Monthly Archives: October 2014

Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: October 31, 2014

2:34 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Happy Halloween. I know it’s late today and it’s Halloween, so we can try to get through this rather quickly.

I have a couple of items for all of you at the top. Secretary Kerry will travel to Paris, Beijing, and Muscat from November 4th through the 12th. He will travel to Paris, France on November 4th through the 6th to meet with French Foreign Minister Fabius.

On November 7th through the 8th, he will lead the Department of State’s delegation to the APEC Ministerial Meeting. While in Beijing, Secretary Kerry will participate in a broad range of multilateral and bilateral meetings with officials from APEC-member countries in advance of President Obama’s visit to Beijing for the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting. APEC is the premier forum for facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade, and investment in the Asia Pacific region. Promoting trade and investment in the Asia Pacific region remains a key component of the U.S. rebalance policy.

On November 9th and 10th, Secretary Kerry will travel to Muscat, Oman to participate in a trilateral meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif and EU High Representative Catherine Ashton as part of the EU-coordinated P5+1 nuclear negotiations with Iran. The Secretary will be accompanied by the former Deputy Secretary of State Ambassador Burns, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, Senior Advisor Jake Sullivan, and the U.S. negotiating team.

On November 10th through 12th, Secretary Kerry will return to Beijing to accompany President Obama during his visit to China to participate in bilateral meetings.

Two more items. We welcome news of an EU-brokered gas deal between Russia and Ukraine that will secure gas to Ukraine and ultimately the rest of Europe through the upcoming winter. The agreement is a positive step.

At the same time, we have grave concerns that separatists plan to go ahead with illegitimate and illegal elections in areas of eastern Ukraine on Sunday. The United States will not recognize the results. These elections violate the letter and spirit of the September 5th Minsk ceasefire agreement, which calls for elections in the east in line with the Ukrainian law on special status. Any moves to try to legitimize the results will undermine the Minsk agreement. We call on all nations to similarly reject the illegal effort and instead support the legal December 7th local elections.

We also condemn the burning of a historic movie theater in Kyiv yesterday that was screening an LGBT-focused movie. We call for a swift and transparent investigation into this repulsive act, which may also constitute a hate crime.

As part of the newly – finally, as part of the newly launched comprehensive partnership, the United States and Malaysia held the fourth senior officials dialogue October 30th through the 31st in Washington, D.C. Assistant Secretary Russel welcomed Malaysian MFA Deputy Secretary General Ramlan and an interagency delegation. The United States and Malaysia took the opportunity to discuss a wide range of bilateral, regional, and global issues and agreed to hold the fifth senior officials dialogue next year in Malaysia.

Very short final one: Secretary Kerry called Ibu Retno Marsudi on her appointment to be the new foreign minister in Indonesia. We look forward to working with the new working cabinet.

With that, Lara.

QUESTION: Thank you. I saw right before we came out the statement about executions in Anbar and wanted to talk a little bit about ISIL, both in Iraq and in Syria. One, what was your reaction to the new reports about the foreign fighter flow coming into Syria and Iraq, that the airstrikes have not seemed to stop these – this flow? And then also, I’m wondering if you saw the reports that some of the Peshmerga who went into Kobani over the last day or two have come out, and they’re saying that Turkey isn’t supporting them – if you have a reaction to that.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Let me take the first one. As you know, cracking down on foreign fighters is one of the most important components of our effort to degrade and defeat ISIL. It’s one of the five elements of the coalition and something that we are working with every member of the coalition on. Over the past year, the Department of State has led interagency delegations to Western Europe, the Balkans, North Africa, and the Gulf to press for greater cooperation on – both bilaterally and regionally – on information sharing, border security, law enforcement, capacity building, and countering violent extremism. This engagement has directly resulted in steps such as stronger counterterrorism laws and arrests through the Balkans region, increased security cooperation in North Africa, terrorist financing reforms in the Gulf, and closer cooperations with Western European counterparts.

But we know that this is a long-term effort. Obviously, there are new laws and new steps that have put in place, but it’s going to continue to take some time. It’s positive that a number of countries in the region have taken steps to put new laws on the books, to take additional steps at their borders, and we’re going to continue to work with them, because we feel this is such a strong and important priority.

QUESTION: Do you have any explanation for why it’s starting to ramp up again now? There is some linkage to the airstrikes, the point being that the airstrikes hadn’t stopped this. I’m wondering if the airstrikes may have actually caused – been kind of a rallying cry for more to go, if there’s any analysis on that.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s our analysis. And I don’t think, as far as I read the story, that’s what the story said, but that’s not our analysis. Obviously, what I was getting at here is that there has been additional steps and additional actions by countries in the region to do more to crack down on foreign fighters. And we know that there have been – there has been a history where that has not been the case. That’s a positive step. Does that mean it’s resolved? Obviously, it’s not resolved. But we don’t have a new assessment of the numbers. I expect that’s something we may have soon.

