Tag Archives: EU-Asia

Record-breaking year for asylum claims: 8 key trends

OXFORD, 26 March 2015 (IRIN) – 2014 was a year of records for asylum claims, according to an annual round-up released today by UNHCR, which noted that 866,000 claims were made in the world’s industrialized nations, double the figure for 2013.

That figure will undoubtedly grab headlines, but the report reveals many other important trends. IRIN has highlighted a few of them:

• For the fourth year running, Germany was the largest recipient of new asylum claims (with 434,000) among this group of industrialised countries. Over the same period, Sweden registered the largest number relative to its population size – 24.4 applicants per 1,000 inhabitants. The United States, although the second largest recipient of new asylum seekers, averaged only 1.3 applicants per 1,000 nationals.

• A record number of asylum seekers arriving by sea from North Africa resulting in dramatic increases of asylum claims in southern Europe. Italy registered 68,700, its highest on record, although a large proportion of the asylum seekers arriving on its shores in 2014 preferred to travel north and register their claims in other EU countries. 

Hungary also witnessed a record number of claims (41,300), double the number it received in 2013.

• The dramatic increase in asylum claims was not spread evenly across countries. Australia, for example, which introduced a number of measures aimed at deterring asylum seekers in 2014, saw a 24 percent decrease in claims compared to 2013.  

• For the first time, the largest number of asylum seekers registering claims in the USA, came from Mexico. They accounted for 39 percent of all claims lodged there and were primarily fleeing violence and persecution from organized criminal groups.

• The number of Syrians who applied for asylum in 2014 was more than double the number in 2013. Syrians accounted for one out of every five new asylum claims lodged in the industrialised world in 2014.

• Iraq was the second largest source country for asylum seekers, accounting for 68,700 applications. Seventy-four percent of them were made in Turkey.

• Finally, it’s worth emphasising that these figures only represent those asylum applications made in 44 developed countries that regularly supply UNHCR with statistics. Developing countries, such as Pakistan, Iran, Lebanon and Jordan hosted 86 percent of the world’s refugee population in 2013. More details of asylum trends in those countries will be available when UNHCR publishes its Global Trends 2014 report in June.

ks/am

Theme (s): Refugees/IDPs,

Reports: Trade as a powerful engine for growth and jobs in Europe

In the European Union 31 million jobs – over 14% of total employment – depend on exports to third countries and each additional €1bn of exports supports 14,000 additional jobs across the EU.

The importance of trade agreements in supporting and strengthening the economic performance of the EU was highlighted in a report by the European Commission that served as the basis of Member States’ discussions at the Informal Meeting of Trade Ministers in Riga this week.

The Annual Report on the implementation of the EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), presented today, provides further evidence on the contribution of trade to the economy. EU exports of goods to Korea increased by 35% since 2011, during the first three years of the agreement, the report shows. Exports of fully liberalised goods – such as machinery, electrical appliances, clothing, and most chemicals –have increased by 46% overall, and exports for partially liberalised goods by 37%, making a total of €4.7bn additional exports from the EU each year. EU exports have increased in all sectors – in particular cars, where they have nearly doubled (up by 90%) as well as in transport equipment (up by 56%).

‘The EU-South Korea agreement is a great example of why we need free trade: it’s given a boost to trade and created new business opportunities in the fast-growing East Asian market,‘ said EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström, ‘This confirms that European companies and consumers are very well placed to benefit from increased international trade, since the EU is the world’s largest exporter and importer’.

Third annual report on the implementation of the EU-South Korea FTA

The EU-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, in force since July 2011, is the most ambitious FTA implemented by the EU so far. It is the first of a new generation of free trade agreements, more far-reaching than previous deals, and the first FTA that the EU has concluded with an Asian country.

Data shows that in the first three years of the agreement, EU exports of goods to Korea increased by 35%, from €30.6 billion in the year before the entry into force of the FTA to €41.5 billion. Had the FTA not been in force, the current level of EU exports to Korea would have led to duty payments for European companies of €1.6 billion only in the past year.

EU exports to Korea of fully liberalised goods increased by 46%, i.e. more than the 35% increase in the overall exports. Also imports from Korea of goods fully liberalised by the FTA showed a double-digit increase of 21%.

