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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing: June 3, 2014

2:24 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hey, everyone. Sorry for the late briefing today. I know a few of you were over with us at Under Secretary Sherman’s Somalia speech that – hence the later briefing. I have a few items at the top, and then happy to open it up for your questions.

First, a travel update. As you know, Secretary Kerry is in Poland today with President Obama. The Secretary met with Polish Foreign Minister Sikorski this morning. During the meeting, Secretary Kerry reaffirmed the strong commitment of the United States to the security of Poland and our NATO allies in Central and Eastern Europe.

And another travel update for the coming days: On Saturday, Secretary Kerry will travel to Saint-Briac, France. Secretary Kerry will pay tribute to three American servicemen killed in the allied liberation of the town following World War II. He will also participate in a program saluting enduring U.S.-French military and diplomatic cooperation, as well as will be thanking townspeople who helped save his family’s home in the community during that time as well.

Two more toppers, the first on Syria: Today’s presidential election in Syria is a disgrace. Bashar al-Assad has no more credibility today than he did yesterday. Elections should be an opportunity for the people of a free society to be consulted and to play an important role in choosing their leaders. Instead, such a process was inconceivable today in Syria, where the regime continued to reject the courageous calls for freedom and dignity that started more than three years ago. It intentionally denied millions of Syrians the right to vote and continued to massacre the very electorate it purports to represent and protect. Just today, we also note reports the regime shelled the Yarmouk refugee camp and eastern Ghouta.

Detached from reality and devoid of political participation, the Assad regime-staged election today continues a 40-year family legacy of violent suppression that brutally crushes political dissent and fails to fulfill Syrians’ aspirations for peace and prosperity.

And finally, I know there was a lot of questions about this yesterday and I think we just want to be very clear about a few things in terms of the Palestinian interim government. As we said yesterday, it appears that President Abbas has formed an interim technocratic government that does not include any ministers affiliated with Hamas. In fact, most of the key cabinet positions, including the prime minister, the two deputy prime ministers, and the finance minister, are the same as in the prior government. They are all technocrats unaffiliated with any political party and are responsible for facilitating new elections.

President Abbas made clear that this new technocratic government was committed to the principles of nonviolence, negotiations, recognition of the state of Israel, acceptance of previous agreements and Quartet principles and prior obligations between the two parties, and finally, to continue security coordination with Israel. To be clear, moving forward, we will be judging this technocratic government by its actions. As we said, based on what we now know about the composition of this government, which has, again, no ministers affiliated with Hamas and is committed to the principles I just mentioned, we intend to work with it. But we will be watching closely to ensure that it upholds those principles, and we will continue to evaluate the composition and policies of the new technocratic government and calibrate our approach accordingly.

As you all know, Hamas is a designated foreign terrorist organization. The United States does not and will not provide it assistance. Per longstanding U.S. policy, we do not have any contact with Hamas. No members of Hamas and no ministers affiliated with Hamas, as I said, are part of this government. I just want to —

QUESTION: Can we —

MS. HARF: I’m actually going to start with Lara and then I’ll go to you.

QUESTION: Fine. I got a follow-up on that.

MS. HARF: Okay. That’s fine. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Okay. So actually, I’d like to start in Egypt.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: The – as you know, presidential elections were certified this afternoon.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: With a 47 percent turnout, do you think that this can be legitimately called a landslide for President al-Sisi?

MS. HARF: We have seen the official announcement of the results and we’ll have something – I think a response from the U.S. Government very soon. Don’t have it quite yet, but we’ll have something for you today. Don’t have any announcements to make on the results yet.

QUESTION: Why?

QUESTION: Can we go to —

MS. HARF: It’ll come very soon. We’re still working through it.

QUESTION: Just going —

QUESTION: Well, it’s 97 percent, and we’ve known about the unofficial results of these elections for a week now, almost a week now.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. We’ll have something to say very soon. I just don’t have – believe me, I pressed to get it before this, and this is how the policy process works, and we’ll have something very soon.

QUESTION: Can we go to —

QUESTION: Will it be something that surprises us or —

QUESTION: Will it be bigger than a breadbox?

MS. HARF: I have no idea what response any of you will have to anything we say. No. We’ll – it’ll be coming very soon. I don’t have anything to preview for you on that.

QUESTION: Can we go back to the Israeli-Palestinian stuff?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. We can.

QUESTION: In response to a question yesterday at the briefing, Jen was asked whether her comments, which were almost word-perfect identical to yours, I think —

MS. HARF: She and I are meshed up well like that.

QUESTION: I’ve noticed. Meant that the United States would continue funding – based on what it knows now, the United States would continue funding the Palestinian Authority under this new unity government. And she replied, “It does.” Is that still the position?

MS. HARF: It is, broadly speaking, right. Now, obviously, we’ll have conversations with Congress. We will watch the actions of this new technocratic interim government as it goes forward. So I don’t have anything specific for you on that. But nothing’s changed from where we were yesterday.

QUESTION: Just one other thing on this. My understanding of the law is that if you were to – is that the law would bar you from funding such a government if you concluded that Hamas exerted undue influence on it, correct?

MS. HARF: I can check with our legal folks.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: I’m sorry, Arshad. I don’t know the specifics.

QUESTION: I think that’s – I think that is it. And then I think the only exception is if the President determines that such government is meeting the various conditions, several of which – it doesn’t cite all of them in the law, I think, but a couple of which you mentioned just now. So you could – okay. Well, if you don’t know that then —

MS. HARF: Sorry, yeah.

QUESTION: — don’t worry about it.

MS. HARF: Yeah. I’m happy to check with our legal folks on that and see if we can get you more.

QUESTION: Then don’t worry about it.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: The Israelis, predictably, have reacted angrily. They’re deeply disappointed by your decision. Some people are saying – some Israeli commentators are saying it’s a knife in the back. Some are saying that this is a support for terrorism. What is your answer to that?

MS. HARF: Well, on the last point, we’ve been very clear Hamas is a terrorist organization. We don’t provide them assistance. We don’t work with them. Again, this is an interim technocratic government made up of no ministers affiliated with Hamas, period. And I think that’s actually been misconstrued in some of the reports out there that people have been citing, and I just want to be very clear that that’s part of what goes in – a huge part of what goes into our decision to continue working with the Palestinian government. And also we will evaluate their actions. So our position on Hamas has in no way changed, period, full stop. I couldn’t be more clear about that.

QUESTION: Are you worried, though, that this could drive yet another wedge in between – ties between the – Israel and the United States?

MS. HARF: Well, look, the United States and Israel have a long, historic, and unshakeable friendship, period, over many, many decades, over many administrations, through a lot of difficult times. And I think what we’ve been very clear is that relationship’s not going to change. Again, we’ve made our position on the interim Palestinian government clear as well.

QUESTION: But how do you respond to the Israeli anger, though? They’re clearly disappointed by what happened, by the fact that you’ve come out and you’ve supported this new technocratic government.

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been very clear that we’re going to be judging the government by the actions it undertakes. First, they made a decision not to include any ministers from Hamas. They embraced the principles that we said up here at the podium before they formed the government and said they needed to embrace, right. The Quartet principles, nonviolence, recognition of Israel – they did all of those things. We were very clear about what they needed to do, and they did.

So we can only stand by what we do. We’ll continue conversations with the Israelis going forward on this. As you know, the Secretary and Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke yesterday about the announcement of the new Palestinian government. They agreed to continue consulting further on it going forward.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So in your clarification, you really hit on the point that the U.S. would be watching —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — the composition of the new unity government.

MS. HARF: And their actions.

QUESTION: And their actions. Okay.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering if there’s any precedent for – if you – if the U.S. is worried or has been given cause to worry about – now that the announcement has been made that members of Hamas will replace sitting ministers, or if you happen to know, for example, what the term of sitting ministers is?

MS. HARF: I can check on that. But I will note – again, the reason I keep calling it the interim government is because one of the primary responsibilities is to have new elections.

QUESTION: Right, right.

MS. HARF: And obviously I think they’ve talked about some of the timing on that. I don’t have all of that in front of me, but stressing, again, this is an interim government that will be holding new elections for a new government eventually.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: On this?

QUESTION: On this.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Regarding the money that is – the aid which is economic aid, which is almost $440 million, and this was a point of objection from the Congress and other organizations here – are you still holding it, or you’re going to make it flow normally until —

MS. HARF: To the Palestinian Authority?

QUESTION: Yes.

MS. HARF: Well, as I said to Arshad’s question, I don’t have anything additional to what Jen said yesterday. Obviously, we’ll keep working with Congress on this. We’ll look at the actions the government takes, but part of working with the government will be, broadly speaking, to continue to provide assistance.

QUESTION: When you said “actions,” what do you mean exactly?

MS. HARF: All of them. Everything the government does.

QUESTION: I mean, to be clear – I mean, because it’s like if you ask somebody not to do something, you have to say what you – what you are not expecting in order not to do it, or do it.

MS. HARF: Well, as I just said – I think I got at it briefly with Jo’s question – there were a number of actions and steps that we said the Palestinian government would need to take if we were to continue working with them before they decided to form the government the way they did, I think, yesterday, now. And they took those.

So you can judge a government by what it does – again, noting this is only an interim government. There are no ministers affiliated with Hamas in it. There have been reports out there saying this is a Hamas-backed government. That’s just not the case. So we want —

QUESTION: Wait.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Can it be backed by Hamas without having a Hamas minister in it? I mean, the agreement that – the government is the result of an agreement between Abbas and Hamas. Just —

MS. HARF: And there are no members of Hamas in the government.

QUESTION: Right. But that’s different from it being supported by Hamas.

MS. HARF: I think that some of those reports have led people incorrectly to think that members of Hamas are part of the new government —

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: — which is why I wanted to be very clear that they’re not.

QUESTION: Right.

QUESTION: Yes. And beside that, when you are saying “actions” – I mean, because what is not clear for me and for other people probably is that when you said there is a – money is going there and support, whatever, to technocratic government, but this technocratic government is going to work for both Palestinian people, whether they are in Gaza —

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say any money was going forward right now. I said we, broadly speaking, believed in continuing assistance, and we’re going to talk to Congress and figure out what that looks like.

QUESTION: Anyway, regarding the actions, the actions of this government has to be actions for both West Bank and Gaza, right?

MS. HARF: Well, again, part of the actions are things that I just mentioned, like embracing the Quartet principles, recognition of Israel, nonviolence. Those are steps that they’ve taken to say they support these very important principles that we’ve said we believe they need to support for us to continue working with them, so we’ll keep watching.

QUESTION: You are —

MS. HARF: And we’ll continue evaluating.

QUESTION: Are you in touch with EU, or you think that your position is different from EU?

MS. HARF: The EU on this? I can check. I mean, we talk to the EU all the time on a host of issues. I don’t know if we’ve talked to them specifically about this. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Marie, on Secretary’s schedule, news reports coming from Beirut saying that Secretary Kerry will be visiting Lebanon tomorrow for a couple hours. Can you confirm these reports?

MS. HARF: We don’t have any – I’ve seen some of those reports out there. I don’t have any travel updates for you. If his schedule changes, we’re happy to let folks know.

QUESTION: On Syria, if I can.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Go to – yeah. Let’s go to Syria.

QUESTION: Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford has said today in an interview that – a quote: “I was no longer in a position where I felt I could defend the American policy.” That’s why he resigned and he left the State Department. He added, “We have been unable to address either the root causes of the conflict in terms of the fighting on the ground and the balance on the ground, and we have a growing extremism threat.” Do you have any reaction to what he said?

MS. HARF: I saw those comments. As you know, Ambassador Ford served a very long, distinguished career here, is now a private citizen obviously entitled to his own views. I think, broadly speaking on some of what you addressed and then if I miss anything, let me know. Look, the President was clear in his speech last week. We’ve all been clear that we’re frustrated by the situation in Syria. You heard the President at West Point say we’re going to increase our support to the moderate opposition because we know more needs to be done.

No one working on this issue can look at the situation on the ground – I mean, just look at today. The photos – disgusting photos of President Assad voting, acting like this is a real election. Nobody working on it is happy with where things are. We’re all frustrated, and I think you heard some of that in Ambassador Ford’s comments. On the terrorism front, we’ve all – I’ve stood up here for months and months and months now and talked about the growing threat coming from terrorists in Syria that are – is a result of the security situation the Assad regime has allowed there. We’ve been very clear about that as well, and it’s something we’re working on every single day.

QUESTION: He said, too, that there really is nothing we can point to that’s been very successful in our policy, except the removal of about 93 percent of some of Assad’s chemical materials, but now he’s using chlorine gas against his opponents. Can you tell us if there is any other success that you were – been able to achieve in Syria?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we should not downplay the CW issue too much. I know it’s tempting for people to do because it’s gone, up until this point, not perfectly, but we have removed so much of it. Because look, if we had a choice between removing the chemical weapons and not removing them, obviously we’re going to choose to remove them – and that’s the choice we had.

So if Bashar al-Assad is not able to use these kind of chemical weapons on his people anymore, that is a good thing and it’s not a small thing. Obviously, he’s using —

QUESTION: But he’s using chlorine gas now.

MS. HARF: — conventional weapons as well. Those aren’t less bad. There’s just different ways of combatting it, right? So one thing we’ve said very clearly is we’re going to continue supporting the moderate opposition in a variety of ways in their fight against both the regime and against the terrorist element there. Obviously, we don’t outline all of that support, but we’ve continued – you heard the President talk about it and continuing to increase it last week as well.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, does it not disturb you that a long-time senior, serious former U.S. official, who was directly – who was the point person for this policy should state publicly that he no longer felt he was able to defend the U.S. policy? That doesn’t bother you at all?

MS. HARF: As I said, he’s a private citizen. He’s entitled to his views. What we’re focused on today is the officials who are still here who are working on Syria, who share the kind of frustration you’ve heard from the President, the Secretary, and others.

QUESTION: And it’s not the first one. Fred Hof said the same thing in the past, too.

MS. HARF: Again, we appreciate former officials who want to weigh in on what’s going on today. Obviously, they have a unique perspective on this, but what we’re focused on here is what’s happening today, what may be the same, what’s changed since any of these folks left and what we need to do going forward.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Syria?

MS. HARF: Syria still?

QUESTION: Yeah. Syria. I mean, I’m just trying to clarify what Arshad and Michel were trying to say.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: When you say “frustration,” these people are expressing frustration not from Assad. They are expressing frustration from the policy, which is run by – regarding Syria.

MS. HARF: Well, the frustration I’m – and I think actually a lot of the frustration you’ve heard people like Ambassador Ford talk about is that the situation is incredibly complicated and there are no easy answers, and that we are constantly looking at ways to increase our support. We are constantly looking at ways to get the parties back to the table. We are constantly looking at ways to help fight the terrorist threat going on in Syria right now. But there are no easy answers and that’s why you see the policy debate that’s happening about what we should do. You heard the President talk about wanting to do more. So what I’m conveying is a sense that there’s nobody that looks at this issue and thinks that we’re in the place we need to be, period – people working on it today here.

QUESTION: Yes, but without – as you said, without downplaying the chemical weapons issue – I’m trying to use your terms. But Ambassador Ford is not the first one. Frederick Hof was there before. The same kind of – which is like, they were part of the whole process of policy and they figure out that now – at least they are now talking about frustration that they have regarding this policy. Do you think that their point of view, adding something new to your understanding of what’s going on? Or it’s —

MS. HARF: Well, look there are conversations going on at all levels inside the Administration right now about what else we can do – what else we can do to support the opposition, what else we can do to fight the terrorist threat. It’s not like we say, okay, this is what we’re doing in Syria and that’s never going to change. And if it doesn’t work, oh well. It’s – look, this is a complicated problem. We are lucky to have people like Ambassador Ford who have worked on it here, and we’re lucky to have people that are looking at it today, every day, trying to figure out what more we can do. Because as I’ve said many times in this room, when you have a brutal dictator who is willing and able to kill people – like he’s killed with chlorine, potentially, with chemical weapons, with barrel bombs – it’s a really tough challenge and we have a lot of tools at our disposal that we’re using, but there is no solution that will happen overnight. And that’s why you have to calibrate your policy and determine what’s the best next step. What more can we do? How can we do it?

For example, over the last few months, we’ve seen better coordination with our allies in the region on Syria policy, particularly on cutting off some of the funding to some of the foreign fighters going there on the terrorist side of the house. So these are steps we take every day to change the balance of power on the ground, but you have to chip away over time and eventually get to a diplomatic solution.

QUESTION: I thought the President’s —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: I thought the President’s argument here wasn’t that there’s no overnight solution. The President who does feel labeled to defend his policy makes the case that —

MS. HARF: As do I, every day.

QUESTION: No, I know. I know. But he makes the case that there are some problems that do not – that the United – that do not lend themselves to U.S. solution or where the cost of a U.S. solution is simply – exceeds what he believes the United States should do. Correct?

MS. HARF: Well, he was making – that’s one point. He was making a number of points, one of which is – in terms of what you were getting at – that there’s no military solution, particularly not a U.S. military solution. So what other levers and tools of power can we bring to bear on the situation? So in the same speech he then said, but we’re going to continue supporting the opposition, that there’s no – I mean, we’ve made all of these arguments about Syria and a variety of places.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: You just mentioned about the terrorists (inaudible) and your cooperation (inaudible). You must have seen the action France is taking after arresting this person who is supposed to be the shooter in the Belgium’s Jewish case. The France is – there are three, four stops they are taking. The Belgium is going to follow up and the EU is considering. Is there going to be any change in U.S. policy in this matter?

MS. HARF: In terms of what? In terms of the terrorist threat?

QUESTION: Where the citizens – is a French citizen who went to Syria —

MS. HARF: Uh-huh, yeah, no, I’ve seen the reports. Just a couple points on that, and I’m not sure we’ve had all of these in the past, but to date we have not identified an organized recruitment effort targeting Americans when it comes to Syria. We do know that probably dozens of Americans from a variety of backgrounds and locations in the U.S. have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria, but again, we haven’t identified some sort of organized recruitment tool that’s being used for Americans. We continue to work closely with our foreign partners to resolve the identities of potential extremists and identify potential threats emanating from Syria. This includes, of course, most importantly, the neighbors of Syria, who are often unfortunately transit points for these kind of foreign fighters.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Yep.

QUESTION: There are a couple of quotes from Ambassador Ford that – one of them he is saying that the Syrian moderate opposition has been fighting with their arms tied behind their backs because of not enough U.S. support. So it looks like the ambassador is not like he’s puzzled, but he says that we know – another quote is, we have plenty of information on reliable groups that we could be helping but we are not. So it’s not like puzzlement. Ambassador is clear saying that there are things that we can be helping and could be helping but we are not. I think there’s accusation.

MS. HARF: Well, again, I appreciate the opinion of Ambassador Ford, who’s since left the State Department. I would say a few points. The first is as we determine who and how to support people, we go through a very rigorous vetting process for who we end up giving assistance to, which I think anyone – if we’re spending U.S. taxpayer dollars to support people overseas – believes is important, particularly when you’re dealing in a place like Syria that has a lot of bad actors. You don’t want any of our assistance to fall into the hands of terrorists. We’ve seen that in other places and we know the consequences. So that’s something we’ve continued to do, that vetting process, and some of that takes time.

But secondly, we’ve said we want to continue increasing our support. What we’re doing right now is looking at the modalities and the logistics and how that might happen and what that might look like. So again, the notion that we’re just sitting here saying we’re going to support them and no one else and that’s the end of it just isn’t lashed up with where we are in terms of the policy process in reality today.

QUESTION: It’s been three and a half years now. I mean, obviously there is something wrong. We’re not – yes, it is a complicated situation, but then three and a half years and still elections and Bashar Assad will remain a president and elections – and the situation will remain the same. And for how long? I mean, too many people have died so far in Syria.

MS. HARF: We would agree. In the three and a half years, like you mention, we have consistently increased our support to the opposition. At every step of this process, we have continued to increase it. But as Arshad mentioned the President’s speech last week – look, this is not a problem that the United States can or should solve on its own, particularly not with military assets. That’s not how this ends in Syria. And so what we’ve said is that we are finding a path forward there where we can continue to support the opposition in a variety of ways – and I think you’ll see more of that coming in the coming weeks and months – try through the diplomatic track to get the diplomatic process back on track, which we haven’t been able to do – and keep working with other people who have influence over the regime, like the Russians, like others, like some of our partners in the region, to try and get a solution here. But there’s no silver bullet to ending this conflict, and for anyone on the outside who says, “This is horrible; you should be doing X and it would be over,” it just defies logic.

That’s not an acceptable answer for everything, but I think it’s something that’s important to keep in mind.

QUESTION: Why do you believe that there is no U.S. military solution to this conflict?

MS. HARF: We believe writ large there’s no military solution —

QUESTION: You also said —

MS. HARF: — including a U.S. military solution —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: — because we’ve said all options are on the table. Obviously, not boots on the ground, but —

QUESTION: But my question goes to the fundamental issue of —

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: And it’s —

MS. HARF: Because we – and I’m going to answer your question, I think. Give me a shot, and if I don’t —

QUESTION: Okay. No, no, please.

MS. HARF: — come back at me. The reason there’s no military – including a U.S. military – solution is that what happens the next day? We’ve always said there need to be some institutions that are maintained; there needs to be some semblance of a state, that you cannot have total anarchy in Syria if there’s some military solution here that gets rid of the Assad regime. Because what happens the next day is all of these bad actors we talk about – ISIL, al-Nusrah – they fill – they could fill the power vacuum. So what you need is, instead, an organized – to the extent that it can be – political transition. So there’s no military solution to overthrowing the Assad regime.

QUESTION: But the point – I mean —

MS. HARF: Which is why there’s no military solution.

QUESTION: I thought I understood it differently. I thought it was not that there is no military solution, but rather that the costs of a U.S. military solution are viewed as pyrrhic, as excessive; that the United States doesn’t want to get into another Iraq or another Afghanistan, and that it’s not that there is no military solution, but it’s that this country’s government doesn’t want to get engaged in that kind of either fighting or nation-building effort, given its experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. Isn’t that the correct understanding?

MS. HARF: I think that parts of what you just said play into parts of our thinking on this. Again, I think you don’t want complete anarchy and chaos. You want a diplomatic solution here so you don’t have a complete power vacuum in Damascus that results in Nusrah or someone else taking over, which is why you need some institutions maintained.

But I think what you’re getting at is – and I hate to keep going back to the President’s speech, but thankfully it gives me a lot of words on foreign policy to use – that we will engage in military action overseas when we are threatened, when it’s in our national security interests to do so. But it’s not – what I think what he said – it’s not the hammer to every nail out there. So parts of what you said are absolutely right.

QUESTION: But isn’t it fair to say that in this case, the United States – at least thus far – does not believe that it is threatened or its interests are threatened to such a degree by the chaos in Syria to merit a military intervention?

MS. HARF: It’s not about meriting. It’s whether that would achieve the outcome that would best serve our national security interests.

QUESTION: Justify.

MS. HARF: It just – again, I don’t know if we’re talking past each other, but that we don’t believe that will get to an outcome that best serves our national security interests, and that you’re exactly right. We don’t think it’s in our national security interests to send American troops all over the world, putting boots on the ground everywhere trying to affect outcomes in other countries.

That’s why there’s this middle ground you try and walk where you say, “We have levers of power. We have tools we can use.” It’s not going to be boots on the ground, you’re right. And we’ve been very clear that that’s not in our national interest to send 18-year-old kids from Ohio to Damascus to try to promote regime change there.

QUESTION: Marie —

QUESTION: Marie, what do you make of Turkey’s announcement today that it considers al-Nusrah as a terrorist organization? Do you think this might maybe change —

MS. HARF: We’ve said we do too.

QUESTION: — things on the ground, and because it’s a neighboring country —

MS. HARF: I mean, we certainly work with the neighbors, including our NATO ally Turkey, quite a bit on this issue. We’ve obviously been very clear about our thoughts on al-Nusrah.

QUESTION: Marie, when Ambassador Ford said that, “I was no —

MS. HARF: I can find his email for you, if guys just want to call him and ask him what he meant by his comments.

QUESTION: “I was no longer in a position where I felt I could defend the American policy.” It looks like he was frustrated from the American policy, not from the whole situation in Syria, and that’s why he quit.

MS. HARF: I’m happy to let him talk about his own – first of all, “quit” is a strong term. He had a very long, distinguished career here, and he retired. Again, he’s a private citizen. I’m happy to let him his explain his own words. What I’m telling you right now is what we’re focused on today for the folks that are still here working on Syria, that are working on it going forward. That’s what I’m focused on. I’m happy to let him parse his own words for you.

QUESTION: Can I change subject, please?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Syria?

MS. HARF: Last one on Syria, then we’re – then Jo’s changing the subject.

QUESTION: Follow-up to Arshad question, because you’re – about intervention or involvement.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Just to use the – I know Iraq is – Syria is not Iraq, but using the – what was attributed to Colin Powell is if you enter pottery and you break it, you buy it.

MS. HARF: You own it, uh-huh.

QUESTION: You own it or you buy it.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You don’t think that Syria now is in that situation regarding – I mean, you are in the same situation without invasion, that something is already broken?

