Daily Press Briefing
Director, Press Office
Daily Press Briefing
May 29, 2015
Index for Today's Briefing
SECRETARY TRAVEL / NIGERIA
MISCELLANEOUS / FIFA
ISIL / LIBYA
TURKEY / SYRIA
IRAQ / ISIL
12:52 p.m. EDT
MR RATHKE: Good afternoon.
QUESTION: Happy Friday.
MR RATHKE: Thank you. And to all of you as well. I have two quick things to mention at the top. First, the United States condemns in the strongest terms the attack on a mosque today in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, which reportedly killed four people and left others wounded. This attack follows last week's suicide bombing inside a mosque in Qatif, Saudi Arabia, which killed 21 Muslims peacefully engaging in Friday prayers. We deplore the brutality of the terrorists who perpetrated this violence at places of worship. These acts again highlight the complete disregard that terrorists have for human live. We express our deepest condolences to the families of those killed and our hopes for the rapid recovery of the wounded. The United States stands with the people of Saudi Arabia against this violence and remains committed to working with the Saudi Government and our international partners to fight violent extremism in the region.
And the second item is just to mention that the Secretary was in Abuja, Nigeria today where he attended the inauguration of Nigerian President Buhari. He also participated in a bilateral meeting with President Buhari. The Secretary is now on his way to Geneva, where he will meet tomorrow with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif.
So with that, over to you, Matt.
QUESTION: Well, somewhat related to the trip, can you – where was the Secretary when he signed the Cuba rescission? Was he in Abuja? Was he on the plane?
MR RATHKE: I don't have a breakdown of precisely where he was when he signed the papers related to it.
QUESTION: He certainly wasn't here, was he? He didn't sign it until today, and they left yesterday.
MR RATHKE: Again, I don't have a breakdown of precisely where he was when he signed the papers. But –
QUESTION: Forget about precisely where he was. He wasn't in the United States, right?
MR RATHKE: Well –
QUESTION: I don't think it makes any difference. I'm just curious.
MR RATHKE: I mean he left yesterday, so –
QUESTION: Can you check when he signed it and where he signed it?
MR RATHKE: I'm not sure we're going to get into that level of detail. I mean, you've seen the note we put out.
MR RATHKE: The rescission, the lifting of Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terror –
QUESTION: If you're going to tell is it's a state secret where he was when he signed, let us know, but I don't see why it would be an issue. It's just a detail that might be nice to have. On –
MR RATHKE: Go ahead.
QUESTION: In terms of the rescission –
MR RATHKE: Yes.
QUESTION: -- can you let us know – tell us where that leaves things now in terms of the normalization process and whether it has any impact on the timing of reopening of embassies or even of the next round of talks, if there needs to be one?
MR RATHKE: All right. Let me just – I'm sure many have seen, but just to point out that we've issued this morning a statement about the rescission of Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terrorism. It takes – it is effective today, May 29, 2015. And this reflects our assessment after undertaking the review that was requested by the President our assessment that Cuba meets the statutory criteria for rescission.
Now, Matt, your question was about the process of reestablishing diplomatic relations. I would point out first of all that the United States sees these as separate processes. The review of Cuba's designation as a state sponsor of terror was instructed by the President, and we have had a separate process of discussions with the Cuban Government about re-establishing diplomatic relations and reopening embassies. So we see these as separate.
I would also go back to last Friday's discussions with the Cuban Government and the comments made by our assistant secretary after those were done that we are close but we have not concluded those discussions yet; we've gotten closer each time. With respect to whether a further round is necessary, I think the assistant secretary addressed that as well, and she said that it might be possible to deal with the remaining issues through our interest sections. So we'll see if that's possible or whether an additional round is necessary, but we still have some gaps that we have to close.
QUESTION: Okay. So I mean, can you say if – you say you're close, but does that mean Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, next week? I mean are we talking about something that could conceivably be done in a couple of days, or is it going to take something – is it going to take more than that?
MR RATHKE: Well, it's hard to put – hard to put a timeline on it. Again, we've gotten closer each time. I think the fact that the assistant secretary said it might be possible to deal with this through diplomatic channels also should indicate that we may be able to resolve, but I don't want to put a timeline on it.
QUESTION: And then I'm just going to say – but you're saying that – you're saying you see these as separate issues, so the normalization and the list. Does that mean that it has no – that what happened today has no impact as far as you're concerned on the discussions to normalize?
MR RATHKE: Well, I think the Cuban Government has spoken to their own view about this, and I'll let them speak for themselves about it.
QUESTION: All right.
MR RATHKE: But again, we've said consistently and it remains our view that these are separate processes. This decision was based on the facts and a thorough review, which the President ordered and which the State Department carried out in consultation with others.
QUESTION: Right. But the problem is is that the President ordered the review on the same day and in the same statement, and I believe it may be in the same paragraph, possibly even in the same sentence as the statement that said that you were going to normalize relations. So I'm not sure exactly why you – why you insist that it's a separate thing when it was announced all at the same time.
MR RATHKE: Well, because the reason we see it as separate is because it's not a subject of negotiation; it is a determination based on the facts and evidence that the State Department has carried out in conjunction with other interagency partners. And we've reached the conclusion which was communicated by the State Department to the White House, and the White House then to the Congress for the 45-day period that – the certification that Cuba had not provided any support for international terrorism during the preceding six months; that Cuba has provided assurances that it will not support acts of international terrorism in the future. And all of this meets the requirements of the law, so that's why we see these as separate.
QUESTION: Well, are you saying that this review wouldn't have happened or could have happened without the President's decision to move toward normalizing relations?
MR RATHKE: Well, the President instructed us to carry out the review.
QUESTION: I understand that you're saying that they're separate. So this review could have happened without a decision to normalize relations, right?
MR RATHKE: Well, in principle, yes. But --
QUESTION: Okay. Yes? So why didn't it?
MR RATHKE: Well, I think --
QUESTION: Why --
MR RATHKE: I think also, as you and I have --
QUESTION: Why did it not happen two or three years ago? Why did – the problem is you're trying to say that this is not a political – it's all – it's not linked. But it clearly is linked and it clearly, at least arguably, could have been done much earlier if it is separate from the whole decision to normalize.
MR RATHKE: Well, I'd put this in a bigger context, because I remember, Matt, at the time we also had a discussion about this. I think there are a couple things that are – that matter here, too. One, first of all, I'm not going to – the President spoke as to the reasons for the new policy direction. I'm not going to analyze or parse them further. I think they're pretty clear.
