Daily Press Briefings : Daily Press Briefing – July 22, 2014

1:28 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Hello. Welcome to the daily briefing, everyone. Just a quick travel update at the top and then happy to open it up for your questions.

As you know, yesterday, Secretary Kerry arrived in Cairo, where he is meeting with a range of officials regarding the conflict in Israel and Gaza and ongoing efforts to reach a cease-fire agreement. Last night, the Secretary met with UN Secretary General Ban to discuss his recent meetings in the region. This morning, the Secretary met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Shoukry, Arab League Secretary General al-Araby, and Egyptian President al-Sisi to discuss the conflict in Israel-Gaza. The Secretary also had two meetings with the Palestinian Authority intel chief as well.

And just a call update. Obviously, the Secretary remains closely engaged with international partners on the situation on the ground. As I said yesterday, over the weekend, he spoke several times with Prime Minister Netanyahu in addition to calls with Foreign Minister Fabius and EU High Representative Lady Ashton. The Secretary spoke with a range of officials in the region, including President Abbas, Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu, and the U.A.E. foreign minister as well. Yesterday, the Secretary spoke with Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh and Qatari Foreign Minister Al Attiya regarding the ongoing efforts to reach a cease-fire agreement.

Secretary Kerry also remains engaged on the ongoing situation in Ukraine. Over the weekend, he spoke with the Malaysian foreign minister, the French foreign minister, the Dutch foreign minister, the Norwegian foreign minister, and EU High Rep Lady Ashton, in addition to his call with Foreign Minister Lavrov. So far today, he’s spoken with High Rep Ashton, the Qatari foreign minister, and Turkish Foreign Minister Davutoglu again as well. Lots of phone calls.

QUESTION: Right. Let’s start with the Mideast —

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: — because you started with that. There is some – there is suspicion in Israel and among pro-Israel types in the U.S. that last night’s Travel Warning that the State Department issued for Israel, West Bank, and Gaza, along with the move by the FAA today to ban U.S. airlines from flying to Tel Aviv for up to 24 hours, is somehow a political move intended to put pressure on the Israelis, on Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government to agree to a cease-fire that they might not want to. In addition to the U.S. airlines, now a bunch of European airlines are also canceling their flights in and out of Tel Aviv.

Is there any truth to that? Did the – was the State Department involved in this FAA decision at all that you’re aware of?

MS. HARF: So let me take all of those questions in order. So to your first question, I would wholly disagree with that argument. We issue travel warnings because one of our top priorities is protecting U.S. citizens overseas. I would note that in 2012, the Department also issued travel warnings for Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza in March, August, and December. So this is a step we have taken when we felt the situation on the ground warranted it. Obviously, that is a process that we go through that in no way is policy related or politically related. It is just related to how we can best protect American citizens.

On the FAA, we, to my knowledge, were not involved in that decision making. Obviously, we knew it was coming today. And I was actually waiting for the announcement to come out before I came out to brief so I had more information. But the FAA makes these decisions when they feel it’s warranted, again, for the safety of United States citizens. And they, in response to the recent attack at Ben Gurion Airport – in the vicinity of Ben Gurion Airport – after consultation with U.S. operators, felt today that it was important to issue this notice, which is in effect for up to 24 hours. And they will provide additional guidance to – the updated instructions to the aircraft operators no later than 24 hours from when it went into effect.

QUESTION: So you knew – this building knew it was coming. Apparently, the White House was a bit out of the loop on this, though.

MS. HARF: That’s not true. I was on many email chains this morning about when the statement would actually come out that included my White House colleagues.

QUESTION: Okay. So when they said that it was a bit disingenuous for the White House to say that there had not been – half an hour before it came out that there has —

MS. HARF: Well, there’s not coordination. The FAA makes decisions on its own from a policy perspective. We all – we knew – I knew a little bit before the briefing, as did the White House, that this was being announced publicly on the communications side.


MS. HARF: But from a policy perspective, this is a process driven entirely by the FAA.

QUESTION: Okay. From the State Department point of view, I mean, is this something that you’re in touch with Israeli authorities about once it comes out or even beforehand?

MS. HARF: Yes. The Department of State as well as the FAA has been in contact with the Israeli Government about this. I don’t have specifics on what that looks like.

QUESTION: Was that before – that was before —

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding it was before.

QUESTION: — this was announced publicly?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Okay. Because they —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: I’ve seen some reports that they say that they were taken aback by this.

MS. HARF: No, I have here that we consulted with the Israelis before taking this step.

QUESTION: Okay. On a slightly – the same thing but slightly different tack. On UNRWA, I asked you a question yesterday about the rockets that they had found in the school and if you knew what they did with them after they had found them. Now, apparently, there have been some more found today. Do you have an answer to the question from —

MS. HARF: I wasn’t aware of those found today, but I got a little more information about what you asked me about yesterday that – a few points on this. Obviously, UNRWA is a humanitarian organization operating in a very difficult operating environment. That’s particularly acute in Gaza, obviously, where there is an active and ongoing conflict.

In terms of what happened to them, UNRWA has told us that they asked the local police to remove the rockets from the school. We recognize that this was not an acceptable outcome and we are consulting closely with UN leadership, with UNRWA, the Israeli Government, and the Palestinian Authority to develop better options available in the event of future incidents. Again, it’s important to remember that UNRWA is a humanitarian relief organization, it’s not a peacekeeping mission equipped to deal with the kind of situation where you find rockets. That’s not their mandate.

We also urge UNRWA to continue to be as transparent as possible about this issue. They will have more details on it, but that’s what I know as of right now.

QUESTION: Well, is it your understanding that by local police, that was Hamas, right?

MS. HARF: I think they can better speak to who specifically in the local police. I don’t have more information than that.

QUESTION: Well, if you – but if you say it was the – that the outcome was not acceptable, it would appear that UNRWA gave these missiles back to their owners, back to Hamas.

MS. HARF: They have told us they went to the local police. I will leave it to UNRWA to provide more details about who that was.


MS. HARF: I just don’t have those details, Matt.

QUESTION: Is there —

MS. HARF: I just don’t have them.

QUESTION: So after this happened, the Secretary and people with the Secretary in Cairo announced an additional tranche, a big package of aid, including $15 million to UNRWA.

MS. HARF: Which is an organization that does very important work in terms of the humanitarian situation, not just in Gaza but elsewhere.

QUESTION: I understand. But can you see how to an outside observer, this sounds a little bit – this sounds a bit bizarre that —

MS. HARF: Well, maybe to an outside observer who doesn’t have all the facts or understand the details here. But I think I just laid out for you that we don’t believe this is an acceptable outcome.


MS. HARF: The UNRWA is operating in a very difficult situation and there weren’t a lot of good options here. And we are working with them to try and figure out a better outcome in the future.

QUESTION: Right. But I mean, the facts are pretty clear: UNRWA discovers missile or rockets in its school; it condemns it, informs the UN, obviously, and then hands them back over to the people who are shooting them into Israel and then —

MS. HARF: Well, let’s not make sweeping generalizations. They – it’s —

QUESTION: But that’s —

MS. HARF: They’ve told us they gave them to the local police.

QUESTION: Well, but the local police in Gaza are Hamas.

MS. HARF: Okay. Well, Matt, I’m sure UNRWA can provide more details about who specifically they gave them back to. But I would —


MS. HARF: — just be careful about making sweeping generalizations and I’d check with them about who specifically they were given to.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, if you say it was unacceptable, I’m assuming that it was unacceptable. But anyway, you ended up still giving —

MS. HARF: I do tend to mean what I say, yes.

QUESTION: Exactly. You say it’s unacceptable, but you won’t say why it’s unacceptable. Right?

MS. HARF: I don’t have more for you than that.

QUESTION: Okay. So but then you go ahead and announce another $15 million to this very organization which is —

MS. HARF: Because it’s an important organization.

QUESTION: I understand. Okay, so maybe —

MS. HARF: Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

QUESTION: Okay, so maybe the question is this: What would have been an acceptable outcome in this situation?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to outline specifically what that might have looked like. We’re looking at what acceptable outcomes might look like in the future. I don’t have details on it.

QUESTION: A lot of Israelis have been skeptical, critical, of UNRWA in the past. Do you – I mean, this kind of a situation does not underscore those kinds of concerns?

MS. HARF: Well, look, again, to underscore here, UNRWA is operating in a very difficult situation in a difficult environment. And they aren’t, to be frank here, equipped to deal with discovering rockets in a school where they were working humanitarianly. So again, this wasn’t a good outcome. We certainly don’t think it was, but I would caution people from jumping to conclusions about what UNRWA was trying to do here. We’re working with them to try to do better in the future.

QUESTION: Right. So you don’t believe that this amounts to aiding and abetting of —

MS. HARF: I would certainly not say that.

QUESTION: On this, a clarification —

QUESTION: Marie, can I just ask, there was a school – there was another UNRWA school today that has been hit by – that was sheltering displaced Palestinians that has been hit. I’m not sure what the death toll or the casualty toll is yet from that. Do you believe that possibly by the discovery of these rockets, UNRWA schools have now become a target or UNRWA facilities are now become a target for the Israeli forces?

I was just at a meeting with the Israeli ambassador in which he said that under the rules of war, if rockets are hidden in schools, hospitals, medical facilities, or homes, they become legitimate targets. Has UNRWA now become a legitimate target in this conflict?

MS. HARF: Well, I – well, no, I would say UNRWA is not a legitimate target, but let’s step back for a second. I haven’t seen those reports from today. We do know that Hamas has used schools, hospitals, other civilian buildings to hide fighters, to hide rockets, to hide the tools that they’re using to attack Israel with. So I’ll say that, point A.

Point B, I’m not going to make a sort of international legal judgment based on comments I didn’t see by the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. We have said that Israel has a right to defend itself. We’ve also said that they need to take every effort to protect civilian casualties of Palestinians. So those two things are also true at the same time.

I can look into the report about this morning. I just haven’t seen it.

QUESTION: Marie, can you —

QUESTION: So I mean, do you believe that the – that if Hamas is hiding these rockets in schools and wherever, those then are legitimate targets by the Israelis as they press —

MS. HARF: I don’t want to say that. I don’t want to make that generalization. What I’ve said generally is that Israel has a right to defend itself, and these rockets are terrorizing the people of Israel. But schools, hospitals, there are places where civilians, particularly displaced people, do go to seek refuge that Hamas has used. So obviously, I don’t want to make a more specific judgment on what is not a legitimate target here. I’m happy to look into this specific issue.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

QUESTION: Marie, on the UNRWA —

MS. HARF: Wait, wait. Let me – let’s do one at a time, please. Thank you.

Said, go ahead.

QUESTION: On the UNRWA issue. Now, in the absence of another authority – okay – in Gaza, where they should turned it to? Who they should have turned it to?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re working with them to see what the other options could have been. We’re working with them.

QUESTION: What could possibly —

MS. HARF: Because obviously, we wouldn’t want rockets to be given back to people who would use them.

QUESTION: I understand, but considering that Gaza is under siege or doesn’t have any connection —

MS. HARF: Well, there have to be other options here, so we’re trying to determine what they are.


MS. HARF: But we also know that it’s very difficult for UNRWA. I mean, they were not equipped to deal with this, and so we’re trying to help them get better.

QUESTION: Okay, like, could they have gone, let’s say, to a third party, as the UN, for instance?

MS. HARF: I don’t have specifics about the other options. We’re working on those right now.

QUESTION: Okay, now let me just quickly follow up —

MS. HARF: Okay. You’re next, I promise.

QUESTION: Yeah. Let me just quickly follow up on the process or the progress of the cease-fire talk. Can you update us on where we are now?

MS. HARF: Well, the Secretary is on the ground in Cairo, has meetings today with Egyptian President al-Sisi, Foreign Minister Shoukry, again, Arab League Secretary General al-Araby. He’s been on the phone with President Abbas, Prime Minister Netanyahu, other regional partners as well.

