1:08 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily press briefing. I actually have four statements to read at the top, which I will do, and then I’m happy to open it up to any questions.
First, we are deeply saddened by the news of last night’s train crash in Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Our hearts and prayers are with the friends and families of the victims. We extend our condolences to the people of Spain and all those affected by this terrible accident. Our consular officers are working closely with their Spanish counterparts to account for U.S. citizens who need assistance. We can confirm that one U.S. citizen has died and five U.S. citizens have been injured, and I would stress that these numbers may change as we receive additional information. That’s first.
On Tunisia, we strongly condemn today’s assassination of Mohamed Brahmi, a Tunisian National Constituent Assembly member and opposition figure. We offer our sincere condolences to Mr. Brahmi’s family, friends, and colleagues and to the people of Tunisia. This is not the first political assassination since Tunisia’s revolution, and there is no justification for such outrageous and cowardly acts in the democratic Tunisia. Violence has no place in Tunisia’s democratic transition. We urge the Tunisian Government to immediately conduct a transparent and professional investigation to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice in a timely manner, consistent with Tunisian law and international obligations. We call on all Tunisians to renounce violence and to express themselves peacefully. Violence will not resolve the issues Tunisians face; it is not an appropriate response to this murder, and it will only bring about more violence.
Now I have two updates on the Secretary’s meetings in New York that I’m happy to read out for you first, and then we will open it up for questions.
So first, the UN Security Council ministerial debate on the Great Lakes region of Africa. This morning, Secretary Kerry chaired a UN Security Council ministerial debate on the Great Lakes region of Africa. In his remarks, the Secretary called upon regional and international leaders in attendance to take advantage of the unique opportunity presented by the signing of the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework Agreement to permanently break the cycle of violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and achieve lasting peace in the region. He also reiterated the importance of all parties and governments to immediately end support for armed rebel groups. The Secretary met with the DRC and Rwandan foreign ministers on the margins of the ministerial to stress the prioritization of following through with their commitments in the framework and attended a luncheon hosted by the UN Secretary General.
One more. I have a read out of Secretary Kerry’s meeting with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. They engaged in a wide ranging discussion during their meeting this morning. They discussed their shared support for the Peace, Security, and Cooperation Framework and the importance of ending the conflict in the DRC and the Great Lakes region. In addition, they discussed ongoing efforts on Syria to move both sides toward a political solution, and their hopes that a second Geneva conference can be a fulcrum for negotiation. They shared their concerns about violence and unrest in Egypt, the need for the interim government to continue to make progress, and they discussed the important role of upcoming elections – excuse me – in securing Afghanistan’s future. Finally, Secretary Kerry provided and update on the resumption of direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians.
And with that, I’m happy to open it up to questions.
MS. HARF: We can.
QUESTION: I’ve the White House response. Do you think that the military has acted wisely in giving the Muslim Brotherhood 48 hours to get on board with the military’s roadmap for restoring civilian rule?
MS. HARF: Well, I think our position on this hasn’t changed, that broadly speaking, we continue to urge all parties, including the interim government, to move forward with an inclusive process that includes all parties and groups. Our message has not changed. I’m not going to evaluate every step taken by the interim government towards that end, but needless to say that remains our position.
QUESTION: Well, the thing – the one thing that has changed though is that they have essentially issued an ultimatum. I mean, they’ve given them two days. They’ve given them until Saturday to sign up on this. Does that strike you as constructive?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to characterize it one way or the other, other than to say that we have continued to press the interim government to move forward with this process in an inclusive manner that includes all groups and parties going forward. Again, I’m not going to characterize any one action in any specific way other than to make our broad point.
QUESTION: Do you think that the Muslim Brotherhood should make up its mind in the next 48 hours?
MS. HARF: I am not going to take a position on that one way or the other. We’ve been clear that this process needs to include all groups and parties, that it’s in the interest of all groups and parties to be a part of that process. We’ve made that same message to the Muslim Brotherhood and the interim government as well. So I’m not going to encourage them to do anything in that timeframe, but our position on that remains the same.
QUESTION: And why do you think they should take part in this process, given that they feel that they were robbed of their electoral victory?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve made it clear that the best way forward for the Egyptian people and the best way for all of these groups to have a voice going forward is to be a part of the process. Clearly, there are ups and downs; there have been bumps in the road. But going forward, this is precisely the reason you have to include all parties, because that’s the best thing for the Egyptian people and the best chance for Egypt to get back to a sustainable democracy.
QUESTION: And have you seen the comments by the Egyptian military suggesting that they are going to change their tactics after Friday and that they may take a more aggressive stance toward protesters, demonstrations.