QUESTION: Just to follow up on Lara’s question on the foreign fighters, you know the majority of these fighters come through Turkey. Why do you think the Turks are not really cracking down on foreign fighters? They have always – I mean, this is not something that has happened overnight. This is something chronic. It’s been going on for three and a half years.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I’m not sure there’s evidence – or factual evidence to back that specifically up. I will say that this is one of the topics of discussion that the Secretary has had with his Turkish counterparts, that General Allen and Ambassador McGurk has discussed with them. Turkey has taken additional steps to crack down on foreign fighters. They have made a number of arrests over the course of the last several months. Is there more that needs to be done? Absolutely there’s more that needs to be done. And that’s part of the discussion that we’ll continue to have.

QUESTION: Do you think that Turkey has been looking the other way while these foreign fighters are going in?

MS. PSAKI: I think the fact that they have taken additional steps recently is evidence that they’re beginning to do more.

QUESTION: Like what? What are these steps?

MS. PSAKI: They’ve put laws on the books. They’ve made some arrests. They’ve done more on their borders.

QUESTION: But the border remains quite porous, in fact. And in fact, a lot of people go through – slip through that border.

MS. PSAKI: Well, there – I just said there are additional steps they’ve taken. I pointed you to those. And obviously there’s more that needs to be done.

QUESTION: Do you believe that Turkey has its own agenda in this scheme, in this big – in the scheme of things, I should say?

MS. PSAKI: We continue to believe that Turkey is not just a NATO ally, but they’re an important partner in this coalition. They’ve taken a range of steps. We’ll continue to discuss with them what more they can do.

QUESTION: Can you speak to my —

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. What was your second question again?

QUESTION: — second question about Kobani? It was about the Peshmerga fighters who went into Kobani and who have come out. They’re saying that Turkey isn’t supporting them.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I know that there have been ongoing discussions on the ground between – that involve Turkey, of course, about moving the Peshmerga through. I remind you that Turkey is the one – is the country that said that they would be comfortable with having them come through, and they’ve actively talked about facilitating that. As – I think our last assessment of this – sorry, let me just pull this up. One moment.

QUESTION: Do you have any understanding of why – what’s your understanding of why the Peshmerga have come back out?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an independent analysis for you. I think we’ve seen that there has been some progress over the past couple of days in terms of who’s traveling in and out. I would point you to them for more specifics on that.

Do we have any more on this topic?

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: The French president has said today that he supports the conditions that the Turkish President Erdogan puts to join the coalition. How do you view this statement?

MS. PSAKI: I – can you give a little more context for what he means specifically by that?

QUESTION: We know that the Turkish president asked for the creation of a buffer zone and —

MS. PSAKI: And did the French president say specifically that he wants a buffer zone?

QUESTION: He said that he supports the conditions —

MS. PSAKI: And he said that in the past, too. I’m not sure that’s new.

QUESTION: No, he said it today, with the —

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I know, but I’m just getting that – the fact that France has said that they would support that in the past.

QUESTION: But he said that in the —

MS. PSAKI: Our position hasn’t changed on that. Turkey and France are important partners in the coalition. We continue to discuss with them, as we do with all of our partners, what ideas they may have about how to address the threat of ISIL. That’s an ongoing discussion.

QUESTION: But you disagree with the both of them?

MS. PSAKI: I think you’re familiar with our position.

QUESTION: But the conditions also that Turkey put down calls also for the removal of Assad and actually targeting Syrian forces and air assets, or air defense assets, and so on. So it’s a whole – it’s a package deal. It’s not just one thing.

MS. PSAKI: Well, Said, I think I’d point to the fact that Turkey has already made a range of contributions in all of the lines of effort. The United States and Turkey have a shared interest in defeating ISIL, seeing a political transition in Syria, and bringing stability to Iraq. Turkey also plays an important role in supporting international peace in many parts of the world. We’re working with them on all those objectives. Obviously, we don’t agree on every component, but they remain an important partner and we have the same – many of the same objectives we want to achieve.

Go ahead in the back.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Regarding the foreign fighters in ISIL, from your answer it’s not clear enough that – are you – are you agreeing or not agreeing with what was mentioned today in The Washington Post that their number is increasing or not? I mean, this is like a reality or just news story?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t have an assessment from the United States Government on numbers. We’ve given numbers in the past that obviously comes out of other agencies. What I was pointing to is the fact that there are a range of steps that we have worked on diplomatically with a number of these countries on cracking down on foreign fighters, whether it’s putting new laws on the books, whether it’s doing more to crack down on borders. That’s one of the primary topics of discussion as it relates to the coalition.

