US State Department: Daily Press Briefing - August 14, 2013

Published: Thu 15 Aug 2013 04:22 PM
Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing - August 14, 2013
Jen Psaki
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
August 14, 2013
Index for Today's Briefing
Secretary Kerry Calls
Today's Violence / State of Emergency / ElBaradei Resignation
U.S. Policy in Egypt / Assistance
Journalists Killed
Talks Continuing Today
Settlements / Construction in East Jerusalem
Prisoner Release
Withdrawal of Doctors without Borders / Violence against Aid Workers
U.S.-Japan Alliance
Kaesong Industrial Complex
Special Envoy King Travel to Region / Kenneth Bae
Intelligence Cooperation
2:38 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. First, thank you all for your patience. I know it’s a particularly late day, but the Secretary obviously felt strongly about speaking to all of you today, and so we wanted to make sure we had the opportunity to do that.
QUESTION: The deadline for the Middle East is over.
MS. PSAKI: Well, that was certainly not our intention. But hopefully, his message will be transferred broadly.
Well, why don’t we start --
QUESTION: You’ve got nothing?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can give you – actually, why don’t I start by giving you on update on who the Secretary has spoken with.
QUESTION: That was my first question.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let me start there. So yesterday the Secretary spoke with EU High Representative Ashton. Today he has spoken so far with Qatari Foreign – the Qatari Foreign Minister, the Egyptian Interim Foreign Minister, former Egyptian Interim Vice President, and he’s scheduled to speak with the Emirati and Turkish foreign ministers later this afternoon.
QUESTION: Did he speak with ElBaradei before or after he had resigned?
MS. PSAKI: He just spoke with him this afternoon.
QUESTION: So after --
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: -- the resignation?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Okay. And then you said the Emirati and who?
MS. PSAKI: Turkish.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Okay. And then one other logistical – well not logistical --
QUESTION: Before that, Matt, how long was the ElBaradei call?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have an exact length of time for you.
QUESTION: Do you have any readout on that call?
MS. PSAKI: He conveyed to him that – they discussed the events on the ground. They discussed, of course, his decision. The Secretary noted – did not ask him to make a different decision. It is up to him – the Secretary’s view is it is up to him to make a decision about his future and the path forward. But obviously, they share a concern about the events on the ground and how to get back on a path – a productive path.
QUESTION: Do you have a specific reaction to his decision to resign?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we, of course, have seen the news, as we all have. This was a certainly concerning development to all of us. He did --
QUESTION: I’m sorry, the resignation?
MS. PSAKI: Correct. Mm-hmm.
MS. PSAKI: He did say in his statement that there remained political alternatives to the actions we saw today. And in general, we believe that our focus needs to be on working together to return to a path – a productive and stable path forward.
QUESTION: And you agree with what he said in his letter about there being political options?
MS. PSAKI: To move the path forward?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Okay. Now just more broadly --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- do the events of today give you any pause or any reason to reconsider or go back or reevaluate what your policy has been in Egypt, or what your lack of policy has been in Egypt, since July 3rd, since Morsy’s ouster on July 3rd? And the reason I ask this is that at the White – or up in Martha’s Vineyard this morning, your colleague kept saying over and over again that it was in America’s national interest not to make the decision, not to determine whether it was a coup. And I’m just wondering if you believe that the things – the events that have occurred since July 3rd are in American national interests.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I did see my colleague’s comments, and I believe what he was speaking to is the broad point that we’ve consistently made about the importance of our national security interests and regional stability interests to continuing to provide aid to Egypt.
Of course, that review and our review of aid and our broad relationship is ongoing, and we’ve said that from the beginning. It wasn’t the end of the review. That will be evaluated. The world, as you heard the Secretary say, is watching Egypt, and the situation, of course, is ongoing and remain fluid and – remains fluid. And obviously, the events today, looking at the events today and the events of the last couple of weeks, we’ll continue to not only monitor and be engaged, but we’ll review the implications for our broader relationship with Egypt, which includes aid.
QUESTION: But I guess what I’m getting at is if your policy was aimed at advancing American national interests, can you identify one or any interests that have been advanced, any for – since July 3rd? I mean, I’m presuming that murder or killing protesters in the streets is not in your – in U.S. national interests or in the interests of regional security, that the declaration of a state of emergency is not in national – U.S. national interest, that the resignation of the civilian vice president is not in your national interest.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt --
QUESTION: So is there any interest that you can point to that has been advanced by this policy that you’ve pursued?
MS. PSAKI: It’s not about – our view is it’s not about responding to one day. We’re talking about our larger strategic interest, our national security interests in the region, the role that Egypt plays. Certainly there have been some significant bumps in the road, but our focus is on getting back to a sustainable path to democracy, and that’s what we’re working on every single day.
QUESTION: So you would argue that your policy has served – so far has served national security, U.S. national security interests and the interests of regional security?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, are you – you’re talking about our aid to Egypt?
QUESTION: No. I’m talking about your policy towards Egypt in general, not just the money, the approach that you have taken since President Morsy’s ouster. Do you believe that that has promoted or advanced either U.S. national interests or the interests of regional security?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, Egypt is going through a challenging time right now. What our focus is on, what Deputy Secretary Burns’s focus was on when he was in the region, what the Secretary’s focus is on in every call he’s making, is how to return to a sustainable path to democracy, how to end the bloodshed. So we evaluate our relationship every single day and what that means.
QUESTION: I understand that. But you can’t – you’re not answering my question. Do you believe that your policy has advanced U.S. national interests or the interests of regional security? Yes, no? And if the answer is yes, what interests have been advanced or promoted?
MS. PSAKI: I’m – we don’t look at it through that prism. We’re looking at our longer-term interests here, Matt, and returning Egypt to a sustainable democracy, returning – ending the bloodshed is in – certainly in our national security interest and certainly in the regional – the interests of the region.
QUESTION: But has it – can you say that your policy in this short period since the 3rd has done anything to restore or bring about the restoration of democracy, as the Secretary himself noted 10 days ago or so? Is there anything that you can point to to show that Egypt is going in the right direction, that your policy has promoted or advanced movement in the right direction?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our policy – it’s up to the Egyptian people to move the process forward. So our policy has been to call for an end to violence, to encourage all sides to participate in the process.
QUESTION: Okay. Which that hasn’t happened.
MS. PSAKI: We --
QUESTION: There’s continuing violence and all sides are not participating.
MS. PSAKI: Matt, we’re – but we’re continuing to do it. This issue is too important.
QUESTION: I’ll shut up after this, but the – I’m guessing – I’m not guessing. I am taking from your answer, your response, that the answer to my question, “Has this policy advanced any interests, any U.S. national interests or regional security interests,” that the answer is no.
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been clear about the steps that we want the interim government to continue to take. Obviously, we’ve expressed – and you heard the Secretary very clearly express his concerns about the events of the last 24 hours. But at the same time, we continue to encourage them to move forward on an inclusive process, move forward towards elections. That process is one that we still feel there’s an opportunity for them to move forward on. The story is not done yet. It’s not closed.
