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Daily Press Briefing

Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 24, 2015

Index for Today's Briefing




1:21 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.



MS. PSAKI: How is everyone today?


MS. PSAKI: Lovely. All right.


MS. PSAKI: I don't have anything at the top. I just wanted to make sure you all had seen the statement we put out expressing our condolences and expressing that we are saddened by the news that Germanwings flight 9525 crashed in southern France on its way from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany. We extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the 100 – or approximately 150 people on board. We are currently reviewing whether any U.S. citizens were aboard the flight. We stand ready to offer assistance and support to the governments of France, Germany, and Spain as they investigate this tragedy.

QUESTION: Okay. Before we move on to other things, just is there – do you – is there any indication that there might have been American citizens on board the plane?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, this tragic crash just happened this morning, so we're reviewing the manifest. And I can't confirm or rule out American citizens at this point. As soon as we have more information, we'll make it available.

QUESTION: Is there some reason to suspect that there might have been?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it just takes some time to do this, as you know. So I just don't want to get ahead of what we do as a typical process.

QUESTION: And then secondly, has there been any requests for help?

MS. PSAKI: I don't believe at this time. I'm certainly happy to check.

One thing before we continue. My brother-in-law, David Mecher, is in the back with his girlfriend Hannah, so I just wanted to welcome them to the briefing. Hello. Welcome guys.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well done. Got the family obligations over with.

MS. PSAKI: No, I'm excited they're here. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I'm sure you are. So let's go to this Wall Street Journal story.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Is it correct that the Administration is upset, to say the least, with the Israelis for spying on the talks and then going to Congress and telling them what they've learned?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we're not going to comment on intelligence matters, whether that's ours or any other country's. I can say that we continue – and we will continue – our close military intelligence and security cooperation with Israel. That has not changed.

And without giving any merit to the claims in the story, I do want to be clear that it's absurd – an absurd notion that Congress would have to rely on any foreign government to gain insight into the nuclear negotiations with Iran. We have briefed Congress on the nuclear talks as much, or perhaps more than, any other issue. Since October of 2013, we have conducted more than 230 meetings, hearings, and calls with Senate and House members and their staffs on Iran; more than 60 of these engagements have taken place in the last four weeks. And we even offered to brief the Hill this week. So point being they receive quite a bit of information directly from the United States and senior United States officials.

QUESTION: Well, your point that it's an absurd notion I think is exactly the point that your critics are making. Why should Congress feel that it has – that it's not being briefed fully?

MS. PSAKI: I'm not sure --

QUESTION: You don't know?

MS. PSAKI: Well, no. Matt, I think, one --

QUESTION: Well, you – hold on. You have said that – you, yourself, in fact, have said that the U.S. is not providing Israel with the complete details of this.

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: You have also said that you are – the Administration is not providing, at least to other than certain, very select members of Congress, the full details of the negotiations.

MS. PSAKI: And there have been full details provided in classified settings on several occasions.

QUESTION: So you're saying that --

MS. PSAKI: Obviously there's not a deal yet, though.

QUESTION: You're saying that Congress knows everything about what's going on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Congress has been briefed extensively, thoroughly, and frequently. So my point is that it's absurd that they would need information from a foreign country.

QUESTION: Well, I think – but that's the whole point of what the critics are saying, that the situation is absurd, because they do need – or feel the need, at least – to get information from a foreign country because they don't think that they're getting it all from the Administration.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I just would disagree with that notion, Matt, that that is the point.

QUESTION: Well, okay.

MS. PSAKI: I think there are many members of Congress who have received – and again, we've done extensive briefings with many of the details, most of the details, all of the details that we have to offer.

QUESTION: Well, yeah. But all the details that you have to offer does not mean, necessarily mean, all the details, right?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there's not an agreement at this point.

QUESTION: Right. Well, the fact that you – it – can you speak to whether the Administration is upset that it suspects – at least suspects – Israel of doing this?

MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to speak to those reports or the intelligence activities of any question – country.