Now as to the question of why it was not done at some other time, we have had in the course of our diplomatic discussions with Cuba since both presidents announced this new policy the opportunity to talk about, separate from the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, but we have had through the intensified diplomatic exchanges the opportunity to talk about and to obtain the assurances that have gone into our ability to meet the standards in the law and certify that Cuba should not be on the list of state sponsors of terror. So that's been an essential part of being able to do the work that's required under the law.
QUESTION: Jeff, what – independent of the normalization, I just have a very, very quick question. What could the United States and Cuba do today as a result of this rescission that they could not do yesterday?
MR RATHKE: If I could, one – just one terminological point. The word "normalization" I think is something we see as a long-term process.
MR RATHKE: We see normalization as a different thing than the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and the reopening of embassies. Normalization is a longer-term process. It involves many other things. So I just want to say we would use the term "re-establishing diplomatic relations."
QUESTION: Okay. So what is different today from yesterday? What can they do together that they could not do yesterday as a result of this?
MR RATHKE: Well, the law – the state sponsor of terrorism designation is part of – it springs from U.S. law and the relevant statutes govern then the effect of it. There are a number of laws, including the Export Administration Act, the Foreign Assistance Act, and the Arms Export Control Act; and when a state is designated as a state sponsor of terrorism, it triggers a range of sanctions and restrictions under those statutes. So rescinding the designation is an important step, and then it has certain – it would then involve the removal of restrictions that would come under that – under those laws.
QUESTION: What is the value of this designation --
QUESTION: Yeah, sure. Yeah, go ahead.
MR RATHKE: Yeah.
QUESTION: So I mean, let's – can you be more explicit, because I think there is the understanding within the U.S. Government about what this explicitly means? The four main effects of being on the state sponsors of terrorism list included a ban on U.S. arms exports, controls on dual-use items, a prohibition of U.S. economic aid, and automatic U.S. opposition to loans to Cuba by international financial organizations like the IMF or the World Bank.
MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Correct? Just for the transcript?
MR RATHKE: Yeah, there are four categories. Yeah, those are the four. I think we would --
MR RATHKE: -- maybe use slightly different words, but --
QUESTION: Okay, yeah.
MR RATHKE: -- basically, yes.
QUESTION: Good. Okay. Second, the way it's been explained to me, but I think it would be useful for the purposes of the briefing so other people can understand this, what I was told is that even though in theory those restrictions are lifted under the State Sponsors of Terrorism Act, because of overlapping other U.S. laws, the – and I'm going to read it so I don't get it wrong: "As a practical matter, most restrictions related to exports and foreign aid will remain due to the comprehensive trade and arms embargo imposed by Congress."
Can you say on the record that that is indeed the case, that most of the restrictions related to exports and foreign aid stay in place because of other law?
MR RATHKE: Okay. So your question has a few parts, and it's similar to Said's question, but has additional detail. So let me go through --
MR RATHKE: -- each of those. So rescinding of the designation against Cuba is an important step. Let me highlight, though, that the embargo, which is a separate matter and which is to a large degree a statutory matter – that is, legislation – that remains in effect. So the lifting of the state sponsor of terrorism designation does not lift the embargo, just to put that kind of bluntly. And I would also point that in addition to the state sponsor of terrorism designation, there is a web of restrictions and sanctions that have been applied over the years, and some of them are unrelated to the state sponsor of terrorism designation.
Now, in the four categories you mentioned, there is – for example, the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Department of Treasury has the Terrorism List Governments Sanctions Regulations – a long one – and that – so Cuba would be lifted from that list. That list prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in certain financial transactions with the governments of countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism. So that will no longer apply to Cuba. However, there is also separately – there are the Cuban assets control regulations. And those will continue to prohibit most transactions involving Cuba or a Cuban national, including transactions with the Government of Cuba. For more detail on that, I would refer you to the Department of Treasury since it's the OFAC's responsibility.
The second one, when you talk about foreign assistance, Cuba will – would no – there's a section of the Foreign Assistance Act – Section 620A if you're interested – so Cuba would no longer be disqualified from foreign assistance under that section of the act. However, there are numerous other restrictions in the Foreign Assistance Act and in other statutes that will continue to restrict foreign assistance to Cuba.
Third, the Export Administration Act. The State Department will no longer be required by the Export Administration Act to notify Congress 30 days before granting a license for the export of certain dual-use goods and technology. However, Cuba remains subject to a comprehensive embargo. So the export and re-export of such items to Cuba would continue to be prohibited under the export administration regulations without a license, or unless a license exception applies. I think my colleagues at the Department of Commerce would have more detail in that respect.
And you asked about the international financial --
MR RATHKE: -- institutions. The restriction on U.S. – on the U.S. position on loans for international financial institutions would remain because there are still several legislative provisions beyond the state sponsor of terrorism designation governing U.S. support for Cuba's membership in the international financial institutions and their provisions of assistance to Cuba. The Libertad Act is one example, among others, of legislative provisions that govern the IFI regulations. Again, my Department of Treasury colleagues would have more detail on that.
QUESTION: Yeah. No, that's all very helpful, and I think it's useful that you put that on the record. The one thing that you didn't put on the record, but that I think would be useful to have on the record, is that as a practical matter, most of the restrictions related to exports, related to foreign aid, and as you now just confirmed, related to loans from international financial institutions to Cuba all remain in effect.
MR RATHKE: Well, as – again, I don't want to sum those up. Those are a lot of – those are four very – four diverse aspects of the law. I've tried to explain the restrictions that would still apply. But again, there are other aspects, including reputational ones and so forth that – and so the listing as a state sponsor of terrorism would have implications of that sort as well.
QUESTION: Can you take that question, whether you can characterize generally whether it is indeed the case that most of the foreign aid and export restrictions remain in place because of other laws? There is a reason I'm asking this. I think people deserve to have some kind of understanding of what this means broadly. And I think this is not a question that should surprise you guys since it came up in the background briefing on April the 14th when this issue came up.
So if you would take that question about whether you can give a more general description, I think that would be useful so that people understand what are actually the implications of this decision. The way I understand it, it's – it would seem to be mostly symbolic rather than practical, because the overlapping sanctions essentially mean that pretty much all the restrictions that would be lifted are still there under other statutes.
MR RATHKE: Well, as I said, there is a web of restrictions out there, so this is one part of that. So naturally, the others – I'm happy to look and see --
QUESTION: Will you take it?
