Daily Press Briefing
Daily Press Briefing
February 10, 2015
Index for Today's Briefing
MIDDLE EAST PEACE
1:19 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: Good afternoon, everyone. I just have two items for all of you at the top.
We extend our warm congratulations to the prime ministers of Kosovo and of Serbia and to the EU high representative for the success of the high-level dialogue meetings February 9th through 10th, which led to the signing of an agreement on justice arrangements. This agreement marks an important substantive step forward in the normalization process between Kosovo and Serbia. It also signals the continuing strong commitment of both parties to full implementation of the April 19th, 2013 Brussels Agreement. The United States will continue to strongly support all the parties in this effort.
The United States is deeply disappointed and concerned by the rejection of Anwar Ibrahim's final appeal and his conviction. The United States has followed the trial of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim closely. The decision to prosecute him and his trial have raised serious concerns regarding the rule of law and the independence of the courts. The United States and Malaysia have a strong partnership, and in the context of this relationship we have regularly raised our serious concerns regarding the Anwar case with Malaysian officials and emphasized that fairness, transparency, and the rule of law are essential to promoting confidence in Malaysia's judicial system and democracy.
And finally, General Allen and Ambassador McGurk were in Kuala Lumpur today, where they met with the defense minister and the deputy foreign minister. General Allen and Ambassador McGurk made presentations on coalition efforts to degrade and defeat ISIL. Malaysia is a close counterterrorism partner of the United States and has already taken important steps to halt flows of foreign fighters and combat ISIL's messaging.
With that --
QUESTION: Can we stick with Malaysia?
QUESTION: Actually, can we go back to Malaysia?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Because there's more urgent --
QUESTION: Wait a minute. Can I – do you mind if I ask a question about Malaysia, Matt? You got a problem with that? So did you actually raise --
MS. PSAKI: We can – you can both ask Malaysia questions.
QUESTION: Did you actually raise your concerns about Malaysia with the Malaysians about the Ibrahim verdict today with the Malaysian Government, or not?
MS. PSAKI: Meaning did General Allen and Ambassador McGurk, or --
QUESTION: No, anybody other than that. Did the Secretary – has there been kind of a --
MS. PSAKI: The Secretary has not made a call. We've consistently raised our concerns about this case. That remains the case. I don't have any new updates today.
QUESTION: And are there any consequences, or does the U.S. Government, notwithstanding the importance of the U.S.-Malaysian relationship, envisage any consequences for this outcome in what you yourselves have long said was a – appeared to be a politically motivated prosecution?
MS. PSAKI: You're correct; that has long been our position. Our view is the most important consequence of this verdict will be how it affects the prospects of Malaysia's own future success. As I mentioned in my opening, we have a broad and complex relationship with Malaysia. This verdict and the expanded use of the sedition law will be one of many factors that influences the course of our relationship going forward. We're not engaging in quid pro quo actions, but certainly we taken into account actions on the ground.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Did you have a Malaysia question or something – a new topic?
QUESTION: No, I'm a little stunned. But let's go to – I was going to suggest that we begin with something that's a little more breaking.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: And that would be the situation in Yemen and the Embassy, and if you can tell us anything about that.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, as you all know, because we've talked about it quite a bit in here, the safety and security of U.S. personnel in Yemen is our top priority and we are always evaluating the security situation on the ground and taking steps to mitigate risks. We have been reducing staff in Yemen over the past few weeks, as all of you know, given the volatile political and security situation. We have nothing further to announce over and above what we have previously announced. Our focus, of course, remains on what's in the best interests of the safety and security of our staff.
QUESTION: Okay. What is your impression of the situation on the ground right now in Yemen, considering the --
MS. PSAKI: The political situation or the security?
QUESTION: The continued political problems, also the security situation.
MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly, it's a volatile both political and security situation on the ground. And as you know, that's why we made the decision a couple of weeks ago to reduce staffing. I don't have any updates, as I've noted, on operational matters.
As it relates to the political situation on the ground, as you know, there were some talks that convened – I believe it was yesterday. We – and those UN-brokered talks continue. There are some parties that have dropped out before but rejoined over the course of negotiations. As you know, we strongly support these efforts. As we talked about a little bit yesterday and is very clear, it's a very fluid situation on the ground. So we remain engaged with numerous parties in Yemen to find a peaceful way forward, and we're certainly encouraging dialogue and the efforts to move forward through that path.
QUESTION: All right. When you say that you remain engaged with parties in Yemen, can you be more specific? I mean, when was the last time that the ambassador or anyone from this building met or spoke with any of the parties in Yemen?
MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand your question. I'm just not going to be more specific than what I have been.
QUESTION: Well, what can we – I mean, remaining engaged with the parties in Yemen is rather – is extremely unspecific. I'm just wondering if you can – I mean, with all sides? With the Houthis? Are you in touch with them? Are you in touch with --
MS. PSAKI: We have means of communicating to the Houthis as well.
QUESTION: So when you say – so your original comment, when you said we remain engaged with all parties, you weren't including the Houthis there?
MS. PSAKI: I was. I was.
QUESTION: Oh, you were. Okay.
MS. PSAKI: I just was trying to provide further clarification to your question.
QUESTION: Jen, what can you say about the reports that said that the Embassy will be closed tomorrow and the ambassador will be leaving Yemen?
MS. PSAKI: I just addressed those reports in the answer to Matt's first question --
QUESTION: That means --
MS. PSAKI: -- and what I can provide at this point in time.
QUESTION: -- you deny them or you confirm them? What --
MS. PSAKI: I just provided all the information I can at this point in time.
QUESTION: Is the ambassador in country today?
MS. PSAKI: He is.
QUESTION: He is? Well, does he have plans to be there tomorrow?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any more details to provide. As I noted – and I think all of you respect this and you cover these issues very, very closely – obviously, the safety and security of our personnel is one of our top priorities as well as, of course, our national security interests. And we take steps in order to make sure we do everything we can to protect that.
