State Department Briefing by Jen Psaki, Feb. 27, 2014

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 27, 2014.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Russia / Territorial Integrity / U.S. Supports People of Ukraine
    • Regime Actions against Delegates to the Geneva Talks
    • Detained Journalists / Media Freedom
    • Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
    • Engagement through the OAS / U.S.-Venezuela Relationship
    • Human Rights Report / Concerns about Communal Violence
    • U.S. Ambassador Engaged with Range of Officials
    • Situation on the Korean Peninsula / Global Security and Proliferation Threat
    • Ambassador Shapiro’s Meeting / Unauthorized Reporting
    • Special Advisor Casey’s Meetings
    • Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Upcoming Visit
    • Next Step / Framework
    • Financial Assistance



2:42 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.


MS. PSAKI: I know it’s already been a busy day. I don’t have anything at the top, so let’s get to what’s on your mind, Matt.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I – it seems like everything or most of everything has already been covered today.


QUESTION: But I do have one small thing on Ukraine —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — to follow up on what the Secretary just said with Foreign Minister Steinmeier upstairs.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: He said that he had spoken to Foreign Minister Lavrov and gotten – and that Lavrov had repeated his assurances about Russia respecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Secretary then said actions – or it’s words are words and we’ll just need the next few days. I’m just wondering if, given – particularly in light of the fact that the Georgians were here yesterday and what the Secretary said in the Georgia meeting about the Russians in 2008 saying and signing – agreeing to respect Georgia’s territorial integrity, I’m wondering if you would acknowledge or could acknowledge that the Russian track record on respecting territorial integrity of other countries, particularly in the former Soviet Union, is not a good one?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, you heard the Secretary himself say, in addition to what you just pointed out, that around the world with almost any issue, it’s not just about what you say, it’s about what you do. And that is certainly the case here. Certainly, we’re familiar with the history. The Secretary has talked about that before. Obviously, we’re going to look closely and watch closely what steps the Russians take in the days and weeks ahead.

QUESTION: I guess I’m just wondering what you can – what your confidence is in the Russians actually doing what they will say given their dismal track record at – on this specific – on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we certainly take their word, but we also —


MS. PSAKI: — will be watching closely to see that they follow up their word with actions.

QUESTION: Okay. So the Georgia situation and the fact that Russian troops remain in Abkhazia and South Ossetia does not cause you any particular concern as it relates to Ukraine and their promises to respect the territorial integrity of that country?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s what I said. Obviously, if we didn’t have concerns about all parties respecting territorial integrity, we wouldn’t be raising it every day. The Secretary probably wouldn’t have spoken with Foreign Minister Lavrov —


MS. PSAKI: — and he wouldn’t have said what he said yesterday about how detrimental any intervention would be. But again, he was reporting on what was told to him during a conversation —


MS. PSAKI: — and we’re going to be watching to see if they deliver on that.

QUESTION: Right. No, I – but I’m trying to find out what your confidence level is in the Russians sticking to what they’re – what they have said they would do.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I appreciate the opportunity, but I’m not going to give a percentage of my confidence level.

QUESTION: Well, I was wondering if it’s high, low, or if you’re completely neutral about it.

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re hardly neutral. Obviously, when we say we’re watching and actions speak louder than words, that indicates that we feel that we need to see what happens, not just watch the words.

QUESTION: Okay. All right. Well, then that suggests that you have not that much confidence in what they’re saying. Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: It suggests that we’re going to trust but verify, or verify and verify, as we often say.


QUESTION: Can I go to Syria, if that’s okay?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, is there any more on Ukraine? I know we’ve talked a bit about it. Can we just do the one last on Ukraine? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah, (inaudible) from Spiegel magazine.

MS. PSAKI: Hello.

QUESTION: The German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier just pointed out that he said it’s not the time to pull Ukraine towards the West. Is that how the Secretary sees it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think you heard the Secretary himself also say this is not about the United States and the views of the United States, it’s not about the views of Russia, it’s not about the views of any country. It’s about the views of the people of Ukraine. And the people of Ukraine have been very clear in the past couple of months about what they feel is the best path forward for them. So their path is going to be determined by their choices. Obviously, they took an important step over the last 24 hours with the new government. You heard the Secretary welcome that. And they have a number of steps to take in the weeks and months ahead.

Go ahead. Syria?