QUESTION: The reason that I’m asking because at the beginning of the year it was mentioned the number of around five or six thousand, and then by July it reached more than 15,000 people from 80 countries. And when you say additional steps were taken by countries who are really concerned about or they have – they are concerned about the foreign fighters, do you have any assessment of these additional steps block some people from entering there, or it’s just like additional steps on the paper?

MS. PSAKI: Well, one, I’d say first on your first part, we have talked before in the past publicly about our assessment that ISIL can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria. That’s based on a review of all intelligence reports from May to August. And we saw an increase over the previous assessment, which is consistent with what we’ve been saying, which is that they grew in strength and numbers over the course of the early period of this year. We’ve seen specific impacts and countries – we’re working on an Iraq first strategy, which is something we’ve consistently talked about. We’ve seen the Iraqi Security Forces strengthen in some areas. We’ve seen efforts to try to take back some parts of territories. But this is going to be a long process, so I just don’t have a new assessment for you.

QUESTION: The other thing which is like always when this story or this issue is raised is based on the – one of the front line or the lines that you are fighting, which is propaganda war or what we can say deviating people from being misled by the ISIL message. Do you still believe there is a link between these two thing, I mean that the war of the – let’s say the war of ideas has to be done in order to stop these people from going there?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely. The question of what is attracting individuals to join ISIL, to travel across borders is one that is key to us addressing the threat. And that’s why we’ve spent time and energy and the – of high-level State Department officials, including Under Secretary Stengel, to try to coordinate efforts to combat that.

QUESTION: I’m not trying to make the assessment of what you are doing of war of ideas, but generally people are linking between the increasing of the number and the Administration or generally the coalition failure in doing this war, I mean, properly or efficiently. Do you agree with that assessment?

MS. PSAKI: I would not. I think that there is a recognition that more needs to be done to take on ISIL messaging and that they have been effective in using online tools to recruit and to provide often misleading information out there. This is something – it’s not that the United States is the sole – will not be the sole owner of this. We will work with many countries in the region who have more impactful voices in the region to do that.

QUESTION: Do you think that —

QUESTION: Can I ask —

QUESTION: Oh, sorry.

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: Can I go to Anbar?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Your statement about Anbar really quickly?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, yes.

QUESTION: I mean, I’m just reading over – as you know, this came out right before we —

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: — came here. And it just reminds me so much of what we saw in Iraq in 2006. And as the propaganda and the message of ISIL is kind of a “you’re either with us or you’re against us” type of thing, and so I wonder if that’s what was the circumstances for these executions of these Sunni militia tribesmen. I’m wondering if there’s anything more that the U.S. can do or plans to do to get the Sunni tribesmen to continue standing against ISIL in Anbar, which as you know – where the Sahwa beginning – the Awakening Council was, and such a turning point of that war.

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think, one, as – Secretary Hagel and Chairman Dempsey spoke a little bit to this yesterday, but we know that the Sunni tribes are going to have to be and will be a key part of any effort to defeat ISIL, and it’s also in their interests for the security of their provinces as well. It’s about, sure, what we’re doing, and Secretary – I mean – I’m sorry, Ambassador McGurk and General Allen have made efforts to meet with Iraqi leaders and, certainly, leaders of the Sunni tribes when they’ve been on the ground to engage them in this effort.

But it’s also about what the prime minister is doing, and how Prime Minister Abadi is engaging with officials. Just earlier this week, he met with a number of tribal leaders in Anbar to try to engage them in this effort to take on ISIL. I think we’ve felt from the beginning that unity and work across all of the parties in Iraq is the only way that they will be successful. So yes, you’re right there are, if you look back – although they’re entirely different scenarios. But certainly, we can look back and know that the Sunni tribes will play a key part in the success here. That’s why we’re working with the prime minister on this national guard plan which is beginning to be implemented. It’s going to take some time, and certainly, we recognize that.

QUESTION: How much time do you think it’ll take, and do you think those tribesmen are getting paid yet? Because that’s what a lot of that will come down to, is whether they’re getting paid.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have an assessment of the time it will take. It’s probably more appropriate at DOD; I can check with them and see if they have any assessment of that. I know that we’ve started to start the implementation process of it – the Iraqis have.

QUESTION: But looking at the urgency of the situation – I mean, it all comes down to payments, because that’s what happened when Maliki stopped paying them after U.S. departure. Basically, they went back (inaudible).

MS. PSAKI: I’m familiar with the history, and obviously, incorporating them into the overarching work of the Iraqi Security Forces and ensuring they have the resources they need is certainly part of the factors.

QUESTION: And this – I’m sorry, one question on the national guard. Will this national guard include only Sunni – or will it include others, like the – perhaps incorporating the Shia militias?