But look, the reality here is that this is a complicated situation. There are multiple regional players, difficult strategic issues involved, and we’re working together to try to achieve a cease-fire as soon as possible. It’s in the best interest – excuse me – of both sides to do so.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary and his team know roughly, like, do they have like a day, a few days, a week, or anything like this?

MS. HARF: Well, we want this to be as soon as possible so civilians cannot be at risk anymore. But obviously, I don’t have a specific timeline for you, but as soon as possible.

QUESTION: So conceivably, it could happen in a very short order.

MS. HARF: Absolutely, we certainly hope that it does. But again, I want to set expectations here. It’s very complicated, a lot of strategic issues involved, and it could take longer than I think anyone would want.

QUESTION: There are reports that —

QUESTION: Do you know if —

MS. HARF: I promised.

QUESTION: Excuse me.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you know if Secretary Kerry is planning to come back, to go back to Washington before a cease-fire agreement is reached?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have anything to announce in terms of his return to Washington. What we’re focused on right now is seeing if he can help move the process forward. No plans to return at this point, so I think we’ll see what happens in the coming days.

QUESTION: Could you give us a sense, what are his next steps? Is he going to Qatar, for example?

MS. HARF: No additional travel to announce at this point. He’s in Cairo for the foreseeable future and don’t have anything to announce.

QUESTION: As you may know, Hamas has said many times in the past few weeks that it doesn’t – they don’t have good relationship with Egypt, so how do – what’s your comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, there are a number of regional players that we’ve been talking to, not just the Egyptians, but the Qataris and Emirates and others who do have relationships, as the Egyptians do, with Hamas. Obviously, we don’t, but we’ve talked to other partners who do. So we are all trying to use whatever leverage we have and whatever relationships we have to push the sides to get to a cease-fire they can accept, because we think that’s what needs to happen as soon as possible here.

QUESTION: What kind of cease-fire they can accept? Could you give us an idea?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve talked in general about the 2012 ceasefire agreement and what that looked like, but I’m not going to more specifically outline what the conversations on the ground are like.

QUESTION: Do you know if Israel accepts the 2012 agreement?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into what the discussions look like on the ground. They’re all ongoing right now.

QUESTION: So the Secretary will not return to DC before the cease-fire is agreed upon?

MS. HARF: I didn’t say that. I said we have no plans for him to return now. We’re going to see how much progress we can make in the coming days.

QUESTION: Do you know if the FAA order would cover the Secretary’s plane should he – I mean, should he decide in the next 24 hours, before 12:15 tomorrow afternoon, that he wanted to go, would it be appropriate for him to go to Israel?

MS. HARF: Could he land at Ben Gurion? Well, this was —

QUESTION: Would – does it apply to the Air Force?

MS. HARF: I don’t know if this applies to United States military aircraft. It obviously applies to commercial airlines.


MS. HARF: I can check.

QUESTION: Marie, I was hoping to go back to that airline thing. So the – I just want to be clear that the State Department was informed by the FAA about – it didn’t have any input into the decision.

MS. HARF: We had – I can check on what the specific decision making looked like. As I said, we talked to the Israelis about it before – we consulted with them before we announced it. But this is an FAA decision —


MS. HARF: — based solely on security of American citizens and American airlines. I’ll check on what the process is, but —

QUESTION: Because I remember in the East China Sea where the State Department actually said to the airlines, “avoid that area” —

MS. HARF: I’m not sure that was the State Department or that was the FAA in that case as well.


MS. HARF: I remember referring a lot of questions to the FAA at that time too.

QUESTION: As well.

MS. HARF: I can check.


MS. HARF: Obviously, I mean, with the Travel Warning we take very seriously the security and safety of American citizens. I’m sure we had discussions with the FAA about it. I just wanted to make very clear that there was no – nothing driving this beyond security.

QUESTION: So do – and so you agree with that decision, and do you think it should be prolonged according to whatever the conditions – as things stay —

MS. HARF: We’ll see what the conditions look like on the ground. As I said, FAA will give updated instructions to U.S. airlines no later than 24 hours from when it went into effect, which was at 12:15 p.m. Eastern today. It could be earlier, depending on the situation on the ground.

QUESTION: The fact that the – some of the European airlines, Air France and Lufthansa, have now followed suit – was that something that was collectively decided among sort of international airline bodies, or —

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t know the answer to that.

QUESTION: Or are they just following because the FAA’s done it?

MS. HARF: They may just be following. Obviously, we discuss these issues with our counterparts around the world. This was just a decision for U.S. airlines. Let me check on that and see if there’s more details to share.


QUESTION: Back to Secretary Kerry?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: Does the Secretary have some concrete proposals to the parties, or he’s just now in Cairo waiting for —

MS. HARF: I think anyone who knows the Secretary knows he always has concrete proposals and doesn’t just wait around for anything. But what he’s doing is talking to our partners, the Egyptians, others about how we can get to a ceasefire. There are a lot of pieces to this, so obviously there are active discussions, productive discussions going on today about how we could get to a ceasefire. I’m not going to outline what they look like specifically, but the discussions are very substantive and productive today.

QUESTION: But for the time being, he’s focusing on getting a ceasefire?

MS. HARF: Correct. That is the goal.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Marie, the Israelis warned international journalists to keep out of the combat area. You have anything to say on that?

MS. HARF: I’ve seen some – sorry – I had seen some reports of that. I can’t confirm those details. Obviously, we put out a Travel Warning today for American citizens.


MS. HARF: We believe, of course, that journalists should not be targets of violence, must be protected and allowed to freely do their jobs no matter where, but I hadn’t seen those specific reports.

QUESTION: Now, those international journalists, almost all of them, agree that Hamas operatives don’t even go to these hospitals like Shifa and Wafa and so on; they have their own clinics and hospitals to send their fighters to that are, in fact, probably closed to the public. And most of these areas that were targeted were actually civilian hospitals. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to do individual assessments of targets that may have been hit by Israeli operations. That’s just not my place to do that. I will note, as I did, that Hamas has in the past used civilian hospitals, schools to hide rockets, to hide fighters. I don’t want to make an independent judgment about each individual operation it’s undertaken, though. I don’t think that’s my place to do that.

QUESTION: Marie, the —

MS. HARF: Yes, staying here? Yeah.

QUESTION: The Israeli ambassador last night, he was talking at a group event for – run by Christians for Israel or something like that, and he said that he believed that Israel deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for Israeli soldiers, for the restraint that they’ve shown in going in and doing what he would say is targeted operations. And he thinks – at a breakfast I was at this morning, he says the international community should watch with admiration what the Israeli army is doing. Is it the opinion of the United States that there is restraint being shown by the Israeli army, that they are really working to try and get civilians out of harm’s way, they’re giving them advance warning? Do you believe that his comments are accurate?

MS. HARF: Well, a few points. As the President said yesterday, they do have a right to defend themselves. They have given us assurances that they are taking every step to protect civilians from casualties.

The President also said yesterday that we’re – we have serious concerns about the growing number of Palestinian civilian deaths. And it is clear, I think, that while the Israelis have said they hold themselves to very high standards and we certainly hold them to the same standards as well, I think probably they could take some greater steps, maybe could do a little bit more. And we’ll continue those conversations with the Israelis going forward.

QUESTION: So they haven’t shown enough restraint, then, in your opinion?

MS. HARF: Well, we do think that there could be – they could do a bit more, that they could maybe take some greater steps here. But again, we’ve been very clear, having said that, that Israel has a right to defend itself; that that’s what they are doing in this case; that when their civilians are the targets of terrorist rockets that are the – Hamas firing them into Israel, that there’s a very serious obligation to protect their citizens.

QUESTION: So what kind of greater steps would you like to see Israel take?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any specifics for you. It’s a conversation we’ll continue having with them.

QUESTION: Sorry, they should take a – they should do a little bit more? Or a bit more?

MS. HARF: I said it’s clear they could take greater steps.

QUESTION: Does that mean you would prefer that they didn’t blow up kids on the – on a beach?

MS. HARF: I said it’s clear they could take greater steps, Matt.

QUESTION: But you said “a little bit,” and then you said “a bit more.”

MS. HARF: Feel free to use whatever quote of mine you’d like. I think I just made clear they could do more, and I don’t have anything to add to that.

QUESTION: Okay. But is it your opinion that all they need to do is a little bit more, or is —

MS. HARF: I just said it’s clear they could take greater steps. Happy to use whatever quote you’d like.

QUESTION: Marie, sorry.

MS. HARF: Yes, Said.

QUESTION: I wanted to ask you about the number of soldiers that have U.S. citizenship. The latest figures show that there are 2,000 Americans serving for the Israeli army.

MS. HARF: I haven’t – I don’t think we keep figures on that. I don’t – I certainly haven’t seen them.

QUESTION: Okay. I just wanted – maybe you could look into it.

MS. HARF: We do – the State Department does not keep figures on how many U.S. citizens are volunteering with the IDF. We do not.


QUESTION: Can we switch to Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Are there any more on this?


QUESTION: Oh yeah.

MS. HARF: Okay. Then you can switch us to Ukraine, yes.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: You – earlier you mentioned also yesterday that the Secretary talked to Foreign Minister Davutoglu.

MS. HARF: He’s spoken to him many times, yes.

QUESTION: And can you give us a little bit more on that – what exactly the Secretary wants Turkey at this point?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve talked to all of our partners in the region about how they could play a constructive role in getting to a ceasefire here. That was part of these conversations.

QUESTION: Okay. You talk about the countries that have ties with Hamas that can play a role. Do you think Turkey can play a role at this point?

MS. HARF: I think, certainly, they’re one of the countries. And, I think, to address one of the questions that you asked yesterday, the Secretary has raised our concerns about the inflammatory statements we have seen a number of times, including during his call with Foreign Minister Davutoglu today. Senior U.S. officials in Washington and Ankara have also raised our concerns with Turkish counterparts. So I wanted to answer a question you asked yesterday.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: You’re welcome.

QUESTION: But does the – I want to just – taking my colleague’s question a bit further: Do those inflammatory comments kind of rule out Turkey as being any way – in any shape or form a mediator in this conflict?

MS. HARF: No, no. But we did – as I said yesterday, it does hurt their ability to play a constructive role here. But no, I wouldn’t rule it out. Obviously, we believe they can play a role, but these comments certainly do not help.

QUESTION: Not this, but related to something Jen talked about last week, which was – she expressed concern about the arrest and detentions without charge of members of the Abu Khdeir family, the family whose one American teen was beaten up and is now back in Florida, and the other one who was murdered.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Has there been a – are you aware if there’s been a resolution to that situation with the family?

MS. HARF: I’m checking. I’m not sure if there has been. Let me see if I have something from yesterday. I thought I did, but I might not. Let’s see.

We – this is probably what she said last week, that we’ve raised our concerns with senior Israeli officials; the Israelis have said they are looking into the issue. We’re continuing to closely monitor it. We do not believe that any of the detained family members are American citizens. I’ll check and see if there’s an update. I don’t have anything else.

QUESTION: Right, but one of the things that Jen said last week was that you had an – even though none of them were – are American citizens, that you obviously have an interest in this case given the fact that one of the relatives was an American citizen. Is it your understanding that there’s – that the Israelis have taken 15 members of this family into custody?

MS. HARF: I don’t have a number in here.

QUESTION: Okay. Could you just check to see —

MS. HARF: I can check, yep.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Staying here?

QUESTION: Yes. If I can just go back to the press coverage issue in Gaza, I’m not asking you to comment on any one specific incident, but have you relayed in general your concerns about freedom of the press, freedom of channels to be able to relay the news in Gaza to Israeli officials? Have you been in touch with them about that?

MS. HARF: I can check on that specifically. Obviously, we make it very clear all the time, but let me check on that specifically.

QUESTION: Well, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman quoted in press by saying that Al Jazeera, at least, was, quote, spreading “anti-Israeli incitement, lies, and encouragement to the terrorists.” That is his quote, and wanted close the channel there in his country. Do you agree with his assessment?

