State Department Briefing by Jen Psaki, November 21, 2013

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–November 21, 2013.

Index for Today’s Briefing
    • U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange Meeting
    • On-going Updates from U.S. Delegation in Geneva
    • Reaction to President Karzai Comments on Delay of BSA
    • Size of American Troop Presence in Afghanistan Post-2014
    • Residual Force
    • Details of the Language in the BSA
    • Anniversary of Helicopter Incident
    • Reports of Detained American Citizen/Confirmation from Sweden
    • Readout of Secretary Kerry’s Meeting with King Mohammed VI
    • Ukraine Government Requests Pause in Negotiations with the EU/ U.S. Concerns
    • U.S. Coordinating with Regional Partners in Support of Egyptian Economy
    • Concern of American Citizens Directly Involved in Syrian Conflict
  • IRAN
    • Update on Negotiations in Geneva
    • Actions by Senate Regarding Sanctions Against Iran
    • Travel Warning
    • Readout of Ambassador Davies Meetings in Beijing
    • Reports of Surrender of Joseph Kony
    • Refugees into Lebanon
    • SPA Timeframe



1:30 p.m. EST

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Just have two quick items for all of you at the top. First, as many of you all know, today Secretary Kerry is hosting the fourth annual U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange in coordination with Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong. The CPE aims to promote and strengthen people-to-people ties between the United States and China in the field of education, culture, science and technology, sports, and women’s issues. It provides a high-level annual forum for government and private sector representatives to discuss cooperation on exchanges in a broad, strategic manner. To date, Vice Premier Liu is the highest ranking Chinese Government official to be hosted by Secretary Kerry in Washington, DC.

Also, and a quick update on the ground – I know they’ve been providing briefings on the ground, but from our colleagues in Geneva, the P5+1 discussions with Iran continue today in Geneva. Our negotiators are making progress, but as we all know, these issues are complicated and require time to hash out.

As Secretary Kerry has said, we’re not in a rush to make just any deal. We are working very hard to make sure we get a good deal. High Representative Ashton and the EU delegation have been meeting bilaterally today with Foreign Minister Zarif and the Iranian team to continue working to narrow gaps between the two sides. The P5+1 delegations have also been meeting separately throughout the day for consultations, both at the political director and at the expert level. The P5+1 remains entirely united in our proposal, and we are focused on doing everything we can to conclude a first step agreement with Iran. We’ve not had a chance to hold a bilateral meeting today with the Iranians, but we did have a brief bilateral discussion last evening.

With that, Deb.

QUESTION: I’d like to start with Afghanistan quickly.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: The Afghan president this morning told the council of elders that it would be his – that he wants the BSA to be signed with the next president, not himself. And I’m curious to know if the U.S. wants that to happen, if they want to wait, and what would be the repercussions of waiting.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Well, we’re still seeking clarity on the meaning and intention of those specific reported comments. Our team has been in touch with the Afghan team on the ground, not specifically with President Karzai at this point. Broadly speaking, when we signed the strategic partnership agreement last year, both countries committed to concluding the BSA within one year. We, of course, know the math. That window is this month, and we believe that signing the BSA sooner rather than later is essential to give Afghans certainty about their future before the upcoming elections, and enable the United States and other partners to plan for a U.S. presence after 2014.

So we respect, as we’ve said many times, of course, the role of the Loya Jirga, as it’s working through today and in the coming days. And when its work is complete, we must move forward as quickly as possible to sign an agreement. As I stated, but just to reiterate, we need a timely conclusion of this in order to plan for a poten– any potential post-2014 presence, which means signing it by the end of the year. That is our view.

QUESTION: So are you – you’d rather sign it by the end of the year than wait till any election?

MS. PSAKI: I think, and I’m – it is clear, we’ve stated this not only publicly but privately as well. It’s neither practical nor possible for us to further delay because of the uncertainty it would create and because it would make it impossible for the United States and allies to plan for a post-2014 presence, and we will continue to reiterate that. But again, these have been reported comments from a meeting, and we are seeking clarity – more clarity on the intention and purpose.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: What – is this an about-turn by Karzai on the issue as far as – has – did the U.S. have – go into the understanding that this would be signed? I mean, coming out and saying, “No, it needs to be signed after the election,” looks like an about-turn, anyway.