QUESTION: Well, given the fact that you have said that you are not giving them the full story, that you're withholding some details, why would you be surprised or shocked that the – that Israel, which has a vested interest in the outcome of these talks, would go to find information elsewhere?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think we've spoken in the past to our concern in the past has been about leaks of certain sensitive information. And obviously we've taken steps to ensure that the negotiations remain private. But we still have ongoing conversations that are continuing with Israel and a range of countries. Under Secretary Sherman has met over the past month with Israeli National Security Advisor Cohen and Minister for Intelligence and Strategic Planning Steinitz. Secretary Kerry continues his conversation. Those discussions are ongoing.

QUESTION: Yeah. But I don't understand why people are claiming to be surprised or outraged or shocked that if you're not – that Israel or other interested parties are trying to find out the full details, because you're not giving them the full details.

MS. PSAKI: Well --

QUESTION: I don't get why you're – why there's this outrage.

MS. PSAKI: Matt, I think now we're talking about a range of things beyond the story, which is absolutely fine. But I think, one --

QUESTION: No, I – no. I don't think we are, but go ahead.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. One, I think there will be a discussion, briefings. There will be a public debate if there's a deal on – with Iran, and certainly we look forward to having that.

QUESTION: Well, so you're saying that the story is wrong. Is that what you're saying?

MS. PSAKI: I'm just not speaking to the intelligence activities of any country, whether it's the United States, Israel, or any other country.

QUESTION: We know. But that's not what I'm asking. I'm asking if you're upset, if the Administration is upset, outraged.

MS. PSAKI: I just don't have any more comment on it, Matt.

QUESTION: I don't understand what the – I mean, it seems to me that if this is not the position of the Administration, what is outlined in the story, then someone from the Administration – and I pretty sure that the author of the story, who's a very good reporter --

MS. PSAKI: He is.

QUESTION: -- called and sought some kind of official, on-the-record reaction, and I didn't see any in the story. So that suggests that it is correct.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think, one, we can't – I can't speak to just, as I never can, anonymous sources in any story. I can't speak to who they are, what level they are, what they're speaking to.

QUESTION: Well, but then what is the – I don't understand what the Administration is hoping to accomplish here by this anonymous whining about something that it shouldn't be surprised is happening because you're not giving Israel or anybody else, most people for that matter, the full details.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I can't speak to the reasoning or the motivation of an anonymous source. I think in the past we've expressed steps we take in order to ensure that the talks remain private. We've continued that.

QUESTION: Right. But – well, but I mean this is – this kind of anonymous carping seems to – I mean, is the Administration interested in improving the tense relations with the Israeli Government? Because if it is, this doesn't seem to be a very good way of going about it.

MS. PSAKI: Again, Matt, if I had the anonymous source, I'd be happy to have them up here with me.

QUESTION: Well, someone --

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any more information on the anonymous source quoted in the story.

QUESTION: Yeah. But someone is – someone in the Administration is saying – it's the fact that whoever the – well, soon you will be the White House communications director. Perhaps you can get people --

MS. PSAKI: Unless I have a magic wand, I still may not know who anonymous sources are.

QUESTION: -- into line. It just seems to be – to the point – to use a phrase, it seems kind of JV, no, for the – especially if you're going to – if this – whoever these official or this official or officials are come out and say these kinds of things, and you're not – and if you disagree with them, you're not prepared to say that. Just --

MS. PSAKI: Matt, what I'm conveying from here is that our focus is on continuing to do the tough work of negotiating with the Iranians, our P5+1 partners. That's what our focus is on. We've had regular briefings and consultations with the Israelis – that will continue, same with Congress.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, can I follow up on this?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Did you – did this – did the Administration, did this building at all suspect that Israel or someone like that was spying on these discussions from what was revealed through Israeli intelligence or though intelligence? There must have been suspicions that something was going on.

MS. PSAKI: I certainly understand why all of you are asking. I'm just not going to speak to reports about intelligence matters from the podium.

QUESTION: But I think the question is did you suspect it, not – you don't have to talk about the intelligence, but do you suspect – the report makes an allegation that Israel was spying on these negotiations. From your podium, on the record, could you tell us whether the Administration suspects Israel to have done that or not?

MS. PSAKI: From here on the record, I'm not going to comment on the intelligence matters of another country or the United States. That hasn't changed from five minutes ago.