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly believe that journalists must be able to freely do their jobs no matter where they’re operating, period, and don’t think steps should be taken to prevent them from doing so.

QUESTION: And just to follow up on this question, actually, I got at these two. I was asked to ask this question many times. (Laughter.) One of the CNN report —

MS. HARF: Is it about our relationship with Turkey strategically?

QUESTION: No. I’ll do it next week.

MS. HARF: Okay, I’ll wait for it. (Laughter.) Or you can do it later this week.


MS. HARF: Give me a few days off from it.

QUESTION: One of the CNN reporters, because of her tweet – I don’t remember her name right now, but because of her tweet, she was relocated to Russia because she was saying in tweet that she was insulted by some of the Israelis that were watching the bombs coming over the Gaza. So the question was: As we all know, you are very sensitive to the freedom of press. Do you think this – on this particular issue, you see any issue with the CNN —

MS. HARF: I’m sorry. I’m not familiar with this case.


MS. HARF: I’m happy to look into it.

QUESTION: Can I just go back to UNRWA for one second?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Are you – in your discussions with – are you – what exactly are you telling them – what are you telling them to do? Are you telling them to consult with who about how to handle these —

MS. HARF: Right. We’re talking to them, to the UN leadership, to the PA, and to the Israel Government about developing better options in the case something like this happens. I don’t have specifics about what those options might look like.

QUESTION: Okay. But you’re —

MS. HARF: Basically, we want to have – if this happens again, we want to have a different way to resolve it.

QUESTION: Right. Is there any concern that these rockets may now be being fired into Israel?

MS. HARF: I can check and see.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: I just don’t know.

QUESTION: And the money that’s going to them that was announced yesterday – going to UNRWA, 15 million – can you remind us of what that’s for?

MS. HARF: The 15 million specifically? I can check and see if I have that. In terms of what it would specifically do for the organization, I don’t have that in front of me. It was part of a larger, I think, 47 —

QUESTION: It doesn’t go – it’s not intended for rocket disposal, neutralization, and that kind of thing. (Laughter.) Is that right?

MS. HARF: This has long been in the works, Matt.

Yes, I promised Ukraine. You want to go to Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yes. Okay, so the White House said today that it would lay out intel regarding the Malaysian airliner.

MS. HARF: Yes. I told you guys just to stick with us and we’d get you some more intel.

QUESTION: All right. So who – do you have any information on when that’s supposed to be released?

MS. HARF: So I would refer you to the intelligence community, who will today be further declassifying information and will be putting out additional information that supports what we have said; that we believe the most likely outcome here was that this was an SA-11 originated from Russian-separatist controlled areas. I’d refer you to them for details on that.

QUESTION: Okay, but you don’t know —

MS. HARF: But it will be coming out today.

QUESTION: But you don’t know what time, you have (inaudible)?

MS. HARF: I don’t have those details, I’m sorry.

QUESTION: Okay. Also, Russia has recently been questioning a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet that was flying no more than three miles away from the Boeing plane before it was shot down. And they’ve sort of suggested that it may have been involved. They don’t know, but they’re questioning it.

MS. HARF: I think they’ve done more than suggest that, yes.

QUESTION: What evidence does the U.S. have to rule out that as a possibility at this point? Because I’ve heard reports that the U.S. already sort of knocked that out of —

MS. HARF: A couple points. First, as we’ve said, when you look at the kind of markings on the plane and how it looked like it was brought down, obviously that’s consistent with an SA-11, which is fired from the ground. I haven’t seen any information that indicates a Ukrainian jet. We’re still looking into it, obviously. The president of Ukraine has said there was not, but again, we like to independently verify things for Matt, before you ask the question. And so I haven’t seen information that would indicate that.

And all of the – the preponderance of the information that we’ve laid out and that the intelligence community will lay out was that this was an SA-11 fired from the ground from a separatist-controlled area.

QUESTION: And there are also several reports that the Ukrainian military has continued to issue attacks in eastern Ukraine, despite everything going on with the investigation. What kind of information do you have on that, and has the U.S. said anything whatsoever to Kyiv authorities about a cease-fire?

MS. HARF: Well, the president of Ukraine is committed to a 40 kilometer cease-fire around the crash site, and I believe the fighting is outside of that 40 kilometers. I think he’s held to it. And look, we – a cease-fire takes two sides. So where there are attacks against the Ukrainian people, Ukrainian forces, they obviously have a responsibility and obligation to protect their people. But it’s my understanding that they have held the cease-fire around the crash site.

QUESTION: And just one more question.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: Is the U.S. concerned about that fighting continuing amidst the investigation?

MS. HARF: Well, we’re concerned about all of the fighting in eastern Ukraine, which is the result of these pro-Russian separatists, who we’ve seen what they’re capable of doing – not just this week but over many weeks, including when they’ve bragged about shooting down planes in the past. So we’ve called on President Putin very directly to use his influence to help end the fighting there.

QUESTION: So President Putin —

QUESTION: Excuse me, I would like to ask you about —

QUESTION: — President Putin said today —

MS. HARF: Can we do – let’s just do one at a time.

QUESTION: — that he would —

MS. HARF: Let’s do Matt, and then we’ll go to you, and then I’ll go to Wesley.


QUESTION: — that he would use that influence.

MS. HARF: Let’s see some actions backed up – backing up those words.

QUESTION: And the other thing is, I would hope that you’re not just verifying these things for me, for my sake.

MS. HARF: Matt, I just care very deeply about answering your questions thoroughly and fulsomely. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Fulsomely, yes. Okay, in —

MS. HARF: No, but I did say yesterday that we are committed and I didn’t just say it to say it. We do mean it.

QUESTION: I understand that. So can you give us any idea – recognizing that the intel community is going to do this and not you – can you give us an idea of what it is that they’re going to —

MS. HARF: I can’t.

QUESTION: — I mean, just broad – okay.

MS. HARF: Obviously, we’ve spoken about our assessment, and I think we’ll have some more information that backs that up.

QUESTION: The Europeans today met – the European Council met —

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: — and said that they were going to expand and enhance —

MS. HARF: I think visa bans, asset freezes.

QUESTION: Correct.

MS. HARF: Yep.

QUESTION: That’s correct. I presume that you think that’s a good thing?

MS. HARF: We do. Yes.

QUESTION: You do? Do you have anything more to say about it —

MS. HARF: I don’t.

QUESTION: — than just that?

MS. HARF: I don’t.

QUESTION: Just that it’s a good thing?

QUESTION: Do you feel they could go further though? I mean, there’s some reluctance – I think there’s some Europeans that want to go towards a tier 3, to expand it onto different sectors —

MS. HARF: Right.

QUESTION: — and also an arms embargo which would perhaps put the French in a difficult position. And there’s some who don’t – notably the French. So do you think – would you support the EU to go further in these sanctions?

MS. HARF: Well, I think we would support anyone who wants to put increased pressure on the Russians here. As I said yesterday and as the Secretary and the President have both said, this should be a wake-up call for the Europeans, quite frankly, that they should do more. We’ve done more, and we’ll keep working with them on it.

QUESTION: What do you make of the fact that the French, even after the downing of the plane, and – are going to go ahead with the transfer of this warship?

MS. HARF: Clearly think it’s completely inappropriate.

QUESTION: Completely inappropriate?

MS. HARF: And we’ve told them they should not do it.

QUESTION: And why exactly? Because —

MS. HARF: I will let Foreign Minister Fabius speak for himself, which I know he is very capable of doing.

QUESTION: But have you explained to the French your – or do you understand – have the French come to the same conclusion as you did – as you have about who is responsible for this plane going down, do you know?

MS. HARF: It’s my understanding, yes.

QUESTION: They have?

MS. HARF: I mean, they can speak for themselves —


MS. HARF: — but I haven’t heard otherwise.

QUESTION: But I mean, they haven’t come back to you – when you say we think this is a really – this is a bad idea, you shouldn’t go ahead with the transfer, they don’t say well, we don’t – they don’t tell you that we’re – they’re not certain that the Russians are —

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard that, Matt.

QUESTION: So what —

MS. HARF: I haven’t heard anyone except for the Russians question what happened here, quite frankly.

QUESTION: Okay. Going back to the stuff that the Russian defense ministry put out yesterday and some of this stuff online, is it your – I’m presuming you have seen – I’m assuming that you’ve seen some of it now.

MS. HARF: Seen some of it.

QUESTION: Do you regard all of that as complete fabrication and —

MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen all of it, but certainly the narrative that they are propagating, we very strongly disagree with and have many, many, many pieces of evidence to prove otherwise.

QUESTION: And those pieces of evidence you expect to be presented —

MS. HARF: At this intelligence community briefing, my former colleagues.


MS. HARF: I told you we would try.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, we will all wait with bated breath for that.

MS. HARF: I’m sure you will.

QUESTION: Just on the EU sanctions. There was a suggestion that if they did go ahead with an arms embargo they could make it for new contracts, not existing contracts. Would that be something that the United States would support?

MS. HARF: I don’t know —

QUESTION: Which would allow the Mistral to still go ahead, obviously.

MS. HARF: I don’t know. We obviously don’t think the Mistral should go ahead. I can check on what our position is on that.


MS. HARF: We don’t think anyone should be providing arms to Russia.

QUESTION: Excuse me.

QUESTION: Was that discussion —

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: — with the Russian – with the French, was that in the last few days? Was there a renewed discussion?

MS. HARF: We’ve certainly spoken to the French foreign minister over the past few days. I can check and see if it came up. I’m guessing it did.

QUESTION: And then I want to ask about the evidence that the intel community is going to release. Is that going to be expanded – anything that’s – is that going to be more than what we’ve seen or heard?

MS. HARF: I think if there wasn’t, I’m not sure why they would be doing it. But yes.


MS. HARF: You can hold me to that tomorrow if no. But I think that they will be – we have – there’s going to be further declassification. We will be putting out more information later. Again, it bolsters and backs up the general assessment we’ve already put out there, but they will be putting more information out there.

QUESTION: Do you know if satellite images will be —

QUESTION: May I go back – may I go back to the —


QUESTION: — Traveling Warning, please? I was —

MS. HARF: You two can figure out who’s going to —

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

QUESTION: It’s my turn.

MS. HARF: It’s your turn.

QUESTION: It’s my turn.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: May I go back to the Travel Warning?

QUESTION: Can I stay with Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: I’ve got another Ukraine one.

MS. HARF: Okay. He’s going to ask one, and then Nicole can.

QUESTION: All right.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Go back to the Travel Warning that this Department has issued yesterday —

MS. HARF: For Ukraine?

QUESTION: No, no, for Israel and —

MS. HARF: We’re going to stay on Ukraine and then we’ll go to Israel. We’re going to stay on Ukraine. We’re going to do one topic at a time.

Nicole, on Ukraine.

QUESTION: Just with regard to the intelligence you’re going to be releasing later today, the Administration, a member of the Russian defense ministry’s advisory council came out earlier today basically with statements – a statement discrediting what you guys are saying. And one of the arguments he made is that the satellite that you have above Ukraine can only register missile launches within a zone of 50 to 100 kilometers, and so that there’s no way with any specificity the U.S. can say that the missile came from rebel-controlled territory. Could you respond to that?

MS. HARF: I think for more details, I think the intelligence community can probably respond. I, suffice to say, strongly disagree with what he said. We’ve seen a history throughout this conflict of the Russian Government putting out just sheer propaganda, falsehoods about what’s happening. We have a great deal of open-source evidence and intelligence to back it up that supports what we believe to be true, and we’ll talk about that more in the coming days.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Ukraine? Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Ukraine.

QUESTION: Can you tell us anything about the remains of the passengers that were turned in to – did —

MS. HARF: Yes. We are pleased that the victims’ remains have finally started their journey back to their loved ones. They – let me see if I can get the details about this specifically, if you just give me one second.

