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Daily Press Briefing

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 19, 2015

Index for Today's Briefing




1:40 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hello, hello.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, guys. I'm sorry, I may have jumped the two-minute gun there. I apologize. I was just excited to come out here and chat with all of you.

Okay. I have one item at the top.

QUESTION: Sarcasm is not --

MS. PSAKI: I am, Matt. I have a limited number of opportunities left. So Deputy Secretary Blinken met with Vietnam's Minister of Public Security Tran Dai Quang on March 18th at the Department of State. They discussed key bilateral and regional issues that reflect the strong and growing partnership between the United States and Vietnam. Okay. The 20th --

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Do we know what the echo is from?

QUESTION: Seems to have gone now.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. The 20th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations in 2015 is an opportunity to advance the bilateral relationship through the comprehensive partnership that Presidents Obama and Sang launched in July of 2013.

With that, Matt.


MS. PSAKI: Hi, Arshad. Sorry I came out here a little early.

QUESTION: I have a feeling we're going to be going over a lot of ground that your colleague at the White House is in the middle of going over as well.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Let's start with Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The – at the White House they said that they had seen the transcript or seen the interview that Prime Minister Netanyahu did today.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Have you also seen it?

MS. PSAKI: I've seen the transcript, yes.

QUESTION: It sounded from your colleague's comments as though whatever he said today doesn't make you – doesn't change your opinion about what he said three – two days ago or three days ago --

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think Prime Minister Netanyahu was the prime minister three days ago as well, and he made comments that we certainly have taken account of. And we obviously have stated and I'm happy to restate what our view is on the importance of a two-state solution and what it could achieve. So in that regard, we believe he changed his position just a few days ago.

QUESTION: Well, why are you willing to ascribe a change in position to those comments which were said – and he is a politician – which were said in the heat of a very tight election campaign – why are you willing to put more weight on those comments than you are today on his comments that say, in fact, he's not opposed to a two-state solution if the conditions are right? Isn't that your position?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, our preference is certainly, and it has been – it is today, it was yesterday, it was three days ago – for a two-state solution negotiated between the parties. Certainly, the prime minister's comments from a few days ago brought into question whether he was – remained committed to that.

QUESTION: Well, why do you assume that his comments that – why do you assume that he's lying today?

MS. PSAKI: I'm not making --

QUESTION: And not – and why he would --

MS. PSAKI: We take the prime --

QUESTION: -- that he was telling the truth – well, right, but he's still the prime minister today and once comments that are made – the most recent comment is more in line with what the Administration's position has – is and what past administrations' positions have been than what he said before. So why not accept today's at face value? Why are you insisting on taking – why do you insist on taking his word from three days ago, his comments from three days ago as gospel truth, and today it doesn't matter what he says?

MS. PSAKI: I wasn't saying that, Matt. I think he was the prime minister three days ago, so certainly we can't forget about those comments.

QUESTION: Well, but if they've been superseded.

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: You don't think that his comments from today supersede and clarify what he said before?

MS. PSAKI: Again, I think there'll be many more discussions with Prime Minister Netanyahu both publicly and certainly internally throughout the coming weeks, but beyond that we certainly look to what he has said, and obviously what he said a few days ago is not consistent with what his stated position had been prior to that.

QUESTION: Well, is what he said today consistent with his stated position from prior to three days ago?

MS. PSAKI: Look, Matt, I think obviously --

QUESTION: Well, I just don't understand why you're – you accuse him of cherry-picking in terms of the Iran negotiations, cherry-picking facts and --

MS. PSAKI: We would see that as entirely different, but --

QUESTION: Well, but why are you cherry-picking what he – deciding that you're going to pay no attention to what he said today and pay all the attention to what he said three days ago? I'm just curious.

MS. PSAKI: Look, I didn't suggest --

QUESTION: I mean, basically --

MS. PSAKI: I didn't suggest that. We're having a discussion about public --

QUESTION: Well, that's exactly what you and your colleague said.

MS. PSAKI: We're having a discussion about public comments. Obviously, there will be a range of discussions that take place. Clearly, it would be up to the two parties. We're not at that point. There isn't a process that's ongoing. We haven't seen indications there's going to be a process that's ongoing, so we'll see what happens.

QUESTION: Well, and I just – I guess I don't understand. I mean, the comments that he made a couple days ago were made in an interview.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Today's comments were made in an interview. Do you think that the prime minister doesn't tell the – doesn't really tell the truth when he's speaking to an Israeli but he's somehow – or he does tell the truth when he's speaking to an Israeli journalist, but with Andrea Mitchell he's compelled to lie?