MS. PSAKI: Well we’re still, as I mentioned – but it’s worth repeating – seeking clarity on the meaning and intention of the comments. Just so that you have an understanding of the process, which I know is complicated, our understanding of the Afghan constitutional requirement is that the president, or his designee, must sign the agreed document, after which it must be ratified by parliament. After ratification, the president must sign the agreement into law, and then it would be published to their equivalent of a federal register.

As I mentioned a few minutes ago, there shouldn’t be any confusion about our desired timing given, when we signed the strategic partnership agreement, both countries committed to concluding the BSA within a year. Within a year is this month. And we have been very clear, as the Secretary was when he was Kabul just last month that we – in order to create certainty, in order for the United States, in order for our NATO allies to plan, we must do this as quickly as possible. Otherwise, it puts the planning and the post-2014 presence at risk.

QUESTION: Based on what you just said, even if the Jirga says yes, even if parliament says yes, even if the U.S. is ready to go and put their name on the line, if Karzai doesn’t put his name on the line after all of this, it’s still not going to be a deal.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it certainly would need to be agreed to by both sides, of course. And would need to be signed by President Karzai, absolutely.

QUESTION: So if he doesn’t do it, then the deal is off.

MS. PSAKI: Well, before we get too far ahead of where we are, as I mentioned, we’re still seeking clarity on the ground. We have been very clear about the need to conclude this by the end of the year. That’s our belief for a range of reasons I just listed, and we’ll continue to reach out on the ground.

QUESTION: Okay. He also said – Karzai also said that he told the elders that there was a lot of mistrust, that the U.S. doesn’t trust me and I don’t trust the U.S. It doesn’t exactly sound like he’s selling this thing to the elders. What’s your response to the apparent distrust?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would caution – I haven’t seen the full context of his comments. I’m not sure if anyone has. I know there have been specific quotes from there. Both the Secretary and President Karzai and President Obama – people on both sides I should say – have spoken in the past about the benefit of concluding a BSA to both sides – to the long-term security relationship with Afghanistan, to agreeing on some of the outstanding issues, which we agreed to in just the last 24 hours. This is not necessarily about trust. This is about what’s in the interest of both parties and both sides. But it is important to note that the Secretary and President Karzai have had a long, close working relationship, they’ve worked through a number of ups and downs and tough times in the relationship. They’ve worked through a number of ups and downs and tough times in the relationship, and that was evident – has been evidenced over – has been used – utilized over the past month or so and even in the last couple of days.

QUESTION: But he’s saying the U.S. doesn’t trust him. So does the U.S. trust him?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into a matter of trust or no trust. I think that we do believe that both sides agreed to the text in good faith. There hasn’t been a question of that. What we’re talking about here is a report of comments he made during a private meeting that we haven’t – we’re seeking clarity for. We have been very clear about our view on when this needs to be signed and why it needs to be signed then and what we think it needs to be included – included in it. And as the Secretary said yesterday, the text was concluded on that basis.

QUESTION: But how do you – how are you trying to confirm it? Have you actually – has Secretary Kerry tried to speak to him? Has the President tried to speak to him?

MS. PSAKI: I – the Secretary, as you know, testified this morning on the Disabilities Treaty. He hasn’t spoken with him, but our teams have been in touch on the ground and certainly have reiterated our view that this needs to be completed and signed in the coming weeks.

QUESTION: Jen, can I ask about something else —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — that President Karzai apparently said, which was that he believes the deal will see 10- to 50,000 foreign troops remain in the country after the end of 2014. I know you’ve been very clear that this is a decision that has to be made by the President, but are those numbers that have been given to President Karzai? Where is he getting them from?

MS. PSAKI: I can’t give you any clarity on that or give you a better understanding of where his numbers are coming from or why he may have said that. To be completely clear, the BSA does not address the number of U.S. forces that may be present in Afghanistan after 2014, nor does it commit us to have forces in Afghanistan. The President has not made any decision about how many U.S. troops to keep – how many U.S. troops to keep in Afghanistan after 2014 if the BSA is approved – and you didn’t ask this, but I still want to address it – or how long any would be there. There have been some reports about 2024. That’s absolutely incorrect. That is when the SPA would expire. That does not reflect how long – the Strategic Partnership Agreement – that does not reflect when any decision about either troop numbers or how long they would be there.

