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U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action


Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
September 12, 2013


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Index for Today's Briefing
  • SYRIA
    • Secretary's Ongoing Meetings in Geneva with Special Representative Brahimi and Foreign Minister Lavrov
    • Secretary's Calls with Coalition President Jarba and General Idris / Continued Commitment to Opposition
  • SOMALIA
    • Omar Hammami
  • EGYPT
    • Extension of State of Emergency
  • SOMALIA
    • Omar Hammami
  • EGYPT
    • U.S. Remains Engaged
  • D.P.R.K.
    • Yongbyon
  • BRAZIL
    • Intelligence Collection Concerns
  • LIBYA
    • Benghazi / Greg Hicks


TRANSCRIPT:

The video is also available with closed captioning on YouTube.

1:23 p.m. EDT

MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. I know there’s a lot going on today. I’m going to do a quick update at the top on what’s going on in Geneva. I know the Secretary also will be speaking soon, so – excuse me – we’ll try and get through as many of your questions as possible, but I know there’s a lot going on.

So as you know, the Secretary arrived in Geneva. He has already today met with UN Special Representative Lakhdar Brahimi – Brahimi, excuse me – today. He’s about to go into the first plenary session with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. They are both about to make some comments, I know. So I know we are a little on a time schedule today. The two of them will have dinner this evening as well.

Two calls to read out as well: Secretary Kerry spoke again today with Syrian Opposition Coalition President Jarba and Supreme Military Council General Idris to discuss his upcoming meetings in Geneva with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. In both calls, the Secretary made clear that he was seeking tangible commitments, that the Russians are interested in achieving a strong, credible, and enforceable agreement to rapidly identify, verify, secure, and ultimately destroy Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile.

He reiterated that President Obama’s threat of military action very much remains on the table, and that it is the only reason the Syrian regime has for the first time ever acknowledged its arsenal of chemical weapons, and announced its commitment to turn them over to international supervision. The Secretary emphasized that he will test this proposition in Geneva and that he begins from a position of skepticism, of course, but believes that it’s an important process that he’s undertaking right now. The Secretary also underscored that the United States continues to stand with the Syrian Opposition and that he will update both Jarba and Idris throughout these next days of meetings in Geneva.

QUESTION: Can we start --

MS. HARF: Yes, go ahead, Deb.

QUESTION: Can we start with --

MS. HARF: Arshad, we’re going to start with Deb, and then I’ll get to you next. Thanks.

QUESTION: How detailed right now is the Russian proposal? I mean, a few days ago, the State Department was saying that it was really just a statement and there was no real formal --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- proposal. Apparently, you all have seen some paperwork now. So at this point in time, what you’ve seen, how detailed is the proposal that the Russians have given you all?

MS. HARF: Well, those discussions are going to be part of what’s ongoing in Geneva. So I don’t want to get ahead of that. But what we’ve said and what Jen said yesterday was that one of the reasons we’re moving forward with the diplomatic process is because for the first time in the last, now, 48 hours, I guess, the Russians have put on the table more substance, more to these ideas than they had, quite frankly, in the last two years. So that’s why we’re there in Geneva today, because they came forward with more substantive and more detailed ideas about how we could possibly move forward identifying and verifying the destruction of these weapons.

QUESTION: Like a detailed outline of --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to get into specifics about what that looks like, and obviously, that’s going to form a lot of the discussion that’s ongoing in Geneva or just starting in Geneva right now.

QUESTION: Okay. And one other one just to follow up?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Given Russia’s opposition to any kind of UN resolution, is it possible that whatever comes out of this diplomacy, that there will be no real punitive action against Assad himself, or is the fact that he would forfeit weapons punitive enough?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve always said that the goal of military action was to deter and degrade the Assad regime’s ability to do that in the future. Clearly, the best way to do that would be to destroy the entire stockpile. And if we can do that diplomatically, that’s obviously the preference.

