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Daily Press Briefing

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
February 20, 2015

Index for Today's Briefing




12:47 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: All right. I have two items for all of you at the top. The United States Government condemns today's terrorist attacks in eastern Libya which took the lives of at least 40 innocent victims as well as the other violence and terrorist acts that have been inflicted on Libya, its people, and others living in Libya in recent months. We send our deepest condolences to the victims and their families and to the people of Libya as they continue to fight back against terrorism.

This latest terrorist attack underscores the need for all Libyan parties, including former general and national congress members to participate in the UN-led dialogue convened by Bernardino Leon, the special representative of the UN secretary-general to form a national unity government. Those who choose not to participate are excluding themselves from discussions which are critical to combatting terrorism as well as to the overall peace, stability, and security of Libya. The best way to counter the terrorists who are operating Libya is to have Libyans build the national consensus that they need to fight these groups, not each other.

Also on Ukraine, Russia's continued support of ongoing separatist attacks in violation of the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine is undermining international diplomacy and multilateral institutions, the foundations of our modern global order. The Minsk agreements are the basis for a durable resolution in eastern Ukraine, and the OSCE-facilitated trilateral contact group is the appropriate body to facilitate discussion of the implementation of the commitments in Ukraine Russia and the separatists made signing – in signing the September and February Minsk agreements. Ukraine has made clear its intent to honor the ceasefire and has been doing so, responding only when attacked. As the evidence mounts in photos and videos of the enormous human toll Russia and the separatists have inflicted upon the Ukrainian people, we call upon Russia to honor its commitments immediately with decisive action before we see more cities decimated and more lives lost in eastern Ukraine.

I have a time constraint on the backend here, so let's get to --


MS. PSAKI: -- as many topics as possible. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay, well, I wasn't going to start with Ukraine, but that was a pretty strong statement that you just – so basically you just said that Russia is undermining "the foundations of our modern global order?"

MS. PSAKI: Well, by not abiding by the agreement they signed, by continuing to support and intervene illegally in Ukraine, yes, they're violating international norms, and they're violating international law.

QUESTION: But you're accusing them of undermining the entire world order, which seems to be a pretty --

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think that's just expressing how concerned we are about what we're seeing on the ground in Ukraine.


QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine? Or --

QUESTION: Yeah, Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: So then is your opinion, given in your statement now, that the ceasefire has collapsed or that – or are you still giving it another go?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we – the OSCE has also confirmed or continued to confirm – because I know we've talked about this quite a bit in here – that ceasefire violations in Ukraine's east continue. We're particularly concerned about new attacks near Mariupol, an area well beyond the agreed September 19th ceasefire line. There have been, as the OSCE has spoken to, some reduction in violence in some areas. There have been reports of some pullback of weapons. We remain focused on supporting the implementation of these agreements, but we are watching closely, we are talking not only internally, but also with our partners around the world. And if Russia and the separatists fail to implement the agreements, end the violence, and halt the flow of fighters, there will be additional costs.

QUESTION: I mean how much time does one give Russia to abide by this? Does – I mean it can't be an ongoing process, a forever process.

MS. PSAKI: I can --

QUESTION: At what stage does one say this isn't working?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can promise you that discussions about Ukraine, what we're seeing on the ground are happening every day in the Administration. They're happening every day with our partners around the world. We continue to believe that supporting the implementation of reminding people, including Russia and Russian-backed separatists, that there is an off-ramp, that there are steps that can be implemented, is the preferred choice here, the preferred option. We still have the same range of options we've long had. I'm not going to give a timeframe. I'll just say there's concurrent discussions ongoing about what we would do as it relates to consequences.

QUESTION: I wondered – I'm just – to find out, is Ukraine going to be part of the discussions with British Foreign Secretary --

MS. PSAKI: With Foreign Secretary Hammond?