MS. PSAKI: I wasn't indicating that. I just don't have any more analysis, Matt, of the prime minister's comments.

QUESTION: Well, you were very quick to jump on the comments from the other day, and yet you seem to be not at all willing to consider what he said today to be what is operative in his mind. That's the issue.

MS. PSAKI: Well, if he had --

QUESTION: So it sounds like --

MS. PSAKI: I think if he had consistently stated that he remained for a two – in favor of a two-state solution, we'd be having a different conversation.

QUESTION: Well, it sounds to me like you think that the damage has been done and there's no way that the Administration is ever going to accept anything he said as being his position except for what he said three days ago. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: I wasn't suggesting that, Matt.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: I think, obviously, we'll look at what happens. Beyond that, I don't have any more analysis today.

QUESTION: Okay. So just to – very briefly, has the Secretary had another warm and lengthy, long conversation with the prime minister?

MS. PSAKI: He has not had another conversation with the prime minister.

QUESTION: And then the last one is: The Palestinians are saying again – they're again threatening to cut off their security cooperation with Israel. Given the fact that you're re-evaluating your policies, is it a – do you think that the Palestinians are within their rights, their bounds to re-evaluate their relationship with – such as it is – with Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we are reviewing our assistance to the Palestinian Authority to determine how it can best be used moving ahead. And obviously, we have, as we've talked about it in here, the constraints of Congress and how that works. It's a little bit different than the security cooperation question.

QUESTION: No, no, no. Well, no, this is the Palestinian security cooperation with Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Yes, I understand.

QUESTION: Since you, the Administration, believes it's a good idea and it's going to go ahead with its re-evaluation of how to proceed, do you think that the Palestinians are justified in re-evaluating how they proceed with their relationship with Israel, particularly on the security cooperation issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we're trying to evaluate how to best proceed in order to achieve a two-state solution, right? That is different from security cooperation, which obviously has benefits to both sides.

QUESTION: So you think --

MS. PSAKI: Clearly, the Palestinian Authority is going to make their own choices, but --

QUESTION: Okay, but you think that the Palestinians should continue their security cooperation with Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we see there being benefits to that, certainly.

QUESTION: So you think it's a bad idea if they go ahead and cut off --

MS. PSAKI: We'll see what happens, Matt. I know I've seen comments, but I haven't seen any confirmation or indication of what they are actually planning.

QUESTION: Have there been any conversations with the Palestinians before their meeting today in Ramallah about the security arrangements, as well as other considerations on how to move ahead in the wake of Netanyahu's re-election?

MS. PSAKI: You mean from our team on the ground?


MS. PSAKI: I can certainly check. Not that I'm aware of, Roz, but we can check on that for you, sure.

Go ahead, Samir.

QUESTION: I was going to ask the same. Do you expect the Secretary to call President Abbas to urge them not to take action on their decision today to stop security cooperation with Israel?

MS. PSAKI: I haven't seen a confirmation that that is their definitive plan. I've seen reports. Obviously, what typically happens is that we have contact from our teams on the ground. I will check and see if that's something that has happened at this point in time.

QUESTION: Is there any concern – even though they're only talking about setting up a panel to look at whether the current security cooperation arrangement should be altered in any way, is there any sense of urgency from this building to be in touch with the PA to discuss the way forward and what constructive steps the U.S. might be prepared to offer to the Palestinians to not inflame the situation any more than it already appears to be?

MS. PSAKI: You mean – well, we've been consistently in touch with the Palestinians. It's not as if we cut off contact. So, I mean, I'm not sure what you're asking.

QUESTION: Well, just in the context of the elections having happened two days ago, it would seem reasonable that there would've been some sort of conversation between the U.S. Government and the PA about what has happened inside Israel and what advice --

MS. PSAKI: What has happened in relation to what?

QUESTION: The elections and how it might have an effect on the Palestinians' efforts to establish their own state, or at least in the very short term be able to pay their workers.

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I think these are a couple different issues. On revenues, this has been an ongoing issue, I think we can all agree. It's a conversation we've had – an issue we've had ongoing conversations with the Palestinians about before the election. And I can certainly check – the election was two days ago, so the question is whether we have had conversations about it since then.

In terms of the other question about analysis of the impact of the Israeli elections, I don't think that that would be the basis of our conversations with the Palestinians.

QUESTION: Why not?