MS. HARF: We didn’t break it. The president of their country, who today is pretending to be running an election, is the one who broke his own country. What we’re trying to do is help find a path forward here. And I think – going back to the intervention question – there’s a notion that the only kind of military assistance or help or intervention or whatever, broadly speaking, is boots on the ground. And I think what you heard the President outline is a very robust case for why our engagement might look different. It’s not going to be large-scale land wars. We have, I think, U.S. military people in 94 countries around the world today doing a variety of things, from helping with natural disaster relief to training local armies. You heard today Wendy Sherman say there’s 1,500 women now in the Somali National Army that we’re helping in Somalia.

So what American military power looks like going forward will look different from Iraq and it should look different from Iraq. It shouldn’t look like that in Syria, for all of the reasons we’ve all talked about now for, I think, a decade plus.

QUESTION: Can I go to France, please?

MS. HARF: Yes, we are moving on.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. HARF: Thank you.

QUESTION: Okay. France, where both the President and the Secretary are going to be this week. There is a reported $10 billion fine that is in the works from Department of Treasury against the French bank BNP for violating sanctions on Iran, Cuba, and Sudan. Before you refer me to Treasury —

MS. HARF: I have nothing else to say, then. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Or the Justice Department?

QUESTION: — or the Justice Department —

MS. HARF: I got nothing for you.

QUESTION: — French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has come out today and reacted very strongly against this. He said it causes a big, big problem; he links it to the issue of the talks that are going on, the TTIP – the TTIP talks; and he says that this is something that’s going to be raised between – or, no, he didn’t say this, but apparently President Hollande is planning to bring it up at the dinner that he’s going to have with President Obama on Thursday this week. Can I ask —

MS. HARF: Sounds like a fun dinner.

QUESTION: It’ll be a fun dinner, yes. Can I ask whether France has actually raised concerns between this building and Fabius’s building about this issue with you?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. So I will make a couple points which will be wholly unsatisfactory to you. The first is, in general, we don’t, I think, as everyone knows, comment on reports of this kind of investigation as a longstanding matter. Obviously, the Treasury Department has the lead on this. I will check and endeavor to check, because people have been out there speaking on it publicly, if this has been an issue or will be – obviously the meetings haven’t happened yet – if this is an issue raised during our meetings. I will endeavor to get anything else for you on that I can, but I don’t – quite honestly, I don’t know if it’s been raised with people in this building.

QUESTION: So you don’t know the – I mean, if they’re trying to link – if the French are linking it to the – I mean, part of the problem is there’s concerns that this could have really grave effects on the French —

MS. HARF: On TTIP.

QUESTION: — financial system as well. So if they’re linking it to the TTIP —

MS. HARF: Let me check with our folks. And obviously, USTR has lead for TTIP, and I’m not trying to – I just don’t have any answers here. So let me see if there’s more I can get.

QUESTION: Would you consider taking one question which might be to your benefit?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: And that would be to try to explain for the record, particularly to audiences abroad, how investigations of this sort, which involve multiple U.S. agencies – Treasury, this – Department of Justice —

MS. HARF: If there were such an investigation, which I can’t confirm.

QUESTION: — if there were, which you can’t confirm, but just so people understand —

MS. HARF: How they work?

QUESTION: — how they work and what, if any, is the role of the State Department. If it involves a foreign country, are you guys generally totally hands off, this is a legal matter proceeded with – by the law enforcement?

MS. HARF: I’m guessing there’s no general – I don’t know, though.

QUESTION: Yeah, but —

MS. HARF: I’m just guessing.

QUESTION: — would you consider asking that question —

MS. HARF: I will consider asking it.

QUESTION: — and seeing if – and if you can put out a note about it —

MS. HARF: Let me see what I can do.

QUESTION: — or a TQ? Thanks.

MS. HARF: I understand, and now people have been out talking about it. I totally understand. I will see what I can do.

QUESTION: I mean, in the past, when there have been sanctions against Iran for similar sorts of things that have been led by Department of Treasury, the State Department has also spoken to it. So I don’t think it’s —

MS. HARF: I understand.

QUESTION: — beyond your brief to be able to talk about it.

MS. HARF: I understand. I think everything’s in my brief to talk about – (laughter) – so what the heck. No, let me see what I can do, guys.

QUESTION: Okay. Yeah.

QUESTION: I have a similar question unless —

MS. HARF: And then I’m going to Lucas.

QUESTION: — this is a new topic.

MS. HARF: Do you have something on that? Okay.

QUESTION: Okay. So —

MS. HARF: Lara, then Lucas.

QUESTION: This is a different investigation, but it’s already been announced, so you can talk about it.

MS. HARF: Great.

QUESTION: As you know, two weeks ago the U.S. announced indictments against five Chinese generals for – or military officials for hacking into U.S. companies.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: We’ve not seen any evidence that any other international partner has taken similar steps against these five or even raised concerns on them. Do you have any —

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard of anything. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Okay. Does that concern you that the U.S. is kind of going alone on what would seem to be an egregious action?

MS. HARF: It doesn’t, but let me check.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: One more on China?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. And then I’m going to Lucas. I promise. He’s —

QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. And then I’ll go to you on China, and then I promise I’m going to Lucas.

QUESTION: And so in light of mutual cyber espionage accusation between U.S.-China, I heard we are discussing a binational computer behavior agreement. So would you please let me know what may be in there?

MS. HARF: Might be in a – what kind of an agreement?

QUESTION: It’s – it seems like a bi-national computer behavior agreement.

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard anything on that. I’m happy to check with our team and see if we can say anything.

QUESTION: Yeah. And also, have you ever noticed – there is a recent report from China and says U.S. has breached international laws and put global cyber security at risk.

MS. HARF: Again, on cyber issues, we’ve been very clear with our concerns about what’s been happening in China. You heard that with the announcement of the indictment. I’ll see if there’s more to share. I just don’t have anything else.

Yes, China.

QUESTION: Can we —

MS. HARF: Wait. China.

QUESTION: Congress wants to name the street in front of the Chinese embassy after jailed Nobel Prize winner and dissident Liu Xiaobo.

MS. HARF: The embassy here in Washington?

QUESTION: Right. Here in – are you at all worried that China —

MS. HARF: Clearly, I’m not aware of that.

QUESTION: — might not like it?

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check. I hadn’t been aware of that.

QUESTION: Can I ask another China-related question?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh. Just doing China now. Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Yeah. There are quite a few reports emerging of intimidation and harassment of the press the day before the anniversary of Tiananmen Square —

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: — as they’re trying to do reporting on this. Do you have any comment on this?

MS. HARF: Yeah. And I think we will be saying more about the anniversary probably later today and tomorrow from here and I’m sure elsewhere in Washington. So stay tuned for that.

We very clearly called on the Chinese authorities to release all the activists, journalists, and lawyers who have been detained ahead of the 25th anniversary, which as you said is tomorrow. Look, this is something we’ve been very clear about. China is a growing country. We’ve talked a lot about the fact that this is not a zero-sum game here. And as they grow, I think it’s time to allow some more space, quite frankly, for discussion in their own country, particularly around this kind of anniversary.

QUESTION: I’m sorry. You said what? What’s not a zero-sum game?

MS. HARF: The relationship between China and the United States. We talked about that a lot. And look, as they grow, we think that this is time to probably allow a little more space.

QUESTION: Is this an issue that you’re also raising directly and privately with the Chinese Government?

MS. HARF: We’ve certainly raised it. We’ve certainly raised in general freedom of speech and expression with them directly. I’m happy to check and see if we’ve raised this specific arrest related to Tiananmen Square.

QUESTION: China for 400? (Laughter.) There —

MS. HARF: Should I go all day here?

QUESTION: Yeah. A senior advisor to the Chinese Government, but not a member of the Chinese Government or bureaucracy, has suggested that China is considering implementing an absolute cap on its carbon – on its CO2 emissions for 2016. And this is being taken, particularly after the White House announcement, as being a sign that there may be progress in those wider talks. Do you have any comment on what he said?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those comments. I’m happy to check. Obviously, if this were to happen it would be, I think, probably a good thing. But let me check on the specifics. And then – I’m going to Lucas.

QUESTION: Just going back yesterday to our discussion about Sergeant Bergdahl.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Doesn’t the deal to free him further legitimize the Taliban?

MS. HARF: No.

QUESTION: You don’t think you’ve made them a power broker in the region?

MS. HARF: No. Not at all.

QUESTION: I thought the United States does not negotiate with terrorists.

MS. HARF: I think Jen was very clear yesterday that this was a situation of an exchange of prisoners during a time of war. Sergeant Bergdahl was a combatant who was obtained in the course of an armed conflict. We have done this throughout our history. You heard the President speak to this today. From Revolutionary times, we exchange prisoners of war in times of war. The Secretary of Defense, as we always do, undergoes a process in coordination with the interagency to determine the risk factors associated with Guantanamo releases, as we’ve done with every detainee who’s been released.

QUESTION: But the Guantanamo —

QUESTION: Can you explain, though, real quick – Arshad, real —

QUESTION: — detainees are not prisoners of war, correct? They’re enemy combatants, specifically excluded from all of the protections and rights that are normally given to prisoners of war. They’re not prisoners of war, correct?

MS. HARF: The exchange of prisoners in a time of war, whether or not technically we use that term or we use the term enemy combatants, has a deep historical context and is one we’re comfortable with using those diplomatic means to make the exchange. We believe that was the right approach. Again, this is a long-accepted standard in international times of —

QUESTION: Can I —

QUESTION: Can you – one more real quick?

MS. HARF: Yeah. We can all – we can do more than one.

QUESTION: Can you explain to me how this deal to free five Guantanamo detainees does not set up the Taliban to be a power broker?

MS. HARF: Explain to me how it does.

QUESTION: I think it’s pretty self-evident.

MS. HARF: I don’t. I would disagree with the premise. Look, we’ve said that in Afghanistan the process forward here needs to be Afghan-led reconciliation, Afghans talking to Afghans, between Taliban, between the government. We’ve long talked about that being the path forward here. The bottom line here is they had an American citizen – an American serviceman – in captivity for five years. And as you heard the President say today, we have a responsibility to bring these people home. We had a short window here. This is the situation that we were able to undertake to get him home.

QUESTION: And is there a reason your counterpart in the Taliban issued statements rejoicing about the freeing of these prisoners?

MS. HARF: I don’t think that I want to comment on my counterpart in the Taliban.

QUESTION: Why are you calling the —

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. HARF: Let’s wait, Lucas gets —

QUESTION: One more real quick.

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Do you – has the State Department since yesterday – I noticed yesterday, you said that Sergeant Bergdahl was taken captive during an armed conflict.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yesterday, Jen said, “during combat.” Do you – does the State —

MS. HARF: There’s no difference.

QUESTION: There’s no difference?

MS. HARF: Uh-uh.

QUESTION: Walking off the base without a weapon on his own accord, that’s not combat.

MS. HARF: Well, I think you need to be careful before you get ahead of the facts, Lucas, because one, this – he hasn’t even been reunited with his family yet. He’s undergoing treatment. I don’t know if some of you saw General Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, comment on his Facebook page today. He said, “As for the circumstances of his capture, when he is able to provide them, we’ll learn the facts.” So I would really caution people from jumping to conclusions based on hearsay or third-hand discussions about what the facts might have been.

But also, I would point out my counterpart from a different place, from the Pentagon. Admiral Kirby made a good point in an interview yesterday where he said – he’s an admiral in the Navy and he said: Look, whether someone jumps, is pushed, or falls off of a ship, if someone falls off of it, you turn the ship around and you get them and you bring them home. Doesn’t matter why.

QUESTION: But you don’t – you usually don’t have to give five Taliban detainees to turn the ship around, just a rudder order.

MS. HARF: I would point to previous wars, the – and prisoner exchanges. If you want to go back and look at the numbers of prisoners exchanged in Vietnam for American POWs or in World War II, they’re actually much, much higher.

QUESTION: Does the State —

MS. HARF: So the historical precedent is actually very different.

QUESTION: Does the State Department consider Sergeant Bergdahl to be a deserter?

MS. HARF: The State Department – no, Lucas. Look, what we said is we are going to learn the facts about what happened here. We said very clearly in a statement from the Secretary on Saturday that Sergeant Bergdahl was a member of the United States military who volunteered to serve his country. We don’t know the facts about what happened yet on that day.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) according to those around him, his platoon mates, his squad mates, company mates, they said he walked off the base.

MS. HARF: Lucas, some of them – other – there are conflicting reports out there about this. Look —

QUESTION: Are there?

MS. HARF: There are. Go Google it on the web and you’ll find a ton of conflicting reports. The fact is we’re still establishing a fact pattern about what happened, how he ended up in Taliban captivity. So when he is able to share those, as Chairman Dempsey said today, he will. He also said, like any American, he is innocent until proven guilty. Our army’s leaders will not look away from misconduct if it occurred. In the meantime, we will continue to care for him and his family.

So I think people need to be really careful about believing every second or third-hand report out there, and also what the President, what the Secretary, what Chairman Dempsey have said: Regardless of how he went missing, it is our responsibility to him to bring him home, period.

QUESTION: And when you say second- and third-hand reports, when his squad mates who served with him overseas said he walked off the —

MS. HARF: Lucas, I’m sure some of them – I mean, look, there’s a lot of rumor and telephone game that’s being played here about what happened. Not all —

QUESTION: So you’re saying that the guys on television last night – his squad mates, platoon mates – were not correct?

MS. HARF: I’m saying we don’t know the fact pattern yet here. We don’t. Nobody knows exactly what happened that night. As the facts emerge, as he’s able to discuss them with the Department of Defense, we will see where that takes us.

QUESTION: Going back to —

MS. HARF: That happened five years ago. This is a situation —

QUESTION: So you’ve had all this time, five years, to determine whether he was a deserter or not. That’s a long time.

MS. HARF: He’s been in captivity, Lucas. I think he’s probably the person who knows best what happened on that night.

QUESTION: But – well, I think that his squad mates have the best indication what happened that night.

MS. HARF: I don’t think that that’s the case.

QUESTION: Can we move – can we try something else? On the five —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — on the detainees that were released to Qatar, can you talk a little bit more about what gives you the assurances that these Taliban will not re-enter the battlefield? Our understanding is that they are not under any kind of house arrest, that they’re able to move freely without – within the country. And so what gives you that —

MS. HARF: Yeah, so a couple points on that. The first – and the President spoke about this today as well – but the first is, obviously, we’re not going to get into the specifics of the agreement. But this is an agreement between the head of the Government of Qatar and the President of the United States, a very high-level agreement about working to mitigate the notion that these five guys will be able to return to the battlefield.

So we always undertake a threat assessment, we attempt to mitigate that in the best way possible. In this case, we certified that we had mitigated sufficiently that risk because of the assurances, again, given at the highest levels of the Qatari Government to the highest levels of our government. And the President spoke to it today where he said, and I quote, “We’ll be keeping eyes on them.”

Is there a possibility some of them trying to return to actions that are detrimental to us? Absolutely. There’s always that possibility with everyone we release from Gitmo, but we would not have undertaken this if we did not believe it was in the national security interest of the United States to do so, period, starting with the President and the Secretary on down.

QUESTION: And some of the detainees that have left to go to their – to be expatriated to third countries or to go to their home countries have been put under some kind of house arrest or under detention —

MS. HARF: We’re not going to get into specifics —

QUESTION: — are they able to roam free throughout Qatar?

MS. HARF: We’re not going to get into the specifics of what the agreement with Qatar looks like in any way.

QUESTION: Do you still consider them for the next year or however long – can you say how long this agreement is in effect?

MS. HARF: The Government of Qatar – for a year, and the Government of Qatar has been very clear, again, to the highest levels of this government, that there are going to be severe restrictions in place on them. I’m not going to outline what those are.

QUESTION: Marie —

QUESTION: Are they – are you saying whether you consider them “detainees” for the next year? Or do you consider them free from detention?

MS. HARF: Well, they’ve been released from Guantanamo Bay —

QUESTION: They’ve been released to the custody of Qatar, but I don’t think it’s been made clear whether they’re still be detained or whether they’re – they’ve, in fact, been released.

MS. HARF: I’m not going to go into the details of their situation in Qatar in any way.

QUESTION: What about some kind of rehab center? The Administration has spoken about that for Yemenis going —

MS. HARF: No details on this case specifically.

QUESTION: But there’s reports —

QUESTION: But you can say they’re under strict restrictions.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But there’s —

QUESTION: And – sorry. And after the year, it’s not clear yet whether they’ll be able to return to Afghanistan or not?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more details about what the agreement loo

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G7 Summit in Brussels, 4 – 5 June 2014: Background note and facts about the EU’s role and actions

European Commission

MEMO

Brussels, 3 June 2014

G7 Summit in Brussels, 4 – 5 June 2014: Background note and facts about the EU’s role and actions

The Brussels G7 Summit will take place on 4-5 June. At their meeting in The Hague on 24 March, the G7 at leaders’ level (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission decided not to participate in the planned G8 Summit in Sochi (Russia) as a reaction to the Russian Federation’s violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Instead, they decided to meet in Brussels in the G7 format on the same days.

The Brussels G7 Summit will be hosted by the European Union. The European Union is represented by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

At the Brussels Summit, Leaders will discuss the situation in Ukraine and the relations with Russia as well as other foreign policy issues, the global economy, energy, climate change and development.

1. Foreign policy

As the first topic, the G7 leaders are expected to discuss foreign policy challenges at their working dinner on the evening of 4 June. The leaders will focus their discussions on Ukraine and Russia but they may also address the latest developments on other foreign policy issues.

In the last months and following the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, the G7 leaders have issued several declarations condemning the Russian Federation’s clear violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine (see statement of 3 March), condemning the illegal referendum and the illegal attempt by Russia to annex Crimea in contravention of international law and specific international obligations (see The Hague Declaration following the G7 meeting on 24 March) and expressing their deep concern at the continued efforts by separatists backed by Russia to destabilise eastern Ukraine (see statement of 26 April).

At the Brussels G7 Summit leaders are expected to discuss the latest developments following the presidential elections held in Ukraine on 25 May. They will discuss the continued work to support Ukraine’s economic and political reforms as well as their continued readiness to intensify targeted sanctions and to impose further costs on Russia should events so require.

Role of the EU: In response to Russian actions so far, the EU has cancelled the next EU-Russia summit and member states’ regular bilateral summits with Russia have also been annulled. Negotiations on visa matters and a new agreement with Russia have been suspended. The EU has also targeted 61 persons responsible for actions that threaten or undermine the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine with asset freezes and bans from entering the EU. Two confiscated entities in Crimea and Sevastopol are also subject to an asset freeze.

At the same time the EU continues to roll out a €11 billion support package to Ukraine including a €1.6 billion of Macro-financial assistance to contribute to covering Ukraine’s urgent balance-of-payments needs (of which the first €100 million were paid out on 20 May) and a €365m state-building contract to help the country’s transition and boost the role of civil society, promoting democratic reforms and inclusive socio-economic development.

On 21 March the political chapters of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement were signed. The EU remains committed to signing the full agreement including the deep and comprehensive free trade area. Even ahead of the signature of the provisions on free trade, temporary EU trade preferences for Ukraine apply since 23 April. More information on the EU support for Ukraine: http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_MEMO-14-279_en.htm

2. Global economy

The first working session of the second day, Thursday 5 June, is on the global economic outlook. The discussions are expected to focus on the improved prospect of global growth and how to tackle the remaining serious challenges such as high unemployment. Leaders will also address trade issues including the active and ambitious trade agenda of the G7 members with a number of bilateral, plurilateral and multilateral negotiations ongoing.

Supporting growth and jobs remains the key priority for the G7 members and the recovery is strengthening/continuing. Leaders are expected to call for continued and sustained growth in order to bring down unemployment, particularly among young people and the long term unemployed. Structural reforms, as well as completing key aspects of core financial reforms, such as building resilient financial institutions and ending too-big-to-fail, remain important in order to achieve this common objective.

Role of the EU: The economic and financial situation in the euro area has stabilised since last summer thanks to the determined and comprehensive crisis response by the EU. There are genuine signs that a more lasting recovery is now taking place in the EU and the euro area. GDP is expected to grow by 1.6% in the EU this year, before speeding up to 2% in 2015. Unemployment rates have stopped increasing since mid-2013 in most of the EU while remaining, however, at unacceptably high levels.

Leaders are expected to also address and reaffirm their commitment to tackling tax avoidance, including through the G20/OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting Action Plan, and tax evasion, where the aim is to focus on the rapid implementation of the new single global standard for automatic exchange of tax information.

Role of the EU: thanks to its experience and pioneering role on tax transparency and tax good governance the EU and its member states play a central role in fora like the G7/G8, the G20 and the OECD to ensure fairness and transparency in taxation at global level. More on the EU’s policy to fight tax fraud and tax avoidance: http://ec.europa.eu/taxation_customs/taxation/tax_fraud_evasion/index_en.htm

Under the trade and investment umbrella, leaders are expected to reconfirm their commitment to fight protectionism. The leaders will also take stock of the WTO negotiations and prioritise the swift implementation of the Bali package and continue the current Aid for Trade commitments.

Role of the EU: Together, the European Union’s 28 members account for 19% of world imports and exports. Trade remains an important driver for growth and jobs. That is why it is a key priority for the EU to open up more market opportunities for European business by negotiating new Free Trade Agreements with key partners, in particular the G7 members Canada, Japan and the United States). If the EU was to complete all its current free trade talks tomorrow, it could add 2.2% to the EU’s GDP or €275 billion. In terms of employment, these agreements could generate 2.2 million new jobs or additional 1% of the EU total workforce.

EU trade policy aims to working to:

  • create a global system for fair and open trade, through active support to the agreements and obligations overseen by the WTO; the focus is on implementing the Bali Trade Facilitation Agreement and on developing a future WTO work programme.

  • further open up markets with key partner countries – cf. the ongoing trade negotiations with the USA (Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), , Canada (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement), Japan (Free Trade Agreement) and China (EU-China Investment Agreement). Free Trade Agreements were recently concluded with Singapore and are under negotiation with Malaysia and Vietnam. Various Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements are concluded or are under negotiation with several countries in the EU’s Southern and Eastern Neighbourhood, including Ukraine;

  • lift barriers, open markets and ensure that trade is fair;

  • ensure that trade is a force for sustainable development, opening EU markets to all imports from the world’s poorest countries and supporting developing countries to build the capacity to take advantage of trade.

More info and key figures on EU trade policy on http://ec.europa.eu/trade/

3. Energy and climate change

The discussions on energy and climate change at the second working session on Thursday 5 June will be two-fold.

First, leaders will discuss energy security in light of the Ukraine crisis and building on the Rome G7 energy initiative for energy security agreed by the G7 energy ministers on 6 May (see statement of 6 May). Leaders will be looking at identifying and implementing concrete domestic policies separately and together to build a more competitive, diversified, resilient and low-carbon energy system. Focus will be put on diversification of routes and sources, upgrading of energy infrastructure, development of indigenous resources and energy efficiency, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Clean technology is another important element to this.

Role of the EU: The EU has continuously sought to improve the energy security of its Member States through a variety of policies and actions. Most recently, in response to the crisis in Ukraine and the request by the European Council, the European Commission has tabled a European Energy Security Strategy (see the press release and the MEMO) as a basis for further discussion with Heads of States and Governments at the June European Council. The G7 Energy summit (Rome 5-6 May 2014) has built upon the Commission’s efforts to develop energy emergency plans for winter 2014-2015 at regional level, to exchange best practices for assessing energy security vulnerabilities, for IEA to prepare options for individual and collective actions of G7 in the field of gas security, and to supply technical assistance and facilitate exchanges with Ukraine and other European countries seeking to develop indigenous hydrocarbons, renewables and improve energy efficiency.

On climate change, leaders are expected to reaffirm their commitment to limit effectively the increase in global temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels and express their strong determination to adopt in 2015 a global agreement, ahead of the Climate Summit of the United Nations General Assembly in September and the upcoming COP2015 in Paris.

Role of the EU: the EU continues to pioneer global climate action thanks to its ambitious and legally binding framework. It remains fully committed to a multilateral legally binding approach to tackling climate change and to reshape the global climate agenda, working towards the UN climate conferences in Lima in 2014 and in Paris in 2015. The EU is on track with its domestic preparations on an ambitious 2030 climate and energy framework. The European Heads of State and Government agreed to take final decision on this as quickly as possible, and no later than October 2014, which means that the EU would be ready for the first quarter of 2015 at the latest.

Significant financial resources are mobilised to help developing countries deal adequately with climate change, with substantial co-benefits in terms of energy security. For example, the EU has allocated 400 million EUR to promote access to sustainable energy for all (SE4ALL) in Africa, building on the ACP-EU Energy Facility and the EU-Africa Infrastructure Trust Fund.

The European Union is the largest contributor of climate finance to developing countries and the world’s biggest aid donor, collectively providing more than half of global official development assistance (ODA). The EU and its Member States pledged €7.2 billion in “fast start” climate finance over 2010-2012, almost one-third of the total pledged by developed countries. Despite difficult economic circumstances, the EU met and even surpassed its commitment by providing €7.34 bn in fast start finance. This money is being spent on concrete climate actions in developing countries.

