12:52 p.m. EST
MS. PSAKI: Hi everyone. So as you all know, we’re going to be doing a briefing on the budget at 1:30 in here today, so let’s get to as many questions as we can. I have one item at the top.
Counselor Tom Shannon and Senior Advisor to the Secretary Ambassador David Thorne and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Scot Marciel will be in Pakse, Laos February 2nd through the 3rd to lead the U.S. delegation to the extraordinary meeting of Friends of the Lower Mekong. The United States and countries of the Lower Mekong region and their other development partners are meeting to discuss economic growth and environmental sustainability of the Mekong region and to address the connections between the water resources, energy needs, and food security. After the conclusion of the meeting tomorrow, Counselor Shannon and Ambassador Thorne will travel to Vietnam to review shared accomplishments and priorities of the bilateral relationship as the United States and Vietnam celebrate the 20th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral relations in 2015.
With that, go ahead.
QUESTION: Sorry. Did you say they were going to be in Pakistan and Laos?
MS. PSAKI: No, it’s the name of the city in Laos they’ll be, Pakse.
QUESTION: Pakse. Oh sorry, okay.
MS. PSAKI: I hope I’m pronouncing it correctly –
QUESTION: Sorry, I misheard.
MS. PSAKI: — but go ahead.
QUESTION: No, no. That’s fine. I just wanted to make sure I hadn’t misheard.
MS. PSAKI: No, Laos.
QUESTION: Because I didn’t think the Mekong ran through Pakistan.
MS. PSAKI: Laos and Vietnam.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: There are a whole plethora of reports out this morning that the Administration is reconsidering providing lethal assistance to the Ukrainian Government. Would you care to address those?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, we are constantly assessing our policies on Ukraine to ensure they are responsive, appropriated, and calibrated to achieve our objectives. We are particularly concerned about recent escalating separatist violence and separatist attempts to expand the territory they currently control further beyond the ceasefire line agreed to in Minsk, as well as the increasing toll of civilian and military casualties. Naturally, we take into account events on the ground and events that are ongoing. So I’m not going to go into details of internal policy discussions, but we do continue to assess how to best support Ukraine. Our focus does remain on pursuing a solution through diplomatic means, and we are always evaluating other options that will help create space for a negotiated solution to the crisis.
QUESTION: Okay. So it sounds like you’re not saying no that those reports are wrong. Is it accurate then to say that this kind of assistance is now part of the conversation?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we haven’t taken options on or off the table, Matt. It’s an ongoing discussion. Obviously, we take into account events on the ground, but I don’t have anything to lay out for you in terms of internal deliberations.
QUESTION: Well, the President and his cabinet and the rest of his Administration have, for some time, made the case that the sanctions that have been imposed by both you and Europe are having an effect, are having a desired effect in putting pressure on the Russians because of the way, in the President’s words, the Russian economy is tanking or in tatters. Does this not suggest now that there is some kind of a fundamental rethink within the Administration that perhaps the sanctions in and of themselves are not having the desired effect because the Russians have not changed?
MS. PSAKI: No, we have always seen the sanctions as one tool that we use. As you know – and the President also gave an interview that I believe aired yesterday where he talked about the fact that assistance to Ukraine, economic assistance, nonlethal assistance is obviously what we’ve given to date, over 118 million in training and equipment to assist Ukrainian forces we’ve provided. We’re working on several different levels. It’s not just on sanctions and consequences. It’s also about providing a range of assistance. And we’ve long been discussing and continued – have continued to increase the kinds of assistance we’ve provided.
QUESTION: Right. But even as you’ve been discussing an increase in the kinds of assistance that you have already provided, you are accusing the Russians not only of strengthening their grip on Crimea, which you think that they annexed illegally, but also of increasing the amount of territory they have under control in – under their control, that the separatists have under their control in the east of Ukraine. So with those two things – Crimea still being annexed by Russia and the rebels gaining ground rather than losing ground or going into negotiations – how is it that you can say that the policy to date has had the desired effect?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I think there’s a couple different questions you’re asking. Aside from reports today, we have increased our assistance, including a range of nonlethal assistance and a range of equipment – body armor, helmets, vehicles – over the course of the last several months, and that’s to be expected. We continue to discuss that. We haven’t taken options off the table.
QUESTION: So you’re saying that maybe the results of the latest stuff that you sent, they’re not in yet, that the jury is still out?