QUESTION: Are you giving any --
QUESTION: Let me try this a different way.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: So the --
QUESTION: Are you giving any --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, can we go to Anne, just – and then we’ll go right to you, Arshad?
QUESTION: But – you say it’s not about responding to one day, and yet the context of all of these questions are: Did today make a difference in this ongoing review of whether you’re going to provide aid, whether you’re going to change your strategy in any way? And we haven’t gotten to yes or no yet. I mean, what are you doing as a result of what happened today about making a different decision, if any different decision is to come?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we review all the events on the ground, including those that happened today, as we make any decision about our relationship with Egypt, including aid. There – I have nothing to announce for you in terms of additional steps, but obviously, it’s not just that we made a decision three weeks ago or a month ago about what it would be and that’s the end of story. We evaluate it day by day.
QUESTION: So what are you doing differently in that evaluation?
MS. PSAKI: I have nothing new to announce for you, aside from telling you that this is obviously something that the Administration is looking close at – closely at, as we do at all events on the ground. But our focus is on continuing to encourage all sides to move forward in a productive way, and I think the Secretary was very clear in his statement about our view that this is a serious blow to reconciliation and the Egyptian people’s hope for a transition toward democracy and inclusion. So the question is how can you get back on a productive path, which is where our efforts are focused.
QUESTION: Are you giving any more consideration today to the possibility of curtailing U.S. assistance to Egypt than you were yesterday?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to read out for you. Discussions are ongoing, and we, of course, evaluate all circumstances, all events, including, of course, the events overnight that we’ve been talking about.
QUESTION: But why would you not give – given that you have been unable to persuade the Egyptian military to – and I think the Secretary said that at every opportunity in the last week --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- you have tried to persuade them not to do what they did today, right?
MS. PSAKI: That’s correct.
QUESTION: You failed.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Given that you have failed at that, why would you not consider – give greater consideration to alternatives, including reducing aid, which primarily benefits the military?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our current focus is on how to best address the situation on the ground. There are several components of that, right? The Secretary has made a number of calls. He’s working with partners. You heard him say he heard an openness when he spoke with the Foreign Minister about returning to a productive path forward.
At the same time, we are constantly reviewing our relationship with Egypt. I have nothing to announce for you or no curtain to pull back for you in terms of that discussion, but of course all events go into that process and that consideration.
QUESTION: But I don’t understand why you wouldn’t give greater consideration to alternative policies, given that what has happened is exactly what you wanted to avoid.
MS. PSAKI: Well – and I don’t mean to be confusing here. We, of course, are continuing to discuss, as we do on a regular basis, an evaluation of all of the events that are happening. Of course, the events overnight were tragic, were terrible, and we consider all of this as we continue to discuss. But remember, this happened in the last 12 hours, last 16 hours, so we always are considering ways to better help, better play a role that – whatever role we can play in helping Egypt return to a sustainable democracy.
QUESTION: And do you regard --
QUESTION: One more from me if I may, Jill. What – do you regard – I mean, you use the word “concerning,” which is a pretty mild word --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- about the decision of former Interim Vice President ElBaradei to resign. He was, it seems to me, probably the most – the senior most civilian face on the administration of Egypt. Does – when you look at his decision to resign, does it not suggest to you that the civilian veneer to the administration in Egypt is being peeled off, and that what we are really seeing is that the military is both calling and firing the shots here?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, as you know, the Secretary has a great deal of respect for the former Interim Vice President on a personal level and has known him for a number of years. And certainly, our goal is, as you’ve just stated, returning to a civilian-led government. So this is an event that just happened, obviously, this morning, as we all saw through the breaking news alerts. But we do remain focused on encouraging an inclusive process that includes all sides, a return to a democratically elected civilian government. That is our goal, and we’re watching closely the events that happen on the ground.
QUESTION: Don’t you think it’s gone backwards today?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think we made clear that this was a serious blow to our efforts, so our goal is to get things back on a productive path forward.
QUESTION: Jen, why shouldn’t we conclude, though, that this temporizing by the Administration – not taking a position, not defining it as either a coup or not a coup – has really opened the doors to all sorts of confusion and blame from all sides? I mean, the U.S. is getting it from both sides, all sides. Why is this a good policy? It just seems to be fueling what’s happening.
MS. PSAKI: Well, a couple of things I would say to that. One is that’s evidence that we’re not taking sides, that both sides are upset with steps that we’ve taken.
QUESTION: And that’s good?
MS. PSAKI: Well, ultimately, what we feel the only productive path forward here is for the Egyptian people, of all sides, to work together on a process moving forward. As you know, Deputy Secretary Burns was on the ground for a couple of days just last week. The Secretary has been in touch with a range of officials, including counterparts in the region, and made a number of constructive steps. And through his conversations, he feels they understand what needs to happen moving forward.
But it can’t be the United States. We can’t force a solution here. We can play a productive role, suggesting constructive steps forward, which we’ve done, and we are happy to play any role we can play in moving Egypt back to a sustainable democracy. But it’s up to the Egyptian people, it’s up to the Egyptian parties to make those choices.
QUESTION: Jen, a couple weeks ago, the Secretary of State gave credence to the action by the military by suggesting that they averted a civil war. Does he regret having said that now?
MS. PSAKI: I think he made very clear the next day that what he was referring to was the fact that there was – we were not – that everything was not happening that needed to happen under the last leader. But our focus right now is on moving forward – you heard him say today – on what our goals are. That’s where our focus is – on returning all sides, encouraging all sides to move back to an inclusive process moving forward.
QUESTION: So is there a feeling that you may have been misled by the military to feel that they really have averted the – I guess they call it the brink of a civil war?
MS. PSAKI: We would not call it or characterize this as a civil war. We, of course, are concerned about the violence on the ground. Certainly the situation remains fluid and we’re watching that closely. And the events and the steps taken by the interim government moving forward are very important, and we’re also watching those closely.
QUESTION: Jen, the Secretary used the phrase the military holds the “preponderance of power,” I believe, in the remarks he just made.
MS. PSAKI: I think he said the interim government and the military.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But the Secretary himself holds authorization and signs off on the aid that the U.S. has given to Egypt. So we’re all stuck in this idea that the only tool in the diplomatic toolbox is whether or not to continue writing and cashing checks. Can you explain to us whether there are any other options beyond paper statements, statements from the podium and checks that the U.S. can use to influence the situation on the ground right now? And can you tell us whether the U.S. had any idea that the crackdown would look like it has, and this level of violence in the streets?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me take the second one first. It has been no secret given there has been discussion of these possible steps for several days, as many of you have reported as a possibility. That’s one of the reasons that the Secretary and other senior members of the Administration have been in close contact with Egyptian officials and their counterparts and discouraging this type of action. You’ve heard us say consistently that peaceful protest, including sit-ins, is something that we strongly believe the Egyptian people should have the right to. So this should not have come as a surprise to anyone, these steps. You heard him say also, of course, his strong concerns about the steps that were taken and, of course, condemn them.