MR RATHKE: -- if we're able to say it in a more --
QUESTION: In simpler language.
MR RATHKE: I'm happy to --
MR RATHKE: -- ask about that. Yes.
QUESTION: Thank you. Just a couple points on Cuba here. Since obviously there were some on Capitol Hill who wanted to continue the terrorism restrictions here, but they didn't act in 45 days – I mean, is there anything that you ascribe that to? Did they just see the light up here on Capitol Hill or what?
MR RATHKE: I'd refer you back to Congress for their – for the reasons they've taken actions or not taken actions. I don't really – I think we've been confident in the recommendation that we as an Administration have made and that the President sent to Congress. And we feel that the facts back up that recommendation. So I would highlight that – and as we said earlier today, we still have significant disagreements with Cuba and we have concerns about a number of Cuba's policies and actions. Those concerns remain, but they fall outside the criteria for designation as a state sponsor of terror.
QUESTION: Was there much of an effort from the legislative affairs shop to make this case on Capitol Hill, and can you characterize what --
MR RATHKE: Well, of course, we've had testimony by officials from the Administration – I don't have a complete catalog in front of me – but certainly over the last – since the announcement of the new policy direction on Cuba back December 17th. We've had testimony by a number of officials from the State Department and from other parts of the U.S. Government to deal with all aspects of that. So we've certainly considered it important and we remain engaged with Congress.
QUESTION: And finally here, I guess there was an announcement – I think made from the podium at some point here – about that ETA would not use Cuban property for their terror-related activities here. Was there a similar agreement with the FLAN?
MR RATHKE: With – I'm sorry, with which organization?
QUESTION: The Puerto – FALN.
MR RATHKE: I don't have information with that. Of course, as a U.S. territory, that would fall under a different set of – it would be a different sort of issue. I mean, as a question between – we have, of course, consulted with the governments of Colombia and of Spain because of the history related to organizations from those countries. And so we've worked closely with them, and both governments have been supportive of the U.S. steps.
With regard to Puerto Rico, one of the other important things that we've announced is that we will have a law enforcement dialogue. The Cuban Government has agreed to a law enforcement dialogue with the United States in which we will be able to address a wide range of law enforcement issues. So that's also an important part of the dialogue we've had with --
QUESTION: And is there no specificity with the FALm, because that is a domestic issue – because it is Puerto Rico – or just because you just – you don't know?
MR RATHKE: I simply don't have further details here with me on that.
Anything else on Cuba?
MR RATHKE: Yeah.
QUESTION: Is the Administration going to notify Congress that it does intend to open an embassy in Havana as early as next week?
MR RATHKE: We have not made such a notification. I don't have anything to preview and I don't have a prediction about that.
QUESTION: Is there any reason why, now that the rescission from the SSOT has been done, that this notification can't just go ahead? A senior State Department official told us last week that this notification to Congress could have been made several weeks ago. What – why not just go ahead and do it now?
MR RATHKE: Well, let's not put the cart before the horse here. We're involved in talks with the Cuban Government about re-establishing diplomatic relations and reopening embassies. As I said in response to Matt's question, we have not finished those talks. We haven't brought them to a successful conclusion yet; we're getting closer, but we aren't done with them yet. So I think that's where our focus is, and I think that's why we had a round of talks last week with Cuban officials here in Washington.
QUESTION: But the official did tell reporters last week that even though the talks are ongoing, there is no reason why a notification could not have been made before now. There just was a decision let's just not do it, but there's legally no reason, because the intent is there to eventually open an embassy.
MR RATHKE: Well, there – again, there might not be a legal reason, but I would go back to the answer I just gave: We are focused on concluding negotiations that are necessary for reopening embassies and to having a shared understanding of how our diplomatic missions will operate in each other's capitals. That's what we're focused on. We need to sort that out, and that's what we're working toward.
Go ahead, Pam.
QUESTION: In reference to the statement issued earlier today, and you made mention of this, it indicates that the U.S. still has significant concerns and disagreements with Cuba. Being on the State Sponsor of Terrorism list had been a major sticking point for Cuba. With its removal from the list, diplomatically is there a concern that the U.S. may lose some of its leverage in addressing some of these disagreements and concerns?
MR RATHKE: Well, again, as I've said, we've – this has been a – we do not consider this to be part of the negotiations on re-establishing embassies. This has not been a topic of negotiation; it is not – also not part of the agenda for re-establishing relations. I think my answer to Matt on that stands.
QUESTION: But it had been a big issue for Cuba.
MR RATHKE: Well, that – yeah, and I'll let them speak to that. But again, I'm just explaining how we see this.
QUESTION: Can you outline – you mentioned that there may or may not be a need for another round of talks. Can you outline in a general then what's going to be the process going forward for normalization?
MR RATHKE: Well, again, the next thing that has to happen is a successful conclusion of those talks on re-establishing diplomatic relations. That's – so I'm not trying to change in any way what Roberta Jacobson said, I'm simply reiterating it; that is, we had a round of talks last week. We're not quite there yet, and we need to finalize them. And she spoke to the different ways in which we could move forward to bring those to a successful conclusion.
All right. Anything else on Cuba?
QUESTION: Well, I just --
MR RATHKE: Yes.
QUESTION: I just want to make sure – make one thing clear: It is not correct that the designation of a state sponsor of terrorism is a legal impediment to diplomatic relations, correct?
MR RATHKE: Well, we have had diplomatic relations with others --
QUESTION: Sudan, you still do.
MR RATHKE: -- who have been on the – yes.
QUESTION: And it is also not the case that countries that are not so designated – or it is also not the case that you recognize or you have diplomatic relations with all countries that are not designated state sponsors of terrorism. North Korea.
MR RATHKE: I'd have to go through my catalogue of--
QUESTION: North Korea, which came off it.
MR RATHKE: Yeah. The establishment of diplomatic relations is done by mutual consent, in accordance with the Vienna Convention. So, yeah, you're right.
Okay. Nothing else on that? Let's move along to a new topic.
QUESTION: Spain is saying that the U.S. is going to set up a force of about 2,200 Marines for deployment on an Africa mission. And this is something that will be discussed when Secretary Kerry arrives there. Can you confirm this?
MR RATHKE: What sort of a mission? Can you – do you have – I'm not familiar with those reports.
QUESTION: A permanent force of about 2,200 Marines for deployment to Africa, but they'll be based in Spain.