MS. PSAKI: I can get back to you, Roz, if there's more to read out for you in terms of the calls. There's obviously a process that's ongoing in terms of government formation. We will, of course, continue to discuss with the Palestinians concerns about the viability of the PA given revenue issues. That's been ongoing. Any other issues that come up – that would be the focus of our discussions, because we have a relationship with them, of course, just as we have a relationship with the Israelis.

Do we have any more on this before we move on? Okay. New topic.

QUESTION: Well, I just wanted to --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is there any way you can extrapolate or provide more detail about the review of what you're – what are your options to show your displeasure with Prime Minister Netanyahu's comments three days ago?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it's not about showing our displeasure. It's about trying to find a way forward. So obviously, our preference remains, continues to be, negotiations between the parties to reach a two-state solution. As I mentioned yesterday, and you're of course asking about, we're currently evaluating our approach, but that doesn't mean that we've made a decision about changing our position with respect to the UN or what specific steps we would take. The elections happened two days ago. These comments were three days ago. We'll continue to discuss that. I don't have anything to outline today.

QUESTION: But I guess the point is this – that there are comments that supersede the comments from three days ago. And I think you've made clear now that the Administration is going to pretty much ignore the comments from today and go with the comments that he made three days ago. Do those comments from three days ago, that there will not – that he wouldn't – he wouldn't – there would never be a Palestinian state while he is prime minister, did that – does that call – does that make you think twice about whether or not he was actually committed to a two-state solution before then?

MS. PSAKI: Well, prior to that, he stated he was. He worked towards a peace process. Again, we haven't made a decision. It's just natural that we would be looking at the different options.

QUESTION: Do you think – can you conceive of a scenario in which the United States Government would support an International Criminal Court prosecution of Israel?

MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to --

QUESTION: Is that the kind of thing that is being evaluated?

MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to get ahead of any process, Matt. We've consistently opposed that as the appropriate path, so I don't believe that has changed, but --

QUESTION: No. As the – I think you've consistently opposed that.

MS. PSAKI: Opposed.


MS. PSAKI: Yeah. That's what I said.

QUESTION: Oh, okay. I thought you said "proposed."

MS. PSAKI: No. Opposed.

QUESTION: All right. And what about European threats or boycotts and such? Are you still – think that those are a bad idea?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we've stated in the past concerns about those. Obviously we'll be talking to our European partners. And I think we're all looking at what the situation is and what it means moving forward. There are a number of countries – not just the United States, but certainly many in Europe – who'd like to see a two-state solution.

QUESTION: How about this: Can you say that the United States will continue, under this President and this Administration, to block UN – any action at the United Nations that it believes are one-sided and unfair to Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, one, we have vetoed several Israel-related resolutions over the years that we believed were unbalanced. But we've also supported or abstained the majority of related UN Security Council resolutions that ever came up to a vote. We've supported some; we've abstained from some; we've opposed some. So I don't know that there's actually a sweeping what we've always done point here.

QUESTION: Not so long ago, this President's national security advisor and the UN ambassador spoke to AIPAC. Both of them denounced the United Nations actions or attempts at the United Nations to single out what they said – unfairly single out Israel and said that the U.S. has always done that and always would. And I'm just wondering if that is still the case. Will the United States block at any UN or other international forum something – sorry. Will the United States block any action at those fora that it believes are unfair or biased against Israel?

MS. PSAKI: Are unfair or biased? I think we've consistently said that. That hasn't changed.

QUESTION: Okay. So that's not part of the evaluation?

MS. PSAKI: Matt, we're looking at how to achieve a two-state solution. We have, in the past, supported UN Security Council resolutions related to the Middle East. I'm not going to prejudge what we'll do. We'll look at the content of it and evaluate what it means and what we'll do moving forward.

QUESTION: So the Administration may be in a position to support or abstain on something that it believes is unfair or biased against Israel? Is that what you're saying?

MS. PSAKI: That's a way of defining it, Matt. I'm not going to define it that way. We'll look at the content of it. I'm not – I don't have any more predications to make for you.

QUESTION: It's the UN ambassador – I understand you're not – don't want to predict. I'm just asking: Is it possible – would the Administration --

MS. PSAKI: That is biased or unfair, no.

QUESTION: Okay. You will --

MS. PSAKI: But obviously there are a range of options in the UN Security Council. I'm not going to prejudge it further.

QUESTION: But surely you're not going to – but you're not going to vote in favor of or sit by and abstain from something that you think is unfair or biased against your big ally, top ally, in the Middle East, right?

