Laughter.) It was lovely.

QUESTION: It was pretty nice, and I think I saw the pictures from the Secretary.

MS. HARF: It is.

QUESTION: The short follow-up on the European Court of Human Rights question on (inaudible): Can you just explain why the Administration wouldn’t comment on this court’s finding? I do recollect that you quite regularly comment on European legal findings by the European Court of Justice or the – so —

MS. HARF: Sometimes we do, sometimes we don’t.

QUESTION: So if you could explain that. And then the second question would be about the reform of Voice of America. What do you make of criticism that the – I think it’s called the United States International Communications Reform Act that is in Congress now would sort of impinge on the editorial independence and the journalistic freedom of reporters working for Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and so forth by turning it into a public diplomacy tool as it is envisioned and planned in this legislation?

MS. HARF: Right, no. We support Voice of America remaining as it is, believe it’s a very important journalistic outlet. There may be some of you in the room from Voice of America or from other related outlets. And we, I don’t think, would support efforts to take away some of the independence like we’ve seen some people on the Hill want to do. So I don’t think that’s something we would support. We’ll keep talking to Congress about it, obviously.

On the first, we don’t always comment on those kinds of cases, particularly when they involve allegations about U.S. intelligence activities, so unfortunately I just don’t have more of a comment for you on that.

Yes, I’m going to go behind you to this woman whose hand is still up. Yes, in the black shirt.

QUESTION: Hi, Lisa Rizzolo from ARD German TV. And I know you were asked at your earlier briefing about the European Union putting out a statement about the execution in Arizona, and I just wanted to see if you’ve seen anything on that and if you have anything.

MS. HARF: I’m sorry. I literally ran over here right after the briefing and hadn’t seen it. I’ve seen some of the press reports about it. And if we can take a look and if there’s an additional comment to make, I’m happy to get it around to folks. Just running around a little bit today, sorry.

Let’s go right here on the left.

QUESTION: Hi, thank you. I’m Chuanjun Wang from China’s Guangming Daily. As we know, last year in Sunnylands summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping proposed the new model of major-countries relationship with the U.S. During that time, President Obama and later high officials from the U.S. all give a positive reaction on that proposal, but recently, especially in the past three months, I noticed that during the meetings with the Chinese officials, the U.S. officials said and used the major – a new model of a major-power relationship with China, even in the SED, in the (inaudible). President Obama only used the new model of (inaudible), so I just wonder if the U.S. has changed the position on this new model and how U.S. and China should move forward regarding that.

MS. HARF: Right. Well, no, we haven’t. And you’re right, President Obama and President Xi made clear at Sunnylands last year that they are committed to building a historic bilateral relationship based on really two critical elements, and both are important. One, practical cooperation on areas where we do cooperate; and then two, constructive management of differences when they arise. And I think that is – both of those have been the hallmarks of our relationship going forward. At the S&ED, there were a number of very productive conversations that came out of those meetings. Again, cooperation where we can and constructive management of differences when we have them – those both underpin our relationship, and nothing on that has changed.

Yes. Let’s go in the middle here, and then I’ll come up front to you.

QUESTION: Michael Hernandez, Anadolu Agency. Today at the State Department, I believe you said that something like three times the Secretary has been in contact with Foreign Minister Davutoglu.

MS. HARF: He has. Today he’s spoken to him three times.

QUESTION: Okay. That’s among the most or the most that you outlined during the earlier briefing. I was wondering, what is behind this close consultation between the Secretary and foreign minister? What’s motivating it?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Well, it’s not – so just to be clear, he’s made – the count as I have on here, 15 or so phone calls today, many of them related to Gaza. So it’s part of his broader engagement on Gaza. He’s spoken to the Qatari foreign minister twice today as well. So it’s, at least with the Turks and others, related to how we can push the parties to a ceasefire in Gaza.

The other consultation, much of it has been on Ukraine and MH17.

Yes. I will go back here. Yes.

QUESTION: I’m Anwar Iqbal. I work for Pakistan Dawn newspaper. There is a Pakistani delegation here, and they met Deputy Secretary Burns and Dan Feldman and others – officials at State and White House. And there was an AP report suggesting that they are asking the United States to reconsider their withdrawal plan from Afghanistan, and they also had a discussion on the ongoing military operation in North Waziristan. So would you please like to comment on those?

MS. HARF: I haven’t gotten a full readout from those meetings yet. I know they discussed a wide range of issues. I can check and see, but I haven’t gotten a readout from those meetings yet.

Would you have one up here? Yes.

QUESTION: This week, Iraqis’ ambassador to Washington criticized the Administration for lack of support – military support for his country, and claimed that this creates vacuum which they are going to – willing to give to anybody to fill it. And they said Iran has offered literally to replace the United States. So what is the position?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a few points. No other country, I think, can do what the United States does in terms of support. We have been very supportive of the Iraqi Government. We have done that with assistance, with weapons, with advice, with training. There are some systems we’re still trying to get delivered, which the main holdup has been slowness on the Iraqi Government’s side throughout the years. But I think now they understand the severity of the situation, and we’re trying to get things delivered as quickly as possible. And we stand ready to assist in a number of ways.

