1:44 p.m. EDT
MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.
MS. PSAKI: A full house. Lucas is back. Exciting. I have a couple of items for all of you at the top.
As you know and we’ve said in a couple of statements before, we are deeply saddened by the news that Germanwings Flight 9525 crashed in southern France on its way from Barcelona, Spain to Dusseldorf, Germany yesterday. At this time, we can confirm the deaths of U.S. citizens Yvonne Selke and Emily Selke. We are in contact with family members and we extend our deepest condolences to the families and loved ones of the 150 people onboard. We can also confirm that a third U.S. citizen was onboard the flight. We are in touch with the family but are not releasing the name at this time out of respect for the family. And if I may, given we often provide public service information here, Lufthansa and Germanwings have established a telephone hotline. The worldwide number is 407-362-0632. It’s available to all the families of the passengers involved for care and assistance. If you believe a U.S. citizen family member was on the flight, we encourage you to call the Department of State at 888-407-4747 from within the United States or 202-501-4444.
On Yemen, we strongly condemn the recent offensive military actions undertaken in Yemen that have targeted President Hadi. The actions of the Houthis and former President Saleh have caused widespread instability and chaos that threatens the well-being of all Yemenis. The international community has spoken clearly through UN Security Council resolutions and in other fora that the violent takeover of Yemen by an armed faction is unacceptable and that the only legitimate transition can be accomplished through political negotiations and a consensus agreement among all of the political parties based on the GCC initiative and national dialogue outcomes. The future of Yemen should be determined by the Yemeni people from all communities. It is the people of Yemen who will feel the effects if all the parties do not immediately cease military actions and return to Yemen’s political transition.
And then if I may, since this is my last briefing with all of you, which I am pretty sad about, I just wanted to say I had a moment yesterday – or at the end of the briefing, I had an opportunity to thank all of you and just say a little bit about the public service that all of you play in reporting not just to the American people but what’s so great about the State Department is to people around the world. But I also wanted to say a few things, if you don’t mind, about some of my colleagues here, just because they are as committed to this in a different way that all of you are.
And first, obviously working for the Secretary has been this amazing adventure and amazing experience for me. And I had worked for him when he ran for president about 10 years ago, but it’s really rare to work for someone who has the combination of the energy and enthusiasm and commitment to his job as a public servant but also as the nation’s chief diplomat as he does. And I think we all know that about him; he’s tireless and it’s hard to keep up with him. I think those of us who work for him, but those of us who have traveled with him know as well.
But he’s also somebody – and I see this every day and through the months and actually now years I’ve worked for him – who has a vision about where the United States and where our role in the world can go moving forward over the long term. And it’s not just about what happens day to day but about how we can invest in important relationships around the world, whether that’s with the Western Hemisphere or whether that’s with many countries in Asia. And I have been just so proud to be here for a number of things that he has led on, and that’s the CW deal, the effort to form a unity government in Afghanistan, which obviously we’ve seen the benefits over the last couple of days, the Middle East peace effort, climate change – which I think he has played a significant role putting on the map, and certainly, building the anti-ISIL coalition, which was a sleepless couple of days for many of us who were on the trip early this year.
So I just wanted to say a few words about him but also about many of the people who are in this department. And you all know them very well, but I think most of the American people and perhaps people around the world don’t see what diplomats do every day and kind of what the role is that they play. And the Foreign Service – which I’m not a part of, as many of you know, but I’ve learned a great deal about over the last two years – is a group of people who dedicate their lives to really being the glue that holds international diplomacy together. And they spend rotations of two years or three years in different places; it’s amazing the number of languages they speak and their dedication to representing the United States around the world. And I have been so blown away and just really impressed by this group of people. And it’s not every day that you get to – although it has been every day for me for the last two years – call up people like Bill Burns or Toria Nuland or Anne Patterson, Robert Ford. I mean, some of these people are no longer here, but who have had inspiring careers and are – and you can call them about Ukraine or Syria – it’s kind of a unique briefing that you’re able to get. And that combined with some of the people that I’ve been able to work with who are political appointees – Dan – the Dan Feldmans of the world, the Frank Lowensteins, the Martin Indyks – it’s really been a huge honor.
And then last thing I would say is that I’ve had this incredible team of people here that I am just so grateful for. And all of you know Marie Harf and Jeff Rathke because they’ve been up here briefing, and they’ve been incredible and you will remain in excellent hands with them. But I also – there are a number of people that you all don’t know and – or you may know a little bit – but the PAOs who work in the bureaus every day who put together guidance, who get calls from us at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., or from you guys. And the people from – so they’re obviously from the bureaus. And just the team of great people just in my small little office. So I know this is lengthy, but I just felt I would take the opportunity since I have the forum for a moment, and I know we have a lot to cover, so we can now move on to the business of the world.
QUESTION: Before – congratulations again on your move and —
MS. PSAKI: Thank you.
QUESTION: — thank you for the long hours and great commitment you’ve shown to your job and your patience and indulgence at times with us, as well as your professionalism and how you’ve handled yourself —
MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Brad.
QUESTION: — in all aspects.
MS. PSAKI: Very kind of you to say.
QUESTION: Thank you. I just wanted to start with Yemen.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: You touched on it briefly. What – who is the U.S. speaking to? For a long time we heard about you were in touch with Hadi. Now you may be – I don’t know – but you let us know. And for a while we heard about how you still had communications at – whether it was special forces level or however, but now that seems to no longer exist. So who are you in touch with? How are you actually engaging the process on the ground?
MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, specifically on President Hadi, we were in touch with him earlier today. We – he is no longer at his residence, which you’ve seen in reporting, but we can certainly confirm. I’m not in a position to confirm any additional details from here about his location. We have been in touch with him over the last several days. And as all of you know, Ambassador Tueller has seen him in person and has traveled from Jeddah to go see him.
In terms of our counterterrorism cooperation, as my colleagues at, I believe, DOD said yesterday, there’s no question our preference would be to have a presence on the ground. And that’s certainly – that’s why we have diplomatic – diplomats in embassies around the world, is to have that on-the-ground coordination. But we maintain means of working with, monitoring, going after some of the threats that face us, and that’s ongoing. And even if you look on the diplomatic side, though Ambassador Tueller and his close team are not based in Yemen, they have been able to continue to communicate with President Hadi and communicate with others and, obviously, with the UN about the political process moving forward.
QUESTION: This call this morning – who made that telephone call with him? And I assume this is while he was still at the residence?
MS. PSAKI: Let me see if there are more details I can get into for you, Brad. I’m happy to check on that.
QUESTION: This is the punishment of your last day – you can’t take follow-up questions. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Well, I will say that there was a State Department briefing long before me and there will continue to be. I just don’t want to get ahead of providing details I don’t have at this point.
QUESTION: And so you have no information about where he is, or you’re just choosing at this point not to share that for security reasons?
MS. PSAKI: There have been a range of reports. I don’t have more details – I don’t have more details to share, I would say, even if we had more level of specificity.
QUESTION: Did the U.S. consider withdrawing him at some point? There were reports that he was going to get on board a U.S. military aircraft, and that ultimately – that was not – that didn’t happen, and now that he’s on a boat somewhere.
MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been reports; that’s one of them. I don’t have confirmation of that report. We’ve obviously been in close touch with him, as have many GCC countries. So I just don’t have more details from here about his plans or what actions we’re prepared to take.
QUESTION: Jen, does the U.S. believe that he’s still in Yemen?
MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have more details on his whereabouts at this point.
QUESTION: And what time did the official speak to him? Was it in the morning?
MS. PSAKI: It was in the morning.
QUESTION: And was there any other thing that’s – anything else that was said?
MS. PSAKI: I mean, I think, obviously, we’ve been touching base on a regular basis. I don’t have any more to read out of the discussion, but we’ve been in regular contact.
QUESTION: Do you believe that the Houthis have actually – how close they are to Aden? Can you give any update on that?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an on-the-ground update. Obviously, as you have seen in reporting but I can certainly confirm that they have seized the Al Anad airbase located between Sana’a and Aden. We’ve seen an incredibly volatile but also fluid situation on the ground, which is why we just don’t have kind of confirmation of the specifics of their movements.
QUESTION: So just one more question. They got the airbase. Are any U.S. planes on that airbase?
MS. PSAKI: I would point you to DOD. I don’t have more specifics on what may or may not still be there.
QUESTION: Jen? First of all, thank you for indulging us all this time. We appreciate it.
MS. PSAKI: Thank you, Said.
QUESTION: And second, the Saudis are saying that they are going to propose some sort of an Arab force that will go into Yemen during this Arab summit that begins, I guess, on Saturday. So do you have any information on that? Are you coordinating with them? Have they shared any kind of plans with them? Would you support such an effort?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we don’t have details on that at this point in time. I don’t think that those reports are that new. They may be refreshed. We’ve worked closely with Saudi Arabia and our partners in GCC countries to promote a peaceful political transition and share their concerns about the aggressive actions of the Houthis. Saudis have legitimate concerns about the possible impact of current events in Yemen to their security, given their proximity. And we understand that they’re taking appropriate precautions to ensure the security of their border.
Obviously, you’re talking about an upcoming meeting. We don’t have more details on any proposal that may or may not be proposed.
QUESTION: Who’s sharing in the meeting? Who’s going to the meeting on the American side? There is normally an American diplomat or an American high-level official and so on that goes to this Arab summit. Do we know who it is? Could there be the – could it be the ambassador to Yemen, for instance, in this case?
MS. PSAKI: Not always, Said. But I can see if there’s a specific plan at this point in time.
QUESTION: Jen, on this, do you support any military intervention from Saudi Arabia or Arab states in Yemen?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, we’re talking about a hypothetical at this point in time. Obviously, as I mentioned, we believe that the Saudis have legitimate concerns about the possible impact of current events in Yemeni – in Yemen on their security, and given their proximity. But I don’t have any predictions for you on what they may or may not do. I would point you to the – their government for that.
QUESTION: And they’re doing a press conference at 4 p.m. today, so —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: But they haven’t given you a heads-up about what’s —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more details. We certainly wouldn’t get ahead of a government of our – one of our partners.
QUESTION: So how does the State Department assess this? The army in Iraq falls apart, then Mosul; the army in Yemen, after all this training and so on, falls apart; all these agreements that in many ways were under the auspices of the Americans and so on. How do you interpret that?
MS. PSAKI: Are under the auspices of —
QUESTION: Well, not – I mean, you helped a great deal. I mean, you supported the Government of Iraq; you supported the Government in Yemen, and to have a centralized authority of sort. And there are apparently no centralized authorities, and they fall apart at the first challenge. Why do you think?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, you’re making a sweeping statement here, Said, which is not applicable to all those countries you mention. There’s no question that —
QUESTION: I only mentioned two —
MS. PSAKI: Well, okay.