MS. PSAKI: You're – I think what we're going to look at is what the content of a resolution would be. I'm not going to prejudge what that will be, and we haven't made a decision.

QUESTION: In other words, your previous definition of "biased or unfair" might change?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have anything more to add to preview on this topic.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. PSAKI: Any – new topic? Let's go to the back.

QUESTION: Yes. I wanted to ask about Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams this week. He described the State Department's handling of a meeting that was scheduled to take place between him and Deputy Secretary Blinken as bizarre and he described it as not helpful, the actions of the State Department. He also said that the U.S. policy towards Northern Ireland was one of inclusivity and dialogue, and he said that the behavior of the State Department this week ran at odds to that. Just wondering what your response is to that. And do you consider Mr. Adams own comments to be bizarre in light of the State Department's relations on Northern Ireland?

MS. PSAKI: Well, given the ongoing efforts to reach a durable accord on welfare reform to get implementation of the Stormont House Agreement back on track, we postponed all of Deputy Secretary Blinken's meetings with Northern Ireland officials until such agreement is reached. It included all officials coming. This included meetings with Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams as well as with Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness, who determined that the best course of action would be to postpone their travel to Washington and continue negotiations in Belfast.

Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Julieta Noyes met with Gerry Adams on March 17th. They discussed implementation of the agreement and welfare reform. They also discussed immigration and legacy issues. She also met separately with Social Democratic and Labor Party leader Alasdair McDonnell and Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt.

So we did have a senior official meet with a range of officials, but it was the decision made by the Department that, given the negotiations are ongoing and that needed to be the focus, that the meetings should be postponed at the deputy secretary level.

QUESTION: Do you think, in light of the fact that he had a meeting with the State Department, that it was unusual for him to come out and say that the handling by the State Department was not helpful?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any comment on his comments.


MS. PSAKI: Yemen? Sure.

QUESTION: Does the building have an assessment of the situation in Yemen? It seems that the current president or former president, or whatever Mr. Hadi's status is at this moment, is being attacked now in what was thought to be a safe haven of Aden?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don't have new information. We've obviously seen the reports about fighting at the airport and an attack at the presidential palace. We're actively monitoring the situation. We're concerned about actions that could increase tensions in Yemen and lead to further destabilization. We call on all parties to de-escalate the situation.

The situation on the ground is currently very fluid, so we, of course, as I mentioned, are following the reports of the clashes between forces loyal to President Hadi and forces loyal to former President Saleh. And we, again, would call on both parties to refrain from violence. I don't have new information. It's something we're watching very closely, and obviously the situation has just sort of moved forward over the last 24 hours.

QUESTION: Given that there are no U.S. officials currently in Yemen, how are these contacts being made? How is this building assured that the messages are getting through to the right people?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Ambassador Tueller recently met with President Hadi in Aden. We have not been in contact with him today, but I would note media reports that he is safe, following the attack on the presidential palace, and obviously we've been in regular contact in recent weeks.

Yemen before we continue? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Ukraine?

QUESTION: Ukraine and Russia.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Again, I'm here to collect an answer to my question from last week when I was asking about the Russian foreign minister accusing the U.S. of violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Do you have that answer?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. The deployment of U.S. nuclear weapons on the territories of our NATO allies is consistent with the NPT. These weapons remain under U.S. control at all times and are never transferred. Additionally, NPT Articles I and II do not prohibit these types of nuclear basing or planning arrangements, which have been in place before the NPT entered into force in 1970, so more than 40 years ago. The issue was fully addressed when the treaty was negotiated, so the arrangements made clear to delegations and were made public. They were not challenged, and certainly, as I mentioned, recent steps have abided by those agreements.

QUESTION: So basically, the key issue that the Russians raised of training allied pilots to use the weapons, that issue had been addressed?

MS. PSAKI: Had been addressed in the NPT more than 40 years ago.

QUESTION: Okay. Now to go back – to go to Ukraine, the Russian foreign minister today suggested that the U.S. is not playing a very constructive role in the Ukrainian conflict, which is probably not surprising to you. But what was surprising was that the head of the European Parliament, Mr. Schulz, suggested the same thing. He actually suggested that maybe it will be easier to resolve the conflict if it was a strictly European matter. Do you agree with that?

MS. PSAKI: I'm happy to look at the comments of the European parliament's president. I hope you don't mind that I am not going to take your word --

QUESTION: No, of course.

MS. PSAKI: -- exactly for the description of them, but why don't I do that, and I'm sure we can get you a comment on that.