Climate change is being increasingly integrated into the EU’s broader development strategy. 20% of the resources dedicated to international development aid from the new multiannual financial framework of the EU as well as 20% of the 11th European Development Fund for the period 2014-2020 are to be allocated to climate-relevant actions.

More info on 2030 climate and energy goals for a competitive, secure and low-carbon EU economy.

4. Development

Finally, the Thursday 5 June working lunch will be devoted to development issues with a view to taking stock of progress and reconfirming previous G7 commitments, such as the Muskoka initiative on maternal, new-born and child health, the GAVI alliance (global alliance for vaccines and immunization), the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, the Deauville Partnership, tax evasion and illicit flows of finance.

Role of the EU: Despite the economic and financial context in Europe, the EU remains the biggest donor in the world – more than half of global development aid is provided by Europeans: Over the last ten years, the EU and its Member States have committed around 45 billion euro per year to development aid. This support has paid off: since 2004, the EU has contributed to the enrolment of more than 13 million boys and girls at school, to the vaccination of around 18 million children and to providing more than 70 million people with access to water around the world.

Food security remains in the centre of the EU’s development policy. Since 2013, the EU has stepped up its efforts to fight against world hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition, with a new policy framework that delivers on the EU’s commitment to help partner countries reduce stunting amongst children under five years of age by at least 10% (7 million) by 2025. Under-nutrition will also be contained through investment in rural development, sustainable agriculture, public health, water and sanitation, social protection and education.

On 20 May, the EU announced that it will provide €25 million per year in the period 2014-2020 to fund vaccines and immunisation programmes worldwide through the GAVI alliance – more than double than previously committed. Since 2003, the European Commission has committed over €83 million to the GAVI Alliance, coming in part from the Development Co-operation Instrument (DCI) and in part from the European Development Fund (EDF). Thanks to donors like the EU, close to half a billion children have been immunised since 2000, resulting in 6 million lives saved.

The leaders will also discuss the post-2015 agenda aiming at completing unfinished business of the Millennium Development Goals. This would include a focus on eradications of extreme poverty, promoting development and on balancing environmental, economic and social dimensions of sustainable development, including climate change.

Role of the EU: the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) remain at the core of EU development policy and actions. The EU has implemented the 1 billion euro MDG initiative, launched at the 2010 MDG summit, targeting the most off-track MDGs: hunger, maternal health, child mortality and access to water and sanitation. The EU supports nearly 70 actions in 46 countries, with a focus on Least Developed Countries.

On 2 June 2014, the European Commission adopted a Communication to contribute to the EU position in international negotiations on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as the follow-up to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The proposal calls for tackling issues of global concern such as poverty, inequality, health, food security, education, gender equality, water and sanitation, sustainable energy, decent work, inclusive and sustainable growth, sustainable consumption and production, biodiversity, land degradation and sea and oceans. It will now be discussed by Council of Ministers and the European Parliament and the outcome will guide the EU’s position in the negotiations at UN level.

5. The EU as G7/G8 member

The European Union is a full member in G7/G8 Summits and is represented by the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission.

In 1977, representatives of the then European Community began participating in the London Summit. The first G7 summit was held two years earlier, in 1975 in Rambouillet (France). Originally, the EU had a limited role to those areas in which it had exclusive competences, but the EU’s role has grown with time. The European Commission was gradually included in all political discussions on the summit agenda and took part in all summit working sessions, as of the Ottawa Summit (1981). Commission President Barroso, who attended the G8 for the first time in Gleneagles in 2005, is participating for the 10th time, while Council President Van Rompuy has been attending the G8/G7 since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty (2009).

The Commission and the European Council have all the responsibilities of membership. The Summit Communiqué is politically binding for all G7 members.

The Presidency will continue in its rotation to Germany in 2015 (Summit 4-5 May 2015), Japan in 2016, Italy in 2017, Canada in 2018, France in 2019, and the USA in 2020.

For more information

The European Union at the G7 Summit in Brussels on 4-5 June 2014 (IP/14/628)

Useful links

G7 2014 section on President Van Rompuy’s website:

http://www.european-council.europa.eu/g7brussels

G7/G8/G20 section on President Barroso’s website:

http://ec.europa.eu/commission_2010-2014/president/g20/index_en.htm

President Van Rompuy on Twitter and on Facebook

President Barroso on Twitter

Full video coverage of the G7 will be available for download in broadcast quality from the Council TV newsroom www.eucouncil.tv, and live events will be broadcast on Europe by Satellite (http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/ebs/schedule.cfm)

Photos covering the event will be available for download in high resolution from the Council Photo Library http://www.consilium.europa.eu/photo and the European Commission’s audiovisual services (http://ec.europa.eu/avservices/photo/index.cfm).

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BACKGROUND NOTE and facts about the EU’s role and action G7 summit in Brussels 4 – 5 June

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Remarks by President Obama and President Komorowski of Poland in a Joint Press Conference

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

June 03, 2014

Belweder Palace
Warsaw, Poland

12:25 P.M. CET

PRESIDENT KOMOROWSKI:  (As interpreted.)  Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, it really is a great joy and a great satisfaction for me to be able to host the President of the United States to Poland on the 25th anniversary of regaining freedom by us. 

It is also a great satisfaction and a great hope to host the President of the United States of America in a situation when with concern we are watching the crisis situation developing across the eastern border of Poland and across the eastern border of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, across the eastern border of the European Union in Ukraine. 

That is why I am so glad that this meeting, that these talks signify also the reassurances of the security guarantees of this region of Europe.  And they also signify the joint aspiration to strengthen the roles and the significance and the strength of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  I’m also very satisfied to be able to know that actually in all the areas that have been raised during our conversation, we are on the same page fully, and we also have full understanding of our intentions. 

I would like to stress the Polish satisfaction that the President of the United States of America speaks in a very clear voice about the necessity to strengthen the role of the Article 5 of the Washington Treaty.  Poland has been really making efforts to get this.  And here and now, I would like to thank very much for the engagement of the United States in the actions to confirm in practice the declarations on the significance of NATO under the Washington Treaty for the security of Poland and the whole region — I mean here also other countries that are located along the eastern flank of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

I also wish to stress that it is our common concern that, at the Wales summit, of NATO to reconfirm the need for the greater engagement of NATO in the development of infrastructure that would facilitate the reception of the reinforcement forces in case of threat. 

I also fully appreciate that we are of the same opinion as far as the need of the update and the continuous exercises of the armed forces from the perspective of the contingency plans is concerned.  I also would like to stress that we are also of absolutely the same opinion about the necessity to increase our financial efforts to fund armed forces by the member states of NATO. 

That is why I would like to inform you, ladies and gentlemen, that together with the government — because this is something that we agreed with the government — I submitted to President Obama also, the Polish will to make a gesture backed with a very tangible value in terms of increasing the level of our own engagement in the shaping of the defense budget.  It is also about making a gesture to encourage other member states of NATO to follow the same way — because other countries in the neighborhood of Poland are raising very significantly their defense budgets. 

Poland — and I will recommend this to the government, I will recommend this to the parliament pretty soon — Poland intends to increase the defense budget of our armed forces — Poland is going to increase the funding of the modernization of the Polish armed forces up to the level of 2 percent of the GDP. And it means that is very tangible, very clear engagement at the level that refers to what we talked about in the early 2000s.  And now in the result of economic growth, which is our current situation, and it is going to continue and it means that it is a very serious source of funding of the Polish armed forces as more and more significant complement of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization capabilities.

I also would like very much raising important questions like energy security.  I wish to tell you that this conversation is going to be continued.  This conversation is very important for Poland and we are going to continue to talk about it during the meeting of the President, myself, with other Presidents from our region of Central and Eastern Europe.  President Obama, together with me, will be the co-hosts of this meeting.  We will talk about security and we will also talk about other important aspects of the functioning of NATO nations.  Those nations, together with Poland, regained their independence 25 years ago. 

We will talk about our Polish freedom regained then can be strengthened and secured from the potential risks. 

Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Dzien dobry.  Thank you, President Komorowski.  To you and the Polish people, I want to thank you for welcoming me back to Poland today and it is an honor to be here to celebrate 25 years of freedom. 

Mr. President, on my last visit to Warsaw, you said that “dreams come true when, apart from dreams, we have courage and determination.”  And thanks to the courage and determination of you and so many Poles displayed over the decades, the idea of a free and democratic and prosperous Poland is not a dream anymore, it is a reality. 

Obviously the American people have deep connections to Poland.  My hometown of Chicago has especially deep connections to Poland.  And it makes it that much more special for me to be a part of this moment.  And I also want to thank you for welcoming me on the eve of your birthday, so let me say — Sto lat!

I’ve come here, first and foremost, to reaffirm the enduring commitment of the United States to the security of Poland.  As NATO allies, we have an Article 5 duty to our collective defense. As President, I’ve made sure that the United States is upholding that commitment.  We’re on track with our missile defense program, including interceptor sites here in Poland.  As we saw this morning, our American aviation detachment here is the first regular presence of U.S. forces in Poland.  We continuously rotate additional personnel and aircrafts into Poland and the Baltics.  And I want to commend Poland for its contributions to the NATO air patrols over the Baltics. 

Today, I’m announcing a new initiative to bolster the security of our NATO allies here in Europe.  Under this effort, and with the support of Congress, the United States will pre-position more equipment in Europe.  We will be expanding our exercises and training with allies to increase the readiness of our forces.  And I know President Komorowski is a great champion of the effort to modernize the Polish military and we welcome the announcement that he just made about an even greater commitment.

We’ll increase the number of American personnel — Army and Air Force units — continuously rotating through allied countries in Central and Eastern Europe.  And we will be stepping up our partnerships with friends like Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia as they provide for their own defense.  I’m calling on Congress to approve up to $1 billion to support this effort, which will be a powerful demonstration of America’s unshakeable commitment to our NATO allies. 

Poland, to its credit, is a leader in the alliance when it comes to investing in our collective defense.  We’ve seen that again today.  Poland’s resolve — and the initiative I’m proposing today — is a reminder that every ally needs to carry their share and truly invest in the capabilities of the alliance that are needed for the future.

Of course, President Komorowski and I focused mostly on the situation in Ukraine.  And perhaps because Poles know better than most how precious freedom truly is, Poland and your President have displayed outstanding leadership in recent months. 

We agree that further Russian provocation will be met with further costs for Russia, including, if necessary, additional sanctions.  Russia has a responsibility to engage constructively with the Ukrainian government in Kyiv, to prevent the flow of militants and weapons into eastern Ukraine.  Russia also needs to be using its influence with armed separatists to convince them to stop attacking Ukrainian security forces, leave buildings that they’ve seized, lay down their arms and enter into the political process. 

Meanwhile, the United States and Poland will continue to support Ukrainians as they embark on political and economic reforms.  We’re prepared to help facilitate a dialogue between the Ukrainian government and representatives of separatist regions.  And I look forward to discussing all this with President-elect Poroshenko tomorrow.

Finally, President Komorowski and I discussed a range of issues critical to our shared prosperity, including the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, which would boost trade between the United States and Europe, including facilitating potential energy exports from the United States into Europe.  We agreed that there are more steps that can be taken to diversify Europe’s energy sources.  That’s important not only for Europe’s economy, but also for its security.  And that’s a topic that I’ll focus on later today when we meet with other Central and Eastern European Presidents.

So, thank you, Mr. President, again for your partnership and your hospitality.  I could not be more grateful to have the opportunity to join tomorrow’s celebration in Castle Square and a chance to address the Polish people.  Dziekuje.

Q    The question for both Presidents — how will the situation in Ukraine influence the change of the relation between NATO and Russia?  And what assurance will President-elect Poroshenko hear from both of you?  Both of you are going to talk with him.

PRESIDENT KOMOROWSKI:  (As interpreted.)  First of all, I would like to thank very much for the birthday wishes.  It undoubtedly is thanks to my mom and not myself.  But I want to thank you very much for that. 

One thing is certain — that it is — the merit of the whole nation of Poland is Polish freedom, Polish freedom that was regained on the 4th of June, 1989.

Answering your question about NATO-Russia relations, I can tell you that the Western world — including Poland, and I’m sure it goes for all other countries of NATO — everyone is very much interested in developing as good relations with Russia as possible, and as good cooperation as possible.  Poland is also very much interested in the continuation of this uneasy process of the reconciliation beyond difficult history and painful history and bloody history.

However, to make sure that this cooperation, this reconciliation could really function also between NATO and Russia, it is absolutely necessary today, though, for Russia to totally give up the application of violence in conduct with its neighbors.  It is also necessary for Russia to give up similar intentions towards other countries that are in the neighborhood of Russia, including those countries that aren’t members of the alliance.

That is why what we would like to see is the full reconfirmation of the will to cooperate with Ukraine — free and independent Ukraine.  What we expect is the reconfirmation of acceptance or full understanding of the result of the presidential elections in Ukraine.  And we also are looking forward to the talks about developing good relations between Russia and Ukraine.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, I thoroughly agree with your President about the importance of maintaining good relations with Russia, but not sacrificing principle in pursuit of good relations. 

The fact of the matter is, is that Russia is a significant country with incredibly gifted people, resources, an enormous land mass, and they rightfully play an important role on the world stage and in the region.  But what we have learned from our history — and nobody understands that better than the Poles — is that basic principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty and freedom, the ability for people to make their own determinations about their country’s future is the cornerstone of the peace and security that we’ve seen in Europe over the last several decades.  And that is threatened by Russian actions in Crimea, and now Russian activity in eastern Ukraine.

So we have said consistently that not only do we seek good relations with Russia, but we expect Ukraine to have strong relations with Russia.  We don’t believe that Ukraine has to choose between good relations with Europe and good relations with Russia.  We do think that Ukrainians should make their own decisions about the future of their country without meddling, interference, or armed militias being financed from the outside trying to disrupt the effort of Ukrainians to reform themselves, to strengthen their democracy, and to improve their economy.

And, as a consequence, we will continue to support Ukrainian efforts.  The fact that there has been an election on May 25th and we have now a President-elect I think gives us some momentum to build on as we move forward.  The President-elect of Ukraine has indicated his willingness to work with all regions of Ukraine to create a constitutional order that is representative of all people.  And he has said that he is interested in pursuing good relations with Russia.  But what he has said, and he is right to say, is that the sovereignty of Ukraine should not be sacrificed in that effort, and we fully support him in that.

And NATO’s relationship with Russia I think will be one in which, if Russia is observing basic international law and principles, there should be cooperation between Russia and NATO; where Russia violates international law and international principle, NATO will stand firm in asserting those principles.

Q    Thank you.  I wanted to ask you if you have learned more about the circumstances of Sergeant Bergdahl’s capture, and whether he could be facing punishment given that the Pentagon has concluded that he left his unit?  Also, could you respond to congressional Republicans who say that you violated the law by not notifying them 30 days in advance and that the release or the transfer of the Taliban prisoners could put Americans at risk?  Did your willingness to go around that 30-day requirement signal a new urgency to close Guantanamo now that you’re ending combat operations in Afghanistan?

And also, President Komorowski, can you say whether the steps that President Obama outlined today to increase the U.S. military presence here in Europe are enough to mitigate whatever threat you see coming from Russia, or do you want more from the United States?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  The United States has always had a pretty sacred rule, and that is we don’t leave our men or women in uniform behind.  And that dates back to the earliest days of our revolution. 

We have consulted with Congress for quite some time about the possibility that we might need to execute a prisoner exchange in order to recover Sergeant Bergdahl.  We saw an opportunity.  We were concerned about Sergeatn Bergdahl’s health.  We had the cooperation of the Qataris to execute an exchange, and we seized that opportunity.  And the process was truncated because we wanted to make sure that we did not miss that window.

With respect to the circumstances of Sergeant Bergdahl’s capture by the Taliban, we obviously have not been interrogating Sergeant Bergdahl.  He is recovering from five years of captivity with the Taliban.  He’s having to undergo a whole battery of tests, and he is going to have to undergo a significant transition back into life.  He has not even met with his family yet, which indicates I think the degree to which we take this transition process seriously — something that we learned from the Vietnam era.

But let me just make a very simple point here, and that is, regardless of the circumstances, whatever those circumstances may turn out to be, we still get an American soldier back if he’s held in captivity.  Period.  Full stop.  We don’t condition that. And that’s what every mom and dad who sees a son or daughter sent over into war theater should expect from not just their Commander-in-Chief but the United States of America.

In terms of potential threats, the release of the Taliban who were being held in Guantanamo was conditioned on the Qataris keeping eyes on them and creating a structure in which we can monitor their activities.  We will be keeping eyes on them.  Is there the possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us?  Absolutely.  That’s been true of all the prisoners that were released from Guantanamo.  There’s a certain recidivism rate that takes place.  I wouldn’t be doing it if I thought that it was contrary to American national security.  And we have confidence that we will be in a position to go after them if, in fact, they are engaging in activities that threaten our defenses.

But this is what happens at the end of wars.  That was true for George Washington; that was true for Abraham Lincoln; that was true for FDR; that’s been true of every combat situation — that at some point, you make sure that you try to get your folks back.  And that’s the right thing to do.

Q    Could Sergeant Bergdahl face — (inaudible.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  That’s not something that we’re discussing at this point because our main priority is making sure that the transition that he’s undergoing after five years of captivity is successful.

PRESIDENT KOMOROWSKI:  (As interpreted.)  I would like to answer your question.  Certainly, for us, the decisions of the American authorities to increase its presence in the Eastern countries of NATO are very important.  We welcome them with great hope.  And we welcome these decisions as an announcement of a true return of NATO to focusing very strongly on questions that are connected at the foundations of the alliance, which is Article 5 of the Washington Treaty that refers to the collective defense — the defense on the basis of solidarity of the territories, the homelands of the member states. 

We are absolutely convinced that this is a good response and it is important for the whole region, not only for Poland.  It is an important response that will be analyzed and evaluated as a very important element of discouragement for Russia to continue the policy of pressure and aggression against the neighbors that are located to the east of our borders.

However, I am absolutely convinced that another element that is so important that also supplements the will that is expressed by President Obama to increase the presence of the American armed forces in Eastern Europe will be the engagement of NATO in the development of additional NATO infrastructure that is a prerequisite for the possible effective reception of the reinforcement forces.  These two elements in my opinion create a situation of full reconfirmation — reaffirmation of the security of our region.  And for this I would like to thank you.

Q    A question of both Presidents.  Referring to what has been raised a moment ago, this European reassurance initiative, it doesn’t do away with the division into old and new members of the alliance.  It doesn’t mean that the deployment of ground troops of the United States, and Poland and other countries like the Baltic States counted on this very much.  So what kind of American troops can we expect in Poland, specifically, within the next month or year?  Is it going to be some complement of ground troops?  And if so, when are they going to come?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  First of all, when you discuss old and new NATO members, I recall my first NATO meeting back in 2009, and I made very clear at that first meeting my belief that there’s no such thing as new members of NATO and old members of NATO — there are just members of NATO.  And because that was my strong view then and continues to be my strong view now, I immediately pushed to make sure that we were putting in place contingency plans for every NATO member.  And those contingency plans have been steadily developed over the last several years.

And part of what I think your President just indicated is very important is that our contingency plans are not just pieces of paper on a shelf, but we have the capacity to operationalize it.  That means that there has to be resources pre-positioned;  there has to be training; there have to be joint exercises.  We have been conducting those, but there’s no doubt that what has happened in Ukraine adds a sense of urgency when we meet in Wales in the next NATO summit. 

And part of what I discussed with Secretary General of NATO Rasmussen and now with the new Secretary General Stoltenberg is the need to make sure that the collective defense effort is robust, it is ready, it is properly equipped. 

That does mean that every NATO member has to do its fair share.  Obviously, we all have different capacities.  The United States is going to have different capacities than Poland; Poland is going to have a different capacity than Latvia.  But everyone has the capacity to do their fair share, to do a proportional amount to make sure that we have the resources, the planning, the integration, the training in order to be effective.

Some of that has to do with where our personnel is positioned.  And obviously, as I indicated before, my administration has put U.S. soldiers on Polish soil for the first time.  This new initiative that I’m putting forward gives us the option, the capacity, to add to those rotations. 

But I think it’s important to recognize that the effectiveness of our defenses against any threat is not just going to be dependent on how many troops we have in any particular country — it has to do with how we are working collectively together to make sure that when any NATO member is threatened, all of us can respond rapidly — whether it’s through air, sea, or land. 

And that’s going to require some flexibility. It’s going to require some additional planning.  It’s going to require some joint capabilities that right now we don’t have.  But frankly, NATO is very reliant on U.S. capabilities but has not always invested in some joint capabilities that would be important as well.  And it’s going to require every NATO member to step up.  We have seen a decline steadily in European defense spending generally.  There are exceptions — like Poland, like Estonia — but for the most part, we have seen a steady decline.  That has to change.

The United States is proud to bear its share of the defense of the Transatlantic Alliance.  It is the cornerstone of our security.  But we can’t do it alone.  And we’re going to need to make sure that everybody who is a member of NATO has full membership.  They expect full membership when it comes to their defense; then that means that they’ve also got to make a contribution that is commensurate with full membership.

PRESIDENT KOMOROWSKI:  (As interpreted.)  For Poland, what is really fundamental is to make sure that nobody from outside of NATO claims the right to determine what NATO member states may do and what they may not do.  And it also concerns the question of the presence of NATO troops and NATO infrastructure in the Polish territory. 

What is most important for us is to make sure that there are no second-category member states of NATO, that there are no countries about whom an external country, a third country like Russia can say whether or not American or other allied troops can be deployed to these countries.  That is why the decision of the United States of America to deploy American troops to Poland is really very important for us, both as an element of deterrence, but also as a reconfirmation that we do not really accept any limitations concerning the deployment of NATO troops to Poland imposed for some time or suggested for some time by a country that is not a member of NATO. 

Another thing is the inadequacy of response for the existing situation, the Ukrainian crisis, the Russian behavior about Crimea, for example — first, the necessary response to it.  And this response is both the real presence of American troops, reinforced aviation detachment and then the ground troops that that would complement, as well as the declaration of President Obama to increase this presence even more.  I would like to remind you that Poland is also making a contribution in the reconfirmation of an equal right of every member state to decide whether or not they are going to receive NATO troops in their territories.

Poland is participating in the air policing mission that is a mission to provide security for the air space over the Baltic States.  We do this together with other allies from NATO and we don’t ask anybody for acceptance except for what is agreed within NATO internally.  The same goes for Poland’s participation in the Afghan operation in ISAF.  It was the reconfirmation of full solidarity and full core responsibility for the decisions which are made not only for the military effort but also for political decisions.  Poland has been and shall continue to be a spokescountry for the solidarity within NATO.  And this can be manifested also in the denial of the right of anyone from outside of NATO to decide whether we can do something or we cannot do it.

Q    Mr. President, now that Ukraine has successfully elected its new President, can you talk to us about how much military assistance you are prepared to give Ukraine, either as part of this package or more broadly?  And you spoke about the importance of not sacrificing principle in pursuit of good relations with Mr. Putin.  You know Prime Minister Cameron and President Hollande will meet individually with Mr. Putin during this visit in France.  Would you consider doing the same under some circumstances, or do you think it’s premature?  And I think we’re just interested in getting inside your mind.  You’ll see him at this lunch, at least probably shake hands.  What do you want to say to him if you could?

If I may, also, President Komorowski, 25 years after the Solidarity election victory, are you concerned that Poland and the region are still vulnerable to a return to Russian dominance? And do you believe that President Putin actually wants to reconstitute the Soviet Union?  Thank you.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  Well, first of all, I’m looking forward to the chance to talk to the President-elect of Ukraine tomorrow.  I want to hear from him what he thinks would be most helpful.  My suspicion, based on the discussions that we’ve had intensively with Ukrainian officials over the last several months, is they’re very interested in making sure that economic support is in place. They’re very concerned about making sure that energy is in place as winter comes up. 

The IMF package and the international assistance, including ours, that has been forthcoming is going to be critical I think in these early months of the new government’s efforts to solidify its position and also to reach out to skeptics and say there’s the prospect for a better life.  But that has to translate into concrete action.  And so we’re going to spend a lot of time on the economics of Ukraine. 

With respect to the defense of Ukraine, we have had a partnership with the Ukrainian military for quite some time.  We have strong relations.  The Ukrainian officers have been trained in the United States.  During this crisis we have provided them nonlethal assistance that’s been critical for them. 

Part of what’s going to be interesting to hear is the strategy to deal with eastern Ukraine in a way that is careful about civilian casualties but recognizes that we can’t have a bunch of masked thugs creating chaos in a big chunk of your country, and that there has to be some mechanism to return law and order to many of these areas.  And this is where Russian influence can be extraordinarily important.