We’re working, as we said yesterday, in three different lines of action here. The first is in Geneva where the Secretary and Foreign Minister Lavrov will talk through, with teams of experts, all the modalities that might go into that process. There’s also a UN process. Yesterday, the P-5 met in New York. I know there’s a lot of discussions ongoing right now about a possible Security Council resolution. So I don’t want to get ahead of that or what that resolution might look like, but we are invested in that process as well. And then, of course, the congressional piece too.

QUESTION: But Russia’s already said they’re not interested in that.

MS. HARF: Well, we’re talking – right now, I don’t want to get ahead of where we are in New York. Again, the P-5 met yesterday, and we are going to continue these discussions and coordinate next steps. So we’re invested in that process and we’ll see where it goes.

QUESTION: As you --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- may have seen, Marie, the UN spokesman announced about 45 minutes ago that they have received a document from the Syrian Government which they believe to be an accession document for Syria joining the Chemical Weapons Convention.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. HARF: I’ve seen these reports, certainly take note of them. We believe that that action would not be a substitute for the kind of action we’re talking about in Geneva, right. So we believe that – clearly, we think the Chemical Weapons Convention is an important thing that we’re a part of, but that that would not be a substitute for working with us and the Russians to verify and ultimately destroy their stockpile. Again, still looking at those reports, though.

QUESTION: So is it a good thing? I mean --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to characterize it yet. We’re still taking a look at the report.

QUESTION: And when you say that it’s not a substitute, can you give us more clarity on what you think you need in Geneva in terms of assurances that Assad would verifiably put his chemical weapons under international monitoring and then destroy them?

MS. HARF: Well, I’m not going to lay out specifics. That’s what the next few days exactly are about, is to negotiate those specifics between our team and the Russian team. Clearly, there are a lot of details that still need to be discussed, everything from technical logistics – which I know we talked about a little bit yesterday. But this has to be credible, it has to be verifiable. And it has to be something that we believe everybody is committed to doing, and it can’t be a stalling tactic. So all of those modalities are what’s going to be discussed starting very shortly here throughout the next few days.

Mm-hmm?

QUESTION: Assad apparently, in an interview today with a Russian news agency, said this was a two-sided process. He suggested that it would only work if the U.S. halts the threat of military action, stops arming the rebels. And then, of course, he said his government would start submitting data on its stockpile a month after signing the convention. It sounds as if Assad is the one setting the conditions and timeline here.

MS. HARF: Well, the people that are negotiating all of this right now in Geneva are us and the Russians. And again, the Russians came forward with a more substantive set of ideas than we had seen in the past. And we’re operating with them right now on trying to get to a better place on how this actually might work going forward. Again, we don’t think that signing the CWC should be a substitute for destroying their stockpiles, and that there’s nothing – they shouldn’t be allowed to use it as a stalling tactic.

So you mentioned 30 days; I know there’s a lot in the press about that right now. This process, we’ve said, will take time, because it’s complicated, but it also can’t go on indefinitely, because it can’t be used as a stalling tactic. So we’ll discuss all of this with the Russians in Geneva over the next few days.

QUESTION: It sounds as if he’s trying to make some stipulations here, that it’s another one of what we’ve seen in the past, that each time there’s a little bit of progress, he throws up a roadblock.

MS. HARF: Well, we know it’s going to be a difficult process. Nobody’s naive. The Secretary goes into this, as we said, with skepticism and clear-eyed about the difficulties. But at the same time, we believe that even though it’s difficult – in fact because it’s difficult – that we need to try the diplomatic route to exhaust that option before we take any military action. And I think one of your questions – I’m sorry if I didn’t go back to that – maybe it was one – your first question – we’ve also been clear that the threat of military action is still on the table, and indeed, that it’s the only reason we feel we are at this point today.

QUESTION: Is there any way that the U.S. would take that off the table?

MS. HARF: I don’t want to venture to guess that; I just know where we are today, and that it’s – that we still have that on the table and are still working with Congress on language in an AUMF to authorize that. Again, we’ve asked for a delay in that process, but believe that it is an important process to keep moving forward with updated language that reflects, of course, what’s happened over the past 48 hours.

QUESTION: What about his demand that the U.S. stop arming the rebels? Is there any way that that would happen?