QUESTION: Has the security situation, in your estimation, worsened over the past week significantly? I mean --
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I noted – and I think we all watched this closely and you all report – it's clearly a volatile situation on the ground. We evaluate the situation every single day.
MS. PSAKI: And there are the highest-level officials here evaluating that situation. We don't outline specifics publicly for good reason, Justin, and I think you all understand why.
QUESTION: Jen --
QUESTION: In terms of the contact with --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Barbara.
QUESTION: -- the Houthis – sorry.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And you said you had a means of communicating with them. Is that direct communication?
MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand your question. I'm just not going to be able to get into more details at this point in time.
Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: The pulling out of the ambassador and the closure of the Embassy, does that mean that you don't have any hopes in the near future at least to have some sort of normalized relations with Yemen?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Said, I was very clear in providing the information I can provide. I have nothing more to provide at this point in time. As I noted, we remain engaged with a range of parties, so I think that answers your second question.
QUESTION: Okay. Does it – would this reflect negatively or badly on, let's say the president, who's under house arrest now, they feel – now that the Houthis may feel that relations with America may be cut off and so on, they could probably move --
MS. PSAKI: I don't think our actions --
QUESTION: -- to consolidate their power.
MS. PSAKI: I don't think our actions reflect that at all, Said.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Yemen?
QUESTION: No, Iraq.
MS. PSAKI: Can we finish Yemen and then we'll go to Iraq? Okay. Any more on Yemen before we continue?
QUESTION: I think you've covered it all.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: There was some reports earlier this morning about gunmen on the street in Sana'a near the Embassy. Is there anything to corroborate that?
MS. PSAKI: The story in its entirety is not – is incorrect. I'm not going to go into more specifics, given we don't talk about diplomatic security.
QUESTION: Can you confirm that the counterterrorism efforts are continuing? Are you still in touch with the security forces? Has that been affected in any way by the volatile situation on the ground?
MS. PSAKI: Nothing has changed since I discussed this yesterday. We will continue to take action to disrupt continuing imminent threats to the United States and our citizens. We will continue to apply pressure and work through any – every channel we have access to.
QUESTION: Does that mean that, even though the government has changed, the army hasn't?
MS. PSAKI: I think yesterday I outlined – and I certainly understand your question as well – that we have a range of contacts that we have coordinated through, even before the volatility on the ground. And that has continued.
Should we go to Iraq? Go ahead.
QUESTION: You know the Vice President Biden and President Barzani from – of Kurdistan region – he – they met in margin of the Munich conference. Do you have any detail on that, what has been discussed, and any new promises? Because President Barzani said that there are more promises from international allies, including United States, to better arm Peshmerga.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I outlined in great detail yesterday how much we have provided, and I would certainly point you to that. I gave a lot of specifics about how – the arms we have provided, shipments we have made, training we have done. So I'd point you to that.
In terms of the Vice President's meeting, I believe the Vice President did a readout. But for any more specifics, I would point you to his office.
QUESTION: There's no – nothing changed? Because the reason I ask the question that it's – in in Kurdish media they said more weapons coming from United States. And I know that there are plan that you provide information last week, and I had that and that was accurate. But is there any new --
MS. PSAKI: Well, I outlined a great level of detail yesterday, and I think the reporting may have come from that. I think most of that may have been out there, but maybe all of it wasn't. Obviously, we remain committed to supporting the Peshmerga forces. You know how we work with them through the Government of Iraq, and that will continue. And I expect we'll continue to increase our assistance. I don't have anything to outline for you specifically.
QUESTION: One last question, Jen.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And this – that Senator Ted Cruz, he mentioned the way – the process of arming Peshmerga inadequate and ineffective. What is your response for that? He said that it should go through Baghdad and it's very slow and takes a lot of time.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I mentioned yesterday, it's required by U.S. law to go through the central Government of Iraq. We've provided, as our partners have, a range of assistance, and I outlined the specifics yesterday.
QUESTION: Can you remind us who decides what U.S. law is?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the United States Congress and the United States Government.
QUESTION: Right. So in other words, if members of Congress have complaints about how the Administration is legally required to send aid to certain people, they're really complaining about their own legislation, rather than --
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are many, many means to change the law --
QUESTION: Is that --
MS. PSAKI: -- that Congress has a role in.
QUESTION: Can we go to Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Any more on Iraq before we --
QUESTION: Yeah. Can we go to the Kayla Mueller first?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: I just want to know --
MS. PSAKI: Is that okay, Said? And then we'll go to Syria next.
QUESTION: If you have anything to add to what's already been said out of the White House or --
MS. PSAKI: I don't believe I have anything to add to what my colleague at the White House has already said. But – go ahead.
QUESTION: On that specifically, can you address in any way whether the U.S. Government has any understanding of how Ms. Mueller died or when she died?
MS. PSAKI: Well, while the intelligence community has concluded from the information provided by Kayla's ISIL captors that Kayla is deceased, at this time they are not able to confirm a cause of death. The U.S. military has indicted that there was no evidence of civilians in the target area prior to any recent coalition airstrikes. Obviously, that's in reference to the ISIL claims. We don't have any more details at this point in time.
QUESTION: But nothing would suggest from what you were provided that it happened during the airstrikes? In other words, they weren't trying to suggest that when providing proof of death?
MS. PSAKI: Well, ISIL claimed that publicly, so --
QUESTION: Right. But did that match their – whatever evidence they provided? Did their claims match whatever proof of death they provided?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think I just mentioned that the U.S. military has been clear that there was no evidence of civilians in the target area prior. I'm not going to, out of respect for the family, get into more specifics about what they provided.
QUESTION: So other than the letter that her family received from ISIS, allegedly, is there any other evidence that she's actually been killed?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, as you know, our intelligence community is confident that the message received was from Kayla's ISIL captors. I am not going to get into more details, out of respect for the family.
