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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
July 17, 2013


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • EGYPT
    • Engagement with Muslim Brotherhood / Deputy Secretary Burns
    • Interim Government
  • CUBA
    • Migration Talks
    • Seized Ship
  • PANAMA
    • Seized Ship / UN Process / U.S. Assistance
  • MIDDLE EAST PEACE
    • Secretary Kerry Press Conference with FM Judeh
    • Talks / Settlements
  • MIDDLE EAST REGION
    • Arab League Meeting / Egypt / Syria
  • EGYPT
    • Syrian Refugees in Egypt
    • Muslim Brotherhood
    • Interim Government
    • U.S. Continuing to Engage with All Parties and Groups
    • U.S. Assistance
  • IRAQ
    • Violent Extremism
  • MALI
    • Upcoming Elections
  • SNOWDEN
    • U.S. Position on Snowden Remains Unchanged


TRANSCRIPT:

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

1:20 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Marie Harf. I’m the new deputy spokesperson here at the State Department. I’m very honored, very happy to be here. I very much look forward to working with all of you. I also want to give a shout-out to my predecessor, Patrick Ventrell, who will still be at this podium, you will still see him from time to time, but I know has done great in this role, and I just wanted to acknowledge that at the top.

So with that, I don’t have anything else at the top, I’m happy to answer your questions.

Yes, Deb.

QUESTION: Are you hoping that the Europeans have any more luck talking with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt than Under Secretary Burns has? And then I have another question.

MS. HARF: Okay. Well, as we said yesterday, Deputy Secretary Burns had a phone call with a representative of the Muslim Brotherhood, again, as part of our broad effort to engage with all groups and all parties going forward. And that kind of engagement will continue.

QUESTION: What are you hoping that the Europeans will be able to – you’re hoping that they’ll be able to talk to them? I mean, I think –

MS. HARF: Well, I can’t speak --

QUESTION: -- they’ve got some meetings set up.

MS. HARF: Right. I can’t speak for the EU or sort of what their goals are from these talks. I think broadly speaking, we’re making the points that we’ve been making all along, that we want the future of Egypt to be done in an inclusive manner, we want the interim government to move forward with an inclusive process and take Egypt back to a place where we can get to a sustainable democracy.

QUESTION: Okay. I also want to ask about the U.S.-Cuba migration talks.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Is there – are you – what are you hoping to achieve in these talks this time around? And also, I mean, you’ve got some other issues going on right now. We’ve got the continued detention of the U.S. contractor, we’ve got the seized ship now that has been found to have some weapons from Cuba and we have Cuba now being perhaps a transit stop if he chooses to go on to Latin America. I mean, you kind of have a lot of things in the way.

MS. HARF: That’s right. So today, as you mentioned, representatives from the State Department are meeting with representatives from the Government of Cuba to discuss migration. This – we’ll have a readout of these talks later. I’m happy to provide that. These are not new. This is an ongoing process of talks on this issue because we believe that safe, secure migration is in U.S. interests. So this is a topic we’ve discussed with them, we’ll continue to discuss with the Cubans going forward.

QUESTION: What about all these other issues? Is that going to affect them at all?

MS. HARF: We don’t expect that the issue of the ship that was stopped in Panama will come up. The migration talks have a very structured set of topics surrounding them, but we don’t expect that they will come up in that case. I would say that we have told the Cubans that we will discuss with them very soon the ship, but we’re focused on the migration talks, specifically on migration-related issues.

QUESTION: Marie, can I follow up on the ship?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: What exactly is the U.S. doing on this? We understand that the Panamanians wanted the ship handed over to the UN to deal with this issue, considering it also has contravened sanctions. But what exactly – could the U.S. then – I mean, the UN can’t take the ship. I mean, would they hand it over to the U.S.? What exactly is the U.S. role in this right now?

MS. HARF: Well, I would reiterate what we said yesterday first, that we’ve commended the actions that the Government of Panama took in this case. They have now – the Panamanian authorities have said – have announced that they discovered arms on board. So as you know, there’s a UN process through the Security Council to determine whether there was a violation of sanctions. That process is ongoing. The Government of Panama has requested our assistance in this matter. I don’t have specific details for you on what that assistance might look like, but needless to say we intend to provide assistance as best we can.

QUESTION: Would that be taking some of the cargo and inspecting it yourselves?