But at the end of the day, this is not a problem we can fix for the Iraqis. It is a problem that needs to be fixed by them. We saw today a president being named. Next step is the prime minister, so we can hopefully soon have a new government in place that can put forward a strategy to deal with this terrorist threat as we go forward. And we’ll help them as they do it, but we can’t do it for them. So I think we are looking forward to working with the new government and seeing what else we could possibly do to help.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Well, we don’t work with Iran on Iraq. We have spoken on one occasion to Iran about it on the sidelines of another meeting, many weeks ago now. But look, we’re not going to coordinate with Iran on Iraq. What we’ve said is any country in the region, including Iran, should use its influence over different parties in Iraq to pull them together, to promote an inclusive government that – and that it’s the Iraqi army and security forces that need to fight this threat. It’s not militias; it’s not anything outside of the government. And so we’re encouraging all parties, including Iran, to do so.

Yes, and then I’ll go – actually, I’ll go to you. And then I’ll come back up to you, Andrei. Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: You’re welcome.

QUESTION: My name is Jae Sun Chang, Yonhap News Agency from South Korea. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui has said today that the United States should lower the bar for resuming the Six-Party Talks, and he also accused the United States of trying to achieve its target before the talks even resume. What’s your response?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t see those specific comments, but we’ve worked very closely with the South Koreans and other partners on the denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We are very committed to it. We’ve said that the North Koreans need to take certain steps before we can get back to the table, and we’ll continue to have those conversations.

QUESTION: Many critics say the United States is basically ignoring this problem of North Korean nuclear program and – while this communist nation is strengthening its nuclear capabilities day by day and – do you see any urgency in the problem?

MS. HARF: We do, and we’re certainly not ignoring it. We see quite a bit of urgency. And I think that’s why, speaking to your previous question, we do think there should be a high bar here, that it is a very dangerous threat. We’ve seen increasingly provocative rhetoric coming out of North Korea, including with recent missile launches that are in violation of UN Security Council resolutions. So it’s an issue we have a whole team very focused on, are working with our partners and the rest of the Six-Party as well, to see if we can get back to the table here.

QUESTION: My last question is, South Korea and China earlier this week signed an agreement to establish a hotline between the defense ministry of the two countries. I think China is the second country to have – after the United States – to have a hotline with South Korea’s defense ministry. This is yet another sign of deepening relations between the two countries, and what is your response?

MS. HARF: Right. Well – and we think the concept of hotlines in general, particularly if you’re talking about territorial disputes in either the South China Sea or the East China Sea, tend to be a good idea. The Japanese have talked about doing this as well. So anything that can reduce tensions and try to get these disputes resolved peacefully we do think is a good thing. So those – that’s just one of those steps that we tend to, sort of across the board, like.

Yes, Andrei.

QUESTION: Marie, when we were talking about this incident with MH17, you said that you are for a full investigation —

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: — full and fair investigation and getting to know whose finger was on that button or whatever it was that launched the missile. So basically, it’s an open question yet for you?

MS. HARF: No, that’s not what I said. We know a couple – here’s what we know based on a very wide-ranging assessment, that it was – let me just – and then you can ask follow-up. We know where the missile was fired from; we know that it was an SA-11; we know the area is controlled by Russian separatists. We know that there were no Ukrainian SA-11s within the vicinity that could’ve been fired. We know the trajectory, we know where it hit, and we know where it came down. We know that Russia has been supplying the separatists with weapons and training them on these weapons.

Now who – which one of them actually had their finger on the button, you’re right, we don’t know that. We don’t. But we know where the missile was fired from. We know who fired it, who controls that – generally speaking – and who controls that territory, who’s been funding and arming and training these folks.

QUESTION: My original question was about prejudging, because on one of the other questions you said that – on the question about the Europeans and the sanctions against Russia, you said, yeah, it cannot go unpunished. So you already know whom to punish?

MS. HARF: We know who —

QUESTION: Which is prejudging.

MS. HARF: Well, no. We know who’s been supporting these separatists for months. We know that these separatists would not be in eastern Ukraine, able to do this, without the direct backing of President Putin and the Russian Government. They wouldn’t even be there without the Russian Government’s support. They wouldn’t have weaponry without the Russian Government’s support. Forgetting about this specific incident, they wouldn’t – they today, again, have been bragging about more Ukrainian fighter jets they’ve brought down.

So we will do a full investigation into MH17, but these separatists would not be there —

QUESTION: Marie —

MS. HARF: — without the support of the Russian Government.

QUESTION: — I don’t think you are right about that. I could tell you in response that without the government – Ukrainian Government planes flying over Ukrainian cities and bombing Ukrainian peaceful civilians —

MS. HARF: That’s not —

QUESTION: — there would be no need for the civilians to defend themselves.

MS. HARF: That’s not what’s happening here.

QUESTION: And it is what’s happening.

MS. HARF: It’s not.

QUESTION: And everybody knows that’s what’s happening.