Now, in terms of my relationship with Mr. Putin, I always had a businesslike relationship with Mr. Putin.  Throughout this crisis, I have talked to Mr. Putin by phone.  I’ve been very clear with him privately about the same principles that I lay out publicly:  We are interested in good relations with Russia; we are not interested in threatening Russia.  We recognize that Russia has legitimate interests in what happens along its borders and has a long historic relationship with Ukraine.  But we also believe that the principles of territorial integrity and sovereignty have to be respected, that Russia has violated them; that we are going to maintain sanctions that are directed at the annexation of Crimea and that we have prepared economic costs on Russia that can escalate if, in fact, we continue to see Russia actively destabilizing one of its neighbors in the way that we’ve seen of late.

And Mr. Putin has a choice to make.  He can make a decision, that, having now begun to pull back his troops directly on the border, he also exerts his influence to get these separatist elements to stand down.  He can meet with the President-elect of Ukraine, recognize that that was a legitimate election, and help to facilitate the kind of dialogue along the Ukraine-Russian border that can calm the situation down and encourage people to participate in legitimate political process. 

That’s what I will tell him if I see him publicly.  That’s what I have told him privately.  I would expect and hope that David Cameron and Franois Hollande would emphasize those same points to him when they meet with him.  And if, in fact, we can see some responsible behavior by the Russians over the next several months, then I think it is possible for us to try to rebuild some of the trust that’s been shattered during this past year. 

But I think it is fair to say that rebuilding that trust will take quite some time.  And in the meantime we are going to be prepared for any contingencies that may come up if, in fact, Mr. Putin continues to pursue strategies that destabilize its neighbors.  Whether it’s Ukraine, or any NATO member, or Moldova or others, we want to make sure that we stand with the people of countries that are simply seeking to choose their own destiny. 

And I’ve said in the past and I will repeat again:  I do not believe in spheres of influence.  There are times where we have governments in the Western Hemisphere that are not particularly friendly to us and we may make very clear that we don’t like their policies, but under my administration we don’t go around and try to overthrow those governments, or to finance or supply armed efforts to undermine those governments.  That’s not what we do — partly because we have enough confidence that we’ve got the better argument and ultimately governments that pursue oppressive policies, corrupt policies — that over time those governments will fail because that’s not the kind of government that’s going to meet the aspirations of people.

Q    And will you meet with President Putin on this trip —

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I’m sure I’ll see him.  He’s going to be there.  I think it’s important for us to acknowledge the role that Russia played during World War II, and that’s part of what Normandy is about.

All right?  Okay.

PRESIDENT KOMOROWSKI:  (As interpreted.)  Well, ladies and gentlemen, it is difficult not to notice that something has changed to the east of the borders of NATO; that, again, we are heading toward the aggression with the use of armed forces against one’s neighbor.  A few years ago it was Georgia; now it is Ukraine, with a special focus on Crimea.

President Putin didn’t hide — he didn’t hide that these were elements of the Russian armed forces, and this is something that we have to acknowledge — just the same way Russia never hid that for the last four years it has increased its defense budget twofold.  We, ourselves, have to ask the question, why?  For what purpose?  And what does it have to mean for member states of NATO? 

All of us are interested in Russia to get modernized so that it is possible to do not only good business modernizing Russia, but also develop relations of good neighborhood and cooperation in many dimensions, in many areas.  But today we have to answer this situation that has come up by supporting independence of Ukraine and it tried to choose a pro-Western direction.  We have to support the modernization of Ukraine, too. 

I am convinced that this is the right way to develop the mechanism and the source of a very good and suggestive example for the Russian society, just as a great example for them was the development of democracy in Poland — free market, prosperity, security, safety.  It acted very well on Ukraine, and I am convinced that it was simply an element of the Ukrainian dream to follow along the same way, in the direction of the same values. 

I am also convinced that the success of Ukraine, its democratic and independent nature, combined with overcoming the economic crisis and political crisis on the ground, combined with deep modernization of the Ukrainian society and state, will have a huge influence on the shaping of the attitudes of people within the Russian society.  That is difficult not to notice today that the Russian public opinion has fully supported the aggressive behavior of President Putin in Crimea.  The point is that public opinion in Russia could stand on the side of the prospects for the modernization of Russia, and not at the reconstitution of any zone of influence and any dreams of empire.

Ladies and gentlemen, this press conference is over.  Thank you very much.

END
1:10 P.M. CET

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Gov’t restores foreign investors’ confidence

16:15 | 03/06/2014

VGP – Head of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Ha Noi Huang Chih Teng has confirmed that the Vietnamese Government, the PM and ministries and localities have taken promptly measures to assist foreign businesses, including Taiwanese ones, which had been affected by recent disturbances.

Mr. Huang Chih Teng

Earlier, some foreign businesses, including Taiwanese ones in the province of Ha Tinh and Binh Duong suffered damage during disturbances triggered by opportunists in protests against China’s illegal placement of its Haiyang Shiyou 981 oil rig in Viet Nam’s continental shelf and exclusive economic zone.

Mr. Huang Chih Teng said the prompt direction of the Vietnamese Government has allowed the production to recover. He expected that Taiwanese enterprises will soon overcome damage and re-operate.

He lauded the timely reaction of the Government, especially the meeting chaired by PM Nguyen Tan Dung to discuss measures to support businesses and assign the Deputy PMs to inspect and deal with the situations at localities, especially at the Vung Ang Economic Zone in Ha Tinh Province.

Taiwanese businesses regard Viet Nam’s investment environment as ideal and hope to launch long-term investment in Viet Nam, he asserted.

He suggested the Government pay more attention to helping enterprises in administrative procedures and tax so as they quickly stabilize their production.

Mr. Huang said he hoped that foreign enterprises, including Taiwanese will feel secure to continue their operation in Viet Nam and consolidate their belief in the nation’s investment environment.

By Thuy Dung

 

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Canada’s Defence Relations in the Asia-Pacific Region

As a Pacific country, Canada considers its relations with its Asia-Pacific neighbours a priority. Canadian security and prosperity are linked to the vitality of Asia’s economy and the stability of the region. In support of this agenda, the Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are committed to strengthening peace and security in the region and enhancing their engagement in Asia-Pacific.

From our commitment of resources towards humanitarian and relief efforts following Typhoon Haiyan, to our participation in regional military exercises and high-level defence fora, we are proud of the steps that we have taken in recent years to bolster defence relations and increase cooperation with Canada’s partners in the Asia-Pacific region.

Multilateral Defence Relations and Regional Military Exercises

Multilateral Defence Relations

Contemporary defence and security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, such as criminal networks, territorial disputes, natural disasters, terrorism, as well as concerns about the freedom of movement at sea can reach beyond the borders of a single state and affect the security and defence of the entire region. Responding to these challenges and mitigating their effects demands multilateral, regional responses: concerted, cooperative efforts that involve many countries pooling their resources, coordinating their efforts, and increasing interoperability between armed forces.

Multilateral defence relations are an important component of Canada’s overall engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. From a defence perspective, DND/CAF supports Canada’s diplomatic relationships in part by participating in a number of high-level multilateral defence meetings and conferences. An important example is the annual International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Asia Security Summit in Singapore. This premier, inter-governmental event is a crucial venue for dialogue on the security and defence of the region, and is attended by ministers and chiefs of defence from Asia-Pacific and beyond. This year, General Tom Lawson, chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces and Richard Fadden, Deputy Minister of National Defence, attended the Summit, which was an opportunity to exchange best practices and discuss opportunities for increasing collaboration with Asian partners and other traditional partners and allies in areas such as peacekeeping, civil-military relations, maritime security, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief.

Another important example of high-level defence conferences that support Canada’s defence relations is the United States Pacific Command Chiefs of Defence Conference. This important meeting is attended by chiefs of defence including General Lawson, as well as other senior military leaders in the Asia-Pacific region. At the Chiefs of Defence Conference, these senior military leaders discuss mutual security challenges and encourage security cooperation.

Perhaps the most important example of Canada’s multilateral relations in the Asia-Pacific region is Canada’s engagement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN as well as its member states (Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) which dates back to 1977. As the cornerstone of Canada’s multilateral relations in the Asia-Pacific region, ASEAN provides a forum for Canada to take part in an important dialogue on regional defence and security issues.

Under the ASEAN organizational umbrella, Canada also participates in the ASEAN Regional Forum, which is designed to strengthen cooperation amongst member states to foster peace and security in the Asia-Pacific region. Canada is committed to contributing further to the Asia-Pacific security architecture and has announced its interest in participating in the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus and the East Asia Summit. The CAF have also taken part in other regional exercises such as the ASEAN Regional Forum’s disaster relief exercise (DiREx).

Regional Military Exercises

The CAF is involved in a number of regional exercises that support multilateral defence relations. For example, the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) continues to be engaged in a number of military exercises and deployments throughout the Asia-Pacific region. These cooperative endeavours serve to foster invaluable relationships and connections between the RCN and the navies of other countries in the region. For example, More than 1,000 Canadian sailors, soldiers, airmen and airwomen will participate in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), the world’s premier combined and joint maritime exercise, from June 27 to August 1, 2014, in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California. RIMPAC is the world’s largest international maritime military exercise, involving forces from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, People’s Republic of China, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States. Canada has participated in every iteration since RIMPAC’s inception in 1971.

Canada is also a major participant in the Ulchi Freedom Guardian Exercise, which tests the operational control of the combined forces on the Korean peninsula. For the last 3 years, the CAF contingent has been the largest amongst the Sending States.  Canada also participated in the Key Resolve/Foal Eagle exercise series in South Korea for the past 2 years, which is a field training exercise designed to improve the combined and joint operational posture of South Korean and U.S. military forces.  

Canada also participates in the KHAAN QUEST series of exercises, hosted by the Mongolian Armed Forces and co-sponsored by the Mongolian Armed Forces, U.S.Army Pacific and the Alaskan Air National Guard, under the U.S. Department of Defense Humanitarian and Civic Assistance program. The exercises are designed to enhance individual and professional readiness and tactical interoperability in the delivery of humanitarian assistance between regional partners. This year the exercise will take place from 18 June to 2 July.

Bilateral Defence Relations

Bilateral, country-to-country defence relations between Canada and individual Asia-Pacific states are another important component of Canada’s defence relations in the region. In addition to bilateral defence relations with partners in the Asia-Pacific region as described below, Canada signed a Canada-U.S. Asia-Pacific Defense Policy Cooperation Framework with the U.S. in November 2013. This Framework provides the foundation for Canada and the U.S. to coordinate the conduct of recurring and mutually reinforcing defence-related engagement activities with our Asian partners. 

Bilateral Defence Relations: North East Asia

In support of a whole-of-government approach that seeks to enhance Canada’s bilateral relationships with North East Asian countries, the DND and CAF are engaged in initiatives in China, Japan, and South Korea.

Canada recognizes that China is an important economic and military power. The DND and CAF have growing relations with the Ministry of National Defence of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, and will continue to engage in dialogue about  issues of regional and international security. Canada has been advancing this emerging bilateral defence relationship through several high-level meetings in March 2012, and June 2013 in China involving senior DND and CAF officials and China’s People’s Liberation Army officials.  At the 2013 meeting, Canada and China agreed to establish a Defence Coordination Dialogue to discuss defence issues of mutual concern and affirmed their intent to establish a Cooperation Plan Initiative between the People’s Liberation Army and Canada’s Defence Team, which would guide defence-related activities. Building on these exchanges, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, Minister of National Defence, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls, and the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Tom Lawson, met with General Chang Wanquan for a bilateral exchange in Ottawa in August 2013.  At the meeting, Minister Nicholson and General Chang signed the Cooperation Plan Initiative.

Japan is a valued regional and global security partner. We share a common set of values and interests, including promoting and upholding democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, access to open markets, arms control, and disarmament. These values  have created steady defence relations between Canada and Japan on a number of regional and global issues. Bilateral agreements, such as the 2010 Canada-Japan Joint Declaration on Political, Peace and Security Cooperation greatly contribute to deepening this defence relationship. Canada also cooperates with Japan on issues such as defence policy, interoperability and cross-services, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, disaster prevention and emergency response and peacekeeping. During a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on September 23, 2013, Prime Minister Harper announced agreement in principle on a Treaty. Known as the Canada-Japan Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA), the Treaty, once approved by both countries’ parliamentary processes, will be a milestone for the bilateral defence relationship.  The ACSA will enable Canadian Armed Forces and Japan’s Self-Defense Force units to exchange basic goods and services wherever both forces are cooperating, such as during training, exercises, and a limited range of operations, notably humanitarian assistance missions.

Canada has long enjoyed positive bilateral defence relations with the Republic of Korea. These defence relations have a foundation in the Canadian contribution to the Korean War and have evolved into a rich history of strong political and economic partnerships and cooperation. This relationship continues to advance.  Contributing to this relationship are a number of high-level visits, such as  Prime Minister Harper’s March 2014 visit to Seoul. Canada also fosters bilateral relations with South Korea through bilateral defence agreements, such as the Mutual Logistics Support Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), which enables improved logistical exchange and increased interoperability between Canada and South Korea’s military forces.

Canada and South Korea continue to explore new areas and avenues of cooperation, including through enhanced collaboration during key regional forums, and, specifically by continued CAF participation in exercises on the Korean Peninsula, such as Ulchi Freedom Guardian, Key Resolve and Foal Eagle.  

Bilateral Defence Relations: South East Asia

While Canada engages its South East Asian partners multilaterally through ASEAN, the DND/CAF are also growing defence relations and initiatives with our South East Asian neighbours on a bilateral basis. These defence relations reflect the priority the DND/CAF place on mutual security and cooperative interests. Some examples of bilateral defence cooperation across the region include:

  • High-level meetings, such as then-Minister of National Defence MacKay’s bilateral visits to Singapore and Thailand, in June 2012 during which Canada highlighted CAF/DND activities in South East Asia and emphasized our desire to contribute to security in the region. In 2012, General Lawson also attended the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) Chiefs of Defence Staff Conference and met with numerous Asia-Pacific counterparts. General Lawson also visited Thailand in 2013;
  • Ship visits, such as the February 2013 visit of HMCS Regina to Port Klang, Malaysia, and Manila, Philippines; and, 
  • Defence education cooperation in locations such as Brunei, for example, which hosted the Commandant of the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in winter 2013.

Bilateral Defence Relations: Oceania

Located in the Central and South Pacific Ocean, Canada has long enjoyed positive bilateral defence relations in Oceania, particularly with Australia and New Zealand, which are both members of the Five Eyes intelligence community.

Defence relations between Canada and Australia are deep and enduring, with Australia being one of Canada’s closest partners in the Asia-Pacific region and globally. We share a common outlook on international security issues as well as a like-minded approach to operations.  We have a solid foundation of defence cooperation including exercises, training, academic exchanges, high-level visits and current operations in Afghanistan. 

Recent high-level visits that support and foster defence relations with Australia have included then-Minister of National Defence MacKay’s visit to Australia in 2011. The trip was successful in strengthening the relationship and resulted in commitments to hold ministerial meetings, policy talks, and chief of defence meetings regularly.  Both the Minister and Chief of the Defence Staff General Lawson met with their Australian counterpart at the Shangri-La Dialogue in the spring of 2013 and have interacted over the last year at various NATO Ministerial and Chiefs of Defence meetings. Canada also has a Canadian defence attaché posted to Australia that is cross-accredited to New Zealand.

Canada and New Zealand also enjoy a robust history of defence cooperation. Historically, the CAF and the New Zealand Defence Forces (NZDF) have worked together in a number of international security operations, such as Afghanistan, Bosnia, and East Timor. A number of high-level visits have also taken place recently between Canada and New Zealand, such as the between the two countries’ Defence Ministers in September 2011, and Chief of the Defence Staff, General Tom Lawson’s meeting with his New Zealand counterpart in May 2013 during the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

Since 2005, the CAF and the NZDF have participated in CANZEX (Canada New Zealand Exchange), a program that includes joint training and enhances cooperation and interoperability between our militaries. The CAF also participates in programs such as REGULUS, a Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) training program.  The CAF recently participated in Operation RENDER SAFE 2013, Australia’s Explosive Ordinance Disposal support to the nations of the South West Pacific region.  In the case of New Zealand, the CAF participated in the 2013 edition of Exercise SOUTHERN KATIPO, which is a multi-nation, tri-service exercise to practice operational planning, execution and command and control of a deployed Combined Joint Task Force during an amphibious operation.

Bilateral Defence Relations: South West Asia

South West Asia covers the area from Afghanistan in the west to India in the east, and extends north as far as the former Soviet republics and south into the Indian Ocean. Canada has deep links to this region, which includes several members of the Commonwealth. A significant number of Canadian families trace their roots back to South West Asia, and Canada has made a major effort to promote security in the region, most significantly through our mission in Afghanistan.

Canada has an important and expanding relationship with India. Canada and India share common values, including a commitment to democracy and pluralism. High-level visits, such as Prime Minister Harper’s visit in 2012 and Governor General David Johnston’s visit of 2014, have underscored the importance of this relationship. Canada and India are exploring areas for future defence cooperation, including training exchanges.   Such activities help strengthen the defence and security relationship and promote cooperation.

Pakistan remains an important partner for Canada in the global fight against terrorism, and Canada and Pakistan continue to work together to enhance defence and security in the region. High-level visits supporting this relationship have included the May 2012 visit by Pakistan’s Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Khalid Shaheem Wynne, and the visit of Chief of Defence Staff General Lawson to Islamabad in March 2014.

Canada’s enduring relationship with Afghanistan continues after our military training mission ended in March 2014.  Canadians will not forget the sacrifices of the 158 CAF members who died working on behalf of Canada to help bring security to the Afghan people.  To ensure the future stability of a secure and democratic Afghanistan, Canada continues to provide financial support to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Canada’s ultimate goal remains to sustain the gains that have been made since the fall of the Taliban regime and help Afghans rebuild Afghanistan into a viable country that is better governed, more stable and secure, and never again a safe haven for terrorists.

The Military Training and Cooperation Program

An important instrument of defence diplomacy and part of the whole-of-government approach stated in the Canada First Defence Strategy, the Military Training and Cooperation Program (MTCP) involves:

  • Enhancing peace support operations’ interoperability among Canada’s partners;
  • Expanding and reinforcing Canadian bilateral defence relations;
  • Promoting Canadian democratic principles, the rule of law and the protection of human rights in the international arena; and,
  • Achieving influence in areas of strategic interest to Canada. 

The MTCP operates a number of training programs throughout the Asia-Pacific region, including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and Thailand. Other regional MTCP activities have included:

Adding Japan as an implementing partner of the MTCP. As an implementing partner, Japan contributed to the program by providing instructors/lecturers on the MTCP Civil Military Cooperation (CIMIC) tactical courses conducted in Tanzania (2012) and Senegal (2013), as well as on a UN Military Observer Course conducted in Indonesia (March 2014).

  • Naming Indonesia as an MTCP “Centre of Excellence”, with CAF and Indonesian forces partnering to provide training in Indonesia to military personnel from Asia-Pacific MTCP member states. Indonesia is both a priority member state of the MTCP and one of its top recipients (both in terms of budget and positions on courses). The MTCP provided training to over 180 personnel, including 45 positions in 2013-14 in courses on topics such as English language, peacekeeping, and public affairs, in addition to staff training such as National Security Studies and Canadian Security Studies. A successful Peace Support Seminar was conducted at the Indonesian Peace and Security Centre in July 2012 in partnership with the Indonesian National Armed Forces, which was followed by a Public Affairs Workshop in the fall. In 2013-2014, DND sponsored another Peace Support Workshop, a Civil Military Relations Workshop, and a UN Military Observer Course in Indonesia. In 2014-2015, the Directorate of Military and Training Cooperation (DMTC) plans to sponsor two Public Affairs workshops as well as a Strategic Peace Support Operations Course in Indonesia.
  • Offering 23 vacancies to Malaysia (up from 10 positions in 2012/2013) for courses in 2014-2015 for English-language training, staff training and peacekeeping operations. As of August 2014, DMTC will also post a logistics officer to support the Malaysian Peacekeeping Centre.
  • Granting 20 placements to Mongolian Armed Forces personnel in 2014-2015 for courses on English and French languages, peacekeeping missions, and junior officer-staff training.
  • Providing training over 150 military members from the Philippines since 1998. Members of the armed forces of the Philippines have participated in a variety of courses through the MTCP, as well as staff officer development training and peace support operations training.
  • Training over 354 Thai officers in Canada since 1985. In 2014-2015, 28 Thai officers will be offered training in peacekeeping, staff officer development, and English-language training.

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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jay Carney, 5/29/2014

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

May 29, 2014

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:37 P.M. EDT

MR. CARNEY:  Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.  Thank you for your patience — I apologize for the delay.  Before I take your questions, I wanted to mention that today the House

Appropriations Committee has moved forward with a provision that replaces the judgment of doctors and nutritionists with the opinions of politicians regarding what is healthy for our kids.  The House Republican proposal would undercut school nutrition standards that have already been successfully implemented in over 90 percent of schools.  These are the same people who just last year declared pizza as a vegetable and who now think that decisions about kids’ health should be made by politicians instead of pediatricians.

As the First Lady said on Tuesday, the last thing that we can afford to do right now is play politics with our kids’ health — especially when we’re finally starting to see some progress on this issue.  Now is not the time to roll back everything that we have worked for.  Our kids deserve much better than that.

And now to your questions.  Julie.

Q    Thanks, Jay.  The IG report on the trouble at the Veterans Affairs Department that came out yesterday was quite scathing.  And since it came out, there are several Democrats who have called for Secretary Shinseki to step down.  And I’m wondering if the President continues to have confidence in the Secretary’s ability to lead that department.

MR. CARNEY:  I think you saw the statement that I put out yesterday reflecting that the President was extremely troubled by that preliminary report.  When it comes to the overall issue, as you know from what the President has said and others have said, we are focused on getting to the root of the problem and determining the full scope of the problem so we can get, most importantly, veterans the care that they deserve and that they need, and that they’ve earned. 

As the President said last week — and this is very important — the VA should not and must not wait for current investigations of VA operations to conclude before taking steps to improve care.  You have seen a reaction to that insistence in the actions the VA has taken this week when it comes to moving more quickly to reach out to those veterans who have been identified as having been on waiting lists for far too long, and in allowing for greater ease when it comes to — if there is the need to having veterans receive care from private or non-profit hospitals.

Earlier this week — this is repeating what I just said — but they’re redoubling their efforts on this issue to take steps at national and local levels to ensure timely access to care.  And this is very important.  It’s not enough, but it is a step in the right direction.

When it comes to accountability, I think the best way to describe the President’s view is to recall what he said when he stood in this room and spoke to you last week.  He believes that Secretary Shinseki has served his country as a soldier.  He believes that he is committed to his fellow veterans and is passionate about serving them.

As the President said, Ric Shinseki has performed overall well as Secretary on issues like homelessness, on the GI Bill — the 9/11 GI Bill, and on working with us to reduce the backlog.  “And he’s put his heart and soul into this thing, and he’s taken it very seriously.”  That’s quoting the President. 

When it comes to the current situation, the inquiries and the investigations and some of the allegations, the President wants to see the results of these reports.  And he, as you know, made clear that he believes there ought to be accountability once we establish all the facts.

Q    But does that leave open the question of whether Secretary Shinseki can continue to lead this department?

MR. CARNEY:  I think that the President identified last week that he expected a preliminary report from Secretary Shinseki’s internal audit very soon.  And when he receives that, he’ll be able to evaluate those findings, along with what we’ve seen from the interim report from the inspector general, and then assess where we are at that time.

Q    So is it fair to say that the White House has moved from the point where you from this podium had said that the President has confidence in Secretary Shinseki to the point where you are evaluating whether he actually is staying in this job?

MR. CARNEY:  I think the President himself, a week ago — more than a week ago made clear his views on that specific matter and on how he will assess the issue of accountability when it comes to the accusations of mismanagement and misconduct at the VA.  He ordered up the internal audit that Secretary Shinseki has undertaken, I think an audit that will involve — is involving more than 200 people.  And he expects to receive a preliminary report very soon, as he mentioned last week from the podium, and will be very interested in the results.

Q    And is it your understanding that the President will wait until that review and whatever Rob Nabors is working on, until those reviews are complete, before making a decision on leadership at the VA?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m just not going to speculate more about personnel.  I almost never do.  Because what matters most to the President is making sure that we’re not waiting even for preliminary or interim reports from these inquiries to take action to ensure that our veterans are getting better and better service more quickly.  That’s why you’ve seen the steps already undertaken by the VA, and he expects further action to be taken so that the most important mission we have here, which is providing benefits and health care to our veterans, is being performed more effectively.

Q    What is the status of that report from the VA, from Secretary Shinseki?  Has the President set any deadline for it?  And how will you make it public? 

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have anything new from what the President said last week.  I think he said that he expected a preliminary report from the Secretary by the end of this week.

Q    And following the IG report yesterday that the President described as troubling, you mentioned that these are health care issues and there’s some urgency to it.  Has the President specifically instructed to accelerate it, push to get that report done, or to get more care delivered to veterans?

MR. CARNEY:  The President made clear last week that even as these separate inquiries were being conducted — both the independent IG’s investigation and the internal audit that he asked Secretary Shinseki to conduct, as well as the broader review that his advisor, Rob Nabors, is conducting — there ought to be action taken immediately to improve care and services to veterans based on the information we do have. 