MS. HARF: Well, I haven’t seen those specific comments I think that you’re referring to. I’m just not sure exactly what you’re referring to, but needless to say we’ve made it clear to the interim government, to the military, that they should exercise maximum restraint when dealing with protesters. We reiterate our call on all participants that any demonstrations be peaceful. I know there’s talk about demonstrations tomorrow, so we both call on the demonstrations to be peaceful, but also again continue to urge the security forces to exercise maximum restraint and do their utmost to prevent any clashes between opposing demonstrators.
QUESTION: Do you find the 48-hour ultimatum alarming, considering that if the military acts on its 48-hour ultimatum, as we have seen in the past?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to characterize it that way. Again, we’ve repeatedly called on the interim government to have an inclusive process. I’m not going to characterize this specific 48-hour deadline that you’re referring to, other than to say that going forward the process needs to be inclusive.
QUESTION: So – but because have such a stark precedent with the 48 hours on July 3rd, and they acted on that, aren’t you concerned that they will actually act on this as well?
MS. HARF: We remain concerned, of course, about any continued political polarization, about any steps broadly speaking that would not bring Egyptians together but that would further polarize them. I’m not going to compare it to another event in Egypt at all in any way, other than to say that of course we remain concerned by the notion that political polarization would get worse.
QUESTION: Okay. I want to follow-up on something that I asked about yesterday about the mandate. The military asked for a mandate, and they seem to be satisfied that what mandate comes from the street now has become a substitute for democracy. Are you not alarmed that this is actually – could be a precursor for a total military takeover of Egypt?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve repeatedly been clear that our support for a transition to be inclusive, a democratically elected civilian government needs to return to Egypt as soon as possible. That has not changed in any way.
QUESTION: Marie –
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- broadly speaking, how do you feel that the interim government, military has been acting in the three weeks since Morsy was ousted from power? Are they actually moving toward a democratically elected government, or is that process faltering?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to characterize it in either of those ways. I would say that the process is continuing, that there are going to be ups and downs in the road, we know that. This is a very complicated situation. We’ve talked from here about some steps that they’ve taken, some of which we’ve said could be part of the process going forward, but we need more inclusivity. We’ve said this needs to be inclusive going forward repeatedly. That has not changed, so while we’ve seen some steps, they need to continue the process, and as soon as possible, get back to a democratically elected, sustainable democracy for their government. So we’re clearly not there yet. There’s much more work to do, but that’s why we’re engaged with the Egyptian Government as they go through this transition.
QUESTION: On the coup and non-coup question –
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- is it possible that the Administration will never rule on that?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any update for you on this issue of whether there will be a designation or not. I just don’t have anything new for you.
QUESTION: Could you perhaps give us a bit more about the reasoning behind the suspension of the F-16s yesterday?
MS. HARF: I can. I know we discussed this yesterday. As we have said repeatedly, that we do not believe it would be in the best interest of the United States to immediately change all of our assistance to Egypt. We, as you know, are reviewing our obligations under the law and are consulting with Congress about the way forward. Given the current situation in Egypt, we do not believe it is appropriate to move forward with the delivery of F-16s at this time.
QUESTION: But that was what you said yesterday.
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: The question was: Have you decided that you can tell us why it was felt it was not appropriate to move forward?
MS. HARF: Well, we – again, I said because of the current situation on the ground, clearly everyone knows what that means, that we’re in a period of transition in Egypt, that we are continuing to push the Egyptian Government, the interim government, to return quickly to a democratically-elected civilian government. So I think it’s fairly self-explanatory what the situation on the ground is, but going forward, we continue to review all of our aid. This was –
F-16s were an issue that came up as a timing issue, and a decision was made on that specifically then.
QUESTION: And was it linked, perhaps, when you talk about timing, to the call from General al-Sisi for these rallies to be held tomorrow?
MS. HARF: I would not make that assumption.
QUESTION: Was this meant as a warning signal to the army and the military leaders that they must continue on this bumpy path towards democracy?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to characterize it in that way. The decision was made that it was not appropriate to move forward with the delivery at this time. I’m not going to characterize it in any way in the terms that you laid out.
QUESTION: Just one more quickly, is – again, in broad sense, what do you feel about Muslim Brotherhood supporters – Morsy supporters are protesting their rights? Do you have any kind of problem with the protesting in streets?
MS. HARF: Well, broadly speaking, we of course support nonviolent demonstrations around the world, including in Egypt. We have reiterated our call specifically in Egypt for all participants and demonstrations to be peaceful. Clearly, we remain concerned about the ongoing threat of clashes in these demonstrations. That hasn’t changed, but again, broadly speaking, nonviolent demonstrations are a part of a democratic process.