QUESTION: -- Hammond as well as anything – what about – is Lavrov going to Geneva? (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Not that I'm aware of, Lesley. I know that some details of bilateral meetings and the P5+1 meetings are still being finalized, as often happens in the days leading up to these meetings. I'm not aware of a – his planned attendance. In terms of the meetings with Foreign Secretary Hammond, I expect as we always do we will preview the trip en route to the trip, but obviously with the United Kingdom, they often talk about a wide range of issues. I certainly expect Ukraine will be one on top of the agenda.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: The secretary general of the OSCE is in town, and he says the Minsk agreement has given them the opportunity to use more technology, things like drones and satellite imagery. Is the U.S. planning on providing extra resources to the OSCE?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can tell you what we've done to date. The current mandate of the monitoring mission caps the number of international monitors at 500. The mandate runs through March 2015. So we're working, of course, with the Serbian chair of the OSCE, the Ukrainian Government, our European partners, and others at the OSCE to determine the current and future needs of the special monitoring mission, of which we've been very supportive. Our goal is to ensure, of course, that they are well equipped to carry out their tasks, including monitoring implementation of the ceasefire and monitoring the international border between Ukraine and Russia. We have contributed to date about $6.5 million to the OSCE special monitoring mission. We also fund 50 monitors. As discussions continue and consultations continue, we'll continue to consider what additional assistance and what kinds of assistance we can provide.

QUESTION: And the type of monitors, he said that it started out as a human rights monitoring team, but he said they need more people with military background. Is that something the U.S. is --

MS. PSAKI: I think we're absolutely open to having a discussion with them. They're going to have meetings, I think, while they're here – the secretary-general is with Under Secretary Sewall and with some senior officials from the European bureau, and hear what their needs are. And we've been receptive to what their needs are. There's no question they have a big challenge in that they haven't been able to gain access to the areas where there is a great deal of fighting, which we've been talking about quite a bit in here. Obviously, there are a number of ways to deal with that. One would certainly be for the Russian-backed separatists to let them in, but we'll continue to hear from them and what their needs are, and we haven't yet made a decision on what kind of additional support we'll provide.

QUESTION: I was just going to ask that, because they also – they haven't been able to get into Debaltseve, for instance, to date.

MS. PSAKI: That's right. And it's a huge challenge because it's – they're – they are the independent monitoring mission. They are the mission that both Ukraine and Russia and the Russian-backed separatists have said or stated that they're comfortable with monitoring, but yet they have not let them in to monitor. So it certainly is a challenge, and of course we'd all love more visibility into what's happening on the ground.

Any more on Ukraine?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just coming back to the Colombian – Secretary Kerry announced a special envoy for the Colombian peace process.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do we have anything as far as how soon he could get involved and what his involvement is? Is he – are they – is he immediately traveling to the region? Are there talks scheduled with him? How is it going to pan out?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he's just being – he was just sworn in this morning. Certainly I think everyone expects him to get – hit the ground running given his background, which I think we were sending some information out to all of you on that, but just a short recap: He was formerly the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, he worked on the peace talks in Nicaragua and El Salvador. He has a long relationship with government officials in Colombia. I don't have anything at this point to predict in terms of travel and what he'll be doing. As you know, the United States is not a party to the negotiations. That's not changing. But we've certainly been supportive and a strong supporter of Colombian efforts to reach peace for more than a decade. And certainly this is a reflection of that.

QUESTION: But by naming a special envoy, the U.S. is now taking a deeper role in the process.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we've indicated that – and we've shown not just through words, but the Secretary has been to Colombia, as you know, and has discussed these issues with the leaders there. This is – was – our engagement in this was part – came through a discussion with the Colombian Government. And they certainly support our engagement with somebody who's designated to work with them on this issue. But we won't – aren't a party to the talks. That's not going to change. Obviously, his travel will also be driven by the substance of the talks and our consultation with the Colombian Government and what the needs are.


QUESTION: So given that these talks have been taking place in Cuba, and it also happens that the U.S. has been – is trying to normalize relations with Cuba, is – has this – was this raised with the Cubans at all separately to today's announcement?

MS. PSAKI: Separately in what way?

QUESTION: As in during the negotiations on normalizing relations with Cuba, was it also discussed about a U.S. involvement in the Colombian process?

MS. PSAKI: I'm happy to check, Lesley. I don't – I'm happy to check with our team on that.

QUESTION: I'm just a little confused. If his role has not yet been defined, what is the point of having this --

MS. PSAKI: I didn't say his role has not yet been defined. We are – have --

QUESTION: You're just not going to tell us what it is.

MS. PSAKI: We've been a – playing a supporting role. We're not a party to the negotiations, but the Colombian Government has supported our engagement and having somebody designated, so we're doing that, and we'll determine what is – how he can help moving forward as these talks continue.

QUESTION: But that sounds like his role has not been defined.

MS. PSAKI: That's incorrect. I think, obviously, when talks move forward, Matt, there – the needs and what is needed from an envoy like this can change, and obviously somebody with a great deal of experience, and he'll be supportive of these efforts.

