State Department Briefing by Jen Psaki, Feb. 6, 2014

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–February 6, 2014.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • Limited Evacuation of HST Building
    • Deal Reached Between Opposition Forces / Humanitarian Assistance
    • Assistant Secretary Nuland’s and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Pyatt’s Telephone Conversation on YouTube
    • UN Managing the Delivery of Humanitarian Assistance
    • UNSCR / Russian Ambassador in Damascus’ Efforts / U.S. Supports All Paths
    • Ambassador King’s Travel regarding Ken Bae’s Release
    • Path Forward / Energy Dialogue
    • Ordered Departure Lifted in Lahore / Consular Services Remain Unavailable / Embassy in Islamabad and Consul General in Karachi Provide Consular Services
    • Secretary Kerry’s Meeting Tomorrow with Foreign Minister Kishida
    • Internet Law
    • Assistant Secretary Toria Nuland’s and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt’s Telephone Call
    • Family Reunion / Inter-Korean Relations
    • Military Exercises



1:43 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. It sure has been an eventful day. Some of you have asked about the fire alarm going off, so let me just provide you a quick update on that. A fire alarm triggered in the basement prompted a limited evacuation of the basement and first floor areas of the Department. Fire and safety professionals are on site, as you all have seen. The situation is under control. There was no general evacuation, and personnel who exited the building are clearly back in the building. So that is the update.

QUESTION: But was there actually a fire?

MS. PSAKI: It was a fire alarm triggered in the basement, so it was triggered by – it wasn’t specific to a fire, as I understand it. I will double-check that after the briefing.

QUESTION: But – so as far as you know, no fire and nobody was injured or hurt?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. Great, thank you.

QUESTION: So let’s – oh.

MS. PSAKI: I have one other thing for the top, sorry.

We welcome the news that a deal has been reached between the opposition forces inside Homs and the region – and the regime, which would allow humanitarian access into Old City of Homs and allow evacuations of those civilians who want to do so. We understand the operations will begin tomorrow, Friday morning, and will include a local humanitarian pause while the evacuations take place and while the food and other humanitarian assistance is delivered.

The regime must follow through on its commitment to allow UN humanitarian relief convoys to enter Homs. As we have said, an evacuation is not a substitute for the safe, regular, and unfettered delivery of humanitarian assistance to those in need wherever they are. Civilians should be allowed to come and go freely, and humanitarian access should not be a political bargaining chip.

Civilians are leaving their homes in Homs because they are in desperate need of food and medical attention. It is a tragedy that they should feel that they have to abandon their homes and split up their families just to eat and get care. This issue should never have been a problem in the first place. The issue of Homs is just one small piece of this. There’s a broader issue which is that the regime continues to block humanitarian assistance and violate basic principles as laid out in the October 3rd statement, which says the regime must provide unhindered access to humanitarian workers.

So we should not be giving credit to a regime just for providing food for a few days to people who are starving, given that’s the right moral thing to do and this is something they should have been doing all along.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: So before we get back to Syria —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — let’s go to the real fire, or what seems to be the real fire at the moment, and which is Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And so before we get into the actual substance of this conversation, this call that was recorded and released, can you say whether you – if this call is an authentic recording of an authentic conversation between Assistant Secretary Nuland and Ambassador Pyatt?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not going to confirm or outline details. I understand there are a lot of reports out there and there’s a recording out there, but I’m not going to confirm private diplomatic conversations.

QUESTION: So you are not saying that you believe this is a – you think this is not authentic? You think this is a —

MS. PSAKI: That’s not an accusation I’m making. I’m just not going to confirm the specifics of it.

QUESTION: Well, you can’t even say whether there was this call – that you believe that this call – you believe that this recording is a recording of a real telephone call?

MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say it was inauthentic. I think we can leave it at that.

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re allowing for the – you’re allowing the fact that it is authentic.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. Do you have a question about it?

QUESTION: Yes, okay. Yes, I do —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — now, once we get into it. Quite apart from the colorful language that is used in reference to the European Union, the conversation appears to – well, doesn’t appear to suggest, it does – the conversation shows that the United States certainly has – or at least officials within the U.S. Government have certain opinions about certain Ukrainian opposition leaders and others. And I’m wondering how that squares with your repeated insistence that every – all of this is up to the Ukrainians to decide themselves.

MS. PSAKI: It’s not inconsistent in the least bit. It is no secret that Ambassador Pyatt and Assistant Secretary Nuland have been working with the Government of Ukraine, with the opposition, with business and civil society leaders to support their efforts, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that at any point, there have been discussions about recent events and offers and what is happening on the ground. And as you know, Assistant Secretary Nuland is on the ground right now continuing our efforts in that regard.