QUESTION: And to make it narrower, how you do see the Muslim Brotherhood protest so far? Do you see it peaceful or –
MS. HARF: Well, across the board, when there have been reports of demonstrations that were not peaceful we have condemned any violence and demonstrations. I don’t have anything more specific than that.
QUESTION: Marie, this is just going back to the Spanish train crash. Could you explain – what’s the procedure when the United States does help citizens, because we do have – and I just wanted to make sure – it’s five plus one, right? It’s five injured plus one that’s killed?
MS. HARF: Correct, yes. And again, those numbers are likely to change.
MS. HARF: Correct. Yes.
QUESTION: Well, even worse then. What exactly does the State Department do to help people in a situation like that?
MS. HARF: Well, the U.S. Embassy in Madrid and our consular agent from A Coruna – excuse me – are working to determine how many U.S. citizens were involved, so we are providing consular support on the ground. The consular agent is visiting local hospitals to check whether additional U.S. citizens have been admitted. The Embassy will also be contacting the families of the injured individuals and continue to provide assistance as necessary to our citizens that are there going forward.
QUESTION: Who appoints the consular agent? This is not a regular employee of the U.S. Government working at a consulate? Is it like a Spanish citizen who works somehow for the U.S. Government?
MS. HARF: I don’t have more details about that person. I can get those for you, but again, our U.S. Embassy in Madrid is fully engaged on the ground working with families.
QUESTION: Change of subject?
MS. HARF: Anything else on Egypt before we move on? Okay. Yes.
QUESTION: On Mideast peace, can you say whether you expect the initial negotiations in Washington to take place next week and comment at all on news reports from the region that that day would be Tuesday?
MS. HARF: So at this point, nothing has changed from what the Secretary said last week, that we fully expect the parties to meet here in Washington soon. We’ve seen the various reports about dates, and as we have been saying would caution against any conjecture or speculation. We will provide additional scheduling when details are confirmed, but again, I would stress that nothing has changed from what the Secretary said last week.
QUESTION: When do you expect to be able to give a date?
MS. HARF: As soon as possible.
QUESTION: But –
MS. HARF: I don’t have any further expectation for when we might be able to make an announcement.
QUESTION: Is that something that Secretary Kerry is likely to announce in the context of his visit to New York, or would he have to be here for that to happen?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any additional details about how an announcement might come.
QUESTION: You don’t confirm that it’s Tuesday?
MS. HARF: Just one second.
QUESTION: At the UN this morning he said that Netanyahu and Abbas have made a courageous decision to try to restart talks.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: That seems a little shaky. I mean --
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: -- it seems like he’s backing off a little bit.
MS. HARF: Absolutely not. In no way would I characterize what he said as backing off. We’re in the same place that we were on Friday, when the Secretary made his statement about the resumption of talks.
QUESTION: Okay. He also said that this is going to happen if procedures are put in place by both countries in order to empower that. What does he mean by that?
MS. HARF: Well, as he said when he made the announcement last week, that we had a few more details to work out to get everybody to Washington. That’s what he was referring to in that statement, that there have been discussions with both sides since we left the region last week about these final details and figuring out a date for them to both come to Washington.
MS. HARF: Just a second. Go ahead.
QUESTION: Does he regard the Palestinian Territories as a country?
MS. HARF: Our position has not changed on that issue. Again, I’m not going to get into any private – reports of private discussions he’s had with either side. Our position has not changed.
QUESTION: This is totally public. He said it on camera and he described put in place by both countries. So that implies that he regards Israel and the Palestinian Territories both as countries. Is that how he views it, or did he mean to say both parties or both sides?
MS. HARF: Our position has not changed on the status of the Palestinian Territories. The Secretary was in no way indicating a change of policy.
QUESTION: So you don’t confirm, Marie --
MS. HARF: Yes, just one second. Go ahead. Yes.
QUESTION: You don’t confirm, Marie, that the meetings are happening or start happening on Tuesday? Because one of the Israeli ministers, Silvan Shalom, said it’s likely to happen on Monday. And the Palestinians want a letter from the Secretary Kerry stating that the U.S. is committed to the pre-1967 borders. Are you willing to give this letter to start the negotiations? Otherwise, the Palestinians, they are saying that they’re not willing to start the negotiations.
MS. HARF: Well, as I just said, we have nothing to update in terms of meetings to announce at this time.
QUESTION: Okay. No --
MS. HARF: And also – and let me get to your second question. On your second question, as we’ve also said repeatedly, we’re not going to address every rumor or speculation that’s out there that people are talking about publicly. The Secretary has made it very clear that any of the substantive issues that are being discussed right now with both sides will remain private.
QUESTION: But will you be able, at least, to confirm that the talks will initially focus on framework or timescale or anything, any --
MS. HARF: Again, I’m not going to get into any of the specific substantive issues that will be discussed.