QUESTION: But – so is he going to talk to the FARC?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any more to share with you on his role, Matt.

QUESTION: But the – well, right. Which means that it's not been defined, right?

MS. PSAKI: He was sworn in today.

QUESTION: I understand that.

MS. PSAKI: We'll let him start his job --

QUESTION: So he's going to --

MS. PSAKI: -- and I'm sure we'll have more to brief on his role.

QUESTION: -- play it by ear as (inaudible) --

MS. PSAKI: I did not say that at all.

QUESTION: I mean, the only thing you --

MS. PSAKI: He has an – let me finish. He has an extensive background. The Colombian Government wanted us to have somebody who played this role. We support these efforts. This is certainly an example of that. We'll let him get started and talk to the Colombians and all of the relevant officials who were involved, and then I'm sure we'll have more to say about what his role will be moving forward.

QUESTION: He will speak – he will be directly involved with --

MS. PSAKI: We'll, I'm sure, provide more information once he gets started, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Just – what you've been able to tell us about his role, so far, is only that the Colombian Government has expressed an interest in having someone designated in that position. But we don't know whether the FARC has expressed that same interest, whether the Cubans who are hosting the talks have expressed that same interest, or whether the Norwegians – or whoever it is – yeah, the Norwegians – have expressed an interest in the U.S. I mean, can you assure us that you're not just butting in here?

MS. PSAKI: I can assure that he's supporting the efforts of the Colombian Government to achieve peace. He's the appropriate person for the role. As he takes his role, we'll have more to brief on what his role is.

QUESTION: I am not suggesting that he is not the appropriate person. I just want to know what he's going to do.

MS. PSAKI: Well, he hasn't started yet, so we'll give him some time to start and then I'm sure we can provide you all in a briefing.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Perhaps you could tell us what his role was in El Salvador and Nicaragua during those talks.

MS. PSAKI: There is an extensive bio that I think should be in your inbox. If it's not already, we'll make sure it goes out right after the briefing.

QUESTION: Do you expect it to be a sort of similar role to whatever – I haven't seen it yet. It hasn't arrived yet --

MS. PSAKI: Well, he's an envoy not a negotiator. So the negotiations will continue to be between the Government of Colombia and the FARC. His activities will be uniquely and without exception at the request of and coordinated with the Colombian Government. So every situation is different. We certainly can get you more on his background.

QUESTION: So he's more allied with the Colombian Government and less allied – just if that's the right word; it probably isn't – with the FARC?

MS. PSAKI: He is supporting the efforts of the Colombian Government, yes.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: So it sounds as though you're coming in on the side of the Colombian Government, which is – and there's nothing wrong with that, but you should say that he is not really going to be a good offices, neutral negotiator. He is going to be supporting the --

MS. PSAKI: I just said he's not a negotiator.

QUESTION: I know. So – but he – or an envoy. He's not like an impartial observer to the process; he is supporting the Colombian Government as it goes into these talks.

MS. PSAKI: He's supporting their efforts. Yes.

QUESTION: But he also said himself he was going to prod, cajole, and whatever the sides to come. So that sounds like it is a role.

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Colombian Government is obviously negotiating with the FARC. That will continue. So he will determine through consultations with the Colombian Government what role he can help play. But he's not a negotiator. The negotiators – the negotiating continues to be between the Government of Colombia and the FARC. That's not changing.

QUESTION: One of the issues that seems to have stalled the talks recently – and they just resumed – was the issue of disarmament. Now, is that an area in which perhaps the United States could have a role in trying to help disarm the rebels?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly can help support. You're right; I mean, I think there are two – there a couple of major issues left: victims' rights and disarmament, demobilization, reintegration. And certainly, we believe U.S. engagement will help build on the success and the efforts that have been happening between the ongoing negotiations.

QUESTION: So that's a yes?


QUESTION: I mean, disarmament is an area in which the United States has experience and could help.

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I think our engagement can help in that aspect. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I have just a technical question.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: I mean, FARC is still on the terrorism list. So does that limit Ambassador Aaronson's ability to even talk to them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we haven't yet determined – obviously, it's – he's supporting and engaging with the Colombian Government – what specific role that is most productive and useful to the talks. I can see if there's a particular legal issue beyond that, but it's not an issue at this point.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The UN envoy to Syria, Mr. de Mistura, met this morning with deputy secretary of state.