MS. HARF: Well, I don’t want to get ahead of any of the negotiations that are happening or what may or may not be on the table. We – I just said, I believe that the Secretary made clear in his calls with Jarba and Idris today that we are going to continue supporting the opposition. He’s going to update them on this process throughout the next few days in Geneva. But I think – the Secretary made our commitment to the opposition – both the military and the political side – crystal clear when he spoke with them today.

Yes. And then I’ll come back up to you.

QUESTION: And what is going to be the next step after – I mean --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the whole process of chemical weapons? Is Assad is going to remain in the regime and is he going to be punished for what he did for the last two years and killing all these people? What’s going to happen to him?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been clear that at the same time we work on the chemical weapons issue that we believe a Geneva – I know, now we’re using Geneva twice, and I’m sorry about that – but that a Geneva 2 political process is the way to move Syria forward. And then we’ve also been clear that Assad has no legitimacy and can no longer be leader of Syria. That has not changed in any way.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: How did you take the opinion piece of President Putin yesterday in the New York Times? And especially what did you think of his allegation that the rebels have staged the chemical weapons attack on the last months --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and to prompt, to prop up the U.S. military intervention?

MS. HARF: Well, we expect President Putin and the Russians, including the team that’s in Geneva, to put forward actions now, not just words. And that’s why we’re in Geneva talking with them directly.

In terms of the allegation that you mentioned, that the opposition used chemical weapons, it would, as we’ve said repeatedly, be preposterous for anyone to suggest that anyone other than the Assad regime is responsible for the August 21st chemical weapons attack. We’ve laid out our intelligence assessment, and it’s one in which we have high confidence. So we stand by that. We’re going to be discussing all of this with the Russians. We’ll be talking with them about some of our assessments. Hopefully they’ll share with us some of theirs as well when we’re in Geneva over the next few days.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Yes, and then I’ll go to you. Yeah.

QUESTION: On June the 14th, United States and Russia signed a new bilateral framework which substituted the expired Nunn-Lugar umbrella agreement for cooperation and nonproliferation sphere. Is this new framework one of the vehicles that is now under consideration as potential vehicles to eliminate Syrian chemical weapons stockpile?

MS. HARF: I don’t have any details on that. Clearly, we and the Russians are talking about the variety of ways in which we might verify – identify these weapons, verify them, and ultimately destroy them. I don’t want to get ahead of that process. Clearly, we’re looking at a variety of different ways to do so.

Yes.

QUESTION: (Off-mike.)

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Regarding the aid to the rebellion --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- or the rebels, it was reported today in Washington Post, whether it’s CIA, or both CIA and State Department are giving more aid to the rebels. Can I – can you elaborate little bit about the State Department side of aid?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve talked a lot about the humanitarian aid that we provide. I don’t have anything new for you on that side of the assistance. We’ve said for some time that we’ve ramped up our nonlethal assistance across the board to both the SOC and the SMC. This week, we’ve had additional deliveries of nonlethal combat support equipment in the form of communications gear and vehicles. We’ve had a lot of other things we talked about in this room in terms of humanitarian aid as well.

QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, because it --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- seems that according to reports that more aid went to the borders or whatever in the last two weeks first. And second --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- there is kind of criticism still about the delivery more than the – I mean, it’s not reaching to the proper people or whatever it’s needed to be done.

MS. HARF: Well, our assistance has been continuous. It’s moving forward. It obviously take time – takes time, excuse me – to build pipelines to funnel that assistance. This is a challenge we’ve talked about for two years, right? And we – as we identify the opposition groups that it’s most appropriate to go to, we’ll continue doing that. So that process has been ongoing.

QUESTION: So, I mean --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- back to the Geneva and New York, how do you see --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- there is a link between Geneva or New York, or they are parallel or linked somehow to each other?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm, yeah, absolutely. They are certainly parallel processes. We have diplomats in both places talking right now. The Geneva process is focused on how we can work with the Russians to set up a way to identify, verify, secure, and ultimately destroy Assad’s chemical weapons. As we’ve said, we’re not negotiating, we’re not planning on negotiating the text of any UN Security Council resolution in Geneva. That’s just not the purpose of it.