Among the sectors that benefited the most are machinery and appliances, accounting for almost 34% of total EU exports to Korea and increasing by more than 23%. Exports of transport equipment increased by over 56% after the FTA entered into force. Exports of motor vehicles to Korea increased by 90%, from €2 billion in the year before the FTA entered into force to €3.8 billion during the third year of the FTA.

In 2013 EU Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) stocks in Korea amounted to €32.6 billion, whereas Korean FDI stocks in the EU totalled €18.9 billion.

EU imports from Korea remained broadly stable over the same period, although they saw an increase of 6% in the third year of the FTA compared to the previous year.

While trade is prospering, continued attention will need to be paid to full implementation of the FTA to make sure that exporters can reap the benefits they expect from it. The EU has proposed further improvements to the FTA to allow our exporters to use their traditional hubs in third countries, such as Singapore and Hong Kong, when exporting to Korea under the FTA, rather than be forced to ship directly to the Korean market in order to benefit from the agreement. Another example for further improving the FTA aims at ensuring that goods re-entering Korea after repair in the EU are exempted from customs duties.

Read the report here.

How trade policy and regional trade agreements support and strengthen EU economic performance

This discussion paper, presented at this week’s ministerial Council, reviews the contribution that trade agreements between the EU and its trading partners can make to boost jobs and growth in Europe. The EU has an ambitious bilateral agenda which can complement the multilateral trading system centred on the WTO. The paper calculates that, if concluded successfully, ongoing bilateral negotiations could boost EU’s GDP by more than 2%, or 250 billion euros.

In the EU, 31 million jobs – over 14% of total employment – depend on our exports to third countries. Each additional €1bn of exports supports roughly 14.000 additional jobs across the EU, the paper adds. These are in general more qualified and better paid than in the rest of the economy. The millions of trade-related jobs include retail, wholesale, port handling, logistics and transportation.

Read the paper here.

read more

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – March 25, 2015

1:44 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone.

QUESTION: Hello.

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: (Inaudible.)

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.

Go ahead.

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?

QUESTION: Yemen?

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?

QUESTION: Yeah.

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.

QUESTION: Voluntarily?

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.

QUESTION: Russia.

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: Yes.

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.

QUESTION: Jen.

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?

QUESTION: No.

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?

QUESTION: Eager.

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.

QUESTION: Yeah.

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: (Off-mike.)

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: (Off-mike.)

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: Okay.

QUESTION: Change topic?

MS. PSAKI: Any more on this before change topics? No? Okay. Israel? No, no. Okay.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

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 —

QUESTION: Sure.

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.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

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 —

QUESTION: Right.

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?

QUESTION: Mm-hmm.

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.

QUESTION: Right.

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?

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: There are components to date that have been classified. That certainly, I woul read more

Adoption of the 2014 European Neighbourhood Reports

In a set of annual reports adopted today, the European Commission and the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy assessed the implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) with the 16 partner countries in the East and the South and made recommendations for the year ahead. 2014 saw the signing of association agreements with Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, democratic transition in Tunisia and strengthened relations with Morocco. Nevertheless, conflicts and crises, involving security and humanitarian problems, persisted in both the east and south, especially in the form of terrorist threats and attacks. Significant support was mobilised by the EU to help Lebanon and Jordan cope with the increasing effects of the Syria crisis.

Speaking on the occasion of adoption of the European Neighbourhood Package, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/ Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini said:

“2014 was a year of major challenges: armed conflicts in Ukraine, atrocities and human rights violations by terrorist groups in the Middle East and in North Africa, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Increased irregular migration and trafficking of human beings to Europe have been one of the direct consequences of the crises. These developments have been a test for the European Neighbourhood Policy. In this crucial time, the EU is determined to step up its engagement with our partners across the region on political, economic and security cooperation”.

EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, Johannes Hahn, underlined the importance of the Neighbourhood Policy for the Union, and the ongoing review of the Neighbourhood Policy:

The political assessments and economic evaluations, and the conclusions drawn in the 2014 ENP reports published today will assist the European Union in evaluating its approach towards the region as a whole. We are currently consulting widely on the way ahead for this policy[1] with a view to developing more effective ways of working with these key partners for the benefit of the EU and our neighbours themselves“.