QUESTION: Can you give us a readout about his visit?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have one yet, but I asked his team for one and I'm sure we can get you one before the end of the day, Samir.

QUESTION: Are we staying in the region?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you. Yesterday, I asked about the latest IAEA report on Iran and its noncompliance with the PMD investigation.


QUESTION: Are you ready to talk about the report?

MS. PSAKI: Don't have anything new to add, Matt.

QUESTION: You have seen Prime Minister Netanyahu's comments, or you may have seen today that the report – the conclusion of the report that Iran is still stalling and not complying with the IAEA on the PMD investigation means essentially, in his words, that Iran is not to be trusted when it comes to the nuclear – when it comes to the nuclear issue, including any negotiations that may or may not be happening in the past or this weekend in Geneva.

I'm assuming that you disagree with him, but can you say – do you – does this – does the conclusion of the last IAEA report that you have talked about, which is the same conclusion, and this current one that you won't talk about, does that not give you pause?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, Matt, this has never been about trust, as we've said many times. And certainly, we have ongoing concerns about these exact issues. This is one of the issue that – issues that's being worked through in the negotiations. And any agreement would have verification measures that would be an important component of what's agreed to. We're not quite there yet.

QUESTION: Okay. Are you saying that any agreement would have verification measures on the IAEA and the possible military dimensions – a previous possible military dimension?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I'm saying that the possible military dimensions is one of the issues being discussed. There's no final agreement yet, so I can't outline for you what will be in the final agreement.

QUESTION: Yesterday I asked you if it was correct – there have been people saying that what you would do is support – or what you might do is support an extension of the investigation into the PMDs as part of a deal, not necessarily demand that the Iranians comply as part of a deal. Is that --

MS. PSAKI: And I said yesterday that we're not going to outline any discussions, any reports or specifics of negotiations.

Any more on Iran before we continue?

QUESTION: Can I do Somalia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You just voiced your condemnation of the attacks in Libya. I wondered if you could give your reaction to the attacks on a hotel in Mogadishu today, in which I believe around 25 people were killed.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. The United States strongly condemns al-Shabaab's terrorist attack on the Central Hotel in Mogadishu today. We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of those killed in the attack and wish the injured a speedy recovery. This murderous attack targeting government ministers and members of parliament once again highlights that al-Shabaab stands only for death and destruction, and is firmly opposed to the Somali people's efforts to build a secure and prosperous future. We will continue to support the Somali people and their government as they rebuild their country. Those who stand in the way of Somalia's progress will not succeed.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On Yemen --

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. PSAKI: Yemen, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the reports that the UN special envoy to Yemen says that the opposition parties have agreed to form a legislative body called the People's Transitional Council. Can we have the U.S. reaction to that and maybe what you think is the way forward at this point?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We have seen these reports. We continue to support the special envoy's efforts to work with the parties to find a solution to the political crisis, and we're in regular contact with him and his team regarding the situation on the ground. We also continue to engage Yemenis and the international community to support Yemen's political transition consistent with the GCC initiative, the outcomes of the National Dialogue Conference, UN Security Council resolutions, and Yemeni law. But we are also clear-eyed about the negotiations and are aware that, while participating in the talks, the Houthis continue to take steps to implement their unilateral declaration of February 6 abrogating the constitution.

And so UN is playing an important role. We've seen these reports. We don't have an analysis yet on what it means because we haven't seen implementation quite yet on it. And we are certainly clear-eyed given the events of the last couple of weeks of how that will be implemented – or how it could be implemented, I should say.

QUESTION: Have you gotten any further with your search for a protecting power or somebody who would --

MS. PSAKI: I don't have an update on that today.

QUESTION: Nothing. Okay.


QUESTION: But what is happening? I mean – yeah, I mean, it's --

QUESTION: Is there a need for a protecting power, or are there still U.S. Government personnel perhaps from another – from other agencies who are at the embassy and so you don't need to have --

MS. PSAKI: Well, DOD and others have spoken to that. I think we are still having conversations about a protecting power. As you all know, many, many countries have left Yemen, so that is obviously a factor.

QUESTION: Including Yemen, some might say. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Some might say.

QUESTION: I mean, just on the logistical question, what if people want visas or – if there are any Americans left in Yemen, if they need passports where do they go?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, our services had to be suspended when our embassy was suspended. So obviously, those aren't services we're able to provide at this point in time.