QUESTION: Yes, please. I’d like to go back to the statement you sent out last night about – excuse me – the family members of the opposition delegation to the Geneva II talks who have been reportedly arrested in – by the Syrian Government. Could you give us some more details? How many people are we talking about? When did this happen? How did you hear about this? Do you know where they’re being held? And have you – since your statement went out last night, have you had any assurances from the Syrian Government about their fate and whether they’re planning to release them now?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I really don’t have additional details right now. Let me check with our team and see if we have any available that can be shared. The reason we sent the statement out is because we were so concerned about, of course, the actions that were being taken, what we were hearing was happening, reports of what was happening, and so we wanted to send a strong message on that. But I’m happy to circle back and see if there’s more we can convey on specifics.

QUESTION: Can I just ask how you heard about this? Was it from the opposition delegation themselves? How did this information come to you?

MS. PSAKI: I really don’t have more details on that. Obviously, we are in close touch with many members of the opposition, as you know, so I’m certain some information came from there. But if there’s more we can share on the specifics, I’m happy to share that with all of you.

QUESTION: You don’t even know how many? I mean, I know you mentioned one specifically, the brother of Mahmoud Sabra.

MS. PSAKI: We did in the statement, yeah. I don’t have additional details on that, on the numbers.

QUESTION: But you’re certain it’s more than one? You’re talking about family members, plural?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. And targeting was part of what we talked about in the statement as well.

QUESTION: Of different members of the delegation?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. And you also talked about their assets being seized, and do you have details of that too?

MS. PSAKI: I really don’t have more details than what we shared in the statement last night. It was sending a strong message about our concerns about what we were hearing, what the reports were. But again, I’m happy to circle back with our team and see if there’s more to share. And we can, of course, connect you directly with the people who know more specifics as well.

QUESTION: Okay. And do you have any direct links at the moment with the Syrian Government itself, I mean with the Foreign Minister Muallim or —

MS. PSAKI: Well, you know we’ve long had ways of engaging or connecting with the Syrian Government. I don’t have any updates to provide for you at this point.

QUESTION: So you haven’t been able to talk to them directly about this, then?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to convey to you. I don’t have any updates on that. Obviously, beyond the statement we put out last night, and I conveyed why we did it, I’m happy, again, to check and see if there are more details to share.


MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, as you know, some journalists, like 20 journalists, are being held in prisons inside Egypt. Four of Al Jazeera journalists are there.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What do you make of these practices by the Egyptian interim government? I mean, is this a government – these are practices by a government who will take Egypt into the road of democracy and human rights?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I appreciate your question, and I know that Al Jazeera is trying to do – to raise awareness about this important issue and the issue of media freedom in general, which we feel very strongly about. Of course, we remain deeply concerned about the ongoing lack of freedom of expression and press freedoms in Egypt. The government’s targeting of journalists and others on questionable claims is wrong and demonstrates an egregious disregard for the protection of basic rights and freedoms. All journalists, regardless of affiliation, must not be targets of violence, intimidation, or politicized legal action. They must be protected and permitted to freely do their jobs in Egypt.

We are watching closely the trial of Al Jazeera staff and journalists in Egypt. We understand that the defendants pleaded not guilty at the February 20th proceedings, and that the trial was adjourned until March 5th. We’ve expressed these concerns directly to the Government of Egypt, and we have strongly urged the government to drop these charges and release those journalists and academics who have been detained. It is impossible for journalists to do their jobs if they are faced with questionable charges and are detained and on trial.

So again, we stress to the Egyptian Government publicly, and of course privately, as I mentioned, that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy, and we urge the interim government to fulfill its commitment to this freedom.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: On Azerbaijan.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Speaking of territorial integrity, 22 years ago Armenian troops violated the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. They committed a massacre in the Azerbaijani town of Khojaly; 613 people died, all of them civilians. Do you have a statement on that?

MS. PSAKI: I do. The tragic loss of life in the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia reminds us that there cannot be a military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Only a lasting and peaceful settlement can bring stability and prosperity and reconciliation to the region. As a co-chair of the Minsk Group, the United States remains firmly committed to working with the sides, both sides, to achieve peace.

QUESTION: Jen, but it’s a general statement. Do you have anything on the specific event? Because there are two parties. One party is a guilty party, the other one is the civilian party. One exterminated the other.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any further statement than what I’ve just provided.

Do you have another topic?

QUESTION: Actually, I’ve asked this before. When was the last time the Minsk Group actually met? And when was the last time it actually met in Minsk?