MS. HARF: Well, generally speaking, the types of technical assistance we could provide include things like identifying the material on board as well as providing personnel who are familiar with these types of inspections. So again, we stand ready to help. And of course, I think it goes without saying that any allegations of violations to UN Security Council resolutions are incredibly concerning to us. We take them very seriously, and that’s why we’re going to support the process going forward.

QUESTION: What have you told the Cubans here? Clearly, you have conveyed a message to them during these discussions on migration. What have you told them?

MS. HARF: Well, we actually don’t expect that the ship will come up at the migration talks, which are just happening today. They’re one-day talks. We have, broadly speaking, told the Cubans that very soon we will be in touch with them to discuss the ship. The migration talks are really a separate discussion with the Cubans.

QUESTION: What kinds of things do you want to discuss with them about the ship?

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t want to venture to guess what those discussions might look like. I wouldn’t want to get into that hypothetical.

QUESTION: Because the U.K. Ambassador to the UN today said it did contravene UN Security Council resolutions on sanctions. And would that be your assessment now?

MS. HARF: Well, there’s a process at the United Nations to determine whether or not this shipment was in violation. There’s the UN Security Council Sanctions Committee for the D.P.R.K. which has a mandate to investigate and take appropriate action in response to alleged violations of these sanctions. So there’s a process, again, which is just starting. And the ship is still being, I think, unloaded and everything’s being sifted through, so that process will be going forward.

QUESTION: Do you have officials in Panama right now helping with that, or are they on their way or –

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything for you on that.

QUESTION: I just want to reiterate: Did you say they had – Panama has requested assistance?

MS. HARF: Correct. The Government of Panama has requested our assistance, and we intend to provide it as best we can.

QUESTION: Okay. And how did that –

MS. HARF: I don’t have additional details on timing or the channels through which that came other than to say that the request was made.

Yes, Said.

QUESTION: Change topics?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Can I just follow up?

MS. HARF: Oh, one more follow-up? Okay, we’ll keep going.

QUESTION: What conversations have you had with the Panamanians other than through this request? Has there been any through DOD, through any other channels here with the United States?

MS. HARF: I obviously don’t speak for any of those other agencies, but I don’t have anything additional for you in terms of details on those discussions.

Yes.

QUESTION: When you were talking about the consequences, does it only come from the UN, or will you take unilateral sanctions or other additional action?

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t want to speculate on any future action that could be taken. We’re focused right now on the UN process to look at whether they’re in violations of sanctions there.

QUESTION: So we can’t –

MS. HARF: Anything else on that?

QUESTION: Would the U.S. – just to come back to it. Would the U.S. still be willing to take – if the Panamanians are interested in handing this issue over, I assume because they don’t feel they’re qualified to deal with it, would the U.S., as a member country of the UN, be willing to take on that–

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t want to venture a guess on that hypothetical. Again, we’ve said we intend to provide assistance as best we can.

QUESTION: Is Secretary Kerry aware of the situation?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything for you on that.

Yes.

QUESTION: Can we go to Secretary Kerry’s trip?

MS. HARF: Yes, we can. Of course.

QUESTION: First of all, welcome to the podium. Good to see you.

MS. HARF: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Could you give us a readout of the press conference that he had just, like, a couple hours ago?

MS. HARF: Yes, he had a press conference with Jordanian Foreign Minister Judeh. They both made some remarks and then took a few questions from the reporters. The Secretary, I think, reaffirmed some of the themes he’s been saying on this issue. He discussed his meetings with the Arab League committee, discussed how he updated them on his efforts, also underscored the important role that the Arab League plays in this process, discussed their willingness – his willingness to continue updating them going forward. He talked a little bit out how he’s been working with both sides, how he believes both sides are working in good faith, and that they have asked him to continue his work.

QUESTION: And now he said something that the Israelis must – should take a close look at the Arab Peace Initiative. Could you tell us in diplomatic terms what this means? Is he putting pressure on the Israelis to accept the amended Arab Peace Initiative?

MS. HARF: Well, I would refer you to what the Secretary said, but he has expressed – not just today but in the past – his support for the Arab Peace Initiative, for some of the principles included in it. He outlined that today. But I wouldn’t want to characterize sort of what – why he said that in the context – other than to say it came on the heels of a meeting with the Arab League precisely on this issue.