This was part of the agreement that the Malaysian authorities reached with the separatist leader to do three things: move the bodies by train to Kharkiv where they will be handed over to a Dutch representative; hand over the black boxes to a Malaysian team; and guarantee safe access to the crash site for investigators to begin their work. And thus far, all three of these things have happened. The bodies have been moved, black boxes have been delivered to the Malaysians, and monitors had much-improved access today. We are hopeful that that access will continue.

The OSCE did confirm that a contingent of Dutch, Malaysian, and OSCE representatives accompanied the remains on a train to Kharkiv where they will go on to the Netherlands. I can’t confirm yet if the flight to the Netherlands has happened. The train arrived in Kharkiv around 4:30 a.m. Washington time.

QUESTION: It’s a morbid task, but can you give us a figure? All the passengers, 298 have —

MS. HARF: I don’t have that. I mean, we know 298 people were on the plane. I don’t have specifics beyond —

QUESTION: Do you have any information – there was some suggestion that the Ukrainian separatists have said that there were 282 bodies that were handed over, and in fact it seems that the people who have received them said there were only 200 bodies. Do you have any —

MS. HARF: I can check. I don’t have – I – that’s a good question. Let me check with our colleagues there.

QUESTION: There have been some reports that the wreckage of the plane was badly tampered with, including one report that said the cockpit had – well, the remains of the cockpit had actually been sawed in half. Do you have – do you know about this?

MS. HARF: I can’t confirm that. I’ve obviously seen the reports that – and we saw just video and photos of the pro-Russian separatists tampering with the evidence in a fairly grotesque way. I can see if I can confirm the issue about the cockpit.

QUESTION: Okay. Well, I’m just wondering, in general, if such tampering – does that – and the fact that the Secretary said the scene was already seriously compromised —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, are you concerned at all that the investigation will not be able to reach a conclusive —

MS. HARF: No. I think we are concerned about what happened at the crash site, but we do believe that the investigation can go forward and can make a judgment about what happened here.

QUESTION: One more —

QUESTION: A correct and factual judgment, not just any judgment, right?

MS. HARF: Correct.

QUESTION: Can I have one more?

MS. HARF: Wait. Let’s go to Lucas, then I’m coming to you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: On the Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, there’s a map showing the SA-11 surface-to-air missile trajectory as well as the flight path of the aircraft.

MS. HARF: Yeah.

QUESTION: Did this image originate from the State Department?

MS. HARF: It’s commercial imagery that’s available commercially.

QUESTION: And was that —

MS. HARF: And I know we posted it on our Facebook page in the Embassy, but it is commercial imagery.

QUESTION: So commercial imagery. And did somebody at the State Department or from the Embassy put in the flight tracks, the lines?

MS. HARF: I don’t think anyone here did. I think that this is something we’ve been using internally inside the broader USG who’s been talking about this, but let me see if I can get you some more details on that.

QUESTION: Okay, because that —

MS. HARF: And flight paths are obviously publicly available information, so —

QUESTION: Right. But the track of the missile —

MS. HARF: Yeah. It’s a good question, Lucas, and let me check on that.

Yes. On Ukraine?

QUESTION: Yes, madam. This is one of the unique kind of incident, what terrible incident has taken place. Many people are asking now: What is the future – are you calling any kind of some kind of international aviation conference? How can you avoid in the future such incidents? Because this is not – in the past you had seen some bombs and all kind of those things, but not the way it happened now.

MS. HARF: Well, in terms of international response, as you saw yesterday, the Security Council unanimously passed a resolution about this incident, and we welcomed that resolution. It talked about a number of things, including the investigation here. And as you saw too, we are very – take very seriously, the United States Government writ large through the FAA, our obligations to protect American citizens and to warn U.S. carriers when we think there could be a possible security risk. I don’t have, I think, more details for you about what comes next. But I think the President was clear yesterday that these incidents need to have accountability, and that’s what the investigation is going to do – that people – what we need to find out right now is who was on the ground with the pro-Russian separatists, who exactly was there at the launch site for the SA-11. That’s part of what the investigation will do so we can hold people accountable.

QUESTION: May I have one on India, please?

QUESTION: No, sorry. Do you —

MS. HARF: We’ll go to you next, then. Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you have any information that would corroborate this, what this Ukrainian official in Kyiv is saying that a Russian – is that what he just asked – or that a Russian officer actually pushed the button?

MS. HARF: I don’t think he just asked that. I haven’t seen any. Obviously, one of the things we’re trying to figure out right now – and this is the hardest thing – who was at the site. So we’re still trying to figure that out right now.

QUESTION: Who was at the site and who actually did whatever it is that is required to launch it.

MS. HARF: Correct, yes.

Okay, Gaza.

QUESTION: Okay. Thank you so much.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: I want to go back to the Travel Warning that this Department has issued yesterday. We all understand, we all know that the situation in Gaza is not safe. My question is: Why Israel? I mean, do you consider that Israel and mainly Tel Aviv are not safe now?

MS. HARF: Well, due to the ongoing hostilities, we have warned U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling there. We have recommended that U.S. citizens consider deferring nonessential travel to Israel and to the West Bank. We have long – had a longstanding, strong warning to U.S. citizens against any travel to the Gaza Strip.

QUESTION: So that means you consider Israel is an unsafe place, that’s —

MS. HARF: Well, we are warning them to consider deferring nonessential travel. We’re giving them the information that there are security risks. Obviously, we’re not telling them not to go there, as is the case with the Gaza Strip.

QUESTION: Okay. Based on what you said, do you – are you aware or do you have any information if Hamas possesses, has any long-range missiles, can reach the Ben Gurion Airport?

MS. HARF: Well, that’s a separate issue with the FAA. Let me go to that for just one second. Because there was a recent attack in the vicinity of Ben Gurion Airport, that’s why the FAA issued the notice to airmen today informing U.S. airlines they’re prohibited from going there to or from for 24 hours. So obviously, there was a security risk in the vicinity of Ben Gurion Airport.

QUESTION: So that means, based on what you are saying, that Hamas has the capability to shoot down any civilian aircraft?

MS. HARF: Well, I didn’t say that. I said that there was —

QUESTION: No. I mean, I’m trying to —

MS. HARF: I know. You’re trying to extrapolate from what I said to make judgments.

QUESTION: Exactly, yeah.

MS. HARF: And I’m telling you the facts as I know them. I’m happy to see if there’s additional judgments we can make about Hamas’s capabilities here. It was because of an attack in the vicinity of the airport that we don’t want U.S. airlines landing or taking off from there for a period of up to 24 hours. Let me check and see on the capabilities, in terms of the kind of rockets they have, in terms of airlines. I can check on that.

QUESTION: Marie – okay. Marie?

MS. HARF: Uh-huh.

QUESTION: But Ben Gurion Airport has been targeted before by Hamas rockets. Why wasn’t there a warning then and there is one now?

MS. HARF: Well, again, this is just in response to this recent attack. Obviously, it’s been some time. I don’t know the precise details about the past attacks, but this was in response to a recent attack. We haven’t seen one like this in recent memory, so we thought we would issue this warning (inaudible) the FAA.

QUESTION: Well, I mean maybe a week before when the hostilities started —

MS. HARF: I’m happy to check and get the specifics on that.

QUESTION: — there was some rockets landing on —

MS. HARF: Okay. I don’t know if it was the same vicinity. I’m happy to check.

QUESTION: Do you have any concern that Hamas may have antiaircraft weapons?

MS. HARF: I will check and see. I don’t have all the details about their capabilities. Let me check on that.

QUESTION: Do you – one of the – among the co

100 Resilient Cities — Pioneered By The Rockefeller Foundation, Announces Opening Of The 2014 100 Resilient Cities Challenge: Cities Worldwide Invited To Apply

NEW YORK, July 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Today 100 Resilient Cities — Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation announced that the 2014 application process of its 100 Resilient Cities Challenge has officially opened. The Challenge invites applications from cities worldwide that are ready to address to the social, economic, and physical challenges that they face in an increasingly urbanizing world. Selected cities will be eligible to receive significant resources to help them become more resilient.

“In the last year we’ve worked with 32 cities from around the world, learning what makes them tick and starting to surface the steps they need to take to become more resilient,” said Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities. “We’re looking forward to using everything we’ve learned over the past year to ensure we have the best group of city partners, who can work with us, learn from each other, and help lead the global resilience movement. The world is becoming more urbanized and cities are facing an ever greater number of challenges, so the question is: how will cities move forward?”

The world’s cities face two clear trends. First, there is increasing urbanization: the percentage of people living in cities is projected to increase from approximately 50% today to an estimated 75% by 2050. Second, cities face more frequent and intense natural and manmade threats. Taken together, it is clear that cities need to think and act differently, and the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge is helping cities do just that.

“While cities across the globe can’t predict which disruptions will come next, they can plan for them, learn from them, and grow after them. This is the crux of resilience,” said Dr. Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation. “100 Resilient Cities is helping cities to adopt innovative approaches that build resilience to the unprecedented physical, economic, and social challenges that characterize the 21st century”.

Cities everywhere are invited to apply, and will be judged on a range of criteria – including how well they will address the needs of the poor or vulnerable, who are disproportionately impacted by shocks and stresses. Selected cities will be eligible to receive:

  • Grant funding to hire a Chief Resilience Officer, who will lead the resilience building process, bringing in stakeholders from across silos of government and sectors of society;
  • Technical support to develop a holistic resilience strategy that reflects each city’s distinct needs;
  • Access to an innovative platform of services to support strategy development and implementation. Platform partners come from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors, and will offer tools in areas such as innovative finance, technology, infrastructure, land use, and community and social resilience;
  • Membership in the 100 Resilient Cities Network to share knowledge and practices with other member cities.

To apply, municipal government leaders and major institutions can submit an application on behalf of their city. To learn more, or fill out an application (subject to official rules) in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish, visit www.100resilientcities.org/challenge.

100 Resilient Cities — Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation is financially supported by The Rockefeller Foundation and managed as a sponsored project by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides governance and operational infrastructure to its sponsored projects.

Learn more about 100RC at www.100resilientcities.org, RPA at www.rockpa.org, and the Rockefeller Foundation at http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/about-us

Maxwell Young

Press release – MH17 crash: MEPs call for solidarity with Ukraine and sanctions against Russia – Committee on Foreign Affairs

EU sanctions against Russia must be stepped up, the Ukrainian border closed to halt arms flows from Russia, and the bodies of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash victims returned, MEPs insisted in today’s debate with Ukraine’s foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin. Mr Klimkin called on the EU to show its solidarity now, as Ukraine is “being punished for its EU aspirations”. The debate opened with a minute’s silence for victims of the 17 July crash.

Mr Klimkin stressed that the MH17 crash was not just an incident but a “vicious narrative” for the whole of Europe. “Before we were talking about self-defence of inhabitants of eastern Ukraine, whereas now it’s clear that we are dealing with Russian-backed terrorists”, he said. The Ukraine government is ready to engage in discussion with “the real people of Donetsk”, but “the Russian terrorists have to go back to Russia”, he added.

The EU must send a clear message of solidarity with and support for Ukraine, which he said was now “being punished for its EU aspirations”, and strengthen the EU presence on the ground by deploying a Common Security and Defence Policy mission, he urged.

“Ukraine’s security services should have full control over the border to ensure that the flow of arms from Russia can be dried up” said Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Elmar Brok (EPP, DE). He added that the actions of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin left open no “possibility of finding a political solution” and that the EU should therefore proceed with much stronger sanctions against Russia.

MEPs called for a united line between EU member states on tougher sanctions towards Russia, not as a consequence of the plane crash, but in reaction to the Russian authorities’ unwillingness to control the flow of arms and heavy weapons across the border to the eastern regions of Ukraine.