QUESTION: Can I follow up? I'd like another follow-up, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: You said you were briefing – well, let's go back on this one. Are there concerns, as Secretary Kerry heads into another round, that the opposition and criticism from the French, the Israelis, the Saudis, could in any way scupper this deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, separate question. I think now we're – which is fine. Our view, and just – it's been shown through the negotiations – that the P5+1 are united in our goal, our approach, our resolve, and our determination to ensure that Iran cannot acquire a nuclear weapon. As you know, there have been ongoing consultations, meetings, discussions with a range of parties. As part of that close coordination, Energy Secretary Moniz will be discussing some of the technical aspects of any potential deal via a secure videoconference today with European counterparts and the P5+1.

As you all may know, the President had the opportunity to speak with President Hollande on Friday. And President Hollande was in complete agreement with the President on the type of understanding we are seeking. Obviously, we're all looking towards the same goal. We all want to have a strong deal, a good deal. That's what we're all working toward. And the P5+1 has been united, and we anticipate they will be moving forward.

QUESTION: Did the President, during that discussion with President Hollande, actually raise the issue of France's criticism of – public posturing and criticism of this --

MS. PSAKI: I'm not going to speak more to that call. The White House did a readout. You can certainly ask them if they'd like to discuss it further.

QUESTION: And then just a last question. On – has Secretary Kerry spoken to Netanyahu about the article from today in The Wall Street Journal?

MS. PSAKI: He's spoken with him over the last couple of days, but it's really about the fact that they're going through a process and a transition now. We work with Israel on a range of issues, including security issues, and that's been the focus of their discussion.

QUESTION: So they didn't talk about the Iran – they didn't discuss the --

MS. PSAKI: That's all I have to read out from his discussions.

QUESTION: But independent of the circumstance under which the spying allegedly took place, is it, I mean, cause for outrage that an ally would really spy on the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Said, I appreciate your effort, but I just have nothing more to add to this line of questioning.

QUESTION: Do you find it underhanded? Do you find that the effort in this particular case was actually conducted to somehow sabotage efforts that you are conducting in these negotiations to --

MS. PSAKI: Again, Said, as I mentioned --

QUESTION: -- or set it back?

MS. PSAKI: As I mentioned, we have ongoing consultations and briefings that we provide to the Israelis. I'm not going to speak to reports of the intelligence matters of another country or of the United States.

QUESTION: Do you think that these spy allegations somehow compromise the discussions that are ongoing?

MS. PSAKI: I appreciate your effort and your enthusiasm here, Said, but I have nothing more to add.

QUESTION: Have the Iranians --

Do you have another topic to discuss?

QUESTION: Have the Iranians discussed this with you?

MS. PSAKI: I have nothing more to add for you, Said.

QUESTION: But isn't it self-evident that if the U.S. had made a decision several weeks, a couple of months back not to share some of the details of the negotiations with the Israelis, that there was a suspicion among members of this Administration that somebody somewhere was acting like a sieve, somebody somewhere was getting information to people who were not entitled to have that information for whatever reason?

MS. PSAKI: Ros, as just broadly speaking, there's a range of information we provide in briefings, whether it's to Congress or other governments. That doesn't mean that all of that is for public consumption. So I wouldn't jump to the conclusion you've jumped to. I have nothing further on the report.

QUESTION: But it does raise questions though, Jen, about whether or not people felt in this Administration that they were able to participate in this multinational negotiation with the Iranian Government in a way that would be most productive, if only everyone felt that they could discuss very sensitive information without fear of it landing on the front page of this newspaper or that. Isn't there this ongoing sense that someone was trying to compromise the ability of these governments – not just the U.S. Government – to actually carry out this negotiation?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Ros, every time sensitive information about sensitive negotiations is leaked, that puts things potentially at risk. I can't speak to the source or the reason that that has occurred in any of the instances.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. Elliot and then – does that work? Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. Just the Israelis for their part have completely denied the report and they've said that it's clearly intended to undermine the U.S.-Israel relationship. I was wondering if you have – if you think that that's a reasonable assessment or if you have anything to say about it.