QUESTION: At all? There's no --

MS. PSAKI: That's my understanding. I can check if there's an alternative that we'll be able to put together.


QUESTION: Change of subject.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: We understand that Senator Feingold is stepping down as special envoy to DRC. Can you confirm this? Is there going to be another envoy named? Has he quit out of disgust, or is he just going somewhere else?

MS. PSAKI: Why does it always have to go there, Lesley?

QUESTION: I don't know.

MS. PSAKI: Special --

QUESTION: If we find out from the United States (inaudible).

QUESTION: It wasn't disgust. It was revulsion.

MS. PSAKI: Special Envoy Feingold is stepping down sometime next month. He will give his final speech as special envoy next Tuesday at the U.S. Institute for Peace. We will continue to devote sustained, high-level attention to the Great Lakes region. There is – while I don't have any announcement now, there will be a successor named. And let me just take a moment, because obviously, Special Envoy Feingold has been – has played a very important role here. And last technical piece: He – the Secretary asked him to stay for a year when he started in June of 2013, so obviously we're far past that point or about six to seven or eight months past that point at this point.

But amongst others, Special Envoy Feingold helped lead the international envoys' participation in the Kampala Talks and their contribution to the resolution of the M23 rebellion. He helped drive the international community's renewed focus and commitment to ending the threat of the FDLR, which has produced an international and regional consensus that now is the time for the DRC and the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC to neutralize the threat of this group. During his tenure, he also fostered, improved, and expanded U.S. relations with Angola, which, as you know, included a trip by the Secretary there last May. And he launched the Great Lakes to Great Lakes initiative, bringing together regional and international experts, academics, and government officials to discuss environmental concerns, ecoterrorism, and preservation of African Great Lakes. So obviously, he will be missed.

Go ahead.


MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So the UK police have put out an alert for three teenage girls who they believe have left for Syria. They expressed a concern that there is a number recently of these cases of specifically young women and girls who seem to be attracted to this idea of becoming a participant in the ISIS fight. That includes a 19-year-old Colorado woman who was stopped in Denver last year. Does the U.S. share this concern, kind of apart from the foreign fighters going to Syria, that there's this other ISIS bride phenomenon?

MS. PSAKI: I think we share a concern. Obviously, there are different reasons that individuals go, but many of them do go to join the effort, is how often it is described. And we have a – certainly an ongoing concern about foreign fighters, about the efforts by ISIL to appeal to individuals in the West. Certainly, as we've talked about a little bit here, the United States – obviously, we track these numbers, as do Western European countries. It's something that we talk about in formats like the Countering Violent Extremism Summit that we've had the last three days; we talk about in ministerial meetings. And we have ongoing concerns about ISIL's propaganda techniques and their outreach.

QUESTION: Could I just follow up very quickly – sorry for being late – on this very point --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- regarding foreign fighters? Is there, like, a program through which these fighters that have a change of heart once they get there – like a halfway house or a home, for the lack of better expression and so on, by you or by the Europeans, that they can actually go to, find refuge in, and be rehabilitated back into their societies?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, every country has their own laws. This is something that we work with a range of – let me finish my answer before you ask another question. (Laughter.) We have every – we work with a range of countries. As you know, there has been action at the UN. The Secretary hosted a meeting on foreign fighters just two days ago. This is an issue that we're working to determine the best way to address.

Now, our view is that targeting these individuals and preventing them from going is obviously the most effective and important step, so I would – every country has different laws and different rules they work with.

QUESTION: Okay. Let's say an American young man goes there and has a change of heart. What should they do? What should they do?

MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to speak about a hypothetical American man, Said.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: But there are. I mean, you – someone said, like, there are 150 --

MS. PSAKI: Understood. We have a range of laws we've – let me finish – we have a range of laws. We've put out a great deal of information I'm more than happy to get to you about what we've done, what other countries have done. This remains a primary focus of what we talk about in the anti-ISIL coalition.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I've got one on Brazil. There are some plans for the President to come at some point this year. Do you have any details on when that might be, or --

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any more details. I've seen the reports from there but don't have any more details.