So the answer is, yes, when it comes to acting now, based on what we do know in terms of improving care and benefits to veterans, while we await for the results from the inquiries.

Q    And just to follow up on one of Julie’s questions — does the fact that so many members of Congress have now called for the Secretary’s resignation, including a number of members of the President’s own party, suggest that the Secretary has lost the public’s confidence in a way that makes it impossible for him to do his job properly?

MR. CARNEY:  The President is focused, first and foremost, on the need to address the problems that have impeded the quality and speed of care and benefits that our veterans have been receiving.  He is also committed to making sure that people are held accountable if it is established that there was misconduct or mismanagement.  But we can take action on the former while we await assessments on the latter.

He is extremely troubled, as we said yesterday, about the preliminary results reported by the IG, and he looks forward to a full investigation by the independent inspector general and the full results of that investigation.  He also anticipates receiving the preliminary results of Secretary Shinseki’s review, internal review, very soon, and the full completion of that review.  And there’s a third track — the broader review of operations that Rob Nabors is overseeing on assignment from the White House to the VA.

All of these investigations are important, reviews are important, but they should not preclude taking action now where we know we can, and the VA can, to speed up service to our veterans in those areas where it’s been identified that waits have been too long.  And that is what he expects to take place.

Q    And just to jump to one other topic, and that’s the regulations expected next week on emissions from coal plants.  As you know, it’s highly controversial.  How does the White House plan to present this plan to the public?  A number of members of the President’s own party have expressed concerns about it in states like Kentucky and West Virginia.

MR. CARNEY:  I would say a couple of things.  First of all, we have a moral obligation to leave our children a planet that’s not polluted or damaged.  We have, as a country, already set limits on arsenic, mercury and lead, but we let power plants release as much carbon pollution as they want. 

The effects of climate change are already being felt across the nation.  And in the past three decades, the percentage of Americans with asthma has more than doubled, and climate change is putting those Americans at greater risk of landing in the hospital.  Also, droughts, which can drive up food prices, are becoming more frequent and more severe in the West; we’ve seen that this year.  And extreme weather events from heat waves to hurricanes are hitting communities across the country.  Which is why now is the time to act.

We’ve already made progress by moving to cleaner sources of energy and improving the energy efficiency of our cars, trucks and buildings.  Now, EPA is setting carbon standards for power plants to protect public health and welfare.  States will have flexibility to meet them using the energy sources that work best for each state.  This is part of continuing our progress in cutting carbon pollution, sparking homegrown clean energy innovation to create jobs, and lower energy waste to save families money. 

Now, to go to your point on politics, we know that special interests and their allies in Congress will make doomsday claims about harm to jobs and harm to the economy.  They’ve made those claims every time America has set clear rules and better standards for our air and our water and our children’s health.  Every time, they’ve been wrong. 

So the President believes strongly that this is the right thing to do.  And I’m not going to preview the action that EPA will take, but that is the context within which we believe it ought to be viewed.

April.

Q    Jay, when you talk about accountability, how far back does accountability stretch when it comes to this current case?  Is it just the current case there’s accountability for?  What if there’s something that comes up from back in the day that might need some kind of action on?  How far does accountability go?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, that’s not a very specific question in terms of the hypothetical.  I think that the investigations and inquiries have different parameters, and when the results of those inquiries are known, the President will expect that any misconduct or mismanagement that they reveal ought to be assessed and that folks ought to be held accountable.  I can’t judge, having not seen final results of these inquiries, how far back they’ll go or how broad they will be.  Each one is a little different with Rob Nabors’s assessment of operations in general being the broadest.

Q    The reason why I ask — some former VA secretaries have been seen walking along around this area, and I wanted to know about those inquiries of those former VA secretaries, particularly to the last.

MR. CARNEY:  Look, I think this, as a general principle, applies to the President’s view on these matters, which is first and foremost we need to find out what exactly has happened here when it comes to the allegations of misconduct around delays in care and misreported durations on the time that people have stayed on waiting lists waiting for care, and then taking action to make sure that those veterans are better served and they get the health care that they deserve as soon as possible.

That’s the primary focus.  That’s the mission of the VA.  That’s the sacred trust that we as a nation have with our veterans, and that’s what the President is first and foremost focused on.

When it comes to the also important need to hold folks accountable, he wants to make sure he has a broad enough set of facts to make some assessments.  And obviously there will be different judgments made in different areas.  The IG has an independent investigation going on; the Secretary has his inquiry; and then the broader review of operations, which is a little different and much broader that Rob is conducting.

Q    So will you affirm that some former VA secretaries are being questioned in these inquiries — particularly the Rob Nabors inquiry?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not involved in conducting those reviews, so I would have to refer you to the IG’s office or the VA. 

Yes, sir.

Q    Thank you, Jay.  On Ukraine — so there was a Ukrainian military chopper that was brought down by a ground-air or an anti-aircraft missile.  The Ukrainians are sure that this is the type of Russian military equipment on the ground.  Does the White House feel that it’s time to — considering very little movement from Russia, it’s time to bring the third wave of sanctions?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, first, let me say that we are disturbed by the ongoing violence in eastern Ukraine, including reports that separatists have shot down a Ukrainian military helicopter, killing 14 people.  Now, we cannot yet verify the details of these reports, but we are concerned that this indicates separatists continue to have access to advanced weaponry and other assistance from the outside.  We are also concerned about the fact that a group of OSCE monitors is being held by separatists in Slovyansk. 

It is unacceptable for observers to be detained, and they should be released immediately.  We urge Russia to use its influence with these groups to get them to release the observers, disarm, and participate in a political process — a process that the vast majority of Ukrainians actively participated in during the elections the other day.  And that process needs to continue both at the ballot box, obviously, but also in dialogue so that the country can move forward and begin to stabilize its economy and produce a better future for the people of Ukraine.

Now, the United States will continue to work with the people of Ukraine and the President-elect to support their efforts to determine their own future.  The U.S. respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.  We condemn and reject Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of Crimea.  And we remain committed to working with Ukraine and other partners to find a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

On the second part of your question, I think that we and our international partners watched very closely the conduct of the election on May 25th.  And I think it has been judged broadly, although with some areas of exception, to have come off very well, and that the vast majority of Ukrainians were able to vote in a free and fair election.  And that is a very positive development. 

The President, as you know, spoke with President-elect Poroshenko, and he looks forward to working with President Poroshenko when he’s sworn into office as the United States supports Ukraine’s desire and the desire of the Ukrainian people to create a future of their own making, and not a future that’s dictated to them by any neighbors.

So that is a positive development.

Q    From one week to the other, Jay, you say that these sanctions, the first and the second wave, have had an impact on the Russian economy. 

MR. CARNEY:  I think that has been independently verified repeatedly in reports probably in your publication as well as others represented here.

Q    Indeed, you’re right.  But still, it hasn’t changed the access to weapons for Ukraine —

MR. CARNEY:  Well, this is — you’re right.  And this is a matter of concern that I just mentioned in answer to your question.  I think it’s also true that we and our partners, we’re very focused on making sure that Ukraine was able to conduct a presidential election, and that the vast majority of Ukrainians would be able to freely vote in that election.  We were very concerned that separatists, with the support of Russia, either direct or indirect, would — indirect support would disrupt those elections.  And it is certainly a positive development that those elections were able to proceed successfully.

Chuck.

Q    Can you tell me if the President had any reaction to Edward Snowden from last night?

MR. CARNEY:  Chuck, I don’t have a reaction from the President.  I and others here have seen parts of the interview.  And I’m not going to, on his behalf or anyone else’s behalf, react to all of what he said.

What I can say is there’s been no change in our position.  Mr. Snowden is accused of leaking classified information, and he faces felony charges here in the United States.  He should return to the U.S. as soon as possible where he will be accorded full due process and protections. 

So based on some of what I heard about the interview, he expressed a desire to return to the United States, and I can confidently say that he is welcome here to face the charges that have been brought against him.

Q    Is the administration open to a plea deal?  I know that you’ve — clemency has been totally ruled out.  But there did seem to be some gap in the very statements that Justice and other people have said to us about being open to a plea deal.

MR. CARNEY:  Look, let’s be clear, clemency is not on the table.

Q    I understand that.

MR. CARNEY:  And when it comes to — I mean, there’s a fundamental position that we hold, which is he ought to return to the United States to face the charges against him.  When it comes to discussions, I would refer you to the Department of Justice.  But we are of the firm belief that the transgressions that he’s been charged with are very serious, that they’ve created negative consequences for our national security and our capacity to protect the United States and the American people and our allies, and that those are very serious offenses.

Q    But you’re not closing off the idea of a plea deal.

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not in a position to —

Q    Well, you did say clemency is off the table, so that’s why — I mean, and then you referred to Justice.  So is that an opening?

MR. CARNEY:  It’s not.  I would simply refer you to Justice.  And I think we can say quite clearly that clemency is not being considered, but beyond that, this is a matter for the Department of Justice.

Q    And one of the things he said last night is that he did — one of the things that the administration has accused him of is not going through the proper channels to raise concerns, and he says he did.  The best we could come up — he says there’s a paper trail.  The best we could come up with — the administration told us of at least one communication.  How about releasing that communication?  We’ve filed a FOYA request for it.  Why not make that communication public?

MR. CARNEY:  It’s my understanding that the email in question will be released later today to broadly respond to that, as I think NSA has.  They explained that they have found one email inquiry by Edward Snowden to the Office of General Counsel asking for an explanation of some material that was in a training course he had just completed.  The email did not raise allegations or concerns about wrongdoing or abuse, but posed a legal question that the Office of General Counsel addressed.  There was not additional follow-up noted.

As I mentioned, the email will be released today.  I can say that there were numerous — there were and there are numerous avenues that Mr. Snowden could have used to raise other concerns or whistleblower allegations.  The appropriate authorities have searched for additional indications of outreach from Mr. Snowden in those areas, and to date have not found any engagements related to his claims.

Q    Do you acknowledge that the whistleblower protections in the intelligence community are essentially much weaker than in any other part of government?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not the right person to make that assessment.  What I can tell you is that there are avenues available to somebody like Mr. Snowden to raise those kinds of concerns and whistleblower allegations.  And I would just refer you to the NSA and also, obviously, to the email that will be released later today.

Q    And does the President agree with Secretary Kerry in that he’s a traitor and a coward?

MR. CARNEY:  I think that it is fair to say that it is the view of the U.S. government that what Mr. Snowden did was a violation of the law, that it was a serious offense; that as many senior people in the national security apparatus have attested to, damaging to our national security, made it easier for — or gave insight to our enemies, to terrorists that makes it harder for the United States and our allies to go after them.

Q    You guys haven’t been able to provide proof that any of these disclosures have put anybody in harm’s way.

MR. CARNEY:  Unauthorized disclosures of classified information harm U.S. and allied efforts to identify, track and disrupt the activities of our adversaries, including terrorists.  Many of these efforts are born of years of carefully managed intelligence efforts.  As a result of these disclosures, our adversaries, including terrorists and their support networks, now have a better understanding of our collection methods and are taking counter measures.

Everybody has a better understanding of our collection methods because this information was publicly released, and that includes our adversaries.  And they are taking counter measures.  These adversaries are located not only in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia, but some groups and networks also have footprints across Europe, Africa, Asia, and here in the Western Hemisphere.

Specifically, we have seen, in response to the Snowden leaks, al Qaeda and affiliated groups seeking to change their tactics, looking to see what they can learn from what’s in the press, and seeking to change how they communicate to avoid detection and avoid our surveillance.  So that’s broadly the assessment that’s been made and the information that has been gathered. 

But on sort of the other assessment that I think Secretary Kerry made, I think it’s also fair to say that is a general view held here that somebody like Mr. Snowden, who feels he’s a patriot, ought to come here and face the charges against him in a judicial system that affords unique rights and protections to defendants.

Q    But this is a different situation.  It would be under much — with the Espionage Act, it’s very difficult — and he talked about this a little bit — and others have confirmed it’s very difficult to feel as if you can get a fair public trial because some stuff gets classified.  So what do you do in this situation?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, we have a judicial system that offers unique and broad benefits and rights to defendants, and it is certainly our view that Mr. Snowden ought to —

Q    So you believe he would get a — you do believe that he would get a fair trial?

MR. CARNEY:  I do. 

Olivier.

Q    Jay, I’ve got a couple of questions about today’s event on concussions.

MR. CARNEY:  Sure.

Q    Does the President think that the NCAA should guarantee or offer health care beyond the college years to college athletes?

MR. CARNEY:  Olivier, I think the purpose of today’s event was to highlight an issue that is of concern to parents across the country who have kids who want, for all the right reasons, to participate in sports like football and soccer and others, lacrosse and hockey, where there is a risk of injury and especially of injuries caused by concussions. 

We’ve learned a lot in recent months and years about the effect of concussions on younger sports players.  And the President and a lot of parents have been involved in, if you will, kitchen table conversations about concerns that we have, because the President, like a lot of parents, like me, believes there are enormous benefits for our kids when it comes to playing team sports and want them to be able to play, but want them to be able to play in a situation that is as safe as possible.

So the opportunity that the President availed himself today of was to use essentially his convening power, the capacity to place a spotlight on an issue that being President and occupying the White House provides, to elevate this issue and to bring together a lot of stakeholders so that we could have a constructive discussion around these issues, and also to secure commitments, as you have heard were announced from a variety of organizations, to further research and further efforts involved in enhancing safety and security for our kids.

The focus was primarily today on younger kids and their engagement in sports, and making sure that it’s as safe as possible.

Q    The reason I ask is you mention those commitments, and I’m wondering whether he thinks that the NCAA owes those athletes that additional step.

MR. CARNEY:  I just haven’t had that discussion with him on that particular issue.

Q    And then — this is related, and I expect roughly the same answer, but —

MR. CARNEY:  I’ll try to mix it up.  (Laughter.)

Q    How does he feel about efforts by some NCAA athletes to unionize?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I just haven’t had that discussion in a reportable way with him.  (Laughter.)

Q    Wait, wait, hold on.  Hold on a second.

Q    Can we be the judge of that?  (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY:  No.  (Laughter.)  No, I actually don’t — I’m not really in a position to characterize his view on that.

Alexis.

Q    Jay, a couple of quick follow-ups on the VA.  Rob Nabors was seen coming back to the White House today, and the President I thought also was looking forward to —

MR. CARNEY:  I’m sorry, say that again, the first part.

Q    Rob Nabors was seen coming in today.  Obviously, he  works here —

MR. CARNEY:  — was he?

Q    I don’t know, but “spotted” is the word.  And also, I thought —

MR. CARNEY:  He still has an office here you know.

Q    Yes.  And the President I thought was also looking forward to getting a preliminary update from Secretary Shinseki this week.  Can you update us on whether Rob Nabors was meeting with the President to give him a preliminary update, and whether the President had a conversation post-IG report with Secretary Shinseki?  That’s number one.

MR. CARNEY:  Okay, on that, the answer is I’m not sure about meetings that Mr. Nabors might have had here.  I’m not aware of any with the President.  But again, I’m not sure about that. 

What I can tell you is that what the President said last week in terms of his expectation that he would receive a preliminary report from Secretary Shinseki by the end of this week stands today.  So he would expect that I think by the end of this week.  He has not received it as of yet.

Q    And then, on accountability — because a number of lawmakers have publicly stated their interest in seeing that the Justice Department follow up on any IG referral of suspected criminal activity, can you say post-IG report whether the President is relying on Justice to wait for referrals from the IG, or whether Justice has a role, in the President’s view, in also either pursuing or investigating or getting involved in potential criminal activity after reading the IG report?

MR. CARNEY:   Well, I think it is, in general, the case that independent inspectors general, when they conduct an investigation, have as an option — if they believe it is necessary based on the information they’ve discovered — to refer that information to the Department of Justice.  That would be the case here.  And the President, as a general matter, is supportive of that process.  So I think that’s how it would work.

The IG will obviously make determinations regarding that kind of thing, but it’s certainly appropriate for that process to be carried out in a way that it was meant to be carried out.  So I would refer you on any intention along those lines to the IG.

Mr. Acosta.

Q    Jay, you declined to say the President has confidence in Secretary Shinseki.  Should the Secretary take that as a signal that he should step down?

MR. CARNEY:  The President addressed this at length when he stood before you last week, and his position is what it was then — and I can repeat it, because he said it very well.  But I will paraphrase to say that he believes Secretary Shinseki served his nation extraordinarily capably as a soldier, rising to four-star general; that he cares deeply, as a disabled veteran himself, about his fellow veterans; and that in his job as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs he has with passion and integrity gone after some of the challenges that the VA has faced over these past several years, including veterans homelessness, which has been reduced over these five-plus years; including increasing educational opportunities and benefits to our veterans, the 9/11 generation of veterans through the 9/11 GI Bill; and including by attacking very aggressively a problem of the disability claims backlog, a problem that was exacerbated substantially by the decision to expand a presumption of benefits to those who were either exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam conflict or to veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who have experienced PTSD. 

Those are the right decisions for our veterans.  I think veterans service organizations would say so, and therefore it was also the right thing to do to attack that backlog.  So —

Q    But how does he run the department if he doesn’t have the full confidence of the President?  How does he conduct this investigation if he doesn’t have the full confidence of the President?

MR. CARNEY:  The President looks forward to the preliminary review that he asked the Secretary to provide to him.  And when it comes to general matters of accountability, I think the President said that he told this to Secretary Shinseki, including that day when he met with him, that he wants to see what the results of that review are, as well as obviously now we have the preliminary results of the inspector general’s investigation.  So his position remains what it was.

Q    And I’m sure you’ve heard this notion expressed by various pundits and —

MR. CARNEY:  Reporters.

Q    — the chattering class, the reporters, that the President just doesn’t like to fire people.  What do you make of that?  Is that fair?

MR. CARNEY:  I thought you were going to start using metaphors like thin ice and probation, so you caught me off guard. 

Q    Or singles and doubles.

MR. CARNEY:  But I think the President’s view, as a general matter —

Q    Well, is he on — I mean, you mentioned — is he on thin ice?  Is he on probation?  (Laughter.)

MR. CARNEY:  Rather than resort to metaphors —

Q    I didn’t introduce the —

MR. CARNEY:  No, it’s fair.  Rather than resort to metaphors, I’d refer you to what the President said, using no metaphors, about his view on this matter and accountability and his desire to see the preliminary results from the internal audit that Secretary Shinseki is conducting, as well as —

Q    But he’s not going to wait as long as the Nabors review, which would be a month?  He’s not going to wait as long as the Nabors review would take to make that kind of decision, Cabinet-level decision. 

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I’m just not going to speculate about personnel matters.  He’s not waiting a day when it comes — and has not — when it comes to what he said last week, which is that the VA absolute must take steps right away to address the wait list issues that have been identified.  And the VA has announced steps that it’s taking in regard to that.

When it comes to the issue of accountability, I would just, again, point you to what the President said.  I don’t have any new information to provide.

Q    This notion that he doesn’t like to fire people, you’ve heard that.

MR. CARNEY:  Look, I think the President was clear that he believes accountability is important.  He also believes that the first and foremost challenge we face is providing service and benefits to our veterans, and that we ought to make sure — even as there is a focus on issues of personnel and accountability — that we’re not losing sight of what this is all about, which is making sure that our veterans get better service and get it quickly.

Q    And just very quickly, this is your first chance on camera to talk about what happened with the exposure of the CIA station chief’s identity.  Do you have an update on that as to what is going to be done from an accountability standpoint here at the White House?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, the Chief of Staff, as you know, has asked the White House counsel, Neil Eggleston, to look into what happened and to report back to him with recommendations on how the administration can improve processes and make sure that something like that does not happen again.  So I don’t have any other updates beyond what I said off camera.

Q    But was that just a screw-up?  I mean, what is your sense as to — I mean, the fact — reporters have a sense as to how pool reports work, but the general public may not as much.  But it just seems as though this was like a clerical copying-and-pasting type of mistake.  Do you have a general sense as to what happened?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think I’d rather have the counsel make those assessments and focus, as I think he will, on processes that can be put in place and recommendation that he can make so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen again.

Jon-Christopher.

Q    A veterans question of another era.  June 6th, this year — the 70th anniversary.  Will the President be extending an invitation to any of those heroes, those individuals who were there on D-Day, 1944 while he is there in Normandy?

MR. CARNEY:  I don’t have a preview of the day and the meetings that he’ll have or the conversations he’ll have.  I know he looks forward to this day.  He’s had the great fortune, this President, to have already visited Normandy and to commemorate that invasion and the heroic sacrifice that so many Americans and others demonstrated in turning the tide in Europe in World War II.  He did that five years ago, and he looks forward to doing it again this year.

He’s also had the opportunity to meet with World War II veterans here at the White House on a number of occasions, and it is a poignant fact that there are fewer and fewer of them still with us.  There is something especially powerful and poignant about this anniversary for that reason.  So I think the President is, of course, fully aware of that, and that fact will be with him as he meets with those veterans who are able to be there.

Jon Karl.

Q    Jay, a very simple yes-or-no question:  Does the President have confidence in Secretary Shinseki?  Yes or no?

MR. CARNEY:  Jon, the President addressed this question —

Q    No, no, actually he didn’t.  He wasn’t asked directly does he have confident in Secretary Shinseki.

MR. CARNEY:  The President believes that — and is confident that Secretary Shinseki has served his nation admirably, heroically as a soldier, as a general, and that he has accomplished some very important things as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  And I listed them, but they include extending education benefits, reducing veterans homelessness, and reducing the size of the backlog for disability claims, while expanding vastly the number of veterans who can make a claim.

Q    But does the President right now have confidence in Secretary Shinseki — yes or no?  It’s a very simple yes-or-no question.  You told us last week he did have confidence.  Does he have confidence now?

MR. CARNEY:  What I would point you to is what the President said when asked about his view on Secretary Shinseki.

Q    But he wasn’t asked that question directly.

MR. CARNEY:  And I don’t have — I’m not going to improve upon his words on this regard.  He talked about —

Q    But he wasn’t asked directly if he had confidence in him.

MR. CARNEY:  I understand the wordplay here, but I think that what is more important —

Q    It’s not wordplay, it’s a central question.  Does he have confidence in a member of his Cabinet?

MR. CARNEY:  On the issue that you’re referring to, when it comes to the revelations that have come to light about Phoenix and other veterans health centers, the President was deeply troubled by what we saw in the interim report from the inspector general, and he awaits the preliminary report from Secretary Shinseki, from the internal audit that the Secretary is conducting with the assistance of roughly 200 individuals. 

And he made clear to Secretary Shinseki last week, and he made clear as a general principle to everyone who serves this administration, serves the country, that he believes in accountability, but he also believes, first and foremost, on the issue and the importance of making sure that we keep our eye on the ball, which is making sure that our veterans are getting taken care of and that the focus is on them.  And when there’s been a failure to do that in a timely manner, we need to take action to fix that problem and focus principally on that.

The accountability track, if you will, can proceed apace.  That’s why there are inquiries, investigations ongoing.  But as the President said from this podium last week, he didn’t want any delay in the VA taking action to address the identified problems and the need to get benefits and care to our veterans.

Q    On the metaphor front — (laughter) — I have seen White House officials quoted in different news organizations saying that Shinseki — quoting White House officials — saying Shinseki is “on probation.”  What does it mean for a Cabinet Secretary to be “on probation?”

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I would urge you, rather than go with what an unnamed official reportedly said, to go instead with what a named official, Barack Obama — what Barack Obama said.

Q    So he’s not on probation.

MR. CARNEY:  And he said it again without — let me just double check this as a factual matter without resorting to metaphor — when he said, “I have said to Ric, and I said it to him today, I want to see what the results of these reports are, and there is going to be accountability.  And I’m going to expect, even before the reports are done, that we are seeing significant improvement in terms of how the admissions process takes place in all of our VA health care facilities.  I know he cares about it deeply, and he has been a great public servant and a great warrior on behalf of the United States of America.  We are going to work with him to solve the problem, but I am going to make sure that there is accountability throughout the system after I get the full report.”

So that is —

Q    So does that mean he’s going to wait for the full report?  I mean, you just read his words, “full report.”  Does that mean he has to wait until the IG is done?  Because now this IG report is going on and it’s investigating 42 centers — facilities around the country.  So does he have to wait until all that is done before he decides whether or not there is accountability?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not going to preview or predict or hypothesize about the future here.  What I will tell you is that he has not received yet the preliminary report from the VA, from the Secretary.  He has seen the interim report from the inspector general, and I think we conveyed pretty clearly what his reaction was to that.  And I think I’ll leave it at that.

I think that his focus, first and foremost, is on the veterans.  It’s not on these issues, which are also important when it comes to personnel and accountability, but he believes that in matters like this it’s important to assemble a decent accumulation of facts before making a judgment.

Q    Okay, just one more on this — on the Democrats who have called on Shinseki to resign.  If you look at the list, it includes Grimes, Udall, Braley, Nunn, Shaheen, Hagan — a large number of Democrats who are in potentially tough election fights this year in Senate races.  Why do you think so many of these Democrats that are in these tough races just happen to be the ones that have come out first to call for Shinseki to resign?