MS. PSAKI: I don't have anything to speak to comment on their claims or their public comments. I think, obviously, there are areas where we have had disagreements as it relates to how we can prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. But again, Israel is an important partner, a strategic and security partner, and we've continued our consultations. And I think that speaks to our commitment to the relationship.

QUESTION: So it doesn't seem to you like this is an attempt to further deepen the gap between the U.S. and Israel on the part of --

MS. PSAKI: The story in The Wall Street Journal?

QUESTION: Yeah. Or the leak, but --

MS. PSAKI: I don't think the motivation of news organizations is that, but --

QUESTION: Not the story itself, but the statements by the senior official who is quoted in the story.

MS. PSAKI: Again, I have nothing more to add on the statements of an anonymous official.

QUESTION: Jen, is the Administration interested in easing the tensions with the Israeli Government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt --

QUESTION: We all know they're there. You can't pretend they're not there. Are – is the Administration interested in – it certainly appears from his recent comments that Prime Minister Netanyahu is trying to back off on the things that you – on some of the things that you said that are – that you found to be problematic.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Stories like this and comments like from this whoever-it-was official don't seem to suggest that – as well as the fact that you're not willing to give the prime minister of Israel the benefit of the doubt when he says – when he tries to – when he apologizes for comments that you found offensive and says that he is, in fact, still in favor of a two-state solution.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Matt, what people are looking for is more than just words. Obviously, we'll be looking for actions and policies that demonstrate genuine commitment to a two-state solution. We'll see what happens.

QUESTION: Okay. And then this has been raised before by other people, but I'll ask it again now in this same context: When the Supreme Leader of Iran is continuing – in the middle of these negotiations is continuing to make statements like "death to America," how is that not problematic for you? How is that not something – why are you just willing to let that – let it slide, basically, and you are holding the prime minister of Israel to comments that he made and has since changed?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think we'd hardly put the Supreme Leader and the leadership of Israel in the same category. Israel is a strategic partner, a security partner --

QUESTION: Well, the Iranians can be trusted and the Israelis can't?

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish.

QUESTION: Is that what you mean?

MS. PSAKI: No. I'm actually trying to convey that our relationship with Israel is abiding; it's strong; it's a security relationship; it's one that we're committed to. Do we have disagreements on some issues, like how we should proceed with preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon? Yes. Have we – can we – do we believe that it isn't possible to just forget what the prime minister says when it's conflicting with past precedent and past policy for some time? Yes. But obviously, we're continuing our discussions. The Secretary has been in touch with Prime Minister Netanyahu. We remain committed to our relationship. Remember, we're not evaluating our relationship with Israel. We're evaluating how to proceed as it relates to pursuing a two-state solution.

QUESTION: All right. And all of that is well and good, but the Supreme Leader of Iran represents a regime that took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held hundreds of American hostages for a long time, is what you say is a leading state sponsor of terrorism, has --

MS. PSAKI: And remains, and will be even if there's a deal.

QUESTION: Right. And yet you're willing to take – you're willing to let his words slide, but not that of a country with which you say you have this great security relationship.

MS. PSAKI: No, I would disagree with that. I would say, one, as a reminder, even if there is a deal with Iran, it doesn't mean we let slide or forget, whether it's the comments, the – or more importantly the actions, state sponsorship of terrorism, their human rights record, the fact that they're holding American citizens – they remain – they continue to hold American citizens, including a Washington Post reporter in their jails. I mean, these are all issues that we remain very concerned about. Those concerns are not going to be soothed by a deal.

But we also feel that preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is not only in our interests, it's in the interests of the international community, and that's why we're pursuing it. It's not about trust. Our relationship with Israel is one that's strong, abiding, and --

QUESTION: So is it correct that you're not concerned at all that someone or some people's personal animosity – what appears to be personal animosity – towards the Israeli prime minister is hurting the relationship?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, anonymous quotes are – there's a long history of anonymous quotes. It wasn't as if the President or the Secretary of State spoke on the record and made those comments. There's a difference.