In terms of your other question in terms of what steps we can do, it is, of course, up to the Egyptian people, up to all sides, to make the decision to move towards a productive path towards a long-term sustainable democracy. But one of the reasons that Deputy Secretary Burns was on the ground last week, why Secretary Kerry has been so engaged, is that we have presented, working with our partners, whether it’s High Representative Ashton or our other counterparts in the region, a path, constructive ideas for all sides to consider to end the bloodshed, end the violence and move towards an inclusive process. And that’s the constructive role that we can play, in addition to condemning the violence, in addition to encouraging all sides to participate in the process.
QUESTION: Because it looks like there are no consequences for the military for carrying out the level of violence that is seen on TV cameras around the world right now. What’s your response to that?
MS. PSAKI: I think --
QUESTION: Are there any consequences today, on the part of the U.S. Government, to the Egyptian military?
MS. PSAKI: Well, you’ve seen in recent weeks that we decided not to deliver the F-16s that had been sold, and I’ll just go back to what I stated in the early part of our briefing today, which is that we continue to consider and evaluate our relationship with Egypt, and that of course includes aid.
QUESTION: Sorry, on the F-16s --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- you’ve decided not to deliver them ever, or it’s just a delay?
MS. PSAKI: Well, no, I was referring to the announcement that we made several weeks ago, Matt.
QUESTION: Right, but the question --
MS. PSAKI: Obviously we said the door remains open in the future.
QUESTION: Right. But that was, as you just said, several weeks ago and the question was about today --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and today’s actions by the military.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: You’ve seen this as the third mass killing of Morsy supporters by the military at least – unless I’ve lost count, I think it’s the third big one involving dozens or more than dozens of people. There has been no – there wasn’t any immediate and specific consequence after the first two; there was eventually what you said, the delay of the F-16s.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But the question – Margaret’s question was about, does today’s action by the military draw any consequence since it seems to be the worst of the violence that’s happened?
MS. PSAKI: Well, and I would – let me first just say that I think the Secretary’s statement made clear our deep level of concern given the level of the events overnight. We are constantly reviewing. We continue to review our relationship. That includes aid.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new announcements to make for you at this moment.
QUESTION: Okay. But do you really think that strong words from the podium, no matter who says them, are actually enough to get people to listen to you and to do what you want? Because it’s --
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I don’t, and that’s why --
QUESTION: You don’t, so why isn’t there a solid consequence? Why?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, let me finish. Matt, let me finish. That’s why we have been very engaged on the ground in Egypt. We’ve been engaged working with our counterparts. The Secretary has had countless meetings and calls to try to work – move both sides to a productive path forward. And of course, we continue to review our relationship. That includes aid. And I referenced the F-16s because that was a decision that was made given the situation on the ground.
QUESTION: Okay. And then the other thing, in the phone calls that were made, the Secretary referenced it all during this week, and you just talked about it this week --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and you said that they were discouraging the very type of action that took place today, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Did thy tell you in those phone calls, “We’re not going to listen to you, we’re going to go and do this anyway”?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, they continued to discuss publicly their intentions over the last couple of days. There was no – I don’t think it was a surprise to most people who read the newspaper --
QUESTION: Well, it should have been a --
MS. PSAKI: -- that this was something that was being considered.
QUESTION: Unless they told – but they didn’t say, “Okay, we’re going to take your advice, we’re on board with this”?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any further --
QUESTION: Because when you say that it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anybody, it actually should have come as a surprise to you if you had any expectation that the policy that you’ve pursued since July was going to work, or is working, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, the reason that the Secretary and Deputy Secretary Burns and others have been so engaged is because they were concerned about many of the public statements being made that were suggesting there was going to be a violent clearing of the streets. So the point I’m making is that there has been a lot of public discussion of this, and that’s what I mean by this shouldn’t have come as a surprise.
QUESTION: Right. But if – but then you cannot have honestly had any realistic expectation that your policy would have any impact, if it did not – if this was not a surprise.
MS. PSAKI: Our policy has many components, Matt. It’s not just about calling --
MS. PSAKI: -- for them not to take a step.
QUESTION: Can you make the argument to me that this – that the policy that you’ve pursued since Morsy’s ouster has served well American interests or the interests of regional security or the interests of the – of your allies in the region, outside of Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, we are looking at this over the long term, which is how to get Egypt back on a sustainable democratic path.
QUESTION: And this is the way to get Egypt back on the sustainable democratic track?
MS. PSAKI: We believe the way to get them back on a sustainable path is to end the bloodshed, which we’ve consistently conveyed. We also believe they need to take steps to elect a civilian-led government, draft a constitution, take all the steps they’ve talked about taking, and we’re continuing to push them to move forward on that.
QUESTION: All right, but they have not actually done any of those things yet; is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: They have taken some steps; they need to take more steps, obviously. But we are of course greatly concerned about the situation on the ground.
QUESTION: Which – can you just say which steps it is that you’ve put forward that you – that Deputy Secretary Burns and other officials have put forward that they have taken?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we haven’t outlined those specific constructive steps that Deputy Secretary Burns talked about when he was on the ground, but we knew that taking the step to put in place an interim government, beginning the process of – on a constitution – these are all important steps --
QUESTION: Yeah, but --
MS. PSAKI: -- but they need to take more, and the world is watching --
MS. PSAKI: -- and what happens now moving forward is vitally important.
QUESTION: Well, that’s fine, but what’s happening now and what’s happened in the last 12 hours is they’ve imposed a state of emergency; the civilian vice president has resigned; they’ve appointed provincial governors, all of whom or most – almost all of whom are from the military and the security forces; and they’ve killed 150 people almost.
MS. PSAKI: And we’ve expressed --
QUESTION: How is that – how can you possibly argue that this is serving your policy goal?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I’m arguing that the long-term sustainability – democratic sustainability of Egypt is in our national interest --
QUESTION: I understand that. But I don’t understand how --
MS. PSAKI: -- and our relationship and what the best steps are --
QUESTION: But I don’t --
MS. PSAKI: -- to take to restore that is what our focus is on.
QUESTION: Well, but I don’t understand how the policy that you’re currently pursuing is promoting that goal that you say is in your – is your national interest, and I don’t think you’ve presented an argument that it is. In fact, all the evidence suggests that it’s doing the opposite of what you want it to do.
MS. PSAKI: You heard the Secretary say that when he spoke with the Foreign Minister there was an openness to returning to a path --
QUESTION: After his guys – after the military killed 150 people and took down all these protest camps and sit-ins --
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we’ve shied away from expressing our concern --
QUESTION: -- and implemented emergency law.
MS. PSAKI: -- and expressing the fact that this was a serious blow to reconciliation.
MS. PSAKI: So the question here is how to get back on a path, on a productive path forward, which is where our focus is.