MS. PSAKI: Well, those are two important questions, Matt. I’m not sure about our travel to Minsk.

QUESTION: Because I don’t think there’s a whole lot. You’re not going there anytime soon, or – I don’t think American officials go there very often. Belarus is not exactly a friendly country.

MS. PSAKI: I am happy to check on the latest meetings of the Minsk Group, absolutely.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, in the back.

QUESTION: Yes, on Venezuela. The Government of Panama has requested a meeting of the foreign ministers of the hemisphere to discuss the situation in Venezuela, and the OAS is supposed to discuss this – that possibility soon. However, Venezuela has said that it doesn’t want the OAS to discuss the protest. It prefers that it would be UNASUR. And I wanted to know if the U.S. wants or thinks that it would be helpful, a debate in the OAS about this.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I believe we said in a statement we sent out a couple of days ago that engagement through the OAS, we thought was – would be a productive part of the process, and a productive venue, I should say. Broadly speaking, we have indicated our readiness to developing a more constructive relationship with Venezuela. It’s true that other countries in the region have also indicated that. It makes it more challenging, of course, when there are steps taken for us, including the expulsion of three of our diplomats. And also we believe that there needs to be a focus, of course, in Venezuela on events on the ground and listening to the voices of the people there.

QUESTION: And would you like to see a meeting of the foreign ministers?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check with our team and see if that’s something we are working towards or we’re engaging with from here from the United States.


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Just on the – yeah, the (inaudible) report, it happens to be quite soft on Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. So – for his role in the 2002 riots – so do you still hold him accountable for those riots?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know if you’ve had an opportunity to read the report. I know it just came out this morning and it’s very long and we did a briefing —


MS. PSAKI: — with our acting assistant secretary. I wouldn’t characterize our assessment that way. I think you’ll find if you review the text that we’re very clear about our concerns about several episodes of communal violence across India. So I would encourage you to take a look at that and —

QUESTION: I had a look at it, and even now our team in Delhi had a look at it. In the previous reports, Mr. Modi was specifically mentioned. And while – now he’s not, and then it says that the government has taken considerable steps and all that, and then after the meeting of the U.S. Ambassador to India with Mr. Modi. So now with the elections coming up, they want to know, what is the U.S. position on that? And also to remember that in 2005, his visa was revoked based on his involvement in these riots.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I have nothing to convey to you on the status of a visa. As you know, we encourage individuals to apply, and they’re – those proceedings or processes are private by standard. It’s standard that they’re private.

It shouldn’t – what I’m conveying to you is that we have ongoing – we continue to express concerns about communal violence as it exists in India. As it relates to that specific meeting – I think we’ve talked about in the past – I would caution you to link them. Obviously, we’re meeting with a range of officials, a broad range of officials. There’s obviously a political season happening, but we’ll meet with a range of officials on the ground, and it’s an indication of nothing more than that.

QUESTION: Wait. You would caution —

QUESTION: Just a quick clarification. I wanted to know —

QUESTION: — caution against linking them, yes?

MS. PSAKI: Caution against.

QUESTION: Right, okay.

QUESTION: The – I just needed a clarification that in 2000 – I’m not asking about his future reasons.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I’m saying that in 2000 – because of the 2002, the – 2005, his visa was revoked based on this Gujarat riot scenario. So is he now no more accountable for that? You – have you forgiven him? Or where is – where does that – the whole situation stand?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new policy or change in policy or new update to report to you.

QUESTION: And you mentioned about the broad range of meetings that are taking place.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Can you give us any update on – with whom the U.S. Ambassador to India will be meeting in future, after – or is it just Modi and then it’s nobody?

MS. PSAKI: I have nothing to announce for you at this point, but obviously, our Ambassador meets with a range of officials every day, so we’ll see if there’s more to report in the coming weeks.

QUESTION: There were reports of – she going and meeting the West Bengal chief minister of energy, but then it all – the meeting, it seems, fizzled out.

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me check on that for you. I don’t know the status of that specific meeting, but I can check on that.


QUESTION: Jen, the question of the – actually the report raises – I mean, the question raises an interesting point. If Modi was mentioned in previous human rights reports for India by name, and he is not mentioned in this one – which I don’t know because I haven’t looked at it yet – but if that is correct, could you find out if that was a deliberate – something that was done deliberately? In other words, it wasn’t like —

MS. PSAKI: Sure, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — an editing error or something. And if it was done deliberately, is there any reason for that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to circle back with our DRL team.