MS. PSAKI: Matt, I’m saying that we continue to evaluate the right steps and the appropriate approach here. Our focus remains on a political and diplomatic solution.
QUESTION: Why would the President want to get into a proxy war with Russia?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t think anybody wants to get into a proxy war with Russia. And that is not the objective. Our objective here is to change the behavior of Russia. That’s the reason that we’ve put the sanctions in place. We certainly want to help Ukraine, a sovereign government, thrive and go through this transition period. No decisions have been made. I’m talking about the fact that we, of course, preserve the right to consider a range of options.
QUESTION: Well, but the – I mean, if – if the reports are correct that the Administration is giving a new look at whether to provide lethal assistance to the Ukrainian government, and if – as you have said many times from the podium that the pro-Russian separatists are receiving not merely lethal assistance but are getting actual help from Russian forces in unmarked uniforms – to provide lethal assistance to one side when the other side is backed by the Russian Federation would seem like you’re inevitably getting into a proxy war.
MS. PSAKI: Well, the decision hasn’t been made to do that, Arshad. Obviously, there are a range of factors I’m not going to outline through here that senior officials in the Administration consider with every component of aid we provide.
QUESTION: But you would agree – you would agree with the basic thesis that if the Russians are arming one side and you’re arming – and you were to choose to arm the other side that you would have embarked on a proxy war?
MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t agree with that. But we have long said that we believe a political solution and a diplomatic approach is the right approach here, which is what we continue to pursue.
QUESTION: And do you think it’s conceivable that changing the balance of forces on the ground might help achieve a political solution?
MS. PSAKI: Changing the balance of forces in what capacity?
QUESTION: On the ground.
MS. PSAKI: By doing what?
QUESTION: Well, by doing what we’ve been talking about, providing lethal assistance, which might help change the balance of forces on the ground.
MS. PSAKI: That decision hasn’t been made, so I’m not going to speculate on it further.
QUESTION: But the question – and I’m sorry, it’s my last one on this. But my question has to go – goes to whether it is conceivable to you that changing things on the ground might help yield a political solution, which, as you say, is your preference, or whether you’re not so sure about that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I certainly understand your question. We’ll let analysts do the analysis given we haven’t made a decision to change the approach here.
QUESTION: What is the reluctance, or what has been the Administration’s reluctance, to give the Ukrainian military lethal aid?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve spoken about this a number of times, so I’d certainly point you to the President’s comments, the Secretary’s comments. Our objective and our goal here remains a peaceful transition, a reduction in violence. Obviously, the onus is on Russia and the Russian-backed separatists to take those steps. We’ve provided a range of assistance to date. The reason we’ve done that is because we want to support the Ukrainians. But obviously, we haven’t made a decision to provide lethal aid.
Go ahead. Oh, go ahead, Nicolas, and we’ll go to you next.
QUESTION: Yes, sorry. So it means that the U.S. is totally supporting Germany with – Angela Merkel just said this morning that, I quote, “Germany will not support Ukraine with guns and weapons,” and stressing for the need of a diplomatic solution.
MS. PSAKI: Well, every country makes their own decisions. We’ve stated similar comments for months now. So I think our positions have been very consistent.
QUESTION: In a statement today, President Obama said the budget will – gives us resources to confront global challenges from ISIL to Russia aggression. What is the Administration going to do with the resources, and how is it going to confront Russia exactly? How are these resources going to be spent?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t believe the President said “confront Russia.” The President —
QUESTION: “To confront global challenges from ISIL to Russia aggression.”
MS. PSAKI: Russian aggression is different than Russia. Russia we work together on with on a range of challenges and a range of issue – global issues around the world. That continues.
QUESTION: Okay. But how —
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, he’s —
QUESTION: How does —
MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. Obviously, he’s referring to Ukraine. There’s funding in the budget proposed for Ukraine. We’re going to do a budget briefing at about 1:30 today, so I will leave that to our experts to discuss in terms of the resources that we’ll be providing or we’re proposing.
QUESTION: Would that include lethal assistance?
MS. PSAKI: Obviously, we haven’t made the decision to do that.
QUESTION: Would such a decision violate the Minsk agreement and lead to escalation of the conflict?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we haven’t made the decision to do that, so I’m not going to speculate on that. And no.