QUESTION: He was very critical of the Russian approach, but he also suggested that the American --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We can take a look at those and get you a comment.

QUESTION: The Russian minister, when he was discussing this, said that it was time maybe for another meeting of the Normandy Four, as they call it. Would that be helpful, do you think?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think with all of these questions – and again, I'm more than happy to take a look at the comments, but I think our belief is that the focus should be on the implementation of the ceasefire that's been agreed to. There are clear parameters for that, starting with Minsk in September, and obviously – excuse me – continuing with the agreement from just a few weeks ago. There are steps that Ukraine and the – Russia and the Russian-backed separatists can take to implement that, and that – the focus now should be on action. And they have all of the tools and information needed to do that.


QUESTION: Are you seeing progress?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been a couple – I think in recent days the Ukrainian parliament passed new laws that continue fulfillment of its commitments under the Minsk agreements, especially with regard to further delineation of the September special status law. We have seen – in terms of on the ground, let me see if I have an update today, Roz. No, I think the last time I talked to our team about this, which I think was yesterday afternoon, the ceasefire continues to hold in many parts of the line of contact, although there are continuing attacks, as there have been, in some areas of Luhansk and Donetsk. And they're – we are still encouraged by reports of some heavy weapons withdrawal by both Ukraine and the Russia-backed separatists. But the process is ongoing. And the point I was trying to make is that obviously, the implementation of these components is what the focus should be on.

QUESTION: Jen, the Eastern Europeans now say that the exact passing of those laws that you just mentioned is backtracking from the Minsk commitments, because --

MS. PSAKI: Which Eastern Europeans are saying that?

QUESTION: The Donetsk and Luhansk people.

MS. PSAKI: They're Eastern Europeans? Which – the separatist leaders are saying that?

QUESTION: Eastern Ukrainians, I'm sorry.

MS. PSAKI: So the separatist leaders are saying that, just to be clear?


MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think it's – was pretty clearly written out in the Minsk agreements what were the requirements of Ukraine. The determination, as I understand it, at this point is about where the law will be applied. We have not analyzed the law in depth, but clearly I think the Ukrainians feel it should be applied to the September lines.

QUESTION: Why haven't you? I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Why haven't we analyzed it in depth? It was just passed yesterday.

QUESTION: I mean, the Kyiv government is a side in conflict. You are an outside observer and a helper to resolve the conflict. So one side of the conflict says that new laws help; the other side of the conflict says the new laws actually break the previous agreement. And you say, "We haven't even looked at what they passed."

MS. PSAKI: That's not actually what I said.


MS. PSAKI: I think your – and you first phrased it as Eastern Europeans, which is not the same as --

QUESTION: I'm sorry, it's Eastern Ukrainians.

MS. PSAKI: -- the separatist leaders who have illegally overtaken parts of Ukraine. So there's a slight difference between the two.

QUESTION: They are still Eastern Ukrainians.

QUESTION: They are Eastern Europeans, though.

MS. PSAKI: Fair enough. (Laughter.) But I think that's a little bit of a --

QUESTION: They fit that category.

MS. PSAKI: -- not an accurate description of who they are. There was a component of the September Minsk agreement that asked – required the Ukrainians to put these laws into place. They've put the laws into place. Now the question is how they will be implemented. So, again, they've fulfilled their commitment to put the law into place, and there'll be a discussion about how they'll be implemented.

QUESTION: And one last thing today. The prime minister again said that they will use all means necessary to regain control over the territories. You have been asked this --

MS. PSAKI: Which prime minister said this?

QUESTION: Prime Minister Yatsenyuk in Kyiv. You have been asked this question – do you see – do you exclude military means of resolving the conflict?

MS. PSAKI: Of U.S. military means, or what are you referring to exactly?

QUESTION: (Laughter.) Ukrainian Government is again suggesting that they will use military means. Now that the ceasefire seems to be holding, they're using at least threats again of military --

MS. PSAKI: Well, first of all, I think one thing is that it's actually the separatists who have continued to be aggressive in parts of Luhansk and Donetsk and haven't abided by the ceasefire. I will look at Prime Minister Yatsenyuk's comments. We continue to believe that the Ukrainians, as a sovereign country and a sovereign government, have the ability to defend their own country, of which those parts of the country remain a part of Ukraine.