QUESTION: Has anyone thought that getting back on a path --
QUESTION: -- and I’ll stop after this – but has anyone thought that getting back on the path might require actually taking some action to show the military that there are consequences for doing things of which you – for which – of which you disapprove?
MS. PSAKI: We continue to consider and review our relationship, which includes aid. I don’t have any other announcements. And that’s why I referenced the F-16s in the past.
QUESTION: Can I follow up on your comment --
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Arshad.
QUESTION: -- about the Secretary discerning an openness to political dialogue after his conversation with Foreign Minister Fahmy?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have any signs that members of the opposition are still open to dialogue after today’s events, or is that openness that you perceive solely from the government?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we do talk to all sides, and obviously, we’ll continue to do that. You heard the Secretary say that the opposition participating in the process moving forward is a vital component. So I can’t make an evaluation on that. All I can tell you is that we continue to believe that it’s a vital part of the process and that we remain in touch with all sides and we continue to encourage them to participate.
QUESTION: But has he or anybody else from the U.S. Government gotten a signal from the Muslim Brotherhood after today’s events that they’re actually still open to talking?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to update you on on that. Obviously, we’ve been in touch with all sides, but I don’t have any readouts of those particular contacts to tell you about.
QUESTION: Jen, in the --
QUESTION: Can I clarify just a --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead. Go ahead, Michael. Go ahead.
QUESTION: A quick one: In the Secretary’s conversation with the Foreign Minister, did he get a – was Secretary Kerry given any sort of substantive explanation as to why this action was taken, and what leads him to believe that there’s still an opportunity to try to effect some kind of reconciliation? Were there assurances of some kind that this might be a onetime event, that it wouldn’t be repeated, that it would be contained?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have anything really further to read out in terms of what the Foreign Minister conveyed beyond what the Secretary said. But I think the Secretary feels – and this is what he’s conveying to not only officials in Egypt but also officials – his counterparts around the world – that we have no alternative but to try to get back on a path to sustainability here. And that means returning to an inclusive process. That means putting an end to the violence. So I don’t have any promises or anything like that to read out to you, but just to convey that the Secretary will be working overtime, as will all officials, relevant officials in the Administration, to convey that and do everything possible.
QUESTION: And is it fair to say that you had no advance alert or notification that this was to be taken, that you learned about it the same way everyone else did?
MS. PSAKI: In terms of – obviously, as I stated before, there had been a lot of public statements about this possibility. And certainly, as I mentioned, the Secretary and others have been in contact about our concerns about those actions. But in terms of the exact hour, not that I’m aware of.
QUESTION: Jen, what the Secretary mentioned, constructive dialogue that Bill Burns presented in Egypt, can you share with us what led to the impasse in your opinion? How did the reconciliation process collapse completely?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t know that I have a totally satisfying answer for you, other than to convey that Deputy Secretary Burns was on the ground for a number of days, as was High Representative Ashton, as were a number of other officials, including the Qataris and the Emiratis, many who have a desire to see a productive and peaceful process, peaceful reconciliation process moving forward.
But ultimately, it’s not up to the United States, it’s not even in the power of the United States or other countries, to make that happen. It’s up to the Egyptian people and Egyptian parties to make that happen, and those are steps that they need to take.
QUESTION: I understand that. But my point is, from the United States perspective you presented ideas, and what happened to these ideas? Was it the Muslim Brotherhood rejected it? Was it the military or the interim government? I mean, somebody obviously did not agree with your ideas.
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have anything further to read out for you. I don’t think it would be productive to continue to encourage the process to move forward.
QUESTION: Okay, and just one follow-up --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- about the events. Putting the violence aside, doesn’t just imposing a martial law, which is remind us of the Mubarak years, isn’t that a good enough reason for the U.S. to cut off the immediate aid to the Egyptian military, considering they’re the most beneficial from this aid?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me just take this opportunity to just convey – and the Secretary did this briefly in his remarks – that we strongly oppose a return to the state of emergency in Egypt, just as we opposed the imposition of the emergency law when the Mubarak regime implemented it and used it to arrest citizens and detain them without the filing of criminal charges. We urge the interim government and the military to end the state of emergency immediately and to create an atmosphere where Egyptians on all sides can peacefully exercise their right to freedom of assembly and expression. We urge the interim government and military to ensure that any citizens arrested by police or military are referred only to civilian courts.
In terms of what would impact our relationship, including aid, I don’t have any other specifics to read out for you, other than to convey that, obviously, the world is watching Egypt, the world is watching the steps that are taken. You heard the Secretary convey what he feels we need to do moving forward, and of course, he was speaking on behalf of the Administration.
QUESTION: The Secretary said “as soon as possible.” I don’t believe – I don’t recall the Secretary saying immediately. I seem to recall him saying that the state of emergency should be removed as soon as possible, which to me suggested – I mean, that was a question I was going to ask you. Why not call for it immediately? Why did he say “as soon as possible” and not “immediately?”
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think the intention was to convey a different meeting – meaning, Arshad.
QUESTION: But he did say just “as soon as possible,” not immediately.
MS. PSAKI: It’s a – has a very close meaning. I don’t think he was intending --
QUESTION: As soon as possible is very different from immediately, it seems to me.
MS. PSAKI: As soon – immediately, as soon as possible. I don’t have anything further than to convey --
QUESTION: So it’s both?
MS. PSAKI: -- that we would like to happen as quickly as possible, immediately. There’s not a – there was not an intention to convey something different.
MS. PSAKI: We all would like to see an end.
QUESTION: So immediately, if possible, but as quickly thereafter immediately if it’s – if it makes sense?
MS. PSAKI: That is a very --
QUESTION: Is that the idea?
MS. PSAKI: -- long answer, Matt. But my point is --
QUESTION: In other words, it’s immediately or not.
MS. PSAKI: Immediately, as soon as possible.
QUESTION: Or as soon as possible.
MS. PSAKI: As soon as possible.
QUESTION: Words matter.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not conveying words don’t matter, Arshad. They certainly do. But I think what you often – everybody often asks about, which is what was the intention of it, so that was what I was trying to convey to you.
QUESTION: Okay, I understand.
QUESTION: Let me just clarify a few things with you, if I may. The first is the actual policy of the Administration as expressed by Josh Earnest today. I’m a little confused by his comments; I’m sure the trouble resides with me. Is it the policy of the Obama Administration right now that it is not making any determination whether a coup has taken place, or it is not making the determination that a coup took place?
MS. PSAKI: I won’t be tricked by your self-deprecation. (Laughter.) I will – our policy has been – it continues to be today – that we are not making a determination about whether a coup took place.
QUESTION: Any determination about what had happened.