But clearly, those discussions are related to the discussions that are going on in New York where they are talking about a potential text for a UN Security Council resolution. We’re working very closely with the British, with the French, with our other partners at the UN to determine what – how we can best work through that process, which is of course related.

QUESTION: You’re talking – when you are talking about New York process --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- you mentioned more than one time, “We invested a lot in it.” What do you mean by that?

MS. HARF: Invested a lot in our --

QUESTION: Whatever, I --

MS. HARF: In whatever, okay. Well, we do believe that the UN has a role to play here. We’ve repeatedly gone to the UN over the past several years to try to hold the Assad regime accountable. We all are well aware of the history and how difficult that’s been at times. But we are invested in this right now because we believe that there is a diplomatic opening, that there’s a door that was opened 48 hours ago, and we have an obligation to walk through it and see what lies on the other side.

So we’re going to – again, the P-5 met yesterday. There’s a lot of discussions going on up at the UN. And if there’s a way to get a Security Council resolution to address this issue, clearly we think that would be a good thing.

QUESTION: So, now the last one. It’s about the – in general, the handling the issue of Syria and Russia in the same time.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: You mentioned more than one time again the word, “We are trying,” or “We are trying to avoid,” or “to face the stalling tactics.”

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: What – how are – how do you describe these tactics? I mean, how do you see it? I mean, if – when you say it’s – I’m not going to say it’s a line or not line, but how do you see the tactics, the stalling --

MS. HARF: Well, it’s a balance here, right, because clearly, the identification and verification and destruction of a very large chemical weapons stockpile is a very complicated process that will take time. So we are committed to that if we believe that it’s credible and we have a way forward. So we’re very clear-eyed about that, that no, you can’t necessarily rush that part of it. But we also have to balance that against the fact that we have to keep seeing forward momentum because we can’t allow Syria or the Russians to use this as a stalling tactic for the Assad regime to keep the weapons, to continue possibly using them in the future.

So it’s just a balancing act, and that’s why, when you see the Secretary in Geneva and in subsequent discussions that I’m sure will happen after Geneva, there needs to continue to be forward momentum, and not to just be seen as a stall – a way to stall.

QUESTION: But related --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- to this follow-up, because --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- you say stalling tactics depends on how it is done. But in the same time, yesterday or today, either this place or the White House avoiding any timeline.

MS. HARF: Absolutely, and we still are, for the exact reason I just mentioned, that it is a process that will take some time. And if we feel like we are continuing to make progress and that it’s a credible process to eventually destroy these weapons, that’s the best way to deter their use in the future. And we are well aware of the logistical complications here.

So we don’t want to put a timeline on it for exactly that reason, but we also go into this process clear-eyed about the fact that we can’t let it go on forever without progress being made.

QUESTION: What would --

MS. HARF: Yes, I’ll go – I’ll come up to you, Dana, and then you.

QUESTION: Sorry, because we’re pressed for time, can I --

MS. HARF: I know. I’m sorry.

QUESTION: -- change the subject really quickly and then we can go back --

MS. HARF: I think we need to finish Syria – I’m sorry – and then I’ll come to you next. I promise.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Is there anything that you hope – that he hopes to accomplish in these two day – in this two-day period --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in order to show momentum, in order to say, okay, yeah, this is worth pursuing, this is worth going on with? Would it --

MS. HARF: I’m not going to lay out specifics about what we want to come out of this with.

QUESTION: Yeah, but generally, what do you want to try to get done in the next two days?

MS. HARF: Well, we said that this – we need to come out of it believing that there’s a credible partner here that has a credible way forward in terms of how we can actually do this. I said that in his call with the SOC and the SMC, he said that we are feeling out whether the Russians are interested in achieving a strong, credible, and enforceable agreement, which is a key part of this as well, to rapidly do this process.

The President just mentioned, I believe, in a cabinet meeting, and they’ve put a readout of it at the White House, that we’re hopeful that these discussions can yield a concrete result. We’re not going to further describe what that means because we don’t want to get ahead of the process.

