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1:37 p.m. EDT
MS. HARF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to the daily briefing. I don’t have anything at the top. Deb, go ahead and get us started.
QUESTION: Okay. I’d like to start with Libya. What’s your read on what really happened there? Does the U.S. feel like it bears any responsibility for the abduction of this Prime Minister? Because they’re saying it was in retaliation for the al-Libi raid. Is that true?
MS. HARF: Well, a couple points. We just put out a statement from Secretary Kerry right before we came out. I hope folks saw that. That’s one of the reasons I was probably a little late. But he made clear that we condemn the events that have happened over the last 24 hours. We’re happy to hear that he’s been released, but I think we want to underscore the fact that this kind of violence, this kind of activity, has no place in a new Libya.
We’re monitoring the situation closely and trying to determine the facts of exactly what happened here. I don’t think we can yet confirm who was actually responsible. There have been different claims out there, and we’re still trying to get some clarity on that, but I don’t want to guess about the reason the perpetrators would have done this. I think we’ve been clear that we’re going to keep working with the Prime Minister, with his government, on these shared issues, and including increasing their capacity to confront security challenges themselves.
QUESTION: Is it possible that it was a staged abduction? I mean, it only lasted a few hours.
MS. HARF: I guess everything’s possible. We’re still trying to get clarity into what happened here. And we very strongly condemn it and think that it was a serious situation. We don’t have all the details yet. We’re happy to hear that he’s been released, but again, this really – this kind of activity against a democratically elected head of state really just has no place in a new Libya, and we’re committed to working with the government going forward.
QUESTION: But isn’t this a setback to getting more cooperation with the government?
MS. HARF: What happened over the last 24 hours? In fact, I think it underscores the fact that we’re working together to help the Libyan Government continue to strengthen its institutions, continue to strengthen the rule of law, and continue to strengthen its own security internally. We know this is a challenging time for the Libyan Government; we’ve said that for a long time. And I think it actually underscores why we need to work more quickly to help them in a lot of these areas.
QUESTION: Yeah, but he can’t maybe do that.
MS. HARF: Well, he’s the Prime Minister of Libya. We’re committed to working with him, absolutely.
QUESTION: Can we go to Egypt?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
QUESTION: Oh, one more on --
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: -- Libya. It’s actually kind of broader. You look at what’s happening there, after an Arab Spring type of uprising, you look at what’s happening in Egypt, look at Syria, look at Iraq – there seems to be a pattern here of things falling apart after there is this great hope about democracy, then an intervention of some type, and then it falls apart. And there are countries that criticize what’s going on. I know that’s kind of a general question, but it doesn’t seem to be working very well – let’s put it that way – in these countries that the United States had great hopes for.
MS. HARF: Well, I’d make a few points, Jill. The first is that each country goes through these transitions in their own way and in their own timeframe. And we always knew in each one of them that there would be a lot of challenges.
But I would take, I think, issue with the notion that these countries are all falling apart. Look, where we are in Libya today is we have a democratically elected government that we’re working with to continue to strengthen their capabilities to do things, but compare that to the situation where we were under Qadhafi’s rule. And yes, there are difficulties, but it’s a much better situation for the Libyan people, certainly. And that’s why we’re going to continue working with the Government of Libya moving forward to help them on this transition.
If you look at Yemen, if you look at Iraq, if you look – which, obviously, Iraq is a very different case; I wouldn’t necessarily put it in the Arab Spring category, as we all know the history with their transition, with their government. But for the Arab Spring countries, we knew there were going to be challenges. We knew that the road was going to be rocky here. As I’ve repeatedly said, our own democratic transition in the U.S., building this democracy, was challenging. And we knew also that this would take time. This is a generational shift. And in a lot of places, there are positives you can point to. We also know there will be setbacks.
So I think I’d look at, across the Arab world, whether its Tunisia, Yemen, Libya, elsewhere, Egypt, these countries are all moving on their own path and on their own timeframe. And what our objective has always been is to work with them to promote our interests, to promote our values, and to help them in any way we can move forward in this democratic process, even though it’s really hard.
QUESTION: Do you think it was helpful, though, to take Mr. Libi from the streets of Tripoli, for the Libyan Government?
MS. HARF: Well, I think terrorists like Mr. al-Libi aren’t just threats to the U.S; they’re also threats to the Libyans – the Libyan people, Libyan Government. I would underscore the fact that he’s indicted in the Southern District of New York for two bombings of embassies, in conjunction with those two bombings that killed a lot of non-Americans – a lot of Kenyans, a lot of Tanzanians. These kinds of terrorists are threats to everybody, including in Libya. So we think that it was a good thing for Libyan security, for our security, for global security to get these guys off the battlefield, absolutely.