MR RATHKE: Well, I'm not familiar with that report. I'm happy to check with my Department of Defense colleagues to see if – but I don't have any detail to offer on that.
QUESTION: As you're aware, the IAEA's latest confidential quarterly report says that Iran has provided some information about two open issues in its – in the possible or potential military dimensions of its nuclear program, that they provided some information related to one of the issues but not the other. Is that a good sign, a step in the right direction? Does it suggest that they are finally getting ready to address all the questions on PMD?
MR RATHKE: Well, it won't surprise you to hear that I'm not going to comment on IAEA reports that have not yet been publicly released by that agency. So I don't have a substantive response.
QUESTION: Happy to send you a copy if you'd like.
MR RATHKE: Well, it's been our practice not to comment on those when they are not publicly released. As a more general matter, we continue to call on Iran to cooperate fully and without delay with the IAEA to resolve all the outstanding issues, in particular those that give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear program. This is, of course, one of the issues that we are working to resolve in the nuclear negotiations, so it's certainly something we take seriously.
QUESTION: One – sure. One other thing: The Secretary, as you've announced, is now only a matter of hours from meeting his Iranian counterpart in Geneva. And as has also been put out, that Secretary Moniz will be there too. What do you expect out of tomorrow's talks, if anything?
MR RATHKE: Well, we are in the last month, or soon to be in the last month before the June 30th deadline, so of course this is an opportunity for the Secretary, along with Secretary Moniz, to take stock of where things stand as we are working to finalize the technical details and reach a comprehensive deal. So I'm not going to preview the substance of their discussion, but of course this is an important part – the senior level, political level engagement – to keep the talks moving forward. We've had expert-level and political director-level discussions. In fact, Under Secretary Sherman was in Vienna yesterday. And so it's important that these continue moving forward; that's – I don't have further to preview beyond that.
QUESTION: Do you see any breakthroughs coming out of this meeting, or do you expect things to unspool more slowly over the next month or so?
MR RATHKE: Again, on that, I think I'll refrain from a prediction about the pace. We believe it's possible to achieve a comprehensive deal by the end of June, and Secretary Kerry is engaging with Foreign Minister Zarif to help move things forward to that end.
QUESTION: In terms of the IAEA report, let's talk about the last report, not this one that came out today. Whether it was publicly released or not, you have seen it – "you" meaning this Administration has seen it?
MR RATHKE: The collective, yes.
QUESTION: But let's talk about the last one, the one before this one, which said almost essentially – it said essentially the same thing as this one, which is that Iran, although there has been some movement in terms of communication on one of the issues, has still not addressed the whole question of PMDs. Is it – does it remain the AdminiGstration's position that the issue of PMDs, which, according to not just the IAEA report that came out today that you won't comment on, but the last one, and the one before that, and the one before that, and the one before that, going back several years, that that – that the PMD issue – is it still the position that the PMD issue must be addressed as part of a comprehensive deal?
MR RATHKE: Yeah. This is – as I said also to Arshad, this is an important issue. We continue to call on Iran to cooperate fully with the IAEA about the possible military dimensions and those concerns.
QUESTION: That's not quite the --
MR RATHKE: And this is one of the issues that we're working to resolve in the nuclear negotiations. And in fact, Iran has committed in the context of those negotiations to address those concerns. They've committed in the JPOA and in the framework agreement.
QUESTION: But that's not quite the same as saying the Administration's position is that Iran must address and satisfy the concerns of the IAEA on the PMD issue as part of a comprehensive agreement.
MR RATHKE: Resolving the PMD issue has always been a part of our negotiations, yeah.
QUESTION: I just want to make sure that it hasn't changed.
MR RATHKE: No, I don't have anything – I don't have any changes to our policy to announce.
Okay, new topic? Go ahead.
QUESTION: I have another topic about the Chinese fugitive, so – and several question about cooperation between China and the United States. According to media, China's most wanted fugitive, Yang Xiuzhu, is accused of embezzling over $40 million, may be departed on visa-related violations. So can we have more information about that, because we know there's a person having the same name in custody in Hudson County correctional facility. What is next step?
MR RATHKE: Well, on those kinds of matters it's not the State Department that's in the lead. That's – that would be my colleagues over at the Department of Homeland Security, so I would refer you to them for any questions that relate to possible deportation of anybody.
QUESTION: As we know, recently China released a list of 100 alleged economic fugitive, which aimed to bring them back to the country. About 40 of them were suspected in United States. Do you think this case is the latest sign of the – I mean cooperation between China and United States from law enforcement authorities? I mean, do you think – how positive or how optimistic of United States in solving this kind of problem with China?
MR RATHKE: Well, I'm not in a position to confirm that – the particular case to which you've referred, so I'm not going to comment on that. But certainly we've discussed with our Chinese counterparts, we've had discussions on these sorts of issues. Those are diplomatic discussions. I'm not going to read those out. We understand these are important to China. We also consider law enforcement issues important, but I think I'll leave it at that.
QUESTION: So there is ongoing dialogues or discussion with China regarding fugitives, right?
MR RATHKE: Well, we've certainly discussed them. I don't want to convey – I mean, when you say an ongoing – "ongoing dialogues," I'm not sure how you mean that. Certainly, it's something we've discussed with China and it's something that we will – I'm sure we will discuss again in the future. So it's a matter for diplomatic discussion.
Did you have something on this?
QUESTION: Yeah. Just – this just happened, but since the Administration writ large, broadly, at least another branch of the government, has shown such an intense interest in the workings of FIFA, I'm wondering if you would care to congratulate Sepp Blatter on his re-election as president of that organization.
MR RATHKE: Well, I haven't – you've been – I'm sorry you haven't been paying attention to the briefing. You've had time to check your phone and find out information I don't have. But we don't have a --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) might be able to walk and chew gum at the same time?
MR RATHKE: I'm sure of that. We don't have a position on who's elected president of FIFA, so I don't have any special comment on that, but thanks for the update. So --
QUESTION: (Inaudible) perhaps as soon --
MR RATHKE: We don't have a position on who should be president of FIFA.
Go ahead, please.
QUESTION: One question on Russia and – so are you aware about reports quoting prime minister of Netherlands that Russia yesterday issued a blacklist of European politicians – they – who may no longer enter Russian – do you know something about it?
MR RATHKE: I don't. I had not heard about that, so no, I'm not familiar with those reports.