MS. HARF: Well, we can agree to disagree —

QUESTION: But basically – yeah, I know.

MS. HARF: — on this.

QUESTION: I know.

MS. HARF: But we have a preponderance of evidence on our side here.

QUESTION: But the question that I wanted to ask about this was: Why is it that you are so adamant about not admitting even the possibility that the missile was launched mistakenly or deliberately by the Ukrainians? They had their own motives for that.

MS. HARF: They don’t, though. Let me just address that specific point. Russia did release a map with alleged locations of Ukrainian SA-11 units within range of the crash. We are confident that this information is incorrect. We have information that the nearest Ukrainian operational SA-11 unit is located well out of range from both the launch and the crash sites. So there were no Ukrainian SA-11s within the range. So again, we can’t make up our own facts here. We can’t go on hunches. We have pictures of where this was launched from. We can see the trajectory. And so what we need now, as President Putin himself has said, is a full investigation. We need to see that backed up with actions, and we need to see some accountability.

QUESTION: This is your information, not information coming from Twitter or from the Ukrainians or whatever?

MS. HARF: No, this is our information. We have eyes on this area and we’ve seen some of this. Yeah.

Yes, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Hello, Marie.

MS. HARF: Hi.

QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you so much for doing this. Atsushi Okudera from Asahi Shimbun, in Japan. The President Putin originally has a plan to visit Japan. And as you know, Japan is preparing for a peace treaty with Russia, and we have a territory issue – and a northern territory issues. So I’m just wondering that – are you supporting these – the Japanese efforts for resolving the – these – the country, territory —

MS. HARF: Well, we want Japan to have good relations with its neighbors and with other countries in the region. I don’t have more of a comment than that on what you asked about specifically. I think probably up to the Japanese to speak about that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Again, we believe that Japan should have good relationships with its neighbors. Japan is one of our closest alliances in the world. We work together on a whole host of issues, one of our most important friends that we have, and so we’ll continue working together.

QUESTION: And the same time, on the – DPRK abduction issues, you know?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Probably it’s on July 6th that Secretary Kerry spoke to Foreign Minister Kishida of Japan, and there is some report indicate United States is concerned about the lifting sanction or visiting. Prime Minister Abe is also – has also now – there is a possibility to visit North Korea. Do you – what is the position on that? Are you concerned about the visit to North Korea?

MS. HARF: Well, in terms of the abductions issue or whether the prime minister will go to North Korea, we support Japanese efforts to resolve the abductions issue in a transparent manner. I am aware of press reports indicating that Prime Minister Abe is actually not currently considering a visit to Pyongyang. I know there’s been some conflicting reporting out there, but I don’t think he is right now. I think the Japanese Government probably has the most up-to-date information on that.

Let’s do a few more. Yes, right here, and then I’ll go up to the lady in front of you.

QUESTION: Thank you, Marie. I’m from China, with China News Service. Just now, you mentioned if it’s necessary, United States will have more steps to sanctions U.S. – the Russia if the tension escalated. So how do you define that? And yesterday, reports say the United States officials told CNN that the more troops moving to the border of the Ukraine. Is that one of them?

MS. HARF: Well, that’s certainly – we would consider that escalation, yes. Look, there’s not one blanket definition here. We take a look at the steps across the board that we’ve seen. We make assessments on a day-by-day basis. People are very focused on this. We have more steps ready to go if we are – if we decide to take them. But it’s an ongoing process here. And there is a diplomatic path forward. We have consistently said that even as we increase pressure, there’s a different path that Russia can choose to take. And I think hopefully they will do so.

Let’s do a couple more. Yes, you.

QUESTION: (Off-mike) mentioned the difficulties of the Europeans and you understand the difficulties of the Europeans in proceeding with sanctions against Russians given – Russia given the energy dependence. Can – and the IMF just warned today, actually, of the rising tensions, geopolitical tensions actually having an effect on oil prices. And I can tell you from experience the oil prices in Europe are much higher than what they are in the United States, especially in some countries like my own, which are also coming out of a very difficult crisis. Now, what can the U.S. do to assist Europe in its effort towards more energy security and diversification? Are you working with them on specific projects?

MS. HARF: We’re working together very closely. It’s a conversation we have all the time, because we know it’s difficult and we know that as more costs are imposed on Russia it will get harder for the Europeans across the board on this issue. So we work together to talk about energy flows, how we can help, energy independence, all of these issues, alternative energy, clean energy, basically how we can help relieve the pressure, if we can, by working together.

But it’s really a long-term issue. There are things we can do now, but it really is more of a discussion about what we do over the long term, so if there are crises like this we don’t have the same pressure and we can help Europe with its energy situation so we don’t have the same kind of considerations. But it is much more of a long-term issue, but we are working together at a number of levels now on that.

Yes. Let’s go – go ahead, here. Let’s do just a couple more. And we’ll go back here to folks who haven’t had a question yet next.