MR. CARNEY:  I would refer you to all the individual lawmakers who have expressed concerns about these matters, as well as concerns about issues of personnel.  I think many of them felt disturbed and troubled by the initial allegations, and then, more significantly, by the preliminary report that the IG released yesterday.

But in terms of why each — there are obviously Republicans, including prominent ones, who have reserved judgment on that issue.  And I’m not going to try to explain their views any more than I would Democratic lawmakers except that I think that we are all, or we all should be — and I think many are, of both parties — concerned about the benefits being provided — necessarily provided to our veterans and making sure that they’re getting the health care that they deserve in a timely fashion.

Q    Why would the outrage be most notable from those that are in tough elections?

MR. CARNEY:  Again, I think that there’s been outrage or concern, deep concern, from many quarters.  And that reflects a general principle that, as a rule, we as a nation put party aside when it comes to the concern we have and the trust that is put in us to make sure that our benefits — messed up those things — but the concern we have for our veterans and the sacred trust that we hold — that we feel we ought to exercise when it comes to protecting our veterans.

MR. CARNEY:  Yes, Bloomberg.

Q    Jay, the interim report suggested there was potential criminal issues going on with senior leaders in the hospital there.  I think as of this morning only three had been put on administrative leave.  Has the Secretary given the President a rationale for why they’re on administrative leave and haven’t been terminated, and why there’s only three so far?

MR. CARNEY:  These are issues that I would have to urge you to raise with the VA or with the IG.  On the issue of potential referrals — I think I addressed that — as a general matter, we think that that’s wholly appropriate as a general principle when it comes to independent inspector general investigations, and that that’s how a process like this should work.  But we’re not in a position independently to make judgments about potential matters of criminality.

Q    And then also, on the speech from yesterday — a central tenet was the $5 billion Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund.  There was some grumbling on the Hill after the speech and a little bit this morning that they didn’t feel like they were looped in on that.  You need the Hill to move that forward.  Do you feel like they were given enough advance warning?  And I guess, what do you do going forward to ensure that they’re on board with this fund?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, we look forward to working closely with Congress on this once the request is submitted; it has not yet been submitted.  We did consult with, on the broader content of the President’s speech and some of the announcements within it, the appropriate members of Congress.  But we’re, as an administration, still finalizing the fiscal year 2015 OCO request, and additional details about the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund will be available when the OCO request is submitted to Congress.

Major.

Q    Setting aside just for a moment the confidence question —

MR. CARNEY:  Just for a moment.

Q    Just for a moment — (laughter) — I just want to bring up a couple of other things that were in the IG report.  It said that, in Phoenix, the leadership understated the time new patients waited for their primary care appointments, listed in their fiscal year 2013 performance appraisal accomplishments, which is one of the factors considered for awards and salary increases.  The report also says, “Inappropriate scheduling practices are a systemic problem nationwide.”  Since I raised the issue of bonuses with the President last week, one person in Phoenix had a bonus last year taken away.  It seems within the VA’s power, within the current Secretary’s power, confidence or no confidence, to deal with this performance and bonus issue in any place where these wait times were manipulated or there was any scheme to create a linkage between waiting lists and getting a performance appraisal that was positive or a bonus or a salary boost. 

Wouldn’t the President prefer something be done immediately about these issues across the board, not with just one person in Phoenix?  And would he not want the Secretary to take that action immediately?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, I think the President, as a general matter, believes that there ought to be action taken with regards to specific individuals when there are the specific facts surrounding allegations about the conduct of specific individuals.  And that would apply.

The President was extremely troubled by the preliminary report issued by the IG yesterday.  So he certainly believes, as was the case with the one individual that you mentioned and which — who was acted on with regards to a bonus last week, that that kind of situations need —

Q    And that was carried out pretty quickly.  Shouldn’t that be done nationwide?  You don’t need an IG report to make that move.

MR. CARNEY:  I think we needed to know — we need to know the facts of what actually happened — not just allegations, but facts.  And that’s what the IG is establishing.  Again, the report — the preliminary report was released yesterday.  That is what the internal audit that the Secretary is overseeing is after, and that preliminary report will be produced by the end of this week, as we understand it.  And then there is the broader review being conducted by Rob Nabors.

So they’re all three important.  And the primary objective that the President has with each of them is to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to right whatever wrongs have occurred when it comes to providing timely service and benefits to our veterans.

Q    Back to the confidence question — again, from the report — “We are finding that inappropriate scheduling practices are a systemic problem nationwide.”  Sentence one.  Sentence two:  “Many of these schemes are detailed in then Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations and Management April 2010 memorandum on Inappropriate Scheduling Practices.  The purpose of this memorandum was to call for immediate action to identify and eliminate VA’s use of inappropriate scheduling practices.” 

Is it proper for this President to have confidence in a Secretary that had that memorandum, I would assume, on his desk in April 2010 to have a report come out four years later saying that those inappropriate scheduling practices are rampant nationwide?

MR. CARNEY:  Well, Major, I appreciate reading the report that we all read about yesterday, and I would say that that piece of it and many other pieces of it were very troubling — extremely troubling to the President.

Q    I guess I’m wondering how he can have confidence in somebody with this record.

MR. CARNEY:  And what I would say to you in response to that question is what I have said to others who asked the same question, which is that the President’s view on accountability on this matter was expressed by him last week.  He awaits the preliminary report from the Secretary on the Secretary’s internal audit.  And he will have from that — he expects from that preliminary report, as well as the — or interim report, as well as the — one is interim, one is preliminary — the report we saw from the IG — a whole lot more facts than we had when he addressed this question.

But right now he’s waiting, as he said from the podium last week, waiting to receive the preliminary report from the Secretary.

Yes, NPR.

Q    Regarding the preliminary report, when you say “this week,” do you mean business week? 

MR. CARNEY:  Isn’t that a publication run by the guy to your left?  (Laughter.)  I would just leave it at that, and refer you to the VA.

Q    Okay.  And regarding unemployment insurance, there was a five-month extension passed by the Senate.  That five months would be up in a couple of days, and there’s been no action in the House.  Has the President given up on an unemployment benefits extension?  And what should the long-term unemployed be thinking at this point?

MR. CARNEY:  That they don’t have a lot of friends among the House Republican leadership, first of all.  It’s certainly a shame that they have refused to bring this up and to pass it.  They were ready and willing to do it when the previous President asked for it to be done in circumstances less severe than the long-term unemployed find themselves in now.  So that’s a shame.

But the President has not given up.  He believes that Congress ought to act, and he hopes they do. 

Q    Jay, would the President —

MR. CARNEY:  Did I just call on you?  No. 

Q    No.

MR. CARNEY:  I’m having a flashback to a previous exchange.  (Laughter.) 

Q    Let me try to help you on that.  Let me go back to what the President promised —

MR. CARNEY:  Just the bright color of your — yes. 

Q    You have purple, too.

MR. CARNEY:  Mine is a little more muted.  (Laughter.) 

Q    Thanks.  (Laughter.)  Last week, the President at that podium promised, “Once we know the facts, I assure you, if there is misconduct it will be punished.”  We now know the facts from this IG report.  You’ve heard them.  Who has been punished?  Who’s been punished?

MR. CARNEY:  We have a set of facts in a preliminary report — thank you, Ed — we got a report yesterday, and the President found the report extremely troubling.  He tasked the Secretary with conducting an internal audit, an internal review, and asked for a preliminary report from the Secretary by the end of this week.  And he awaits that preliminary report.

Q    But he also said, “If these allegations prove to be true, it is dishonorable, disgraceful.  I will not tolerate it.  Period.”  These allegations have proven to be true.  Veterans are waiting 115 days. 

MR. CARNEY:  Very troubling —

Q    So why is he still tolerating it?  Where is the punishment?  Where?

MR. CARNEY:  Ed, I don’t know how else to disappoint you, but I’ll give you the same answer that I gave to Major.

Q    It’s not me being disappointed.  There’s veterans waiting 115 days.  How about them?

MR. CARNEY:  Right, and that’s why — and I appreciate your concern over that, as opposed to whether people are going to get fired.  The issue, first and foremost in the President’s mind, is making sure that the VA acts immediately to address the issues with inappropriate wait times for veterans seeking health care benefits.  And he has ordered that that take place, and you saw action on that this week.

He is also appropriately interested in accountability.  And he is troubled by the report that the IG put out yesterday, and he awaits the complementary, if you will, internal audit and its preliminary findings, which he expects to receive later this week. 

Q    On the issue of accountability, I want to go back to the CIA question you got before about this official being outed.  Doesn’t the public have a right to know who in the military put that person’s name on a list and exposed he and his family to potentially being killed?

MR. CARNEY:  Ed, what I would say about that is simply that the Chief of Staff asked the White House Counsel, Neil Eggleston, to look into this and to make recommendations so that processes are put in place so that something like this doesn’t happen again.

Q    Right, I understand the processes moving forward.  Who has been punished on that one?  Has anyone been fired, anyone been disciplined in the military or at the White House?

MR. CARNEY:  Ed, I would just point you to what I’ve said before about the fact that the counsel is looking into it. 

Q    So nobody has been disciplined?

MR. CARNEY:  I would just point you to the fact that the counsel has been looking into it. 

Q    But a person’s life was put in jeopardy. 

MR. CARNEY:  I would refer you on matters like that to the CIA and the agencies that would be involved in that.

Q    Thanks, Jay. 

MR. CARNEY:  Politico, and then Connie.  And then, I’m out of here.

Q    So, Jay, two questions.  First, can you say with any specificity what the President is expecting or looking for in the Shinseki report that wasn’t in the IG report?  And also, if the President isn’t sure at this point whether Secretary Shinseki can handle the problems, is he sure that Secretary Shinseki can handle the internal report and getting that done?

MR. CARNEY:  I think the President made clear last week that he wanted a preliminary report from the VA, from the Secretary this week, by the end of this week.  When it comes to the troubling preliminary report that was issued by the IG, that’s something that the IG does independently and, as I noted yesterday, he found that information to be very concerning. 

He continues to look forward to receiving what he asked for, which is the initial findings from the internal audit that the Secretary is conducting.  And I think that assessments beyond that are going to be made once we have — or he has that internal audit. 

Q    But was there something that was not in the IG report that he’s looking for specifically in the Shinseki report?

MR. CARNEY:  I’m not going to characterize — I think he’s looking for facts and he’s looking for what the internal audit is able to produce in the timeframe allotted.  And he will make assessments about the report and about the IG’s report accordingly.

Q    And does he think Secretary Shinseki can perform this internal audit as needs to be, given the other problems?

MR. CARNEY:  He believes the Secretary understands clearly the instructions that the President gave him to conduct this internal audit, and looks forward to the first or the preliminary product. 

Connie.

Q    Thank you.  On crimes committed against women or about to be committed, there have been horrible crimes lately in India, Pakistan, Sudan.  Has the President communicated with any of these countries?  Do you have any condemnation?

MR. CARNEY:  Connie, I don’t have any presidential communications to read out to you.  And I think the State Department, as a general matter, has addressed some of the crimes that you reference.  Obviously, this is an issue that the President believes is very important.  He believes that providing equal rights to women, providing access to education to women, providing economic opportunity to women is the key around the world to a better society in countries around the world and to stronger economic growth in nations around the world and to more democratic governments around the world.

So the kinds of things you reference are, of course, very concerning to him.  Thank you all very much. 

END

2:37 P.M. EDT

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Speeches: Interview With Gwen Ifill of PBS NewsHour

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for joining us.

SECRETARY KERRY: Happy to be with you.

QUESTION: I want to start with a little bit of the news of the day. Overnight, there have been mounting calls for the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to step aside, including from Democrats. As a veteran yourself, is this something you think he should be considering at this point?

SECRETARY KERRY: I think it’s fair to say that every veteran is deeply concerned about what has taken place. I personally feel a huge reminder from the struggles we had when veterans came back from Vietnam and there were delays and there were problems.

QUESTION: The President said he’s deeply troubled. Are you?

SECRETARY KERRY: Of course. I think anybody is concerned about the fact that those who have served – and the reason I raised the Vietnam thing is simply because everybody said, “Never again.” There was this huge effort to make sure veterans came back and were appropriately thanked, appropriately welcomed home, and obviously, appropriately cared for. And I think everybody’s troubled by the fact that something has gone awry.

QUESTION: I’d like to take you on a tour around the world with us, if you would. Beginning on the continent of Africa, the President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan said today he’s going to undertake a full-scale assault on Boko Haram in the effort to free the Nigerian girls.

As you watch something like this unfold, something so hard to penetrate, do you worry, in the Central African Republic or Sudan or in Nigeria, that there are limits to what U.S. intervention can do?

SECRETARY KERRY: What Goodluck Jonathan is talking about is engaging in self-help, doing what he thinks he needs to do to protect the rights of his people and the sovereignty of his country.

QUESTION: Is there a role for the U.S. in that?

SECRETARY KERRY: We obviously – well, there is a role and we’re playing a role. We have people on the ground that we have put on the ground in order to assist them with several different disciplines – people in the intelligence community, people in the justice community, people in the military community – all of whom have different expertise to bring to the table.

I think an all-out assault – I’m not sure what that means; I’d want to know what that means. It could be very risky to the young women. And there may be a time and a place for that, but I think we have to look at this very, very closely.

I actually hope to be talking to President Goodluck Jonathan somewhere in the course of today or tomorrow. And we are, as I say, prepared to be as helpful as we possibly can. But this is —

QUESTION: Is he asking for your help?

SECRETARY KERRY: This is a challenge everywhere, Gwen. He has not, to my knowledge, specifically said, “I want your help in a military operation with respect to these young women.” But we will obviously have discussions with him about what the right way to proceed is.

QUESTION: Another story unfolding as we speak is Edward Snowden. You said yesterday in an interview that he should man up and come back and face the consequences. He has suggested he’d like to come home as well. Are there conversations on any level taking place about that happening?

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m not going to get into the legal process on this. That’s up to the Department of Justice, up to the White House specifically. He should prove his respect for that system. He should do what many people who have taken issue with their own government do, which is challenge it, speak out, engage in an act of civil disobedience, but obviously, accept the consequences of that act of civil disobedience – not find refuge in authoritarian Russia or seek asylum in Cuba or somewhere else. That’s running away from the consequences.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the President said in an interview this morning with NPR that – there were a lot of baseball and sports metaphors about blocking and tackling foreign policy. Does the President get a bad rap, in your opinion, for being weak or not taking the long homeruns instead of the base hits?

SECRETARY KERRY: I don’t think the President, frankly, takes enough credit for the successes that are on the table right now.

I mean, if you look at what has happened in Ukraine, the President led an effort to try to keep Europe unified with the United States, to put difficult sanctions on the table. Europe wasn’t thrilled with that, but they came along. That was leadership. And the President succeeded in having an impact ultimately together with the Europeans on the choices that face President Putin.

In Syria the President obviously made his decision to strike Syria and appropriately sent that decision to Congress. Congress didn’t want to move, but we came up with another solution, which was to get all of those chemical weapons out rather than just have one or two days of strike. The President has now succeeded in getting 92 percent of those weapons out of Syria. There’s one last transfer that has to take place to get to 100 percent. I believe it will take place.

In addition, the President has engaged with Iran. We were on a course to absolute collision where they were building a nuclear system and the world was standing opposed to that. But the President put in place a series of sanctions, a capacity to be able to bring Iran to the table. We are now in the middle of negotiations. Everyone will agree the sanctions regime has held together. The weapon – the nuclear program has been frozen and rolled backwards, and we now have expanded the amount of time that Iran might have for breakout. That’s a success.

So I think we are as engaged, more engaged than in any time in American history, and I think that case is there to be fully proven and laid out. And I think —

QUESTION: And yet that’s not the generally held impression.

SECRETARY KERRY: No, it’s not. And the reason is there is a general, frankly, not fully informed, not factual conventional sort of process that gets played out in the media. And of course, there is an industry in Washington today of oppositionism, oppositionists, oppose anything. And the Congress and its current pace of legislating tells the whole story.

QUESTION: I do want to talk about Afghanistan because the President, of course, put forward his plan this week to pretty dramatic draw down of forces to under 10,000, half that again in the next year. And even through there has been some applause for the idea that we are winding down in Afghanistan, there has also been criticism that it’s happening a little too quickly, that the timetable’s too fast. What do you say to that?

SECRETARY KERRY: Thirteen years in a war is not “quickly.” In 2009, President Obama put in place the first truly organized, focused strategic approach to Afghanistan. Afghanistan had been cannibalized before that for both troops and talent and money that had gone to Iraq. And when the President came in, he found that in 2009 that Afghanistan was adrift and in danger. So the President increased the numbers of troops – the now well-known surge – and we had up to 160 – 180,000 troops in Afghanistan at one point, and always with a view to trying to train, equip, and prepare the Afghans to take charge of their own country.

The President set a timetable. He said in 2009 we will transfer security responsibility to the Afghans by such and such a date. That was last year and this year predominantly. We’ve done it. They had a very successful election, and they provided the security and they did the planning and they did the execution. That is exactly what the President is now trying to do with respect to the final steps.

QUESTION: You won’t be surprised to hear that Dick Cheney, the former Vice President, called the timetable stupid and unwise, and that it would reinforce the notion that we are weak.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well look, I’m not surprised to hear from Dick Cheney something that’s obviously, number one, negative, and number two, wrong. Dick Cheney was completely wrong about Iraq, and we are still struggling with the aftermath of what Dick Cheney and his crew thought was the right policy: To go in and start a war of choice for the wrong reasons. And they turned topsy-turvy the entire region with respect to Sunni and Shia and the relationships there. So the fact is that they have been deeply, deeply wrong in the policy that they pursued, and any advice from him really has no meaning to me with respect to what we’re doing today.

QUESTION: Let me ask you about Syria. Next week we’re going to watch Bashar al-Assad stand for a third seven-year term, and you and others have said flat out that he should step down. He clearly isn’t going anywhere. And even though you’ve gotten the chemical weapons out, do you wonder whether this was a tradeoff that was worth it?

SECRETARY KERRY: No, I think that’s not the tradeoff, Gwen. We’re not trading off chemical weapons for Assad staying. We’re getting the chemical weapons out. But the efforts to support the vetted moderate opposition continue and in fact are being stepped up. I just don’t see any way possible for Bashar al-Assad to ever govern whatever you want to call Syria in the future, whatever constitutes Syria – to govern it with any legitimacy whatsoever.

QUESTION: He does it by getting re-elected.

SECRETARY KERRY: No. This is a completely phony, fraudulent effort by Assad to claim legitimacy for an election that nobody in the international community with significance is going to respect. The United Nations is not going to respect it. The global community that is supporting the opposition is not going to support it. So it’s – it doesn’t take you anywhere.

QUESTION: Ukraine. Our Margaret Warner is just coming back from eastern Ukraine, where she watched the elections unfold. And unlike other places – Egypt, for instance – there was great turnout. But Crimea is still gone. The Russian troops may or may not be pulling back from the border. You have said this was a calculated, calibrated strategy. Is it turning out the way you intended?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, at the moment the strategy is putting in place a new president elected by the vast majority of the people of Ukraine. It was a very large, significant turnout, with a huge vote that won on the first round with a supermajority for a newly elected president. I think that’s very significant.

The troops that were on the border are moving back towards Moscow, not towards Kyiv. And the fact is that I think everybody acknowledges that the sanctions that the President put in place have had a profound impact on Russia. And there were greater costs yet to come and might yet come if Russia can’t find a way to become a constructive partner in trying to help strengthen Ukraine going forward.

So there are still danger signs there that we hope will change. There is evidence of Russians crossing over, trained personnel from Chechnya trained in Russia who’ve come across to stir things up, to engage in fighting. We hope the Russians would actually engage more proactively in efforts to now try to de-escalate, take advantage of the election, build a road forward where Ukraine becomes a bridge between the West and East.

QUESTION: In your conversations with your counterparts in Ukraine and in Russia, do you see any possibility of movement on that front?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, we’re hopeful. I talked to the foreign minister of Russia yesterday. They are hoping that there might be a way to – they express a hope, let me say, that there might be a way to go forward. Obviously, words are not what will mean anything here; it’s actions.

QUESTION: I want to end by asking you about something that you expended a lot of your personal energy on, and that’s on the Middle East peace negotiations, which Benjamin Netanyahu has said are dead, the process is dead. Hamas is clearly involved in this unification plan and moving ahead that has so offended Israel that everybody has walked away from the table. Are you personally disappointed at all that this seems to be going nowhere fast?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, obviously I’m disappointed that the process, what is in place, that that didn’t produce the next step. But I don’t believe that in the Middle East either party can afford to simply maintain the status quo and believe that there’s a road to greater stability and to peace without re-engaging and without coming back at some point in time to the negotiating process.

President Abbas has said that he is prepared to go back to the talks, but he has certain conditions that have to be met. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Israel are waiting to see what happens with the Hamas reconciliation, with the announcement of a new government, with the question of what that new government may or may not choose to do. That’s an appropriate thing to be doing. We’re all waiting to see what happens.

QUESTION: Are you the last living optimist on this?

SECRETARY KERRY: I’m not an optimist. I’m a realist. And my reality check tells me that neither side is going to be able to live for the long haul with the status quo without serious problems evolving. So eventually, there’ll have to be some discussion about some management of that process. Whether it’s a full-blown peace process or whether it’s individual steps or not, I don’t know, Gwen. But I know this: that Israel’s security, which is paramount for the United States and for Israelis, will be better protected by finding a road ahead; Palestinian rights and ability to have a state can only come through some kind of political process; and both of those aspirations are what govern life ultimately in that region and the hopes of that region.

So my job is to push it forward. My job is to try to find the optimism and the possibilities, not to give up, and I refuse to give up. I think that we have to find the way ahead. This hasn’t gone away in 40, 50 years, and it’s not going to suddenly just sort of solve itself by itself. That’s our job is to try to push the process forward.

QUESTION: Secretary of State John Kerry, thank you so much.

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you.

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Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – May 29, 2014

1:49 p.m. EDT

MS. PSAKI: Hi, everyone. Okay. I have two items for all of you at the top.

During a phone call with Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday afternoon, Secretary Kerry expressed concern with the delay in the ongoing efforts to remove the remaining eight percent of declared chemical weapons material from Syria, as well as the recent detainment of OPCW inspectors. Secretary Kerry also raised concerns about reports of foreign fighters crossing the border from Russia into Ukraine, particularly reports of Chechen fighters. He pressed Foreign Minister Lavrov to end all support for separatists, denounce their actions, and call on them to lay down their arms. He also urged Russia to reach out to President-elect Poroshenko and begin working together to de-escalate the conflict.

An additional item at the top: We strongly condemn the murder of a woman outside the Lahore High Court on Tuesday. We welcome comments by senior Pakistani leaders condemning this heinous crime and calling for it to be dealt with promptly. We hope the perpetrators are quickly brought to justice in accordance with Pakistan’s law.

Tragically, this was at least the third reported so-called honor killing in Pakistan this week. We remain very concerned about violence against women and girls that takes place around the world, including in Pakistan. We are especially concerned about the violence that occurs in the name of tradition and honor such as so-called honor killings and other unjustifiable acts of violence. We have been encouraged by Pakistan’s passage of legislation protecting women’s rights, and we encourage the full implementation of such laws as well as greater public awareness about these laws, especially in Pakistan’s rural and tribal areas.

With that, Matt, go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks. Before we get back to Ukraine, which I’m sure we will, and maybe even Syria too, I wanted to just ask you a couple things about the Secretary’s comments yesterday, rather strong comments yesterday about Edward Snowden in some interviews that he did. He called him a traitor, said he should man up – a traitor, a coward, said he should man up and come home to face justice.

How does the Secretary make the determination that Mr. Snowden is a traitor?

MS. PSAKI: I think what the Secretary – I don’t think I have anything to add to the Secretary’s comments. He was making clear what the Administration feels, which is that when you release classified information, when you put people at risk, that is not something that’s in line with a patriot of the United States of America.

QUESTION: He did – he mentioned the word “patriot,” and in the same sentence as “patriot,” he mentioned the name of Daniel Ellsberg. I’m wondering, does the Secretary believe that Dan Ellsberg was a patriot or is a patriot, and that Edward Snowden is a traitor? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: I am not going to do any more analysis of the Secretary’s comments. I think he was pretty clear in how he feels about the alleged actions by Edward Snowden. He thinks he should be returned and face justice in the United States.

QUESTION: Is he convinced that he’ll be convicted? There were a lot of – the reason I’m asking this is because back in the – during the whole Pentagon Papers, there were a lot of people that felt the same way the Secretary feels about Ed Snowden, who they felt the same way about Daniel Ellsberg, that he —

MS. PSAKI: Well, and I know too, Matt, that the Secretary himself was – when he was opposing the war in Vietnam was —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: — targeted and criticized and followed, and he believes there are other means for raising flags about issues where you have concerns.

QUESTION: Right. But Daniel Ellsberg admitted to breaking the law and yet the Secretary believes he’s a patriot, and Ed Snowden – Edward Snowden also admitted to breaking the law and he is a traitor. That’s the – I’m having a problem – I mean, I’ll ask him the next time I have the opportunity to, but have you – do you have any idea what his thinking is about this?