It remains the case that it is up to the Ukrainian people themselves to decide their future. It is up to them to determine their path forward, and that’s a consistent message that we’re conveying publicly and privately.

QUESTION: All right. And I’ve got two more and then I —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — but they should be both brief. Specifically —

MS. PSAKI: On Ukraine or —

QUESTION: Yeah, on Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: As related to Assistant Secretary Nuland’s comments about the European Union, do – are the United States and the EU on the same page on what to deal – how to deal with the situation in Ukraine and how best to resolve the crisis?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, obviously, we work incredibly closely with the EU and with representatives of the EU, and Assistant Secretary Nuland certainly does as it relates to Ukraine. And she’s been in close contact with EU High Representative Ashton. Also, let me convey that she has been in contact with her EU counterparts, and of course, has apologized. But —

QUESTION: What did she apologize for?

MS. PSAKI: For these reported comments, of course.

QUESTION: So you’re not confirming that the comments are accurate? She’s —

MS. PSAKI: I’m just not going to speak to a private diplomatic conversation, Arshad, but I’m obviously speaking to the content of the reports.

So she’s been in touch with them, and clearly, we’ve been working closely with them on what should happen on Ukraine, what should happen – what kind of package that – as you know, as we’ve been discussing in here, we can discuss for a government once it’s formed. And if we have frustrations, we express those privately as well, but it’s important to note how closely we work with them and how aligned we are on this issue.

QUESTION: Do you know who she apologized to? Was it Catherine Ashton or —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of specificity, just that she’s been —

QUESTION: All right. And then my last one on this is: Your colleague at the White House made mention – pointed out quite obviously – or made a point of noting that an aide to a Russian – a senior Russian official was, if not the first, one of the first to draw —

MS. PSAKI: Was the first, yes.

QUESTION: — draw attention to this.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Well, I believe that – if you don’t know who posted the thing on YouTube, correct?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a fair point, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So that would be the first drawing of attention to it, correct, the actual posting of the video with the audio in it, right? But among the first, if not the first, was this aide to Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin tweeting about it.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you think, does the U.S. Government believe, that Russia was behind this bugging and release? And if you are not willing to go that far, are you concerned at all that officials in the Russian Government seem to be wanting to point – to draw attention to this?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly we think this is a new low in Russian tradecraft in terms of publicizing, posting. I don’t have any other independent details about the origin of the YouTube video. You’re right. This has clearly happened overnight and is relatively new. But this is something they’ve been actively promoting, posting on, tweeting about, and certainly that we feel that represents a new low.

QUESTION: But do you think that —

QUESTION: Well, what do you mean – can I follow up, please?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, sure.

QUESTION: What do you mean by this is a new low in Russian tradecraft? Tradecraft is a word typically that refers almost exclusively to espionage activities. Are you saying that you regard this as an act of Russian espionage, that this conversation was recorded and broadcast?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, if it was recorded and broadcast, that that would be that – that it would be violating a private conversation.

QUESTION: But you said this is a new low in Russian tradecraft.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: That means you think that the Russians, in fact, recorded and made available this broadcast.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as I just stated, I don’t have any independent or new information on that, but obviously, they promoted this and were the first to tweet about it, so that’s what I was noting.

QUESTION: So that’s your suspicion, that you didn’t – I mean, you said this is a new low in Russian tradecraft. That implies that you believe it is their responsibility.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think I was pretty clear in answering Matt’s question that I don’t have any independent information on the origin of the YouTube video, but obviously, they were the first ones to post on Twitter about it, which is an indication. But again, I don’t know – I don’t have any independent —


QUESTION: So when you’re —

QUESTION: And then – wait, sorry, can I keep going?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Because they’re – look, the Russians have repeatedly accused the United States Government of interfering in Ukraine’s politics.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The U.S. Government has, to some degree, made reciprocal claims about Russia. Does not the fact that U.S. diplomats purportedly are discussing who should and should not be in a Ukrainian government hint at some possibility of U.S. interference here?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not. There – it should be no surprise that U.S. officials talk about issues around the world. Of course we do. That’s what you do, that’s what diplomats do, and discuss especially issues where we’ve been closely engaged. The Secretary met with the opposition this weekend. He stopped by a meeting with the foreign minister. It’s up to the people of Ukraine, including officials from both sides, to determine the path forward. But it shouldn’t be a surprise that there are discussions about events on the ground.

QUESTION: This was more than discussions, though. This was two top U.S. officials that are on the ground discussing a plan that they have to broker a future government, and bringing officials from the UN to kind of seal the deal. This is more than the U.S. trying to make suggestions. This is the U.S. midwifing the process.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, you’re talking about a private diplomatic conversation. Those happen all the time. Of course as part of private diplomatic conversations, there are discussions about what involvement the UN can have, what involvement or engagement should happen on the ground. That shouldn’t be a surprise. Of course, these things are being discussed. It doesn’t change the fact that it’s up to the people on the ground, it is up to the people of Ukraine to determine what the path forward is.