QUESTION: — Iraq and Yemen.
MS. PSAKI: It’s not applicable to both countries you mentioned. I would say the Government of Iraq is continuing to move forward on not just important reforms, but on steps to – on inclusivity steps, on steps to bring in unregulated militia. That – I wouldn’t put them – I would definitely not put them in anywhere near the same category.
QUESTION: After a period of moving backwards.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, that’s right. But we’re talking about right now. On Yemen, I think we’ve been pretty clear about the fact that we view the situation on the ground as volatile, as challenging, as one that’s incredibly fluid. And the Houthis’ actions have consistently undermined Yemen’s transition. Recent actions are but the latest in a series of violent actions perpetrated by the Houthis since they overran Sana’a, took over government institutions, and attempted to govern by unilateral decree. Clearly, there is an effort that’s being led by the UN to try to get all parties to the table to pursue a political process and a process that can help bring parties together. We certainly support that. We moved our personnel out, as all of you know. So we’re certainly not naive about the challenges, but we’re continuing to work with a range of partners about how to address things moving forward.
QUESTION: Has there been, at any point, any deliberations about U.S. action, military or otherwise, to halt the Houthis? I mean, this is all happening in a place that’s heavily watched. As you said, you’re not naive; you know what’s going on. Yet nothing’s really happened to stop them. I mean, has there been any discussion to nip it in the bud?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything for you on that, Brad. I think, obviously, I’m not going to get into deliberations and certainly any action anywhere would be something the Department of Defense would speak to.
QUESTION: Jen, how is State characterizing Hadi’s departure? Are you saying he fled, he left voluntarily? And then secondly, earlier he had a plan to attend the Arab summit in Egypt. You mentioned there was a phone call this morning. Was there any indication on if ultimately he still plans to make his way to that summit?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any details on his plans and whether or not he’ll attend the summit. In terms of the call this morning, I just don’t have more to read out from it and the specifics of the discussion. I just wanted to make clear that we had been in touch as recently as this morning. In terms of his departure, I think it’s pretty clear he left voluntarily. I don’t think I need to put a new characterization on it.
QUESTION: He left —
QUESTION: I’ve got a follow with Yemen.
QUESTION: Sorry, he left voluntarily?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I mean, obviously he left given the circumstances —
QUESTION: I mean, just —
MS. PSAKI: — but I don’t think I need to – I think we all know what happened here.
QUESTION: He’s leaving because the city is about to fall, right? I mean, that’s hardly a voluntary departure.
MS. PSAKI: Correct, but I will let all of you characterize what that means. I don’t think I need to characterize whether it means fled or departed voluntarily or what it means.
QUESTION: Sorry, Jen, but I wanted to ask —
QUESTION: Just real quick, first, on behalf of the Fox News Channel I wanted to say thank you for all your hard work.
MS. PSAKI: This is a statement I thought I would never hear. (Laughter.) But thank you, Lucas.
QUESTION: I speak on behalf of my colleagues and our viewers. We thank you and we will miss you.
MS. PSAKI: It has been a pleasure working with you and your colleagues, all kidding aside. You’re always professional and I always enjoy having you in the briefing room.
QUESTION: Thank you. Is Yemen still a model for counterterrorism operations for the United States?
MS. PSAKI: Well, one, Lucas, I think we still have a number of successes to point to in terms of our efforts to push back on al-Qaida and our successes in doing that in coordination with authorities. We’re continuing to work to push back on counterterrorism threats that we face. Now, we’ve never said – or I don’t believe we’ve said – that – or held up Yemen as a country where a political transition has been an easy road. But we have had success working on counterterrorism operations and we expect and hope that will continue.
QUESTION: The President in September mentioned Yemen as a successful counterterrorism operation.
MS. PSAKI: Correct, and we stand by that.
More on Yemen?
QUESTION: I just wanted to follow up very quickly —
QUESTION: Just following up: At the moment, are you successfully combating terror in Yemen? Because it looks by all account that al-Qaida is expanding territory under its control and operations; ISIS is now getting a foothold in the country. So what is the measure of that success right now?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Brad, I’m not in a position to kind of evaluate on the counterterrorism front publicly, but my point I’m making here is that we have means of monitoring, we have means of continuing to coordinate. We’re continuing to push back on a range of efforts. You can’t possibly know – nor can anyone – what the range of threats are. Obviously, it’s a difficult situation, it’s a volatile situation on the ground for a range of reasons.
QUESTION: What is the measure of counterterrorism success, then? Is it not to have less of a threat than before? Are you willing to say at this point Yemen is less of a terrorism threat than it was, I don’t know, a few years ago?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think that’s the question we’re posing here.
QUESTION: Well, I mean, yeah. I mean, if it’s a model of counterterrorism success, it must be something that it’s been successful at.
MS. PSAKI: Which is something the President said in September, and the fact is that we continue to have means of pushing back on al-Qaida in Yemen. We’re continuing those efforts. We typically can’t outline those efforts publicly.
QUESTION: But continuing efforts doesn’t quantify a success.
MS. PSAKI: Well —
QUESTION: I mean, a success has to do something.
MS. PSAKI: — understood, Brad.
QUESTION: What is the —
MS. PSAKI: But typically, we can’t outline our counterterrorism efforts publicly.
QUESTION: Well, you’ll understand, given that criteria, that people will look at that with a raised eyebrow at the least, given that you can’t explain why you think it’s a success.