QUESTION: Well, the language is more problematic in some cases. But there's also a long record of anonymous quotes being – of assertions made by officials speaking anonymously being denied or being repudiated in some way, and the fact that you can't or aren't doing that now on the record – and I guess the President will have a chance to address this question himself later – suggests that there is truth to the story.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the fact is that our actions – typically, we don't speak to anonymous quotes. If we did, we'd spend all of our time speaking to anonymous quotes. But our actions speak to what our position is, which is that our consultations are continuing. We're continuing to keep Israel updated, just as we are Congress. And obviously, as a policy, we have not confirmed the intelligence activities of the United States or other countries.

QUESTION: Can we stay on --

QUESTION: But – yeah, just a minute.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One last effort on the spying allegation.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Do you believe or do you suspect that Israeli officials were staying at this gorgeous hotel in Lausanne last week?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have any comment on that, Nicolas.


QUESTION: When was the last time that you actually updated Israel? Since the – have you updated them since the negotiations – since the Secretary came back or during the negotiations last week?

MS. PSAKI: We typically do after every round, Jo, and typically, Under Secretary Sherman does that. I can certainly see if they've had a chance to do that post the last round.

QUESTION: So – but she didn't travel to Israel like she has in the past this time.

MS. PSAKI: Correct, and – but she often does via videoconference or secure conference call, so that's typically how we've done it. Otherwise it would be a lot of travel for Under Secretary Sherman.

QUESTION: So these reports don't make you hesitate as to whether to continue to update? You just said, "We're going to continue to update the Israelis."

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: And these reports don't give you really any cause for pause?

MS. PSAKI: That's right.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, can we stay on the statements made by the Israeli prime minister, but regarding the two-state solution? Now I --

QUESTION: Well, I want to clarify one more on Iran, and that is that an Iranian official said today or very recently that snap inspections are no, they will not accept any snap inspections. Is it still the position of the Administration that, in order for there to be an agreement, that there has to be snap --

MS. PSAKI: Transparency, access, verification.

QUESTION: Does that mean snap inspections?

MS. PSAKI: I mean, I don't want to put new terms on it before an agreement has been made, Matt. I think, clearly, in the JPOA, which is, I think, a good roadmap for us, given it's based on that --

QUESTION: Don't use the word roadmap. That is – you're dooming yourself to failure.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, fair enough. The JPOA is a good basis for us.

QUESTION: There you go.

MS. PSAKI: There is increased access, increased transparency, the ability to see what's happening. And clearly, our efforts are to increase that. So that's one of the premises of the discussions.

QUESTION: Does that mean snap inspections?

MS. PSAKI: I'm just not going to put new terminology on it, Matt, while they're still negotiating.

QUESTION: Well, I don't know – so it's something that's still being negotiated?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they're negotiating every component of how this will work.

QUESTION: But isn't – I was under the impression that having these inspections, intrusive inspections that can be conducted very quickly --


QUESTION: -- so they can't hide anything is a --

MS. PSAKI: And conducting inspections very quickly, yes. That's part of what we would like to see. Absolutely.

QUESTION: Well, is it not – well, that's what I mean by snap inspection. So I don't want to – it's not a new term; it's been used all over the place.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: But that was – that used to be a hard and fast position.

MS. PSAKI: It remains; that hasn't changed.


MS. PSAKI: But there are still negotiations going on.

QUESTION: So if there are no snap inspections, there is no deal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, again, this is a component of what's being negotiated. Obviously, transparency and verification is an important component of that.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) readout of the meeting between the Secretary and Mr. Amano this morning?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I have a few things I can offer on that. So as you know, they met this morning during General Amano's visit to Washington. He met with Secretary Kerry as well as other officials. I believe he also had a meeting or has a meeting with Department of Energy Secretary Moniz. He's also scheduled to have meetings at the National Security Council.

In his meetings, they discussed issues of mutual interest, including safeguards issues, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference that's upcoming, nuclear safety, peaceful issues – peaceful uses, and Iran. And clearly, we have ongoing discussions with them as well. So this was just an opportunity to meet in person, since he was in Washington.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, can we go to the statement made by the Israeli prime minister?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Now – about the two-state solution and the renunciation of that two-state solution. Yesterday, the White House chief of staff said that the 50-year-old occupation must end. Now, I ask you if you consider the West Bank to be occupied territory last week. So is that now a word that can be used --

MS. PSAKI: I think as I said last week, we've had a position on this for quite a long time. It's not new; it's been a longstanding position of the United States Government these are occupied territories.