QUESTION: But you’re clearly trying to influence what they decide. I mean, one of the quotes is – and this is attributed to Ambassador Pyatt: “I think you reaching out to him” – Klitschko –“helps with the personality management among the three, and it gives you also a chance to move fast and all this stuff and put us behind it before they all sit down.” And he explains why he doesn’t like it. That’s not – that’s not oh, let them figure this out. That’s gee, let’s try to do this so that he won’t decide he doesn’t like this plan.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Arshad, it’s not a secret that we’re engaged with what’s happening on the ground. I mean, the Secretary met with the opposition this weekend. He also met with the foreign minister. As part of those discussions, you engage with what’s happening, what the recommendations are. They’re going to choose to do it or they’re not. But that’s, of course, what you discuss in any meeting or conversation regardless.

QUESTION: I want to go back to —

QUESTION: But the bottom line here —

QUESTION: He does actually —

QUESTION: — is that you do have an opinion about what certain people should – what role certain people should – what role you think is best for certain people to play, correct? I mean, you do have – that is an opinion of the United States. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to foist that or force it on the people of Ukraine, but you do have an opinion, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I would caution everybody —

QUESTION: Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: One moment. We’re talking about a couple of minutes from a recorded call.


MS. PSAKI: That doesn’t reflect every conversation that’s happened —


MS. PSAKI: — every debate that’s happened, every internal conversation that’s happened.

QUESTION: No, you’re right.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You’re absolutely right. But you do have – here is a case where an official – two officials are talking about a preference for what one opposition or several opposition leaders should do, whether they should be in or stay out of the government; is that not correct? So you do have an opinion about what you think would be best.

MS. PSAKI: Well —

QUESTION: And I’m not sure that that’s so —

MS. PSAKI: I’m not —

QUESTION: — that’s bad —

MS. PSAKI: We have opinions about a range of issues.


MS. PSAKI: That shouldn’t be a surprise.

QUESTION: So here’s my – so I would just then – so when you get a question —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — about whether you think it would be good or bad for Politician X or Y in Country X or Y to run for office, for any office, I don’t think that it is honest for you to say no, we don’t have an opinion and that’s completely up to the people of Country X.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, there’s a —

QUESTION: And I specifically mean in this case I’m talking about Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, let me just —

QUESTION: Because you do have an opinion.

MS. PSAKI: — make one comment here. There is a difference between private discussions that happen in the interagency process, in the building, and what we convey publicly as a U.S. Government. And we have a responsibility to convey what our position is. Of course, you’re discussing a range of options on a range of issues.

QUESTION: But if —

MS. PSAKI: That’s what you do as —

QUESTION: But I’m sorry —

MS. PSAKI: — as a diplomat.

QUESTION: If you’re saying privately behind the scenes that you’re cooking up a deal, and then you’re saying publicly that this is up for Ukrainians to decide, those are two totally different things. I understand that diplomatic discussions are sensitive and you don’t want everything to come out, but those are two totally different – totally different positions.

MS. PSAKI: Elise, what do you think happens behind closed doors when people are discussing issues internally through the interagency —

QUESTION: This is not discussing issues. This is talking about a deal that the U.S. was cooking up with —

MS. PSAKI: I think I would disagree with you. I think you’re overstating and overqualifying a couple of minutes from a privately recorded phone call.

QUESTION: I want to go back to the issue —

QUESTION: So it was a privately recorded phone call now?

MS. PSAKI: I’m done, Arshad. Next?

QUESTION: I want to go back to the issue of your divergences with Europe —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and what to do about Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: I mean, obviously, the language that Assistant Secretary Nuland used suggests a fairly high degree of frustration. So what is behind that? What is it that you want to be done that the Europeans are not falling in line with?

MS. PSAKI: I think I just answered this. I mean, obviously, we work very closely with the EU and specifically on this issue in recent weeks, as given how much prominence it’s received but how important it is, a priority to us and a priority to the EU. So we’ve been in close discussions with them, we’ve been working closely with them. These reported – this discussion is about events that happened days and days ago, so just remember that for contextual purposes.

QUESTION: Just last week —

QUESTION: Well, last week is not really days and days. I mean, it is days and days ago, I suppose —

MS. PSAKI: Technically, it’s days and days ago.

QUESTION: It’s not like it’s ancient history. This is very recent.