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think I was saying that. I have explained that it’s a success and it has been a success for many years because of our efforts to push back and counter al-Qaida in Yemen. That’s something we’ve been doing for some time now. Now, there’s no question the situation on the ground has changed over the last several months as it relates to the volatility, as it relates to what our staffing is on the ground. These are all things we’ve talked about publicly. But we continue to have means of monitoring what the threats are and pushing back on those threats. We don’t give day-to-day evaluations of that.
QUESTION: Staying on the same —
QUESTION: Jen, would you – the base —
QUESTION: Staying on the same —
MS. PSAKI: On Yemen? Go ahead. Okay.
QUESTION: Yeah. The base that has fallen into Houthi hands is purported to be the launching for all the drone attacks and so on. Can you speak to whether some drones may have fallen into hands of the Houthis?
MS. PSAKI: No.
QUESTION: It’s on the same lines, but Yemen has been projected as the center point from where the operations were being carried out against al-Qaida. Now where are these operations will be? Are they moved to another country? Have they moved to offshore ships? Where are those – center of those operations?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as I’ve mentioned, again, there are means of – there are many ways that we can continue to monitor and work on counterterrorism efforts and pushing – including pushing back on al-Qaida and threats posed from Yemen. It’s not the only place we do counterterrorism operations from. We do them from around the world, but I’m not going to outline that from here.
QUESTION: For the al-Qaida in northern Africa, this was one of the central points. So it means that either that point doesn’t exist and we are —
MS. PSAKI: I didn’t say – are you listening to what I’m saying or I’ve answered in response to this question?
QUESTION: Yes. I always listen to you.
MS. PSAKI: We have continued to have a range of means of not only monitoring the threat on the ground but continuing to work on counterterrorism operations in Yemen. I can’t outline those publicly from here, but that is ongoing. Is it more challenging because we don’t have a diplomatic presence on the ground? Of course it is, but we continue to have means to do that. There are also other places around the world where we certainly have counterterrorism operations from. Yemen is not the only place.
QUESTION: And thank you for a great time we had and your patience with us.
MS. PSAKI: My pleasure.
QUESTION: On Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Okay, let’s finish Yemen, and then we can go to Ukraine. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes. Do you still consider Hadi is the president of Yemen?
MS. PSAKI: That is what the constitution considers, yes.
QUESTION: Yeah. And then for the new reality, which was – you talk about some contact with Saudi Arabia and GCC countries. I mean, are you talking about – which countries are you in touch with it? I mean —
MS. PSAKI: Which countries are we in touch with?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re in touch with Saudi Arabia. We’re in touch with a range of countries. We’ve had several meetings with the GCC and GCC countries over the past couple of months where Yemen has been a topic of discussion.
QUESTION: During this, like, the last few weeks, because it was coming – a new reality is coming out, are you in touch with Houthis or – by any chance?
MS. PSAKI: We are in touch with all parties, but I don’t have anything more to read out for you on that front.
Yemen, or —
QUESTION: Jen, when you said he left voluntarily, are you saying he left the residence voluntarily or the country?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have more on his location. I can confirm he left the residence.
MS. PSAKI: Yes – (laughter) – however you want to characterize it.
QUESTION: What does that mean, left – I mean, every time he leaves his home you would confirm that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I guess the question is what did Pam mean by the question. I mean, I don’t have more specifics to characterize it.
QUESTION: But you said that unprompted earlier, so —
MS. PSAKI: No, I said it in response to her question.
QUESTION: You first said it when I asked the first question.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: It wasn’t about his whereabouts per se. You mentioned that he had left the residence but you couldn’t confirm any further details.
MS. PSAKI: Typically, it means someone wasn’t forcibly carried out of their home, which we know wasn’t the case, so —
QUESTION: So you’re confirming the president has left his home.
MS. PSAKI: If that’s of interest to all of you, given you’ve asked the question.
QUESTION: Well, you – no, you offered that, but I mean, what is the significance of you reading out that a president is no longer in his home?
MS. PSAKI: It was a question of interest to the media, so I was being responsive to that, Brad.
QUESTION: That he wasn’t kidnapped is what you’re saying.
QUESTION: So, I mean, probably he’s not going to return?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more to read out for you in terms of his plans.
QUESTION: Not going to —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Change of topics?
MS. PSAKI: Sure, and any more on Yemen before we continue?
QUESTION: On Ukraine.
QUESTION: Can we talk on – about the Palestinians?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, can we go to Ukraine? I promised we’d go to Ukraine next. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Sure. Yeah.
QUESTION: Thank you, Jen. Last days there were reports about some sort of tensions between president of Ukraine and government – governor of Dnipropetrovsk region, and there were also reports that U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt met with – once or twice with Dnipropetrovsk region governor, Igor Kolomoisky, and finally he resigned – I mean, Ukrainian official resigned yesterday in the evening. Do you have any additional details?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have additional details. Our view is this is an internal matter for Ukraine. Governors in Ukraine are appointed by the president. Removing a governor from power is well within the authority of President Poroshenko, and obviously, as we’ve seen from reporting, that’s the case here.
QUESTION: Yeah, but there were some armed people who were blocking offices of state oil company and —
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve seen conflicting reports about armed men entering certain businesses partially owned by Mr. Kolomoisky. Mr. Kolomoisky and the Ukrainian Government have stated these individuals were private security guards for him. I don’t have any additional confirmation or details for you.