QUESTION: Okay. Palestinian sources say that there should be an announcement either at the end – by the end of the day today or tomorrow about the resumption of talks. Is that the feeling around this building?

MS. HARF: We have consistently said we’re not going to put a timeline on any sort of announcement. Clearly, the goal is to get both parties to a place where we can resume those negotiations, but I wouldn’t want to put a timeline on that.

QUESTION: And to the best of your knowledge, has the Secretary of State spoken to the Israelis about the plans to build more settlements? They have announced today that they will be building 900 new units. Has he responded to this yet?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything for you on what the Secretary has or hasn’t done on that.

Yeah. Anything else on the trip?

QUESTION: Trip, yeah --

MS. HARF: Trip, yeah.

QUESTION: -- but --

QUESTION: Regarding the issue of Egypt, what were the main issues discussed with Arab League representatives regarding Egypt?

MS. HARF: Well, Egypt wasn’t the focus of the Arab League meetings. The focus was to update them on his progress on the peace process. They also briefly discussed Syria. He did make some brief comments in his remarks today about Egypt, underscoring the same themes we’ve been underscoring from this podium, that we want Egypt to very quickly – as quickly as possible – move back to a sustainable, inclusive, democratic process. He mentioned that briefly as well, but again, the subject wasn’t – was not Egypt.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Now can you change topic? I mean, Egypt.

MS. HARF: Anything else on the trip?

QUESTION: Egypt.

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: I would like to ask you a question about the Syrian refugees in Egypt, who seem to be living in a legal limbo since the (inaudible) of President Morsy. Are you talking with the interim government with regard to their situation?

MS. HARF: Well, we are deeply concerned by reports that Egyptian authorities have turned away Syrian refugees and are creating additional hurdles to their entry into Egypt. We would echo the sentiments of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees that he made yesterday at the Security Council and urge Egypt to refrain from raising barriers for Syrians and other refugees seeking protection.

QUESTION: While still on Egypt --

MS. HARF: Yes. Go ahead, Said.

QUESTION: Yeah. I just wanted to ask you, did Deputy Secretary Burns come out with the feeling that the Muslim Brotherhood will be back in the process? Was he given that assurance?

MS. HARF: I think we’ve been clear that, going forward, all parties and all groups need to be a part of this process, that it needs to be inclusive. Deputy Secretary Burns clearly made that point during his trip, as we have made from this podium as well.

QUESTION: Okay, but it --

QUESTION: How would you label your relationship with the parties right now in Egypt, with the Muslim Brotherhood and the opposition and the interim government right now?

MS. HARF: We’re not going to put labels on it. I don’t think that’s productive. I think what we’ve said repeatedly, and will continue to say, is that we will work with all parties and groups, that we want the interim government to be inclusive, to move forward in an inclusive manner. And that’s what we’re going to keep discussing with them.

QUESTION: But how would you describe your relationship with the parties?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to put labels on it. Again, we’ve said the process needs to be inclusive.

QUESTION: Don’t put labels. Is it a good relationship with them, or you think that you don’t have allies right now in Egypt?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to characterize it that way. We’ve made clear that the process needs to be inclusive.

QUESTION: Yes, please.

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Regarding – you mentioned that there had a – Assistant Secretary Burns had a phone call with a representative from Muslim Brother. Is still U.S. officials or the Embassy having just phone calls or meeting people?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any more details for you on that, other than to say that our diplomats on the ground at the Embassy will continue engaging with all parties and groups going forward. I don’t have specifics on what form that engagement might take.

QUESTION: So the other question related to the newly formed government, do you have anything to say about it, about the composition, that it’s excluding the Muslim Brothers?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a couple points on that. First of all, we aren’t here to advocate for a specific outcome. We – it’s not up to the U.S. to tell the Egyptians what their government should look like. That being said, we have repeatedly made the point that both the process needs to be inclusive, but also the way this interim government and eventually a democratic government governs needs to be inclusive. So I’m not going to put a grade on the cabinet, but what I will say is that we believe the process needs to be inclusive going forward.

Yes.

QUESTION: Your assessment of the U.S. aid – should you think focus primarily on how the U.S. can help Egypt, or rather than on whether the U.S. should help Egypt?

MS. HARF: Well, our relationship with Egypt is a broad one, historically has been very broad, that goes beyond assistance. As you know, we are in the process of evaluating all of our assistance in light of the recent events, but I don’t have any further updates for you --

QUESTION: So you don’t right now if you should keep aiding or sending aid to Egypt, or how you should help them?