MS. PSAKI: It will include – it’s about them all working together, Said.

Go ahead, Leslie.

QUESTION: Is your assessment of the situation – I mean, we know over the last few weeks you’ve been raising concerns about Anbar. I mean, is your assessment that this situation is grave now?

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, there have been – “ups and downs” is probably a too low-key way of stating it, but – in Anbar. And we’ve known – this is one of the reasons that there have been numerous airstrikes by the United States, by partner nations in Anbar province. And it’s something – it’s an area where we of course are watching closely, and we’re adapting our strategy as needed. But the province has been under severe threat since the beginning of this year, and the situation remains contested. So we’ve seen it have many ups and downs, and it’s one of the reasons it’s an area we’re especially focused on.

QUESTION: Jen —

MS. PSAKI: I think – let’s almost wrap this up so we can move to a new topic, but go ahead.

QUESTION: On Syria too, Secretary Kerry said yesterday answering a question, “In Iraq, if we didn’t get engaged, I don’t know where ISIL would be today – maybe in Baghdad. What would happen then with Assad and deterioration if ISIL commanded even more territory?” What did he mean by that, do you think?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he means that our engagement and work with the Iraqi Government – which, obviously, they were the leaders on – to form a new government, to have leadership that ruled in a more inclusive manner, to assess the Iraqi Security Forces, to build a coalition to take on airstrikes – or to take on ISIL with airstrikes and military action but also other components, has led to helping to push back ISIL from where it could have been. We’ll never – it’s hard to prove it, but I think there’s no question without these efforts, ISIL would’ve made more progress.

QUESTION: But in his words regarding President Assad that “what would happen then with Assad and deterioration if ISIL commanded” – did he mean that the U.S. doesn’t want Assad to fall to the benefit of ISIL and ISIL takes control?

MS. PSAKI: No, I think our position has been consistent. I don’t think he actually said exactly as you’ve said —

QUESTION: Yeah, this is from the transcript.

MS. PSAKI: I’m happy to look at the context, but I have to be honest with you: Our position has continued to be that we don’t see a place for Assad. He’s lost his legitimacy. I don’t think he was inferring that at all. He was making the point that without our effort and without our engagement, things would be far worse than they are today.

QUESTION: And there are news stories today too saying that the U.S. is in discussion with Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iran on the future of the president, the Syrian president. Can you confirm these reports?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve certainly been engaged with a range of countries to discuss how we can reach a political solution. We’re obviously not there at this point. As I mentioned a little bit earlier, we’re working on an Iraq first strategy. We’ve, of course, begun engaging militarily in Syria and otherwise. We all – we want to get to a political solution there, so it’s only natural we’d be talking to countries in the region about that.

QUESTION: Change topics?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: So are you —

MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead.

QUESTION: — talking to Iran on Assad?

MS. PSAKI: Not more than you’re aware of, Lesley.

QUESTION: I was just – the alarm bells went off.

QUESTION: Can we go to —

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Can we go to the Palestinian issue?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Okay. First of all, the Secretary Kerry called Abbas today, and can you share with us —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — if there’s a readout?

MS. PSAKI: You want a readout of —

QUESTION: Yes, right.

MS. PSAKI: And he also spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu, I believe, it was last night. Let me just make sure.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: Here’s my little call cheat sheet. You just caught me. Okay.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Secretary Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Netanyahu last night and discussed the situation in Jerusalem and the importance of de-escalating tensions. The Secretary emphasized the importance of refraining from provocative actions and rhetoric and preserving the historic status quo on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount. He also spoke with President Abbas this morning. He expressed his serious concern about the escalating tensions in Jerusalem. He stressed the importance of both sides taking steps to calm the situation, refrain from actions and rhetoric that could enflame the situation, and work cooperatively to lower tensions and discourage violence.

QUESTION: Are you doing anything else to lower tensions, I mean, other than just talking to the leaders?

MS. PSAKI: Well, certainly, talking to the leaders – and given Secretary Kerry’s strong relationship with them – we feel is an important component of what we’re doing. Obviously, on the ground, we’re continuing to encourage that directly with many counterparts in the Israeli Government and with the Palestinians as well.

QUESTION: And let me ask you: A Kuwaiti newspaper is saying that a high-level Palestinian delegation will be here on Monday. Can you tell us anything about that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Secretary Kerry will meet with Saeb Erekat on Monday, November 3rd. They plan to discuss the way forward for the Middle East, the situation in Gaza, and lowering tensions in Jerusalem.

QUESTION: Okay. And finally —

QUESTION: (Inaudible) delegation next week?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have additional details on the delegation. I’d certainly ask the Palestinians that.