QUESTION: Hi. China has been proposing the Asian infrastructure development bank, and earlier this month I read news from China media who quoting – which quoting the South Korean media saying that U.S. high officials request South Korea not to support China on this issue. I just want get your comment on that. And also, what’s the U.S. position on the China’s Asian infrastructure development bank?

MS. HARF: I’m not actually familiar with that issue. So I’m happy to check with our folks and see if we have a position and what that is, and we can make sure we get it to you.

Let’s go to the back here for two of you who haven’t had questions yet.

QUESTION: Thank you so much. My name is Xavier Vila, Catalunya Radio in Barcelona. Are you aware of these – administration planning to send anyone, any observers to Scotland for the referendum in September and the Catalan one in November, or this is something that’s going to be controlled by the consulates and embassies in those areas? Thank you.

MS. HARF: I’m not aware of us sending anyone. I can check, but I’m not aware of that.

QUESTION: You’re not sending anyone?

MS. HARF: Yeah, not that I’m aware of.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Yep. Let’s go right behind you, and then I’ll come up to you.

QUESTION: Yeah. This is Jahanzaib Ali from ARY News, Pakistan. A couple of days ago the former president Mr. Zardari was in town and had meeting with Vice President Joe Biden. So could you tell us something about that meeting, because there are too many speculations in Pakistan about that meeting. And secondly, U.S. expressing its concerns over the Haqqani Network, about their safe havens in North Waziristan (inaudible). Despite knowing that, the Pakistani military is – right now is in military operations going on there. So what type of concerns you have now about the Haqqani Network? Thank you.

MS. HARF: Well, on the first question, I think that the Vice President’s office is probably better able to speak about their meeting. I don’t have more details to share on that.

But look, we’ve long been very focused on the Haqqani Network, on their intent to cause instability in Afghanistan, to attack and kill U.S. citizens, which we’ve seen, and military service members particularly. And it’s been one of our top priorities to bring to bear sort of all of the elements of our power to help fight this threat, to degrade its capability to carry out attacks, to prevent it from raising money, and to prevent it from moving people around. So this remains one of our top priorities. We know it’s a challenge. We’re working to help particularly in Afghanistan fight this threat.

Anyone else? Let’s do just two more here. We’ll do right here, and then you can wrap us up.

QUESTION: My name is Inoue from Kyodo News Japan. Thank you for doing this.

MS. HARF: Good to see you.

QUESTION: I have a question about the SA-11. The SA-11 was apparently used by the separatists in Ukraine, that it – they are not state – they are non-state actor.

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: So do you think this incident would have any implication when you’re considering – when you’re trying to ratchet up the assistance to Syrian opposite? Because they have asked you to provide like surface-to-air missiles, like MANPADS. So do you think this incident may have any impact to your – on your decision.

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve – sorry. Finish your question. Sorry. I jumped in there a little early. Look, when it comes to that issue, we have said for a very long time that we have concerns about providing those types of systems in Syria because of the risks. You just need to see the past few days to see that. And so our position on that hasn’t changed. Any assistance we’re providing to the opposition in Syria, it’s a judgment that you make. We want to make sure people are vetted properly, that you feel comfortable providing them with assistance, and that you calibrate that assistance so you don’t give them the types of assistance that could end up in the hands of some pretty bad people and that could do pretty bad things with them. So that’s why our position on that has remained consistent. We are – concerns about the risk of the system.

Last – we’ll do two more. Two more. In the back, and then you can wrap us up, up front.

QUESTION: Thank you. Short question on Ukraine. Do you still exclude delivering any military relief or assistance to Ukrainians to have them restore the sovereignty themselves?

MS. HARF: Right. So we’ve provided a great deal of assistance monetarily and with other kinds of support as well, material support to the Ukrainians. But they – look, there’s not a military solution here, right. We need to see de-escalation. Quite frankly, nothing we gave the Ukrainian military could put it on par with the Russian military, which is why there’s not a military solution here. The Ukrainians have a right to defend their people and their territory. We’ve seen them do that. We’ll continue supporting them, again with material and assistance and money. And we review all the requests that come in from them, because we do want to keep making decisions that will help them in the best way that we think is appropriate.

Last one. Yes. You have the honor of the last question.

QUESTION: Thank you. Voice of America, Persian TV. Last time when the truth was reached in Middle East conflict was during Morsy, friend of Hamas. How important is the role of Egypt now and how do you define the relationship between the United States and al-Sisi government?

MS. HARF: Well, Egypt is playing a crucial role. Obviously, the Secretary’s in Cairo. They have long played a role in these discussions. They have a peace treaty with Israel, for example. They also have a relationship with a Hamas. It’s different than it was under President Morsy, but they do have a relationship. But that’s why we’re also talking to countries like Qatar and Turkey and others who have other relationships they can use with Hamas to see if we can get to a ceasefire.

But our relationship with Egypt is much bigger than one administration there. It’s strategic. We have strategic interests, whether it’s security, particularly in the Sinai and on the Israeli border, whether it is economically helping Egypt undertake needed economic reforms to help their people, whether it’s pushing them on human rights and freedom of expression. When you have journalists in jail that have been subjected to these horrible sentences, we believe it’s important to have a relationship so we can raise concerns. It’s the best way to engage. So it’s a very broad, longstanding relationship, and the Secretary is there right now working very closely with them. They are committed to seeing if they can help with the ceasefire here, and we think there’s a critical role they have played and can play going forward.