QUESTION: This week, Secretary Kerry goes to Kyiv.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Would this question of lethal assistance be part of his discussions with Ukrainian counterparts?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you all have seen, obviously, the Ukrainian Government, who we have a range of conversations with aside from the Secretary’s visits there, has asked for and proposed a range of their own requests. We continue to consider those. Nothing has changed about the range of assistance we’re providing. As I mentioned, that’s 118 million in training and equipment to assist Ukrainian forces. This equipment has included body armor, helmets, vehicles, advanced radios, night-vision devices. We’ll let them speak to what they will raise in their discussions.
QUESTION: All right. You said, in answer to the question before that one, you – which was, would – if the Administration decided to give lethal equipment to the Ukrainians, would it violate the Minsk agreement, and your response was “I’m not going to speculate,” and “no.” What does that mean? I’m not – what’s the “no” refer —
MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to speculate. Let’s move on to another Ukraine question.
QUESTION: Okay. So wait, but if it happened you would not —
MS. PSAKI: We haven’t made the decision to (inaudible) lethal assistance.
QUESTION: I understand that. Was the —
MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe there’s anything in there that would suggest that would violate. So technically speaking, no.
QUESTION: Okay. So the Administration does not plan to – even though it’s not a signatory, I don’t believe —
MS. PSAKI: We’re not a signatory, exactly.
QUESTION: But in keeping with the spirit of the Minsk agreement, you would not – the Administration wouldn’t do anything that would violate the spirit —
MS. PSAKI: We certainly support keeping in the spirit of the Minsk agreements, absolutely.
Do we have any more on Ukraine before we continue? Go ahead.
QUESTION: According to Ukraine Freedom Support Act, the Administration in 60 days should provide Congress a kind of document assessing the prospective of giving Ukraine lethal and nonlethal assistance.
MS. PSAKI: I’m sorry, what document are you referring to?
QUESTION: Kind of conclusions of Administration about requests of the Ukrainian side of what weapons or – and other military assistance they need. So Ukraine Freedom Support Act, it was saying in the end of last year, says that in 60 days the Administration should provide its considerations on that. Are you aware of a document being prepared?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, with that act – if I remember the one you’re referring to correctly – it provides the President the ability to make a decision. A decision hasn’t been made to provide lethal assistance.
QUESTION: One more try on Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: If the decision or when the decision is made, don’t you think that it would be a very dangerous option in terms of escalating the situation on the ground?
MS. PSAKI: Well, Nicolas, obviously, our – we have long considered a range of options. I’m not going to predict what will happen in the future or discuss internal discussions or deliberations. Obviously, we factor in in internal discussions all of the issues and challenges and pros and cons of every decision we make. So I’ll leave it at that.
Let’s go on to a new topic. Go ahead, Pam.
QUESTION: Well, more with Ukraine.
MS. PSAKI: Oh, go ahead. Ukraine? Okay.
QUESTION: Yes. Russian media reports are interpreting comments that Obama made in an interview over the weekend as an indication that the U.S. might have been involved in some kind of effort to overthrow the – that led to the overthrow of the previous government. The quote that they’re focusing on is Obama saying, “after we had brokered a deal to transition power in Ukraine.” Any reaction to that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let’s all refresh ourselves on the facts here. President – former President Yanukovych abdicated his responsibilities by fleeing Kyiv during a political crisis. He was then voted out of power by a near-unanimous vote of the Rada, including virtually all members of his own party. He lost legitimacy and Ukraine’s lawmakers in the Rada fulfilled their obligation to the people by maintaining unity and preserving a democratic government until President Poroshenko was elected on May 25th in elections that were largely in line with Ukraine’s international commitments and done with a respect of fundamental freedoms in the vast majority of the country. It is no secret that we worked with the Government of Ukraine, the opposition, with other stakeholders, to reach an agreement to put Ukraine back on track toward fulfilling the aspirations of the people of Ukraine for democracy, respect for human rights, European integration, and long-term economic growth. This effort included not just the United States but Russian and European government representatives as well. We were very vocal about our support for their transition and our support for economic assistance they needed, and assistance they needed to get through that transition period after those decisions were made by individuals who were formerly leading Ukraine.
QUESTION: This is – since this is my first time, I just wanted to introduce myself.
MS. PSAKI: Okay. Hello, welcome.