QUESTION: Yeah. And the second topic about a letter, a letter which was published by American historian Eric Zuesse – a letter from chairman of Ukrainian parliament to U.S. Embassy in Oslo. So he wrote that chairman thanks embassy for efforts to have Ukrainian President Poroshenko nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Can you confirm this information?
MR RATHKE: I'm not at all familiar with that exchange or with this correspondence that you're referring to, so --
QUESTION: Excuse me. Does U.S. embassy have any communications with Nobel committee about it?
MR RATHKE: Again, I'm not familiar with these communications so I simply have nothing to say about it.
QUESTION: So last question is about – I read about some problems in Department of State in issuing visas in several countries. Is it true or not?
MR RATHKE: In which countries?
QUESTION: The problems are regarding issuing visas in different countries.
MR RATHKE: I have not heard about any disruptions to – are you saying technical difficulties?
QUESTION: Technical, I suppose, yes.
MR RATHKE: I'm not familiar with any, but I'm happy to check and see if there's anything. I hadn't heard anything today about that.
Elliot, go ahead.
QUESTION: Last week –
MR RATHKE: Oh, sorry. Do you want to stay on the same topic? Yeah, please.
QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on my question from yesterday about this opposition figure who's been hospitalized. Do you have answers to my questions?
MR RATHKE: So your questions, if I recall correctly –
QUESTION: My question was –
MR RATHKE: -- were about –
QUESTION: Right, is he –
MR RATHKE: -- whether we had had any contact and things of that nature.
QUESTION: Considering that members of his family are U.S. citizens and also that apparently he and his wife are both permanent residents of the U.S. or have green cards --
MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- what's the role the U.S. is playing, if anything?
MR RATHKE: Well, as a general matter, we don't confirm citizenship statuses of individuals and for the permanent resident status, the Department of Homeland Security, I believe, has a similar policy not to confirm such things. So on that, I don't have anything to share. Your – with regard to your question about any contacts between the State Department and the family, also for privacy considerations we would have nothing to add about that.
Now the – getting to the question, though, of Vladimir Kara-Murza, it – as we discussed yesterday, we of course are concerned about his health. I think you may have seen there was a tweet from Ambassador Tefft at Embassy Moscow in which he also mentioned that. So that concern remains. We take an interest in it, but I would also say we're aware of some public comments today by some family members about his situation. And we don't have anything further to add to them.
QUESTION: Do – you said that you couldn't talk about any contacts due to privacy concerns. Do privacy concerns extend to non-American citizens or non-Green Card holders?
MR RATHKE: Well, it's my understanding that privacy – the Privacy Act applies to U.S. citizens and to lawful permanent residents.
QUESTION: Okay. So why don't we drop this ridiculousness? Because you basically just confirmed that they are –
MR RATHKE: No, I haven't.
QUESTION: -- either U.S. –
MR RATHKE: You've asked –
QUESTION: Well, you said that you can't –
MR RATHKE: -- me as a general matter whether –
QUESTION: -- talk –
MR RATHKE: -- the – to whom the Privacy Act applies.
QUESTION: Right. So if it doesn't apply to them, you would be able to talk.
MR RATHKE: I'm sorry, Matt. I think we're going around in circles here. I don't have – I don't think –
QUESTION: Well, no, but I mean it's ridiculous. You say that they're covered – you can't talk about their case because of privacy concerns, and at the same time you say that – or you can't talk about their citizenship or whatever because of privacy concerns, but then you say the privacy concerns don't apply to non-Americans or non-permanent residents. So why not just drop this pretense and come out and say that –
MR RATHKE: Well, no, but you're sort of presupposing, Matt, that we would, as a matter of course, talk about any contact we had with any non-U.S. citizen and non-U.S. permanent resident. And that's not the case.
QUESTION: Well, if asked and you knew the answer to it, I would hope you would if you were asked.
MR RATHKE: Well, we won't talk – we don't talk about every private conversation we have. So that's –
QUESTION: Yeah, but can do something about that? (Laughter.)
MR RATHKE: Well, I think we've got – I think you've got a longer-term project ahead of you there.
So Elliot, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks. Last week, I asked Marie about this Amnesty report on alleging a dearth of progress in Qatar to address labor abuses. I was – she said you guys were reviewing it. I was wondering if there's been any progress on that.
MR RATHKE: I thought that I was asked about this later in the week and I'd responded to it.
QUESTION: Did you? Okay. I might have missed that.
MR RATHKE: Yeah. If –
QUESTION: I can go back and check.
MR RATHKE: Yeah. And if not, we'll get you the answer.
MR RATHKE: Pam.
QUESTION: Can we follow up on Amnesty?
MR RATHKE: On the same –
QUESTION: Not the same topic, but Amnesty –
MR RATHKE: Well, Pam's been waiting patiently. We'll come back to you, Said.
QUESTION: Do you have a readout from the Secretary's bilat in Nigeria, in particular would be interested in anything that might have been said about efforts to find Boko Haram.
MR RATHKE: I don't have further detail. The meeting happened just before departure, so I think we may have more to say in – after we get more feedback from the traveling party.
Go ahead, Said.
QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up very quickly. Amnesty issued a report today saying that Saudi Arabia executed 90 people since the beginning of the year and called this shocking. Many of them, I guess – maybe all – were beheaded. Do you have any comment on that?
MR RATHKE: I haven't seen that report, so no, I don't have a specific comment on it.
QUESTION: But if the figures are true and we have no reason to doubt Amnesty's figures, would that – is that also shocking to you guys as well.
MR RATHKE: Again, I'd want to take a look at the report and the particulars of it before offering a comment.
QUESTION: Okay. All right. Can we go back to ISIS?
MR RATHKE: Yes, please.
QUESTION: Okay. There are reports that ISIL has taken over an airbase in Libya. Do you have any comment on that? The Sirte airbase.
MR RATHKE: So with respect to Libya, we're certainly aware that Libyan forces have been confronting groups that have pledged allegiance to ISIL in the Sirte area for a number of weeks. I'm not in a position to confirm the specific report.
MR RATHKE: But certainly we're aware that Libyan forces have been fighting again --
QUESTION: So you don't know whether that airbase has fallen into the hands of ISIL extremist groups?
MR RATHKE: I'm not in a position from here to give you a confirmation of that (inaudible).
QUESTION: And on ISIS, in Syria there are reports that Turkish Government is ferrying trucks, convoys of trucks, laden with arms and rockets and volunteers and so on into Syria. Are you aware of that?