MS. PSAKI: I encourage you to. I think the point he was making, Matt, is —

QUESTION: Okay. I mean —

MS. PSAKI: — about his concern and distaste for the actions of Edward Snowden.

QUESTION: Right. I understand that. But the only difference at the moment, it seems to be – well, I mean, other than what they actually leaked, is that Ellsberg was charged and went on trial, but he was never acquitted, he was never convicted. The case, you’ll recall, was thrown out by a judge because of such severe prosecutorial misconduct that he – that the judge said that was indelibly tainted, he could never get a fair trial, which is exactly what Snowden fears now. So I just —

MS. PSAKI: Well, we can assure Mr. Snowden that if he returns to the United States he will receive a fair trial. And I don’t think the Secretary was meaning to compare every component.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: He was making a broad comparison.

QUESTION: But can I just – but is your understanding that the Secretary believes that Daniel Ellsberg is a patriot? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: I would stand by what the Secretary said yesterday.

QUESTION: But – okay. And it’s not just because Daniel Ellsberg on Vietnam held the same opinion as the Secretary did at the same time?

MS. PSAKI: Certainly not, certainly not.

QUESTION: It’s not, okay. So then the difference would be that one went to trial even though the case was thrown out of court and the other one hasn’t?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think there’s a real benefit in doing much more analysis of the comparison.

QUESTION: Okay, all right.

QUESTION: But Snowden himself said in the interview last night that he believes he’s still working for the government, that he is a patriot, because after the release of the information that he gave out, all three branches of the U.S. Administration made reforms. And so his contention is that it was something that had to be brought to the public’s attention, that there – his words – was massive constitutional abuses going on, and what he did was a patriot thing to do. He says you can’t – to do the right thing you sometimes have to break the law, and he compared his actions to the civil disobedience movement. I mean, why are his actions any different to what happened in other stages of American history where people took into their hands what they felt was the right thing to do?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I don’t know that there’s much more I can add or should add to what the Secretary said yesterday. And he addressed this extensively in several interviews and made clear that our view is that he is not a patriot and he should stay in the United States – or return to the United States to make his case, and we encourage him to do so.

QUESTION: But is it not correct that he exposed weaknesses in what was going on in the United States and that what he exposed were constitutional abuses which, in fact, a court actually said what had been happening was unconstitutional? Is that not correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the President himself has addressed this. He’s given a speech – several speeches. He’s – we’ve – there have been reforms made. And the Secretary believes that would have been a discussion we would have had regardless.

QUESTION: Okay. So Snowden also said that he doesn’t believe that he would get a fair trial because he’s been charged with very heavy espionage charges and that he would not actually be able to use evidence against him because it would be classified in his defense.

MS. PSAKI: I would refer you to the Department of Justice on how the mechanics of any trial would work. That’s certainly not under our purview. But I can assure you that he would receive a fair trial, and we believe the next step is for him to return to the United States.

QUESTION: Aren’t there any negotiations going on between this building or the DOJ and Mr. Snowden and his legal team to cut a deal under which he could come back to the United States?

MS. PSAKI: I’d refer you to the Department of Justice. They have the lead.

QUESTION: What about on Russia to extradite him?

MS. PSAKI: The Department of Justice has the lead. I don’t – we don’t have anything to add from here on that.

QUESTION: So he said he’d also be willing to extend his asylum, which I believe runs out on the 1st of August. Are you in touch with your counterparts in Russia on this issue?

MS. PSAKI: You know how we feel about his return. They know how we feel. I don’t have anything further to add to it.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: A quick follow-up to Matt real quick?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. Go ahead, and then we’ll go to Catherine.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Lucas.

QUESTION: The Secretary’s remarks suggest that he believes there are some sets of classified documents that can be leaked to the news media which would make an individual a traitor, and there are other sets of class information leaked to the news that would make an individual a patriot. I know you covered this, but is this the Secretary’s view?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure it suggests that. I’m going to leave the Secretary’s statements as he made them yesterday.

Go ahead, Catherine.

QUESTION: Following up on Jo’s last question there, just to clarify, did Edward Snowden come up in the Secretary’s phone call with Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning?

MS. PSAKI: No, he did not.

QUESTION: Did the Secretary watch the interview last night on NBC?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, no.

QUESTION: Does he have plans to watch it, or you’re just not aware that he might have watched it?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t believe he has plans to watch it, no.

QUESTION: Can I just —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The call was yesterday, right, not this morning? I just want to be sure.

MS. PSAKI: It was yesterday. Yes, the call was yesterday.

Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: Can I change the subject?

QUESTION: No, I have —

MS. PSAKI: Oh, sorry. Go ahead, Catherine.

QUESTION: Sure.

QUESTION: Thanks. In the interview, Mr. Snowden says that his disclosures have not caused any damage. Does this Department agree with that assessment?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Secretary Kerry spoke to this yesterday during an interview with NBC about his view that it has caused damage, and that’s one of the reasons we’re so concerned. And a range of Administration officials have made that point as well.

QUESTION: But there hasn’t been actually – hasn’t been any proof that it’s caused damage. It’s easy for you to say it’s caused damage, but without actually providing proof that it has, how do we know that’s correct?

MS. PSAKI: Well, because a countless number of Administration officials, some under oath during testimony, have stated that it has, and they have talked as extensively as they can.

QUESTION: But can you give a specific example or even a broader example of where it has compromised your counterterrorism operations, for example?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not going to lay out specifics along those lines. A lot of those obviously don’t happen out of this building. If there are more to share, I’m sure we will. But again, there have been a range of testimony, interviews on this issue, and there’s been broad agreement on that front.

QUESTION: And is there any possibility that Mr. Snowden could be given some kind of amnesty or a clemency by the Administration?

MS. PSAKI: Again —

QUESTION: Or is it your view that he absolutely has to go before a court and stand trial?

MS. PSAKI: I’d refer you to the Department of Justice. They have the lead on the legal procedures.

Go ahead, Catherine.

QUESTION: You mentioned that there are specific procedures for raising issues when you have concerns. Mr. Snowden says he tried to go through proper channels and whistle blow, but was actually rebuffed. If this is true, what does this say about the system for whistleblowers?

MS. PSAKI: Well, obviously DOJ and ODNI are the appropriate venues for that question. I will say the NSA has responded to this question today. They explained that they have found one email inquiry by Edward Snowden into the Office of General Counsel asking for an explanation of some material that was in a training course he had just completed. The email did not raise allegations or concerns about wrongdoing or abuse, but posed a legal question about the office – that the Office of General Counsel addressed. This was not – there was not an additional follow up note. And I believe they plan to release that email later today.

QUESTION: And one more, quickly.

QUESTION: His email to them, not their response to him?

MS. PSAKI: As I understand it, yes. But I’d refer to – you to them on what they specifically will release.

QUESTION: Okay. But you just — sorry, Catherine. Just one.

QUESTION: That’s fine.

QUESTION: But the legal question that he raised – was it, I think that this whole thing is illegal and unconstitutional?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any other details.

QUESTION: All right. Then that’s a question for —

MS. PSAKI: It sounds like his characterization isn’t in line with what the email says.

QUESTION: Gotcha.

QUESTION: Can I change —

MS. PSAKI: No. Go ahead, Catherine.

QUESTION: One more. Mr. Snowden says he hasn’t cooperated with Russia in any way, and that when he transited through Russia or intended to transit through Russia he didn’t have said documents on his person or have access to them. Do you believe that to be factual, given what you know about the Russian services and government?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I will just simply say that passports – and I know that’s what he was, I believe, referring to in the full context – are property of the Department of State and can be revoked by the Department or on request from the law enforcement agencies. That’s standard operating procedure in cases like this, and that was done in this case.

New topic?

QUESTION: Yes. I’d like to ask about Sudan and this case of the woman in jail for refusing to convert to Islam. Her husband, Daniel Wani, did an interview in which he said that the State Department – he’s furious with the State Department. He said that the State Department has not helped him, that – told him that they would not help the family because this involved a criminal case of a non-U.S. citizen. Is that true?

MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say, as you all know, we still don’t have a Privacy Act waiver in this case. We have raised this issue. And obviously that wouldn’t be applicable to Meriam, because she’s not a U.S. citizen and there’s no suspicion she is. We have – our consular services has done everything that they would in any normal case. I can’t go into further detail beyond that.

I will also add – and I know somebody asked this question the other day – at what level has this been raised. Under Secretary Sherman called in the charge of the Embassy of Sudan to discuss the case just last week. In addition to her meeting, Special Envoy Donald Booth this week spoke with the Sudanese foreign minister to convey our grave concerns about this case. Special Envoy Booth also called upon the Government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, including one’s rights to change one’s faiths or beliefs. We have – U.S. Embassy officials have attended public hearings to date and will closely monitor the appeals process in Khartoum, which we understand can be quite lengthy.

QUESTION: Well, what are the levers of pressure that the U.S. has here? I mean, the U.S. has given Sudan hundreds of millions of dollars over the last many years. Is there any consideration of withholding U.S. aid, considering all of your work on religious freedom and that the U.S. holds itself up as a moral authority on religious freedom?

MS. PSAKI: Well, it’s not just the United States. Obviously a range of countries have put a significant amount of public pressure on in this case. I’m not aware of that option being considered, but we will consider – continue to press through every channel we can our concerns about this case.

QUESTION: Well, why not? I mean, do you think that the taxpayers would want their money being kind of subsidized for a government that is going to execute a woman for refusing to convert —

MS. PSAKI: Well, clearly, Elise, we’re concerned about this horrific case, and we’ve expressed that many, many, many times. There are a range of criteria that are looked at for any consideration on that level, and I’m not aware of that being under consideration at this time.

QUESTION: I understand. But on a general rule, I mean in terms of your policies on religious freedom, what are the consequences for a country that has the death penalty for a violation of religion?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I don’t want to speculate on that. You know how strongly we feel about religious freedom. We’ll continue to press for seeing the process —

QUESTION: Well, I know that you say you feel strongly about it, but I mean, what is the policy? I mean, are there sanctions that are applicable in terms of violation of human rights and specifically on the death penalty?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, there are a range of criteria that are looked to in any case. I have nothing further to speculate on this point.

QUESTION: Well, would you say that that’s being considered – any type of punitive action?

MS. PSAKI: Not that I’m aware of, no.

QUESTION: Jen, do you – actually, do you have the aid figure? Do you know —

MS. PSAKI: The aid figure? I do not have that. I’m happy to get that to all of you.

QUESTION: Do you know if it is, in fact, hundreds of million dollars?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t know. I don’t have the specific —

QUESTION: Sudan is still a state sponsor of terrorism, so —

QUESTION: Yeah, no, but last year they spent about —

MS. PSAKI: I don’t

QUESTION: — a hundred and something million dollars.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the – would you say or can you say if your efforts on behalf of this woman, who is not an American citizen, is greater than it would be in a normal – in a case where – I want to retract the word “normal” – in a case where it was a U.S. citizen? Or are you doing the same thing you would do —

MS. PSAKI: Greater than for her?

QUESTION: Well, she’s married to an American citizen, right? Or has that not been established?

QUESTION: Is that not applicable?

MS. PSAKI: We —

QUESTION: So —

QUESTION: Does that not matter?

MS. PSAKI: Broadly speaking, and we can’t – you know why we couldn’t speak to it —

QUESTION: I just – are you doing the same thing that you – for her that you would do for a – for someone who was a U.S. citizen, not just married to one?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, the circumstances of this case have warranted a greater level of engagement, which we are doing in this case.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Why? Because he’s a citizen, or because it’s the death penalty and a violation of religious freedom?

MS. PSAKI: Because – look at the story we’ve all been talking about about what is happening with this woman and the violation of religious freedom. And that’s something we broadly speak about across the world and we’re doing in this case for that reason.

QUESTION: But in terms of your outreach to the Sudanese authorities, is the State Department operating on the – not presumption, but on the – are you operating as if she was an American citizen who you have a – more of an obligation to defend?

MS. PSAKI: I wouldn’t put it in those terms, but we’re doing everything we can to push for her release.

QUESTION: But —

QUESTION: Could – if she was an American citizen, could you do more? What I’m getting at is if – are there limits to what you can do because she is not an American citizen?

MS. PSAKI: Obviously, in this case we’re attending public hearings. That’s something we would do for a U.S. citizen. I don’t know what the other specifics would be, but we’re doing everything we can possibly think of.

QUESTION: Didn’t she just have a baby as well?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So the baby would be an American citizen.

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, as we’ve spoken to a little bit in here, we can’t speak to the specifics of the case because we don’t have a Privacy Act waiver. But I would say, broadly speaking, there needs to be proof of that genetic connection in order to have the rights of an American citizen for anyone.

QUESTION: Has that proof been authenticated?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t – there are no more details I can provide on this case. We don’t have a Privacy Act waiver.

QUESTION: Why can’t you say publicly that if you go ahead and execute this woman, then our recourse of action will be 1, 2, 3, 4? Wouldn’t that —

MS. PSAKI: I —

QUESTION: Wouldn’t that have like more resonance?

MS. PSAKI: I appreciate the advice, Said. I think we’re doing everything we can through the proper channels to make clear how strongly we feel about this case.

QUESTION: Such as what? I mean, there are incentives and disincentives. What are your —

MS. PSAKI: I just outlined the range of the steps we’re taking.

QUESTION: Change of topic?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, Egypt. What do you make of the elections and the results we have so far as semi-formal?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re waiting for the official results, official announcement of the results, which we often do and is pretty standard. As we’ve said before, we don’t want to get ahead of the process. We remain concerned more broadly about the continued restrictive political environment leading up to the election and its implications for inclusivity and stability in Egypt, including politicized arrests and limits on freedom of the press. Democracy is more than elections, and we will continue to press for progress on all of those areas.

QUESTION: They extended their elections for one extra day. I mean, how do you look at this? Because they – apparently, they wanted to increase the turnout of the elections which really was weak the first two days. I mean, is this a normal thing to do?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any political analysis of their steps they’ve taken in that regard specifically. Our concerns remain the ones that I just outlined.

QUESTION: Would that – with this extension and so on, sort of how would you respond to that in terms of when it comes time to saying this election was fine, up to international standards, and so on?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, we’ll wait for —

QUESTION: Would that in any way compromise your position?

MS. PSAKI: Said, we’ll wait for – let me finish. We’ll wait for the results to be officially announced, and then we’ll have a comment on the results.

QUESTION: But thus far, do you feel that the elections were conducted, let’s say, in a nonviolent atmosphere or no intimidation atmosphere?

MS. PSAKI: Again, we’ll wait to do analysis until the results are announced. And as I mentioned, we still have remaining concerns about additional steps that need to be taken.

QUESTION: But the campaigns have already talked about – this one won with a 93 or a 94 percent, and that when only 4 percent —

MS. PSAKI: I understand. I mean, we’ve seen the same stories.

QUESTION: — and the fraud votes were —

MS. PSAKI: We’ve seen the same reports, obviously, but we’ll wait for the official results to be announced.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) against him conceded defeat, too.

QUESTION: Yes, he has conceded.

QUESTION: So, I mean —

MS. PSAKI: We’ll wait for the official results to be announced.

QUESTION: Are you still sort of sticking your head in the sand that Sisi is not going to emerge as the —

MS. PSAKI: We’ll look forward to talking about that when the official results are announced.

QUESTION: Are you promising that you will have an analysis for us once the official results —

MS. PSAKI: I’m not making any promises, but I —

QUESTION: Well, you just said you would wait until – you said you would wait until the official results came out before giving your analysis.

MS. PSAKI: Let me put it this way —

QUESTION: So —

MS. PSAKI: — we’ll look forward to a robust discussion in this very briefing room when —

QUESTION: And I just want to make —

MS. PSAKI: — there are official results announced.

QUESTION: And I just want to make sure that I got this right: You’re not going to comment on things unrelated to the result, i.e. the conduct of the election, until – also until the official results are announced?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm. And obviously, I also expressed concern about some of the lead-up to the elections; concerns we have about inclusivity, media freedoms – those remain, and we still have those leading up to the elections as well.

QUESTION: Are you concerned about the low turnout, which was less than the previous election for – when Morsi was elected?

MS. PSAKI: Well, without doing political analysis, I will say that our view is that they also need to keep in mind – the new officials – that democracy is more than elections, and there are a number of steps they need to – they’ll need to take when things —

QUESTION: But if the turnout was only 47 percent, and given that he may have won by 96 percent according to state television – but we’ll go along with the game of waiting for the official results – then does that give him a credibility? Does that give him legitimacy as the leader of all of Egypt?

MS. PSAKI: We will wait until the official results are announced.

QUESTION: Jen —

QUESTION: During the —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. PSAKI: Let’s just do one at a time. Go ahead. Ladies first, Said.

QUESTION: Of course.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead.

QUESTION: Thanks, Jen. Okay. Thank you, Said.

So during the election process, a lot of Egyptians were complaining that they were asked – they were told that if they do not end vote on the third day, 500 Egyptian pounds will be taken out of their paychecks. I mean – and this is not only 10 or 50 Egyptians. This is what thousands of Egyptians are saying on Twitter. Just put hashtag Egypt and you will see all this.

What do you make of this? This is a way of intimidation, because the turnout the first two days were apparently not more than 20 percent, the semi-official – and then all of a sudden we are hearing numbers in 40s and 47 percent and all this. What do you make of all this, I mean, watching from a distance?

MS. PSAKI: Broadly speaking, we’d be concerned about any reports of intimidation, and we are certainly concerned about reports of lack of inclusivity, of a crackdown on media that has been ongoing.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask just to follow up on —

QUESTION: Wait, wait, wait. Specifically on this, there are countries in the world that you regard as democracies where voting is required and not voting is punishable by being fined. I can think of a large one. It’s an island. It’s also a continent. If you say you have concerns with this in Egypt, are you concerned about —

MS. PSAKI: I just said “broadly speaking,” but we don’t have any confirmation of that. I understand that there are reports out there on Twitter, but we’ll wait until we have the final results.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wanted to ask about your relationship with Egypt. The fact that the President yesterday only mentioned Egypt in passing and really reduced the whole relationship to a security arrangement, does that indicate that your relationship with Egypt at the present time is probably at its lowest point since the signing of the Camp David Accord?

MS. PSAKI: No, it does not. It was a 30-minute or 40-minute speech. It did not talk about every issue we work on in the world, because it would’ve been five hours and the West Point Cadets may’ve been ready to celebrate their graduation at that point. So I wouldn’t analyze how many lines or words as to meaning of the importance.

QUESTION: Only five hours?

QUESTION: Do you agree with the President that it is only a security arrangement?

MS. PSAKI: Three hours?

QUESTION: No, no, I think it’d have been longer.

MS. PSAKI: Go ahead (inaudible).

QUESTION: Do you agree with the President that it’s basically a security arrangement and nothing else?

MS. PSAKI: I think we’ve been pretty clear we have an extensive relationship. We want to work with Egypt over the long term.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: But – well, hold on. Since you brought up the speech, I just have one – I think just one question about it.

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: And that is: Given the fact that the idea of this speech was for the President to lay out what his vision – foreign policy vision is for the next two years of his presidency, and given that this is the building that is in charge of doing most of the foreign policy, can you – is there anything that this building is going – or that people who work for this building are going to do any differently today than they would have before this speech was given? In other words, was there – did the speech identify to people here, people in the foreign policy apparatus of the Administration, any change in direction in any policy? Or was it just an explanation of what has been happening and – what has been happening and that what has been happening is going to continue to happen?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I’d hope not given that we are – we’re fully consulting on the content of the speech. And part of the speech was efforts that have been ongoing, that are of vital importance to the United States, and certainly priorities to the Administration – Iran negotiations, for example. But there was broad agreement, which was a central part of the speech, about addressing terrorism and how we need to do that differently, given how threats have changed, given in a post – in a post-Iraq and Afghanistan world. That’s been an ongoing discussion and certainly that was a big – not just message from the speech, but that was a path laid out for moving forward.

QUESTION: So – okay. So how is – asking you to speak to this building, which is where your expertise is – how is the State Department’s counterterrorism operation or efforts going to change as a result of the new ideas – or however you want to describe them – that the President laid out yesterday?

MS. PSAKI: Well, in one way, we’re going to work with the Administration and with Congress and with our international partners on determining the best way to move forward with the counterterrorism partnership fund that the President announced yesterday – how do we use that to help address the threats we’re facing around the world. So we’ll certainly be an active partner in that.

QUESTION: Well – right. But that’s my question, is what the one you just said.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How do you do that? So how is it going to change?

MS. PSAKI: Well, how it —

QUESTION: How is it going to – how – I’ll try to be more specific.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead.

QUESTION: How is it going to be any different than what you were doing on Monday?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, Matt, a part of any announcement as a part – is a result of an ongoing discussion internally about what’s needed, so there’s more work that needs to be done to determine how this will be spent and where and what the best way to do it, and obviously it needs to go through Congress. But that’s an item we’re working on.

QUESTION: Okay. But leaving Congress aside —

MS. PSAKI: Okay.

QUESTION: — the Executive Branch runs the foreign policy with the advice and the consent of the —

MS. PSAKI: Yes, correct.

QUESTION: — of Congress. What is the Administration writ large, but specifically the State Department which runs foreign policy, or which carries out foreign policy on behalf of the President, what are you doing – going to do differently now or in the next two years than you haven’t been doing now – I mean, than you haven’t been doing already?

MS. PSAKI: I’m not sure, one, that that was the question that the speech was attempting to address. Obviously, the change in counterterrorism approach was part of it. Another piece that the speech touched on was boosting support for the moderate opposition in Syria and what we’re going to do more on that front. So that’s another piece that —

QUESTION: Well, he didn’t say —

MS. PSAKI: — we will certainly continue to work on. He did talk about —

QUESTION: He didn’t say – he said maybe like one sentence about boosting the opposition, but he didn’t talk about how he was going to do that. Maybe you could do that.

MS. PSAKI: Well, one of the areas, ways – and he did talk about it in the speech. That was one of the things that —

QUESTION: He glossed over it.

MS. PSAKI: It was an important component of the speech. I’m giving you some insight here in terms of what it was telling you about what our path is moving forward, Elise, is that that is a priority to the President, it’s a priority to the Secretary. As we talked about – well, in a range of briefings and folks who were on TV, including National Security Advisor Rice, said yesterday there is some attractive language that we are going to work with Congress on – I know this is a reference to Congress, but it’s relevant – that’s in the NDAA, approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee that would authorize the Secretary of Defense to provide equipment and training to vetted members of the Syrian opposition. That’s obviously a step that we will work with them and our international partners on. So that’s one component, certainly, we will be involved in from this building.

QUESTION: But the – I guess my point is that – I mean, this speech – one of the reasons this speech was given, I think – and I know this is a question better addressed to the White House, but I think that it’s accepted among everyone in – across the Administration was that the President has been criticized for having an uncertain or unclear – right? I mean, he has been. You can’t deny that he hasn’t been criticized, right? All right. Whether you think that —

MS. PSAKI: I have seen the critics.

QUESTION: Whether you think the criticism is valid or not, he has been criticized. And this speech was supposed to address that. I’m just – and presumably in doing that, in addressing the criticism, you point out, you clarify, you define what your vision, what your goal for the rest of your presidency is. And so I think that you agree that he did that in this speech. Is that not right?

MS. PSAKI: I do, but —

QUESTION: So how has the – how will the State Department, acting on this new directive from the President to fulfil his foreign policy vision over the next two years – how will you be doing things differently? Because the – what you have been doing has been criticized. Whether or not the criticism is valid or not, it has been criticized.

QUESTION: He wasn’t offering new policy; he was just explaining his existing one.

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: Correct. But also —

QUESTION: All right.

QUESTION: So you won’t be doing anything different?

QUESTION: So this was an explanation – so that’s not what you said for my answer the first time.

MS. PSAKI: No, no, no. Let me continue. No, no, no. It is what I said. He was laying out where we’ve come from and what we’ve done and where we’re going to go moving forward. There —

QUESTION: But where —

MS. PSAKI: Let me finish. There are several components of that that are ongoing, whether that’s Iran, whether that’s leading off of the successful elections in Ukraine. But there are areas, like addressing counterterrorism, that we are going to take a new approach to.

QUESTION: But – so my question is: How is where we’re going now post-speech different from where we were going a week ago?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’ve been a post-Iraq and almost post-Afghanistan engagement world – almost – for some time. So there have been discussions about the best way to approach the threats of terrorism. And that was part of what was reflected in the speech. That’s part of what we’ll be working on. Obviously, the threats from Syria are a part of that, and that will be another area that the Secretary will continue to play a prominent role in the Administration.

QUESTION: But those are ongoing discussions. They’re not – they didn’t get – there’s no shift at the moment. There isn’t anything – this building isn’t doing anything differently today than it was doing on Monday, is it?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re working actively now on moving these agenda items forward. So we’re continuing to do that.

QUESTION: Speaking on Syria, the threats – there have been reports – I think corroborated by some officials around town – that there is an American suicide bomber in Syria. Can you tell us what you know about that?

MS. PSAKI: We are, of course, looking into those reports but cannot confirm anything at this time.