QUESTION: Marie, the Secretary called the Palestinian-Israeli conflict the granddaddy of all conflicts. Could you explain what did he mean by that?
MS. HARF: I think the Secretary’s been clear, and this is one of the reasons he’s put so much of his own time and effort into the issue, that this is an incredibly important issue for regional security for both the Israelis and the Palestinians, and I’m – that’s what his comment I was referring to – clearly, he’s put a lot of time and effort, and personally feels very strongly about making progress on this issue.
QUESTION: So does this comment in any way vitiate sort of the importance of, let’s say, other conflicts like the Syrian conflict --
MS. HARF: Absolutely not.
QUESTION: -- or the Egyptian conflict?
QUESTION: Just to follow up on this, in any way, have you received any positive attitude or initiative from the Palestinians that they are willing to come, and – or are you sure that they are going to come next week?
MS. HARF: Well, again, nothing’s changed from what the Secretary said, that very soon, both sides will meet in Washington to resume direct final status negotiations. So clearly, we would say that that’s a positive step forward, that both sides have discussing – have been discussing these issues with the Secretary in good faith, and nothing’s changed. We expect everyone to be in Washington soon.
QUESTION: But it might not happen, right?
MS. HARF: Excuse me?
QUESTION: It might not happen.
MS. HARF: Again, we expect both parties to join us in Washington very soon to resume direct final status negotiations.
MS. HARF: Yes, Said.
QUESTION: The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner today criticized Israel’s plan to remove – forcefully to remove 40,000 Palestinian Bedouins from the Negev – or Israeli Bedouins – and destroy 40 villages. Do you have any comment on that?
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those reports, Said. I’m happy to look into it and get back to you.
QUESTION: But do you have – does the United States have a position on the removal, the forcible removal, of Bedouin residents in the Negev?
MS. HARF: I’ll look into that issue and get back to you.
QUESTION: On a different topic?
QUESTION: No --
MS. HARF: Any – yeah, let’s stay there for a second. Yeah.
QUESTION: Can you enlighten us on the quest for an envoy?
MS. HARF: No personnel decisions have been made, and I have nothing new to announce right now.
QUESTION: Are they approaching people? Are they --
MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into the internal personnel decision-making process, but nothing to announce right now.
QUESTION: Is it possible that we won’t have – that he won’t have one?
MS. HARF: Again, I am not going to get into the internal decision-making about what positions may or may not be filled, except to say that the Secretary’s been clear that he wants to put together a team to continue working on this issue as we move forward. What that looks like eventually, I wouldn’t even want to speculate on.
QUESTION: Do you think there’ll be an announcement on an envoy before we have the announcement of the date of the talks?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any specifics on time and I wouldn’t want to speculate on any announcement.
QUESTION: Are you aware that the Justice Minister – Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni is in town and actually making the rounds talking to some people who are really influential with Israel to sort of marshal their support?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any update or readout for you on where she is at the moment. I’d refer you to the Israeli Government for details on her travel.
MS. HARF: I don’t have anything to --
QUESTION: Diplomatic Security would be with her – would be --
MS. HARF: I don’t have any updates for you on her travel. Again, I’d encourage you to reach out to the Israeli Government on those questions.
MS. HARF: I don’t have any update. It’s still our belief that he’s in the transit lounge at the Moscow Airport, and nothing new on that.
QUESTION: And the Senate bill that was passed yesterday about getting the State Department to advise lawmakers on punishments for asylum-seekers, where are you on that?
MS. HARF: I don’t have anything for you on that, but I’m happy to look into it and get back to you.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Senator Grassley sent a letter to Secretary Kerry seeking clarification about Huma Abedin’s position before she left the State Department --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- basically questioning how she went from Deputy Chief of Staff to a special government employee --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and able to be a paid private consultant, and if that change was adequately disclosed to government officials who may have provided her information without realizing that she was being paid by private investors to gather information. Has the State Department responded to Grassley’s inquiry, or what’s your reaction to that?
MS. HARF: I actually don’t have anything for you on that, but I’m happy to look into that and get back to you as well.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Yesterday, and I think even before the U.S. was seeking clarity – I mean, how long does it take to seek clarity? Can we get – did you get any clarity from the Russians about what they plan to do?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been in discussions through appropriate channels, as you know, with the Russians on this. We continue to make the point that he needs to be returned to the United States. I think the clarity that Jen mentioned yesterday was in reference to his current status, because yesterday when we were down here, there was a lot of question if he was leaving or not. It is our belief, it is our understanding, that he is still in the transit lounge of the airport. So, yes, we do have clarity on that.
QUESTION: And what is Russia’s intent?
MS. HARF: I’m sorry?