QUESTION: And I know that it’s obviously the President’s decision and this is more perhaps better addressed to the White House —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — but is the timing on your side, do you believe that once the BSA is signed, assuming it’s signed, then there will be a public announcement of the decision on troop numbers?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any prediction of that. I would, as you predicted, point you over there. The President has said that if we conclude a BSA, he is open to keeping a small residual force in Afghanistan that would carry out, as you know, the objectives of counterterrorism operations and training, advising, and assisting. So certainly, that’s part of the decision making, but I don’t have any prediction of timing or the outcome.

QUESTION: But I imagine that the planning is already going on with your colleagues in the Pentagon as well. I mean, presumably, there is a scenario or several scenarios that have been worked on.

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, there’s discussion through any internal national security team process about what the decision should be, but the decision is one that will be made by the President and hasn’t been made yet at this point.

QUESTION: What does Kerry mean when he says that we’re not contemplating years and years?

MS. PSAKI: I think he was speak – he was answering a question about whether we’d be there till 2024.

QUESTION: In the meantime, how do you assure your allies in the region that U.S. will remain committed to Afghanistan, both security and economic development?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the entire purpose of concluding the BSA is because we want to – we want to secure our – we want to come to an agreement on our long-term relationship that addresses security issues, that addresses the sovereignty of the Afghan people, and provides what the United States needs to help ensure Afghanistan is never again going to be a haven for terrorists who can attack us and our allies. So it’s in the interest of both sides. When the Secretary was there, he reaffirmed our commitment to this security partnership with Afghanistan. Obviously, we wouldn’t be having the discussion about the BSA if that wasn’t something we were committed to.

QUESTION: Jen, that residual force you just spoke of, would that be allowed to carry out night raids as part of a counterterrorism option?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I would point you to – Lucas, I’m not going to get too much into a residual force that we don’t know what it would be or how it will be and a BSA agreement that hasn’t been agreed to yet.


MS. PSAKI: But – but let me broadly say I would point you to what the President said in his letter to President Karzai, and he said, at this time, U.S. forces – as the new – this new agreement states, “U.S. forces shall not enter Afghan homes for the purposes of military operations except under extraordinary circumstances involving urgent risk to life and limb of U.S. nationals.” That is in the agreement, as he stated in his letter, and that was the – what was agreed to with President Karzai.

QUESTION: Right. And although there’s an agreement in place, is there still a chance that night raids could be carried out? I heard that was a sticking point that remains.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I certainly wouldn’t call them that. I think his language makes it very clear that we are —

QUESTION: To go into a home. But what about a grape hut perhaps or something? I mean, it leaves some areas where we could go perhaps.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to give you further legal analysis or military analysis. That certainly is not my area of expertise. But I think that his – this language in his letter makes very clear what has been agreed to on this front.

QUESTION: Okay. And on – is the BSA posted on the Afghanistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs website accurate?

MS. PSAKI: It is the text that has been agreed to, with the exception of one missing section.

QUESTION: Okay. I just have a question or two from that text. In Article 13, which deals with the status of personnel – I know that was a major sticking point – of jurisdiction. The last line states, of Section 1, “Afghanistan authorizes the United States to hold trial in such cases or take other disciplinary action, as appropriate, in the territory of Afghanistan.” And my question to you is: Does this mean that in the case where a U.S. soldier was charged with a crime, that trial would take place in Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a really good question. I’m not a lawyer nor did I do the legal analysis of what it means for the – what the BSA language means. So I’m happy to talk with our team and see if there’s more we can provide for clarity purposes.

QUESTION: Okay. One more real quick, and that’s – I know this is – when it comes to contractors the language is fairly straightforward in past Status of Forces Agreement —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — but there is another area of Section 6, says: “Afghanistan maintains the right to exercise jurisdiction over United States contractors and United States contractor employees.” And my question again is, does that mean that any contractor who is protecting a U.S. Ambassador, diplomat, or other person could be subject to a trial?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a very specific legal question, so let me talk with our team and see if there’s more we can provide you on both of those issues.

QUESTION: Can I – also on the language of the text —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — if it’s accurate – well, first of all, what was the missing section? And why is it missing?