Yes. It’s – you’re not on Syria, though, are you?

QUESTION: No, but --

MS. HARF: I will come back to you, I promise.

QUESTION: It’s too (inaudible).

MS. HARF: I know. Yes, yes, yes.

Yes?

QUESTION: Is it your belief that you could begin the process of securing and destroying the chemical weapons while hostilities are underway? Do you need a ceasefire to begin this process? And as a related question, doesn’t the start of this process basically guarantee that Bashar al-Assad remains in power?

MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points. Clearly, the fact that there is an ongoing violent conflict on the ground is one of the logistical issues at play here. I’m not going to outline what might have to go into an agreement to start this process, but clearly that’s one of the issues that will be discussed in Geneva, is how you do all of this, which is difficult on its own, but also in an active war zone.

Look, we’ve been clear that Assad needs to go. We’ve been clear about that for a long time. But the fact is that his regime maintains control of these weapons and that if our goal is to remove their threat from Syria, and indeed from the region – because they would threaten the region, we believe, if they’re left unchecked – then we have to work with the people that control them. That’s why we’re talking to the Russians right now, who clearly are working with the Assad regime.

But our end goal has not changed: that he has less credibility and can no longer, going forward, be part of a Syrian future.

QUESTION: And you expect to continue to negotiate with the Russians --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in the belief that they will facilitate Assad’s eventual departure once the chemical weapons are secured?

MS. HARF: Well that’s a separate issue, is the other Geneva process that we’ve been working with the Russians on for months. We’ve talked about this, that we believe that there cannot be a future for Syria with Assad at the helm, and the communique that came out of Geneva 1 basically referenced that, right? So we’ll keep working with the Russians on the political process, which is separate from the – this process.

QUESTION: So are you prioritizing, then – are the chemical weapons more important than getting rid of Assad, at least right now?

MS. HARF: I’m not going to put a priority on it. Clearly --

QUESTION: Isn’t that what you’re doing, though?

MS. HARF: Clearly, right now the discussions we’re having are about chemical weapons, because there was an incident that happened that needed to be responded to. The Geneva political consultations have been ongoing for months, but we also believe that it’s a priority for Syria to move past the brutality of the Assad regime as well.

Yes?

QUESTION: Just quick couple questions. When you look at last two years, how confident you are the Russians and the Assad regime are going to deliver this deal?

MS. HARF: Well we’ve seen, as we said yesterday, more in the last – positive signs from the Russians in the last 48 hours than we’ve seen in two years, and again would note that that has come under the threat of military action against the Syrian regime. So the Secretary clearly – he’s clear-eyed about this and we have skepticism about this. But we have a responsibility to see – to have these talks to see if they might actually be serious about getting rid of these weapons because that would be such a good step forward for the Syrian people, for the regime, and for their security as well.

QUESTION: Is --

MS. HARF: Or, for the region, not the regime. Excuse me.

QUESTION: SMC leader Salim Idris yesterday was saying that they would reject the Russian offer. How was the conversation between the Secretary and the – Idris today?

MS. HARF: How long was it? I’m sorry.

QUESTION: How was --

MS. HARF: How was it?

QUESTION: Or how was their reaction?

MS. HARF: Well, I did a little readout of it at the top and I’m happy to go over some of those points. They did speak today. The Secretary made clear that we will continue supporting the opposition. He will keep him posted on the talks in Geneva.

QUESTION: About the deal, how is Salim Idris approach the deal?

MS. HARF: Again, I don’t have more of a readout besides what Secretary Kerry conveyed to the SOC and the SMC, and he also conveyed that the threat of military action very much remains on the table as well.

QUESTION: And last question.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: On – Turkish Foreign Minister was saying that this could be a cosmetic move, not real one. The Foreign Minister talked to you guys yesterday. What’s the – Ankara’s reaction to this offer so far?