QUESTION: But she says – she says – I’m not going to repeat what she said, but she’s obviously angry with the European Union. So despite the fact that you might be discussing this at a level, what is it that was making her angry with them?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I wouldn’t overanalyze one – a couple of words that were used on a phone call as to having larger meaning about some sort of ongoing issue. There are, of course, moments in every diplomatic relationship where you have small frustrations, where you agree, you disagree, you work through the issues, you talk about what the best step to take is, and that certainly has been the case here, which should be no surprise. And that’s why you have debates about what to do next on challenging issues.

QUESTION: So I wondered whether it went to the heart of the issue of sanctions, for instance, because I know the United States has been talking about and possibly preparing another level – a level of sanctions if things go drastically wrong in Kyiv.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is this perhaps a track in which your European allies are not in agreement with you?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think it’s – I would defer to them on what their views are on that, but it’s not an indication of that at all, and as you know, that wasn’t even discussed. So you know what our position is – it’s that we’re open to considering sanctions. That hasn’t obviously moved forward, or nothing has changed about our view right now. But this isn’t an indication of anything more than that.

QUESTION: Not discussed in this reported phone call, you mean?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: I’d like to go back to the Russian involvement. While you did – while you were talking about the statecraft and the idea that this Russian assistant of the deputy prime minister tweeted out, you said that you didn’t have any solid evidence that the Russians were involved, but you did say that there’s – that the fact that the Russians were so quick to have this video and tweet it out, that it’s an indication of their possible involvement. Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think that is an indication that they’re promoting it – I mean, not just an indication. It’s evidence that they’re promoting a privately recorded phone call.

QUESTION: Not that they’re promoting it, but that they had a hand in obtaining it.

MS. PSAKI: As I said, and this hasn’t changed, I don’t have any independent information about who posted the YouTube video. So —

QUESTION: But you believe the fact that they had it early and are promoting it so much is an indication of their possible involvement in obtaining it. Is that what you’re saying?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have any more information on it, Elise. I will let you all draw your own conclusions, but I don’t have anything in addition about the source of the YouTube video. But obviously, they were the first to post it on Twitter.

Go ahead. Or do we have any more on Ukraine? Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just one thing. You did say that this was a conversation that happened days and days ago. Where was Secretary – Assistant Secretary Nuland?

MS. PSAKI: This was an issue being discussed days and days ago, as you know, in terms of who would or wouldn’t join the government. But go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, we’d seen the conversation was actually a few days ago as well because events have now moved on from the report —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Sure.

QUESTION: — the events that are referred to in the conversation. I wondered if you could tell us where Assistant Nuland was when this conversation was made. Was she in Ukraine?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any information on that. She obviously is in Ukraine now. She wasn’t there before yesterday. So —

QUESTION: But I think the conversation goes back several days, to last week, as Matt mentioned.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more information on where it took place.

QUESTION: Can I just ask – unless you want to —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: How pervasive is – do you think the sentiment that Toria has apologized for – how pervasive is that within the State Department, within the Administration?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think it is at all.

QUESTION: Is it going to be the new rallying cry of the EUR Bureau or of the State Department itself?

MS. PSAKI: Well —

QUESTION: Are you going to get t-shirts made with this phrase on it?

MS. PSAKI: You all know Toria pretty well. You may know the story of how she lived on a Russian boat for about eight months when she was 23, and she learned how to perfect perhaps certain words in a couple of languages, so perhaps it speaks to that more than a pervasive viewpoint.

QUESTION: So it’s her fault that she worked on a Soviet fishing vessel that she uses such language?

QUESTION: They taught her to cuss?

QUESTION: Are you – wait, are you suggesting that she has a – you’re not suggesting that she has a predisposition against Russia?

MS. PSAKI: No, I was suggesting that she learned Russian curse words and curse words on the fishing boat.

QUESTION: This was in English.

QUESTION: But this was in English.

MS. PSAKI: She – I was making a joke —

QUESTION: Oh, okay.


MS. PSAKI: — about her learning curse words on a fishing boat.


QUESTION: Okay. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Just one other thing. Is there any concern in the Department that if there is a Russian hand in this, that her – that Assistant Secretary Nuland’s relationship with the Russians, which – and Russia is part of her portfolio now – is going to be hurt? I recall when she was sworn in, the Secretary told a little story about how Foreign Minister Lavrov had said to him that he was glad that he finally got rid of that Nuland woman —

MS. PSAKI: I was there for that. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: — and the Secretary replied – said he replied to Lavrov saying, “No, I didn’t fire her. I promoted her.”

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So there seems to be a little bit of tension there. Are you concerned that this alleged Russian hand that you are suggesting is going to make things worse?

MS. PSAKI: No, I don’t think that’s our view at all. This is – and Toria has been working on issues related to Russia, as you know, for many, many years, and she is the last person who is to be naive about areas where we agree and disagree and concerns we have and things we can work with them on, and I don’t think this will impact our relationship moving forward.