MS. PSAKI: Well, by process of elimination, the point I referenced in the President’s letter, it’s safe to assume, is – was reaffirmed and was not in the text that was posted online.

QUESTION: So the searches, the house searches and things like that —

MS. PSAKI: Extraordinary circumstances. Exactly.

QUESTION: Okay. Could I ask, on the draft text they – there was a section which – and I’m sorry, I don’t have the number in front of me – where it says that it recognizes that U.S. military operations against al-Qaida may be appropriate in the fight against terrorism, but says that the two sides will cooperate closely to protect U.S. and Afghan interests, without unilateral U.S. military counterterrorism operations.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Should we take that to assume – because the language is kind of – it doesn’t specifically bar unilateral counterterrorism operations. So my question is: Do you understand that to mean that there will be no unilateral military counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan?

MS. PSAKI: I believe it references coordination on them, correct?


MS. PSAKI: And some of this has already been in place on the ground. I believe the Secretary may have talked about this when we were in Kabul a few weeks ago. The truth is, on the specific legal analysis of the text that’s really not something I’m going to be able to go into, especially given it’s still being litigated through the Loya Jirga. It hasn’t been signed or agreed to. Of course, we will provide briefings on it, but I don’t think that will be within our purview today from the podium.

Matt, you’re in a different seat. It’s throwing me off.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. It was all intentional. It had nothing to do with the fact that I was trying to get the Georgetown basketball game on ESPNU and I could not.

MS. PSAKI: Disappointing.

QUESTION: (Laughter.) I’ve got two very brief things on this. One, is its still your position that the President’s letter to President Karzai is a private, diplomatic correspondence that you will not comment on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, given it has been posted, it is obviously publicly available and I believe we sent that out to all of you this morning.

QUESTION: Right. Okay. So it is not. As soon as the Afghans posted it, that the – it was no longer private?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as a general matter, as you pointed out, we don’t comment on private diplomatic correspondence. We made a decision, given it was posted, to provide that to all of you to be helpful.

QUESTION: Okay. Alright. And then the second thing is that you said several times that you were seeking clarity about the meaning and the intent of President Karzai’s comment. What exactly is unclear to the great minds of the State Department or the Administration about a comment that says I don’t think that this should be signed until after the next election – after the election? What —

MS. PSAKI: Well, given these were comments made in a private meeting and we have not spoken with him about it and what he specifically implied by it, and whether what he meant by it, we want to do that first, before commenting further.


MS. PSAKI: I did reiterate, I know, while you were looking for the Georgetown game, what our position is and that we’ve been very clear about the need to sign this in the coming weeks.

QUESTION: Right, but – so you’re not sure that he actually said this? Or you’re not sure that what he – that this is a correct translation of what he said? What – I don’t get what’s unclear.

MS. PSAKI: I just – we are – we want to take the time, Matt. I understand what your question is. We want to take the time to have a conversation and determine what was meant by them and what it implied. It was just from reports. It wasn’t a public speech. It was – we want to just take that time.

QUESTION: But it seems to be pretty clear what it means – wouldn’t it – doesn’t it?

MS. PSAKI: If accurate, but I think I —

QUESTION: If accurate, okay.

MS. PSAKI: — that doesn’t change what our position is, which I reiterated in the beginning and I’m happy to do again if it’s helpful.


QUESTION: Is President Karzai a reliable partner?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a big trick question Lucas. We’ve obviously been working closely with him, as the Secretary’s been working closely with him over the course of years – way back to 2009. He’s an important partner to move forward the BSA, and we are – we agreed on the text yesterday, so that’s where we stand.

QUESTION: It was – maybe this was just a throwaway comment he made to appease maybe a potential constituency with the Taliban, perhaps?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to – I’ll allow all of you to do analysis on that, but we are in the same position we’ve been in terms of the need to sign in the coming weeks.

QUESTION: Do you think the conclusion of BSA will help end the stalled process of reconciliation in that country?

MS. PSAKI: As you know, we’ve long been open for that. I don’t want to make a prediction of that. Obviously, there are steps that need to be taken there. We’ve long supported Afghans talking to Afghans, so we’ll see. Clearly, we’re focused at this point in moving forward on the signing of the BSA. Any more on Afghanistan?