QUESTION: Can we stay on Latin America?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In Venezuela once again, another arrest of an official, a mayor was arrested for allegedly trying to – what is it – sow unrest. And the president has accused him as well of taking part in a coup. This is – and – it sparked more protest. It's a story that seems to be completely repeating itself and sort of escalating, it seems – like, intensifying.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we've seen continued accusations, no question, that are false and baseless. And our view continues to be that political transitions must be democratic, constitutional, peaceful, and legal. We do not support a political transition in Venezuela by non-constitutional means. We're not promoting unrest in Venezuela, nor are we attempting to undermine Venezuela's economy or its government. And this is a continued effort – ongoing, because I do feel like we talk about these incidents once a week at least – about – of the Venezuelan Government to try to distract attention from the country's economic and political problems and focus and try to distract and make these false accusations. We see that for what it is, but these are baseless and obviously – well, also let me just speak to your report of the mayor.

We've also seen reports that the Venezuelan intelligence service detained the Caracas metropolitan mayor and searched his office. We've also seen reports that military intelligence officials plan to move opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez from his prison cell and transfer him to an unknown location. We are deeply concerned by what appears to be the Venezuelan Government's efforts to escalate intimidation of its political opponents by rounding up these prominent leaders of the opposition. Venezuela's problems cannot be solved by criminalizing dissent. But these are issues, obviously. We continue to work with partners – other partners who have a shared concern. And clearly, many of these accusations are being thrown against the United States, which is often why we have to speak to them.

QUESTION: Of course, Venezuela isn't the only country that regularly accuses the United States of plotting coups.

MS. PSAKI: That --

QUESTION: It seems to be a widespread phenomenon whether it's true or not.

MS. PSAKI: I'm happy to speak to it, Matt.

QUESTION: Anyway, I wanted to ask – you just said in your response to that question – you said "The United States does not support political transitions in Venezuela by non-constitutional means." Does it just apply to Venezuela, or are there other countries where you do support non-constitutional --

MS. PSAKI: Is there a specific country you want to raise and have a discussion about?

QUESTION: No. Well, I'm just curious because your statement last night and again today, with the exception of the "in Venezuela" – "The United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means." That's what you said in the statement last night.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But last week, you said, "As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means," which I asked about last week when you said it, "How longstanding is this?" It seems to be – have been removed. So is this an admission from the U.S. Government that at some – that this policy is not longstanding, and that in fact you have supported political transitions by non-constitutional means in the past?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I don't know that we have time today to go through a long history of United States foreign policy, but I'm speaking to our policy as it relates to Venezuela and our policy as it relates to these accusations against us by the Maduro government.

QUESTION: Well, then let me put a sharper point on it. The statement from last – forgetting about just the "in Venezuela" part. The statement, "The United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means," as compared to what you said a week ago, "As a matter of longstanding policy, the United States does not support political transitions by non-constitutional means," does that mean that you are acknowledging that this is not a longstanding policy?

MS. PSAKI: I'm just happy to hear that you read our statements so closely.

QUESTION: Very closely.

MS. PSAKI: It is.

QUESTION: I – a lot of people do, and I'm just curious, I mean, is – does the removal of "longstanding policy" mean that you are acknowledging that it was not longstanding policy, and that in fact in the past the United States has supported political transitions by --

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn't over-read into our language here, Matt.

QUESTION: I'm just – I'm not over-reading. I'm just reading.

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we're speaking to and responding to – I think we're ready to move on.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, I have one on the State Department actually.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: This morning in The Wall Street Journal, they reported that a cyber-intrusion that occurred three months ago was still plaguing the State Department. I wanted to see if you could provide us an update about what's going on with the unclassified email system at the State Department.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I know we've put out a statement on it to those who have asked, but let me just reiterate some of those points. We have robust security to protect our computer systems and our information, which includes access to our unclassified OpenNet system. The recent uptick in news reports regarding cyber incidents demonstrates that the Department is among a growing list of public institutions and private industries facing an increasing number of sophisticated cyber threats. We deal successfully with thousands of attacks every day, and we deal with them in conjunction with other relevant government agencies.

Beyond that, I'm not going to have many additional details to share for clear reasons, but --

QUESTION: Many or any?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we'll see. What are your questions?

QUESTION: So there's no information about any attribution for this attack that you can release?

MS. PSAKI: No details I'm going to get into from here, no.

QUESTION: But is what the report says correct, that you haven't managed to evict some of these hackers from the network yet?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the important point here, Jo, is that we continue to – there are thousands of attacks we deal with every day. These attacks are becoming more sophisticated. As a result, our protections are becoming more sophisticated. And we work every day to fight back on these attacks and take a number of steps.

Now certainly, we have talked a bit in here and outside of the briefing room about the steps we needed to take just a couple of months ago because they were so extensive. And from time to time, we have had to do that. But this is something we deal with on a daily basis.