QUESTION: Is it safe to assume that she was held and consequently killed in the northern part of Syria, in Raqqa area, area or you don't know where?
MS. PSAKI: Again, I think I just answered this question in response to Arshad's question.
MS. PSAKI: Did you want to go to Syria?
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: If I may. I wonder if you saw or read about the interview that the Syrian president gave, Bashar al-Assad, to BBC. Would you comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: We did see the interview that he said – did you have any – there's a lot to work with. Did you want --
QUESTION: Okay. Well, let me ask you about --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) questions?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. We'll go Said and then we'll go to you, Barbara.
QUESTION: Yeah, it was pretty – yeah. He said that he receives information through a third party about the bombings and so on. And who would that third party be? Do you know?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can't speak to that on his behalf, and I think he said more specifically than that. I can be clear about on what we did, and just as importantly, on what we did not do or do not do.
Before conducting strikes in Syria, we informed the Syrian regime directly of our intent to take action, through our ambassador to the United Nations, to – in her conversation, to the Syrian permanent representative to the United Nations. That has been previously reported. We warned Syria not to engage U.S. aircraft. We did not request the regime's permission. We did not coordinate our actions with the Syrian Government. We did not provide advanced notifications to the Syrians at a military level, nor give any indication of our timing on specific targets.
We would not work with the Assad regime which has fostered the environment that ISIL has taken exploited. That has not changed.
QUESTION: What about these comments that – in essentially what he was describing was a backchannel, wasn't he, with the Iraqis and other countries that he didn't name, he said, as you just said, there's no direct coordination, cooperation, military information, but there is general information, general messages from a kind of backchannel, presumably of Arab countries, especially Iraq. Can you comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, we should not be surprised that Iraq, like other countries, is going to have relations with its neighbors. ISIL is a threat shared by all countries in the region and beyond. And as I stated already, but it's worth reiterating, we have warned Syria not to engage U.S. aircraft, but we're not coordinating with Assad or his government. Obviously, we're not going to discuss the details of private diplomatic discussions with the Government of Iraq.
QUESTION: Jen, just to follow up on --
QUESTION: So you can't specifically address the question of whether or not you have used the Iraqis as an intermediary to communicate with the Syrian Government?
MS. PSAKI: I just conveyed we are not coordinating with the Syrian Government --
QUESTION: I know.
MS. PSAKI: -- pretty clearly. I don't have any more details or specifics I'm going to lay out about our conversations with the Government of Iraq.
QUESTION: Do you discourage the Iraqis from sharing this type of information?
MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to have more to offer on this.
QUESTION: Yeah. I'm just a little bit confused. Now, we know that you informed them before the first strikes, which was back in September.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: Do you do this every time?
MS. PSAKI: No.
QUESTION: Is that what you're saying?
MS. PSAKI: No.
QUESTION: So it was just that one time, and you have never told the Syrians after that that there's going to be bombing?
MS. PSAKI: I just outlined our engagement with the Syrian regime.
QUESTION: Yeah, but how do you – how would you sort of guarantee that there's no conflagrations between the Syrian forces --
MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to get into more operational specifics, Said.
QUESTION: A few more questions on the interview?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.
QUESTION: Okay. So he was asked whether he thought that the Americans were softening towards the regime in that the official policy is that Assad has to go, but recently Kerry – Secretary Kerry had not said those words exactly; he had said Assad should change his policies, put the people first, think about the consequences of their action. And then Mr. Assad said that depends what Kerry meant. What did he mean?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I'm surprised he has not read the Secretary's remarks at the Munich Security Conference, which happened two days ago, where he clearly stated Assad must go. So our position hasn't changed. Assad has lost all legitimacy and must go. We've said that for – since August of 2011. There cannot be a stable, inclusive Syria under Assad's leadership. So I'm not sure what would have left him with that impression.
QUESTION: But he's very much there, isn't he, looking more secure than any other time since the war started and sort of, in a sideways, credited American policy with that. For example, he admitted that striking ISIS was helping in the regime – in a small way, he said, but – so that policy is reinforcing the regime position. And he also said that the West had personalized the situation, had blamed everything on one person rather than looking beyond that to the possibilities of constituencies of support. So can you respond to whether there was a miscalculation there?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I would take the fact that – and also in the same speech, he denied the use of barrel bombs, chlorine, and also the indiscriminate killing of his own people. So I would take what he conveyed with a grain of salt.
QUESTION: Jen, would you --
QUESTION: One last question on this --
QUESTION: Can I --
QUESTION: He referred – he sort of dismissed the Syrian moderate – well, he didn't sort of – he did dismiss the Syrian moderate opposition by quoting President Obama, when President Obama said in August that it was a fantasy to think that the rebels could change the course – that arming the rebels could change the course of the conflict, I think what he said. So isn't it sort of natural that President Assad can't take the moderate rebels seriously when President Obama didn't take them seriously, and then suddenly changed his mind and a few weeks later did take them seriously, but everyone still kind of acknowledges that cultivating them as a fighting force is not happening yet?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we certainly acknowledge that there's more work that needs to be done, and obviously that's why we are working with the Department of Defense and others in the Administration to start the train and equip program next month, and we're providing a range of assistance that I can't outline here from the podium.
But this is an issue where we're not just working with one line of effort. Yes, we are working on better equipping militarily the opposition. We're also working with every political and diplomatic channel we can, and there are a range – I think 50 or more in the global community who attended the Geneva Conference just over a year ago – more than that, I believe, if I remember correctly – who are in the same page we are. So it's not just about strengthening them militarily. We are doing that in order to strengthen them diplomatically. That's something that, again, we'll continue to step up when we begin the train and equip program next month.