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: And why isn’t it incumbent on the United States to make a determination one way or the other?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we looked at our legal requirements and determined that we were not required to make a determination, which I realize is a mouthful. But our larger – if I can just make one more point here --
MS. PSAKI: -- and then I’ll let you continue – our larger issue here is not about this particular question. It’s about what our relationship is with Egypt, how we can continue to encourage all sides to move back to an inclusive process that will end the bloodshed, bring about a sustainable democracy. That’s where our focus is. So we look at everything through the prism of what is the impact on national security, what is the impact on regional stability, how can we best play a productive role.
QUESTION: The reason I ask that question, before moving on to the other things I wanted you to clarify very quickly, is because I think we can all agree that one of the reasons the United States carries moral weight around the world is because it aspires, at least, to stand for truth --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and for honesty and for facts and for the open expression of real ideas with meaning. And when the spokesman for the – or the spokespeople for the Department of State and the White House dance around an issue and refuse to call a spade a spade and refuse to call a situation where the military has forcibly taken power and is shooting people in the streets a coup d’etat, I think it’s fair to wonder whether or not the moral weight and the moral force of the United States is eroded by those kinds of evasions. Your thoughts?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I appreciate your question. I think – in – as people in the world, as people in the United States look at the challenging situation on the ground in Egypt, I think there is an understanding that this is complicated, that it’s not black and white, that we need to look at this through the prism of how we can help Egypt return to a path to stability, how we can end the bloodshed. And that’s what we’re making our decisions through the prism of.
QUESTION: New matters here, really quickly: Is it the view of the United States that the gatherings of Morsy protesters who were set upon today was a completely peaceful assembly?
MS. PSAKI: Well, most reports did convey that, but there has been some violence from both sides that’s been reported. Obviously, the situation on the ground is very volatile. I know many of you have correspondents on the ground, and people are trying to determine all of the facts. But there are no question – there’s no question, as the Secretary said, that the interim government and the military have the preponderance of power here broadly in Egypt, and that’s why he conveyed the message as he did.
QUESTION: In his conversation with the Secretary, did Mr. ElBaradei make clear any intention on his part to continue playing some kind of role in public life in Egypt outside of his old office that he occupied --
MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, James.
QUESTION: You earlier mentioned that it is the position of the Department of State that you do not see what’s taking place in Egypt as a civil war.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Without getting too academic, I just wonder why you take that view and what conditions of a civil war you see as not being present in order to take that view.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the question is: Are we at that point? We don’t believe we’re at that point. Certainly, we remain concerned about the violence, we remain concerned about the events on the ground, as we’ve clearly conveyed. I don’t have an exact definition for all of you, but that is not how we view the circumstances at this point.
QUESTION: Two final things.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Secretary, in his remarks just now, referenced the ideas that had been put on the table in his various conversations and in Bill Burns’ various conversations.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: From your remarks in this briefing, I gather you do not feel at liberty to sketch out for us at all what those ideas are.
MS. PSAKI: I do not. Our goal here – it would make it easier for me if I did, wouldn’t it?
QUESTION: And for me.
MS. PSAKI: And for you. Our goal here is to take the steps that will help all parties move towards a productive path forward. And we know they’ve had a number of conversations about what those constructive steps are, what we feel they are, but it’s ultimately up to them to take those steps.
QUESTION: Last thing.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Thank you for your indulgence. Can you assure us that the events of the past 12 to 16 hours, and more broadly, the events since July 3, have not served to disrupt Egyptian participation in counterterrorism efforts either with the Israelis and/or the United States in the Sinai and elsewhere?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe I have anything on that to read out for you. Obviously, we remain concerned about the Sinai. That’s something that we’ve talked about extensively in the past; that remains the case. But beyond that, I don’t think I have an update for you on that.
QUESTION: Let me put it simpler – more simply --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Has counterterrorism cooperation with Egypt suffered since July 3rd?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on that for you, honestly. I would have to talk to our team about what concerns, if any, we have along that front.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Do you have any response to the criticism that Senator McCain put out today via a tweet where he basically said that Secretary Kerry’s comments in the past, particularly in Pakistan, were certainly not helpful to the situation?
MS. PSAKI: I didn’t see the tweet, so I’m not sure what comments he was referencing. Obviously, Senator McCain is a free citizen and one who can speak his mind. That doesn’t mean we always agree with him.
QUESTION: And to that point, actually, one of the main criticisms that you – that we’re hearing out of Egypt is that Egyptians tend to think that they don’t understand why so many different U.S. officials are saying so many different things.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Is that something that Secretary Kerry has expressed in his dealings with Egyptian officials? How are we sort of communicating that different U.S. officials can have different opinions, but it doesn’t mean that there’s confusion about U.S. policy?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly conveyed publicly and privately that Deputy Secretary Burns was on the ground, speaking on behalf of the U.S. Government. Of course, there are a range of opinions and a range of officials who have visited Egypt and may visit Egypt in the future, and we certainly understand that. Obviously, the Secretary came out here today in part because we felt it was important – given the events, he felt it was important – given the events overnight and this morning, to clearly convey where the United States stands, where our concerns are, and where we think things should go moving forward. And of course, he does speak on behalf of the United States Government and our views.
QUESTION: (Off-mike.)
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, in the back.
QUESTION: You mentioned that there was a talk with Ashton yesterday, I think, and today --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and of course, in your answering different question, you said the idea – the Secretary mentioned the practical ideas, which were mentioned. Is there a – what is – do you have a readout of these talks with Ashton, or there – is there any plan to move on? Because the word, the expression, “the world is watching,” watching is not enough. I mean, if something going --
MS. PSAKI: We agree with you, and that’s why Deputy Secretary Burns has spent time on the ground, why the Secretary has been engaged with officials in Egypt, with his counterparts. He spoke with High Representative Ashton because – and they speak regularly – but because, as you know, she has played an important role here, as has Deputy Secretary Burns, in working with all sides to encourage them to move towards a peaceful reconciliation process here. So they were discussing where things stand and how we can work together moving forward.
QUESTION: Just to clarify my question, or try to clarify it: I’m trying to figure out, from now on --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- the possibility or the necessity of doing something similar or not, is this discussed or not?
MS. PSAKI: Doing something similar in what way?
QUESTION: In joint effort, European-American effort, to play a role or put ideas on the ground or --
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly continue to work with the EU through High Representative Ashton and through a number of counterparts in the region – the Qataris, the Emiratis, the Turks, too – to all work towards encouraging Egyptians to move forward on a productive path. So we will continue to work with them, absolutely.
QUESTION: Moving forward – and you used the expression before that the story is not done or is not closed --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- but it seems from the narrative is coming or the announcement coming from Egypt today that both sides are almost saying that we did what we want to do – this is the military or the government – and the other side’s saying it’s over, I mean, we are not going to play the same game again, which is politics and democracy and all this thing. What make you come to that conclusion that we can encourage both sides to be together again?
MS. PSAKI: We think that’s the only path to end the bloodshed and to return to a sustainable democracy in the future. Okay?