QUESTION: And since this is your last briefing and you know you had some controversial popularity in Russia – (laughter) – so I just wonder, do you have any final say or final adios to Russian people or Russian audience? (Laughter.) Maybe “I’ll be back” or – I don’t know.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m still working in the federal government, so I will still be around.
QUESTION: Yeah, but we will not see you every day on —
MS. PSAKI: That is true. Well, one, I would say that I have – it’s been an honor to speak on behalf of the United States positions and views as it relates to Ukraine and the illegal intervention of Russia and Russian-backed separatists, which I – we will continue to do from the podium and from many sources here in the government.
The second thing I would say is people shouldn’t believe all of the propaganda out there. The United States, myself, as silly as that sounds, there is no desire – we want to see Russia thrive, we want to see the people thrive, we want to see the economy prosper, and suggestions otherwise are simply propaganda.
QUESTION: A follow-up?
QUESTION: Thank you, thank you. And just thank you. Can I just —
QUESTION: A follow-up?
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Ukraine? Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Russia?
QUESTION: Can I just thank you for —
QUESTION: Yeah. What’s your most memorable moment with respect to Russia as you (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: (Laughter.) My most memorable moment? I will say that one of them is – was working on the deal on chemical weapons, and that was something that came together over the course of a week or 10 days, if even shorter. We came back to the United States, we went back quickly after about 36 hours. It was something we worked closely with the teams on, and clearly, now 100 percent of declared chemical weapons are out of Syria. So that was certainly a successful outcome from our collaboration together, and hopefully we’ll have successful outcome from work on the nuclear talks.
QUESTION: All right. It was time when you got a present with this pink ushanka, right – pink hat?
MS. PSAKI: I have my pink hat at home. It’s coming with me to the White House. Should we go to a new topic? Go ahead.
QUESTION: Can we go back to Ukraine?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: In reference to the previous question, the governor who was fired was fired as a result of a probe into corruption, and this of course is coming at a time when the United States and European Union is looking at pumping more money into Ukraine to help stabilize the government. Do these types of scandals – how do they impact the U.S. in terms of its view of the government? And does it make the U.S. a little bit more hesitant to provide this type of funding when this corruption is still underway?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we are certainly aware, as you referenced, of a dispute involving new laws designed to bring further reform and transparency to businesses in Ukraine. Certainly, efforts to bring more transparency and reform that the government are putting into place is a positive step. We support the government’s continuing efforts to ensure that the rule of law is applied in all sectors, including the operation of partly or fully state-owned companies. There can be no return to the laws that existed – the prior laws that existed in this regard under former President Yanukovych. And so what we’re seeing here is efforts to put reforms in place that can crack down on issues like corruption and put greater transparency in place, and we see that as a positive thing.
QUESTION: Do these types of corruption probes have an impact as far as the U.S. is concerned on efforts to stabilize the country and U.S. efforts to be a part of that in terms of the separatist movement?
MS. PSAKI: We don’t see it that way, Pam. Obviously, there are internal matters that Ukraine, just as any government, is working through. But our commitment remains to supporting a sovereign Ukraine, one where not only are they working to push back on the intervention of Russia and Russian-backed separatists, but also putting in place economic reforms and reforms that will help their country prosper over the long term.
MS. PSAKI: On Ukraine or —
QUESTION: A follow-up on —
MS. PSAKI: Ukraine, sure.
QUESTION: Yeah. President Poroshenko stated after this conflict and that armed people blocked offices of state oil company, that no governor should have a private puppet army. Would you support – as you know, in Ukraine there are many groups, armed groups that work – they aren’t complete controlled by Kyiv, they are privately financed. Will you support disarming these private groups?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think – I don’t have more information – we don’t have more information from here on some of these individuals. We’ve certainly seen a range of reports. They’ve been identified as private security guards. There are a range of laws. And again, I can’t confirm that. It’s just what they’ve been identified by as the local parties. Beyond that, obviously, the Government of Ukraine takes their own steps, which we certainly support, to maintain and work to make sure kind of all military are part of the official effort.
QUESTION: So you would support this particular statement on – that no government – no governor should have a private puppet army?
MS. PSAKI: Look, I think there are internal matters for Ukraine to work through in their laws. I don’t have any particular comment on that.
QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — real quick?
MS. PSAKI: Go – Justin’s been very restless up here, but go ahead.
QUESTION: Well, not restless.
MS. PSAKI: It’s okay, go ahead. Why don’t you go, and then we’ll go to Said?
MS. PSAKI: Eager.
QUESTION: Let’s just say I don’t have the same patience that you have displayed all these years, and you’ve been doing a great job at that, as we’ve gone over. So today, Ashraf Ghani was in front of Congress talking about, among other things, ISIS and saying that Afghanistan is now on the front line. He said Daesh “is already sending advance guards to southern and western Afghanistan to push our vulnerabilities.”
I just – I guess what I’m seeing is that this doesn’t exactly match what we’ve heard in the past from Kerry and others about sort of aspirational goals there. What is the status, in your assessment, of ISIS in Afghanistan?
MS. PSAKI: Well – and Secretary Kerry, or Secretary Carter – maybe both of them – spoke to this on Monday a little bit. And we’re aware, of course, that some members of the Taliban have rebranded themselves as ISIL, and we’re certainly monitoring closely to see whether they will have – that will have a meaningful impact on the ground – is it operational, is it propaganda? But the ISIL presence in Afghanistan is still fairly nascent, and we – and if its fighters, whether ISIL or otherwise, threaten U.S. and coalition forces, our forces have the ability to address that threat. But right now, it’s something that we are watching closely. We certainly communicate closely with President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah and many other officials in the Afghan Government about this presence, how concerned they are, and what needs to be done.