MR RATHKE: I --
QUESTION: Is that part of the train and equip program that you guys have that talk about 15,000 members – Syrian opposition?
MR RATHKE: Well, I'd refer you to the Turkish Government for – if you're – if what you're talking about are reports about Turkish Government activities, our train and equip program,, which is a program led by the Department of Defense, as you well know, has gotten underway recently and – but I'm not going to provide operational details.
QUESTION: But if I'm not wrong, and I think Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said that this process is coordinated with you guys – I mean, the current accelerated activities of training, arming, supplying, ferrying, volunteering into Syria.
MR RATHKE: Well, certainly, we work closely together with our Turkish coalition partners on the train and equip program. And that's – I think that's been clear for some time, but I'm not in a position to link it to this report that you've referred to.
QUESTION: Okay, and finally I have a question on this – in your estimation there is a lot of reports that they're saying that the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is basically on – teetering on the verge of collapse. Is that something that you agree with?
MR RATHKE: Well, which --
QUESTION: Well, I mean, most – all reports say that the noose is tightening. I mean, they use terms like this on the Syrian regime. Is that your assessment?
MR RATHKE: Well, I'm not going to give a day-to-day update about the situation of the Assad regime. Our position on President Assad has been clear for a long time. We believe he's lost his legitimacy. We believe he has no future in Syria and he must go. But I'm not going to give a day by day analysis of --
QUESTION: Okay. Because for a long time you were saying that his days were numbered, and then you stopped saying that. Are we back where his days are numbered again?
MR RATHKE: I don't have – I don't have a further timeline to put on his rule.
QUESTION: Staying on ISIL?
MR RATHKE: Yes, we can and then – yeah, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yeah. Regarding the ongoing efforts to retake Anbar from ISIL, Sunni fighters have told our channel that they've been asking Baghdad for weapons, for training, and that they're not getting it and they suspect that it's because they're Sunni. And those comments come on the heels of the Defense Secretary saying that it may be time for the U.S. to actually directly train Sunni tribes and provide them weapons. Does this Administration believe that Prime Minister al-Abadi is acting in good faith when he says that he's trying to have a unified front against ISIL, or does this Administration believe he's favoring --
MR RATHKE: Can I stop you there so I can give you a one-word answer?
MR RATHKE: The answer is yes. Do we believe he has – is committed to a – his policy – implementing his policy of a unified Iraq and to representing the interests of all – of all of Iraq's people? Yes.
QUESTION: But the Defense Secretary also told reporters on his way to Singapore that as far as the Pentagon can tell the ongoing training that's been happening, the ongoing arming that's been happening coming out of Baghdad has been primarily to Shiites and not to Sunnis. So it kind of begs the question: Is Abadi doing enough to actually make this a unified fight? And if he is, why would then the defense secretary say on the record that it may be time for the U.S. to essentially step in, even under the rubric of acting on the invitation of Baghdad but do the training and the arming itself?
MR RATHKE: So let me – so you've packed a lot of questions into that one. So first, the Government of Iraq is determined to eject ISIL from Ramadi, and the international coalition shares the same – the same determination. And we are supporting the efforts led by the Government of Iraq to liberate its territory from ISIL in Anbar and in other parts of Iraq. So we're going to continue to support our Iraqi partners.
We will do everything that we can to support Iraqi forces, including the tribes of Anbar, as they try to secure the province from ISIL. This includes our ongoing training and equipping program, our airstrikes, our expedited provision of equipment to address the threat posed by ISIL's use of truck bombs because we recognize that our strategy requires a well-equipped and trained partner on the ground.
Now with regard to the question of Sunni tribes, we are encouraged by the announcement of hundreds of additional tribal fighters in Anbar province, and they were inducted into the Popular Mobilization Forces two days ago. The Iraqis have to be empowered to take this on themselves, and so that's why we've been engaging with Iraqis across the political spectrum locally, nationally. And we believe Iraqis are determined to rise to this challenge, and Prime Minister Abadi and his cabinet and his council of ministers are as well.
QUESTION: Has the U.S. made it very clear, though, to Abadi that he has to be as vigorous as possible to make certain that there is parity between Sunnis who are fighting and Shiites who are fighting?
MR RATHKE: Well, we have – this is central to Prime Minister Abadi's plan, and we support him and we are in regular contact with him and his government about it. I would also point out that it was the Iraqi council of ministers just about 10 days ago that announced the accelerated training and equipping of local tribes in coordination with Anbar authorities. This includes recruiting into the Iraqi Army but also the Popular Mobilization Forces. There are Sunni tribal units currently being trained by the Iraqi Security Forces and equipped by the Government of Iraq.
And this is part of their budget. A lot of these resources are now coming on stream. And in the same way, the U.S. and a lot of the assistance from – that was approved by Congress, the 1.6 billion that was approved at the end of 2014, is also coming online. So we're seeing these increased efforts from the Iraqi Government but also a lot of our stuff coming online, too.
QUESTION: And this might be a better question for the Pentagon, but do you anticipate that as the U.S. continues its train and equip mission that U.S. troops will be actively engaged in working with the Sunni tribes to make certain that they have the capability and the equipment to engage in this fight against ISIL?
MR RATHKE: Well, again, our train – our train and equip program and the locations where it's being carried out, those are better questions for the Department of Defense. I don't have any announcements to make on their behalf. But certainly, we have been – as our assistance approved by Congress comes online, this also involves providing assistance to the Sunni tribes with the approval and in coordination with the central government in Baghdad.
QUESTION: Okay, and the one question on the human rights situation.
MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: People in Ramadi and the surrounding areas are complaining that Baghdad is still making it very difficult for them to basically escape the fighting, especially if they want to go to Baghdad; they need to have a relative sponsor them. Baghdad's argument is that they want to make certain that members of ISIL aren't sneaking in among those who are trying to escape the fighting. Is Baghdad being a little too careful by half in the U.S.'s estimation?
MR RATHKE: We're concerned about the humanitarian situation in Iraq, and there have been a lot of people displaced from Ramadi and around. This is, of course, a complicated humanitarian crisis. There're about 2.8 million people – 2.8 million Iraqis internally displaced since the start of ISIL's campaign in January 2014. So we are certainly aware of that, and we remain in contact with Iraqi authorities about it. We recognize their efforts as well to provide the displaced people with financial support and food rations, and we continue to urge Iraqi authorities to take all measures to assure safety and free passage to people who are fleeing the violence.