QUESTION: And do you know what Russia is saying that it wants to do? I mean, or is it telling you?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to read out private diplomatic conversations or speculate on what their intent is. We’ve made it clear what our position is, that he needs to be returned to the United States to face these charges as soon as possible.
QUESTION: A quick follow-up on that?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: I think the U.S. has given Russian citizens, about 2,500 Russian citizens, asylum automatically. I think the number for China is, like, 40,000. These are numbers from the Justice Department. Do you have some empathy with Moscow considering this case is deep as it is, considering so many thousands of their nationals have been given asylum here?
MS. HARF: Well, what we said to the Russians is what we will continue to say, that he is a U.S. citizen accused of very serious felony charges. This – we’re not comparing this case to any other. He needs to be returned to the United States, where he will be afforded a free and fair trial.
I would also underscore that we are asking Russia to build on our cooperative history of working together on law enforcement issues, particularly in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. So we continue to press this with the Russians, and will do so going forward.
QUESTION: But there are two – specifically two Russians that are considered – that Russia considers terrorists who came to the United States. I believe they are Chechens. I gave the names – I’m sorry I don’t have them right with me, but I gave them to the State Department yesterday.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: And they’re specifically saying that these guys are terrorists, and the United States did not extradite them; therefore, why do you expect us to extradite anyone back to you? So, could we get an answer to that?
MS. HARF: Let me double-check on the names. I know that you gave them to us, and I’ll check on where that stands.
But again, we are not comparing this to any other case. We’ve been clear with the Russians that he is a U.S. citizen wanted on very serious charges here, and he needs to be returned to the United States. But I can check on those, Jill. I know you gave those to us. I’ll check on that for you.
QUESTION: Yesterday, Jen mentioned that there were hundreds of Russians who have been returned back to Moscow at their request, and I asked for some more details. Do you have those details?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any additional details for you on that today. I’m happy to provide them as we get them.
QUESTION: And also, I thought yesterday the clarity that was being sought was whether Russia had actually issued him with a document that would allow him to leave the transit lounge.
MS. HARF: I think what Jen said was that we were seeking clarity on his current situation, because there were a lot of conflicting reports about whether he had left or was leaving or was looking for certain documents. Again, he is – remains in the lounge at the airport, so we have clarity on where he is, and we will continue to make our case with the Russians.
QUESTION: Do you know whether Moscow has actually issued him with this document that would allow him to leave?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any details on that for you.
QUESTION: Can we go to a different subject?
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Can you confirm reports that Special Representative Ambassador James Dobbins will be visiting Pakistan and Afghanistan?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any travel to announce for Ambassador Dobbins. I will check and see if I have any details, but at this point no travel to announce.
QUESTION: But he is still in D.C.?
MS. HARF: I’m not positive about his current whereabouts. I will double-check on that and get back to you.
QUESTION: And reports say that he’s going to have meetings in Islamabad tomorrow.
MS. HARF: Okay. I will, as soon as I get off of the podium here, check for you and let you know.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Somewhat related, has the Secretary or the Department received a letter from the Special Investigator General for Afghan Reconstruction about a $50 million funding for a private company to train Afghans in justice and law? Have you received that, have you responded, and what was your response?
MS. HARF: Well, we have seen the letter. And we share – I would say at the beginning – share SIGAR’s goals of implementing programs that are free from waste, fraud, and abuse. To that end, the letter of agreement which established this program that you referenced, the Justice Training Transition Program, is accompanied by a 50-page addendum describing in detail the program, a line-item budget, and the oversight mechanisms in place, including a robust monitoring and evaluation plan.
The JTTP is a groundbreaking program which is transitioning legal training in Afghanistan from being primarily donor funded and led effort to a sustainable Afghan Government-provided effort. They have a proven track record working on this issue, and have until – up until this point met every single milestone.
It’s a relatively new project. As you know, it was only begun in January. But again, we – it has a proven track record and has met every milestone to date.
QUESTION: So you dispute SIGAR’s findings that there’s a lack of oversight and serious deficiencies in the way the program has unrolled?
MS. HARF: Well, again, we share their goals. We share the same goals of implementing programs that are free from waste, fraud, and abuse. We would also note that while this program is new, there have been no allegations or evidence of fraud, waste, or mismanagement of JTTP. And there is a robust oversight in place for it, both through our daily contact with the implementers on the ground, but also in the letter of agreement that created this agreement. It called for a number of oversight measures, including biweekly program reporting, monthly metric reporting, quarterly financial program and metric reporting, a third party assessment at a midterm date, and three separate completion reports.
So these are all on track. Again, the program’s only been in place about six months, but all of the oversight programs are currently on track.
QUESTION: And could you address also their concern that this was a sole source contract? In other words, no other companies, organizations were asked if they were wanting to take this on?