QUESTION: Do you think he’s hyping this at all?
MS. PSAKI: Look, I wouldn’t – obviously, he’s the president of his country and he watches what happens closely. But what our evaluation is – and I think it’s true just in terms of how long this has been around – is that this is fairly new, and we need to watch and see what it means and what the intentions are and whether there’s an operational connection or not.
QUESTION: Is the decision to keep the troops there or slow the pace of the withdrawal related to the ISIS threat?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t characterize it in that way. I mean, the President spoke about this yesterday. And what he spoke about is certainly that – and simply because, Justin, it’s nascent, it’s new, and obviously, this is a discussion that’s been ongoing for some time and one that President Ghani and others have been requesting for some time, for months now, as you know, because you’ve been covering this closely.
But the flexibility allows us to support Afghanistan through the upcoming fighting season, to provide core-level advisory support through 2015, and to continue to target remnants of al-Qaida. And our effort here is to certainly maintain the gains but also to prevent an al-Qaida resurgence while thwarting external plotting against U.S. targets. Obviously, we will continue to watch and work with the Afghan Government on what the nascent threat from ISIL presents.
QUESTION: Are there more ISIS or more al-Qaida in Afghanistan?
MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think al-Qaida has been around for, as you know, some time now, in Afghanistan.
MS. PSAKI: This is —
QUESTION: But their numbers have always been, like, what, less than 100 or something lately. They haven’t been – it’s more of a Taliban issue there.
MS. PSAKI: Sure, sure. Taliban, absolutely. In terms of the ISIL threat, I don’t have an assessment of that —
QUESTION: You don’t. Okay.
MS. PSAKI: — we don’t, as the U.S. Government, have for you.
QUESTION: You mentioned a lot that it’s nascent at this point. Wouldn’t that mean it’s the best time to try to actually eliminate the threat before it’s bigger?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think as we are, unfortunately, in other places where some have claimed connection to or allegiance to, we are evaluating what it means and what the intentions are and whether there is actually the direct connection.
QUESTION: If a group of fighters declare allegiance to the Islamic State, don’t you have the authorities then to do what you need to do to eliminate that threat?
MS. PSAKI: It’s more than just pledging allegiance, Brad, and there —
QUESTION: Is it?
MS. PSAKI: There are – we – obviously, if they threaten U.S. troops, if there are threats posed, that’s something different. But obviously, we look to more than just a propaganda connection.
QUESTION: At Camp David, Secretary Kerry mentioned some recruiting that’s been taking place from the Islamic State in Afghanistan. Can you expand on that?
MS. PSAKI: I think he answered that in response to a question about offers that had been put out there about financial incentives, which clearly is something that we’re watching and we’re concerned about.
QUESTION: Just one would assume that in order to recruit you need a recruiter. And are these recruiters – is this online? Is this in person?
MS. PSAKI: We just don’t have an assessment of that, Lucas. It’s something we’ll continue to watch and, obviously, will continue to work with the Government of Afghanistan on.
QUESTION: Can we change topics?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Yeah. Yesterday the President during his press conference with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said – talked about the importance of having a process, a framework, that will lead, ultimately, to a two-state solution. I know that the Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat met with Mr. Lowenstein also, the day before. Is there any kind of a process that is in the offing? Is there a restart of the negotiations from your point of view?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think right now, Said, the Israeli Government – Prime Minister Netanyahu is forming a government. Obviously, that can take some time. I don’t have any prediction of that. And clearly it’s going to be up to the parties to determine what the path is moving forward. So I don’t have anything to read out for you in terms of any plans. Obviously, our belief remains that an agreement and a two-state solution is the best way to have security and lasting peace in the region.
QUESTION: But the Israeli Government – every two years they go in to forming governments, and that process is really lengthy and so on. So your strategy or your policy is not really based on the formation of Israeli government, is it?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it – you need to have the parties negotiating, and obviously, it’s natural that the focus in Israel right now is on the formation of a government. Clearly, we’ll see what actions are taken. And beyond that, I don’t have an assessment of what’s —
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on the decision by Prime Minister Netanyahu to freeze 1,500 housing units in the settlements? Do you think this came as a result of, perhaps, a stronger American position on the issue?
MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to look at the specifics, Said. I haven’t had a chance to talk to our team about that specific report.
QUESTION: And finally, I’m going to borrow from my colleague here and ask you: What do you have to say to the Palestinian people? I mean, you’ve dealt with this issue —
MS. PSAKI: Oh goodness. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: So, I mean, that’s a —
QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, you know —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: In like 30 seconds or less. It’s okay. So yeah, go ahead. Take your (inaudible).
MS. PSAKI: Wow, okay. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: (Inaudible) involved in this process for so long.
QUESTION: No, he gave me the idea right there, yeah.