QUESTION: Jen, did you agree --
QUESTION: Jen, on this issue, you said yesterday one of the reasons and the root causes of the growth of ISIL is Bashar al-Assad, who allowed ISIL to grow and prosper in his own country; he allowed terrorists safe havens; he was the biggest magnet for terrorism that we've seen – that what you said.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The question is: Why the U.S. and the international community have created an international coalition to fight ISIL and did not do so to fight the Assad regime who, as you said, allowed ISIL to grow?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I would say that we still don't believe that there is a military solution to the situation in Syria. We believe a diplomatic and political approach is the right approach. And as I mentioned in response to Barbara's question, even programs like the train and equip program and efforts to better equip the opposition, which are focused on ISIL – we fully expect they'll use that to go after the regime as well. But those are efforts to strengthen them politically as well.
The situation with ISIL – ISIL poses a threat to countries in the region; it's a threat that we are concerned about in the United States. And I think we've been clear that that's one that we felt it was necessary for the global community to form not just a coalition but one that included a military component, but also other components to address.
QUESTION: But the Assad regime is killing and injuring and expelling hundreds of people, of Syrian civilians every day.
MS. PSAKI: Well, and Michel, as you know, for years the United States has not only been the largest humanitarian donor in the world; we have helped lead the effort to train and equip the opposition, to get them the type of nonlethal assistance they need, to encourage other countries to do so. We have been conveners of international conferences. This is an issue we remain committed and focused on, and we continue to believe there's no future in Syria for Bashar al-Assad.
Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: On the peace – on the peace plan posed by de Mistura some weeks back --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, yes.
QUESTION: -- in Aleppo. He's back in Damascus and apparently he feels that there may be a chance or an opportunity to re-inject life into this process. Would you support these temporary ceasefires?
MS. PSAKI: As we've said before, we certainly support efforts, including by de Mistura, that would reduce the suffering of the Syrian people. Now, there's a troubling history of the Syrian regime and their unwillingness to abide by and respect these type of local ceasefires, but we certainly support these efforts.
QUESTION: Okay. Arab news reports show that al-Nusrah is becoming more and more a very – the strongest or the most robust which you have on your terror list – the most robust, say, military group in Syria. They showed them in training, they showed them in new uniforms and have a lot of funds and so on. Are you concerned that they may be funded by some of your allies in the Gulf region?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I'm not sure what reports you're looking at. I'm happy to take a look at those.
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MS. PSAKI: As you know, we have a concern about a range of terrorist organizations. Beyond that, obviously, cracking down on terrorist financing is something that is one of our five lines of effort with our coalition.
Go ahead. Oh, sorry. I thought you had a question, too.
QUESTION: Yeah, (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: New topic?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Or --
QUESTION: Can we stay with Syria?
MS. PSAKI: Syria, okay. And then --
QUESTION: I'm just wondering if you have any – this will be brief – any reaction to the UAE resuming its airstrikes?
MS. PSAKI: We certainly believe this is a positive step. The foreign minister had indicated to the Secretary and the rest of the GCC on Friday evening during their meetings that there were plans to do that.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: On the eve of the Minsk summit between President Putin and President Poroshenko, led by the Germans and the French, do you have a better understanding, a better assessment of the European peace plan, and are you confident it will succeed? And what will the U.S. do if it fails?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we support these efforts, as the Secretary himself has said, and I think as the President conveyed yesterday. We can't predict what will come out of tomorrow. There are a range of parties that we work closely in lockstep with. There are a range of parties where we have disagreements with, including the Russians. We will be coordinating closely and tracking closely what happens tomorrow. I don't think we know either that there will be a conclusion, because they've had ongoing discussions and meetings over the course of the last several days.
Since you gave me the opportunity, let me just convey that we're very concerned about the reports of increased violence in Ukraine, which is not conducive to a peaceful resolution to this conflict, particularly on the eve of proposed diplomatic discussions at the initiative of France and Germany aimed at de-escalating the conflict. In addition to continued Russia-backed separatist assaults in and around Debaltseve, rocket attacks on the Ukrainian Government-controlled towns – town of Kramatorsk have reportedly killed seven people and injured more than 20. We call on Russia and the separatists it backs to halt the fighting, implement their commitments under the Minsk agreements, and fully engage in the proposed trilateral contact group talks in Minsk. This is the best path forward. As President Obama said yesterday, we encourage a diplomatic resolution, but we will not allow the borders of Europe to be redrawn at the barrel of a gun.
Did you have another question on Ukraine? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Again, if the summit fails, as many observers and even officials believe, will the U.S. immediately proceed with its plan to deliver defensive weapons?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one, there hasn't been a decision made to provide defensive weapons, as the President stated yesterday and the Secretary stated just two days ago. Obviously, the situation on the ground – increasing violence and the unwillingness of Russians and Russian-backed separatists to abide by and implement the Minsk protocols, of which is the basis for the ongoing discussions now – has resulted in discussions internally and, certainly, with our partners around the world about what the appropriate steps are, whether that's assistance or additional consequences. And I expect that would continue if there is no result from these discussions.
QUESTION: Did you mean lethal weapons rather than defensive, or defensive lethal weapons?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we – they're defensive weapons. When people say they're lethal, we think that's a misunderstanding or misnomer on what they actually are. They're helping Ukraine defend themselves.
QUESTION: But the point is you've given them defensive weapons in the past, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: Or defensive items in the past.
MS. PSAKI: Defensive items --
QUESTION: Got it. Okay.
MS. PSAKI: -- but we're talking about something slightly different.
QUESTION: Yeah. Got it.
MS. PSAKI: Yeah.
QUESTION: Oh, wait --
MS. PSAKI: Any more on Ukraine before --
QUESTION: One more on Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Thank you. There are defense ministry officials quoted in the Russian press – they're anonymous, but one said – threatens asymmetrical response or retaliation against Washington if any of this aid is eventually provided. I'm wondering if you have any – against you and allies on other fronts, they say. I'm wondering if you have any response to that or thoughts, despite the fact a decision is pending.