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: In the outskirts of Kirkuk, it happened that ISIS attacked the city, and so there are casualties among Peshmerga forces, that they lost two high-ranked generals. When I was talking to the Peshmerga officials, the ministry of Peshmerga, that why that happened, and it was like a lose for them that ISIS took some of the areas that then re – have been taken by Peshmerga again. But one of the main reasons, they said it is the lack of arms, especially the heavy arms that’d been promised by international coalition, especially United States and European countries, as still the United States is not providing any heavy arms directly to Peshmerga. And is there any new change in that policy regarding pushing Baghdad to provide the arms to them? Because they said this is the consequences of this United States policy.
MS. PSAKI: So we have, one, provided a large amount of assistance in coordination with the Government of Iraq in the form of many types of military assistance to the Peshmerga forces, as have a number of other countries. We’ve also seen how they have fought against ISIL in the region, and we have applauded them for their efforts. We can certainly get you, I’m sure, a range of assistance – the range of assistance that we have provided. It’s simply inaccurate to suggest we haven’t provided a vast array of assistance. It doesn’t change the fact that this battle and this fight against ISIL is ongoing, and certainly, those who are fighting it on the ground are living it and experiencing it every single day. We’re working with the coalition, including a range of countries that have also provided assistance, to assist and work with them in that effort.
QUESTION: So what you are trying to say is that you provided what they needed but they are keep complaining, the prime minister of Kurdistan just —
MS. PSAKI: Well, I wasn’t saying it exactly that way.
MS. PSAKI: We’ve provided a great deal of assistance, as have other countries, in coordination with the Government of Iraq. I’m sure we can get you that, but that speaks for itself.
Let’s move on to another – any more on Iraq before we continue? Okay, go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Venezuela, mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Yesterday, President Maduro said on national television that the United States is plotting to overthrow him; mentioned specifically a meeting with Vice President Biden last week with different prime ministers and heads of state in Washington and the question of energy that he mentioned, that Venezuela would be – the government of Maduro will be overthrown.
MS. PSAKI: Well, these allegations are baseless and false. Such allegations distract from Venezuela’s own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela. The Venezuelan Government should focus on the legitimate grievances of its people, which include repeated violations of the freedom of speech – of freedom of speech and assembly as well as due process under the law.
Any more on Venezuela before we continue?
QUESTION: Well, I just have one on this. I mean, is it not the case that the energy security event – the Caribbean energy security event that was held in this building last – a week or ten days ago —
MS. PSAKI: January 26th, yeah.
QUESTION: — right – and which was – the Vice President addressed – was it the entire idea of that conference to blunt the dependence of Caribbean countries on Venezuelan oil, meaning that Venezuela would – if the conference goals were successful, these other Caribbean – these Caribbean countries would buy less oil from Venezuela? Is that not correct?
MS. PSAKI: Well, the goal of the conference – which you’re right, the Vice President did speak at – was to promote the region’s economic prosperity and energy independence.
QUESTION: Right. Well, that’s one way to —
MS. PSAKI: I think we’re talking about —
QUESTION: That’s one way to put it.
MS. PSAKI: We’re talking about Maduro accusing the Vice President of plotting to overthrow him, which obviously is a ludicrous and inaccurate accusation.
QUESTION: Right. But wouldn’t the way the Venezuelan economy works or doesn’t work mean that if the United States is successful in getting Caribbean countries to diversify their energy supply, that Venezuela would hurt – it would hurt Venezuela?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I think my point is that Venezuela needs to take a look at their own governing instead of throwing accusations at the Vice President of the United States.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: Turkey is applying for a red notice for the Pennsylvania-based Fethullah Gulen, and the process at home is now completed, but now the Interpol side is going on. If Interpol issue a red notice for him, what will be the U.S. position?
MS. PSAKI: We don’t speak to extradition requests, and I’m not going to speak to reports of Interpol requests either.
Any more on Turkey before we continue? Go ahead.
QUESTION: President Erdogan last week lashed out at U.S. airstrike in Kobani, and he asked who will repair destroyed areas in Kobani. Any comment?
MS. PSAKI: I think as I outlined last week – I realize you didn’t ask that exact question – we remain committed to – the United States remains the largest provider of humanitarian assistance in the world. We’ve provided that assistance across Syria. That will continue. We also have conveyed that we continue – we will continue to work with the anti-ISIL coalition to continue to keep back ISIL efforts to target the region.