QUESTION: Okay. So these are occupied territories and that occupation must end, must be brought to an end?

MS. PSAKI: I think the chief of staff speaks for the Administration, but --

QUESTION: Okay. Excellent. Now, in the absence of direct negotiations, would you support a Palestinian effort at the United Nations to pursue the end of this occupation that has gone on for 50 years?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as we discussed last week, Said – and I don't have a new update for you – obviously, we have a range of options. I'm not going to prejudge what position the United States would take if – with any UN Security Council action.

QUESTION: Now let me ask you just quick follow-ups on this issue. You said that the Administration is going to re-evaluate or look at different approaches and so on. And this was interpreted to mean perhaps not so much total diplomatic support at UN forums. Now, last week during the meeting of the women's commission --

QUESTION: We talked all about this yesterday.

QUESTION: I understand, I want to ask it anyway. So – but that really is not exactly consistent with at least the message conveyed by the White House that there is going to be an evaluation.

MS. PSAKI: Said, as Matt mentioned, and just in the interest of getting to as many topics as possible, this is something Marie addressed yesterday. There's ample precedent for this. We don't believe it's right the forum, so I'd point you to what she said yesterday.

QUESTION: Jen, my last question: So we're not likely to see any kind of change of attitude by the United States of America in the United Nations as far as Israel is concerned, are we?

MS. PSAKI: Again, Said, I think I spoke to this yesterday. I just answered the question. I'm not going to prejudge what action we would take.

Any more on Israel before – or Iran before we continue?

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just a reaction from the U.S. on reports that Israel is now working on approaching European officials more to affect the outcome of the Iran nuclear talks.

MS. PSAKI: Are you referring to the French visit, perhaps, or --


MS. PSAKI: Well, I think --

QUESTION: I believe the report said they're working closely to affect the European partners in all of this.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I'm not aware of more specifics. I mean, I think many P5+1 countries have been consulting with Israel and other countries throughout this process. The parties that are directly involved in these negotiations are united in our goal of effectively closing off all of the possible pathways to a bomb for Iran. We expect that to remain the case. We're quite familiar with the views of some Israeli officials. And frankly, P5+1 partners have been making trips or consulting with Israeli officials for some time, as has the United States.

QUESTION: Could I ask about Saeb Erekat being in town? Did he have any meetings with any officials?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I'm aware of, Said, but I can certainly check --

QUESTION: Thanks. Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: -- if there are any senior officials or any officials meeting with him.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, there is an article in the Associated Press today; it's about the Syrian Kurds that have not been fully embraced by the United States in the war against the Islamic State. What do you – do you agree with that conclusion?

MS. PSAKI: I have not had a chance to read the article, but if there a specific question about a claim or --

QUESTION: Yes. Specifically, for example, it says Syrian Kurds are not included in a new U.S. training program. Is that true? And why?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I'd point you to the Department of Defense. They're overseeing the train and equip program and any of the training and the process of evaluating that.

QUESTION: And it also says that, unlike Iraqi Kurds, the support that the United States has given to them has been very limited, to basically just "sporadic coordination on coalition air strikes" – quote/unquote. Is there any political relationship with the Syrian Kurdish groups, namely the PYD in Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we've spoken to this in the past. I really don't have any updates for you. As you know, we have done – taken a range of military action that have benefited many different groups in Syria in the fight against ISIL. That has continued. We've also had ranges of contact, but I'd point you to DOD for any questions about their train and equip program.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. An anonymous official – another one – tells the reporter --

MS. PSAKI: Uh-oh.

QUESTION: -- tells the reporter that the United States doesn't want to upset Turkey. That's why it hasn't developed its relationship with Syrian Kurds, like it has with Iraqi Kurds. Isn't that true?

MS. PSAKI: I can't speak to an anonymous quote, again, who obviously wasn't speaking to positions of the United States. There, as you know, are steps – ongoing peace process steps. We certainly welcome steps in support of a peaceful resolution to the conflict. We encourage the Government of Turkey and all parties concerned to continue working towards a lasting peace. But beyond that, I don't have any specific comment.