MODERATOR: All right.

MS. HARF: With that?

MODERATOR: With that, thank you all for coming. Thank you, Marie.

MS. HARF: Thank you.

MODERATOR: This briefing is now concluded.

MS. HARF: Thank you all so much. We will see you soon.

# # #

Top News from the European Commission 19 July – 30 September 2014

European Commission

Top News

Brussels, Friday 18 July 2014

Top News from the European Commission
19 July – 30 September 2014

Background notes from the Spokesperson’s service for journalists
The European Commission reserves the right to make changes

Tuesday 22 July: Commission moves a step closer to an ‘EU Urban Agenda’ as citizens are asked their views on the ideal European city

The news:

On Tuesday, 22 July, European Commissioner for Regional Policy, Johannes Hahn will officially launch a public consultation seeking the opinions of European citizens on a future EU Urban Agenda – what form it should take and how it should be put into action. The Commissioner is calling for a wide engagement by stakeholders and inhabitants of cities.

The public consultation marks the adoption by the Commission of a formal Communication: “The Urban Dimension of EU Policies”, which proposes a set of questions for consultation aimed at further clarifying the need for an EU urban agenda, what its objectives should be and how it could function.

The background:

While 72 % of the total EU population live in cities, towns and suburbs, this proportion is likely to reach more than 80% by 2050. Currently, over two-thirds of all EU policies directly or indirectly affect towns and cities – such as in the fields of transport, energy, and environment. An Urban Agenda would aim for a more integrated approach to policy development, to ensure consistency and avoid contradictions.

A growing number of calls have come from the European Parliament, the Committee of the Regions, city associations and cities themselves for more involvement of cities in the design of EU policies and a greater coherence in the way Europe’s institutions tackle urban challenges.

The event:

Commissioner Hahn will make a press statement at the European Commission midday briefing in Brussels on Tuesday 22 July.

IP and MEMO will be available on the day.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

“Cities of Tomorrow: Investing in Europe” forum

EU Urban Policy Portal

  1. Video stock shots of Urban EU co-financed projects available on Ebs http://ec.europa.eu/avservices

Twitter @EU_Regional @JHahnEU #eucities

The contacts:

Shirin Wheeler +32 2 296 65 65

Annemarie Huber +32 2 299 33 10

Wednesday 23 July: Commission presents its Energy Efficiency Communication

The news:

On 23 July, the European Commission will adopt the Energy Efficiency Communication. The Communication consists of an in-depth analysis of the EU’s progress towards its 2020 energy efficiency target and an energy efficiency framework for the following years up to 2030.

It includes an examination of the current and future benefits of energy efficiency for European citizens and the economy.

The background:

The Energy Efficiency Communication is an important follow-up to the 2030 communication on energy and climate change which proposed 2030 targets for greenhouse gas reductions and renewable energy – 40% and at least 27% respectively.

The event:

An IP and a MEMO will be available on the day.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

For more information on the Energy Efficiency Communication:

http://ec.europa.eu/energy/efficiency/events/2014_energy_efficiency_review_en.htm

For more information on the Energy Efficiency Directive:

http://ec.europa.eu/energy/efficiency/eed/eed_en.htm

The contacts:

Sabine Berger +32 2 299 27 92 sabine.berger@ec.europa.eu

Nicole Bockstaller +32 2 295 25 89 nicole.bockstaller@ec.europa.eu

Wednesday 23 July: Energy efficiency, human capital and SMEs to receive bulk of EU Cohesion Policy investments from 2014-2020

The news:

The European Commission is set to publish its 6th Report on Economic, Social and Territorial Cohesion on 23 July, analysing the evolution of regional disparities in the Union over the past 4 year and the varying degrees of success in overcoming the impact of the crisis.

While unemployment has grown in almost all regions over that time, the Report highlights how the reform of EU Cohesion Policy, and its closer alignment with the Europe2020 Strategy, is turning things around and delivering growth and creating jobs.

The report outlines how investments will be focused on key areas like energy efficiency, employment, social inclusion and SMEs to get the most out of investments to the benefit of citizens.

It also finds that Cohesion Policy has cushioned the dramatic decline of public investment, injecting much needed liquidity in many Member States and creating vital financial stability.

The background:

The last Cohesion Report came out in late 2010 and emphasised the need for investments to support the realisation of the Europe2020 growth goals, with stricter pre-conditions and an increased focus on results. EU Cohesion Policy, as reformed for the 20014-2020 period has become highly strategic and modernised, with measureable impacts.

Investments now focus even more on the low-carbon economy, innovation and SMEs, quality employment, skills and social inclusion Meanwhile, new rules and pre conditions for funding ensure that the right regulatory and macro-economic framework is in place so the Policy has an even greater impact for the European economy and its citizens.

The event:

The Report will be published on 23 July.