QUESTION: And finally, I wanted to ask you – I know that it’s not something —

QUESTION: Can we just stay on – is this still on Israel?

QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. I just want to – on the – the status of Jerusalem is going to be before the Supreme Court on Monday. I know this is just beginning.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I wonder if you had a chance to look at this issue and have anything else to add.

MS. PSAKI: Well, this is an ongoing legal proceeding, as you know, so I’m not going to have —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: — additional comment. We have filed – made numerous filings in this case, and certainly would refer you to those briefs for details of our positions. Obviously, the Department of Justice has the lead.

QUESTION: For Israelis that are born in Tel Aviv, does it say Tel Aviv, Israel?

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Justice for —

QUESTION: Or does it say Israel? No, on the passports. This is a —

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to the Department of Justice —

QUESTION: — State Department issue, isn’t it?

MS. PSAKI: — for details on the case.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just back to the phone call with Prime Minister Netanyahu.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Could you say whether the issue of these comments, these un-named U.S. officials with the “chicken bleep” comments that – whether that came up and whether Secretary Kerry expressed any disappointment with them or that they don’t reflect —

MS. PSAKI: Let me check with him. I didn’t have a chance to ask him that question this morning.

QUESTION: Okay. Because there were some reports that, in fact —

QUESTION: Haaretz is reporting.

QUESTION: Yeah, he raised it and that Kerry kind of apologized for that —

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t be surprised if Kerry reiterated what he said many times publicly, which is that these don’t represent his views or the President’s views. But I’ll check with him.

QUESTION: But would you be surprised if he apologized to Prime Minister Netanyahu?

MS. PSAKI: I think he likely reiterated just as I said.

QUESTION: Jen —

QUESTION: Well, one more on Israel.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: The Israeli finance minister vetoed today new spending on infrastructure for Jewish settlement in the West Bank. How do you view this step?

MS. PSAKI: I hadn’t seen that report. I’m happy to check on it.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask you again on the issue of someone – if a U.S. citizen was born or naturalized, let’s say, in Bombay, India. Does it say “India” or does it say “Bombay, India”?

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check on that for you, Said.

QUESTION: Okay. Because, I mean, I want to ask about this issue —

MS. PSAKI: Said, I’m sorry. We have to move on because it’s Friday afternoon.

QUESTION: Burkina Faso?

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Let’s do Burkina Faso.

QUESTION: Was it a coup that happened today when the head of the armed forces took power?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we spoke about this a little bit yesterday. I don’t have a ton new. Obviously, we’re continuing to assess what’s happening on the ground. So I don’t have a new assessment or label at this point in time.

QUESTION: Well, when the military takes over for a government without a democratic election, is that a coup?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Elise, we look at every situation. We look at every situation and make sure we make an evaluation based on the circumstances on the ground.

QUESTION: Now, how do you anticipate that this will affect your significant security cooperation with Burkina Faso, because it is used as a hub to do counterterrorism activities in the area, particularly against AQIM.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. It’s just too early to assess that. We’re certainly concerned about unfolding events. We regret the violence and the loss of life and certainly call on all parties to avoid further violence and respect the constitutional process. But events are unfolding quickly and we are – continue to track them. I expect we’ll continue to have more to say as we know more.

QUESTION: I mean, is there any way – is there anything that you think needs to be – as they move forward, I mean, obviously whether you would advise or press them to move quickly with elections or to resolve this.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. Well, we have been in touch with senior officials in Burkina Faso, including with the president. We underscored our commitment to peaceful transitions of power through democratic elections and emphasized neither side should attempt to change the situation through extra-constitutional means. So obviously, we have concerns about what we’re seeing on the ground, but we’ve also spoken in the past and it continues to be our view that there are limitations – term limits in place for reasons. So we expressed both —

QUESTION: So you’re not calling for him to be reinstated?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’re calling – we’re conveying exactly as I said, and we’re looking – continuing to assess what’s happening there.

QUESTION: Well, but are you calling for him to be reinstated or not?

MS. PSAKI: I would have said if we were.

QUESTION: So that means no?

MS. PSAKI: I would have said if we were, Elise.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just finish this. Africa? Any more on Africa?

QUESTION: I have one on Africa.

MS. PSAKI: Okay, go ahead.

QUESTION: Actually, on Sudan. Was there a readout that you could give us between Secretary Kerry and the foreign minister of Sudan?

MS. PSAKI: Let me see if I have anything on that, Lara. I actually may. Hold on one second.

QUESTION: That’s what state media is reporting.

MS. PSAKI: Yes. I’m not – they did speak, but let me – I just – let me see if I have anything for you in terms of a readout of it. Why don’t we venture to get that to you after the briefing?

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.

QUESTION: New topic?

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead, Elliot.