You made reference and there has been reference made in recent days to situation at the bridge leading into Baghdad. We understand that that bridge was opened and approximately 3,000 families with sponsorship in Baghdad have been allowed to cross, and that very few families remain around the bridge. But that doesn't change the fact that the overall situation for many people who've fled the violence remains dire, and that's why we remain engaged on it.
QUESTION: Is the sponsorship, though, perhaps an impediment to providing physical safety to others who are trying to escape the fighting in Ramadi?
MR RATHKE: I don't have a particular comment on that aspect.
Arshad, go ahead.
QUESTION: I have an Iraq follow-up.
MR RATHKE: Yeah.
QUESTION: You said you believe that Iraqis are determined to rise to this challenge. What makes you believe that?
MR RATHKE: Well, as I said, this is a – we've been in contact over the last days and weeks with people across Iraq, with people across the political spectrum, local officials, national officials. And that's the feedback that we get and that's why we're committed to helping Iraq.
QUESTION: Did you believe when the United States removed all of its combat forces from Iraq at the end of 2011 that the Iraqi forces were then capable of and determined to defend their country's territory?
MR RATHKE: I don't have a retrospective analysis at my fingertips here to offer on that.
QUESTION: But why would you have pulled out if you didn't think they were capable of it? And public statements by multiple officials suggested that the United States believed that they were capable of defending their territory, so – the reason I'm asking is it's not clear to me why your judgment, which was that they could fight back then, is necessarily – and appears to have been wrong – is necessarily correct now, that they can and will fight.
MR RATHKE: Well, again, I'm just passing on to you what we hear now from the people we are in contact with across the country. We realize and we've said many times that this is a very difficult fight. It's not – it's by no means easy, so it requires commitment and it requires the leadership which, again, we believe Prime Minister Abadi has been demonstrating through his efforts to reach out across sectarian and ethnic lines.
QUESTION: A couple things on maritime security. As you know, Secretary Carter is now visiting Singapore and for attending the Shangri-La Dialogue.
MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: And as you know, China – the spokesperson of the Chinese ministry of foreign affairs yesterday claimed a part of nations – agitate this situation in South – Spratly Island and that's the root cause of the confusion. Also – and also, China urged United States to stop provocative statements. So do you think it's – U.S. argument, U.S. statement is a kind of provocative – what do you think? What is a --
MR RATHKE: Well, short answer, no. If you look at what's been going on in the South China Sea, we are very concerned about recent developments there, which include large-scale land reclamation and associated activity. We've spoken out about that; also, countries in the region have expressed their concerns about it. And we see that as the reason behind rising tensions in that regard.
QUESTION: And as you know, Secretary Carter urged that China hold a reclamation – not that China – that all the claimants hold – to stop the reclamation works. But it seems like the claimants, including China, doesn't listen to these international community. So my question is: We going to have a S&ED next month, and next week President will be attending the G7 summit meeting. I believe that Secretary Kerry last month – I think last month – discussed this issue on G7 ministry meeting, so how the United States is going to deal with this issue? What's the next option to stop these reclamation activity?
MR RATHKE: Well, we've been clear with all the claimants, including with China, that we oppose any further militarization of outposts in disputed areas of the South China Sea and that all claimants should avoid any actions that escalate tensions. So we urge all claimants to show restraint and to halt reclamation in favor of diplomacy. So as we have always said, we support the freedom of navigation and overflight and free flow of commerce through the vital waterways of the South China Sea, and the non-use of force or coercion and respect for international law, including UNCLOS. So that remains our position.
Anything else, Matt?
QUESTION: This is also slightly – it's not exactly the same region, but close by, or somewhat close by. What's the status of the overflights with Thailand? Do you – were you able to get an answer to that question?
MR RATHKE: Ah, yes. Okay. And as you probably know, there was a meeting today in Bangkok which was focused on this situation. One or two points about the outcomes of the meeting, and then – we're encouraged that the attendees at the Bangkok meeting agreed on the need for regional coordination and on increased efforts to save the lives of those still at sea, to provide protection to migrants, to combat transnational smuggling and trafficking networks, and to address the root causes of the crisis. And we also are pleased that the participants agreed on the importance of continued international cooperation and dialogue that would go beyond today's meeting.
The United States today pledged an additional $3 million toward the International Organization for Migration's humanitarian appeal. And with regard to the U.S. operational activity, we welcome the announcement by Thailand to approve U.S. overflights. Thailand has authorized us to conduct these maritime domain awareness flights through Thai airspace to assist in locating and marking the positions of vessels possibly carrying irregular migrants. Now, these – we are working with the Thai authorities to finalize the operational details. We expect that the initial flight that would go through Thai airspace would occur in the – within the next few days.
Flights will continue to operate from the Subang air base in Malaysia.
QUESTION: Sorry, what carrying what migrants? What was the word between carrying and migrants?
MR RATHKE: Oh, irregular.
MR RATHKE: Irregular.
QUESTION: What does that mean?
MR RATHKE: That is – well, one of – I think one of the issues is about orderly legal regular migration. And so --
QUESTION: But doesn't --
MR RATHKE: -- the point is that the people who have been --
QUESTION: But wouldn't orderly, legal, and regular migrants not be packed on ships floating around the --
MR RATHKE: Precisely. That's – so that's – hence the term irregular. I mean, you can find other words to use, but what we mean are the people who have --
QUESTION: Okay, got you.
MR RATHKE: -- been fleeing by boat.
QUESTION: All right.
MR RATHKE: Yes.
QUESTION: And then you said that you – the – that people need to address the root cause of this crisis. What in the view of the United States is the root cause of this particular migrant crisis going on in Southeast Asia?
MR RATHKE: Well, I think you can – you also see this in the – there was a document issued from the meeting, and in the text where it talks about root causes, the statement discusses promoting full respect for human rights and adequate access of people to basic rights and services such as housing, education, health care. Clearly, these are points we've made with respect to the Rohingya population in Burma in the past. We have continued to make those points.
QUESTION: So you believe that the Burmese Government has a particular responsibility to address root causes of this crisis as opposed to, say, the Government of the Philippines?
MR RATHKE: Well, I don't believe they were participants in the meeting anyway.
QUESTION: Well --
MR RATHKE: But I --
QUESTION: -- as opposed to the --
MR RATHKE: -- your point is – yes, of course, because --
QUESTION: -- as opposed to the government of Indonesia or Malaysia.