MS. HARF: Well I don’t have a characterization for you on Ankara’s reaction to it – to the Russian proposal. I would say that our objective – one of our objectives for these talks is to assess exactly the viability, right, of this proposal, because we believe it has to be credible. We believe that there has to be a way forward to actually identify, verify, and destroy this stockpile – that it cannot, in fact, be cosmetic.

Yes?

QUESTION: Marie, I appreciate you don’t want to disclose details of the talks in Geneva, but could you at least --

MS. HARF: Well, the talks haven’t started yet, so it would be hard to disclose details about them.

QUESTION: Well, they are about – they are – you have some suggestions, the Russian have some suggestions, you already switched those, so I – never mind. (Laughter.) The thing is, would you – could you at least tell if the United States is willing to consider an idea of financial – of taking part in elimination of chemical weapon stockpiles in Syria financially, or it’s a no-starter for you?

MS. HARF: I’m just not going to address those ideas one way or the other. I know that we’re there putting a lot of ideas on the table, and waiting to hear the Russians’ ideas as well.

Yes.

QUESTION: I want to ask you – everybody read the letter of President Putin --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- in The New York Times.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The letter has a lot of objectives to the U.S. I’m not going to enter those objectives, as he said to the U.S. Administration.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: But he mentions that, in the idea of Russia, the chemical weapons were used by the forces fighting Assad. So it seems that he doesn’t believe the idea that the regime was using these kind of weapons. So if this is true, it seems that it would be difficult to find all the chemical weapons that are in Syria, because it seems that they’re all spread around, if his idea is true, right? So I want to know if the Administration read this letter, and what’s your opinion of this?

MS. HARF: Well I think I addressed it a little bit, but I’ll – I’m happy to do it quickly again for you. That right now, we expect President Putin and the Russians to put forward actions and not just words, and that, on the idea of who used these chemical weapons, that it’s preposterous for anyone to assert that anyone other than the Assad regime used them.

Now, one of the things we’re going to be doing in Geneva is talking through possible modalities for how to identify and destroy them. Part of that process will be sharing our information about what we think constitutes the chemical weapons stockpiles. We’ll be sharing detailed information about that. We hope the Russian side will as well, because that’s exactly why we’re bringing these teams of experts, because clearly, Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Lavrov have discussions, but these teams of experts are going to dig down into the details, talk about the different ways technically we could identify and destroy them. So those conversations will happen over the next few days.

QUESTION: But it’s clear that if we read this letter, it seems as has no logic thinking that Assad will give up the – will give the weapons, the chemical weapons, because the weapons, it seems, following the ration logic are all spread around in many groups. So this is a very complex issue, if we follow the letter of Putin.

MS. HARF: Well, we also believe it’s a complex issue. And the reason we’re in Geneva right now with our experts on both sides is to talk about all of the details about the stockpile, where they’re located, how they could be identified, secured, and destroyed. So that’s exactly what’s going to be to be talked about on the ground.

One, yes. Any – one last one on Syria? And then I’ll get to you.

QUESTION: Yes, one last one on Syria, actually.

MS. HARF: And then I’ll go to you even if it’s not Syria, and then we can do more on Syria. I will indulge you.

Yes.

QUESTION: In terms of the bilateral relations with Turkey, actually one of your – the closest allies of United States --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- it’s obvious that the Turkish Government is not happy with this new approach. And there are some critics coming from Ankara about this, and Ankara is – seems more eager for an intervention. And the Prime Minister also stated that Ankara is ready for any kind of coalition that will be established for this kind of intervention. How this new approach affected your, I mean, the relations with Ankara, actually? How do you see the --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- the stand of Ankara on this issue?

MS. HARF: Well, we have, of course, a very close relationship with our Turkish friends and allies. The Secretary speaks with Foreign Minister Davutoglu all the time. And I think I’d make a few points on that. The first is that the best thing for regional security long-term is not just to take military action to deter Assad from using these weapons, but actually to destroy them, which is what would be best for regional security so they actually can’t be used in the future.

But at the same time, we’ve made clear that the threat of military action remains on the table. That’s – we’re going to be talking over the next few days to see if this is actually a real and credible way forward, but we are also clear-eyed about the difficulties here. We’ll continue working with our allies in the region, like Turkey, on this going forward, because they clearly have a lot at stake here as well.