Some also criticized France for training Russian solidiers, given that hundreds of Dutch people had lost their lives in the plane crash. “My government will not stop until justice is done”, said Dutch Ambassador Peter De Gooijer, who also spoke at the meeting. He stressed that his government’s first priority was to have the victims’ bodies returned home and then to conduct an independent investigation. He deplored the disrespectful way in which the bodies of the victims had been treated and said that this would not be forgotten by the Dutch people.

Re-watch the debate via EP Live (link to the rigth).

Chatsworth Products Steps into New Leadership Era with Positive Outlook, New Product Developments

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif., July 23, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Chatsworth Products (CPI), a 100 percent employee-owned global manufacturer of voice, data and security products and service solutions, has moved into a new leadership era, focusing on global growth, customer satisfaction and innovative product development.

Since its inception in 1991, CPI’s desire to provide infrastructure products of unparalleled design and quality has driven the company to embrace the constant advancements innate of the technology sector, particularly in the advancing field of data center management.

Continuing this forward momentum, in June, CPI welcomed Michael Custer as its new President, replacing Larry Renaud, who will remain CEO until his retirement in September. Custer, who first joined CPI in 1996, most recently held the position of Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing with additional executive oversight responsibilities for International Operations, Supply Chain & Quality.

Moving forward, CPI’s employee-owners and customers can expect to benefit from the yearly growth and expansion that CPI has experienced since it started. With the continuity in senior leadership, the Chatsworth Products management team is energized with the opportunity to extend its core value of ‘delighting the customer’ and expects to further leverage the company’s core competency to sense and rapidly respond to the changing needs of technology end users.

“CPI has remained fiercely independent through an extended period of industry consolidation and has preserved a uniquely strong best-in-class market position,” Custer states. “We’ve earned that position through an unmatched combination of high-availability solutions through our industry-leading distribution partners and high-touch customized solutions that always start with collaboration and the goal of delivering demonstrable benefits to our customers.”

CPI believes that technology decisions are business decisions. CPI looks to a bright future with its new leadership and is committed to seize every new opportunity to keep delighting customers with industry-relevant, high-value custom solutions.

For more information about Chatsworth Products, visit the website.

Readout of the President’s Call with President Komorowski of Poland

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

July 21, 2014

This afternoon, President Obama spoke with Polish President Komorowski to discuss the situation in Ukraine and the upcoming NATO Summit in Wales.  The two presidents exchanged views in advance of the meeting in Warsaw tomorrow of the leaders of nine NATO members from Central and Eastern Europe.  President Obama and President Komorowski agreed on the importance of raising defense spending among European members of NATO, as well as on the importance of alliance-wide and credible contributions to NATO’s reassurance efforts in Central and Eastern Europe.  The two leaders also stressed the need for Transatlantic solidarity in responding to the tragic shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and Russia’s efforts to destabilize Ukraine. 

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 7/21/2014

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

July 21, 2014

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:28 P.M. EDT

MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I apologize for the delay today.  We’re going to try to do better on the timing, but there are always going to be those days that a delay can’t be avoided, and unfortunately today was one of those days, so I apologize.

I do have a quick announcement at the top of the briefing before we get started.  This afternoon, the President will convene a meeting of his Homeland Security Council.  That includes the Vice President, Secretaries Johnson, Burwell and Hagel, among others, to discuss the situation at the border and the comprehensive whole-of-government response that the President has directed be put in place.

This meeting is taking place in an important context that I wanted to make sure that you are aware of.  In June, Customs and Border Patrol apprehended an average of around 355 unaccompanied children per day in the Rio Grande Valley.  According to preliminary data tracking the first two weeks of this month, CBP apprehensions have dropped to an average of around 150 unaccompanied children per day in the Rio Grande Valley, and some of those days have been as low as around 110 to 115 children per day.

Now, while the reasons for the reduction in the number of unaccompanied children and adults traveling with children apprehended by CBP cannot be attributed to any one factor, we do believe that the administration’s response and efforts to work with Central American leaders to publicize the dangers of the journey and reinforce that apprehended migrants are ultimately returned to their home countries in keeping with the law, as well as seasonal flows, have all played a part. 

That all being said, that support for the administration’s strategy and supplemental appropriations request, including efforts to support deterrence, address the root causes of migration, and build our capacity to provide the appropriate care for unaccompanied children and adults traveling with children, all remains critical to managing the situation this year and making longer-term progress in stemming the flow of Central American migrants across the border.  We want to make sure that we do not find ourselves in a similar situation in the years to come.

So I wanted to make sure that you’re aware of that addition to the President’s schedule today.

So, Julie, do you want to get us started?

Q    Thanks, Josh.  The Malaysian Prime Minister says that he’s reached a deal with the rebels in Ukraine to allow safe access to the crash site and to hand over the plane’s black boxes.  Is the U.S. aware of the circumstances around this deal?  Do you believe it’s legitimate?  And does it meet the conditions that the President outlined in his statement this morning?

MR. EARNEST:  I’ve seen those reports about the custody of the black boxes.  I’m not in a position to comment on them from here.  These are relatively late-breaking reports. 

What I will say is that what the President is calling for is unfettered access for professional international investigators to get access to the scene.  And this is important because there should be a professional, transparent investigation conducted into what exactly happened.  And that will not be able to occur if we continue to see what we’ve seen in recent days, which is Russian-backed separatists preventing those investigators from getting access to the site.  There were reports that some of these separatists were wielding weapons, even firing them into the air. 

So this is a situation that we’re pretty concerned about.  You heard the President talk about this directly a couple of hours ago.  There is an opportunity for President Putin to use the significant influence that he has with these Russian-backed separatists to comply with the request of investigators for access to the scene.  As the President described, that’s the least they could do. 

Q    Can you say what specifically the U.S. is hoping the Europeans do this week in terms of additional costs against Russia?  There’s a meeting tomorrow in Brussels.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, as you know, Julie, the United States has been in regular consultation with our partners in Europe about isolating Russia and putting pressure on Russia to use their influence to try to find a diplomatic resolution to the instability we see in Ukraine right now.

In the last several months, Russia has not used that influence to encourage the separatists to abide by a cease-fire.  In fact, we have actually seen Russia take steps that could be considered proactive steps that are actually contributing to the instability in that area.

So what we have sought is to work in coordination with our partners in Europe to put pressure on President Putin to change course, to change his strategy.  And those talks among European leaders will continue.  And in the context of those talks, senior administration officials will be in touch with their European counterparts about steps they could take.

Now, I’m not going to lay out those steps in advance, as we’ve discussed a few times.  It would be counterproductive for us to talk in detail about what those steps would be.

Q    But it seems like you could at least — I mean, do you want the Europeans to at least get to the point where their sanctions match the sanctions that the President outlined last week?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the President did outline some steps last week that we were going to take unilaterally to impose some costs on Russia.  In coordination with those announcements, the Europeans made clear that they’re putting in place the kind of legal framework that’s necessary to put in place additional sanctions for their own part as well.

So we certainly want to continue to mobilize the international community, as we’ve already done, to put pressure on Russia and on Putin to contribute to a solution in Ukraine.  And those efforts continue.  I think in light of this terribly tragic situation, the stakes for resolving the situation quickly have been laid bare.  There are consequences, and in this case dire consequences, for the failure of the Russian leader to use his influence in the region to deal with this situation. 

And now that, as the President described, the international community’s collective head has snapped to attention in terms of focusing on this situation, we anticipate that the increased pressure will be something that President Putin finds more persuasive.  But time will tell.

Q    Is the President willing to act unilaterally to impose U.S. sanctions against broad sectors of the Russian economy that go beyond what he did yesterday?  Or does he feel like those measures have to happen in coordination with the Europeans?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Julie, as you pointed out in your previous question, the sanctions regime that was announced last week was put in place one day before the downing of this jetliner.

Q    But obviously that has changed the circumstances there.

MR. EARNEST:  It has certainly changed the circumstances there.  That previous sanctions regime was put in place based on actions that Russia had already taken to destabilize the situation. 

It is clear that Russia has not changed course, and that is why additional sanctions or additional costs remain on the table and will continue to be considered by this administration to focus pressure on the Russians.

Q    Does that include unilateral sector sanctions, broad sector sanctions?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not going to telegraph any specific strategy that we have, but it is accurate to say that additional steps are being contemplated by this administration as necessary to put additional pressure on President Putin to use his influence to contribute positively to resolving the situation in Ukraine.  So far, their contributions have been almost entirely negative, and we would like to see the Russians pursue a different course, to change their strategy, and pursue the kind of diplomatic solution that we know is capable of resolving the conflict there.


Q    Josh, would the United States like to see President Putin excluded from the G20 meeting that will be held in Australia at the end of this year?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have any steps like that to announce at this point.

Q    Is that something that the President has discussed with Prime Minister Abbott during their couple different conversations over the last week?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have any more details in terms of their conversations to read out at this point.

Q    On a different subject, the President and Secretary Kerry both appear to be fed up with Israel, or the number of civilian casualties in Gaza.  Accepting what the President said about Israel’s right to defend itself against rocket attacks, is that a fair characterization to say that the President is losing patience over this?

MR. EARNEST:  I think the way that I would characterize it is simply that the President is concerned about the violence that we’ve seen experienced by civilians on both sides of the border.  There are reports of Israeli casualties and many more reports of Palestinian casualties.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who have been killed.  Our condolences are with the Palestinian people and the Israeli people for the losses that they have suffered.

What is unacceptable, though, is for Hamas to continue firing rockets aimed squarely at Israeli civilians.  That is not a situation that any country could tolerate, and it is why the Israeli political leadership has the right to use their military might to defend their people.  At the same time, the Israelis say that they uphold high standards in terms of ensuring that those operations take into account the safety and well-being of innocent civilians.  What this escalation in violence makes clear is that Israel must take greater steps to meet its own standards for protecting civilians from being killed.  And we’ll continue to send that message directly to the Israelis.

Q    So does that mean that the United States does not feel it is maintaining those standards and being as careful as it should be in those attacks?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think what we would like to do is we would like the Israelis to take even greater steps to ensure the protection of innocent civilians, including Palestinians. 

As I pointed out, and as the President alluded to in his statement this morning, Israel does face a significant threat from Hamas.  That is apparent from the barrage of rocket attacks that have been fired off by Hamas.  That’s apparent from the infrastructure of tunnels that Hamas has used to carry out acts of violence. 

What’s also clear is that this Israeli offensive has made progress in dismantling this infrastructure.  And again, it is within Israel’s right to take those kinds of steps.  At the same time, we also want to make sure that Israel is doing everything that they can to live up to their own standards related to protecting the welfare and well-being of innocent civilian bystanders.


Q    Thanks, Josh.  It seems just judging by the last statement that the U.S. would like to see the Israelis take greater steps, that the U.S. believes that the Israelis have gone a little overboard in this tunnel operation.  Is that a fair assessment?

MR. EARNEST:  That’s not the way that I would describe it, Jim.  What I would say is that the Israelis have the right to defend themselves, and they have taken steps to do exactly that.  We’ve seen their population subjected to repeated volleys of rocket fire.  What distinguishes the Hamas actions from the Israeli actions is that Hamas is squarely targeting their rocket fire at innocent Israeli civilians.  The Israeli military, on the other hand, does have standards for trying to protect the life of innocent civilians, even innocent Palestinian civilians.

What we would like to see, however, is we would like Israel to take greater steps to ensure that they’re living up to those standards.  So that is the clearest enunciation that I can provide of our view of the situation.

Q    And getting back to Flight 17, the Russians appear to have their own version of events.  There’s a Russian News Service report that officials there believe that a Ukrainian warplane was flying near Flight 17 before it crashed.  What’s the White House take when you hear those kinds of statements being made by the Russians?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Jim, I’m not in a position to offer a specific intelligence assessment.  That’s certainly possible that we may be in a position to do that in the days ahead.  But there are some facts that have been widely reported and that are well known.  The first is that, for months now, the Russian government has been actively supporting the separatists in eastern Ukraine.  In fact, some of those separatist leaders are Russian citizens.