MS. PSAKI: Threats against Washington?
MS. PSAKI: In what way?
QUESTION: They don't specify. That's part of my question, I guess. Asymmetrical retaliation is what they are threatening.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don't have any understanding of what that means, so I suggest before I respond accordingly that we get a little more clarification from the Russians about what they intend or if they even stand by those presumably anonymous comments.
QUESTION: Fair enough. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead – oh, on Ukraine? Okay. Go ahead, Abbie.
QUESTION: President Poroshenko said that tomorrow's meeting in Minsk is one of the last chances to declare unconditional ceasefire. Is that something that the U.S. agrees with, it's one of the last chances?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think one of the last chances, certainly. I think Chancellor Merkel said something similar yesterday, in the sense that we are all – we all believe there's no military solution. We're committed to a diplomatic solution and trying to find a path forward. We've tried. We have had the Minsk protocols and agreement in place since September, and Russia and the Russian-backed separatists declined to implement that. So we'll see where we are after tomorrow. One of the last – we will – of course, diplomatic and diplomacy is certainly our preferred option here, but we'll certainly evaluate what comes out of tomorrow.
QUESTION: Are you aware of any attacks that actually emanate from the eastern part of the Ukraine, let's say against the other – the rest of the Ukraine, like Kyiv and so on? Are there any, like, maybe guerilla attacks from that part of the country?
MS. PSAKI: I'm not quite sure what you're referring to, Said.
QUESTION: I'm referring to – are there operations that are being carried out from the eastern part of Ukraine, that declared itself somewhat independent or whatever, against the rest of the Ukraine, like in Kyiv or big cities and so on, or is it the other way around? Or there are attacks from the central government against the eastern region?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we've all seen reports on the ground and where the focus of the back-and-forth action is. I don't have any new attacks to announce for you today.
QUESTION: This is a little bit off --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- the beaten track here, but Russian media, Russian commentators have been making a lot of this chyron thing that was on a certain news network yesterday, saying that the President was considering arming "pro-U.S. troops." Recognizing that this network does not speak for the --
MS. PSAKI: We don't write chyrons, yes. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Exactly. Recognizing that a television network does not represent the views of the U.S. Government, I just want to check to make sure with you: Do you consider – does the Administration consider Ukrainian troops, the Ukrainian army, to be pro-U.S.?
MS. PSAKI: We consider them pro-Ukraine.
QUESTION: Okay. But you don't consider them to be fighting on your behalf?
MS. PSAKI: They're fighting on their own behalf.
MS. PSAKI: Can we finish Ukraine and Russia, and then we'll go back to you?
QUESTION: Sure. No problem.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: So Russia said to have made deal with Cyprus to use their ports and airstrips. And do you have any input on that?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any details on that. I'm happy to talk to our team. It's agreement – you're saying it's an agreement to use ports at --
QUESTION: Right, between Russia and Cyprus so Russia can use Cyprus ports and airstrips.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let me look into it and I'll talk to our EUR team and see if we have anything on that.
QUESTION: And also maybe you can talk on Putin's visit to Egypt. They are coming on agreement, like they can end – they are going to end use of U.S. dollars between these two countries and some arm deal. So what --
MS. PSAKI: I don't believe that was what announced, nor do I believe that's what the Government of Egypt would say if asked. I certainly would suggest you ask them that question. As you know, we provide a great deal of security assistance to the Government of Egypt.
We've seen reports that the Government of Egypt has signed an MOU about nuclear power. I don't have more details about that. My understanding is that's been something under discussion for some time. We support peaceful nuclear power programs as long as obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to which Egypt is a signatory and obligations to the IAEA are fully met and the highest international standards regulating security, nonproliferation, export controls, and physical security are strictly followed. But I don't have additional details on the MOU or what the contents of it may be.
QUESTION: So you wouldn't oppose a nuclear deal for peaceful purposes between Russia and Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: Correct. We don't have details on it, but I just think I stated that.
QUESTION: Yeah, related to that. A few weeks ago when President Putin visited India, you said – I don't quote you exactly, but you said something like it's not – you told the Indians it's not time for business with Russia. Would you say the same to your Egyptian ally?
MS. PSAKI: Well, business as usual, sure. I think I said – may have said something like that. That remains the case. At the same time, we certainly understand that countries out there have a range of relationships with one another. So we can certainly speak to what deals or agreements are and whether we have concerns about it. We don't have concerns about what we know to date about this MOU.
Do you want to do Sudan?
QUESTION: Yeah, please.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The Sudanese official Ibrahim Ghandour is in town. Do you have any readout for his meetings? Did he meet anybody at the State Department? And what's the purpose of --
MS. PSAKI: Well, he was planning to meet with senior U.S. Government officials. I don't have a readout of that. I know my colleague Marie talked a little bit about the plans for him to come last week. So I can check and see if we have a readout of the meetings or any more details.
QUESTION: Are you considering taking off Sudan from the list of states sponsor of terrorism?
MS. PSAKI: As you know, we don't predict that type of thing. Obviously, there are processes in place for some places, but I believe this was an official visit of senior Sudanese Government officials. That's what it was. I will see if there's more details we can share from the meetings.
More on this, or a new topic? Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Now, a number of congressional figures have written to Secretary Kerry expressing their concerns about the fact that Somalians in America no longer have much of an avenue for sending money back home because of the closure of the bank in California that was doing much of that wire transfer business. They are deeply concerned about the humanitarian and the security aspects of this and what the implications might be, and have called on Secretary Kerry to convene some kind of an emergency meeting.