An IP will be available on the day.

The sources:

The Sixth Cohesion Forum taking place in Brussels on 8-9 September 2014 will provide an opportunity to discuss the findings of the Report in the presence of high-level politicians and policy-makers.

Further information on EU Cohesion Policy and future events at:

http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/index_en.htm

The contacts:

Shirin Wheeler +32 2 296 65 65

Annemarie Huber +32 2 299 33 10

Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 November: The EU at the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Australia – media accreditation open

The news:

The President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council will represent the EU at this year’s G20 Summit, which will take place on 15 and 16 November in Brisbane, Australia. Leaders are expected, amongst others, to adopt the Brisbane Action Plan, putting in place concrete short and medium-term actions to develop comprehensive strategies to stimulate growth. These will include infrastructure investments, trade barrier reductions, employment and development measures. Furthermore, G20 leaders will discuss measures to make the global economy more resilient to deal with future shocks.

The Australian Presidency has now opened the procedure for media accreditation. Journalists can apply for official accreditation until 21 October 2014, 9:00 Brussels time, at https://www.g20.org/accreditation/media_registration. As the Australian government points out, it is important that media register for accreditation via the online accreditation portal as early as possible and then apply for their visa. Accreditation will only be confirmed once the applicant has an approved visa.

The background:

The Brisbane Summit is the 9th edition of the Group of 20 (G20) Summit of the world’s major advanced and emerging economies. Its members are Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, India, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union. Together, they represent around 90% of global GDP, 80% of global trade and two-thirds of the world’s population. This year, Australia welcomes Spain as a permanent invitee; Mauritania as the 2014 chair of the African Union; Myanmar as the 2014 Chair of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN); Senegal, representing the New Partnership for Africa’s Development; New Zealand; and Singapore. The 10th edition of the G20 Summit will be hosted by Turkey in 2015.

The event:

15 and 16 November 2014: 9th edition of the G20 Summit in the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, Brisbane, Australia, with the participation of the Presidents of the European Commission and the European Council.

Press events ahead of and during the G20 Summit are to be confirmed. Press material about the EU at the G20 will be made available in the week before and during the Summit.

  1. Available on EbS

The sources:

G20 2014 Media accreditation: https://www.g20.org/accreditation/media_registration

G20 website of the Australian Presidency: https://www.g20.org/

G20 section on President Barroso’s website:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/president/g20/index_en.htm

The contacts:

Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen pia.ahrenkilde-hansen@ec.europa.eu +32 (0)2 295 30 70

Jens Mester jens.mester@ec.europa.eu +32 (0)2 296 39 73

Dirk Volckaerts dirk.volckaerts@ec.europa.eu +32 (0)2 299 39 44

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

1:38 p.m. EDT

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Oh, on immigration.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Right. So before – this is —

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

QUESTION: I did.

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I was not making —

QUESTION: Not U.S.-assisted —

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

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But go ahead.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: — letting us know?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

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

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: Wait, I just have one more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the point —

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

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

QUESTION: I’ll stop after this.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

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

QUESTION: Jen?

QUESTION: So —

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

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

MS. PSAKI: Matt, what I’m —

QUESTION: I —

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

Go ahead.

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

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

MS. PSAKI: President Abbas and —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New topic?

QUESTION: Prime Minister Netanyahu —

MS. PSAKI: Or go ahead, Roz.

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

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

QUESTION: Something else related to Israel also.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

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

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

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

Go ahead.

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

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

Well, could we – or go ahead —

QUESTION: Just —

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

QUESTION: Just one more thing.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: Can I just stay with ISIL —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: And – sorry.

QUESTION: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Tomorrow the Iraqi parliament is due to meet.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: — a couple days ago?

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

QUESTION: Could you?

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t —

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

MS. PSAKI: We’re not holding our —

QUESTION: — and this could —

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

QUESTION: Sorry. Okay.

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

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

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

QUESTION: This specific – okay.

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

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

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

QUESTION: So it’s —

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: I know, yeah.

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — which has to do with the —

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

MS. PSAKI: Well —

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: You’re correct.

QUESTION: This apparently happened before that —

MS. PSAKI: You’re right.

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

MS. PSAKI: You’re right. It is —

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

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

QUESTION: All right. So —

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: No. I apologize.

QUESTION: Okay.

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

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

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

QUESTION: All right.

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

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

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

QUESTION: Do you know whether —

QUESTION: Are you aware that —

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

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

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

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

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Let me try one more.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, sure.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: New topic?

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

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

QUESTION: Because right after that —

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

QUESTION: Because this just —

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Do you —

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: They have.

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

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

QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait, wait.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think if —

QUESTION: You can say nothing?

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

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

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

QUESTION: I have.

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

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

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

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

Go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Yeah, but if I —

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

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

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

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

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

Go ahead, Ali.

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: North Korea? Go ahead.

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Can I just stay on North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Can we go to Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

MS. PSAKI: I know you had a —

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

MS. PSAKI: An active debate.

QUESTION: Well, I wouldn’t say debate.