In the back?

QUESTION: North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Does the State Department have any reaction to the firing of the four what’s reported to be short-term – short-range missiles? And also the reports are that it’s linked to their displeasure or North Koreans’ unhappiness with the U.S.-R.O.K. military exercises in particular. Do you have anything on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we are of course closely monitoring the situation on the Korean Peninsula. We continue, as we often do, to urge North Korea to exercise restraint and take steps to improve its relations with its neighbors. As you know, the United States works very closely with the international community and our partners in the region to address global security and proliferation threat – the proliferation threat posed by North Korea. I’m not in a position to analyze, obviously, this – these reports just came out this morning – in terms of what the motivation of it was. I can’t speak to that.

QUESTION: Anything about what kind of missiles that were fired? Some speculation that they were Scud missiles.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details on that, and of course, I’m not going to comment on intelligence matters.

QUESTION: One more on North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: North Koreans just asked the Japanese to reconvene the Red Crosses to reopen the talks in China, and they agreed. Can you comment on that? Is it good sign?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on that. But again, I’m happy to check and see if there’s more we can report to all of you.

Do we have any more?

QUESTION: Oh, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: I’ve got four really brief ones.

MS. PSAKI: Oh. All right.

QUESTION: All right, one —

MS. PSAKI: It’s like a rapid round.

QUESTION: Three – yes, it’ll be the speed round.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: Three of them are follow-ups from yesterday’s briefing.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One: Did you get any answer on this – whether you think it’s a good or bad idea or you have no opinion on these potential new Chinese holidays?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new policy on holidays to report to you.

QUESTION: Okay. Does that mean that you have asked and that there is not going to be any answer forthcoming, or —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe there is going to be an answer forthcoming.


MS. PSAKI: So don’t hit refresh on your inbox.

QUESTION: I won’t wait up tonight looking for it, then. Two: I do understand that you have answers or that there are answers to the questions that I had about the meetings —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The ambassador is in Israel —


QUESTION: — the ambassador’s meeting with the MKs, and then Shaun – Mr. Casey’s meetings —

MS. PSAKI: I do. Do you have a preference on which one is first?

QUESTION: — with the religious figures. Either one.

MS. PSAKI: All right. Let’s start with Ambassador Shapiro’s meeting. So as Matt inquired about yesterday, but to confirm for all of you, Ambassador Shapiro met with the Land of Israel caucus at the Knesset on Tuesday as part of his regular and ongoing engagement with MKs across the political spectrum to better understand the perspectives of Israeli parliamentarians and exchange views on a range of issues. This meeting was, of course, off the record, and was designated to be off the record and was closed press. As you saw, of course, information about the meeting was leaked out. The heads of the Land of Israel Caucus issued an apology yesterday expressing deep regret for an unauthorized recording of the meeting being leaked to the media. So that has all happened over the course of the last 24 hours.

QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t dispute the accuracy of the reports that came out of the meeting?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I looked at the reports of the meeting, it was our ambassador reiterating our public positions on many of these issues, and —


MS. PSAKI: — expressions and views expressed by others in the meeting, I can’t verify those, but —

QUESTION: Oh, okay. Well, I’m wondering specifically if you had any reaction to some of the reported comments by the members of the Knesset who were in attendance.

MS. PSAKI: Look, Matt, I think broadly speaking – and I can’t verify what comments were accurate or weren’t, of course, but – we understand that at this stage in the process, that there are going to be strong feelings and strong emotions. And you’ve heard the Secretary say that the purpose of meetings like this is to talk about that, to talk about the process, talk about the issues that are being discussed. That’s one of the reasons that it is so important for them to be kept private. But beyond that, we’re forging forward, and Ambassador Shapiro has a pretty tough skin.

QUESTION: Okay. So then, on the meetings that Mr. Casey had —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — with the religious leaders, including some that are allegedly anti-Israel, can you – what do you have to say about that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, during his recent trip to the region, Special Advisor Shaun Casey met with a wide range of religious leaders, from the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian faiths. So this is – part of the context here is, of course, very important.

QUESTION: Okay, wait. Just before you go on, he did not just meet with Palestinian and Christian leaders? He met with all members of all their different faiths?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Exactly.

QUESTION: Or leaders of all —

MS. PSAKI: Exactly.