QUESTION: One more. Erdogan also said he told Obama that PYD is similar to PKK, and that arms sent to the Kurdish militants is wrong. And referring to the United States, he said your arms aid includes heavy weapons. What will happen to these weapons and against whom will these weapons be used?
MS. PSAKI: Well, as you know, we airdropped some assistance that was intended to fight against ISIL. Beyond that, you know where our designations are in that regard. That hasn’t changed.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) same thing —
MS. PSAKI: Okay.
QUESTION: — in Kobani. President Erdogan, last week he was rejecting any special status for the Kurds in Syria – north of Syria, so – but as you know, there is Kobani Cantons, that self-governing autonomy region, and also in Cizire and other places. What is the status of your government on the civil administration in that area? Would you recognize the self-governing part of Syria —
MS. PSAKI: We don’t, and that has long been our policy.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Unless mistaken, I haven’t seen any U.S. reacts to the release of Peter Greste, the Australian journalist.
MS. PSAKI: We provided a comment to those who asked, but I’m happy to give one. We welcome the release of Peter Greste and are encouraged that he will be returning to his family. We hope the Egyptian Government will follow this positive step with measures to address the verdicts against detained journalists and peaceful civil society activists. Freedom of the press, protection of civil society, and upholding the rule of law are crucial to Egypt’s long-term stability and prosperity.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. Government play any role in the negotiations for the release of Peter Greste?
MS. PSAKI: We would refer you to the Egyptian Government for explanation of his release. As you know, we’ve long been calling for it, and we certainly have raised it in private meetings.
QUESTION: Do you have any comment on an Egyptian court today sentencing 183 Muslim Brotherhood supporters to death for their alleged involvement in killing police officers in 2013?
MS. PSAKI: We do. We believe the families of victims of violence, including those of the 11 officers who were killed in the Kardasa attack are entitled to see justice for the murder of their loved ones, and we express our condolences for their loss. However, the United States is deeply concerned by the decision of an Egyptian court to uphold 183 mass death sentences. It simply seems impossible that a fair review of evidence and testimony could be achieved through mass trials. We continue to call on the Government of Egypt to ensure due process for the accused on the merits of individual cases for all Egyptians and discontinue the practice of mass trials.
QUESTION: Has the Secretary made any progress on whether or not to issue a waiver to – well, actually, let me ask two questions. Can the State Department now certify that Egypt has made progress toward democracy and greater respect for human rights?
MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously, we have remaining concerns, as just evidenced by my comments. We have not made that decision at this point in time. I don’t have any update.
QUESTION: The decision on issuing a waiver on national security —
MS. PSAKI: Or certification.
QUESTION: Either one.
MS. PSAKI: There’s no update.
QUESTION: Can I – just on (inaudible) something that came up last week, which was this Georgetown University-sponsored visit of the —
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: I’m just wondering if in the days since this first came up here, if there’s been any rethink in – within the building about the appropriateness of this visit, considering what happened afterwards and the photographs that some of the participants took.
MS. PSAKI: No, but, since you gave me the opportunity – unfortunately, I didn’t have the accurate information on one small piece. The meeting was set up by the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy, a nonprofit. So the visit was not funded, as you know, by us or the U.S. Government, but it was also not funded by Georgetown.
QUESTION: Oh. Well, that’s – (laughter) – kind of a significant thing.
MS. PSAKI: Understood. That’s why I provided the information as I had it, when I had the accurate information.
QUESTION: Okay. So the Center for – whatever it is – are you comfortable with continuing to —
MS. PSAKI: I think there’s some affiliation, but I don’t have any details on that specifically.
QUESTION: Are you – is the building comfortable with continuing to do business with this center, this group?
MS. PSAKI: Yes. Yes.
QUESTION: Okay. So there is no – there has not – there are no concerns about what the people who were here did afterwards?
MS. PSAKI: Well, nothing has changed about our decision to have the meeting, no.
QUESTION: Jen, I just wanted to ask —
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead. Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Just wanted to ask one more question about my colleagues. One of them, who has been sentenced to 10 years, is an Egyptian citizen and doesn’t have any other country to where he theoretically could go. Given that Baher Mohamed is one of many Egyptians who’ve been imprisoned or harassed or what have you because they’re journalists, is this building in particular concerned about their well-being, about their ability to achieve justice?
MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re concerned about both of the journalists that remain. They – we’re aware of those circumstances, but I don’t have anything else to speculate on.