QUESTION: All right. And then the – my last thing, and then just —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — first to your reference to her working on this trawler. Are you trying to suggest that she has the mouth of a sailor here?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t want to say that in case her mother reads the transcript, but those of us who know her – (laughter) —

QUESTION: Mothers sometimes watch it live. (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: That’s true.

QUESTION: Her mother is a big fan of Arshad’s, actually.

MS. PSAKI: I heard she’s a big fan of Arshad. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Who among us is not? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: All right.

QUESTION: Ah, the levity.

MS. PSAKI: Arshad, did you have something on another topic you want to talk about?


MS. PSAKI: He’s all red in the face now, just to be reflected in the transcript.

QUESTION: For the record, I’m very fond of Toria’s mom.

MS. PSAKI: Who isn’t? Who among us isn’t?

QUESTION: Yes. So can we go back to Syria?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So you welcome the agreement, but then you add all the caveats about how the Syrian Government should not be sort of applauded for allowing access to food for starving people.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Here’s the – the initial comments by the government suggest that they are going to allow innocent – quote, “innocent” – civilians out. That would seem to suggest that the fate that may befall the other civilians who stay behind may be quite ugly. Do you fear that this may be a ruse or a gambit to try to get some civilians out and then kind of pursue an exterminate-the-brutes strategy against those who remain?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to go that far, and I don’t believe that’s the view of the United States Government. The UN, as you probably know, is managing this process with the parties, and I’d certainly point you to them on what it means. And it’s a fair and good question on innocence and how that’s defined.

The reason I expressed both support for this step but concern that this not be overly applauded is because, of course, there are many other besieged areas that need assistance, there are many people who need food and assistance, and we can’t just simply pack up our bags and say this is enough that they’ve done. So —

QUESTION: But are you – I mean, can you address whether you – even if you wouldn’t go that far, can you address whether you have a concern that what you’re going to see after this period of some measure of access and some measure of people being allowed to leave is just a renewed, intense fight?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this certainly doesn’t end the fight, right? It doesn’t end the violence that’s happening on the ground. It doesn’t end the brutality. And we don’t have the expectation that it would. So that’s why it’s not a completely satisfactory step. I just didn’t want to go too far in making assumptions which I don’t believe – or my understanding is not our assumption at this point.

QUESTION: So it’s not your assumption that there’ll be a bloodbath after this is over?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly it’s not our hope. The UN is managing the departure and the entire process, but I wouldn’t go that far at this point.

QUESTION: Do you care to offer any warnings to the regime if that’s what they’re indeed planning? Because a lot of experts and diplomats fear that that’s exactly what’s going on.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t know that, Elise. And obviously, we’re closely watching what’s happening on the ground, whether it’s violence or actions against civilians. And clearly, even this step, which is a positive step, is not satisfactory to us, right?

QUESTION: I understand. But are you – have anything to say or are you taking any steps or is there anything you can do to prevent such a bloodbath once this – once the evacuations start?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s – I’m not trying to downplay it. Obviously, we’d be concerned if that were an issue, but it’s a hypothetical at this point. And clearly —

QUESTION: Well, it’s a – yes, it’s a hypothetical, but do you think that maybe you should take some preemptive steps or say something in advance as opposed to us sitting – you standing at this podium and us sitting here asking you to react after the fact?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, one, the UN and not the United States is managing the entire process. Obviously, you’ve heard us say many, many times from the podium and elsewhere – express concern about events that have happened, bloodshed, brutality. That’s true and is an ongoing truth. So I can restate that for all of you, but that remains a concern, of course.

QUESTION: Can I just ask – there was some comments today, or maybe yesterday, from the Russian envoy at the UN, who was asked about a UN Security Council resolution and said it’s not time now for a resolution on humanitarian aid. What is your feeling on that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, our view is that we support an UNSCR in principle as a mechanism to bring about further pressure on the regime. And the specifics of this, of course, are still being discussed. We’re working actively with the Security Council to address the Assad regime’s failure to facilitate humanitarian access.

There are a range of options for how – and a range of avenues, of course, to continue to press the regime, to continue to provide humanitarian assistance, and we believe all of those should be pursued. So that doesn’t mean – that means yes, we acknowledge, of course, that the Russian ambassador in Damascus is putting forth some efforts to play a constructive role in the situation. And we’ll see what happens. But beyond that, there’s no reason that there shouldn’t also be a path at Geneva, there shouldn’t also be a path through a potential UN Security Council resolution as well.

QUESTION: So you can’t tell us what any kind of UNSCR resolution would look like at this point, so —

MS. PSAKI: I mean, I would defer —

QUESTION: — the details —

MS. PSAKI: — of course, to the UN on that. We’re in ongoing discussions about it and I would defer to them on the timing and exact specifics.