ENP – country reports[2]:

Armenia:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-4689_en.htm

Azerbaijan:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-4688_en.htm

 Egypt:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-4687_en.htm

 Georgia:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-4686_en.htm

 Israel:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-4685_en.htm

 Jordan:

 http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-4684_en.htm

 Lebanon:

 http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-4683_en.htm

Moldova

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-4682_en.htm

Morocco:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-4678_fr.htm

Palestine:

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-4681_en.htm

Tunisia

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-4680_fr.htm

Ukraine

http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-15-4679_en.htm

[1] http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-4548_en.htm

[2] In the absence of an Association Agenda or an ENP Action Plan, country reports have not been drafted on Algeria, Belarus, Libya and Syria.

read more

EU Commissioner Stylianides addresses high-level aid conference in Dubai

Providing food vouchers in Lebanon to Syrian refugees Photo credit: WFP/Rein Skullerud

This year’s annual edition of the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference (DIHAD) is taking place within the context of growing complexities for the humanitarian community faced with an increasing number of severe humanitarian emergencies.

Christos Stylianides, EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management delivered a keynote speech at the conference:

We live in a turbulent world and 2014 was no exception. We witnessed conflicts and humanitarian crises which have led to human suffering on an unprecedented scale. Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic and South Sudan are four of the UN’s highest emergency level crises that shook the world all at the same time, while the deadly Ebola epidemic hit West Africa in an extraordinary way.

Stressing the need to diversify partnerships and work together to achieve a more sustainable type of aid, Stylianides said: “Today more than ever, we need to reach out across borders and beyond traditional modes of operation, to improve our principled humanitarian approach and improve the lives of victims of disaster. We also need to build on the links between humanitarian and development aid, to ensure sustainability and resilience of affected populations.

The Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference (DIHAD) is an annual conference which brings together a wide range of organisations within the international development and humanitarian community. It aims to build bridges between organisations and countries from around the globe engaged in addressing needs of those affected by crises. The 12th DIHAD’s underlying theme is “Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability: The Humanitarian Aid and Development Perspectives”.

Read the full speech by Commissioner Stylianides here.

read more

Europe and Eurasia: France

More information about France is available on the France Page and from other Department of State publications and other sources listed at the end of this fact sheet.

U.S.-FRANCE RELATIONS

The United States and France established diplomatic relations in 1778 following the United States’ declaration of independence from Great Britain, and France provided key assistance to the United States as an ally during its war of independence. The Vichy Government of France severed diplomatic relations with the United States in 1942 during World War II; relations were normalized in 1944. The United States and France are among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (P5).

Relations between the United States and France are active and friendly. The two countries share common values and have parallel policies on most political, economic, and security issues. Differences are discussed frankly and have not generally been allowed to impair the pattern of close cooperation that characterizes relations between the two countries. Ambassador Jane D. Hartley arrived at Embassy Paris in October 2014.

The U.S. and France work closely on many issues, most notably in combating terrorism, efforts to stem the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and on regional problems, including in Africa, the Middle East, the Balkans, and Central Asia. As one of the P5+1 powers and as a leader of the European Union, France is working to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. France is a major contributor to the Counter-ISIL Coalition. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, France fully supports U.S. engagement in the peace process. France is one of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) top five troop contributors. The French support NATO modernization efforts and are leading contributors to the NATO Response Force. France also closely collaborates with the U.S. on international public health threats like Ebola.

U.S. Assistance to France

The United States provides no development assistance to France.

Bilateral Economic Relations

France is a member of the European Union and is the United States’ third-largest trading partner in Europe (after Germany and the U.K.). Trade and investment between the United States and France are strong. On average, over $1 billion in commercial transactions, including sales of U.S. and French foreign affiliates, take place every day. U.S. exports to France include industrial chemicals, aircraft and engines, electronic components, telecommunications, computer software, computers and peripherals, analytical and scientific instrumentation, medical instruments and supplies, and broadcasting equipment. The United States is the top destination for French investment and the United States is the largest foreign investor in France. The United States and France have a bilateral convention on investment and a bilateral tax treaty addressing, among other things, double taxation and tax evasion.

France’s Membership in International Organizations

France and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, G-20, G-7, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization. France also is an observer to the Organization of American States.

Bilateral Representation

The U.S. Ambassador to France is Jane D. Hartley; other principal embassy officials are listed in the Department’s Key Officers List.

France maintains an embassy in the United States at 4101 Reservoir Rd. NW, Washington, DC 20007 (tel. 202-944-6000).