MS. HARF: Well, the State Department is working with the IDLO, which is the company that is doing this work, because they are best positioned to do this work, period, as they are the only not-for-profit intergovernmental organization that is exclusively dedicated to working with governments to promote the rule of law.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Now, you are asking the Tunisian Government to do a sort of transparent and vigorous investigation into the killing of Mohamed al-Brahmi --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- today. But his family, as of 12 noon Eastern Standard Time, said that no law enforcement had been to the scene of the crime, nor – the area was not cordoned off. No – none of the procedures that you would do in a similar crime scene have been conducted. Did that disturb you?
MS. HARF: Well, I would point you to the Government of Tunisia to answer any questions about the investigation. I think I made clear at the top that we believe that it needs to be fully investigated, that the perpetrators be brought to justice. But again, for specifics on the investigation, I would refer you to the Government of Tunisia.
QUESTION: Okay. Now, back on February 6, you called for the same thing when Choriki Belaid was assassinated. He belonged to the same political party, the Popular Trend, and so on. To the best of your knowledge, have the perpetrators been brought to justice?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any update for you on that. I’m happy to check into it and if we have additional information to share.
MS. HARF: Pakistan, yes.
QUESTION: There are reports the Secretary has been sent an invitation to visit Pakistan, and he’s likely to visit on 28th and 29th of this month.
MS. HARF: I don’t have any travel to announce at this point. We’ve said repeatedly that the Secretary looks forward to traveling to Pakistan when he can spend some time there discussing a wide range of issues, but I have no travel to announce at this point.
QUESTION: Okay. And another question.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: There are reports that U.S. Government has offered Pakistan to sign a prisoner swap agreement for extradition of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, who is facing life sentence here in U.S. Can you please update something on this?
MS. HARF: Yes. The United States Government is not in discussions with the Government of Pakistan on a prisoner exchange or transfer involving Dr. Aafia Siddiqui.
QUESTION: Another subject?
MS. HARF: Yes.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: There has been – we’ve talked about this – there’s been concern about these new homosexual propaganda laws, I guess, as they’re referred to. There is growing concern about how this might affect the Olympics, the Winter Olympics that will be taking place in Sochi. Is this on the radar of the State Department? Is there a concern that those laws might affect athletes or fans who would go to Sochi for the Olympics?
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t have anything specifically on the Olympics for you. I’m happy to look into that a little further. Broadly speaking, of course, we support LGBT rights around the world, including in Russia. But in terms of how it would affect the Olympics, let me look into that and see what I can share.
MS. HARF: Yes.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: As you know, that many of North Korean young people have – been defected to South Korea. What is the United States estimations of human rights issue in North Korea? Can you tell about that?
MS. HARF: Well, I think we’ve been clear that we remain deeply concerned about the human rights situation in North Korea. We fully supported the commission of inquiry that I know the UN has done and its mandate to investigate systematic violations of human rights in North Korea. Beyond that, I don’t have any updates for you.
QUESTION: Yeah. Can we go back to the Snowden thing? If you could clarify something --
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: -- real quick. Now, you said that all cases are done on a case-by-case basis?
MS. HARF: I said I wasn’t going to --
QUESTION: All of a sudden --
MS. HARF: -- compare his case to any other case, yes.
QUESTION: Okay. So you don’t really have, for instance, a standard for X country or Y country and so on? You do each case on its own merit?
MS. HARF: Well, to clarify, there are certain extradition treaties with countries.
MS. HARF: There are certain countries where we don’t have extradition treaties, which, as you know, we don’t with Russia. What – the point I was making was that I wouldn’t want to compare his case to any other case in the U.S. or elsewhere.
QUESTION: Okay. Because the Russians are claiming there are thousands of Russians that have been given asylum in the United States of America. Did you do each and every one of these cases on its own merit?
MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into the details of how those decisions are made. I will, again, repeat that we are clear with the Russians that Mr. Snowden needs to be returned to the United States to face very serious felony charges.
MS. HARF: Just one sec. Go ahead on Syria.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: So according to – there are reports the UN chemical weapon team is now in Syria for a couple of days, I believe. Do you have any update?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Have they started any of their inspection yet?
MS. HARF: Well, I think it goes without saying that we support the UN investigative team’s efforts and have been in regular contact with the chief UN investigator as he works to advance a thorough investigation about the use of chemical weapons agents in Syria. As you know, the U.S. intelligence community has assessed that the Assad regime has used chemical weapons – excuse me – chemical warfare agents on a small scale against its own people on multiple occasions. We strongly agree with the UN that access to Syria for its investigating team should proceed without further delay. I know that the team just got there. I don’t want to get ahead of the situation on the ground, but we’ve continued to make the point that these teams need unfettered and full access inside Syria, so we’ll see what happens going forward.