QUESTION: Yes, please --
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: -- there’s just one last question.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The Turkish Prime Minister asked for like UN – whatever you call it – Security Council to have a meeting and talk about --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- possibility of UN interference or discuss this issue. Do you have anything to say about it? Or do you still think that it has to be done in Egypt by the Egyptian and without any international or whatever interference?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we certainly do think that ultimately a productive path forward will be determined by the Egyptian people and parties from all sides. I’m happy to check with our team and see on the UN-specific question if there’s anything more we have to add on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Mike.
QUESTION: Jen, I think you characterized it earlier with the events of the last 12 hours as a significant bump in the road, and the goal of U.S. policy is stability. This is not a civil war is something you also said --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- in characterizing what’s happening there. Is that the definition of instability? I mean, if this isn’t instability, what does instability look like? And what is the threshold by which you would suspend aid to Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this is a – it’s a complicated situation on the ground, Mike. So there isn’t a one criteria, two criteria. We’re constantly evaluating our relationship with Egypt, which includes, of course, aid. But we do feel that it continues to be important to work with officials from both sides to move back towards a path forward. And that’s where our focus is as well.
In terms of instability, I don’t have a definition for you of that, aside to say that – aside from saying that, obviously, the events overnight and the bloodshed that we have seen is, of course, greatly concerning. It’s a bump – it’s not only a bump in the road, it certainly is a blow to the reconciliation process. But our focus needs to be how can we get back on a productive path forward.
QUESTION: Seeing how --
QUESTION: Can we return to something that James --
MS. PSAKI: Oh, sure. We’ll go to you next, Said.
QUESTION: -- the James started to go on, just the idea of the moral authority or the moral weight that the Administration or the United States has had. You may be too young to remember the origin of the phrase the world --
MS. PSAKI: I just look young, Matt.
QUESTION: -- or “the whole world is watching.”
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you know what that origin is?
QUESTION: Okay. So it does imply and has been used by protesters in the past to imply some kind of moral superiority or moral high ground in dealing with this. Are you not concerned at all that the Administration’s policy since Morsy’s overthrow has cost the United States some of its moral authority, some of its moral credibility, and some of the weight that it had – once had?
MS. PSAKI: In Egypt?
QUESTION: Yes. The policy in Egypt.
MS. PSAKI: Well, our policy – we understand – I know there’s been a lot of misinformation out there. We certainly are aware of that as an issue. But our policy has been to call to – for an to violence, encourage an inclusive path forward, and convey that it’s up to the Egyptian people.
QUESTION: Right. But you would reject the idea that your policy in Egypt has cost you some of your moral authority, moral standing, moral weight, as an international being?
MS. PSAKI: We certainly would.
QUESTION: Would? Okay, so then forgetting – putting the moral question --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- completely aside, in terms of effectiveness, and I want to go back to this, can – do you think that the policy you have pursued thus far has promoted any of the ultimate, long-term goals that you have for Egypt?
MS. PSAKI: We can’t make an evaluation on what steps have been taken and how effective they are going to be until we see this story continue. Obviously, we’re in the middle of a very volatile situation --
MS. PSAKI: -- in Egypt. There’s no question about that.
QUESTION: Right. But I’m not asking you to grade the final results, because clearly you would argue that they’re incomplete. I think at least that you would argue that they’re – that it’s incomplete.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But what I want to know is up to this point, has your policy produced anything in Egypt that remotely resembles getting on track to the goal that you want to see?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we have seen steps taken – some steps, including an interim government being put in place and calls for elections, democratically elected – elections.
QUESTION: Okay. So you do not believe that the – that today’s events, and particularly the imposition of the state of emergency, return to martial law, resignation of the civilian vice president, affect – have – are --
MS. PSAKI: We – you’re mixing up several things.
QUESTION: No, no, I’m just – I’m trying to figure out if you do not think that that is an interruption in the alleged progress that you say that you have seen.
MS. PSAKI: We have said and I’ll say again that it was a serious blow to the reconciliation process.
QUESTION: All right. But it doesn’t --
MS. PSAKI: But our focus is on getting back on track.
QUESTION: So it – so you do not believe that it has been completely derailed?
MS. PSAKI: We think there’s still a window of opportunity here to continue the dialogue and get the process back on track.
MS. PSAKI: I promised Said next.
Go ahead.
QUESTION: I have one – another topic. If you want to talk about Egypt, go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Oh. Okay. Go ahead, Dana.
QUESTION: There have been a number of journalists that have been injured and killed and targeted. In the conversations that the Secretary has had, has the respect for freedom of press and protecting journalists come up at all?
MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s certainly something that the Secretary believes strongly in and conveys on a regular basis publicly and privately. I know he’s only had a few calls today, so I’d have to check if that was a specific part of what was discussed today. But certainly he was personally concerned by those reports, and obviously it’s tragic anytime any innocent civilian is targeted, and of course, people who are trying to convey and tell a story.
QUESTION: I wonder if you have anything to share with us about the status of the talks in Jerusalem.
MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, they are underway --
QUESTION: I understand, (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: -- as you may be aware.
QUESTION: I am fully aware.
MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) So they are taking place, of course, today in Jerusalem. I know you all are aware of this but let me just reiterate who will be representing all sides. The Israelis will be representative – represented by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Yitzhak Molho, and the Palestinians will be represented by Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat and Mohammad Shtayyeh. I’m sure I butchered that last name
QUESTION: No, you got it.
MS. PSAKI: Okay, thank you.
QUESTION: Excellent.
MS. PSAKI: The aim, of course, as we have said previously about these talks, is to have the parties engage in sustained and continuous negotiations with all final status issues on the table. And I believe as my colleague, Marie, has said before, we aren’t planning to read out the substance of these meetings or every step that takes place as this process continues.
QUESTION: Yesterday, I asked Marie if she was expecting for the Minister of Housing to announce the new settlement, and in fact, he did today. So what is your reaction to that – right before the meeting?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that you discussed this at length --
QUESTION: At length, yes, right.
MS. PSAKI: -- over the last two days. Our position has not changed. We don’t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity. These announcements come at a particularly sensitive time with the negotiations continuing in the region. As you know, the Secretary spoke with – and I believe this was right after the briefing yesterday – but he spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu yesterday. He also spoke with President Abbas. Certainly, this issue was a part of those conversations, and he stressed to both parties the importance of taking steps to create a positive atmosphere.
But of course, the talks are continuing today. This is even more reason for why these talks should continue and why we are encouraging them to continue. And that’s where we stand.
QUESTION: Back in 1978, President Carter said that, quote, “We don’t see these settlements as being legal.” Why can’t you say that they aren’t legal?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into legal interpretations from the podium, but I think I just stated our position.
QUESTION: Just logistically, are they going to decide at this meeting when to have the Jericho meeting? Or has that already been decided?
MS. PSAKI: That will be part of the discussion, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Why did it start so late?
MS. PSAKI: In the day?
QUESTION: 9:00 p.m.
MS. PSAKI: I don't have any particular readout on the timing.
QUESTION: You don’t know?