QUESTION: Because, I mean, the Ankara is skeptical about the – to destroy those – all this mass destruction weapons is not enough to stop the violence in Syria, because it’s has been already 1,000 – 100,000 people have been killed because of the civil war. But an attack --

MS. HARF: Well, we certainly feel the same way, that destroying chemical weapons won’t end the conflict in Syria. We believe that the only way to end the conflict in Syria in a durable way that’s good for the Syrian people is through a political solution. That’s why we’re also invested in the Geneva 2 process to get a political solution. So we would agree that destroying the chemical weapons would be a very good thing for regional security and for the Syrian people, but that there needs to be a political solution to actually end the entire conflict writ large.

QUESTION: But don’t you think that Assad will be legitimized with this new process? Because he became a new actor in a process where the United Nations were involved again. He’s again on the play in United Nations.

MS. HARF: I think that if the Assad regime – again, hypothetically, down the road – gets to a place where it is forced to give up all of its chemical weapons, to turn them over verifiably and have them destroyed by the international community, that that will undoubtedly be a good thing for the Syrian people and for regional security. And our position has absolutely not changed on the fact that he cannot be part of a Syrian future going forward at all. And we will continue making that point publicly and privately.

I’m going to you now. I promised.

QUESTION: Okay. Does the State Department have any comment on the reports that U.S. citizen Omar Hammami was killed in Somalia?

MS. HARF: Yeah. Let me see what I have on that.

We’ve seen the reports that he was killed in Somalia. We’re working to verify them right now. As many of you know, in 2006 Omar Hammami moved to Somalia with the intent to join al-Shabaab. He’s alleged to have made significant contributions to this terrorist organization’s media and military activities. If I have anything – an update for you, as I get it I will let you all know.

QUESTION: Just a couple quick follow-ups on that.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: One is that the Rewards Program for him has a reward of $5 million.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Yes.

QUESTION: Can you speak to why that reward is so high, particularly given the fact that over the last year or so Hammami has not been seen as being as important to the structure of al-Shabaab?

MS. HARF: I don’t have an answer for you for why the number is at $5 million. I just don’t. I can look into that and if there’s something to share about how that’s determined. I just don’t know that whole process.

QUESTION: And if it is determined, as been reported, that his death came at the hands of other Shabaab members --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- can you speak to how that reward might be distributed?

MS. HARF: Well, it’s my understanding that suspects may be actually removed from the Rewards for Justice list for a variety of reasons, including if they are taken into custody by law enforcement, of course, or security forces, but more pertinently here, if they’re confirmed dead by an official authoritative source. So in other words, if this eventually turns out to be true, there’s a chance he would be taken off of that. The Rewards for Justice Program is a reward for information leading up to the arrest or conviction of people. I would note that as well.

QUESTION: One quick one on Egypt.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There are reports that the Egyptian Government have – has extended the state of emergency for --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- two months. Any comment on that?

MS. HARF: Well, we remain opposed, as we have from the beginning, to the state of emergency. And we urge the interim government to end it immediately, to create an atmosphere where Egyptians on all sides can peacefully exercise their right to freedom of assembly and expression. The interim government and military must ensure due process and that any citizens arrested by police or military are referred only to civilian courts.

QUESTION: One other one on Egypt --

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- if I may.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: A – there was a court verdict today under which a series of people were found not guilty of killings in 2011. Do you have any comment on that verdict?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen that verdict. I’m happy to look into it and get back to you.

Yes, in the middle.

QUESTION: Yes, please. Egypt?

MS. HARF: I’ll go back to you. Hold on.

QUESTION: I just wanted to follow-up real quickly on Somalia.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Has there been any contact with anybody in this building with Mr. Hammami’s family today or recently about his status in Somalia?

MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. I can endeavor to get information on that. And if I can share it, I will. Generally speaking, when we can confirm the death of a U.S. citizen overseas, we’ll, again as you mentioned, notify the person’s next of kin. This is clearly a very unique situation, though, so I don’t have any other further updates. If I do, I’m happy to pass them along.