QUESTION: But are the same people who attacked your system three months ago still managing or inside the system today?

MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to get into that level of detail. I think the fact is that there are thousands of attacks from many sources that we deal with every single day, and the reason why there's been a focus, I think, on this particular incident is because of the extent and how broad it was. And obviously, we took steps to combat that, but it's something that we work on every day.

QUESTION: Did those steps include taking some of your systems offline?

MS. PSAKI: We talked about that at the time, yeah.

QUESTION: Okay. I'm sorry. I wasn't here when that happened.

MS. PSAKI: No, no. I know. And it was some time ago.

QUESTION: Yeah, okay.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Well, it wasn't that long ago.

QUESTION: It was about three months ago, wasn't it? I don't --

MS. PSAKI: A couple months.


MS. PSAKI: It's all relative, I suppose.

QUESTION: Are these attacks done by governments or individuals?

MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to get into that level of detail.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On hacking --

QUESTION: Or any level of detail.

MS. PSAKI: Or any level of detail on the specific attribution question.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: A different kind of hacking?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The European company, Gemalto, allegedly was hacked by the NSA, and European officials are freaking out about it. Is the State Department doing anything to quell concerns?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we have – I don't have any specific comment on those reports as it relates to any concern any of our partners have around the world. We certainly would have conversations with them, but those would happen through private, diplomatic channels.


QUESTION: With regard to Russia and the summit yesterday, you had the FSB director come here and take part in it. You said in reports that they – we work with Russia to – against combatting ISIL.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you give us sort of a readout of who he met with yesterday and what kinds of things were discussed?

MS. PSAKI: There were, as you know, dozens of attendees at this conference, so I don't have anything to really read out from his particular interactions. Maybe the Russians may be able to provide that. I can see if there are any senior officials who had any interaction with him.

QUESTION: I was going to ask the same question, but – and that answer is kind of what I expected, but more broadly, you opened this briefing by saying that Russia is undermining international diplomacy and by – as a consequence, undermining the foundations of "a modern global order." Why on Earth would you have – facilitate the entry to and host the head of the Russian spy intelligence service, which presumably is involved in what you say is undermining modern world order --

MS. PSAKI: Should we also ask them not to be a part of the P5+1 Iran negotiations?

QUESTION: I don't know. It just seems to me odd that --

MS. PSAKI: Or not to work on --

QUESTION: -- you're accusing them of basically shaking the foundations of the globe, and at the same time, you're perfectly happy to talk to them in other formats, in other scenarios.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, modern-day diplomacy requires that we work with some countries on some issues, even when we have strong disagreements on others.

QUESTION: Yeah, but this is not just one issue. You accused them of undermining the modern global order, not just undermining peace in Ukraine or --

MS. PSAKI: As it relates to Ukraine, as it relates to Ukraine. It was a comment on Ukraine.

QUESTION: So the modern global order depends on what happens in Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I think the world is looking at what happens in Ukraine --

QUESTION: Well, right, but that --

MS. PSAKI: -- as a reflection of Russians' actions.

QUESTION: But the problem is that the rhetoric doesn't match the action. If you really think that the Russians are undermining the modern global order, which is a pretty big thing, then why – (laughter) – on Earth would you be talking to them in the way that you do on issues that you think that they're trying to --

MS. PSAKI: Because we talk to a range of countries where we have disagreements, and there are still some issues --

QUESTION: But you don't accuse --

MS. PSAKI: -- where we find agreements.

QUESTION: But you don't accuse any other country of undermining the modern global order.

MS. PSAKI: There are certainly many countries we have issues with on a range of issues that we still engage with diplomatically, Matt.

QUESTION: But not to this extent. I mean, you basically painted a picture of them as being like, I don't know, Dr. Evil or something, trying to --

MS. PSAKI: I'm sure we can get you comments we've made about other countries' actions if you'd like that are critical, that we still work with.

QUESTION: I have been doing this for a long time. I've never heard anyone accuse any – this building accuse any other country of undermining the foundations of the modern global order ever. I mean --

MS. PSAKI: All right. Well, then you should file an AP story on it.

QUESTION: I think you'll probably find one. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Said.