We also know — and we actually announced in the context of the sanctions regime that we were putting in place on Wednesday — that Russia continues to provide heavy weapons to these separatists by moving heavy weapons from Russia across the border into Ukraine.  We also know that the Russians are actively engaged in training separatists to use those weapons, including some anti-aircraft weapons.  In fact, the separatists have claimed some success on this front.  They have boasted in the last several weeks of shooting down three different Ukrainian aircraft.  So there’s a track record here.

We also know, according to social media reports, that separatists last week had access to an SA-11 system, the kind of system that is capable to reaching aircraft at high altitudes.  We also know that the missile that downed Malaysia Flight 17 was fired from a separatist-controlled area.  We know that the Ukrainian military was not operating anti-aircraft weapons in that area at that time.  We’ve seen social media accounts of that SA-11 system moving from Ukraine back across the border into Russia.  And we’ve seen social media accounts of the separatists talking about the shoot-down of the plane.

So what’s clear is that there is a picture that’s coming into focus.  And Russian claims, to the contrary, are getting both more desperate and much harder to believe.

Q    Later this week — or actually, tomorrow, the President is going to be heading out West for a series of fundraisers — Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles.  Are you concerned about the image that the President is going to be sending later this week that he’s on fundraising trips while these two crises are going on at the same time?  Have you given any consideration to perhaps curtailing that fundraising travel schedule for later this week?

MR. EARNEST:  The President’s top priority and the top priority of the staff here at the White House is making sure that the President is able to do his job in terms of managing the United States’ involvement in these crises.  As was demonstrated last week when the President was on the road and two of these crises flared up, the President was able to fulfill his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief and as the leader of this country from the road. 

When the President travels, he travels with an array of staff and advisors and communications equipment that allows him to do his job from wherever he happens to be.  And that will be the case this week when he’s traveling later this week.  We want to make sure that the President has everything that he needs to fulfill his responsibilities as the Commander-in-Chief.  And if it becomes clear that there’s a need for him to come back to the White House in order to fulfill those functions, then we’ll make a change in his schedule.  Right now it’s not apparent that that’s the case.

Q    At this point, you’re not changing the schedule.

MR. EARNEST:  That’s correct. 

Let’s move around the room a little bit.  Olivier.

Q    Josh, the President today in his statement talked about evidence-tampering by Russian-backed separatists.  Could you give us a couple of examples and tell us what that allegation rests on?  Are we talking about open source comments, or does the United States have intelligence into the activities on the ground?

MR. EARNEST:  What I can comment on is specifically the open press reports that we’ve seen.  And most of this is driven by the refusal of Russian-backed separatists to allow international investigators, professional investigators to get unfettered access to the scene.  And there are widespread reports through social media and through more formal media outlets that indicate that parts of the plane are being moved around.  There are reports that Russian-backed separatists are handling the bodies in a way that is not in line with generally accepted standards.

Not only is that an added insult and source of pain to the families of those who have already lost so much, it also is tampering with evidence of this terrible tragedy.

So there are a number of published reports and social media reports that give us concern about the way that that scene is being handled right now.

Q    I understand that.  But the President is putting his credibility behind the social — effectively putting his credibility behind the social media reports and media reports.  What I’m trying to get at is, when you talk about moving parts of the plane around, that could refer to a whole lot of different activities.  And I’m trying to figure out whether this is tampering with evidence, or if they’re moving wreckage to get bodies.  I can’t tell from these public comments what’s going on.

MR. EARNEST:  The President’s priority is that this investigation should be conducted by an international set of investigators that don’t have an agenda beyond getting to the truth.  We want to make sure that those who are conducting this investigation aren’t just neutral arbiters, but are also trained; that these are professionals who are conducting these investigations, people that have experience in dealing with these kinds of matters.

That is the focus of the President’s immediate concern right now.  And that is why we believe that President Putin should take the steps that are necessary to use his influence to ensure that those international investigators can have access to the scene so we can get to the bottom of what exactly happened.  That should be, frankly, in everybody’s interest.  And as I pointed out, and as the President mentioned earlier, it seems like the least that the separatists could do.


Q    Josh, can I follow up on what Olivier was asking?  The President today asked the question — what are they trying to hide?  And I guess to follow on what Olivier was asking, is the President confident that even without the evidence on the ground or with the tampering or the movement of material in the region, that intelligence sources and the information already obtained in the United States and by allies will be enough to make the transparent case that he is urging?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’ll say a couple of things about that.  The first is that I’m not going to be in a position to deliver an intelligence assessment on this matter from here today.  There is a pretty good case that I walked through before, based on public reports and based on some intelligence assessments that had previously been released, that paint a pretty clear picture about what’s happened and who is culpable.  It also paints a pretty clear picture of how the Russians have contributed to this tragedy.  And it is why we are hopeful that the pressure of the international community can be brought to bear in a way that will force Russia and President Putin to contribute to a solution to the situation in Ukraine.

And the investigation that we would like to see on the ground would only add to the body of evidence that’s already been assembled and reported about what exactly happened last Thursday morning in eastern Ukraine.  So everybody that is interested in the truth and getting to the bottom of what actually happened will be strongly supportive of ensuring that these international, impartial, professional investigators have unfettered access to the scene so that they can determine exactly what happened and why it happened.  That would only lay on top of what is already a pretty compelling body of evidence.

Q    One other question on a different subject.  The Washington Post report this weekend about the information available to the administration about the border and expectations of a surge at the border.  Can you comment on whether the administration was advised, and then overlooked or disregarded the information that was available to DHS and the White House?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Alexis, I’d first point out that you’re asking about a story that’s based entirely on anonymous sources.  So that should be reflected in the record.  The second is, if you do take a look at what this administration’s response has been not just in the last couple of months, but over the last few years, you’ve seen that this administration has repeatedly sought additional resources to deal with this specific problem at the border.  That if you look at the trajectory of the budget from Fiscal Year 2011 to the 2012 to 2013 to 2014, that there has been a steady increase in the amount of resources requested to deal with this precise problem.  That is a pretty good indication that this is something that we’ve been watching carefully and preparing for.

What also happens to be true is that there are a number of steps that were taken by this administration in the months before, or at least in the weeks before this became the media sensation that it has been over the last several weeks, that there were repeated visits by the Secretary of Homeland Security to the border and to facilities that were used and have been used to detain unaccompanied minors. 

There were steps taken by the President to direct the FEMA Administrator to coordinate the activities of DHS and the Department of Defense, and Health and Human Services, to coordinate the response for detaining these children and these families in a humanitarian way.

So this is something that the administration has been focused on for quite some time.  And we have seen, as I mentioned at the top of the briefing, the tide at least start to turn over the last couple of weeks.  But we’re not going to turn our attention away from that; in fact, the President is having a meeting on this today, because he believes that this is the kind of significant problem that merits sustained attention.


Q    Can I follow up on that?

MR. EARNEST:  Go ahead, Peter.

Q    As you may have heard, Texas Governor Perry is expected to deploy 1,000 Texas National Guard troops the border; he obviously has the authority to do that.  The President has declined to do that on the federal level so far.  What do you think the impact of this state action will be?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not sure exactly what the long-term impact of that will be.  I know that Governor Perry is hopeful that it will have a — send an important symbol.  What we’re focused on is making sure that we have the necessary resources at the border to deal with this problem on a sustained basis; that by nature, a National Guard deployment is temporary.

Now, I will say that we haven’t received the formal communication that you typically get from a state official when they make a request like this.  So we’ll see if Governor Perry follows through on his public announcement with the communication that’s necessary to begin this kind of deployment.  What I would say is that if this deployment does move forward, it is the kind of step that we would like to see be coordinated and integrated with the ongoing response there.

And the President, after meeting with Governor Perry a couple of weeks ago in Texas, signaled his openness to this kind of proposal.  The President and this administration does not see it in any way as a substitute for the kind of more enduring response that this administration has sought both through the supplemental appropriations request, but also through comprehensive immigration reform.

Again, Governor Perry has referred repeatedly to his desire to make a symbolic statement to the people of Central America that the border is closed.  And he thinks that the best way to do that is to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the border.  It seems to me that a much more powerful symbol would be the bipartisan passage of legislation that would actually make a historic investment in border security and send an additional 20,000 personnel to the border.  So by a factor of 20, we could, according to Governor Perry’s analysis, significantly multiply the symbol that we’re sending about the security to the border.

So what we’re hopeful is that Governor Perry will not just take these kinds of steps that are generating the kind of headlines I suspect he intended, but will actually take the kinds of steps that will be constructive to solving the problem over the long term.  And to be specific, that means that we hope that Governor Perry will support the supplemental appropriations request that this administration put forward a few weeks ago, and that Governor Perry will use his influence with congressional Republicans in Congress and urge them to stop blocking comprehensive bipartisan legislation in the House of Representatives that would make an historic commitment to border security and address so many of the problems that are plaguing our broken immigration system. 

Q    Are you saying you’re concerned about the militarization of the border with this move?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what I’m saying is that we haven’t seen the kinds of communication that you’d ordinarily see from a governor when they want to make a deployment like this.  And we would hope that any additional resources that are added to the border would be integrated and coordinated with the significant ongoing efforts that are already in place.


Q    Can I follow up on that?


Q    You’ve been asked several times, like, why would this situation not have happened if the comprehensive bill had been law.  And you’ve referred — and again, you did today — to the fact that there would be 20,000 more agents on the border; that border security would be beefed up.  My understanding is that these kids are not sneaking past border agents, they are giving themselves up to border agents.  So why would having more border agents stop them from coming?  I’m confused. 

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think this would be a great question for Governor Perry.  So hopefully your interview request of Governor Perry is forthcoming, because I think that’s the question that he’s laying out, right?

Q    You keep on saying border security, but isn’t it because families would be reunified, and the mothers would be legalized so they wouldn’t have to be separated from their kids?

MR. EARNEST:  The context in which I raised it, Mara, was with Governor Perry’s assertion that the way to solve this problem is through symbolism; that symbolic actions placing additional security assets to the border is a way to solve this problem.  And what I’m saying is that if Governor Perry actually feels this way, that we would expect him to be an enthusiastic supporter of not adding 1,000 boots on the ground on the border, but rather of 20,000 boots to the border; that if that’s the case that Governor Perry wants to make, we would expect him to be strongly supportive of comprehensive immigration reform.

We have described this legislation as a compromise piece of legislation all along.  The President is supportive of adding additional resources to the border to further augment our efforts to secure the border.  But there are a number of other things that are included in that legislation that would be beneficial to the economy, that would reduce the deficit, that would actually make it easier for businesses who are trying to hire workers.  Right now, there’s this perverse set of incentives in place for businesses to hire undocumented workers because they can do so more cheaply.  What this legislation would do is it would level the playing field and enforce the law in a way that would require all businesses to abide by the rules, to do the right thing, and do that in a way that makes the most business sense.

So there are a whole host of reasons why anyone, Democrats and Republicans, and why we’ve seen so many Democrats and Republicans all across the country come out and strongly support comprehensive immigration reform.

Q    But I want to ask the question again:  What in the bill that was passed by the Senate would specifically have prevented these kids from flowing over the border?

MR. EARNEST:  There are a number of things in this piece of legislation that would contribute to alleviating this problem.  The first is, we would have a — part of the investment that’s included in this immigration reform proposal is a streamlined legal immigration process.  And having a legal immigration process that functions more effectively would stem the tide of illegal migration.  Those who are desperate to enter this country would understand that there is actually a legitimate path for them to do so legally.

The other thing that would — again, if you listen to Republican arguments about the causes of this situation that we see along the border, they say that there’s a lot of — a lack of clarity about the immigration system.  There’s no doubt that there are a lot of consequences of our broken immigration system that are difficult to explain.  And making sure that people understand the facts is complicated.  Putting in place this common-sense proposal that was passed in bipartisan fashion by the Senate would make it much clearer to everybody, both people in this country and people in other countries, what exactly the rules are for immigrating to this country.  That would have an impact on stemming the tide of illegal migration. 