QUESTION: South Sudan? Do you have anything on —
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: — the signature of the agreement, ceasefire agreement?
MS. PSAKI: I know I have something in here. Hold on one minute.
MS. PSAKI: Let me work to find it and we’ll come back to you on South Sudan, I promise.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. PSAKI: Go ahead in the back.
QUESTION: I have a question on Iran. There are reports out of Iran that the government has launched and put a satellite into orbit. Is this a source of concern for the U.S. Administration? Do you have any comments on that?
MS. PSAKI: We are aware of those reports, and as we’ve said before, Iran’s missile program continues to pose a dangerous threat to the region and is an issue we monitor closely. And our longstanding concerns regarding Iran’s missile development efforts are shared by the international community, which has passed a series of UN Security Council resolutions focused on Iran’s proliferation-sensitive activities.
One of the issues we are taking up in the negotiations, as you know, is how to deal with the ballistic missile capabilities of delivering nuclear warheads. That issue has been discussed and will continue to be discussed as part of the negotiations.
QUESTION: In the past when another country that you have significant nuclear concerns about, North Korea, has made – done such launches, you – there has been discussion of additional sanctions at the UN. Is that not the case here with Iran? Is it – is there any discussion of – considering this issue is not the primary one of the negotiations, does it raise the level of concern to the point where you might consider new penalties?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have anything to predict at this point in time. I’m happy to talk to our team. Obviously, these reports just came out, so —
QUESTION: Can we say that the subject of missile program and their airspace activities are being discussed in the —
MS. PSAKI: Well, ballistic missile capabilities are. We’ve long said that. That’s not new information, but —
QUESTION: They’re being discussed among the P5+1?
MS. PSAKI: As a part of the negotiations. That’s long been the case.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: Bahraini authorities suspended a television channel after – one day after its launch. The reasons for the suspension are a little unclear, but it followed the TV station’s decision to interview an aid to a Bahraini opposition leader. Does the U.S. Government have a view on the authorities’ decision to effectively stop this channel from broadcasting?
MS. PSAKI: Let me take it. I am aware of the story you’re referring to. I haven’t talked to the team about it. So we can get you and others who are interested a comment on it.
I can just do a few more here. Go ahead.
MS. PSAKI: Sure.
QUESTION: I believe Jordanian King Abdullah and the foreign minister will visit this town tomorrow, and Secretary Kerry will meet them. I’m not – I’m just wondering why the timing, why now, and what are they going to discuss? Is it that they’re going to discuss the Jordanian Government efforts that – exchange hostage – Japanese hostage and the pilot (inaudible)?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I would, one, of course point you to the statement that we put out yesterday about the death of the second hostage. So obviously, we have a range of discussions that are ongoing with the Government of Jordan. We don’t outline those publicly given this is an ongoing situation, and out of respect for their process. And as I’ve stated many times before, Jordan remains an important partner. They visit the United States frequently. The Secretary visits Jordan frequently. I expect they’ll discuss a range of issues during this meeting, but I believe it’s been a long-scheduled meeting to discuss not only bilateral issues, but issues related to regional interests as well.
QUESTION: Do you have a number of how many hostage are taken by ISIL at this moment?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t have a number I can give you. As you know, many countries, including the United States, are sensitive about giving specific numbers out of respect for the families, and sort of also the health and well-being of the individuals who are hostage.
I can just do a couple more here and we’ll – then you’ll all stay around for the budget briefing. Go ahead.
QUESTION: On the same topic, there was a report in The New York Times that’s quoted a lot of experts saying that the – ISIL’s tactics have backfired against them, and there was a public – they failed at gaining public trust. What would you react to that? Do you agree with that?
MS. PSAKI: I’ve seen the report. I’m not going to do analysis from here just because we don’t see benefit in doing that. Obviously, our interests and the interests of any country that has hostages is to do everything possible, use every tool at our disposal to bring them home. So therefore, I’m not going to speculate on that.
Let’s just make – anyone in the back before – I just want to make sure – okay, go ahead.
QUESTION: Prime Minister of Kurdistan Nechirvan Barzani, last week he was talking to Reuters over having the foreign – the possibility of having the foreign troops fighting alongside Iraqi forces and Peshmerga against ISIS. Would United States consider that in 2015, to send troops like fighters to —
MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve spoken to this countless times, so I – nothing has changed in our policy, and I’d point you to past statements.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:23 p.m.)