QUESTION: Jen, back to the speech real quick.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Two points the President made —

QUESTION: No, I want to —

QUESTION: Oh.

MS. PSAKI: Okay. Go ahead, Elise.

QUESTION: But – so is he – do – you cannot confirm that he’s American, or is he believed to be American?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think the reports have said “believe to be,” but we don’t have any additional confirmation to offer at this time.

QUESTION: On the issue of the chemical weapons, did you say at the top that Mr. Kerry expressed concern to Lavrov that 8 percent remain?

MS. PSAKI: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. So reports that indicate that they are actually moving and the Syrians are meeting their obligations are not true?

MS. PSAKI: Well, there have been steps that have been taken to contain the materials. They need to be moved. Obviously, that’s what the next step is, and that’s what they discussed on that front.

QUESTION: And I just wanted you to clarify. You said something about the phone call at the very top, that – did I hear you correctly? You said that he expressed his concern that Chechen fighters are going through Ukraine or through Syria?

QUESTION: Ukraine.

MS. PSAKI: Ukraine.

QUESTION: Okay. So the Russians are aiding Chechen fighters to go to Ukraine? Is that the suggestion?

MS. PSAKI: Well, he expressed concern about what we’ve seen along those lines. There have been a range of reports, so that’s what he was expressing concern about.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to the speech real quick?

MS. PSAKI: Can we finish that, and then we’ll go – go ahead.

QUESTION: Yeah. Well, no, I just wanted to go back to the – Elise’s question. You said – sorry – just about this alleged American guy – you don’t – one, you can’t confirm that he’s American, and two, you can’t confirm that the person who is pictured in this was involved in any kind of attack or suicide bombing? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Correct. I don’t have any other details to confirm.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: The President in the speech yesterday cited two examples of American leadership and strength, two of them being Ukraine and Iran. Isn’t it a little early to be talking about that?

MS. PSAKI: I would argue the President doesn’t give himself enough credit for what he’s done around the world, and that’s how the Secretary feels, too. We would not be engaged in comprehensive negotiations with Iran, which is where the program is stalled and is rolling back, if it were not for the role of the United States, along with the P5+1 partners, certainly. Ukraine – we’ve been engaged more or as much as any other country in the world in supporting the elections process, in supporting the government, in supporting their efforts moving forward. Yes, there’s more work that needs to be done. The point is we need to continue to stay at it.

QUESTION: But isn’t this a potential “Mission Accomplished” situation?

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely not.

QUESTION: Jen —

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: You would argue the President doesn’t give himself enough credit? How much credit would you give him?

MS. PSAKI: Well, I think what I’m – I would give him more than he has given himself. That’s what I just said.

QUESTION: What, like, 200 percent credit? (Laughter.)

MS. PSAKI: So would the Secretary.

QUESTION: For – and for —

QUESTION: Credit for what? I’m sorry. Credit for what?

QUESTION: — for what? Yes, exactly. That’s

QUESTION: No, I mean, I don’t – I don’t mean, like, he doesn’t deserve credit.

QUESTION: For the Iran negotiations? For —

QUESTION: I mean – I’m talking, what specifically are you talking he doesn’t get enough credit for? That’s what I’m saying.

MS. PSAKI: For engagement in issues like Iran, what we’ve done on Ukraine, efforts to dive in and engage around the world.

QUESTION: Can we just stay on —

QUESTION: I mean, Russia has still annexed Crimea. I mean, Iran – there’s ongoing negotiations, but is that the success here that you’re talking?

MS. PSAKI: We’re talking about engagement in the world and taking on tough issues that present themselves. And the United States continues to play a prominent role doing that.

QUESTION: I just had a quick – I had – on two points that you made, one of which was you said that there was going to be a new approach on counterterrorism.

MS. PSAKI: Well, what I’m talking about is the Counterterrorism Partnership Fund that was announced —

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: — in the President’s speech yesterday.

QUESTION: Right. That —

MS. PSAKI: And his speech, where he outlined that the threats we’re facing are different than they were in a Iraq and – a pre-Iraq and a pre-Afghanistan period, where we were focusing on decimating core al-Qaida. We know that these threats are scattered, and we need to adjust our approach accordingly.

QUESTION: Right. But can you tell us how? I mean —

MS. PSAKI: That’s what we are going to continue to —

QUESTION: So —

MS. PSAKI: — work through. But the fund —

QUESTION: That’s what I was trying to figure —

QUESTION: As Matt was saying, these are not things that have already happened. These are things you’re now working out.

MS. PSAKI: He announced – obviously, we’ve taken —

QUESTION: That’s a fund, yeah.

MS. PSAKI: — a range of steps to address over the course of the last months and years. But again, this fund was just announced yesterday. We need to work through Congress, we need to work with our international partners, and we will be focused on that.

QUESTION: So can we expect at some point in the coming months you will then roll this out for us, so we actually have some concrete details?

MS. PSAKI: I am sure there’ll be more to share about where the funding would go and how it would be used. There’s a great deal of flexibility, which we see as a benefit. And I’m sure there’ll be more to say in the coming months.

QUESTION: Okay. Just to pick up on one other thing you mentioned, you said that you’re going to be working on Syria and helping the moderate opposition. You said there was some attractive language —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — in the bill or the draft bill in front of Congress. Could you point us to the attractive language?

MS. PSAKI: Sure. What I was referring to is there is language that Senator Levin offered to the NDAA. That language, a provision in the NDAA which – or has already been approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee, would authorize the Secretary of Defense to provide equipment and training to vetted members of the Syrian opposition. And we look forward to continuing to work with Congress on that list.

QUESTION: Okay. So you’re talking about – are you now getting into details about talking about specific equipment with Congress?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, you need to have authorization in order to train and equip. This would provide that authorization. That’s what we’re working them – with them on.

QUESTION: About this fund, the procedure about this fund that you mentioned – so you said that you are talking with the partners on this fund.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Who will be in charge for the allocations of this fund? The Pentagon, DOD, or the State Department, or there will be another body?

MS. PSAKI: It’s a Pentagon – the Pentagon would be in charge, but obviously the State Department would work with them, the White House. It’s an – would be an interagency process, as I understand it.

QUESTION: So what kind of draft that you are working on for the approval in the Congress? Are you going to, for example, present the breakdown of this plan within the partners? Or what kind of details are we to expect?

MS. PSAKI: It’s only 24 hours old, so we’ll continue the discussions and consultations. And as more information is available, we will make that available to you when possible.

QUESTION: Jen, on the bill, you and officials speaking on background yesterday, quite a bit about this – about the attractive language that you just – this is in the Defense authorization bill, which could take months to get through. Would the Administration or would the State Department be in favor of perhaps taking Senator Levin’s language out of that bill and making it a standalone item that could potentially get through the legislative process more quickly?

MS. PSAKI: It is a good question. Obviously, we’re discussing a range of mechanisms with Congress. I don’t want to speculate on those publicly. But I’m happy to check with our Hill team and see if there’s more we want to say on that front.

QUESTION: Okay. And is it correct that train-and-equip programs, like the one being considered, require congressional authorization?

MS. PSAKI: Well, this type of a program, where this is provided, would require, yes.

QUESTION: You said that – so you said that there’s attractive language, that you look forward to working with Congress. I mean, you could have proposed this language to Congress at any point. You could have said, “We want to train and equip,” to Congress. “Can you give us the authorization to do that?”

I mean, it seems now like Congress is giving you the push to do it.

MS. PSAKI: I think there have been discussions in the Administration for months, as you know, about a range of options and mechanisms to support. The President’s speech was a reflection of that yesterday. Support for this language is a reflection of that. I would remind you that we have ongoing discussions with Congress all the time, so —

QUESTION: Can I ask about Iran? It was briefly mentioned in the speech. Drafting was scheduled to begin this month. It’s now the end of May. Clearly, we’re somewhat behind schedule. I’m sure you agree with that characterization. When is drafting set to actually begin? And do you have enough time given the deadline is July 20th?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we’re continuing to target July 20th and working towards that goal. Nothing has changed on that front. Our team will have another round of meetings coming up in a couple of weeks, so I don’t have anything new to update you on.

QUESTION: No concern over the fact that you had said that May was the month that you would begin drafting, and drafting has not —

MS. PSAKI: I think we did extensive briefings around the last round of negotiations. We remain – made clear that gaps remained and this is challenging, but we will keep at it.

QUESTION: Just one more, actually, moving back on the actual speech.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The President said that multilateralism – that international institutions enforce international norms when it comes to Ukraine, when it comes to Iran, when it comes to Syria. He also said he acknowledged that these institutions have infrastructural problems. He didn’t specifically say that NATO is in crisis. He didn’t specifically say that the UN Security Council has problems. But he did acknowledge that – I mean, he didn’t propose any fixes to these institutions. Does the State Department plan on proposing any solutions to these problems?

MS. PSAKI: I have no new proposals to offer for you today. Obviously —

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: — we’ve expressed frustrations consistently over a range of issues, including the blocking of Syria – of security resolution – Syria resolutions in the Security Council. So that’s consistent with those frustrations, but I don’t have anything new to offer on that today.

QUESTION: One more on Iran?

QUESTION: I suppose —

MS. PSAKI: Oh, okay. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Just one more, Elise. I just —

QUESTION: I have to go, but —

MS. PSAKI: Changing of the view. Go ahead.

QUESTION: No, go ahead. It’s okay.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Finish your thought.

QUESTION: Only because if the message —

MS. PSAKI: You scared the young men in the third row there. Go ahead.

QUESTION: If the message of the speech was to lay out this broader vision, and the broader vision was multilateralism and that these institutions are a force multiplier for American power, and then he says that these institutions have problems and then lays out no fixes whatsoever, what is the vision there?

MS. PSAKI: Well, again, I think acknowledging that it’s – there have been challenges, but they have still been a force that has been effective. I mean, look at what’s – what NATO has done around Ukraine in boosting countries in the Eastern bloc. That has been a very effective step that they have taken.

This is – but the speech was not meant to, as I mentioned, be a – raising every question we have in the world and providing every answer. You could have had a speech – I will make it now 72 hours if you were doing that piece. So we’ll continue these discussions. As the President mentioned, Secretary Hagel and Secretary Kerry, NSA – National Security Advisor Rice will all be giving speeches to follow up on this speech. There’ll be more that we’ll continue to talk about on the issues he talked about yesterday.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: Just one quick one on Iran. There’s a new report coming out – that just came out that looks at Iranian cyber hackers. I was wondering if you have anything at that. It said that it targeted foreign policy officials. I’m wondering if you have been notified that anybody in the State Department has been targeted by this scheme.

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail. I’m happy to check, Elise. I can say that the use of fake personas for malicious purposes is well known to the United States Government. We are aware that hackers in Iran and elsewhere often use social media to gain information or make connections with targets of interest, including U.S. Government and private entities. To defend against these threats, the United States is committed to helping the public and private sector protect itself in cyberspace by sharing actionable information. And as a part of that, on a daily basis the FBI and DHS notify individual victims or potential victims of specific cyber threats and incidents that affect them.

This report did not seek U.S. Government analytical or technical support in developing their conclusions. They were independently developed. But obviously, as I noted, we’ve had concerns about this issue and have been taking steps to address.

QUESTION: Are you aware specifically of this particular scheme where these fake journalists tried to target U.S., Israeli, British officials? I mean, when you talk about Iranian hackers and social media, are you saying that you have actual knowledge of this particular campaign?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have that level of detail. Again, I’m happy to check. I mean, we are certainly aware of the use of fake personas in a range of manners to try to access this type of information, but I can check and see if there’s more we can offer on this.

QUESTION: On Iran, did you give – I believe you did. Do you have the answer to the oil question I asked the other day? Or maybe it’s not in your book in front of you.

MS. PSAKI: Well, we are aware of press reports that Iran’s crude oil exports have at times exceeded the target, but there’s a range of data that’s looked at. We would disagree with the findings that you referenced that suggested it’s mathematically impossible. We disagree with that. We’ll continue to track, as we have been, for the upcoming months.

QUESTION: Mathematically impossible for the average to go below what it —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm, yes.

QUESTION: — what it was set out in the joint agreement? Is that correct?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah. Our view is it’s way too early to make that conclusion.

QUESTION: Wait, wait. Did you comment on the IAEA report?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t —

QUESTION: I mean, I know that the issue was raised by Matt last week, last Friday. But after that, hence, have you commented on the report?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t think we’ve offered an additional comment.

Should we do a new topic? Nicolas.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: And then we’ll go to Scott in the back. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes. Can we move to Southeast Asia?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Thailand? Two days ago after Matt’s question, you said that you continue to be deeply concerned about the situation in Thailand.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Your friend, the European Union, said this morning that they are extremely concerned, but the Thai military doesn’t seem to listen to all of you. So what is the U.S. leverage on the Thai military? Do you have conversation with the new regime, even with the Royal Palace? And are sanctions one of the options the U.S. could consider?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t want to outline anything being considered. I’m not announcing we’re being – considering that either. I can check and see if there’s more to say on that front. But our steps we’ve taken, as you know, are to take steps to suspend assistance. We have been in touch with the military, as we’ve consistently been throughout the process. We continue to call for elections. We don’t believe there is a legitimate reason to delay elections. And we will continue to work with our international partners to use every political lever, economic lever, where applicable, to put the necessary pressure on.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on that?

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: Today, Thai military officials said that

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East Asia and the Pacific: U.S. Policy Towards East Asia and the Pacific

It’s a pleasure to be here with the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs to discuss U.S. policy toward East Asia and the Pacific. I appreciate the opportunity to be here tonight, because I believe it’s important to explain our policies; to connect with Americans outside the Beltway and get your feedback.

I have worked on Asia policy in the State Department and at the White House for decades. Early in my career, I had the great privilege of working for former Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, when he was Ambassador to Japan. And so I learned quickly, and have seen countless times since, the importance, and the contributions of the Senate, and of individual Senators in our country’s international relations.

Congress may not always poll well at home, but to nations around the world, it embodies American democracy. And when members travel and meet with world leaders, people listen. So it’s important to have thoughtful, knowledgeable, eloquent leaders, especially on the Foreign Relations Committees. Leaders who speak with force and clarity to advance American interests and values.

And Marylanders are very lucky to have such a leader in Senator Ben Cardin, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific. I’ve valued his wise counsel and advocacy for strong U.S. involvement in the region. It is a privilege to work with him. He is in Vietnam as we speak, en route to the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, where he will participate in a range of foreign policy discussions.

And of course I must also recognize the contributions of Senator Barbara Mikulski, who is a strong supporter of diplomacy and development as Chair of the Appropriations Committee, and is a leader on the Intelligence Committee as well. Maryland is doubly blessed to have these two great Senators.

The Port of Baltimore below us is older than the United States – a reminder that your city has always been a player in international trade, and thus in America’s relations with the world. And that brings me to the foundation of President Obama’s policy toward the Asia-Pacific region.

That policy is built on a simple idea: the region is hugely consequential to the U.S. The broader Asia-Pacific region – from the Pacific Coast of the Americas, through the island nations of the Pacific, to Australia and the Asian continent, constitutes over half the world’s people and economic output. Within that area, the East Asia-Pacific region that I’m responsible for accounts for about one-third of the world’s people and one-quarter of global economic output… and the numbers are growing.

As a resident Pacific power and a trading nation, the United States depends on a stable, prosperous Asia. The Asia-Pacific region matters for U.S. jobs and U.S. security.

Yet, when we looked at how our government’s resources were distributed – diplomatic and development personnel and funds, military assets, and the time and attention of senior leaders – we realized that the distribution of our resources didn’t match the growing importance of the region and our goals there. The distribution was out of balance.

So over the last five-plus years, we have worked to rebalance – this means strengthening our alliances and partnerships, building up regional institutions, and engaging with emerging powers, such as China and Indonesia. Let me give you a few details on each of these three areas.

We have strengthened and reinvigorated relations with our five treaty allies in the region – Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines and, despite recent unfortunate developments, Thailand.

We have upgraded our economic and trade engagement. For instance, we ratified the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and have worked to fully implement it. We’re negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which includes allies and other partners as well.

And we have strengthened security cooperation with our allies, from our work with Japan and South Korea to counter the North Korean nuclear threat, to the new defense cooperation agreement signed during the President’s recent trip to the Philippines, to our rotational deployment of Marines to Australia. The strength of our alliances was highlighted by President Obama’s recent visit to Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines.

Our growing ties with emerging powers were highlighted by the President’s stop in Malaysia in April. At the same time, we have rededicated ourselves to collaboration with longtime friends like New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, and the Pacific Island nations, as well as renewed engagement with Burma.

Second, we are helping to build up the region’s security and economic institutions.

For example, take the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN – a group formed not by us, but by countries in the region that see elements of a shared destiny and which also have shared concerns.

We were the first non-ASEAN member to have a dedicated mission to ASEAN. President Obama participates annually in the East Asia Summit, a meeting of 18 of the region’s leaders convened and chaired by ASEAN. In the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, or APEC, forum, we work closely with 20 member economies from across the Asia-Pacific to expand trade and investment, promote sustainable growth and strengthen regional ties. And as I mentioned, we are negotiating the TPP. This is an ambitious, comprehensive, and high standard agreement that will promote growth and create jobs both at home and in the region, and includes nearly 40 percent of global GDP.

These regional institutions and agreements are becoming an increasingly important part of the international system of the 21st century. This is worth putting in context, because the international system – a lot of which we take for granted – is unique in world history. For instance, never before have people, companies, and nations been able to travel and trade more freely. Most Americans take the ability to fly overseas for granted. They think about the cost, of course, but not about the global network of treaties, agreements, and institutions like the International Civil Aviation Organization that make it possible.

This international system, these global and regional organizations, provide another long-term benefit as well. Because beyond what you read about any single meeting or accomplishment, these bodies inculcate a mindset of working together. Working together on a daily basis can help nations peacefully resolve disputes, and advance each other’s development.

As countries see the value of working together on a growing range of issues, this mindset and the structures that support it become more and more self-sustaining. And so, too, does the shared understanding that rules and norms, and not size and power, determine the outcome of disagreements. While each group and each time is different, the benefits of global cooperation and regional integration are clear.

And today, in Asia and the Pacific, regional institutions are driving real accomplishments, whether:

  • negotiating jointly toward a code of conduct for claimants in the South China Sea;
  • improving management of shared resources, like fisheries;
  • eradicating diseases; or
  • addressing pollution that crosses borders.

Our support of regional institutions will be highlighted by the President’s participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in China, and the East Asia Summit in the fall.

We also have initiatives that bring neighbors in the region closer both to us and to each other, such as the Lower Mekong Initiative. This initiative helps Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam work together to tackle common challenges, including education, infrastructure, agriculture and the environment.

The third pillar of the rebalance that I mentioned is engaging with emerging powers. By this we have traditionally meant our engagement with countries like Indonesia (with which we have developed a comprehensive partnership and a hold annual joint commission meetings on a range of issues), India (with which I hold very productive East Asia Consultations as well as trilateral meetings on the Asia-Pacific with Japan) and of course, China. But a broader definition of emerging powers could include countries like Vietnam, Malaysia, and, hopefully someday, Burma.

Expanding people-to-people ties is important throughout the region, and especially with emerging powers. We have increased people-to-people ties through programs like the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative. President Obama launched this initiative on his recent trip to Asia, with youth from across the region to develop patterns of interaction among the region’s future leaders.

These three pillars support and reinforce each other.

Strengthening our alliances provides a foundation of security for the region, giving countries the confidence and the space to move forward on their collective interests and strengthen regional institutions. Unforeseen challenges, such as the coup last week in Thailand, can strain relations with an ally.

But other challenges can bring allies closer together. Amidst the terrible loss of life and devastation of Typhoon Haiyan, our support for the Philippines, along with that of other allies, has been a bright spot.

Building up those institutions, in turn, helps the region develop the rules of the road that I mentioned. And those rules – developed by and for the nations of the Asia-Pacific – provide the environment for trade, prosperity, and for solving problems.

Our engagement with emerging powers makes clear that the U.S. seeks partnerships and collaboration. It shows that we are committed to building positive-sum relationships. And it shows that we are prepared to welcome the peaceful rise of countries like China.

As the invitation to this event mentioned, relations with China are an important component of our policy toward the region. So let me share the Administration’s approach to our bilateral relationship.

How have we pursued the rebalance with China? By committing to develop a bilateral relationship where we expand areas of cooperation and constructively manage differences. By agreeing that both sides must continue to actively develop bilateral relations and avoid a drift toward strategic rivalry. And by strengthening our engagement with China at all levels, the helps to promote mutual understanding about each other’s intentions, thereby reducing the risk of miscalculation.

By expanding engagement at the highest levels. President Obama has met with his Chinese counterparts some 19 times, and Secretary Kerry and other cabinet members meet with their counterparts on a regular basis. These meetings help us build and maintain the relationships we need to seize opportunities and address concerns:

Our high-level Strategic and Economic Dialogue, chaired jointly by Secretaries Kerry and Lew and their Chinese counterparts, is a key venue for both sides to achieve progress toward these shared objectives. We will have two days of intensive senior-level engagement in Beijing this July. We will use them to candidly address areas of disagreement, while at the same time expanding areas of cooperation.

This Dialogue brings together senior teams from across both governments to tackle some of the most vexing bilateral, regional, and global issues. Issues include the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, climate change, elimination of Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles, food security, maritime security, global health, human rights, economic rebalancing, and energy security.

Our economies are increasingly intertwined, with investment flowing both ways:

  • In the last decade-and-a-half, cumulative Chinese investment in the U.S. has gone from near zero to $36 billion. Our Mission in China has done a lot to facilitate that investment.
  • And the U.S. Commercial Service, under the Department of Commerce has opened new offices in China.
  • And we agreed last year to pursue a “high-standard” bilateral investment treaty – one that can level the playing field for U.S. firms operating in China and create jobs here at home.

We cooperate on protecting the environment:

  • Last year, Secretary Kerry and State Councilor Yang Jiechi created a high-level Climate Change Working Group that has made significant progress.

We cooperate on socio-cultural issues:

  • Through the U.S.-China Consultation on People-to-People Exchange we work to enhance and strengthen ties between citizens of the United States and the People’s Republic of China in fields such as culture, education, science and technology, sports, and women’s issues.
  • The State Department supports more Americans studying in China than in any other country. Approximately 700 students, scholars, and teachers will conduct research, teach, or study Chinese in China through one of our exchange programs. This is in addition to the support we provide for Chinese students and scholars to study and conduct research in the United States.
  • China is the top sender of foreign students to the U.S., with over 230,000 in 2013. We are encouraging more American students to study in China through the 100,000 Strong Initiative and Foundation.

But I believe we must do much more to expand cooperation in the years to come. The logic of our shared interest should compel greater coordination and cooperation.

We share an interest in upholding the rules-based international system under which China has achieved historic levels of economic development. The United States has advocated for and embraced China’s inclusion in multilateral fora like the World Trade Organization, the G-20, and APEC, which China hosts this year. These groups create an environment conducive to China’s continued economic growth.

And more broadly, we know that free access to information, free speech, and the rule of law have been proven ingredients for unlocking human potential in societies across the world. As China works to move up the value chain into innovative industries and the global creative economy, its incentive to reform will increase.

These are all reasons why I believe China should strengthen its contributions to the international system, accepting its constraints to gain its far greater benefits. The U.S. accepts constraints – we lose some trade cases in the WTO, and some votes at the U.N., but we accept that, because the benefits far outweigh the costs.

As the President said yesterday, “America benefits when those norms are not only being upheld by us individually, but where all countries buy in… And China now as a rising power needs to be part of that….”

We will always need to protect our interests where they diverge. We have, and will continue to have, real differences. The question is how we deal with them. The test of our engagement, of our diplomacy is whether we are able to expand practical areas of cooperation on regional and global issues and at the same time manage these differences candidly and constructively.

In fact, this is the challenge of diplomacy writ large – working together when we can, and working to resolve disagreements peacefully when they arise. And that diplomacy depends on the support of the American people. It depends on people like you, who understand that spending on diplomacy and development is just one percent – less than one percent – of the Federal budget.

You understand that we need to invest in these tools. As President Obama said at West Point yesterday, this is “one of the hard-earned lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, where our military became the strongest advocate for diplomacy and development. They understood that foreign assistance is not an afterthought, something nice to do apart from our national defense, apart from our national security. It is part of what makes us strong.”

Because when you only have a hammer, every problem becomes a nail.

Relations with the Asia-Pacific region matter to all Americans – for our economy, our security, and the advancement of our values.

And they matter to Baltimore, and all of Maryland. For instance, international students contribute over $400 million to the Maryland economy per year. The nearly-complete expansion of the Panama Canal is expected to bring more ships from the Pacific to the East Coast; the rebirth of American manufacturing creates more potential exports, and growth in the Asia-Pacific region should create more demand for our goods, and more two-way trade.

But your involvement – as business leaders, as academics, as engaged citizens – is essential to realizing these possibilities. So thank you. Thank you for the invitation, thank you for engaging with your friends and neighbors on the value of diplomacy; and thank you in advance for your thoughts and questions tonight. Let’s open it up for discussion.

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