Two questions: One, do you have a sense of how concerned, how urgent a matter this is within the State Department? And secondly, are there any moves afoot to address these concerns by convening some kind of interagency meeting?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can assure you that Somalia is certainly – and the challenges that the people there are facing are certainly an issue of primary importance to our Assistant Secretary Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who frequently travels to the region. I don't have any update on this specific issue. I'm happy to take the question and talk to our team and see if there's any specific action being taken. I can assure you that there are interagency meetings about a range of topics on nearly a daily basis, which we don't typically outline but I will see and look more into the specifics of the bank and remittances, it sounds like, to family members – is that the particular issue?
QUESTION: That's correct. Yeah.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Okay. I will take it.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Can we change topics?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, why don't we go just --
QUESTION: Actually, I have one on Somalia.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Somalia?
QUESTION: Somalia, yeah. Is there any update that you can provide on the scheduled opening of the U.S. diplomatic mission to Somalia – the reopening that was announced last year?
MS. PSAKI: I did not – I haven't talked to our team about that in some time. I don't know that I have an update, but in the same, I will talk to them about that as well.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: The anti-corruption leader Arvind Kejriwal has won the Delhi state elections. He's won 67 out of 70 seats and Prime Minister Modi has admitted defeat on his behalf. So do you have a reaction to this democratic process? It has significance because after President Obama's visit, I was there for two days, and the BJP was using the visit, and their chief minister candidate, who has lost now, was saying that India was flying with Obama and now Delhi's going to fly. Like, so do you have a reaction to this anti-corruption?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me separate the two things. One, I'd first refer you to the Government of India for information about the elections. That is an internal matter for the people and the Government of India. As it relates to our relationship or partnership or the President's visit, as you know, we certainly see our relationship with India as one that is growing, that has great potential, and that is reflected by the fact that the Secretary and the President of the United States both visited India within the same month – the first month of this year. So that speaks for itself, but I don't have any particular comment or analysis on the election results.
QUESTION: Just because we are such strong supporters of anti-corruption, anti – so this is a leader who has been doing this anti – his whole platform was on anti-corruption. So won't the U.S. support such a move by the Indian population to give him a win?
MS. PSAKI: I'm not sure I'm understanding your question, specifically.
QUESTION: The question is that he's an anti-corruption leader, so don't you support the people --
MS. PSAKI: And we don't engage in endorsing individual political candidates, so I would refer you to the Government of India and the people of India.
QUESTION: A Palestinian issue?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Today, the Israeli press reported that Israel is planning to expand settlement communities in Emanuel, Kedumim, Neveh Tzuf, Vered Yericho over the Green Line, which is the occupied West Bank. And the Palestinians are saying that it's an urgent matter; they're calling on the world not just to condemn but actually to do something. Is there anything that you would do to sort of change the minds of the Israeli Government?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I haven't seen those reports. You know what our position is on settlements. I'm happy to take a closer look at that. It's an issue we regularly raise, as you know.
QUESTION: Okay. And yesterday, the former Israeli justice minister was in town – Yossi Beilin – and he basically suggested that maybe a confederacy between the Palestinians and the Israelis that would keep, let's say, the settler population in the West Bank and would have separate seats at the UN, but also would have shared borders, shared water resources, and so on. Is that, like, a novel idea? Is that something that you would support?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have details on this plan or proposal, Said, so I'm not in a position to comment on that.
QUESTION: Can we stay with Israel and Palestinians --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- or more with Israel?
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: First of all, do you have anything new to say about Prime Minister Netanyahu's plans to come to speak to Congress next month, given the fact that he gave a speech last night and just said that despite all the criticism and all the concern that he's still going to do it, and then this morning said it again publicly through Twitter that he's going to come? Given that and the fact that you have at least two senators now saying that they're not going to go, do you have anything new to say about it? Do you have any comment on members of Congress deciding to go or to stay away from it?
MS. PSAKI: I don't on either one.
QUESTION: Okay. So the position on his speech is the same as before --
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: -- which is – remind me because I was away for a while. Is that – it's okay?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --
QUESTION: You don't have a problem with it?
MS. PSAKI: -- we said at the time that certainly the process that – through which this came about was unusual.
MS. PSAKI: But the prime minister of Israel has come many times in the past and we're familiar with his positions on Iran.
QUESTION: All right. Secondly, there was a report yesterday about a group of people – Arab-Israeli mayors or Arab-Israeli officials – who are actively promoting the "Anyone but Netanyahu" campaign or involved in it somehow, who were given some kind of a special audience at the consulate and is it – what can you say about that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I've seen the reports. The article is filled with inaccuracies. We are firmly committed to the principle of nonintervention in Israeli elections. The details on this particular case – or the accurate details, I should say, are that some of the members of this group were coming to the embassy to receive their visas, something that we do on a regular basis. While they were at the embassy, they had a courtesy meeting with some embassy staff members. That kind of meeting is very common for community leaders like mayors as part of normal, ongoing embassy efforts to engage with the widest variety – widest range, I should say, of Israelis possible.
The group invited embassy staff to visit their villages, chatted about life and civil society in America. The embassy officers shared their predictions about the Super Bowl. I mean, it was a pretty informal discussion. We regularly speak with representatives – the embassy, I should say – from a wide range of communities in Israel, and this is unrelated to Israeli elections. This is part of the work that we do in community outreach as an embassy.
QUESTION: All right. Well, but given the sensitivities around the Israeli election and the claims and counterclaims that have gone back and forth, the fact that some people view Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit here as being inappropriate and the White House saying it won't – senior officials won't meet with him because the election is so close, I mean, is it a good idea for the consulate or the embassy to be giving – to be having meetings with people who are involved --
MS. PSAKI: Well --
QUESTION: -- in the Israeli political process right now?
MS. PSAKI: Wouldn't all of the people in the country potentially be involved? I think we'd have to shut down our operations unnecessarily for months if that was our rule of thumb. We think it's unfortunate that this has been received as controversial. Our view is that ongoing outreach, providing visas, is part of what we do for government services.
MS. PSAKI: It's not partisan. It's not about one party in the country.
QUESTION: So you have been assured, or you can – and so you can assure us that there was nothing political about the conversation or about the meeting that happened at the consulate?