QUESTION: Have you been told or notified by the Japanese of an arrest in the threats against the Embassy and Ambassador Kennedy?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, I have a little bit on this, Matt. As I said yesterday but it's worth repeating, we take any threats to U.S. diplomats and U.S. diplomatic facilities very seriously. We are working and have been working for several weeks with the Japanese Government on these reports--, these threats. The Japanese police arrested a 52-year-old individual from Okinawa for making threatening phone calls against the Embassy, threatening calls against the Embassy, not just related to the ambassador. Obviously, the Government of Japan is the lead in this process and they'll be investigating, so certainly, they would be running point.

QUESTION: Do you – does the – do you consider this to be case closed, essentially, that there isn't a concern anymore about the particular threats that were made last month?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think the Japanese Government – they just arrested this individual today. We'll be in close touch with them. Obviously, that's a positive step. But we'll see what comes out of their investigation.

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

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: It kind of pains me to ask this question --

MS. PSAKI: That's okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: -- but are you now re-evaluating security for all U.S. ambassadors, including those in – at posts that historically have not been considered high threat or even threatening at all? It pains me because I think they ought to be able to walk around and talk to people and experience the societies that they live in, but particularly after the incident in South Korea, are you – is this a matter of kind of broad reconsideration now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one thing I would – I know this wasn't your exact question, but I think it's relevant, and then I'll get to your question. This – these – we've been working with the Japanese Government on these threats since prior to Ambassador Lippert's attack, the attack on Ambassador Lippert. There's no relationship between the two. It's only natural and it was the case that after Ambassador Lippert's – the attack on Ambassador Lipperts – on Ambassador Lippert – excuse me – that every post in the country took a look at their own security arrangements.

QUESTION: In the world.

MS. PSAKI: In the world. My apologies. In the world – looked at their own security arrangements. That's something we do certainly on a regular basis, but it's only natural they did that post Ambassador Lippert's --

QUESTION: But is the State Department itself rethinking everything, or is it all being left to the individual embassies or posts?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we work with embassies and posts, but certainly, they have the lead on the security and we certainly work with them as needed.

Any more on this before we continue?


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.


QUESTION: One follow-up to that issue.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: And do you know why the threating ambassador – U.S. ambassador in Japan? What purpose of threatening this --

MS. PSAKI: What were the purpose of the threats?

QUESTION: Yes, yes.

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Japanese Government on that particular question.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Jen, may I step back to Russia for a different subject?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Have you decided on how you want to be represented in May on the VEcelebration?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any update on that. I know that's an issue of interest to you.

QUESTION: Right. The Russian defense ministry today said yesterday that they even invited Americans to participate in their parade. Do you see any likelihood of that happening?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any prediction of our participation or any information on it at this point in time.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Also Russia.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: They, this week, have been beefing up their war games, sending bombers to the Crimea area and missiles to the region that borders NATO allies Poland and Lithuania. How do you interpret that move?

MS. PSAKI: Well, while we recognize the need for routine military training activity, any such activity must be consistent with international law and conducted with due regard for the rights of other nations and the safety of other aircraft and vessels. So any Russian military exercises or weapons deployments in Crimea, which is part of Ukraine, would further undermine securing a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to a crisis that Russia started with its forcible seizure and ongoing occupation of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula.

We reiterate that Crimea remains a sovereign Ukrainian territory. We don't recognize, as all of you know, Russia's purported annexation. We've seen the various reports citing the possibility of weapons deployments. We don't have confirmation independently of this; we've just seen reports of these different components you're referencing.

QUESTION: Most of that answer, with the exception of the tail end on Crimea, I think is what you said just the other day when you were asked the same question.

MS. PSAKI: I don't think I addressed Crimea specifically at the time, but --

QUESTION: Yeah, that's what I said: with the exception of the Crimea stuff at the end. So you don't think that the Russians should put additional or any troops into Crimea because it is still part of Ukraine. Is that – that's the bottom line?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we all remember from a year ago – and I know you asked this question a couple of days ago, Matt – yes, there were bases there but there was an issue with what the Russian military, disguised as little green men, did at the time, which was not traditional activities of people in a sovereign country. So I think there's certainly a history here that warrants concern. We're watching it closely. We don't have confirmation independently of what exactly is happening on the ground.

QUESTION: Okay. Disguised as little green men?

MS. PSAKI: Well, in terms of --

QUESTION: I don't know if that --

MS. PSAKI: They were not portraying themselves as being who they were.

QUESTION: Were they walking on their knees or something?

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: No, but I just want to – your comment just now about that – what are you going to do, if anything, to express your displeasure with the movement of additional troops and equipment into Crimea – anything?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the last I checked with our team, we didn't have independent confirmation. There were just reports.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. PSAKI: So we'll see when we learn more.