QUESTION: Can I go back to Syria just for one second?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Because today, a group of UN investigators said that they are going to publish the names of war criminals in Syria from all sides, including presumably elements of the regime. How could – will something like this change the game, so to speak, or the rules of the game?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don't know that it's been fully determined yet. We're still reviewing their proposal and what specifically they want to do. Obviously, we support the work of the commission of inquiry, but I don't have any other further analysis for you on how that would work.

QUESTION: Just two quick clarifications.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: It's widely reported in the media that New York-based Ravi Batra, who's the chair of the National Advisory Council on South Asian Affairs, has written a letter to Secretary Kerry requesting a humanitarian visa to the wife of Sureshbhai Patel, who is lying in a hospital in Alabama. Now the question is – first is: Is the building in receipt of the letter? The second is: Understanding you don't talk about the visa, but this being a very humanitarian issue, would you like to say something about the update on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, unfortunately, we don't discuss any visa cases regardless, and certainly, as I've noted in here before, our hearts go out to the family and to all of those in the community who are, as we are, standing with this man who was attacked in Alabama. I can't go into specifics. Obviously, case by – each visa is adjudicated on a case-by-case basis.

QUESTION: Now, being like – I fully agree, but still, I'm just asking because of the humanitarian nature of the --

MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand why you're asking. I just can't go into specifics because they're confidential.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a quick one. The summit yesterday, was China invited? If not, why? If yes, did they just refuse to come or reject the invitation?

MS. PSAKI: I'm – we can check and see if there is a more extensive list of invites. I know we put out a list of who attended.

Go ahead, Abby.

QUESTION: Do you have any further information on the second round of Cuba talks next week?

MS. PSAKI: I hope we'll have a media note out either later today or early next week which will have more specifics. They're taking place here. They'll be one day. So we'll just have more logistical details.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I just ask – and I don't know if you've been watching these, but the – of course, the Greek Government put forward a new proposal to the EU on how to pay off or not pay off its debts, and that has not been accepted by some of the members of the EU and there is now cause for an emergency summit on Sunday. Do you have a position on what the Greek Government should be doing, how the EU should be handling this?

MS. PSAKI: I would say our role is that we are going to continue to encourage the Greek Government, its European partners and the IMF to work together to chart a way forward that builds on crucial structural reforms and returns Greece to sustainable, long-term growth. We certainly understand there have been many discussions, many reports, and we're, of course, following it, but we support the ongoing efforts that are happening now.

QUESTION: The EU does – the U.S. does have an interest in the stability of the –

MS. PSAKI: Of course.

QUESTION: -- EU and the Eurozone, does it not?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we continue to support the efforts of the Greek Government, the international community to strengthen the foundation of Greek's long-term prosperity, absolutely.

QUESTION: But is – does the U.S. have concerns about any impact – does the Administration have concerns about any impact that Greece leaving the Eurozone might have in the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, believe that – we've consistently favored the success of the Eurozone, which you referenced, of course. We've encouraged Greece to work cooperatively with its European partners and the IMF to address its structural issues. We believe that needed structural reform and a plan for a return to growth in Greece are best accomplished within the Eurozone, so that certainly is what we're encouraging.

QUESTION: So you would prefer – the United States as – the U.S. position is that you would prefer to see Greece remain a member of the Eurozone?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly think that their reforms, yes, can be accomplished structurally through the Eurozone, within the Eurozone.

QUESTION: Okay, and given the fact that economies – modern economies, whether or not they're being – the modern world order is being shaken or not by anyone, but they're – everything is interconnected. So what – a ripple in Europe is going to affect here somehow, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we saw that in 2009 and --

QUESTION: Exactly.

MS. PSAKI: -- 2010. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So with that in mind, I'm wondering if you, the Administration, shares the opinion of the Germans that the Greek proposal is, in fact, a Trojan horse.

MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to comment on the ongoing negotiations between Greece and its – and the EU partners and the IMF specifically.

QUESTION: Well – yeah, but I mean do you think that – do you agree with the suggestion from the Germans that this is just a ruse and a delaying game that may ultimately end up as the – what happened with the Trojan horse, allegedly?

MS. PSAKI: We all know the story.

QUESTION: Exactly. I mean, are the Germans just being – I don't know what – anti-Cassandra here or --

MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to weigh in on their discussions.

QUESTION: Okay, so you don't have a position on what the – how they actually come to an agreement; you just want to see them get there?

MS. PSAKI: There are ongoing negotiations. I'm sure once there is one, perhaps we'll speak to it at that point in time.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Have a great weekend.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:29 p.m.)

DPB # 31

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