MS. PSAKI: Sorry, discussion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTION: Question about the cease-fire in Ukraine.

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

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

MS. PSAKI: Correct, mm-hmm.

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

MS. PSAKI: Up to President Poroshenko?

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

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

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

QUESTION: I understand, but the —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go ahead, Jo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

CALENDRIER du 16 au 22 juin 2014

Commission européenne

Bruxelles, le 13 juin 2014

CALENDRIER du 16 au 22 juin 2014

(Susceptible de modifications en cours de semaine)

Déplacements et visites

Lundi 16 juin

M. José Manuel Durão BARROSO est en visite à Santander, Espagne

Ms Viviane REDING in Albufeira, Portugal: Attends working lunch with Ms Paula TEIXEIRA DA CRUZ, Minister for Justice of Portugal

Mr Siim KALLAS delivers keynote speech at the 10th ITS European Congress in Helsinki, Finland

Ms Neelie KROES visits South Korea and Australia (16-20/06)

Mr Maroš ŠEFČOVIČ opens the new Slovak Research Office in Brussels

Mr Janez POTOČNIK in London, United-Kingdom: gives a lecture on New Environmentalism and Circular Economy at University College London Institute for Sustainable Resources with Mr Dan ROGERSON, UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for water, forestry, rural affairs and resource management

Ms Maria DAMANAKI in Washington, USA: meets with Dr Kathryn Sullivan, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator; speaks at the International Oceans Conference

Mr Günther H. OETTINGER in Bratislava, Slovakia: meets Mr Tomáš MALATINSKÝ, Minister of Economy of the Slovak Republic; participates in the European Nuclear Energy Forum (ENEF)

Mr Johannes HAHN in Thüringen, Germany: gives a keynote speech at the “Innovation 2020” Forum

Ms Connie HEDEGAARD on mission to Sofia, Bulgaria

Mr Štefan FÜLE visits Turkey

Mr László ANDOR delivers keynote speech at the conference “From active inclusion to social investment” organised by the European Economic and Social Committee and Eurofound

Mr László ANDOR delivers a speech on the social dimension of EMU in Athens, Greece

Ms Cecilia MALMSTRÖM attends a seminar on visa policy in Brussels; participates in the EU Radicalisation Awareness Network Annual Meeting

Mardi 17 juin

M. José Manuel Durão BARROSO est en déplacement au Portugal

Mr Janez POTOČNIK visits a Natura 2000 site, EU LIFE-funded Greater Thames Futurescapes project in Cliffe Pools, United-Kingdom

M. Michel BARNIER participe à un débat organisé par le Mouvement des entreprises de France (MEDEF) sur le thème “Quelle réforme structurelle de la dépense publique ?” à Paris, France

Ms Androulla VASSILIOU delivers opening speech at the Conference on a European Area of Skills and Qualifications; receives Mr Savvas VERGAS, Mayor of Paphos (Cyprus); meets Mr Olivier FISCH, Director general of Eurosport; attends a meeting of the Board of Trustees at the House of European History, followed by a visit of the Eastman building at the European Parliament

Mr Günther H. OETTINGER receives Mr Tom VILSACK, US Secretary of Agriculture

Mr Štefan FÜLE visits Turkey

Mr László ANDOR in Athens, Greece: delivers a keynote speech entitled “Rethinking the European Employment Strategy” at the Plenary Conference of the Committees on European Affairs; meets with Mr Makis VORIDIS, Minister of Health of Greece; delivers speech at the closing session of the European Conference on “Occupational safety and health (OSH) – OSH policy in the future”; meets with representatives of the organisations dealing with social psychiatry and mental health

Ms Cecilia MALMSTRÖM participates in a High Level Meeting on Radicalisation

Mr Dacian CIOLOŞ receives Mr Tom VILSACK, US Secretary of Agriculture

Mr Neven MIMICA delivers a keynote speech at the opening plenary session of International Consumer Product Health and Safety Organisation (ICPHSO) International symposium

Mercredi 18 juin

Mr Maroš ŠEFČOVIČ meets Mr Harlem DÉSIR, French Secretary of State for European Affairs in Paris, France

Mr Janez POTOČNIK receives Hon. Roderick GALDES MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Rights of Malta

M. Michel BARNIER reçoit Adrian HASLER, Premier Ministre du Liechtenstein; reçoit Michel MADELAIN, Président et CEO de Moody’s Investors Service Limited; reçoit Ed DAVEY, Secrétaire d’Etat en charge de l’énergie et du changement climatique pour le Royaume-Uni

Mrs Máire GEOGHEGAN-QUINN meets with a group of Irish Secondary School Teachers

Mr Günther H. OETTINGER participates in the Customers Conference “Retail Energy Markets: from advocacy to action” of the Council of European Energy Regulators (CEER) in Brussels

Mr Johannes HAHN receives the Austrian MPs

Ms Connie HEDEGAARD on mission to Paris, France (18-19/6)

Mr Štefan FÜLE visits Ukraine

Mr László ANDOR takes part in the 3rd Social Europe High Level Group

Mr Dacian CIOLOŞ receives Mr receives Zhang MAO, Minister of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, People’s Republic of China