QUESTION: I asked you two days ago about the meetings that some of your allies had with Mr. Putin in Russia.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: As I told you, the State Department criticized the president of Cyprus and the Indian prime minister for meeting with Mr. Putin. At the same time, you didn't say anything on the meetings that the prime minister of Italy, the president of Turkey had with Mr. Putin. Why you didn't criticize these two allies and you criticized Cyprus and India?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we actually have addressed some other visits and we've said the same – I looked back. We've said almost the exact same thing each time, which is that this is not a time for business as usual. There are some places where we're asked questions about visits and some where we're not, but our position has been entirely consistent.

QUESTION: So it's the same position for Italy and Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: It's been the same position, yes.

QUESTION: Can I ask you something about --

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: -- about Greece again?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Today, right now, there are crucial talks in Brussels in the highest level regarding the Greek issue. At the same time, there is this fear of a potentially disastrous Greek exit from the euro. How are you planning to intervene so the worst-case scenario can be avoided for Greece?

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: I know the President called on Mrs. Merkel yesterday.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Obviously, there are ongoing discussions with our European partners and we remain in close contact with them about this. Not aware of a U.S. plan to intervene. We – obviously, these are discussions happening among European partners.

QUESTION: Jen, to – a follow-up to Michael's question. Are you actually trying to discourage other countries from taking part in the V-Day celebrations in Moscow?


QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Nigeria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are there any plans to send any U.S. observers to the elections a week from Saturday?

MS. PSAKI: It's a good question, Roz. I didn't have a chance to talk to our team about it. Let me ask them about what our plans are in that regard.

QUESTION: In light of the fact that the Vice President spoke to both the candidate Buhari as well as to President Jonathan on Wednesday, are there any other conversations about making certain that the electoral commission, for example, is able to carry out its work without interference from either side or those who might be inclined to support --

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, why don't I take that in the same category.


MS. PSAKI: As you know, we've been closely engaged in this issue, as is evidenced by the Secretary's visit to Nigeria several weeks ago. And obviously, our assistant secretary has been very engaged, so I can see if there's more of an update on this particular issue.

QUESTION: How would you rate your influence with the Nigerians, given the fact – you just mentioned that the Secretary went there and told them in no uncertain terms that they shouldn't delay the election at all. And then as soon as he left, they promptly delayed the election. Do you think the Vice President might have more oomph in dealing --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, we're going to continue to press for elections that represent all the people and that can be carried forward, and that's something that obviously is a value of the United States.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Do you have any update on the attack – yesterday's attack in Tunisia?

MS. PSAKI: In Tunisia? I know there have been some public comments made. So I reiterated yesterday what the statement – or the Secretary's statement, I should say – we're aware of reports that ISIL has claimed responsibility for the attack. We're working to independently verify these claims. Certainly, we would refer you to the Tunisian Government for more details on the investigation into yesterday's attack. I believe they have also announced the arrest of nine people as part of its – of their investigation. So certainly, many of the updates are coming from the Tunisian Government.

QUESTION: Are you sending any personnel to the ground?

MS. PSAKI: We – our Embassy in Tunis has been in touch with the Tunisian ministry of foreign affairs and offered assistance in general and with the investigation. However, we have not received any request for assistance at this point in time.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Yes.


MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I know that this has been addressed in some capacity, but could you say anything about reports today that there is a draft circulating of an agreement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the reports are inaccurate. There's no draft document being circulated. The fundamental framework issues are still under comprehensive discussion, and obviously, that's what the Secretary is focused on now during his meetings.

QUESTION: Can I get – well, let me ask – there was one report to that effect. There was also – there were also other reports having to do with sanctions. And in fact, the one report that refers – that I think that he was talking about or that you were just talking about also contains details about sanctions, potential sanctions relief that could come under this. What is – what was wrong – what was inaccurate about that report other than you say that there's no draft circulating?

MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to speak to the details that are still being negotiated. There's obviously not a final deal and all of these issues are still being discussed.

QUESTION: Okay. And when you say "circulating," what does that mean to you?

MS. PSAKI: I'm not sure. What does it mean to you?

QUESTION: What does it mean to the --

MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, I just want to know what you mean by – I mean, you're not suggesting that they don't have anything to put down on paper, that they're doing everything from memory for the last year and a half? Everything is just --

MS. PSAKI: Of course there are many pieces of paper.

QUESTION: Ah, okay.