MS. HARF: Well, discussions about what our assistance will look like going forward continue to be ongoing.

QUESTION: Still after having an interim government, you don’t know how you should deal with this?

MS. HARF: Those discussions are still ongoing.

QUESTION: Even though Jen Psaki said last week that you don’t consider what happened in Egypt as a coup.

MS. HARF: That determination is still ongoing. It’s being made. No determination has been made on that question yet.

QUESTION: She said that it’s not a coup.

MS. HARF: I don’t believe those were her words. Our policy has been --

QUESTION: That’s what she said.

MS. HARF: -- that that discussion is ongoing and that the determination about that specific designation has not yet been made.

QUESTION: But that’s what she said. She said it’s not a coup, so that means you can help --

MS. HARF: I don’t believe those were her actual words. I’d have to go back and check, but we have been very clear – Jen, myself, the Secretary, everybody has been very clear that the designation on that issue, which the Secretary got asked about today, has not yet been made.

QUESTION: Well, I’m pretty sure that that’s what she said.

MS. HARF: We can continue this conversation later, but --

QUESTION: No, no, but I mean --

MS. HARF: -- again, our policy has not --

QUESTION: Even, like – you don’t consider as – in this Department, that this is a coup or you don’t consider it as a coup. So, I mean --

MS. HARF: The determination about that question --

QUESTION: -- if there’s a confusion about this issue, I mean, we should know.

MS. HARF: The determination about that question is ongoing. People are looking at the facts right now, they’re looking at what happened, and the question of whether we will use that designation has not yet been answered.

Yes, moving on.

QUESTION: Do you know how long it’s going to take them to make that designation?

MS. HARF: We don’t have a timeline. As you know, each case is different. It’s taken a variety of timelines in the past, but we have no timeline at this point.

QUESTION: Would you say it’s in an advanced stage, or --

MS. HARF: I wouldn’t even want to speculate on that.

QUESTION: Change topic?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Iraq?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: The departing UN envoy, Martin Kobler, made a very sobering statement – that Iraq is sliding fast toward a civil war, and furthermore that the Iraq and Syria wars are merging together with combatants on both sides along sectarian lines taken. Do you have a comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, we remain deeply concerned about the rise of violent extremism and how it further endangers the future of Iraq and all of Syria’s neighbors. We’ve spoken to that many times. The Government of Iraq has itself also expressed its deep concern about the level of violence in Syria and violent extremist elements who might seek to capitalize on the situation in Syria to foment violence in Iraq. So we would also like to make the point that the vast majorities of Iraqis – of the Iraqi people continue to reject this violence, that we are encouraged that many political and religious leaders have taken a strong stance against this violence, and that we have continued to explore ways to address these ongoing security issues going forward.

Next topic? I answered everyone’s questions?

QUESTION: Can we go to Mali?

MS. HARF: Yes, of course.

QUESTION: Let me try Mali. The – both sides – the opposition – the main parties have said that they will accept the result of the upcoming election. Is that encouraging to the U.S.? Is there any specific way that you think that the elections are going that you wouldn’t be satisfied with, or --

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve made clear the democratic elections are the critical first step in Mali’s return to constitutional order and to establishing a government with the necessary legitimacy to pursue longer-term political and development priorities. The interim government has stated with confidence that the elections will take place on July 28th. We continue to support this timeline and encourage the authorities to make all necessary preparations to ensure that the elections are credible, inclusive, and free.

QUESTION: New topic? Snowden?

MS. HARF: Okay.

QUESTION: Quick one. News reports allege that Mr. Snowden’s getting very close to getting asylum in Russia. Do you have any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Our position on Mr. Snowden has not changed --

QUESTION: Right.

MS. HARF: -- that he is a wanted felon of the United States, that he needs to be returned as quickly as possible. I don’t have any updates for you on any of those reports.

QUESTION: Have the Russians told you that they are getting close to granting him asylum?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything for you on that. We continue to discuss with the Russian authorities our concerns about Mr. Snowden. We continue to say that he needs to be returned to the United States.

QUESTION: Thank you. Okay.

MS. HARF: Anything else? Thank you, guys. See everyone tomorrow.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:38 p.m.)

DPB # 120



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