Mr Tonio BORG gives a speech at the Conference “Putting Animal Welfare at the Heart of the EU: A plan to deliver a better future for all Animals in the EU”

Mr Neven MIMICA delivers a speech at the Annual Customer Conference of the Council of European Energy Regulators; receives Lucia PUTTRICH, Minister in charge of European Affairs in the German state of Hesse; receives Zhang MAO, Minister of the State Administration for Industry and Commerce, People’s Republic of China

Jeudi 19 juin

Mr Siim KALLAS on official mission to Moldova (19-20/6)

Mr Maroš ŠEFČOVIČ delivers a keynote speech at the European Voice Public Affairs Director Conference in Paris, France

Mr Janez POTOČNIK participates in “Land as a resource” Conference

Mr Andris PIEBALGS participates in the ACP-EU Joint Ministerial Council in Nairobi, Kenya

Mr Michel BARNIER delivers a speech at the High Level Round Table Consultation “How to stimulate innovation, growth and jobs”, organized by Norway House

Ms Androulla VASSILIOU delivers opening speech at the Stakeholders meeting on the economic impact of sport and sport-related industries; delivers speech at the opening event of the exhibition “Empowering Young People in Europe” hosted by Norwegian Minister of EEA & EU Affairs, Mr Vidar HELGESEN, in the presence of Iceland’s Minister of Education, Science and Culture, Mr Illugi GUNNARSSON and of H.E. the Ambassador of Liechtenstein to the EU, Mr Kurt JÄGER; participates in the signing ceremony of the Creative Europe participation agreement with Serbia in the presence of the Serbian Minister for Culture, Mr Ivan TASOVAC

Ms Kristalina GEORGIEVA receives Christoph STRASSER, German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid

Mr Günther H. OETTINGER participates in the opening of the Erasmus Energy Forum at the Rotterdam School of Management in Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Mr Günther H. OETTINGER participates in the panel discussion “Energiedialog 2014, Wo stehen wir drei Jahre nach der Energiewende” in Berlin, Germany

Mr Johannes HAHN in Athens, Greece: meets with Mr Nikos DENDIAS, Greek Minister of Development

Ms Cecilia MALMSTRÖM in Barcelona, Spain: Meets Mr Daniel DE ALFONSO LASO, Director of Catalan Agency against fraud

Mr Štefan FÜLE visits Ukraine

Mr Tonio BORG meets representatives of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine of the People’s Republic of China (AQSIQ)

Mr Neven MIMICA meets US and Chinese delegations led by Elliot F. KAYE, Executive Director and Chairman-Designate of the Consumer Product Safety Commission; and Sun DAWEI, Vice-Minister of the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ)

Vendredi 20 juin

M. José Manuel Durão BARROSO reçoit M. Mehdi JOMÂA, Premier Ministre de Tunisie

Ms Viviane REDING delivers a keynote speech on the future of Justice at the Centre for European Policy Studies

Mr Janez POTOČNIK participates in a round table discussion on effective water management at Bled Film Festival in Slovenia

Mr Andris PIEBALGS participates in the ACP-EU Joint Ministerial Council in Nairobi, Kenya

Ms Androulla VASSILIOU presents the book ‘Fury of the Gods’ in London, UK

Ms Maria DAMANAKI speaks at the Raw Materials High Level Conference in Athens, Greece

Mr Günther H. OETTINGER participates in the annual conference of Eurogas in Venice, Italy

Ms Connie HEDEGAARD meets with members of C40 Network (Carbon Neutral Cities Network and Urban Sustainability Directors Network on Adaptation) in Copenhagen, Denmark

Mr Tonio BORG participates at the Signing Ceremony of the Joint Procurement Agreement on Medical Counter Measures in Luxembourg

Mr László ANDOR participates in the conference “Economic shock absorbers for the Eurozone”, organised by the Bertelsmann Stiftung

Ms Cecilia MALMSTRÖM in Barcelona, Spain: Participates in the Mayoral Forum on Mobility, Migration and Development: “Fostering Economic prosperity and the virtual cycle of development”

Samedi 21 juin

M. José Manuel Durão BARROSO est en visite en Estonie

Ms Kristalina GEORGIEVA in Budapest, Bulgaria: participates in the Open Society Award Ceremony; receives the 2014 Central European University – Open Society Prize

Dimanche 22 juin

M. José Manuel Durão BARROSO est en visite au Danemark

Prévisions du mois de juin:

16-17/6 Conseil “Agriculture et pêche” (AGRIPÊCHE)

19/6 Eurogroupe

19-20/6 Conseil “Emploi, politique sociale, santé et consommateurs” (EPSCO)

20/6 Conseil “Affaires économiques et financières” (ECOFIN)

23/6 Conseil des affaires étrangères

24/6 Conseil des affaires générales

26-27/6 Conseil européen

Permanence DG COMM le WE du 14 au 15 juin:

Simon O’CONNOR, +32(0) 460 767 359

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

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