QUESTION: But as to Mr. Churkin’s – Ambassador Churkin’s remarks that it’s too soon or it’s not the time yet —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — what is your feeling on that?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not our view. We have a different view. And our view is that we should pursue all possible path to – all possible paths to doing what’s morally right, providing humanitarian access, putting the necessary pressure on the regime. We know that the ambassador – the Russian ambassador is on the ground putting pressure on there, and that is a good step. But we should also be having a discussion about this in Geneva. We should be – we should see if there’s an option through the UN Security Council. So we support all the paths.

QUESTION: Do you fear there could be a Russian veto in the offing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously that’s for them to determine, and certainly that could be a step they take. We leave that to them, but it doesn’t change our view on all of these issues.

QUESTION: Can we move to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.


MS. PSAKI: Can we do one more on Syria, then on North Korea?

QUESTION: Oh, yeah, yeah. Please. Please.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Is the agreement limited to, like, two days, three days, or is it – do you know?

MS. PSAKI: Which agreement? Homs?

QUESTION: The – yeah, the Homs agreement.

MS. PSAKI: I would point —

QUESTION: Is there a time limit?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a good question. I know that they – that it’s going to begin tomorrow morning. I’m not sure what they’ve outlined in terms of the time it’s going to take, so I’d point you to the UN for that specific logistics question.

QUESTION: Have you – in your discussions with the Russians, have you urged them to make clear to the regime that once these evacuations take place, that there should be no kind of assault on Homs?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t – we’re not predicting that. I understand outside experts are, and we’re always wary of what steps the regime may or may not take. And certainly, we’re pressing the Russians, as we’re pressing anyone in the international community who has influence, to make the case to the regime that we have to end the bloodshed and end the brutality. And that’s the case anywhere.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we change topics?

MS. PSAKI: North Korea?

QUESTION: Yeah. So there have been some suggestions of the possibility of a diplomatic visit to North Korea —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — possibly as early as next week. Do you have any plans or are you giving any consideration to sending an envoy to the North?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you probably know, Arshad, we – and everybody else – we are – we have been prepared to send Ambassador King to North Korea in support of Kenneth Bae’s release. As I mentioned a couple of days ago – and perhaps you were gone, but this is – we remain engaged in this. Our priority is, of course, doing everything possible to secure his release, which means we aren’t going to outline or confirm or detail every effort that’s underway in that regard.

QUESTION: Are you – you said, “We have been.”

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So you continue to be?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Absolutely.

QUESTION: And is he ready to go at a moment’s notice? I mean, is there any reason to think that this is – because as you’re well aware, he was supposed to go last – late August or early September.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah, and then it was cancelled. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Right. And then you guys have said, I know as recently as two and a half or three weeks ago that – or somebody, a U.S. official, said that you guys were open to – or ready to send him. So I’m just trying to get some sort of sense of whether there’s actually something in the offing or if there’s no reason to think that – that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, what I was trying to get at – perhaps not clearly enough, but – is that we’re not going to outline every effort or plan or discussion underway because that’s not in the interest of our number one goal here, which is securing his release. Ambassador King has long been prepared to make that trip, and I don’t think that’s changed.

QUESTION: Okay. Thanks.

QUESTION: Have there been any recent communications between you and the North Koreans, or your protecting power in Pyongyang?

MS. PSAKI: I – on our protecting power, I don’t have the last contact. I can certainly get that for you with them about this specific issue. We’re in regular contact. As you know, we have means and channels to communicate with the North Koreans, but I’m not going to outline that from here.

QUESTION: So you’re not going to say there’s been anything recent?


QUESTION: When was the last time anyone had any contact with Kenneth Bae?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have that here. Let’s see. Let me make sure this is – the latest I have is that Swedish Embassy representatives met with him most recently on December 30th, 2013.

QUESTION: And do you know —

QUESTION: Not in January?

QUESTION: Do you have any —

MS. PSAKI: I will check that. Not in the last – I will check that – not through the course of up to January 28th, but I’ll see if there have been any meetings since then.

QUESTION: And do you have any information about the status of his health and whether it is deteriorating further?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any new information. As you know, we’ve remained concerned about his health and the status of his health, which is why we continue to call for – in part why we continue to call for special amnesty for his release. But I don’t have a new update.


MS. PSAKI: I’ll see if there’s anything new on it.

Go ahead.


MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Talking about diplomacy, the new – newly arrived ambassador of India, Mr. Jaishankar, he had a first official discussion with the Carnegie last week where he said the lead behind, whatever, happened between the U.S. and India as far as the diplomacy took place in New York – he said that relations between the two countries, U.S. and India, are indispensable and we are moving forward and on many fronts. What I’m asking you is: Whatever this ambassador who has a lot – big knowledge, a lot of knowledge coming from China, where are we on those issues between the U.S. and India now? Are we moving forward? Because —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — we had in the past a lot of things going on between two – the countries, but now it’s look like —

MS. PSAKI: We are —

QUESTION: — things are stalled. Sorry.

MS. PSAKI: We are focused on the same thing, which is the path forward and moving our relationship forward, and one of the next steps is scheduling the energy dialogue that we’ve been working on, so – but we, of course, agree that we have an important bilateral relationship and it’s in our interests and India’s interests to move that forward.

QUESTION: And one, if I may go to, on Pakistan.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There is a Travel Warning to Pakistan —

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: The Consul General, I believe, is still closed in Lahore, and also, as far as your Strategic Dialogue took place here between the U.S. and Pakistan —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — but protests and killings are still going on and still their talks – they are talking about talking with Talibans and all that. You think those talks with Taliban are going to be successful or – where do you put those Talibans, whether they’re in Pakistan Taliban or Afghanistan Taliban, a political party or a – are you allowing them to —

MS. PSAKI: Well, Goyal, welcome back, first of all. I know you’ve been gone for a while. We’ve talked about this the last couple of days. It’s up to the Government of Pakistan to determine the path forward. There was a Travel Warning that went out yesterday that notes, the Department, that we have lifted the ordered departure status of U.S. Government personnel from the Consulate General in Lahore, Pakistan. So that was the new information that was included in there.

QUESTION: Just so we’re clear, the key point there is that your officials are now able to go back to the Consulate General in Lahore, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: So it’s the opposite of it – I mean, it’s —

MS. PSAKI: Of what was announced months before.

QUESTION: — not available for consular services, but you’re actually – you – the security situation has improved to such a degree that you’re letting your officials back in the building?

MS. PSAKI: Right. There’s a range of reasons why these decisions are made.

QUESTION: Right, right.

MS. PSAKI: Just for one piece, just to be clear on, the consular services remain unavailable at this point, but the Embassy in Islamabad and the Consul General in Karachi are, of course, continuing to provide those.

QUESTION: Were there any specific threats that you had to issue a warning?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details. I know we talked about it at the time, but obviously, the new information is the new Travel Warning.

QUESTION: And as – finally, as far as those Taliban talks are concerned, of course the U.S. supports them, and where do you put those Talibans? I mean, a political party in the future in Afghanistan or in Pakistan, or what will be their designation, really?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s an internal matter for Pakistan. I would point you to them on any updates on what’s happening with talks that may or may not be happening.


MS. PSAKI: Ali – I think we’re going to move on, Goyal, to another person just so we can – go ahead, Ali.

QUESTION: On Russia/Sochi, about the deputy prime minister —

MS. PSAKI: Russia/Sochi, okay.

QUESTION: Yeah. (Laughter.) Slash, the Olympics, I guess I should say.

MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure.

QUESTION: But – so the deputy prime minister that’s responsible for Olympic preparations said today – he was kind of defending these criticisms of the preparations, and specifically the hotels’ conditions —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and in response, he said, quote, “We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall, and then leave the room for the whole day,” which kind of creeped people out that there might be widespread surveillance cameras all throughout these hotel rooms and that the Russian Government is behind that. Do you have concerns about this? Have you reached out to the Russian Government for any confirmation that they are, in fact, installing surveillance cameras in all of these hotel rooms?

MS. PSAKI: I have to tell you I’ve not actually seen those comments, so let me check on those and we’ll see if we can get something around to all of you.

In the back?

QUESTION: Yes, a question – I understand that Japan’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Kishida, is going to meet with the Secretary tomorrow —

MS. PSAKI: Tomorrow, mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you agree that the purpose of that is to address the tensions between Japan and the U.S. in recent months, recently?

MS. PSAKI: No. I think our – the purpose of this is to continue an ongoing dialogue about our bilateral, strategic, and economic interests and the relationship we’ve had with Japan on all of those issues.

QUESTION: But some specifics about the agenda, the discussion points, the main points that would be discussed?

MS. PSAKI: Let me get something around to all of you. Obviously, there are a range of issues that we work with Japan on, and those include all of the broad topics I touched on, but beyond that I don’t have anything with me at this point, so we can get a little more detail on the planned agenda tomorrow.

QUESTION: And also that whether Yasukuni Shrine issue would come up. Is it – is there any preview that it’s possible?

MS. PSAKI: Again, these meetings are typically focused on much – on broad issues about our relationship. We’ve expressed our view on that in the past, but I don’t have any prediction of whether that will be a topic.