QUESTION: They are Syrian Kurds, not Turkish Kurds. I'm saying your relationship with Syrian Kurds is also not going forward because of your longstanding ties with Turkey.

MS. PSAKI: Again, I --

QUESTION: Can you say that is true?

MS. PSAKI: -- think we've taken action, including military action, that conflicts with that claim.

Any more on Syria before we continue?

QUESTION: Change of subject?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Oh, wait. I have one of these --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: There – there's a report out that there is – there are negotiations going on right now with the Syrians over the detained American there. Know anything about that?

MS. PSAKI: Don't have anything on that, Matt, but I'm happy to take it and see if we have anything more on that.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Syria?

QUESTION: No, on --

MS. PSAKI: Another --

QUESTION: Can I change --

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Oh, okay. Ladies first.

QUESTION: Oh, good. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yemen. Can I change it to Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Does this – do you have any comment on the Houthi move – the Houthis are closing in on where President Hadi is. Do you know of any requests from President Hadi to be evacuated?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, we've seen President Hadi publicly ask for help from the GCC. So I don't think that necessarily needs – not about this specifically, but in general. I don't have anything specific to confirm or report on his plans, beyond what's been out there publicly. Clearly, the situation on the ground is very fluid, which seems to be a common way we describe it. And I don't have – I know there have been a range of reports about Houthi movements and where they are and kind of where they're making progress. I don't have any independent confirmation of those from here.

Obviously, our focus and the focus of the international community remains on condemning the unilateral and offensive military actions being taken by the Houthis and their allies. We continue to urge all Yemenis to avoid violence. At this time, the Houthis continue to pursue and unacceptable violent path to take control of the country and undermine both the president elected by the Yemeni people and the peaceful political transition process. There are also efforts by UN Special Advisor to Yemen Benomar to continue negotiations between all Yemeni parties and find a peaceful political solution. That certainly is something that we continue to support from here.

QUESTION: So you don't know which GCC country is going to take him in, or if he is going to be airlifted?

MS. PSAKI: I just --

QUESTION: You haven't got any independent --

MS. PSAKI: -- don't have any more for you on what his plans may or may not be, or the plans of any GCC countries.

Any more on Yemen? Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Today, India's Supreme Court struck down a controversial law, which allowed police to arrest people for comments on social media – Facebook, Twitter, et cetera. And we have denounced such arrests from this podium. So do you have a comment on this historic decision by this --

MS. PSAKI: The – by the U.S. Supreme Court?

QUESTION: By the Indian Supreme Court.

MS. PSAKI: By the Indian Supreme Court.

QUESTION: They have struck down a controversial law which allowed Indian police to arrest people for their comments on Facebook or Twitter.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly support freedom of speech and freedom of expression. I haven't had a chance to delve into the specifics of this law, but I'm happy to talk to our team, and we can get you something after the briefing on this specific law.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, Jen. On (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: Okay. We'll go to you next. Okay.

QUESTION: Yeah. Let me take to Ethiopia. As you know, it's about the Nile River. Yesterday, the leaders of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan signed a historic agreement on sharing water from the Nile River. And what is your comment on this recent agreement between Sudan, Ethiopia, and Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know we've spoken to this in the past. I don't have an update on it. I can talk to our team, and certainly I'm sure we can get you a briefing on it if you'd like.


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The one-year agreement with Qatar, keeping the Taliban Five in the Bergdahl case under surveillance, it's set to expire in a couple of months. What happens on day 366?

MS. PSAKI: I don't have anything to discuss about it at this point in time. As you mentioned, it's a couple of months from now. Obviously, we'll continue consultations, as will many in the United States Government, but I don't know.

QUESTION: Are you confident that in the absence of the current framework that would keep these guys from going back to their old terrorist networks or any of (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the current framework is in place for several months. As you know, the incidents of recidivism have dropped dramatically over the last couple of years. We work closely with the Government of Qatar on these issues. But I don't have any predictions for you on what will happen several months from now.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The House voted yesterday a nonbinding resolution to send arms to Ukraine. Just the reaction from there, and the question is does that have any impact on U.S. --

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly --

QUESTION: -- position there?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, we consult with Congress, and obviously, many of them have spoken to their views even prior to this resolution. Our focus from the outset of the crisis has been on supporting Ukraine and on pursuing a diplomatic solution that respects Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. We are constantly assessing our policies on Ukraine to ensure they are responsive, appropriate, and calibrated to achieve our objectives. While we will not go into the details of internal policy deliberations, we continue to assess how best to do that. But nothing has changed as it relates to our decision making in this area.

