The State Department briefing on Democratic Republic of Congo of July 23rd, 2013

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index

Ms Jen Psaki is the spokesperson of the United States of America State Department and the former spokesperson for Barack Obama.

QUESTION: Can I follow up on yesterday’s question about the Thursday UN meeting on the Great Lakes and —

MS. PSAKI: Absolutely.

QUESTION: — what you might be able to tell us about the violence in Congo that has driven refugees, to Goma specifically, between the Congolese forces and the M23?

MS. PSAKI: Yeah.

QUESTION: What’s your understanding of that situation?

MS. PSAKI: I can give you an update on that. Thanks for your patience. Let’s see here. I just want to make sure I give you the most up-to-date here, Scott.

Well, let me say first that we, of course, condemn M23’s latest round of attacks on the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s military. M23’s renewed fighting seriously undermines regional and international efforts to peacefully resolve the situation in eastern D.R.C. The Secretary, as you mentioned, is going to be heading to New York on Thursday to chair a meeting of the National Security Council focused on the Congo and focused on the situation in the Great Lakes. I expect I’ll have more to say on that tomorrow in terms of the agenda and what he’s hoping to accomplish while he’s there.

QUESTION: Has the Obama Administration approached its allies in Kigali about their support for the M23?

MS. PSAKI: I just don’t have any update for you on that in terms of contacts.

QUESTION: Well, it’s the allegation of Human Rights Watch that the Rwandan military is directly supporting the M23 both in training —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — and in the recruitment of demobilized Rwandan soldiers. Is that a view that is shared by the United States?

MS. PSAKI: Well, we believe there is a credible body of evidence that supports the key findings of the Human Rights Watch report, including support by senior Rwandan officials to the M23 and of Rwandan military personnel in the D.R.C. We call upon Rwanda to immediately end any support to the M23, withdraw military personnel from eastern D.R.C., and follow through on its commitments under the framework.

QUESTION: Is it your understanding that President Kagame is aware of that, or is this just being done by some senior Rwandan officials?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any more specifics on it for you.

QUESTION: I just want —

QUESTION: Call on the senior Rwandan officials to stop – et cetera, et cetera, et cetera – I’m not trying to – I just don’t remember exactly what it was —

MS. PSAKI: To end its —

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. PSAKI: — to end any support to the M23.

QUESTION: Right. Or what?

MS. PSAKI: Well, that’s what we’re calling for, Matt.

QUESTION: Just out of the goodness of their hearts they should stop doing this, because they’re nice guys?

MS. PSAKI: That’s not at all what I’m suggesting. That’s what we feel needs to happen.

QUESTION: Well, what’s the – I understand. And then how are you prepared to make the case that – how are you prepared to punish them or use leverage to – what kind of leverage are you using to make your case here?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any leverage to outline for you today.

QUESTION: In other words, none. It’s kind of just an empty appeal, an empty call.

MS. PSAKI: Well, it was a very powerful case made in the Human Rights Watch report.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: I’m sure it was – raised the eyebrows of others as well. So we’re continuing to call on them to take action.

QUESTION: Do you know if this – if the view that you just expressed is shared over at the White House?

MS. PSAKI: Yes, it is.

QUESTION: It is shared at the White House.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Then why has this Administration not done anything to pressure President Kagame into ending the support for M23?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I don’t have any context to outline for you. This is a position that’s shared broadly in the Administration. Obviously, the Human Rights Watch report is something that we – I just stated we agree with and we share the concerns with it. But beyond that, I don’t have much more for you.

QUESTION: Jen, can I ask – in the past —

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: — the Administration, and particularly from this podium, you’ve been quite careful to not single out any of the (inaudible) players in that region.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is it – what is it in the Human Rights Watch report that has led you to this conclusion today that you can specifically call on Rwanda to end any support for the M23?

MS. PSAKI: Well, the Human Rights Watch report was specific about support by senior Rwandan officials to the M23 and Rwandan military personnel in the D.R.C. That’s something, obviously, that raises concerns for us. And that’s why we are calling for Rwanda to immediately end any support to the M23. So it was specific about that issue.

QUESTION: And you believe, generally, that the Human Rights Watch has produced a credible and —

MS. PSAKI: We believe there’s a credible body of evidence presented in the report.

QUESTION: That the – then the – that that – of their report that they compiled that they put together. So in other words, you take them seriously, you take this organization – you respect this organization as a credible rapporteur on human rights issues?

MS. PSAKI: Well, Matt, I know where you’re going with this —

QUESTION: Do you?

MS. PSAKI: — and I’m speaking specifically to this report —

QUESTION: Okay.

MS. PSAKI: — and our agreement with the credible body of evidence —

QUESTION: So – so —

MS. PSAKI: — in this report.

QUESTION: So any concern they might have about other cases – individuals stranded in Russian airports, for example – you wouldn’t necessarily agree with.

MS. PSAKI: I’m not making a sweeping claim here, Matt. I’m speaking to this specific report.

QUESTION: Can I return to that question?

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Was so you’re saying that the military believe that the military is supporting these armed rebel – the M23, and that it’s not that Kagame himself does not have a role?

MS. PSAKI: I wasn’t speaking to Kagame himself. I don’t have anything more on that.

QUESTION: Right.

MS. PSAKI: I’m speaking specifically to support by senior Rwandan officials to the M23.

QUESTION: So it’s officials within the military.

MS. PSAKI: And of military personnel.

QUESTION: So usually when the U.S. makes that kind of statement, I mean, it does affect aid to these countries.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: I mean, would there be some – would the Secretary be rolling out some kind of plan or warn Rwanda during the Congo – during the Security Council meeting that if they continue doing that, you could withhold aid? Because last year – I just brought up the story on July the 1st – the U.S. called on Rwanda to stop supporting. And they clearly have not.

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: So this would be the second one in a year —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — that you’d actually warned. Does it have implications for aid?

MS. PSAKI: I don’t have any update on next steps. Obviously, this is of concern. But beyond that, I don’t have any update for all of you.

QUESTION: It might be worth looking at, because Lesley’s absolutely right.

MS. PSAKI: Sure.

QUESTION: You did call for this to happen —

MS. PSAKI: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: — it didn’t happen. And one of the – and potentially you might want to look at whether one of the reasons that it didn’t happen was that because you didn’t threaten them with anything, you didn’t use any leverage. You just issued this empty call that has no teeth behind it.

MS. PSAKI: We will take that all into consideration.

Source: The State Department, the United States of America.

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