MS. PSAKI: And this was, of course, part of our ongoing outreach to religious communities vis-a-vis the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. He also met with local interfaith organizations and international faith-based development groups, and he hopes to continue to engage on an even more diverse range of religious voices in future visits. As you know, this is kind of a newer position and he just came to the State Department a couple of months ago, so this serves an interesting utility in terms of reaching out to faith groups around these important policy issues.

QUESTION: And what do you think of the concerns expressed by some in Israel that he met – that he was giving credibility, credence to anti-Israel figures?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I would point to the fact that he met with a very broad range of officials from across the faith spectrum. And it’s important to us, it’s important to Mr. Casey, to hear from a range of officials, to have a dialogue with them. And that was the pure purpose of his engagement.

QUESTION: Right. Well, there was one specific meeting that caused some extra concern. Do you – can you say anything about that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything more to say about it.

QUESTION: All right. And then my last one —

QUESTION: Can I just ask on Israel?


QUESTION: Since we’re on Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I just wondered if you might have any indications yet about when and if the Secretary might be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu, who’s going to be in town from the back end of this week for the AIPAC conference.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Obviously, the President will be meeting with him when he’s in town. I would venture to guess the Secretary will be engaged in that in some capacity, but I don’t have additional details about other meetings at this point. I can see where we are with the schedule.

QUESTION: Do you have the dates for the – sorry if it’s already been announced.


QUESTION: Monday, is it?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: At the White House.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. And I just have one other question.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The Palestinian side is not very happy with the comments that the Secretary made to some of us last night about the fact that the timetable is sort of slipping on the Mid-East – on the timeframe for getting a full deal. And they’re saying that there’s no question it should go beyond April. I just wondered if you had a reaction to that.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, I think the full context of what the Secretary conveyed is very important here. He conveyed that it hasn’t changed, that obviously the next step is the framework, that if there is a framework that both parties feel confident about and get behind, then of course, it’s possible that the two sides may mutually agree to extend things moving forward. We’re obviously not at that point yet, and the next step is the framework. But he made very clear in his comments, so I would encourage those who are concerned to take a look, that it is up to the parties to determine that. But that’s certainly something that could be possible as a next step.

QUESTION: But I mean, if the – I understand the next step is the framework, which you’re now hoping to get in the next week, month or so, before the end of April. But if the Palestinian side is not happy with the idea that beyond that there will now have to be another full round of final status negotiations, doesn’t that somewhat tie one arm behind your back, so to speak?

MS. PSAKI: Well, moving from a framework, I don’t think anyone doesn’t understand the fact that when you move from a framework to a full-blown treaty negotiation, that would take time. Obviously, that would be the next step. At that point, the parties would know where they were heading; they would have a clear idea of how the core final status issues will be dealt with. And again, this goes back to the stake both sides have in moving towards a final agreement.

So I don’t want to put the cart before the horse here too much. We’re still focused on a discussion about the framework. And once we move towards that, obviously, if we’re at a point where both sides feel comfortable on how we would engage on the core issues, it is possible they could agree to moving forward. But we’re not there yet.

QUESTION: Was the idea of putting a framework, of getting a framework, a way of kind of fudging the fact that you weren’t actually going to get a full peace treaty by the end of April, as was stated by the Secretary when he relaunched the talks in July?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not. I think as we’ve said about this, when we launched the talks in July, while we anticipated and we knew what the core issues were, we didn’t know for certain what every step in the process would be. And there was a determination made that having both parties agree to what the core issues – the framework of the core issues would be moving forward, laying out what the end game would be, which is a step that has never been taken before, would be a way to move the process forward. So that was a determination made while the process was ongoing.

We are tough cookies around here and we aren’t going to get hurt by an extension past the deadline if it means we’re having a discussion and a negotiation about a final status agreement.

QUESTION: But it wasn’t a question that you realized it was really too tough —

MS. PSAKI: Matt’s laughing at me a little bit in his heart.

QUESTION: Well, having to put the cart before the – put the horse before the cart too much, I’m not sure what that means. And tough cookies? That’s – so that’s our —

MS. PSAKI: It’s 3 o’clock. We’re getting a little wild in here. Sorry. Go ahead, Jo.

QUESTION: No, I just – I mean, initially, the plan was to get a full peace treaty, if possible, by the end of April. And somewhere, a few months ago, the framework came in. And it seems to me that it was kind of convenient when you realized that you weren’t going to get the peace treaty by the end of April to now aim for something, albeit you say it’s going to be groundbreaking, is more limited than a full peace treaty.