QUESTION: So since the first time the U.S. Government acknowledge that chemical weapon used in Syria, it has been about a month and a half that the U.S. Government also stated that Syrian regime has crossed the redline. What kind of a step are you going to take to make the game-changing step, as the President Obama stated a few months ago?
MS. HARF: Well, we made clear when we announced the assessment that the regime had used chemical weapons, that we were going to increase both the scale and the scope of our assistance to the Syrian opposition. We’ve talked about that a lot in this room. That process is ongoing. Clearly, we want to continue working with the opposition today. Secretary Kerry is meeting with the leaders of the SOC in New York. We’ll have a readout after that meeting. But I think we were clear that we are going to continue to increase aid to the opposition to change the situation on the ground and to eventually get to a place where we can have a political solution.
QUESTION: Is there any way you can explain to us how you are going to change the balance on the ground as the President of the United States promised?
MS. HARF: Well, I think we were clear that that’s why we are increasing assistance, both in the scale and the scope of it, to the opposition. We’re not going to be able to detail every single way in which we’re doing that, every single assistance package that we’re providing to them. But we’ve said that that’s why the announcement was made – to continue to increase our assistance, to help the coalition on the ground get further – stronger, excuse me – and come back to the table.
QUESTION: When will you connect the meaning of the bluffing and the meaning of the “game-changing steps?” Would you be able to concede that when President Obama made that promise to change the balance of the power, it was a bluff?
MS. HARF: Well, this is a complicated situation. I would absolutely not agree at all with that characterization. This is a complicated situation. If there were easy answers, we would have done them two years ago. It’s – there are none. But the President made clear, as the Secretary has as well, that we are going to continue increasing our support to the opposition to help them get stronger. These things don’t happen overnight. Nothing will happen quickly. That’s just not the nature of these kinds of situations on the ground, as you know. But we’ve seen some steps, including, again, the election of opposition leaders that Secretary Kerry’s meeting with today. So I would not in any way agree with that characterization.
QUESTION: Would you concede to the fact that when President made that statement, he was unaware of – that the situation was complicated?
MS. HARF: In no way would I agree with that assessment. I think the President and the Secretary and every single person in this building who works on that issue is fully aware of how complicated the situation on the ground is.
More on Syria?
QUESTION: On Syria, yes.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: The North Korean leader Kim Jong-un met with a Syrian delegation today in Pyongyang amid celebrations for the 60th anniversary. And this led to the – one of the rights organizations, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, saying that North Korean military experts have been deployed in Aleppo for months now. I wondered if you had any information on that.
MS. HARF: I don’t have any information on that. I am happy to look into it and get back to you if I have anything to share.
QUESTION: Would you have any qualms or concerns about Syria and North Korea tying up in this fashion?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been clear that we have concerns with any outside actors supporting the Syrian regime’s brutal crackdown on its own people. So broadly speaking, I think we’ve made that point. We’ve said it about Hezbollah, we’ve said it about Iran. But I’m not going to comment on North Korea specifically because I don’t have any information on that.
QUESTION: What about the tensions, and North Korea invited many of the foreign press. Do you have anything – and the invited the U.S. press too.
MS. HARF: I don’t have anything for you on that.
MS. HARF: Wait, let me go to Scott.
MS. HARF: We do. We do. So the interim Malian Government has affirmed the preparations are in place to hold the first round of presidential elections throughout the entirety of Mali this coming Sunday, which is July 28th. We encourage all Malians to take full advantage of this opportunity to express their will through the ballot box and to remain peacefully engaged in the political process as we approach election day.
The U.S. Embassy intends to send 58 accredited observers to various polling stations in Bamako and surrounding areas on election day. And as we’ve said repeatedly, democratic elections are the critical first step in Mali’s return to constitutional order and establishing a government with the necessary legitimacy to pursue longer-term priorities.
QUESTION: What about the security of voters in northern areas that are in – still controlled by elements outside the interim government?
MS. HARF: Well, we expect voters throughout the entirety of Mali to have the opportunity to vote in the election on Sunday. And there are a few steps that we’ve been encouraged by. First, the fact that Malian civil administrators have returned to the northern territories, including Kidal. Furthermore, we understand that the Malian Government and security forces have been coordinating with MINUSMA and French operation Serval to provide electoral security throughout the process. So we are encouraged by those steps and expect that voters will be able to vote all across the country.
QUESTION: After the coup but since the introduction of the interim government, there was some concern expressed by the United States about the continuing influence of the military, specifically Captain Sanogo. Are you content that he no longer exercises undue influence over this process?
MS. HARF: Well, we continue to urge the interim Malian Government to take tangible and immediate steps to exert civilian authority over the military and marginalize Captain Sanogo and the junta, especially to keep the upcoming elections free from military intimidation.