More information about France is available from the Department of State and other sources, some of which are listed here:

Department of State France Page
Department of State Key Officers List
CIA World Factbook France Page
U.S. Embassy: France
History of U.S. Relations With France
Human Rights Reports
International Religious Freedom Reports
Trafficking in Persons Reports
Narcotics Control Reports
Investment Climate Statements
U.S. Census Bureau Foreign Trade Statistics
Export.gov International Offices Page
Travel and Business Information

read more

Speeches: 5th Annual Turkic American Convention

As Prepared

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. First, I want to say thank you to Dr. Faruk Taban and the Turkic-American Alliance for hosting this event and inviting me to say a few words – it’s a great honor. Your laudable goal of building connections and restoring ties among Turkic peoples is not a simple one: while languages might be similar along the route from Urumqi to Istanbul, histories and cultures are radically different.

Borders concocted by Soviet ethnographers in the 1920s made for an uncomfortable fit: the complex geographic diversity could not possibly be reflected by simple lines on a map. Your goal of restoring cultural links disrupted by the turbulence of the 20th century is a noble one.

We have made a lot of progress since I spoke with you last. Just a few weeks ago I attended a diplomatic seminar that the Embassy of Azerbaijan hosted for ambassadors from Turkey, the Caucasus, Afghanistan, and Central Asia. Each had an inspirational vision of expanded trade between Asia and Europe.

They spoke of a new overland route they sometimes call the Lapis Lazuli Corridor, which would stretch across Asia, over the Caspian Sea, through the South Caucasus, and into Turkey and beyond. The United States shares this vision. The strengthening of east-west trade is a key component of our New Silk Road initiative, which is also expanding complementary north-south trade between Central and South Asia.

For those of you not familiar with the New Silk Road initiative, it is our long-term strategy to make Central Asia, including Afghanistan, once again a crossroads of global commerce. Unfortunately, Central Asia remains one of the least economically integrated regions in the world with only six percent of total trade occurring within the region.

But thanks in part to our New Silk Road initiative, progress is happening. Since 2009, intraregional trade in Central Asia has increased by 49 percent, and since 2011 the cost of moving goods across regional borders has decreased by 15 percent.

That’s good, but still much remains to be done. And, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to explain briefly how the New Silk Road initiative works, in both theory and practice.

The initiative is built on four pillars, the first of which is building a regional energy network. This region is awash in energy resources, yet some countries regularly have power shortages. Moving surpluses from one country to plug deficits in another will increase economic activity, and create new opportunities for people on both sides of the equation. In addition to the several gas and oil pipelines in the works, we are supporting efforts through the World Bank on the CASA-1000 project, which during the summer months will sell excess hydroelectricity from Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic to Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The initiative’s second pillar is improving trade and transport links. With more roads and rails and ports, transport costs will decrease while volumes increase. Through the Asian Development Bank, we are supporting the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation program, which aims to build or improve nearly 7,800 kilometers of road and 3,800 kilometers of rail lines by 2020, including a route connecting Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan.

The third pillar is streamlining customs and border procedures. When goods can get to markets faster and cheaper, producers make more, retailers sell more, and consumers pay less. This past January, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan made progress toward removing barriers that slow the movement of goods across their borders. We’re also encouraging Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey to move forward on the Silk Wind Intergovernmental Agreement, which will help standardize transport costs and decrease delays.

The initiative’s fourth pillar is creating new business-to-business and people-to-people ties to leverage the work done under the first three pillars. We have organized trade delegations and conferences in Almaty, Islamabad, Kabul, Mazar-i-Sharif, and Termez that have resulted in over $15 million in trade deals. This is just the beginning – a drop in the bucket, if you will. As the barriers to commerce come down, the incentives to trade go up. And groups like yours are key to making the connections among businesses and people that will drive economic growth across the region.

Others see the same potential in the region that we do: by using overland routes, China’s ambitious Silk Road Economic Belt will reportedly cut transit times from Western China to Germany from 44 days to 14. Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan recently met in Ashgabat to move forward on the Lapis Lazuli Corridor, which would run through Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, across the Caspian to Georgia, and on to Turkey and Europe. Already, Kazakhstan’s and Turkmenistan’s expansion of port facilities is mirrored across the Caspian in Azerbaijan. In the not-too-distant future, a train-car ferry system can move Central Asian goods from Aktau and Turkmenbashi to Azerbaijan, then link to a rail line in Georgia before connecting to the Turkish network and moving on to Europe.