MS. PSAKI: I think I would say, Said, since you gave me the opportunity, that the United States continues to support the aspirations of the Palestinian people, that we believe that having two states living side by side is the best way to have a peaceful environment in the region, and that I know that Secretary Kerry, himself, personally remains committed to seeing what is possible on this front.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Yesterday – just following up – yesterday when the President spoke, he mentioned that the – very similarly the U.S. supports a two-state solution. But then he said something along the lines of president – Prime Minister Netanyahu thinks otherwise. What did he mean by that? What is your understanding of the prime minister’s position in terms of support or nonsupport for a two-state solution?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think it’s up to – we’ve seen a variety of comments from Prime Minister Netanyahu, and I think what the President or any official in the United States Government has been getting at is that clearly we saw his statements prior to the election; we’ve seen his statements after. We have to see if there is actually a path to make the hard choices toward negotiations, and we don’t know the answer to that yet. So we’ll be looking for actions and policies that demonstrate genuine commitment.
QUESTION: I’m not going to re-litigate what you guys – what’s the last few days of briefings have been over, so essentially just to understand, you’re not saying that you – and the President wasn’t saying that he doesn’t think the prime minister supports a two-state solution. He was merely saying you don’t know if he supports it. He has to prove that, essentially.
MS. PSAKI: Correct.
QUESTION: Change topic?
MS. PSAKI: Any more on this before change topics? No? Okay. Israel? No, no. Okay.
MS. PSAKI: Could we go to Elliot? Okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Thanks. There’s a report in Chinese state media that China has sent a list of I think over a hundred high-profile targets for charges on corruption that they want sent back to China. I was wondering if there’s anything you can tell us about this, where the list was sent, whether it was received, what kind of consideration you’re giving it.
MS. PSAKI: Well, I can say, broadly, Elliot, that the U.S. and China regularly engage on law enforcement matters and mutual concerns such as repatriation and anticorruption through the U.S.-China Joint Liaison Group on Law Enforcement Cooperation. The Chinese – at the most recent meeting, the Chinese delegation agreed that they would supply us more evidence regarding their priority fugitive cases so that we can increase our focus on the location and prosecution or removal of these fugitives. And we continue to encourage China to provide strong evidence and intelligence to ensure that our law enforcement agencies can properly investigate and prosecute cases related to the alleged corruption. So they have provided lists in the past, and certainly that’s something that is ongoing. Obviously, there are certain requirements, and we have a discussion through our – through often legal channels, but also state channels on what information is needed and what steps can be taken.
QUESTION: Do those requirements include things like guarantee of – that they would get a fair trial —
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: — with due process when they get back? Because that’s something you’ve expressed concern about in the past with —
MS. PSAKI: That’s right. As a general matter – well, let me go through a couple of details on this —
MS. PSAKI: — if that’s okay. In considering whether to commence negotiations for an extradition treaty, which is what this would require, the United States takes a number of factors into consideration. We must be satisfied that an individual extradited from the United States to another country would receive a fair trial and not be subject to torture or other forms of mistreatment in that country. We also would not consider an extradition treaty unless the other country commits to extradite its own nationals.
As a general matter, we can return fugitives to other countries even when there is no extradition treaty or when none exists, including through immigration proceedings, but there’s a number of steps that need to be taken. And obviously, we don’t, as you know, speak to the plans or preview what internal discussions are happening.
QUESTION: Would it be the DOJ that sort of takes the lead on that process of deciding that or is it the State Department (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: Well, yeah, the DOJ is – as I understand it, has the lead. We certainly work with the Department of Justice as well, though.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: Jen, a follow-up. So you were saying that in the past, the United States received such list from China.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Just to clarify, what is – when was that in? Because yesterday, I guess Chinese officials said that they just handed a priority list that contains 150 fugitives. Is this the same thing?
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to get into the specifics of past lists or, obviously, speak on behalf of China and what they have or haven’t done in the past. But what – the point I was trying to make to Elliot is that they have presented lists in the past. This isn’t new. And obviously, there are certain requirements that I’ve outlined that would be required in order to proceed with certain extradition processes or other steps.
QUESTION: Under ACT-NET, how does the State Department facilitate a request from foreign countries to extradite fugitive?
MS. PSAKI: How do we facilitate a request? I’m not sure what you mean by that exactly.
QUESTION: I mean, I suppose this is a jurisdiction under DOJ. When – for example, does the Chinese Government need to clear any diplomatic channel with the State Department and then proceed with other federal agencies? How does that work?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would start with the certain requirements that I just mentioned in response to Elliot’s question. And obviously, the Department of Justice is best positioned to answer specific questions about how it works.
QUESTION: Last October in Washington, U.S.-China has a bilateral legal advisor consultation. Was this even being raised or discussed?
MS. PSAKI: As I understand it, there have been discussions for some time about individuals that they would like to see returned. That shouldn’t come as surprise to anyone. I don’t have any specifics to confirm from a meeting last year.
QUESTION: Do you know if there will be a next legal advisor consultation before the next round of S&ED?
MS. PSAKI: At this point in time, I don’t think we have anything to report on future plans for meetings.
QUESTION: New topic —
QUESTION: I guess, following suit with my co-workers —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — do you have any most memorable moments with China?
MS. PSAKI: Oh, goodness. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: Okay. We’ll do this one – last one, because you’re a frequent guest in the briefing room, but I know there’s a lot to cover today. Let’s see. I have been to China now, I think, two or three times. And I would say one of the most memorable visits – actually, this wasn’t in China, but was when we hosted the Chinese delegation in Boston. And it was really a great – it was very small and personal and we had a great time doing a tour there when they were here as well. And so I remember that because often, you take – having an opportunity to get to know officials and take everybody from our side and other sides sort of out of the typical boardroom meetings provides an opportunity to learn more about them, and so that’s one of my most memorable times.