MS. PSAKI: It may have been aligning all of the schedules of all the parties.
QUESTION: All right. Now, on – I had a couple questions that Marie said she would take yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: The first of them had to deal with the Palestinian prisoners who were released yesterday.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: At that point, they hadn’t been released. I was expecting – I waited up all night long for the TQ to my questions, and I never got them.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, I hate to hear that.
QUESTION: Yeah. So one, does the U.S. take a position on what these prisoners who were released were or are – well, what were they when they were in prison? Were they terrorists, as Israel says, or were they freedom fighters/political prisoners, as the Palestinians say? Or does it not really matter to you?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t put either of those labels – the way that this group is – has been categorized or the way we would is that these prisoners – these were prisoners who have been in detention since pre-Oslo. We don’t feel we need to give any further definition or name. And we, of course, have seen what has come out from both sides.
QUESTION: Do you object to the Palestinians in particular talking about these people as freedom fighters, as heroes for the Palestinian cause, when they were tried – accused, tried, and convicted of some pretty heinous crimes?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think we – I just outlined for you how we define them.
QUESTION: No, no. I --
MS. PSAKI: Of course, people are going to --
QUESTION: -- it’s – I understand that you don’t care to or want to or see the need to put a definition on them.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: But I’m wondering if it’s problematic to you that the Palestinians put labels on them, call them heroes and freedom fighters, and generally talk about them with great pride, when they were accused, tried, and convicted of very heinous crimes?
MS. PSAKI: Well, making an evaluation of that and the names the Palestinians are using is not our focus here.
QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t object to the Palestinians calling them whatever they want to.
MS. PSAKI: It’s not object or condone. It’s not – I just told you --
QUESTION: No, right. I mean --
MS. PSAKI: -- how we define them. And beyond that --
QUESTION: No, it doesn’t – it’s not an issue for you, is what you’re saying?
MS. PSAKI: Beyond that, I don't have any more on that particular --
QUESTION: All right. Now in terms of the line – the standard line, we don’t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- the Secretary seemed to use a variation of that the other day when he was in South America. I believe you were there for it.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: He said the United States doesn’t see all of the settlement activity as legitimate. Is it correct that – is that correct, that all settlement activity is illegitimate? And I don't want to get into this illegitimate or illegal, because as far as I’m concerned it’s a distinction without a difference. Does the United States believe that all Israeli settlement activity along – and we can include in that East Jerusalem construction – is all of it illegitimate?
MS. PSAKI: Well, our position on Jerusalem has been clear and has been consistent for some time, which is that we believe it is a final status issue in terms of the discussion of that – of Jerusalem, right?
MS. PSAKI: That is part of the discussion. We have, of course, expressed concerns about construction in East Jerusalem. That hasn’t changed. Our position on settlements we have stated a number of times, and I just stated, and that has not changed either.
QUESTION: Okay. So you do not regard the construction in East Jerusalem as illegitimate. Is that correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I just stated what we – what our longstanding position has been on construction.
QUESTION: (Off-mike.)
QUESTION: But it’s not – hold on, Said. But it’s not that it’s illegitimate?
MS. PSAKI: I don't have anything more than what I just stated.
QUESTION: Because it is a final status issue?
MS. PSAKI: It is a final status issue that we discussed and worked through.
QUESTION: So one of the questions – okay. So one of the questions that I had that Marie said she would take yesterday --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- was about the 900 homes that were announced for construction in East Jerusalem. Is it fair to say you do not regard those as illegitimate?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we – in terms of those specific – that specific announcement --
MS. PSAKI: -- you know we oppose any unilateral action. Certainly we would include this, that attempt to prejudge final status issues, including the status of Jerusalem. That’s where that building is taking place. That’s our view on it.
QUESTION: Okay. So you’re opposed to it, but you don’t say that it’s illegitimate?
MS. PSAKI: I think you know our position.
QUESTION: Okay. So in terms of illegitimacy then, this legitimacy issue, are existing settlements illegitimate in the eyes of the Administration in the West Bank? Settlements in the West Bank that currently exist now, are they illegitimate, meaning that they should not be part of Israel once there is a peace agreement?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, the question of borders will be worked through and is part of the discussion that will take place and will be ongoing in the weeks and months ahead.
QUESTION: So are existing settlements illegitimate?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have concerns about ongoing continued settlement activity.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you understand that there’s a serious problem here? Because if you talk about – if all you’re prepared to say is that you don’t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity, you are only calling illegitimate settlements that have not been announced, settlements that are, say, a twinkle in the Housing Minister or whoever’s eye. Once they are actually announced or built, you stop calling them illegitimate, and they – and you start saying that that’s a – that’s something to be decided between the parties. Okay?
MS. PSAKI: Well, this has been our position for a number of years.
QUESTION: That’s – well, right. But --
MS. PSAKI: So --
QUESTION: And I’m surprised that no one, and especially me, has picked up on this before, because you have essentially – you don’t oppose settlements at all, because once they’re built or once they’re announced, once plans for them – plans to build them are announced, you’re not opposed to them anymore, because it’s something for the parties to decide whether they’re legitimate or not.
MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly it will be – a big part of the discussion will be that process moving forward.
QUESTION: Right. Do you understand the problem? Do you understand the --
MS. PSAKI: I understand what you’re conveying, Matt. I’m happy to talk back with our team and see if there’s any more clarification we can provide.
QUESTION: Okay. So tell me, am I wrong in thinking that the United States has no position at all except that it is to be decided by the parties on the legitimacy or illegitimacy of settlements that exist in the West Bank today?
MS. PSAKI: I believe you are wrong, Matt. We’ll get you some more clarification.
QUESTION: You believe I’m wrong? Okay.
MS. PSAKI: We’ll get you some more clarification.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- in fact, your longstanding position, going back all the way to 1967, and through George Herbert Walker Bush when he was representative at the United Nations, and on to Andrew Young, and on and on and on, that the settlement, that Jerusalem – East Jerusalem, the West Bank, all territory occupied is contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention, and any alteration stands contrary to that, that you will not support. That is your position, not to reconcile yourself to the facts on the ground, as has been suggested.
MS. PSAKI: Duly noted.
QUESTION: Same topic?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.
QUESTION: Given the fact that those new settlements were announced just in the last, what, 24 hours or so --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and the peace talks went forward, what is it that you pledged, promised to the Palestinians to keep them from walking out?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, it was a decision made by both sides to return to the negotiating table. Obviously we’re playing a facilitating role, but there was a belief by both sides that this was an important time to move forward and to work through to have these direct negotiations. Beyond that, I’m not going to peel the curtain back on any specific discussions.
QUESTION: And forgive me if I missed it --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- but what exactly is the role of Ambassador Indyk and Mr. Lowenstein --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- in the current round of talks?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, they have been on the ground since this weekend. They’ve been engaged in a range of meetings with both parties. The meeting today is between both parties, and Ambassador Indyk is certainly available as a facilitator, but I think some of that will be determined as the meeting commences and as the days unfold. But they’re playing a facilitator role, so there are some meetings that they will be in, they will be meeting with both parties, but there will be meetings like today where it’s between the two parties.