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not. And the reason is because a framework is not a final outcome. A framework is a step in the process. Our goal here is a final status agreement. A framework is not binding. A framework is —

QUESTION: No. So you’ve limited yourself.

MS. PSAKI: No, we haven’t. A framework outlines the path forward, and we think that is the best step to get to a final status agreement. So that’s why our teams, both parties, all agree that that would be the best negotiation or the best next step in the process.

QUESTION: Did the Palestinians and the Israelis agree, though?

MS. PSAKI: Well, they agreed that that would be a discussion they would have about how to – about the core issues.

QUESTION: But did they agree specifically on the fact that first you now needed to get the framework?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, that’s what they’re all doing now, right, is discussing a framework.

QUESTION: But I wonder how much of it has been imposed by the American negotiating teams on it.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think there was an evaluation made here that this was the way to get to a final status negotiation. So – and obviously, that’s what we’ve been focused on over the past couple of months.

QUESTION: But you’re not denying the point that she’s – that Jo is making here, which is that it went back last year when these talks were announced, the hope was that you could get a final deal by —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — in nine months. And at some point between then and now, you all decided that, well, we’re not going to be able to do that, so let’s do the next best thing, which is —

MS. PSAKI: But what I would disagree with is that is not at all the reason why we’ve been working on a framework. We’ve been working on a framework because that is the next step and the best step in the process.

QUESTION: Yeah, fair enough. But I mean – but originally, the hope was for one thing, and now, because of the way things are going and the way that you’ve decided was best to get there is by doing something that is – that falls short of a final agreement.

MS. PSAKI: That is not how we view it.

QUESTION: Well, okay, but that’s the way it is.

MS. PSAKI: The April timeline is what the two parties have committed to in terms of staying at the table and remaining at the table for negotiations. It’s always been that if they mutually agree to stay at the table, then we would certainly support that. And yes, I’m very familiar with what we said in August, but that was also prior to intense negotiations and discussions about how to move the path forward. And through those, there was a discussion about a framework first, a framework for negotiations.

QUESTION: Right. But have you gotten a commitment from the Palestinians that if the dead – not deadline, the target for the end of April passes without the final status deal done, that they will continue to withhold or continue not to take their case to the UN for membership or to go to the ICC or to do any of that? Have you gotten that commitment yet, or is that something that you would expect to get if and when you get a framework?

MS. PSAKI: Well, if we – if the parties agree on a framework for negotiations, part of that would be a discussion on the path forward.

QUESTION: Right, okay. My last one is on whether you have seen yet this new Amnesty International report about Israeli IDF activity in the West Bank. It’s quite critical, and I’m just wondering if you have any thoughts about it. And if you don’t, if you may be able to take the question —

MS. PSAKI: Sure, I’m happy to take it, Matt. I don’t believe I have seen that report yet.

Go ahead, Nicole.

QUESTION: Just a small technical question —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — back to Ukraine. The Secretary spoke yesterday about the possibility of a loan guarantee, and I am just trying to figure out, is that something that would precede an IMF mechanism? Can they put that together before the IMF actually has an agreement with Ukraine, or does the U.S. have to wait for the IMF to actually reach agreement with Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there are a couple of steps in this process. Obviously, the IMF component is an incredibly important part. I don’t think anybody denies that. You may have seen that today the IMF announced that Ukraine has made a request, obviously, following the formation of the new government. So right now, we’re consulting with Congress about providing loan guarantees and other assistance to Ukraine. No specific package has yet been finalized.

At the same time, we’re also working with partners around the world, and we, of course, as we’ve said before, stand ready to provide support for Ukraine that complements the IMF program. In terms of how would all this be juxtaposed, obviously, we’ll have that discussion and continue that in the days and weeks ahead. But obviously, a government that’s stable, that’s moving on a path to reforms, which the Secretary just referenced as well, is an important part of what everybody is looking at.


MS. PSAKI: Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Yeah. Just quickly on Cuba, one of the Cuban Five prisoners was released today in Arizona. I wanted to know if you have a reaction on that.

MS. PSAKI: I have not seen that, so let me check back and see if there’s more to report.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:13 p.m.)



Final 2023 Mayoral Forum with Joe Woods

Final Village Trustee Forum – March 19, 2023