I’m not suggesting that if — well, let me just say it this way:  This problem at the border is something that has existed for quite some time, and would likely exist in the future.  The question is, are we going to make sure that the federal government has the kinds of resources and has a reformed law in place that effectively governs our immigration system so that we can deal with these difficult challenges. 


Q    The President obviously feels that there’s so much now at stake that he has asked John Kerry once again to get on another plane, and this one to Cairo, to meet with Ban Ki-moon, Mr. Abbas and other leaders in the region.  Specifically, what has the President charged the Secretary to do, and what deliverables is he willing to offer to bring back the cessation of the hostilities back to November ‘12?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, specifically, that was what the Secretary of State was charged with doing — is going to the region and putting back in place the agreement that was reached around the cease-fire in November of 2012.  And that is going to require some difficult diplomacy, but he’ll be, as you pointed out, meeting with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.  He’ll also be talking to his Egyptian counterpart as well as the President of Egypt, Mr. el-Sisi.  He’ll also be talking to other interested leaders in the region who can play a constructive role in trying to resolve this crisis.

So that is his specific charge, which is to go back and get this cease-fire in place as soon as possible.  As long as this fighting continues, we continue to see innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.  And our hearts go out to those who have lost so much in this violence, and that’s why we want to see this violence end as soon as possible.

Q    Can I follow up on that?

MR. EARNEST:  Go ahead, J.C.

Q    May I just finish?  Has the President — will the President, through Mr. Kerry, offer anything in a sense of deliverables to assure that this will happen?  In other words, everything is on the table.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t want to read out any of the Secretary’s meetings before he arrives in Cairo, or before he begins his meetings in Cairo.  But this is an important priority, and there are lives at stake.  And we are hopeful that all sides will engage in a constructive conversation and try to find the diplomatic resolution that’s necessary to put an end to the violence, and bring — and take a lot more civilians out of direct harm’s way.


Q    Josh, you mentioned the homeland security meeting for later in the afternoon.  Is the Texas governor’s proposal included or excluded on the table for that meeting?  Will they be discussing state efforts to boost the National Guard?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know exactly what they will discuss in the context of that meeting.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it came up, though.

Q    And on the Israel topic, what was the inciting incident that the President deemed it necessary to go from strongly urging Israel and Palestinians to avoid civilian casualties to demanding an immediate cease-fire?  What was that line for the President?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not sure I entirely understand the formulation of your question.  I don’t — we didn’t want the cease-fire that was established in 2012 to break in the first place, and that cease-fire was broken when Hamas continued — stepped up its barrage of rocket fire that was, again, targeted squarely at innocent Israeli civilians.

We have seen the Israeli political leadership make a decision to respond militarily to try to provide for the safety and well-being of their citizens.  That is entirely within their rights; some would even make the case it’s within their responsibilities to do so.  What we would like to see them do is to live up to their own standards for trying to safeguard the Palestinian population while they are conducting those counterterrorism efforts to disrupt the infrastructure that Hamas has put in place.


Q    Just to follow up, the Egyptians are saying that they are willing to alter the plan for the cease-fire to include opening the border crossing left in the siege on Gaza.  Is that something that the White House or Secretary Kerry will be endorsing?  And are you willing to accept the Security Council resolution 1860, which is going back to 2009 basically, which is basically enforcing — applying the same thing, which is lifting the siege of Gaza and opening the border crossing, which is a demand by Hamas?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what we have said about the situation, Nadia, is we certainly welcome the constructive engagement of the Egyptians to try to broker a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas.  I’m not in a position to negotiate the terms of that cease-fire from here.  Secretary Kerry will be doing that directly with the Israelis and Palestinians and the Egyptians in the region. 

But we certainly welcome the constructive suggestions of interested observers.  The U.N. has, as you point out, traditionally played an important role in trying to broker these kinds of agreements.  I’m not in a position to say right now what’s acceptable or what’s not, what’s on the table or what’s not.  But I am in a position to say that Secretary Kerry has traveled to the region at the direction of the President with one specific goal in mind, which is to end the violence that right now is putting so many lives — innocent lives — at risk. 

Q    The U.N. was describing the humanitarian situation in Gaza as dire — 100,000 Palestinians have been made homeless and they have no place to go except U.N. schools.  Is the White House helping in any kind of humanitarian aid, whether directly to the U.N. agency, UNRWA, that works there, or through USAID?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have that information in front of me.  I’d encourage you to check with the State Department.  But the United States is very concerned about the urgent humanitarian situation that does exist in Gaza right now.  Again, that humanitarian situation, at least in the short term, can be most importantly addressed by putting in place a cease-fire so that we don’t see these innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. 


Q    Is the White House comfortable with the idea that the Malaysian Prime Minister negotiated this deal with separatists that the administration regards as illegitimate and criminal occupiers of a certain part of Ukraine, a sovereign nation?  I mean, separate from the details, are you comfortable with that entire approach, instead of going through some other means?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not in a position to comment specifically on this announcement.  It broke right before I walked out.  But let me just say this:  I can certainly understand the sense of urgency that the Malaysian Prime Minister is feeling about this situation.  So one of his — this government-owned airline was shot down.  There were a number of Malaysian citizens that were on board.  So his active engagement and sense of urgency on this issue is entirely understandable.

We’ve been very clear about what it is we would like to see, and we’d like to see a coordinated international effort to investigate what exactly happened.

Q    And does this in any way go toward legitimizing these separatists who control this territory in an extra-governmental way?

MR. EARNEST:  Not one bit.

Q    I asked this question last week and you answered it, so I hope you’ll do it again today, because there’s been a lot more that’s happened since then.  Does the administration believe anything the Israeli government has done in relationship to its military operations in Gaza have been disproportionate or a violation of international law, or a war crime?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, what this administration believes is that we are — what this administration believes is that the Israeli government has the right to defend their citizens.  And they have chosen to take some military action to try to provide for the protection of their citizens, and that military action is being conducted against a network of tunnels that Hamas has constructed to try to give them access to Israeli civilians.  It’s also being conducted against a range of rocket-firing sites that are used to aim rockets at innocent Israeli civilians.

So there is a clear case for the right that Israel is exercising the right to defend their citizens.  In terms of the consequences of those steps, we do want Israel to live up to their stated standards of ensuring as much as possible the safety and welfare of innocent civilians, including innocent Palestinian civilians.

It’s clear that a number — a large number of innocent Palestinian civilians have died.  Our condolences are with the Palestinian people because of those deaths.  They are a tragedy.  The way to resolve this situation, however, is for both sides to agree to a cease-fire and, most importantly, for Hamas to stop firing rockets that are aimed squarely at civilians.

What’s important to understand is that the Israeli military has protocol in place to try to protect innocent bystanders, even as they’re conducting their operations.  On the other hand, Hamas is directly targeting innocent bystanders through their operations.

So we’re very concerned about this violence, and we are hopeful that Secretary Kerry will have some success in working with both sides and with the international community to try to bring about a cease-fire.

Q    When I asked you that question last week, your one-word answer was “no.”  So that was a much longer formulation today.  So it sounds to me as if the administration believes the Israeli government has been — or is either closer to being disproportionate or has already been disproportionate in its military response.

MR. EARNEST:  I was just attempting to give you a as-detailed-as-possible understanding of our thinking about this situation.

Q    Well, can you give it a “yes” or “no” now?

Q    I offered you the opportunity to give me the same “no” that you gave me last week.  If you want to take it, don’t, but I’m offering you the exact same question, and last week your answer in one word was “no.”

MR. EARNEST:  Well, our position on this hasn’t changed, but it’s important for people to understand exactly what our thinking is and the way that we see this situation.  And it’s longer than just a one-word answer.

Q    Understood.  British Prime Minister David Cameron has said he opposes, and he thinks the French government ought to reconsider immediately its scheduled sale of two large front-line first-class amphibious launch vehicles — vessels to the Russian government.  Does the United States government agree?

MR. EARNEST:  Major, I have not — I know that this has been the subject of some discussion between the President and the French leader, but I’m not in a position to convey our current views on that military transaction at this point.

Q    Why not?

MR. EARNEST:  Just because I don’t have that answer in front of me.

Q    Well, the context —

MR. EARNEST:  I’m happy to have somebody on my staff follow up with you.

Q    The Prime Minister said this changes many, many things — the downing of Malaysia Air Flight 17 — and that it would be unconscionable for any European country concerned about this to press on with a military transaction of this magnitude.  The United States doesn’t have an opinion on that?

MR. EARNEST:  We probably do, I just don’t have it in front of me.  So I’ll have to follow up with you on that.


Q    Thank you.  You mentioned earlier that there are additional sanctions that are on the table under consideration.  Senator Toomey this morning said that the U.S. should do additional sanctions, but one of them ought to be a financial sanction that personally affects Putin.  Is there such a thing on the table, among others?  And what is the administration’s feeling about that?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we have, Roger, as you pointed out last week, put in place sanctions against some entities that operate in the defense, financial and energy sectors of the Russian economy.  We do anticipate that those sanctions will serve to impose some economic costs on Russia for the actions that they have taken in Ukraine so far.  And as Julie pointed out, that actually predates the downing of Malaysia flight — Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 by Russian-backed separatists. 

So the point is, there are significant steps that we’ve already taken as it relates to a sanctions regime to impose costs on Russia.  Those sanctions were put in place even before this recent tragic turn of events.

There are additional sanctions that are on the table, and the President will continue to be in touch with his European counterparts as we contemplate additional steps.

Q    Do they include ones that personally affect Putin?

MR. EARNEST:  It would be unwise for me, strategically, to talk about specific contemplated actions.  Again, to talk in detail about a specific sanctions regime before we put it in place would only allow the target of that sanctions regime to try to evade those sanctions that are put in place.

So I don’t want to send a signal one way or the other about what we’re contemplating.  But it is accurate to say that additional sanctions remain on the table, and imposing additional costs on Russia are an option.

Q    And a separate subject.  Ed Miliband, the Labor Party leader in the UK, is he at the White House today?

MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of his precise schedule, but we can check on that for you.


Q    Back to Malaysian flight — Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 — the President’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said, “We must stop at nothing to bring those responsible to justice.”  Does the President agree, I assume, with his U.N. Ambassador?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the President certainly agrees that those who are responsible for this should be brought to justice.  There’s no doubt about that.  And that’s part of why it’s so important for us to have a thorough, transparent investigation to what exactly happened.

Q    So what does that mean, bringing those responsible to justice?  I assume you’re not simply talking about additional sanctions, you’re talking about bringing the perpetrators to justice.  How?  In what way?

MR. EARNEST:  Again, this is a terrible tragedy that the international community is involved in and is involved in addressing.  So that’s why the first step here will be an international investigation into what exactly occurred.  And ultimately, there will be an opportunity for the international community to make a determination about who exactly was responsible and how they should be held accountable.

Q    But I’m asking the “what.”  So what happens?  Are we talking about bringing the perpetrators before a tribunal?  Are we talking about a — what kind of a response are you talking about?  “Bringing to justice,” it’s a very powerful statement.  I just wonder, what does it mean?

MR. EARNEST:  It is a powerful statement.  The first step, though, needs to be conducting an investigation into what exactly happened, then we can start to get down to who exactly is individually responsible and what sort of justice they deserve.

Q    But am I right in assuming that when you talk about bringing somebody to justice — that sounds like something beyond sanctions.  Is that a correct interpretation?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t want to foreshadow what that might be.  Your interest in this I think is understandable, but it’s a couple of steps ahead of where we are right now.  What we’re focused on right now is making sure that those who are responsible for investigating this situation can get the access that they need to the crash site so they can conduct that investigation, determine what exactly happened, why it happened, and then we can get down the path of figuring out who is responsible.

Q    And why is it that the President’s Ambassador to the U.N. has seemed to be much more forceful on this than the President himself?  I mean, even today, the President’s line which was, “We have to make sure the truth is out and accountability exists,” as opposed to “the perpetrators must be brought to justice” –why is there a difference, at least in the tone, between the President and his ambassador?