All right. Yes, Turkey. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Excuse me. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has said – he said it yesterday – that the government will not take any further steps to resolve the Kurdish issue unless the PKK disarms. But that, to me, sounds like achieving the end before going through the process, because that's the end. What do you make of that statement?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is a discussion between the Government of Turkey and the PKK, and I don't have any further comment on it.


QUESTION: Can I ask a question on Iraq?

MS. PSAKI: On Iraq? Sure.

QUESTION: Very quickly. It says that the American forces are going to be aiding the Iraqi forces in Tikrit. Do you know anything about this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, the coalition, as you know, has continued to provide air support in the fight against ISIL with multiple airstrikes on ISIL targets in various locations. Twenty, I think, is the number we've talked about in terms of areas we're assisting in. With numerous strikes occurring in the last couple of days, we've made clear that we stand ready to support Iraqi-led operations. I'm not going to go farther than that, though, in speaking to tactical or operational decisions or actions, and obviously, DOD would naturally have the lead on any military steps.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about a human rights activist in Kuwait --

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: -- Nawaf al-Hindal.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: I'm just wondering if you have anything to say about his imprisonment, or if you don't, if you could look into it and see if you --

MS. PSAKI: I'm happy to look into it for you, Matt, and anyone else who's interested, of course.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Human Rights – UN Human Rights Office report. I asked Jeff on Friday. He didn't have any update on that. There was a report on Thursday published talking about Islamic State committed genocide – may committed genocide against the Yezidis. So I was asking him if – what is the position of United States Government on the report, and also on the genocide case against the Yezidis.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, we do our own Human Rights Report which will be out soon, and I would refer you to that, which will certainly outline what our views are on a range of issues. As it relates to the Yezidis, I think we spoke to this at the time, and our concern about the targeting and focus on this particular group. We took military action. It was one of the first occasions of taking that level of military action, which speaks to our commitment to fight against that kind of targeting.

QUESTION: Does that commitment also extend to the – even recognizing as a genocide against them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we have our own Human Rights Report. I'm sure that's going to be out soon. It comes out typically in the spring, so I'll encourage you to look out for that when it comes out, and we'll do a briefing in here when it does.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: No, wait.


QUESTION: Well, on behalf of those of us who are going to be traveling with the Secretary, I believe this is going to be our last briefing with you.

MS. PSAKI: I can't believe it.

QUESTION: So I just wanted to say thank you. It's been – maybe not been a pleasure entirely for you standing up there the whole time, but you took the questions and did – and answered them well as could be expected, and so I'd just like to say thank you on behalf of those of us who aren't going to be here tomorrow, and good luck at the White House.

MS. PSAKI: Thank you.

QUESTION: After The Wall Street Journal story today, you're going to need it. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: Well, if I can just say something --

QUESTION: We'll see you tomorrow, but we want to give you (inaudible). (Applause.)

MS. PSAKI: Oh, thank you, Said. Thank you, guys. That's very kind. Thank you, thank you.

Well, if I can just say something. I'll have more to say tomorrow for those of you who are here, so tune into your briefing transcript, but this has been an honor and a pleasure working with all of you. And I'll say – and I've said this to some of you, but as an American, I want to thank you for what all of you do every day. And you really have shown me just this incredible commitment and what I would refer to as public service in doing what you do, which is delving into the tough issues and asking the tough questions.

And I would be remiss if I did not say that we have a unique forum here – maybe not unique in that we're not the only country who does this – many do – but unfortunately, there are a decreasing number of countries around the world that have a free press, that allow press from the United States and other countries in, where you can have this debate, and that is frankly healthy for democracy, it's healthy for society, and you all are the ones who push the envelopes and push the questions. So thank you for what all of you do in making us better at what we do.

All right. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you. I wish you good luck.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:00 p.m.)

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