QUESTION: Yes, please, about Egypt.

MS. HARF: Okay, yes. And then I’ll go to you.

Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Yeah. You mentioned about the interim government and the emergency law.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any contact? I mean, I know that the Secretary met Nabil Fahmy the other day. I mean, it’s like it was in Paris.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have anything regarding any phone call? Any contact regarding this issue specifically?

MS. HARF: Nothing from the Secretary that I’m aware of. I know our folks on the ground remain engaged at high levels on this. If I have any details for you, I can share them. I just don’t have any specifics.

QUESTION: The other question is soon – I mean, maybe today or tomorrow in town, it’s expected that some Salafi leaders of the Salafi party will be here and others – or considered who is Islamist organization leaders will be here in town for participating in a conference. Is there any meeting between them and any official in this building?

MS. HARF: I’m actually not familiar with what you’re referring to. I’ll look into it and get back to you.

Yes, thanks. Back here, yes.

QUESTION: On North Korea?

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: There are some reports that North Korea has started Yongbyon nuclear reactor last month. These reports are based on the satellite imagery.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any information about that, and what is the assessment of the status of Yongbyon reactor?

MS. HARF: Well, we’ve seen this report. As a general matter, we don’t comment on intelligence matters or on this issue one way or the other. I’m certainly not going to comment on this one way or the other.

But suffice to say if it was true, it would be a violation of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and of course contrary to North Korea’s commitments under the September 19th, 2005 joint statement.

Yes, behind you and then I’ll come up to you.

QUESTION: On Brazil? Brazilian President Rousseff has raised concerns that the NSA activities directed at Brazil had less to do with combating terrorism and more to do with promoting economic interests.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction to that?

MS. HARF: I do. Just give me one second. And the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper put out a lengthy statement on this on September 8th, so I would point you there, but I’ll also make a few points from it as well.

He, in his letter, said that the United States does not use foreign intelligence collection capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies in order to give American companies a competitive advantage. I think that’s one of the concerns that’s been raised. In terms of the other specific concerns, the U.S. Government will respond through diplomatic channels to our partners and allies, as we have when they’ve raised these issues in the past.

Yes, I’ll come up to you.

QUESTION: To maintain the same region, go to Venezuela for a moment.

MS. HARF: Okay. Or do you have a follow-up on --

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS. HARF: Okay. Then we’ll go to – we’ll get --

QUESTION: Real quick.

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: The Brazilian parliament plans to send a delegation to Moscow to meet with Edward Snowden. Any comment on that?

MS. HARF: I haven’t seen those reports. If I have a comment for you, I will endeavor to get you one.

Yes.

QUESTION: I was --

MS. HARF: Elsewhere in the region?

QUESTION: Staying in Venezuela now, and here in the OAS, Secretary of the OAS, he said that he was very sorry that Venezuela left the Inter-American Human Rights Commission. Any comment from the U.S. about this?

MS. HARF: I don’t have anything for you on that. If I have a comment for you, I’m happy to share it.

We’re all rushing to see the Secretary. Great. If anyone – oh, one more. Oh, sorry, guys. One more.

QUESTION: Out of the region, I’m sorry. Can you address Greg Hicks’ continued complaints, most recently on “This Week”, that he is being punished for his comments about the Benghazi attacks?

MS. HARF: Yes, I can. Just give me one second to pull it up.

As we’ve repeatedly and I think I’ve said from this podium, that we are deeply committed to protecting our employees and would never tolerate or sanction retaliation against employees who speak their minds on any issue, including this one. Mr. Hicks has not been demoted, as I know he said. We appreciate his exemplary conduct on the evening of September 11th and his long career as a member of the Foreign Service. We continue to value his service and are working with him to – through the normal personnel process and assignment timetable to identify his next permanent assignment. That’s ongoing right now, and we’ll continue working with Mr. Hicks to find a next assignment.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MS. HARF: Thanks.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:59 p.m.)

DPB # 152



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