QUESTION: You don’t think it was perhaps ill-conceived to leave such a heavy footprint behind of U.S. power on a government that’s very – is struggling with all these challenges, as you just outlined?
MS. HARF: Well, I’m not sure exactly what “heavy footprint” means. I believe this was a quite targeted operation. I will say that and I’ll leave it to DOD to further characterize it. But we’ve been talking with the Libyans about counterterrorism for a long time, and we’ll continue doing so. They agree it’s a shared challenge that we both face, and we’re going to continue these conversations. What we’re focused on now is where the relationship goes from here and how we can help them best move forward.
QUESTION: Marie, any update on communication today between this building and Libyan Government officials, or is this all being handled at Ambassador Jones’s level?
MS. HARF: Which Ambassador Jones?
QUESTION: In Libya.
MS. HARF: In Libya. You always have to ask when it comes to the NEA region. I will get you an update on – I know there has been communication today – nothing, I believe, from the Secretary today. But I’ll get you – if I can get you specifics about who’s been in contact with the Libyan Government today, I’m happy to do so.
QUESTION: And on the question of – you referenced the indictment and the status of al-Libi. Any timeframe in these conversations that the Ambassador has had – Ambassador Deborah Jones – with the Libyan Government about the detention? When do you expect him to be coming to the U.S. to face those trials?
MS. HARF: Well, we don’t know what his final disposition would be. So I’d make that point again. I think we’ve said that repeatedly. There’s a couple of different options. I know DOJ is probably best situated to answer what those options might look like. So we don’t have a timeframe. As we said, he remains in U.S. military custody.
QUESTION: So even though he’s in U.S. custody and he’s under indictment in a U.S. court, it’s not a sure thing that he’ll come back to the United States to face those charges?
MS. HARF: His final disposition just hasn’t been decided. We’ve talked about a number of different things, whether it’s military commissions, Article 3 courts. We just don’t have any further details about where he might end up.
QUESTION: But he might not end up on U.S. territory.
MS. HARF: I’m just not going to outline what the different options are. DOJ, I think, is probably really best suited to speak to those.
QUESTION: Is one of them handing him back to the Libyans?
MS. HARF: Again, I would refer you to DOJ for questions about his final disposition after U.S. military (inaudible).
QUESTION: Okay. Two more things on this. Yesterday, I think Jo had asked you about – or a couple days running, but including yesterday – about the international law under which you believe his abduction is justified.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Were you able to find that cite?
MS. HARF: So I got a little bit more. I don’t know if it will satisfy everyone, but I tried to get a little bit more.
So Mr. al-Libi, as I said yesterday, was lawfully apprehended and is lawfully detained under the Law of Armed Conflict. We also call it the Law of War; it’s what I mentioned yesterday. And that’s comprised of a body of international law that consists both of treaties, like the Geneva Convention and others, and customary international law. So as we’ve explained, the United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qaida and its associated forces, and as such, we can lawfully use force in that conflict, including to capture and detain individuals who are part of al-Qaida or its associated forces. So that’s the international legal basis for what we’re talking about.
QUESTION: So it’s based on the U.S. belief that it is in a state of armed conflict with al-Qaida?
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: Okay. And then --
MS. HARF: And that under the Laws of War, the body of international law consisting, again, of treaties and customary international law, that this is indeed lawful.
QUESTION: And then yesterday, you had told us that you’re in – you’ve had contact with the Libyan Government about consular access?
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Has he received consular access?
MS. HARF: Well, again, I’d stress that I don’t know what his final disposition will be. He remains in U.S. military custody.
I can assure you of a few things: First, that we will meet our ICRC notification obligations as appropriate, and our consular access obligations as and when appropriate. Those discussions are ongoing right now with the Libyan Government. We’re talking to them about this exact issue. And I’m not going to get ahead of those discussions or that process until --
QUESTION: But it’s not automatic? When you say as and when appropriate, that implies --
MS. HARF: As and when appropriate.
QUESTION: -- that you may judge that it’s never appropriate and he could be held incommunicado indefinitely without access to officials from his government.
MS. HARF: Well, I don’t think anybody has said that he will be held incommunicado or indefinitely. That’s certain.
QUESTION: No, I didn’t – well, he is being held incommunicado, I mean, but --
MS. HARF: Well --
QUESTION: -- that’s not what I said. I said it leaves open the possibility that he could be, not that you said he would be.
MS. HARF: Well, decisions about his detention are a little separate and apart from the consular access question, right? How long he’s in military custody, where he ends up being – his disposition is – that’s a separate question from consular access, and I would – and so DOD, as they are the ones who has him in custody, I think is best able to speak to those issues.
