Daily Press Briefing
January 27, 2015
INDEX FOR TODAY'S BRIEFING
1:14 p.m. EST
QUESTION: Yeah. I just wanted to ask you very quickly – the Quartet concluded a meeting yesterday calling for a resumption of talks. Do you feel that the Quartet is still relevant?
MS. PSAKI: Of course. The Quartet is an important partner in this effort. We’ll continue to consult closely with them on the way ahead. We, of course, continue to believe that final status negotiations are the only way for the parties to reach a peaceful resolution, and we continue to work to move forward that objective.
QUESTION: But other than the rhetoric – I mean, you being a robust member of the Quartet – what has the Quartet done in this effort for the past, let’s say —
MS. PSAKI: Well, they’ve been an important partner, an important convener. There’s a need to continue to talk about and discuss and push forward on these efforts, even when they’re frozen and not possible right now.
QUESTION: Mm-hmm. I wanted to ask you about UNRWA. They said in a statement yesterday or the day before that they can no longer dispense aid or money into Gaza because they only received $135 million from a promised total of 724. And there’s going to be some sort of riots in Gaza. The situation is quite bleak. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. PSAKI: Well, let me first say the United States remains a steadfast supporter of UNRWA, which we believe plays an indispensable role in the region, particularly in Gaza. You’re right, over the past few years UNRWA has been dealing with chronic budget shortfalls as donor contributions have not been able to keep pace with the rising needs in places like Gaza and Syria.
Our specific assistance – and I think the reports are referring to the cash assistance program. That hasn’t been a program that the United States has been focusing or contributing our efforts to. We announced an initial $100 million contribution for UNRWA’s 2015 needs, including 38 million for emergency needs in Gaza and the West Bank. These funds support lifesaving interventions like emergency food assistance and management of UNRWA’s collective centers, which are still housing some 12,000 displaced persons through this difficult winter. This funding is in addition to the $74 million the United States provided to UNRWA’s flash appeal in 2014.
So we remain committed. We certainly encourage other states to pledge and promptly deliver the funds they’ve already pledged to fully meet the urgent needs to Gaza’s civilian population.
QUESTION: The leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – including Eliot Engel, the ranking member, and Ed Royce, the chairman, and basically everybody else – sent a letter to Secretary Kerry about Palestinian aid today.
MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The letter says: “We believe the actions that the PA has taken require an immediate and forceful response from the United States that is commensurate with the gravity of its decision. We understand the State Department is conducting a review of assistance to the PA in light of recent developments. The United States should not support direct economic assistance to the PA until it demonstrates a meaningful reversal of this destructive course,” and it goes on. Does the Secretary have a response? Do you have a response?
MS. PSAKI: Well, I’m sure we’ll respond to their letter, as we respond to every letter. I will say, though, that we’re – there are a number of not just public comments or letters; there are a number of draft bills that have been proposed that would place further restrictions on assistance to the Palestinians. No new legislation has passed. We remain in close contact with Congress about this. Our view continues to be that U.S. assistance to the Palestinian Authority plays a valuable role in promoting stability and prosperity not just for the Palestinians, but for – also for Israel as well. There have been reports or some have asked about U.S. assistance. U.S. assistance to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza has not been suspended. Our assistance programs continue.
QUESTION: In terms of the review that they’re referring to, is that in a stage with any —
MS. PSAKI: We continually evaluate our assistance to ensure that it supports our policy, and we’ll make adjustments if necessary. But our assistance continues.
QUESTION: You believe – you continue to believe that your assistance to the PA is a – plays a valuable role in – I can’t read my writing. (Laughter.)
MS. PSAKI: I know where you’re going, Matt, and I think the point is that more economic —
QUESTION: In promoting stability and prosperity, right?
MS. PSAKI: Yes.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) in promoting stability. So how stable and prosperous do you think that the life under the Palestinian Authority is?
MS. PSAKI: I said “promoting.” I don’t think anyone’s saying it’s been achieved.