Okay. Hello, nice to see you.

QUESTION: Hi. Nice to see you, ma’am. I’d like to ask you on Azerbaijan. Yesterday, there was an anniversary of the helicopter shoot-down, that terrorist act that killed the whole peace keeping mission from Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan. And a lot of talk were: Who was behind it? What’s the purpose? Because it led to the full-scale war – Nagorno-Karabakh war. I wonder if you have anything on that.

MS. PSAKI: I do. Of course, the event – the anniversary was yesterday, as you mentioned, on November 20th, 1991 – was a tragic loss, one of many in that period. And the years since that have set back – since then – have set back efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The tragic loss of life in the war between Azerbaijan and Armenia reminds us that there cannot be a military solution to the conflict. Only a lasting and peaceful settlement can bring stability, prosperity, and reconciliation to the region.

As you know, there was a meeting just earlier this week, if I recall. As a co-chair of the Minsk Group, the United States remains firmly committed to working with both sides, as is evidenced by this meeting to achieve that peace.

QUESTION: Can we go to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Are you in a position to relay any additional information about this case of this latest American who seems to have been detained?

MS. PSAKI: I am not in any position to lay out more specific details.

QUESTION: Okay. So the Secretary’s comments, could you explain them – that were aired on MSNBC shortly after 1 o’clock about North Koreans and how this was a bad step, a bad move?

That was not in reference to this case?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not – I don’t think I need to go any farther than the Secretary’s comments. You asked me if I could provide any more clarity; certainly any time there are reports of Americans detained, that is a bad step and a bad move, which is what the Secretary said.

QUESTION: So you’re – so you’re saying that you cannot confirm at this moment that another American was taken – was detained by the North Koreans some three weeks ago? You cannot.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m not disputing that. We don’t have a Privacy Act waiver, so I can’t discuss details or specifics. We’re working in close coordination with representatives of the Embassy of Sweden – I said – I think I said Switzerland yesterday; I meant Sweden – to resolve the issue. But I don’t have any other updates beyond that.

QUESTION: Well, have the Swedes told you that they have been informed by the North Koreans that an American has been detained, without getting into anything that might violate the Privacy Act? Have – are you aware – are they – have they told you that they have been made aware by the North Koreans that they are detaining one of your citizens?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any more specifics on it than what I’ve said.


MS. PSAKI: And I know the Secretary also made some comments earlier today.

QUESTION: Right, I understand that. But the Privacy Act does not cover confirmation of someone actually being detained. I mean, it doesn’t – the fact of someone being detained. You’re almost always – and I can’t think of a case, a prior case where the mere fact of a detention that has been reported to you by your protecting power hasn’t been able to be acknowledged. So the question, I guess, is – the question stands: Have the Swedes told you that they had been informed by the North Koreans that there has been an American detained there?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have an update for you.

QUESTION: And if you could – I —

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to take it and see if there is more to report back to you, Matt.

QUESTION: Yes. That’s what I —

MS. PSAKI: Happy to.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Samir.

QUESTION: Do you have a readout about the Secretary’s meeting yesterday with the King of Morocco?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

So Secretary Kerry met King Mohammed VI of Morocco yesterday at the Ambassador’s residence. This was a meeting in advance, of course, of the President’s meeting with the King tomorrow. Overall, the visit of the King highlights the longstanding friendship between the United States and Morocco and will strengthen our strategic partnership. They discussed during the meeting a range of issues that also, of course, could be discussed tomorrow, which will – including Morocco’s democratic and economic reforms and cooperating on regional challenges. We will, of course, have more, either from the White House or here on the King’s visit as a total at the conclusion of his visit tomorrow.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Scott.

QUESTION: Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts on the Ukrainian Government’s delay of its EU ascension and some of its decisions on Ms. Tymoshenko’s status?

MS. PSAKI: Sure I do. One moment, Scott. Sorry.

Well, this, as you know, was just breaking, I think, in the last hour or so. We have, of course, seen the reports on the Ukrainian Government’s apparent decision to request a pause in negotiations on an association agreement with the EU. If the reports are true and if the decision is the Ukrainian Government’s final decision before Vilnius, we’re disappointed. We believe there was ample time to resolve all remaining obstacles to signing the association agreement in Vilnius with sufficient effort and commitment.