And Europe is also spearheading efforts to better connect it to Central Asia. As the chair of the EU presidency, Latvia has made ties between the EU and Central Asia a top priority – and they are bearing fruit, literally. When I traveled to Riga last month for consultations on this topic, I learned that Uzbekistan has built a cold-storage warehouse there to sell fruit and vegetables to Europe. I couldn’t help but recall an occasion when I was a young Foreign Service Officer in Tashkent and learned, to my astonishment, that the Thompson Seedless Grapes we all buy in supermarkets here actually originated in the heartland of Uzbekistan when a botanist took back cultivars to the Central Valley of California at the beginning of the 20th century.

Allow me to turn for a moment to Russia’s role in Central Asia. Obviously, what Russia is doing in Ukraine is cause for concern for the countries of Central Asia. And Russian propaganda blanketing the region is presenting a skewed and anti-American/anti-European interpretation of events. We recognize that the countries of Central Asia have close political, economic, security, and people-to-people ties with Russia. But we also maintain that no country has the right to unilaterally determine the political and economic orientation of another country. So we support the countries of the region in upholding their independence and territorial sovereignty, and we believe these core interests will be strengthened through the expansion of commerce in the ways that I outlined above.

These are exciting times – I have not seen such potential for change in Central Asia since my days there as a young diplomat immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union. But positive change will require political will at the top in each country. Without political will for cooperation, there will be little progress. Now as then, the United States will remain committed to opening the doors to greater economic opportunity and democratic progress in the region. We are grateful to have the support of organizations like the Turkic-American Alliance.

Once again, thank you for all that you do, and keep up the good work.

read more

Terror in Tunisia

The cradle of the Arab Spring–and its best exemplar–was beset by a vicious terror attack on tourists at a museum. 19 people were killed, including 17 tourists. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. “While Tunisia has been spared the catastrophic levels of violence that have plagued other Arab Spring countries like Syria, Yemen and Libya, the country has still suffered from occasional but deadly attacks carried out by Islamist extremists. In 2013, 22 people were killed. This included a suicide bomber who attacked a beach resort in Sousse. Last year 45 people were killed and already this year the death toll has reached 23, with Wednesday’s museum raid following an attack on a mountain checkpoint in February that killed 4 police officers.” (BBC http://bbc.in/1Cx27Bv)

What the Israeli Elections Mean for the Prospects of Peace and the Two State Solution…If you have 15 minutes and want to understand what happened in Israel, how damaging it is to Palestinian aspirations, and what’s next for supporters of the Two State Solution listen to this Global Dispatches Podcast episode—> http://bit.ly/1Cx0W53

The USA may send marines to assist in cyclone ravaged Vanuatu (Stars and Stripes http://1.usa.gov/1Cx0ljU)

Dodge this allegation…The EU watchdog has accused the union’s bank of flouting its own transparency rules and hiding what it knows about allegations of tax avoidance by a Zambian mining firm largely owned by the Swiss commodity trader Glencore. (Guardian http://bit.ly/1MKhfgc)

(Not So Humanity Affirming) Stat of the Day: The death toll in the world’s most brutal conflicts climbed by more than 28 percent last year from 2013 with bloodshed in Syria worse than all others for the second year running, according to a study released on Wednesday. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1923CK8)

Africa

Hopes of an end to South Sudan’s 15-month old civil war were dealt another blow on Wednesday as President Salva Kiir ruled out a proposed power-sharing deal with rebels. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1923RVu) 

Nigeria has begun the “final onslaught” against Boko Haram, the country’s national security spokesman said on Tuesday, after the militants were ousted from the strategic town of Bama. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ErdHch)

The Nigerian military, battling insurgency in the northeast, has had no news of more than 200 girls abducted 11 months ago by Boko Haram Islamists, the army chief said. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1FAXq99)

Pro-democracy activists from Senegal and Burkina Faso arrested in Democratic Republic of Congo on suspicion of planning to destabilise the country will be expelled and banned from returning, the government announced Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1923V7L)

A withdrawal of peacekeepers from Sudan’s Darfur region should not be conditional on an end to tribal violence, Sudan said as Khartoum began work with the United Nations and the African Union on an exit strategy for the $1.1 billion mission. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1ErdGoN)

Lesotho’s new Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili was sworn in on Tuesday, admitting the tiny country faces major challenges after an alleged coup bid last year. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1FAXjKz)