QUESTION: Any announcement on travel – the Secretary’s upcoming travel to Asia, including China?

MS. PSAKI: I expect we’ll have something in the next 48 to 72 hours. We are still finalizing all of the stops and specifics, so we’re just trying to do that before we send out a travel announcement.


QUESTION: Can I go to Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: And I don’t know if you’ve seen that there are new internet laws on the verge of being adopted or being adopted in Turkey —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — which critics are saying could be pretty repressive. And I wondered if there was a U.S. comment on that.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Pardon me; give me a moment here. So this is – these laws are part of a larger bill, an omnibus bill that has not yet been passed. We, of course, are monitoring the status of the legislation to amend Turkey’s internet law. We have been and continue to be strong advocates for freedom of expression around the world, and we believe, of course, that democracies are strengthened by the diverse voices of their people.

We share the concerns recently expressed by the OSCE’s representative on freedom of the media – and there was a whole statement put out I’d point you to – that these proposed measures are not compatible with international standards on freedom of expression. They also have the potential to significantly impact free expression, investigative journalism, the protection of journalist sources, political discourse, and access to information over the internet. So those are all areas we would be concerned about.

QUESTION: You said it has not been passed. But our reporting says that it has passed parliament, but it has not yet been enacted because it must be approved by the president. Did you mean passed, or did you mean enacted?

MS. PSAKI: My understanding was “passed,” but I can double-check with our team, and certainly wouldn’t want to dispute. That was the understanding I had before I came down here.

QUESTION: Did you say that you shared the view of the OSCE?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.


MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Okay. Staying on Turkey?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: There seems to be a surge in concerns in some quarters about Turkey and what some people might regard as support or at least acquiescence to groups that the United States accuses of being terrorist organizations; members of Hamas, people who are known to have been financing, other designated FTOs.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Concern around the world, concern from —

QUESTION: Yeah, well, no. Concern here among some, concern from one of your former ambassadors to Turkey, concern in Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And I’m just wondering if you share those concerns, if you believe Turkey is doing enough, considering it is the chair or co-chair of this international committee on – I can’t remember the exact name, but this large consortium of countries that get together to talk about counterterrorism cooperation.

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to talk to our team about their evaluation of that.

QUESTION: Can you?

MS. PSAKI: I mean, obviously, it’s an issue that’s discussed whenever we meet with them. And they are, as we all know, a neighboring country to Syria and the events on the ground there which has had a trickle-out effect. But I’ll talk to them and see where we are as a U.S. Government.

QUESTION: Well, I think this goes beyond just concerns Syria. It goes more to al-Qaida-linked groups as well as Hamas, which is —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Okay, let me check with them.


MS. PSAKI: Great.

QUESTION: I’ve got one more —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — that has to do with – it goes back to the phone call.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The intercepted phone call. I’m just wondering if your suspicions about Russian involvement and Russian tradecraft in this case, if you regard them as being – as vindicating or as proving the point that you and other spokespeople for the Administration have had in response to the NSA revelations that everybody’s doing this.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know that that’s been our public line, but —

QUESTION: Pretty much it has. You say that you conduct intelligence – or you conduct the same manner that other countries do. Do you regard this as proof of that?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have the specifics on all the details on this, so it’s hard for me to use this as an example. Certainly, there’s intel gathering that happens around the world. That hasn’t changed. But I don’t have any specific analysis on this and what it means about the larger issue.

QUESTION: All right. And is it your position that the collection of intelligence like this is normal, but it’s simply the public dissemination of it that’s problematic? Or are you upset or concerned that this phone call was monitored and recorded at all in the first place.

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, a private conversation between a diplomat and – two diplomats is concerning that that was recorded and publicized, both.

QUESTION: Right. But don’t you instruct your diplomats, American diplomats, to assume that conversations that they have over unsecure phone lines or unsecure email are vulnerable to interception?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re certainly aware of, in parts of the world, of risks that you run. But I don’t have any other outlines for you.

I think we’re about to wrap – oh, go ahead, Matt. Sorry. One more? Let’s just do the last one in the back. Go ahead.

QUESTION: North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: North Korea has threatened to call off the family reunions if the U.S. and South Korea go ahead with the annual joint military drills. Do you have a comment on this?

MS. PSAKI: We talked about this a little bit yesterday or the day before, and just that these are annual exercises that are, of course, run by the Department of Defense. We have, of course, encouraged any positive steps about – that can happen between South Korea and North Korea, including the family reunification, but I don’t have any other commentary on that specific —

QUESTION: So the drills are going to be, like, continued on schedule?

MS. PSAKI: I’d point you to the Department of Defense, but my understanding is that’s correct, yes. Thanks, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:26 p.m.)