In the back.

QUESTION: Oh, on this.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead. One moment.

QUESTION: Do you expect this to have any impact on the OSCE meeting that’s supposed to be happening in Ukraine in the beginning of December?

MS. PSAKI: That’s a good question. I don’t think we know yet. We – obviously, this just happened in the last two hours or so, so I’ll check with the team and see if there’s something more to report on that. I have not heard that at this point.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Egypt.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And it was heard before and now it’s somehow reported in today’s David Ignatius mentioning in his column that the State Department is forming a team to work with the U.A.E. and perhaps Saudi Arabia to support the Egyptian economy and smooth the political transition. Do – is it true, or if it’s true, are – you have some details about it?

MS. PSAKI: We have been coordinating closely with our partners in the region on how to boost the economy for some time, and certainly in the last couple of months. I don’t have any additional details at this point, but I’m happy to check back and see if there’s more we can provide to all of you.

QUESTION: Can you take it, I mean, as a question?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Happy to if there’s more to provide, of course.

QUESTION: There is another question —

MS. PSAKI: Okay. I will go to you – we’ll go to you next, Jo.

QUESTION: Another question, but it’s related to the – maybe Syria and U.S. in the same time.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: It was reported today that there are a lot of Americans are fighting in the Syrian soil or the Syrian land, whatever you can call it. And do you have any comment, official comment about this, or regarding this issue?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We have long been concerned, and we’ve talked about it a bit in here, about the issue of foreign fighters, whether they’re from another country, or even reports of U.S. citizens. Their involvement in the Syrian crisis plays directly into the regime’s hands and does not move the Syrian people closer to the inclusive post-Assad future they deserve. So this is something, certainly, we have been concerned about. We’ve expressed that concern. And in addition to our long-term efforts to bolster the rule of law, build civilian law enforcement and judicial capacity, and generate economic development, we’ve initiated a focused overseas outreach effort by coordinating with our partners to highlight our concern over the flow of fighters and urge steps to both monitor and prevent such travel where is possible. So that’s something we certainly work on. And we partner with – our partnership includes tracking and countering the movement of violent extremists to Syria.

QUESTION: So it’s – do you have any estimate of the number of the people, or just like it’s – like some?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any estimate of numbers for you.



MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You mentioned at the top that there haven’t been any bilateral meetings today to read —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. There was one last night.

QUESTION: There was – but it was a short one last night?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there a problem between the Iranian and American delegations?

MS. PSAKI: No, not at all. This was just the update I had received as of this morning, but certainly, we could schedule a meeting later today. That was just the update before I came down here.

QUESTION: I mean, given that it’s already night time in Geneva, do you think that’s likely or —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an update on that, but that’s certainly something we’re open to. It just – there wasn’t one at the point I came down here.

QUESTION: Okay. And can I ask, if there’s any update yet on whether the Secretary is planning to drop in – drop by the negotiations?

MS. PSAKI: Drop by. Drop in —

QUESTION: Drop by —

MS. PSAKI: There is not an update at this point.

QUESTION: Okay. And then I had another question as well, which is this – it’s there seems to be some moves going on in the Senate now today —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One of them is Harry – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that the Senate should – will move – will start to move to impose new sanctions in December if these negotiations don’t bear fruit. And then Senator Bob Corker has also come out with some legislation, which he just introduced today, which would effectively bar the President from using his executive authority to lift any sanctions until Iran had fully complied with the interim deal. Could I ask for your comment on those two pieces of legislation, or those two pieces of news from Senate?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we are pleased that Senator Reid – Leader Reid is holding off on additional sanctions legislation until after the current round of negotiations are completed. As we have said, we are determined to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and firmly believe that it would be preferable to do so peacefully. We hope that Leader Reid will continue to give the President and our P5+1 negotiating partners the space they need to pursue these negotiations in the future if necessary, and obviously, this conversation will continue depending on the outcome of the next round of negotiations.