MR. EARNEST:  Jon, I’ll leave it to you to analyze to communication styles of different members of the President’s team.  I think the President and his U.N. Ambassador have delivered a very forceful and direct message to the Russians that it’s time for them to play a constructive role in ending this crisis.

Q    On the warnings that were not given to civilian aircraft flying over there, I’m just wondering, has there been any look-back?  The United States government had clear indication that anti-missile systems were being moved into rebel areas; that Russian systems were being moved in a month before this happened.  Why wasn’t there a general aviation warning given out to say civilian commercial aircraft should not fly over this region?

MR. EARNEST:  It’s my understanding that the FAA did actually issue a notice to airmen about the conflict in that region as early as April, I believe.  Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of individual carriers to make decisions about these flight plans, and to make the decision to fly along these routes.

Q    Was the FAA warning for the area of Crimea or the area of where this happened?

MR. EARNEST:  I don’t have the specific language in front of me.  I believe it applied to this broader region, but we can check on that for you, or you can check with the FAA.

Q    And just one other thing.  You’ve had a few days to look back.  Was it a mistake to have the President continue on his schedule, even going in — before making his first statement about this, go in ordering cheeseburgers at the Charcoal Pit up in Delaware and continue on a campaign schedule — what looked like a campaign schedule, including fundraisers in New York?  Was that a mistake in hindsight?

MR. EARNEST:  It was not.  Again, what the President is looking at and what his team is looking at is, does he have what he needs to do his job.  And over the course of that day, you saw the President make calls to the Ukrainian President.  He made calls to the Malaysian Prime Minister —

Q    But only after he first went to the Charcoal Pit, right?  I mean, he went on his — I mean —

MR. EARNEST:  Again, what the President is focused on is his ability to do his job.  And what we saw is the President make calls to the Ukrainian President, to the Malaysian Prime Minister, to the Dutch Prime Minister.  He called his Secretary of State.  And he convened a secure call with his national security team to talk about both the situation in Gaza and the situation in Ukraine. 

So the President had all the tools at his disposal that were necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of the Commander-in-Chief, and that is what we were focused on.  And if there were a requirement for the President to change his schedule so that he could attend to this urgent priority and fulfill his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief, we would have not hesitated to make that change.  But in this case, the President was able to continue his schedule and ably fulfill his responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief.  And I would anticipate that that’s what the President will do over the course of this week as well.


Q    Josh, on Jon’s question about bringing folks to justice — is there any evidence that the sanctions so far have deterred Vladimir Putin?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there have been a number of signals that President Putin has sent about his involvement in this region.  We’ve talked about them over the course of the last several weeks — that there have been situation where we’ve seen one or two steps forward and then one or two steps back.

So it is clear that President Putin, at a minimum, is sensitive to the isolation that he’s feeling from the international community, but we have not seen President Putin take the kinds of steps that we would like him to see in terms of using his influence in this region to encourage Russian-backed separatists to put an immediate halt to the violence in that area.

Q    You remember in 2012 the President was overheard talking to President Medvedev about, after the election — tell Vladimir after the election I’ll have more flexibility.  Why didn’t that pan out?  That was specifically about missile defense.  But there was a suggestion that after the election he’d be able to work with President Putin.  Why didn’t that pan out?

MR. EARNEST:  I think you’d probably have to ask President Putin about that.  What we have seen is — you’ve seen this President work with leaders throughout Europe and the international community to focus pressure and attention on President Putin’s actions in a way that I think has not served President Putin very well. 

We have — if you’ll just sort of think back to how we got into this situation in Ukraine in the first place, there was essentially a puppet of the Putin regime that was ruling Ukraine six months ago.  And over the course of that six months we’ve seen a Ukrainian leader that actually reflects the will of the Ukrainian people elected.  We’ve seen that Ukrainian leader actually sign a cooperation agreement with Europe which was part of the uprising that was prompted in the first place. 

So if President Putin’s goal was to exercise greater influence and control over the nation of Ukraine as a whole, not only has he failed to accomplish that mission, I think he’s actually seen Ukraine sort of gravitate back into a way that he says that he’s not uncomfortable with.  Now, it’s the view of this administration and I think of the broader international community that there’s no reason that the nation of Ukraine can’t have a solid working relationship with their partner in Russia while at the same time having strong economic ties to Europe.  Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

But if Vladimir Putin was determined to try to bring Ukraine into his orbit on that aspect, at least over the course of the last six months, he’s failed miserably.

Q    Two other quick ones.  You mentioned the new Ukrainian President.  I believe he did an interview today and told Christiane Amanpour that he wants the U.S. to put these separatists on a U.S. terror list.  Is that something being considered?  Do you think that could be an effective tool to put more pressure on these separatists short of some sort of military action against them or something?  Could you put them on a list?  Could you target them?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, I know a number of them have already been targeted for sanctions, and some of them are subject to serious sanctions already.  In terms of a terrorist list, I’d encourage you to check with our national security apparatus for the criteria for adding someone to a list like that.

Q    Last one.  Secretary Kerry’s trip — did he go there in part at the invitation of Prime Minister Netanyahu?  Did the Prime Minister express support for this in his phone call with President Obama?  There were some suggestions on the ground in Israel that Israel wants the U.S. to stay out of the way right now.

MR. EARNEST:  Well, the Secretary and President Obama have been on the phone and in regular communication with Prime Minister Netanyahu over the last couple of weeks because of the urgent situation there.

Q    Communication.  But did he support the Secretary going — Secretary Kerry going now and intervening, or does he want more time?

MR. EARNEST:  You’d have to check with Prime Minister Netanyahu specifically about that.

Q    But he was on the phone with the President, right?

MR. EARNEST:  He was, and they spoke about this quite a bit.  I think the President, for reasons I think that are entirely understandable to everybody in this room and even to the international community, sent Secretary Kerry to try to broker a cease-fire because the continued violence that we’re seeing there is not in the best interest of people on either side of that conflict.

Michelle from the Wall Street Journal.

Q    I want to go back to the language that Ambassador Power used earlier this week, where she said that the U.S. will “stop at nothing” to bring these rebels to justice.  What does “stop at nothing” mean?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, Michelle, I mean, in terms of what the Ambassador had in mind, I’d encourage you to check with her.  I think what she was articulating, though, is a commitment on the part of the United States to do a couple of things.

The first is ensure that there is a thorough international investigation conducted into this incident.  The second is to ensure that the international community is in a position to hold responsible those who perpetrated this terrible act.  The third thing is to focus international attention on President Putin to get him to finally act in a constructive way to try to deescalate the conflict in that region.

It’s clear now that the impact of that instability has not just had negative consequences for the people of Ukraine, it’s not just had negative consequences for people in Eastern Europe, it’s had negative consequences for countries around the globe that lost citizens in the downing of that jetliner.  So we’re hopeful that this renewed international pressure will prod President Putin to actually act in a constructive fashion and try to destabilize the conflict in Ukraine and bring about a diplomatic resolution to resolve the differences.

Q    But is this administration considering taking any further diplomatic or military action to force an international investigation to go ahead?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, we do believe that it is an important priority that an international investigation be conducted, and that international investigators who have professional training at reviewing crash sites like this get the kind of unfettered access that they need to determine what exactly happened.  That’s something that we consider to be a top priority.

Q    And one more question for you about the border crisis.  President Obama plans to meet with Central American leaders on Friday, I believe.  What action does he hope will come out of that meeting?

MR. EARNEST:  Well, there are a couple of things.  As you know, this is part of a long series of engagements between senior administration officials and Central American leaders.  The Vice President was traveling in the region in the last few weeks.  The Secretary of State was just there a couple of weeks ago.  I know that there are some phone conversations between the Secretary of Homeland Security and the leaders of these countries.

We’re encouraging them to do a couple of things.  The first is, we want to make sure that they understand and communicate to their citizenry that parents in their country should not entrust their children in the hands of criminals to make the dangerous journey to the border with the United States.  The reason for that is quite simple, is that even if those children survive that long, dangerous journey, they will not be welcomed into this country with open arms; that this administration is committed to enforcing the law. 

We’ll certainly evaluate the asylum claims of those children if they have them, and they will be subject to due process.  But it is our expectation that after going through that due process that the majority of those children will be returned to their home country.  That is — so there are any number of reasons to ensure that kids shouldn’t make that journey and we want the Presidents, the leaders of those countries to make that clear to their population. 

At the same time, the United States is interested in partnering with these countries to try to address some of the root causes of the desperation that so many of these people are feeling.  And there are a whole range of security cooperation agreements through the Department of Justice and development activities through USAID and the State Department that can be used to try to meet some of the needs of these populations.  We obviously want to administer these programs in close coordination with the Central American leaders and that will be part of those discussions.  I do anticipate we’ll have a readout of those meetings when they’re concluded on Friday.


Q    Just a couple more things on Flight 17, because the President said at the top of his remarks today that it’s been four days; clearly Vladimir Putin has not taken the action that either the President or the international community wants him, and I assume that with every passing day, maybe every passing hour, the anguish of these families increases, the usefulness of the physical evidence which is being mishandled decreases.  How much patience is there for diplomacy to work?  Is the clock ticking, and how loudly?

MR. EARNEST:  Patience is running out with the Russian separatists who are blocking access to the site.  We’re talking about neutral, international, professional investigators who can look at the wreckage, who can examine the bodies, ensure that they’re treated well, and draw some conclusions about what exactly happened.  Everybody who has any interest in getting to the truth, in getting to the bottom of what exactly happened should be supportive of these international investigators getting the kind of access that they need. 

I understand that the Ukrainian government has actually put in place for their part a cease-fire for that region of the conflict to ensure that international investigators can do their work safely.  We’d like to see a corresponding step from the separatists be announced that would allow those investigators to have the safe, unfettered access they need to determine what exactly happened.

Q    But given the sensitivity both on

Press release – MEPs to debate crisis in Ukraine with its foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin…

EU sanctions against Russia must be stepped up, the Ukrainian border closed to halt arms flows from Russia, and the bodies of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash victims returned, MEPs insisted in today’s debate with Ukraine’s foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin. Mr Klimkin called on the EU to show its solidarity now, as Ukraine is “being punished for its EU aspirations”. The debate opened with a minute’s silence for victims of the 17 July crash.

Mr Klimkin stressed that the MH17 crash was not just an incident but a “vicious narrative” for the whole of Europe. “Before we were talking about self-defence of inhabitants of eastern Ukraine, whereas now it’s clear that we are dealing with Russian-backed terrorists”, he said. The Ukraine government is ready to engage in discussion with “the real people of Donetsk”, but “the Russian terrorists have to go back to Russia”, he added.

The EU must send a clear message of solidarity with and support for Ukraine, which he said was now “being punished for its EU aspirations”, and strengthen the EU presence on the ground by deploying a Common Security and Defence Policy mission, he urged.

“Ukraine’s security services should have full control over the border to ensure that the flow of arms from Russia can be dried up” said Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Elmar Brok (EPP, DE). He added that the actions of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin left open no “possibility of finding a political solution” and that the EU should therefore proceed with much stronger sanctions against Russia.

MEPs called for a united line between EU member states on tougher sanctions towards Russia, not as a consequence of the plane crash, but in reaction to the Russian authorities’ unwillingness to control the flow of arms and heavy weapons across the border to the eastern regions of Ukraine.

Some also criticized France for training Russian solidiers, given that hundreds of Dutch people had lost their lives in the plane crash. “My government will not stop until justice is done”, said Dutch Ambassador Peter De Gooijer, who also spoke at the meeting. He stressed that his government’s first priority was to have the victims’ bodies returned home and then to conduct an independent investigation. He deplored the disrespectful way in which the bodies of the victims had been treated and said that this would not be forgotten by the Dutch people.

Re-watch the debate via EP Live (link to the rigth).