A lack of accountability in South Sudan for “atrocities, sexual and gender based violence, child soldier recruitment and mass graves” hinders a bid for peace in the world’s youngest state, the U.S. envoy to the United Nations said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FAXwgU)

Ivory Coast, the world’s top cocoa producer whose economy was battered by a low-level civil war and ensuing political unrest, should see double-digit growth this year, Prime Minister Daniel Kablan Duncan said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1ErdPbG)

Sierra Leone’s president on Wednesday fired his vice president, who was kicked out of their political party earlier this month on accusations of fomenting violence and trying to form a new party. (AP http://yhoo.it/1923I4o)

Four people died in a gun and grenade attack on Wajir town in northeast Kenya, the latest in a series of cross-border raids by Somalia’s Shebab militants, officials said Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1BV3aZK)

Tanzania will receive a total of $380 million in loans from India to finance two major water projects in the east African nation, the president’s office said. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FAXiq9)

Liberia has managed to get its outbreak under control. But many residents, especially those in northern Lofa County, which was devastated by Ebola, are concerned the deadly virus might make a comeback through visitors from neighboring Sierra Leone and Guinea, which are not yet Ebola free. (VOA http://bit.ly/1H2fwCy)

Gabon’s striking public sector workers have rejected a temporary pay rise proposed by the government, trade unions said Wednesday, in a dispute that has already seen schools closed for over a month. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1MKhgAH)

MENA

Palestinian leaders on Wednesday called for international pressure on Israel and support for their unilateral moves towards statehood after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s election win. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1923R7V)

Syria’s military took control of a village north of partly insurgent-held Aleppo on Wednesday, state media and a monitoring group said, giving it increased control of an area which armed groups have used as a supply route into the city. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1923Qkj)

The United States still wants a negotiated political settlement in Syria that excludes President Bashar al-Assad, and its position on the Syrian leader has not changed, top U.S. envoy John Allen told Turkish officials. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1923LNx)

Iraqi troops and militias who pushed Islamic State fighters from the northern town of Amerli last September proceeded to loot and burn down homes and businesses, Human Rights Watch said in a new report Wednesday. (VOA http://bit.ly/1H2fv1o

Asia/Pacific

International aid agencies ramped up appeals for cyclone-hit Vanuatu on Wednesday, warning that the powerful storm which affected more than two-thirds of the South Pacific island nation had wiped out crops and destroyed fishing fleets, raising the risk of hunger and disease. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1FAXu8P)

Bloody conflict in a remote corner of northern Myanmar has spilled violently across the border with China, risking a rift with the mighty neighbour and threatening peace efforts with an array of rebels. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1ErdOon)

The head of India’s Catholic bishops, speaking out after a nun was raped in the east of the country last week, has said the country should be as concerned about the welfare of its people as it is about its cows. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1BV3mIy)

The United Nations’ human rights chief is voicing concern over the “rushed” trial that led to a terrorism conviction and 13-year jail term for the Maldives’ former president. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BV3bNn)

General Motors will slash production in Russia and pull its mass-market Opel brand completely in the face of plummeting sales in the economically troubled country. (AP http://yhoo.it/1BV3gk4)

A group of Thai lawyers called on Wednesday for an investigation into allegations that four suspects held over a Bangkok bomb attack were tortured while in police custody. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1923L01)

A court in Bangladesh’s capital on Wednesday indicted a leader of a hard-line Islamist group and seven students in the hacking death of an atheist blogger two years ago. (AP http://yhoo.it/1923OJg)

The Americas

Brazilian civil defense officials say more than 20,000 people have been affected by flooding in the city of Boca do Acre in Brazil’s northern state of Amazonas. (AP http://yhoo.it/1ErdHJu)

Puerto Rico’s government said Tuesday that it has sold $246 million in bond anticipation notes to refinance part of its short-term debt and help generate more money for the financially strapped island. (AP http://yhoo.it/1ErdJ3X)

Leaders from leftist Latin American regional bloc ALBA gathered Tuesday for a summit in Caracas, a show of support for Venezuela in its mounting standoff with the United States. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1FAXtBK)

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s popularity fell to a new low in a poll released on Wednesday, weakening her even further at a time when she is facing public calls for her impeachment and trying to push austerity measures through Congress. (Reuters http://yhoo.it/1923N8c)