QUESTION: Question on China?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Unrelated to Secretary Kerry’s trip. Sorry if – I don’t know if you already spoke to this; I apologize if you did.

MS. PSAKI: No, no.

QUESTION: Earlier in the week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that there would be an anticorruption treaty or a deal signed at the APEC meeting. I was wondering if you guys have received any details from the Chinese side about that accord, what would be in it, and what would be expected of the U.S. side on such a thing.

MS. PSAKI: I think he’s likely referring to something that might happen at the leader’s meeting, so I would —

QUESTION: Sure, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: — refer you to the White House for specifics on that. I don’t have any more details.

QUESTION: So you guys haven’t heard anything from —

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we’re discussing with the White House and with the Chinese every component of the program, the agenda, and the deliverables, but I don’t have anything to preview for you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to Vice President Biden and to the Secretary of State Kerry asking them to stop the blatant violation by Turkey against Cyprus. Do you agree with Mr. Menendez that what Turkey is doing is a violation of international law?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m certain we will reply to Chairman Menendez’s letter, as we always do. You’re familiar with our position on this issue, which certainly hasn’t changed. We continue to recognize the Republic of Cyprus’s right to develop its resources and its exclusive economic zones. We continue to support strongly the negotiation process conducted under UN Good Offices to reunify the island into a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation. But I don’t have anything new to preview for you.

QUESTION: Okay, can I have a follow-up?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: In August Secretary Kerry asked China to freeze all provocation acts in South China Sea. What China did is – was what Turkey is doing today in Cyprus. He said, and I quote, “We need to work together to manage tension in the South China Sea.” You know the statement that – by Mr. Kerry. Why the State Department does not respond in the same way to the Turkey provocation in Cyprus?

MS. PSAKI: Because every —

QUESTION: What is the difference?

MS. PSAKI: — region and every conflict and every country is different. So I’m not going to have the same talking point for different countries or regions.

QUESTION: Another – different topic?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: India. Quickly, I have two questions, please.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: One: It’s been now one month since Prime Minister Modi was in Washington, and – at the State Department, of course. He made two points when he was here – one in New York when he said that every American will get Indian visa on arrival in India. Any comments on that, if U.S. is going to follow what he said? Because that means he was talking about people-to-people relations, opening the visa, Indian visa for the U.S. citizens.

MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, Goyal, we’re big believers in people-to-people programs, and we’ve been working with India on certainly increasing visas. But I don’t have anything new to preview for you.

QUESTION: And second, when he was in Washington, before he left Washington, he spoke with the 500 Fortune companies at the U.S.-India Business Council, where he said that India will open for these American companies invest in India, and also make in India. So what he said, that he wants to work with the U.S. companies to have their – India’s doors will be open. So anything about that, if any request has come from the U.S. companies to invest in India or, like in the past, there were some problems about —

MS. PSAKI: Well, Goyal, I’ll just tell you it’s an ongoing discussion. We think India is a great market and one that we certainly believe is – there are opportunities for U.S. businesses —

QUESTION: And finally, one more quickly.

MS. PSAKI: I think we have to move on just because we don’t have unlimited time.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Jen, on the internal State Department memo about bringing non-U.S. citizens to the U.S. for Ebola treatment, our congressional sources have pushed back on your suggestion that the author of the Ebola memo was some mid-level official. Do you wish to clarify?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t.

QUESTION: Okay. One more on this: Our sources also insist that the memo was also sent to DHS to begin the interagency decision-making process. So folks on the Hill are saying your comment that it never went anywhere isn’t true. What’s your response?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the fact is it wasn’t – as I said the other day, it wasn’t – didn’t go through any of the typical process – internal process to senior decision makers. It wasn’t sent through any official interagency process. I can’t assess whether it was sent over an email or not. I don’t have any more information for you on that. But the bottom line is it’s irrelevant, as are their complaints, because this is not a policy we’re considering; it’s not one that we’re applying; it’s not one that we support. So it’s not a memo that is relevant at this point.

QUESTION: Yemen?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Reports that the Houthis have taken over Sana’a and have given President Hadi ten days to form a government.

MS. PSAKI: I’d have to check with our team. I hadn’t seen that report before I came out here.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: But why don’t we get something around to all of you on it.

QUESTION: Okay. And then just a very fast follow-up —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Can you take it?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. I’m happy to take it. We’ll get – we’ll take it and do a TQ.

QUESTION: Thanks. And just very quickly, there’s also – and you may be aware of this —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, sure.

QUESTION: — some work between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE to create kind of a regional quick response force or regional force to respond to militant threats across the Mideast. I’m wondering if this is something that you all are aware of, and how realistic it is to create something like this.