MS. PSAKI: I can assure you, unless you think discussion of the Super Bowl is --
QUESTION: Jen, on --
QUESTION: Well, I don't know. I mean --
MS. PSAKI: Depends on who you're a fan of, Matt. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: On this point of intervention --
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: -- now, I recall very clearly that back in 1996, President Clinton received the Labor Party in the midst of an election, right before the election, so he was giving, like, a clear signal then. In 1999, the same thing with Ehud Barak and so on. So there are – there is precedent.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would encourage you to Google who was critical of that at the time, Said.
QUESTION: I have one more (inaudible).
QUESTION: And --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. On Israel?
QUESTION: No, I'm done.
QUESTION: No – well, it's Israel-related.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. Did you want to finish, Said? I didn't know if you had a question in there.
MS. PSAKI: Are you sure? Okay. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yesterday, the President in his news conference raised some eyebrows by saying that the victims of the shooting in Paris at the kosher deli were random. Your colleague at the White House has apparently said something similar today. Is that really – I mean, does the Administration really believe that these people – that the victims of this attack were not singled out because they were of a particular faith?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know – I believe if I remember the victims specifically – they were not all victims of one background or one nationality. So I think what they mean by that is – I don't know that they spoke to the targeting of the grocery store or that specifically, but the individuals who were impacted.
QUESTION: Well, I mean – right, but when the Secretary went and paid respects to it, he was with a member of the Jewish community there. Was --
MS. PSAKI: Naturally, given that is – the grocery store is one that --
QUESTION: Well, don't you think that the target may be – even if all the – even if the victims came from different backgrounds or different religions, different nationalities, wasn't the – the store itself was the target, was it not? I mean --
MS. PSAKI: But that's different than the individuals being – I don't have any more to really --
QUESTION: All right. Well, does the Administration believe that this was an anti-Jewish – or an attack on the Jewish community in Paris?
MS. PSAKI: I don't think we're going to speak on behalf of French authorities and what they believe was the situation at play here.
QUESTION: But – yeah, but if a guy goes into a kosher market and starts shooting it up, you don't – he's not looking for Buddhists, is he?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Matt, I think it's relevant that, obviously, the individuals in there who were shopping and working at the store --
QUESTION: Who does one – who does the Administration expect shops at a kosher – I mean, I might, but an attacker going into a store that is clearly identified as being one of – as identified with one specific faith – I'm not sure I can understand how it is that you can't say that this was a targeted attack on the Jewish --
MS. PSAKI: I just don't have more for you, Matt. It's an issue for the French Government to address.
QUESTION: Jen, a quick follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the opening of a Palestinian embassy today in Stockholm? There was a big ceremony and so on, and it's like a full-fledged embassy. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: I think our view continues to be that we believe that we support the aspirations of the Palestinian people to have their own state. As you know, we're very supportive of efforts to achieve a two-state solution. But we think it should be done through direct negotiations. I don't have any further comment than that.
MS. PSAKI: Turkey? Sure.
QUESTION: Yeah. If you recall that Angela Merkel mentioned that foreign fighters are going to Syria mostly from Turkey, and also Prime Minister Abadi said the same thing. A couple weeks ago, some senators from the United States Government also – this – United States Congress, they also – they say the same thing. So – and also, the response from the Prime Minister Davutoglu said that Turkey cannot control its borders with Syria. Do you have any comment on that, or will you have done anything to help Turkey to control its borders?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I would say it's important to emphasize that one of our focuses of the anti-ISIL coalition is going after – cracking down on foreign fighters, working with countries to address challenges at their border, putting in place new laws. Many countries have done that. We've certainly been working with Turkey on that. They have a border with Syria; that is a challenging circumstance for any country to work with, but this has been an issue of discussion and one we continue to work with the Government of Turkey on.
QUESTION: How cooperative are they so far? They – are they, like, issuing any new law, anything to ban --
MS. PSAKI: They've taken a number of steps I'm sure the Government of Turkey can outline for you. And, as you know, they remain an important coalition partner and one that General Allen and Ambassador McGurk regularly visit with in order to discuss exactly these issues.
Did you have something in the back? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. The Committee to Protect Journalists, CPJ, wrote a letter to Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to express their concerns about the anti-press action in Turkey. Do you have same concerns about that? Did you see that letter?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we'd certainly refer you to the Committee to Protect Journalists on the specifics of their letter to the Turkish Government. As we've said before, we believe media freedom and due process are key elements in every healthy democracy and are enshrined in the Turkish constitution. I'd also remind you that on December 14th, we issued a statement that expressed our concern at the detention – excuse me – of journalists and media representatives following police raids on the offices of media that had been critical of the government. So we continue to urge Turkish authorities to ensure that their actions uphold Turkey's core values and democratic foundations.
QUESTION: Different subject.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: North Korea. Do you have any --
MS. PSAKI: North Korea?
QUESTION: Yeah, North Korea.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: Do you have any update on your review of whether to re-list North Korea under state sponsor of terror?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any update.
QUESTION: Okay. And how about their nuclear-related activities? There are some reports about them possibly restarting the five-megawatt nuclear reactor in Yongbyon. Do you have any updates on their --
MS. PSAKI: I don't. We typically don't get into those type of matters. I know I addressed yesterday the reported missile launch. I still don't have any confirmation of that from over the weekend.
QUESTION: No, no. I've got --
MS. PSAKI: Oh.
QUESTION: I want to go to Malaysia --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- and the Anwar verdict.
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: And as you know – I'm sure you're aware Malaysia holds the chairmanship of ASEAN this year. Does your concern about this case and about what it says about the human rights situation in Malaysia or the independence of the judiciary – will that have any consequences for U.S. participation in the annual meetings that the ASEAN chair hosts?
MS. PSAKI: Not aware of any plans to change our participation.