All right. New topic? Go ahead.
QUESTION: New topic. Can we go to Iran?
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: First of all, to Switzerland —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — before Iran.
MS. PSAKI: It’s the same thing – (laughter) – as for this week.
QUESTION: Before leaving this morning, the Secretary sent a pretty strong warning to critics to an agreement saying basically that there was no alternative to an agreement. Is the United States worried – to follow up on the question asked yesterday by Lesley, is the United States worried about a possible coalition or axis between the Congress, Israel, the Saudis, and the French to try to sink the deal?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think for those of you who didn’t pay as close attention as Nicolas this morning, the Secretary addressed the Chief of Mission Conference. He talked a little bit about his trip to Iran. And what he said is that as – if what happens if, as our critics propose, we just walk away from a plan and that the rest of the world were to deem reasonable, and that could happen, well, the talks would collapse, Iran would have the ability to go back spinning its centrifuges and enriching to the degree they want, if they want, if that’s what they choose.
And what he was referencing there was the fact that what we’re trying to achieve here is a long-term, comprehensive deal that will prevent that from happening. And nobody wants to go back to the status quo that existed before the Joint Plan of Action, where Iran was continuing to take steps forward towards acquiring a nuclear weapon. He was not referring to disagreements or tensions between parties. In fact, we’ve remained united with the P5+1; we will be united. Certainly, any deal will be judged on the content and there will be a vigorous debate about it both here and around the world. But he was talking about what would happen if there’s not an agreement.
QUESTION: What is this vigorous debate? You’ve mentioned it before, but if there’s no vote and there’s no check to the Executive Branch’s authority to seal this agreement, vigorous debate is wonderful but it doesn’t – it doesn’t ratify or anything; it’s meaningless.
MS. PSAKI: Well, as historically has been the case, Brad, with any international agreement similar to this, what we’re referring to is certainly that there’ll be public discussion, there’ll be many members of Congress who have views on what a final deal is —
MS. PSAKI: — and we’ll have a discussion about that. And obviously, Congress will be in a position when we – if we were to get to the point of putting in place legislation that would roll back sanctions where they would need to take that vote.
QUESTION: That could be in 15 years potentially. So I mean, the vigorous debate seems to me a straw man argument because you’re saying while everyone will get a chance to talk about it and maybe everyone doesn’t like it, but they don’t get to do anything about it anyway. So I just don’t think that it’s very honest, in a sense, to kind of cite that as a lever of – on this agreement.
MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure what you mean by citing it as a lever.
QUESTION: I don’t know, you’re saying, well, a lot of people may have opinions but there’ll be a vigorous debate later. But that doesn’t – they don’t get to control whether the agreement happens.
MS. PSAKI: There’s been a vigorous debate to date about it. What I mean is that certainly, as soon as we have a – even as it relates to a framework understanding, if we reach one, we’ll be making as much information public as possible as part of a framework understanding. So what I mean is I don’t mean a legislative vote. We’ve gone through that, and I think we all know when there would be a vote and when there wouldn’t be. I’m referring to a discussion about what a framework looks like, what a deal looks like, what the content is. And certainly, there will be countries who have feelings about that, as there will be members of Congress.
QUESTION: But they wouldn’t have a chance to open up that agreement no matter – once this agreement is reached between the P5+1, it’s an agreement; and Congress can’t open it, the Israelis can’t open it, the Saudis can’t open it, correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, what we’re talking about here – I know this isn’t your exact question, but just for accuracy’s sake – we’re talking about working to achieve a framework understanding. Obviously, you know our timeline for that – by the 31st, which is next week – and then there would be a period of time of several months where there would be components of the annexes and technical details that would be worked through towards an agreement. Right?
MS. PSAKI: So just for the purposes —
QUESTION: So we can call it now a framework understanding rather than a political agreement? What would be the format of what will be announced by Tuesday?
MS. PSAKI: Well, if we get to a framework, we expect, as I mentioned, to take the remaining time to work through the annexes. As to what a framework understanding would look like if we reach one – that’s still being discussed – obviously, our objective would be to share as much information publicly as we can.
QUESTION: So you would say the vigorous debate – sorry, I may have misinterpreted you. The vigorous debate would be in this period between a political framework understanding —
MS. PSAKI: That will certainly be a period —
QUESTION: — and the final agreement?
MS. PSAKI: — certainly be a period of time for it. Sure.
QUESTION: So that would give people who may have reservations a chance to raise them publicly or with you to have those views hopefully incorporated into a final accord?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would say though, Brad, that that’s a continuation of what we’ve been doing. And so that, we expect, will continue.
QUESTION: Except that it’s – the details aren’t public yet, so —
MS. PSAKI: As more details become public, sure, there’ll be more of an opportunity to speak to the details, of course.
QUESTION: But doesn’t that put an obligation on you to kind of make as much public as possible, to give groups that don’t have —
MS. PSAKI: Which is our priority.
MS. PSAKI: Which is our preference.
QUESTION: So – but if you don’t, that would kind of be unfair to groups that may not have high-level security clearances and are able to somehow weigh in on it. I mean, the public would want to weigh in and so —
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, Brad, that it’s hard to – and I understand why you’re asking the question. It’s just hard because we’re not at the point where we have a framework, so I can’t tell you how much of it is public and how much wouldn’t be, right?
MS. PSAKI: There are components to date that have been classified. That certainly, I woul read more