MS. PSAKI: Sure. I think my – I think my counterparts at the Department of Defense spoke to this and the fact that we’re continuing to work with coalition partners, of which they are all members or partners, to determine how to best take on the threat of ISIL. So there’s just an ongoing discussion. I don’t have anything more for you in terms of what —

QUESTION: But this wouldn’t be necessarily ISIL. It’s for – it could be for Yemen, for example —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — or in Libya, for example. It’s just militancy response.

MS. PSAKI: I would point you to DOD. They’re the most appropriate outlet for that.

QUESTION: Well, I was just going to say, is that something that you would support without coordination with U.S. —

MS. PSAKI: I think we’d have to see what it is. It’s obviously just an initial report, and I’d point you to what my colleague at the Department of Defense said.

QUESTION: Boo.

MS. PSAKI: Hi, Jo.

QUESTION: Hi. Sorry for —

QUESTION: No, I’m sorry. Go on.

QUESTION: — running in and out.

MS. PSAKI: Did you say “boo”?

QUESTION: Yes. I thought we were done. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Oh. Sorry, I cut off Arshad’s grand moment. (Laughter.)

Just a very quick question. I wanted to ask about an American guy called Robert Alan Black, who apparently has disappeared in Abu Dhabi. They believe he’s being held in jail, possibly for taking photos of the wrong things. Do you have any information about him?

MS. PSAKI: We are aware of the reports that a U.S. citizen has been detained in Abu Dhabi. We take our obligation to assist U.S. citizens overseas seriously. The U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi is providing all possible consular assistance, but I can’t provide any additional information.

QUESTION: Well, but wait a minute. You’re aware of the report and you’re providing consular assistance? Those two things are inconsistent. Has the gentleman been found and arrested or —

MS. PSAKI: We don’t have a Privacy Act waiver, Elise.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: There’s not more I can share with all of you.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Do we have any more? All right. Happy Halloween, everyone.

QUESTION: Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 3:09 p.m.)

DPB # 186

Africa: Proposed Changes to Burkina Faso Term Limits


The United States is concerned by the spirit and intent behind a draft National Assembly bill in Burkina Faso to amend the constitution to allow the term-limited incumbent president to run for an additional five-year term.  As the Burkinabe National Assembly prepares to consider the proposed constitutional changes, the United States emphasizes that constitutionally mandated term limits provide an important mechanism to hold heads of state accountable, ensure peaceful and democratic transfers of power, and give new generations the opportunity to compete for political office and elect new leaders.  We urge all involved, including Burkina Faso’s security forces, to adhere to non-violence, and to debate this issue in a peaceful and inclusive manner.

Press Releases: The New European Commission


I look forward to collaborating with a new European Commission that will take office on November 1 under the leadership of President Jean-Claude Juncker.

He has assembled a talented group of European leaders for his new Commission, including old friends like incoming High Representative Federica Mogherini.

The United States and the European Union share a common past – one we honor a century after the start of the First World War. Today, we share a common vision for a Europe whole, free, and at peace.

Almost two decades ago, leaders of the United States and the European Union committed to work together to promote peace, stability, and democracy around the world. We agreed to respond to global challenges, together. And we agreed to expand world trade, bring our economies closer together, and build transatlantic bridges for people and ideas.

The issues we confront have changed over the years. But we have stayed true to our bedrock commitments. Today, we face serious threats to peace and stability from the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, ISIL in the Middle East, and Russia’s actions in Ukraine. These are crises we will combat together. And we are negotiating an ambitious trade and investment partnership to bring our economies even closer.

After a decade of his remarkable leadership at the helm of this Commission, I thank outgoing Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. I am also grateful for High Representative Catherine Ashton’s partnership over the years.

As the new Commission takes office, I look forward to working closely with them to reinforce the ties that bind the United States and the European Union.

Protecting the Health and Safety of Canadians

October 31, 2014 — Ottawa — Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander today announced new precautionary measures to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

Effective immediately, Canadian visa officers have temporarily paused the processing of visa applications from foreign nationals who have been physically present in a country designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as having widespread and intense transmission of the Ebola virus. Discretion will remain for the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to grant entry on a case-by-case basis in exceptional cases where travel is essential and in Canada’s interest.  Apart from those instances, temporary resident applications already in process that are affected by these new measures will be returned to the applicants.

Canadian citizens, permanent residents, foreign nationals currently in possession of a visa and foreign nationals who do not require visas will continue to be screened at ports of entry in Canada and will be subject to appropriate health screening and other measures under the Quarantine Act.

These changes do not impact Canadians currently in West Africa. All Canadians, including health-care workers, currently in West Africa will be permitted to travel back to Canada. The Government of Canada continues to advise against travel to countries designated by the WHO as having widespread and intense transmission of the Ebola virus.

Ministerial Instructions providing new directions to visa officers worldwide were published in the Canada Gazette today.