In terms of the Corker – you may have a question on that but let me address the other piece, too. In terms of the Corker legislation, I know that that just came out right before we left. I haven’t had a team to – a chance to speak with our legislative team. But obviously, the goal here is agreeing on a first step that Iran would fully comply with. So that’s what we’re working towards. As a part of that, no one is going to agree to a deal, as we’ve said a few times, that does not address the big issues of the stockpiles of enriched uranium, the plutonium track at Arak, the need for more monitoring centrifuges, et cetera, and that’s what our goal is. So we’re working toward that. Obviously, we’ll have a discussion in any of these cases following the conclusion of the next round of negotiations.

QUESTION: So would you say that Senator Corker’s legislation is perhaps not helpful at this stage?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s hard for me to give – the negotiators are on the ground, as you know, so they’re negotiating. Given how sensitive and difficult these are, certainly any piece – any indication that the United States isn’t serious about the diplomatic track is unhelpful. However, we – Leader Reid made clear that he is going to hold off on additional sanctions legislation until after the current round of negotiations to give, in part, the space that the negotiators need. They’re there now, so we’re appreciative of that step.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Oh, Chris, go ahead. And then I’ll go to you next.

QUESTION: Jen, just on that same topic. Will you keep pushing Congress for a pause even if nothing comes out of this round of negotiations? Does it – does your view on that hinge on what happens (inaudible)?

MS. PSAKI: Well, broadly speaking, if the negotiations fail writ large over the coming months or however long until we know, we would lead the charge for more sanctions. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve been so clear to our friends in Congress that we should give diplomacy a chance to breathe and see if it would work out. And it’s about creating those best conditions. About what would happen after a next round, I don’t want to speculate on that. We’ll see where we are, and if we need to ask for more space to pursue the negotiations or where we are after the next round.

Any more on Iran? Okay. Oh, go ahead, Chris.

QUESTION: I saw that there was a report that Israel has been lobbying on the Hill against – or in favor of these sanctions, against what the Administration wants. I’m just wondering what your reaction is to reports that Israel is lobbying, if you view that as undermining what the State Department is trying to do.

MS. PSAKI: As the Secretary has said, we understand that the Government of Israel and Prime Minister Netanyahu are going to express their concerns as they see fit, and they have every right to do that. We’ve been in contact with them, briefing them on why we feel this is the appropriate path, and we’ll continue to do that as well as the negotiations continue.

Any more on Iran? Okay. Oh, I promised you I’d go to you next. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Glyn Davies, on Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The U.S. Representative for North Korea Policy, while not confirming that Merrill Newman, the American, is being detained in North Korea, did say North Korea should think long and hard about these cases.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: And this is a day after the State Department issued a travel advisory for Americans thinking about traveling to North Korea. Can you speak more in generalities about Americans traveling to North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. And I talked about this a little bit yesterday, but I’m happy to repeat. First, no Travel Warning is issued on the basis of a single case. It’s done through the course of comprehensive analysis of what information needs to be provided to American citizens for security purposes. But you’re right, in this specific Travel Warning, it did mention – and let me just pull it up here so I just have it in front of me – it did have specific language recommending against all travel by U.S. citizens to North Korea. It did mention in there, given recent events, that the Department of State has also received reports of North Korean authorities arbitrarily detaining U.S. citizens and not allowing them to depart the country. So we always reflect on information that’s happening in Travel Warnings. That’s why it was put out. They’re usually done every six months, sometimes they’re done more frequently than that, and this was a case of that.

QUESTION: Sorry. When you say that no Travel Warning was ever issued on the basis of a single case, are you talking about a single individual?

MS. PSAKI: Single individual case, yes. It’s done over comprehensive analysis.

QUESTION: One more over on North Korea.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I believe that Ambassador Davies has wrapped up his meetings in China over the denuclearization of North Korea. Do you have any updates on that for us?

MS. PSAKI: I do. One moment here. And you asked me about – did you ask me about Ambassador Davies – Ambassador – Ambassador Davies.

QUESTION: Ambassador Davies, yes.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, one moment. I have – I know he obviously gave an extensive press conference on the ground as well, but I believe I have something more specific for you. One moment.

So Special Representative for North Korean Policy Glyn Davies met with – on November 21st – so today – met with PRC Foreign Minister Wang Yi and continued a series of intensive, constructive, and productive discussions with his Chinese counterpart as well as PRC Special Representative for Korean Peninsula Affairs Wu Dawei on a wide range of issues related to North Korea. These discussions are the latest in a series of regular ongoing consultations with all of our five-party partners. Both the United States and China agree on the fundamental importance of a denuclearized North Korea.