MS. PSAKI: There's a difference between that and a draft agreement, yeah.

QUESTION: So there is no – so you're saying there is no draft or there is no draft that is circulating?

MS. PSAKI: There is no draft being circulated, Matt. I don't have any more to add.

QUESTION: Can you stop the sentence after "there is no draft"?

MS. PSAKI: There are --

QUESTION: You can't.

MS. PSAKI: -- many pieces of paper. I don't have any other update for you.

QUESTION: Is there a draft?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any other update for you.

QUESTION: Okay. So what does it mean – what do you mean when you say "circulating"? Is that, like, in a standard United Nations --

MS. PSAKI: A draft being negotiated --


MS. PSAKI: -- between the parties?

QUESTION: That's --

MS. PSAKI: Yes, that's what I mean.

QUESTION: So there is nothing on paper that's being negotiated right now. Then I don't understand what they've been doing --

MS. PSAKI: I don't have more details on what either side may have on paper, nor would I discuss them if I did. What I'm talking about is a – the story that referenced that a draft document is being circulated among the parties.

QUESTION: Okay. Well --

QUESTION: So no draft document is being circulated among the parties?

MS. PSAKI: That is my understanding.

QUESTION: Well, and --

QUESTION: And just one other thing on this.

MS. PSAKI: But to be clear, there are many pieces of paper because we've been negotiating this for two years.

QUESTION: But one other thing on this. When you say that it is your understanding that there is no draft document that is being circulated among the parties, I want to be clear that that refers even to partial elements of an agreement. There's --

MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to go into any more details than I've gone into on this.

Anything else?

QUESTION: So the only thing you can say is there is no draft document circulating. You can't say there is no draft document?

MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to go into any more details about the Iran negotiations.

Do we have any more topics before we wrap up? Go ahead.

QUESTION: I do. On this statement that Secretary Kerry put out on the allegations of chemical weapons use in Syria, some of the language from that – "The international community cannot turn a blind eye," and, "The Assad regime must be held accountable" – what are some of the, I guess, consequences that the U.S. and its partners are considering with regard to this allegation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know because unfortunately we've had discussions about these issues in the past, the OPCW would be the governing body that would oversee and look into allegations, and then it would be a discussion with the international community. I don't have any predictions for you on what it would mean beyond that.

QUESTION: Jen, in light of these reports and now the Secretary's statement, in hindsight, was it a mistake when the chemical weapons deal was being done with the Russians not to have taken account of the chlorine stockpiles which you must have known were there even though they are not covered necessarily under the OPCW? Wouldn't it have been --

MS. PSAKI: You mean --

QUESTION: The chlorine.

MS. PSAKI: Chlorine. Well, chlorine is not a --

QUESTION: I understand that. But knowing the Assad regime as you do, and its willingness to use whatever it has at its disposal, in hindsight might it not have been better to, in the context of that agreement that was worked out on their other chemical weapons, to have somehow taken account of the possible military use of chlorine?

MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to look back at the deal in that regard. We removed 100 percent of declared chemical weapons as a result.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean --

MS. PSAKI: Is the Assad regime still a brutal regime that has killed tens of thousands of its people using a range of means? Yes. But we never said that would be the end of our effort, and it hasn't been.

QUESTION: Okay. So how exactly do you plan to address the – or is it all through the OPCW?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it would be through the OPCW, which would be the natural process.

QUESTION: But if chlorine is not – right. But so chlorine is not covered by the OPCW if it's just an industrial chemical, so how are they going to deal with it?

MS. PSAKI: I can't predict for you how they will. We'll obviously have discussions with our partners, and I don't have any predictions for what it will mean and what the consequences would be if the allegations are confirmed.

QUESTION: A Security Council resolution?

MS. PSAKI: I just don't have – I don't have any predictions for you on what --

QUESTION: No, I'm not saying how they are going to deal with it.

MS. PSAKI: I understand. I don't have any predictions for you at this point in time.

QUESTION: Yeah, but --

MS. PSAKI: These are allegations. We take them seriously. Beyond that, I'm not going to get ahead of any process.

QUESTION: What I'm trying to say that there is a Security Council resolution that calls for consequences for the use of the chlorine.

MS. PSAKI: Would there be a Security Council resolution?

QUESTION: There was a resolution.

MS. PSAKI: Well, but again, I think he's asking about consequences, not just statements. So I don't have any prediction for you on what it would mean.

Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Jen, can we --

MS. PSAKI: I think we have to wrap it up. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:22 p.m.)

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