QUESTION: So is it accurate to say that the rebalance to Asia – the Administration's rebalance to Asia trumps any concerns you might have about human rights and rule of law in that region?
MS. PSAKI: I would not say that's accurate. I just conveyed strongly how we feel about the verdict, as well as the fact that we raise these issues and this specific case – we have raised it regularly. I also conveyed that this will be one of many factors that influences the course of our relationship. I'm just answering the question on whether I think it will impact whether or not we attend the ASEAN conference.
QUESTION: Right, I want – was making it – I was narrowing it to the – their chairmanship of ASEAN. But so the answer is you don't know or it's unlikely or you just --
MS. PSAKI: I'm not aware of any plans. I'm happy to check if there's any changes to that.
QUESTION: All right. As you know, the – Thailand still does not have a civilian-elected government.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The junta is still in power, and yet the United States went ahead and sent Assistant Secretary Russel there.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Cobra Gold exercises went off or are going off as planned. The leader of the junta said today in an interview that – he said that it was possible that the military might step in again and – if the next – if once they get a civilian government it doesn't like what it sees. I'm wondering if you have any comment about the commitment or lack thereof to democracy in Thailand and --
MS. PSAKI: Well, first, on the first part of what you conveyed, we did participate in the Cobra Gold exercises, but we also significantly refocused and scaled down it in response to the actions or the events in Thailand. Also --
QUESTION: The coup.
MS. PSAKI: Hmm?
QUESTION: The coup.
MS. PSAKI: Yes, which we've called it.
QUESTION: Can you say it?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, we can.
QUESTION: The coup?
MS. PSAKI: Coup, coup, coup.
QUESTION: There. Okay. Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: The second thing I would say is that Assistant Secretary Russel, when he was in town, reiterated the fact that in order for our relationship to be at what it once was, there are steps that the Government of Thailand needs to take. That remains the case.
In terms of those reports, obviously, that would raise significant concerns. We respond to actions, of course, but I can check and see if we've raised concerns about those specific comments.
QUESTION: Okay. Since the comments are specifically to ones from the general to the newspaper.
MS. PSAKI: Correct. Yes, understood. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Can I backtrack real briefly to Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: Of course.
QUESTION: General Allen was quoted in a Jordanian publication saying that there's going to be a major counteroffensive on the ground in Iraq very shortly. I just want to confirm with you that he's referring to a counteroffensive led by Iraqi forces, because there have been some reports that indicate this has something to do with the Jordanian troops moving along the border and --
MS. PSAKI: So I answered this a little bit yesterday, but I'm happy to reiterate that obviously DOD and the Government of Iraq would be the ones running point on operational planning. And that's not something, as you all know, that we outline or detail publicly, even they don't, for good reason. Our primary concern here is that any action on Mosul, which is I think what this was a reference to, needs to be done a methodical, coordinated, and planned way. So these are efforts that would certainly be led by the Iraqi Security Forces, and our concern is making sure that an offensive would be ready. So that's what he's referring to. But certainly not predicting – that we would leave that to DOD and the Iraqi Security Forces.
QUESTION: Last week, Marie had said that there were still a number of American hostages being held overseas, including some by ISIS. Are there still Americans being held by ISIS?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of reports that other U.S. citizens have gone missing in Syria. Due to privacy concerns, we're not going to – and the safety concerns – we're not going to further comment or outline them more specifically.
QUESTION: Just a quick clarification.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The question was not about endorsing a candidate. The elections are over and there's no endorsement. The question was that this election was fought on a platform of anti-corruption. And so do you comment that such a good result came out of anti-corruption?
MS. PSAKI: Again --
QUESTION: Why we talk so much about anti --
MS. PSAKI: -- I don't have any comment on the outcome of the elections and what it means.
QUESTION: Can I – that's – you said you were aware of reports that other U.S. citizens have gone missing in Syria. Does that mean that you're aware of reports that they've gone missing and they've been somehow abducted or that they – that they're being held against their will?
MS. PSAKI: Well, there are some reports of that as well.
QUESTION: And is there – this --
QUESTION: This is plural?
MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to get into more specific details.
QUESTION: Well --
QUESTION: So reports of missing and of abductions?
MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to get into more details.
QUESTION: I'm sorry. Is this new, new cases? Or are these --
MS. PSAKI: No. I'm not referring to new reports. I'm referring to in general what reports – there's not new reports.
QUESTION: But for privacy reasons, I can understand you don't want to get into a huge amount of detail, but can you – if you can't say it's more – is it more than one?
MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to get into numbers or more specifics.
QUESTION: Can you get into the number of reports that you've seen?
MS. PSAKI: No, I cannot.
Do we have any more topics?
QUESTION: But you haven't gotten any indication or communication from ISIS specifically about American hostages recently, new reports?
MS. PSAKI: I'm not referring to new reports in that way, no. All right. Oh.
QUESTION: Are you aware of how many Americans that may have joined ISIS, and now they want to come back but they are unable to come back?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have anything for you on that, Said.
Do you have one more? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Are there American hostages in areas other than Syria, as in --
MS. PSAKI: Are there American hostages in other parts of the world?
QUESTION: Do you have information – in Iraq?
MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to get into more details on hostages.
QUESTION: The question – the way you phrased it leaves it open as to whether the people who have gone missing – the reports that you've seen of Americans who have gone missing there are being held or if perhaps they have joined one of the groups who is – that is fighting --
MS. PSAKI: I was not intending to leave that impression.
QUESTION: Are you suggesting that – no, no --
MS. PSAKI: We are aware that there are reports of some individuals, but from the western --
QUESTION: But individuals who are there against their will or both individuals that are against --
MS. PSAKI: I apologize. There's just not more I'm going to get into on this.
QUESTION: Well, because --
MS. PSAKI: I did not mean to create confusion. The question was about hostages. That's what I was referring to.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Thanks, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:13 p.m.)
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