On November 22nd, Ambassador Davies will hold discussions in Seoul with his South Korean counterpart and other South Korean officials. He will then travel to Tokyo for consultations with his Japanese counterpart and other Japanese officials before returning to Washington on November 25th.

QUESTION: And one more quick question.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I apologize if I missed this because I just walked in.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Do you have an update on if the State Department can confirm whether or not an American is being detained by North Korea?

MS. PSAKI: I think Matt already asked this. I don’t have any other specific update, but both the Secretary and Ambassador Davies have spoken to this in the last 24 hours, so I would point you to their comments.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Scott.

QUESTION: A Joseph Kony question. Does the United States have a view of the veracity of some reports that officials in the Central African Republic are in touch with some members of the LRA about their surrender and if Mr. Kony is part of that group, some reports about his health?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. We are aware that authorities from the Central African Republic have been in contact for several months with a small LRA group that has expressed interest in surrendering. At this time, we have little reason to believe that Joseph Kony is part of that group.

QUESTION: And what about some reports associated with that in regard to his deteriorating health? Do you have any reason to believe those are accurate?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any specific update on that, but given we don’t think that he is a part of this group, I think we would caution against many of these reports.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Syria.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: More refugees are now crossing Syria to Lebanon because of the situation and more organizations are alarming with the situation getting worse, or at least if it’s not getting worse it cannot be the same in the coming days and weeks.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any update about that?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know there have been reports recently of an influx of refugees from Lebanon. We have provided over the course of the last several months a great deal of assistance to Lebanon on these refugees. We’re, of course, monitoring the situation closely. And we also understand that many of these refugees were already internally displaced persons inside Syria, having previously fled the intense fighting in Homs, and now have been forced again to find safety.

To date, we – our numbers say – or our numbers are that the Government of Lebanon is hosting nearly 817,000 Syrian refugees. We have provided more than $254 million to Lebanon throughout – through humanitarian partners to meet refugees’ needs. But certainly, we’re concerned about recent reports and are monitoring it closely.

QUESTION: The question that I will maybe ask every week in the same time, might be different days —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But what kind of – let’s say not precautions at least, preparations U.S. Department or other department of in this country are taking regarding to handle the issues of the refugees in the coming days and weeks? I mean, already we start to use heat or whatever now – how in our places, but they need something similar or at least one-tenth of it.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Well, according to the UN, there are 2.5 million Syrians who are unable to receive assistance in difficult-to-reach and besieged areas. So we have called on many times all parties to permit access for humanitarian agencies immediately in order to implement the October 2nd UN Security Council presidential statement.

Inside Syria, there’s an ongoing, intensifying – ongoing effort to deal with the obstacles presented by the regime and to deliver humanitarian assistance. So with U.S. support, humanitarian organizations have distributed thicker thermal blankets, warm clothing, floor coverings, additional plastic tarps across Syria, and winter supply distributions will ramp up as the cold weather sets in. It certainly is something that we are very focused on. And we continue, of course, to push for safe and secure access for aid workers and organizations at every opportunity we have.

All right. Thanks every – oh, Matt.

QUESTION: I have one more on the —

MS. PSAKI: Sure, go ahead.

QUESTION: – on the BSA, which is the one I’d forgotten.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: When you were – you said that there was – no one’s talking about having troops there until 2024. But that is the – 10 years is the length of this agreement, correct?

MS. PSAKI: Because that’s when the SPA expires.


MS. PSAKI: But it’s not an indication of when troops would be there.

QUESTION: I know. But it would provide – they could be there until 2024?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly, certainly.

QUESTION: Even though that’s not —

MS. PSAKI: But reporting that they will be is inaccurate.

QUESTION: So this would give them – you – the legal right to have a force or forces, or however many it is, until 2024, even though you’re not planning to do that and you don’t think you will?

MS. PSAKI: Correct.

QUESTION: Right, okay.

MS. PSAKI: Thanks, everyone.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:31 p.m.)



Final 2023 Mayoral Forum with Joe Woods

Final Village Trustee Forum – March 19, 2023