The Government of Canada is committed to supporting international efforts to control the Ebola outbreak. Canada has been a world leader in responding to the crisis and continues to monitor the situation in the West Africa region to ensure humanitarian, health and security needs are met.

Quick facts

  • Canada has been a world leader in fighting the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa, containing its spread and treating patients. To date Canada has committed $65.5 million to the global efforts to support the health, humanitarian and security interventions deployed to address the spread of the disease as well as an additional $2.5 million in personal protective equipment.
  • To date, 800 vials of Canada’s experimental Ebola vaccine have been donated to the WHO, and $57 million in humanitarian assistance has been disbursed, ranking Canada second among all donor country contributors to relief efforts.
  • To date, there have not been any confirmed cases of Ebola in Canada.
  • For more information on Ebola and steps the Government of Canada has taken to address the disease home and abroad, visit www.canada.ca/ebolavirus.

Quote

“Canada has been a leader in the international efforts to respond to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The precautionary measures announced today build on actions we have taken to protect the health and safety of Canadians here at home. Our government continues to monitor the situation in West Africa very closely and will continue to act in the best interests of Canadians.”

Chris Alexander, Canada’s Citizenship and Immigration Minister

“All levels of government and the health sector are working together to ensure that Canadians are safe and prepared in the event of a case of Ebola in Canada. Our number one priority is to protect Canadians. We continue to work with domestic and international partners to aid efforts to respond to the outbreak in West Africa, while strengthening our domestic preparedness here at home.”

Rona Ambrose, Minister of Health

Associated links

Follow us on Twitter: twitter.com/CitImmCanada

Contacts

Kevin Menard
Minister’s Office
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
613-954-1064

Media Relations
Communications Branch
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
613-952-1650
CIC-Media-Relations@cic.gc.ca

Building a stronger Canada: Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) strengthens Canada’s economic, social and cultural prosperity, helping ensure Canadian safety and security while managing one of the largest and most generous immigration programs in the world.

Media Availability with Minister of Health Rona Ambrose on Ebola

Good afternoon and thank you for being here today for an update on the situation with Ebola in West Africa. Earlier today, the Department of Foreign Affairs issued an updated travel advisory for the affected regions. We continue to advise Canadians against all nonessential travel to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia.

This recommendation by the Department of Foreign Affairs is made to protect Canadian travellers and make it easier for health officials in the affected regions to dedicate their resources towards controlling the outbreak.

Today, we are asking Canadians living in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia to consider leaving by commercial means while they are still available.

This decision has been made and taken with an abundance of caution as there is no Government of Canada office in Sierra Leone, Guinea or Liberia. Therefore, our ability to provide consular assistance is extremely limited. Access to medical services may also be scarce in the affected region. Should any Canadian require medical evacuation from the Ebola-affected regions, there are limited services available and the Government of Canada cannot guarantee access to these services in another country.

I want to reassure Canadians that our Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Taylor and the Public Health Agency of Canada continue to advise that the risk to Canadians here at home is very low.

The travel advisory today is meant to further protect Canadians living in the affected region. Here at home, Canada is very well prepared, with a number of systems in place to identify and prevent the spread of serious infectious diseases like Ebola.

All points of entry into Canada are routinely monitored 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is done through the provisions of our Quarantine Act. There are no direct flights into Canada from the affected countries in Africa. At the border, Canada Border Service Agency screens all people coming from African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak.

As an additional precaution, the Government of Canada has further strengthened border measures to help prevent the unlikely importation of Ebola into the country. Effective immediately, all travellers identified as having arrived in Canada from an affected West African country will now be referred to a Public Health Agency of Canada quarantine officer for a mandatory health assessment. Any travellers who feel ill or who were in contact with an ill individual will then be assessed by a Public Health Agency of Canada quarantine officer.

Effective immediately, all travellers identified as having arrived in Canada from an affected African country will be referred to a quarantine officer for mandatory health tests.

Quarantine officers have the necessary training and equipment to conduct a health assessment, including checking for fever and determine whether additional public health measures are required.

CBSA agents are asking travellers from these regions direct questions, and they’re being referred to a quarantine officer if needed.

Through our National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg, we are extremely well connected with provincial labs across the country to ensure Canada is ready to detect and respond quickly if necessary at home. This means that in the chance there are suspected cases, we can quickly test and take appropriate action.

As I said last week, in Canada we are extremely fortunate that we have some of the best hospitals in the world. This includes the care for infectious diseases as well as strong infectious control systems in place to protect against the spread of disease. If there was ever a confirmed case of Ebola, the Public Health Agency of Canada would immediately advise the public and ensure all appropriate actions are taken and precautions are taken to protect Canadians.

I’m happy to take your questions now.