…and the rest

Violent clashes between anti-capitalist activists and German police left dozens injured and a trail of destruction in Germany’s financial capital as the European Central Bank opened its new headquarters on Wednesday. (AFP http://yhoo.it/1FAXFB6)

A long-term study has pointed to a link between breastfeeding and intelligence. (BBC http://bbc.in/1H2frik)

Opinion/Blogs

Seven women peacemakers who should be on your radar (GlobalPost http://bit.ly/1xeZD8W)

Why is Britain such an outlier on aid? (From Poverty to Power http://bit.ly/1MKl6tN)

Does the Development Industry really need new clothes? (Africa is a Country http://bit.ly/1MKkx36)

Why Investors Should Think Twice before Investing in Coal in India – Part 1 (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/1CtsOVZ)

Ghana’s democracy is driving great progress in health and education (Guardian http://bit.ly/1H2fsmb) 

After Israel’s elections, what prospects for Middle East peace process? (IRIN http://bit.ly/1MKgKTl)

How can we empower women in agriculture to end hunger? (Guardian http://bit.ly/1MKhhon)

Rape in Conflict: Speaking Out for What’s Right (Inter Press Service http://bit.ly/1CtsOW7)

New DfID Report: Few Donor-Supported Anticorruption Policies Effective (Global Anticorruption Blog http://bit.ly/1MKkwMt)

Water, security, and the state (Reinventing Peace http://bit.ly/1MKkPH8)

Discussion

comments…

read more

Speeches: Remarks at U.S. Institute for Peace on the Future of UN Peace Operations

(As Delivered)

Thank you Ambassador Moose. Welcome to Chairman Ramos-Horta and Vice Chair Haq and your fellow Panel members. And thank you to USIP – a place near and dear to my heart, and the United Nations Foundation for making today’s conversation possible. I am honored to participate in this excellent event.

Last September, in New York, I participated in the Peacekeeping Summit co-hosted by Vice President Biden, Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, Rwanda, Japan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. And the enthusiasm in the room and the commitment of the Summit participants to contribute to UN peacekeeping missions and to help fill key gaps was palpable. Our hope is that today’s event will build off that enthusiasm and that it will be one additional step on the path to strengthening and reforming UN peace operations and UN peacekeeping.

Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken will speak today about why the United States would like to see UN peace operations reformed and what specifically we would like to see the high level panel focus on. I think it’s fair to note that we are at a unique moment as the world faces a dramatic level of security challenges. From political crisis in Libya and Yemen to the situations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, to the CAR and South Sudan, just to name a few. And with both major and minor crisis today the United Nations is there, being asked to play a role, from preventing a relapse to war, to addressing extremist threats to governance, to helping stave off Ebola, to trying to end the abuse of children as soldiers, and so much more.

I’m struck by how much then, we need to look at modernizing the United Nations to keep up with this demand. Certainly its power lies in its uniqueness and as it brings the weight of the world’s nations to bear against such problems, and with it a clear voice and legitimacy.

It’s been as we’ve heard 15 years since the Brahimi report, which last addressed comprehensively the reform of UN field missions. Yet as our ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, noted in her remarks in Brussels yesterday, we are asking peacekeepers to do more in more places and in more complex conflicts than at any time in history. So we have a lot to discuss today and on that note I’m pleased to introduce U.S Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken.

Deputy Secretary Blinken is no stranger to peacekeeping. Before joining the State Department in January, Tony held senior foreign policy positions in two administrations spanning two decades, most recently as President Obama’s principal deputy national security advisor. And in that capacity Tony played a key role in helping to make the Vice President’s peacekeeping summit last September a success.

Prior to working at the White House for President Obama and Vice President Biden, Tony spent 6 years on the Hill as democratic staff director for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He also worked on President Clinton’s national security staff, including as chief foreign policy speech writer and as his principal advisor on Europe, the European Union, and NATO.

Throughout Tony has seen or worked on every permutation of U.N peace operations, as well as multi-national force operations of every stripe. From Kosovo to Bosnia, to Somalia to South Sudan, Mali, Iraq and Afghanistan more recently, Tony is deeply versed in the needs, the challenges, and the opportunities. He has seen where our collective efforts have worked and where they have fallen short. And perhaps most pertinent to today’s discussions, he knows better than almost anyone what the United States can contribute to those efforts. I can think of no one better to situate today’s conversations than Deputy Secretary Blinken. Please join me in welcoming him to the podium.

read more