QUESTION: Sorry. Just to follow up, you said that the U.S. election observers in Mali were all going to be in Bamako?
MS. HARF: And surrounding areas.
QUESTION: So if you’re so happy about the stuff that’s going on up north, why aren’t American election observers going up north?
MS. HARF: I just have what I have available in terms of where our observers are going. But again, I think I laid out several encouraging signs about the security situation in the north that we feel will help voters be able to vote on election day.
QUESTION: So you’re happy about the security situation, but not necessarily --
MS. HARF: I don’t think I used the term happy. I think I used the term encouraged. But we do expect that Malians throughout the country will be able to vote this weekend.
QUESTION: But just to clarify, no American observers in the north?
MS. HARF: That’s my understanding, yes.
MS. HARF: Yes.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Why wasn’t a medical plane sent to rescue the survivors, especially considering how badly some are injured? Some are still recovering. And why didn’t Secretary Clinton visit any of the survivors?
MS. HARF: These issues, as we’ve talked about many times, have been exhaustively, thoroughly looked at by this Department. As you know, the FBI is still looking into their own investigation as well. I don’t have anything additional on either of those questions for you.
New topic? Yes.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) have – are you concerned with the General al-Sisi’s call on his supporters for (inaudible)? Do you think that it can – how can it affect the inclusive process that you demand? Do you have any concern that it can be – polarize the situation?
MS. HARF: Well, we, again, reiterate our call on all participants that any demonstrations be peaceful. We are concerned that clashes could make it very difficult to reconcile and get ahead of cycles of unrest and instability. So I don’t want to get ahead of anything that may or may not happen tomorrow, but we have reiterated our call and made clear that participants must be peaceful and the interim government and military must show maximum restraint in dealing with protestors.
QUESTION: Have you connected with the interim government or the army on this issue?
MS. HARF: In what way? I’m sorry.
QUESTION: About your concerns?
MS. HARF: Well, we are concerned that any clashes – I know there are some planned for tomorrow, so clearly we’re concerned about the potential that those demonstrations could lead to violence and lead to clashes. But I don’t want to get ahead of what might happen tomorrow. We’ve called on all demonstrators to be peaceful.
QUESTION: Ask you to clarify something. The White House just put out a statement a few minutes ago in the President’s name on Spain, which talks about at least six injured Americans. Can we assume that your information is more current, that it’s five missing and one dead?
MS. HARF: I haven’t seen the President’s statement. I know you just read it. I have the information that I’ve been given from our folks. It’s the same number. I’m assuming that we’re referring to the same six people, but again, I’ve cautioned that the numbers may change, so we’ll read out as much – as many details as we can as we get them.
QUESTION: Okay. If we could just nail that down, whether it’s --
MS. HARF: Yep. Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- six missing or injured or five --
MS. HARF: Yeah. And something may have changed since I came down here, so I’ll – we’ll make sure you have the most up-to-date information on that.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Just one quick one on that.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Is there any way that the State Department could release names, or can you explain --
MS. HARF: So due to privacy considerations, at this time we cannot provide personal details of the injured or the U.S. citizen who has died. As you know, sometimes we are able to eventually do so, but we can’t at this time.
QUESTION: You said the U.S. is not in discussion with Pakistan with regard to Dr. Aafia’s extradition.
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: But please let me know about the – is there any, like, effort – the Pakistan Government is claiming that they are signing an agreement with the U.S. with regard to exchange of prisoners. Is it true?
MS. HARF: As I said, the U.S. Government is not in discussions with the Government of Pakistan on a prisoner exchange or transfer involving Dr. Aafia Siddiqui. Further, the Government of Pakistan requested her transfer to Pakistan in 2010 and we are not aware of a recent request from Pakistan to discuss her case. That’s all I have on that.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) the U.S. Government and Pakistan are in discussion of any prisoners exchange, not related of Aafia Siddiqui?
MS. HARF: I don’t have any updates for you on that, nothing for you.
MS. HARF: The Secretary hosted the President of Vietnam yesterday for lunch. Let me – they had a very good meeting, talked about a number of issues, how we can work together – it was very productive – including issues of trade and specifically the TPP, a very cooperative and productive discussion on that issue. Also talked about human rights and how we move forward together. I know the President of Vietnam also made some public comments, and I would refer you to those as well.
QUESTION: Yeah. Just one thing that came out of his public comments was he kept on referring to the “East Sea” which is the South China Sea, as U.S. calls it. Is this an indication of the problems that we have in the area?
MS. HARF: Our policy on that has not changed, and I would not read anything into those comments about our policy.
Anything else? Thanks, everyone.
(The briefing was concluded at 1:52 p.m.)