QUESTION: And if by chance he or Mr. Lowenstein were to join in meetings today or tomorrow --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- would you let us know that?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to see if that’s some information we could provide.
QUESTION: Sorry, do you expect – maybe I missed this – is this meeting going to continue through tomorrow? Is that --
MS. PSAKI: It’s a meeting scheduled for today, but again, they’ll determine what the next step is, I’m certain, today. So --
QUESTION: But right now you’re not aware of any plans for them to have a second or --
MS. PSAKI: No, I’m not aware for it to continue, but I think Arshad’s asking --
QUESTION: I phrased it that way --
QUESTION: Oh, okay.
QUESTION: -- because it started late --
MS. PSAKI: Right.
QUESTION: Nine p.m., so it could go in --
QUESTION: -- so it could go into tomorrow, and I want to be able to --
MS. PSAKI: Till 12:01 a.m.
QUESTION: Okay. And --
QUESTION: I want to know whether Indyk or Lowenstein take part.
MS. PSAKI: Understood. I will see if there’s more we can provide on that front.
QUESTION: And then I just wanted to make sure that I’m still correct that Jericho, when it happens --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- will be the third and not just a continuation of the second meeting.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think we’re going to define it that way. They’re going to determine what is next, whether there’s a Jericho meeting tomorrow or in a week, in two weeks. That hasn’t been determined yet.
QUESTION: New topic?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does the State Department have any comment on Doctors Without Borders closing all of its Somali operations for the first time in 22 years?
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I do. We are disheartened by the conditions that have forced Doctors Without Borders to withdraw from Somalia. While some progress has been made by the African Union Mission in Somalia and the Somali national security forces to improve security, kidnappings, attacks on civilians, and the recent al-Shabaab attacks on the UN and Turkish facilities underscores that security in Somalia remains a critical concern. Unfortunately, al-Shabaab has continued to demonstrate their intent to disrupt the efforts of aid workers. We condemn any actions to impede humanitarian aid efforts, including attacks on aid workers and those they are trying to help.
QUESTION: Sorry, just a quick follow-up.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The president of MSF actually said that it was not just Shabaab --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- that part of the reason why they are closing their doors is because – they’ve been operating when Shabaab has existed – is because – the final straw is that there was – they have evidence of collusion and support from the new government in terms of these attacks and the harassment happening. Given that the United States has put over a billion dollars --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- into kicking out Shabaab, into building up this new government, have there been conversations with the new Somali Government? Is this something that you are bringing up with them? What is the view on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we have, and just on the – on how much we have provided: We’ve obligated approximately 137 million to support the Somali national security forces since 2007.
QUESTION: But that’s just this year. But when you add AMISOM --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- which is part of all of that --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- that’s over a billion dollars.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. I’d have to check with our team and see if that’s an issue of concern that we’ve discussed with them on the ground. And I know it’s a range of factors; that was a big factor that impacted the decision.
QUESTION: So you don’t know whether there’s been discussions with the Somali Government about this?
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to talk to our Africa team and see how much more detail there is on that.
QUESTION: Staying on – do you have anything new on Zimbabwe and the elections?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe I have anything new for you today, Arshad, but I’m happy to check with our team and see if we have an update on that for you as well.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) Japan.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: We know that August 15th marks the anniversary of Japan’s surrender in World War II, and we notice that the Japan unveils biggest warship since Second World War, which have riled some tensions in that region. Have been in contact with the Japanese Government recently regarding these issues?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been in regular contact with them. Are you – you’re referring to the unveiling of the naval vessel, or referring --
QUESTION: And also the anniversary of Japan’s surrender at the Second World War.
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we remain committed to our deep and longstanding alliance with Japan. We consult regularly, of course, with the Japanese Government on our respective forces’ roles, missions, and capabilities to ensure that our alliance is always ready to carry out its mission, to protect Japan and to maintain peace and stability in the region. I don’t have any recent calls to read out for you. Of course, our bureau is in very close contact.
QUESTION: And also, we noticed that the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, said he will not visit Yasukuni Shrine for war’s end this year.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So do you have any comments on that?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Government of Japan on that particular question.
Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: South and North Korea reached an agreement to reopen the Kaesong Complex --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- which has been closed for four months. It still remains on a working level, but it is obviously an improvement in the talks.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: So what is your response (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we support improved – and long have supported improved – inter-Korean relations and welcome news that the South Korean and North Korean Governments have agreed to reopen the Kaesong Industrial Complex. We’ll continue close coordination with our allies and partners in the region, and beyond that I would refer you to the Government of South Korea there.
QUESTION: Following up on North Korea --
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: -- I think it was recently announced that Robert King was going to travel to the region.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, yes.
QUESTION: Is Kenneth Bae’s well-being one of the subjects of his visit?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first convey – I don’t know if this is part of your question, but he has no plans to travel to North Korea. Certainly, the well-being of Mr. Bae is of utmost importance and one that we remain concerned about. We have actively sought to secure his release, and we remain very concerned about his health, as you’ve seen recent reports of that.
I think that Marie may have mentioned this yesterday or the day before, but we were able – our Swedish protecting power was able to see him late last week, and that was not something we had been able to do for quite some time. But we remain in regular contact with North Korea through the Embassy of Sweden and through our own channels and in close contact with his family and certainly are very focused on it.
QUESTION: Even though Ambassador King doesn’t have any plans to go to North Korea --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- on this trip, it is – is it still correct that you’re open to considering the idea of sending an official to North Korea to assist with his – or to assist in getting him out? That was what he himself said in his interview. He asked --
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and I just want – and Marie said yesterday that you’re open to all sorts of ideas, so I just want to check that that’s still – because the King – announcement of King’s travel came after the briefing.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, he has no plans to travel there, so beyond that I don’t have any other updates for you.
QUESTION: So it is not the case that you’re open to sending an envoy?
MS. PSAKI: That is not something that we’re planning right now.
QUESTION: But – okay. And then I had one more but now I can’t remember what it was. Oh, right. The other thing was about this German intelligence sharing.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Do you have anything to add to what Marie said yesterday on whether or not there is going to be a new intel agreement negotiated with the Germans?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe I have anything to add to what she said yesterday. We obviously have close coordination and close contact with the Germans about a range of issues including intelligence, but beyond that I don’t have any other update.
QUESTION: Do you know if there’s been any attempt to speak with Chancellor Merkel’s chief of staff about the comments that he made to clarify --
MS. PSAKI: Or whether there’s been any contact?
QUESTION: Yeah, to clarify – to ask him to clarify his – what he meant when he said that negotiations would start soon.
MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that. I’m happy to do that for you.
MS. PSAKI: Great. Thanks, everyone.
QUESTION: Thank you.
(The briefing was concluded at 3:44 p.m.)

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