MR RATHKE: Certainly, certainly.
QUESTION: So Burma --
MR RATHKE: When we talk about the root causes, that's --
QUESTION: Burma/Myanmar has a special responsibility to deal with this.
MR RATHKE: Yeah. And Assistant Secretary Richard made that point today.
QUESTION: All right. Because the --
MR RATHKE: She stressed the need to --
QUESTION: Well, the reason I'm asking and pushing on it is because the Burmese were – at the meeting were very adamant that they not be blamed, that they not shoulder the blunt of – or the brunt of the blame here even though the brunt of the migrants are coming from their country. So would – what do you think about that? Does that – is that just a – an abdication of responsibility?
MR RATHKE: Well, as to the statement by Burmese officials, I'd refer you back to them. We – our sense and the sense from Assistant Secretary Richard in the meeting was that there was a great deal of support for addressing root causes. Indeed, it's in the document that they issued which was agreed by the participants in the meeting, so we would certainly stand by that. I would add maybe as a certain – as a small footnote that there is – in addition to the Rohingya population that has been fleeing, and many of – who've been many of the people on the boats, there have also been people from Bangladesh as well. So I wouldn't want to say that they are the only source country for people who have been at sea in these last few weeks.
Elliot, last one.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on the South China Sea issue?
MR RATHKE: Yeah.
QUESTION: Assistant Secretary Russel, when he was on the Hill a few weeks ago, got some pretty tough questions from members of Congress basically saying that the issue of land reclamation has been going on for quite some time and that continuously condemning or really putting out statements to the effect that it's contrary to international law and things of that sort are fine, but essentially they're having no effect and so now it's time for something to actually back up those statements, some kind of action in this instance. Do you see that as holding any water all, or what's your response to that kind of criticism?
MR RATHKE: Well, again, our policy on the South China Sea and the territorial disputes there I think has been clear, and we've talked about it a lot. I think also Secretary Carter mentioned yesterday that the United States will operate – that is we will fly, we will sail – where international law allows. We do our operations in accordance with international law around the world and we will continue to do that. So I think there is – it's clear that this is an important interest of the United States and we remain committed to – not only to the freedom of navigation and overflight but also that the tensions remain – that they diminish and that we work with partners in the region to that end.
QUESTION: Sure. I guess my question was a little different. Referring specifically to land reclamation activities by China --
MR RATHKE: Okay.
QUESTION: --- which you have spoken out --
MR RATHKE: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- strongly against and have said that you don't believe it to be consistent with international law and things like that. I guess I'm wondering if the Administration is prepared to take any kind of action more than just what it's done so far, which is so far really just words.
MR RATHKE: Well, I wouldn't put it in the category of just words. I think if you look at the – if you look at the statements that have come from countries in the region as well, in some cases from other claimants, also from ASEAN, I think there has been a lot of support across the region for --
QUESTION: But those are just words as well. Those are statements.
MR RATHKE: Well, but I think if you look at the policies of these governments, they – we are in accordance with them. I'm not sure what additional action you're suggesting. It's a little bit hard to speculate on something that --
QUESTION: I mean some kind of action --
QUESTION: Like military action? (Laughter.)
MR RATHKE: Maybe that's what Elliot wants. I'm not sure. I'm not going to put him on the spot and make him answer. That's your job with me. But again, we're committed to working with our partners in the region. I don't have any specific further steps to announce right now.
MR RATHKE: I think Secretary Carter is at the Shangri La dialogue. He'll be speaking to many of these issues, I imagine, while he's there.
QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up on question that I – yesterday on the emails and whether or not --
MR RATHKE: Okay.
QUESTION: -- this new reports about – excuse me – about Sid Blumenthal and his employment with the Clinton Foundation had caused the State Department any concern or prompted any kind of a relook, or if you're still --
MR RATHKE: No, I don't have any – I don't have any concerns to report or --
QUESTION: But do you know if it's been looked into and concerns have been rejected, or if it's just not been looked into at all and you think that this matter – the building thinks that this is not an issue and just --
MR RATHKE: I think what we said a couple weeks ago --
QUESTION: -- except for --
MR RATHKE: --- which is that we don't – we don't have plans to go back and do a --
QUESTION: Right. But that was before this latest report about --
MR RATHKE: Well, although we had – when I made that point, that was – that was, granted, before we had released those publicly, but it was – it was also when we had – we had already provided them to the select committee. At that point we had received the emails from Secretary Clinton and so forth. So I don't see any change to that statement that we made --
QUESTION: Right. But then --
MR RATHKE: -- a couple days ago.
QUESTION: Well, so you're saying that the case is – for lack of a better word, the case is closed regardless of how much additional information keeps dripping out about --
MR RATHKE: Well, again, I'm not --
QUESTION: -- things that are – things that are related to the emails?
MR RATHKE: The information that you're referring to was in our possession when I made – when I made that comment.
QUESTION: The payment that – the payment that he was receiving from the foundation you were aware of?
MR RATHKE: Oh, you're asking – you're asking about that aspect.
QUESTION: Yeah, I'm asking: Since that report came out, did it – has that report or have those reports if there were more than one caused any concern or raised any flags here in the building to the point where you would want to go back and look to see --
MR RATHKE: Okay, I understand your question.
QUESTION: And if not, I mean, if not okay. But I'm just wondering --
MR RATHKE: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- why not, or is there – is there anything that might come out in the future that would cause the department to change its position on saying that this is a done deal and referring all the questions to the foundation.
MR RATHKE: So with respect to your question about whether this had caused any relook, no, not that I'm aware. I don't have anything further.
QUESTION: But you don't know?
MR RATHKE: Hmm?
QUESTION: You don't know or --
MR RATHKE: I'm not aware of any – of any --
QUESTION: Well, I guess the question – but that --
MR RATHKE: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Can you --
MR RATHKE: There is no --
QUESTION: Can we find out?
MR RATHKE: There is no relook happening.
QUESTION: There isn't?
MR RATHKE: That's --
QUESTION: And do you – but is there anything that – is it case closed no matter what, or is there a possible new information that could come out that would cause a rethink of that?
MR RATHKE: That's such an open question, I don't really have an answer – an answer to it.
QUESTION: Okay. But this latest thing does not – did not meet whatever standard there might be for going back and taking a look at things again?
MR RATHKE: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.
MR RATHKE: Thanks.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:59 p.m.)
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