QUESTION: But --
MS. HARF: But we will meet our obligations, our consular access obligation, as and when appropriate. And we’re in discussions with the Libyans right now. I just don’t want to get ahead of those discussions (inaudible).
QUESTION: No, I get it. But it seems to me that the phrasing, “as and when appropriate,” implies that you may judge that it is never appropriate, and that, I think, would set a very --
MS. HARF: I would not jump to that assumption. I think --
QUESTION: So you intend to provide consular access at some point?
MS. HARF: Again, we don’t know what his eventual disposition will be like, where that will be, but as and when appropriate, depending on what that disposition is, where he’s in custody, all of these play into this discussion, and that’s the discussion that’s going on right now.
QUESTION: Why does he --
MS. HARF: We’re committed in general to the principle, of course, of consular access.
QUESTION: Yes, but the problem is the particular, and I wonder – my question is: Why is he not entitled to consular access now?
MS. HARF: I didn’t say that. I said the discussion is ongoing with the Government of Libya and --
QUESTION: And you provided “as and when appropriate.”
MS. HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: But not that you will necessarily provide it.
MS. HARF: But not that we necessarily won’t, which is where you’re taking it.
QUESTION: But you’re leaving the possibility that you won’t.
MS. HARF: I just said we’re committed to the principle of consular access. The question is when it’s appropriate. That’s what’s being discussed right now with the Government of Libya. And when we are able to give you more details about what that might eventually look like, we certainly will.
QUESTION: So he will definitely get it at some point?
MS. HARF: I’m not promising anything from here. That conversation’s ongoing. I just --
QUESTION: But wouldn’t – if he were a U.S. citizen, wouldn’t you want the Libyan Government, if they were holding a U.S. citizen, to commit to providing access to – because you’re not doing that here.
MS. HARF: But I’m not – this is going to sound like I’m playing a word game. I’m not not doing that either. I’m just saying that the discussion’s ongoing. We’re committed to the principle of consular access. And when it’s appropriate in this case, we will live up to our obligations. It’s an ongoing discussion.
QUESTION: What could – what determines when it’s appropriate? Could you give us a ball – a guideline on what is appropriate?
MS. HARF: It’s a good question. I don’t have more details for you on all of our obligations under the applicable conventions. If I have any more to share with you tomorrow, I can. Again, I think we don’t know what his final disposition will be, so as this case unfolds, I think we’ll probably keep talking about it. I also don’t want to get ahead of the discussions with the Libyan Government.
QUESTION: Now, just – I mean, you’re making the determination about what is appropriate. It’s not under the obligations, from the sound of what you were saying, anyway.
MS. HARF: Well, and we’re in discussions with the Libyans about it too.
QUESTION: So I just wondered what you meant by what is appropriate.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. If I have more granularity on that, I’m happy to share it.
QUESTION: Because part of the problem about getting information about Mr. Libi is, unfortunately, many of your opposite numbers at DOJ are furloughed, so we can’t actually talk to them.
MS. HARF: Oh. Well, see --
QUESTION: So you are a very useful point of contact.
MS. HARF: -- another way the government shutdown is affecting national security right there.
QUESTION: It – yes. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: I will endeavor to get you as much more detail as I can. Obviously, this is – these are issues that involve a lot of buildings around town, a lot of different equities. I’m attempting to get as much for you as possible. I promise.
QUESTION: And did you – I don’t know if you saw yesterday that there was – the New York Public Defenders have called for them to be allowed to be the ones who represent Mr. Libi. I wondered if you had a comment on that.
MS. HARF: I don’t. Again, I would stress that his final disposition hasn’t been determined, so I think we’ll probably have those conversations when we get closer to that time.
What else? Wow, silence.
MS. HARF: I was about to leave.
QUESTION: Yeah. I know. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: Like, we’re not doing Egypt? Okay, cool. I’m just going to go have lunch.
QUESTION: So here’s a question that I should have asked yesterday in the briefing – in the telephone briefing: Does --
MS. HARF: I told you all, by the way, we would get a lot of chance soon to talk about this in the briefing room.
QUESTION: Yes, yep.
MS. HARF: Sooner than everyone thought.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. Government have to pay any penalty – make any penalty payments to U.S. arms manufacturers as a result of yesterday’s decision to withhold deliveries of the large military systems to Egypt?
MS. HARF: Yes, and thank you for the question. It’s an important one. In some cases, there are costs associated with the suspension of some programs – or “holding” of some programs is really the term we’re using. Holding some deliveries may involve costs. For example, we may incur storage costs for equipment that is not delivered. The actual cost will depend on a number of factors, including the terms of the relevant contracts.
We will, of course, continue to meet our obligations to American contractors where programs conflict with the policy objectives we have outlined. We will work with U.S. vendors to ensure that any issues are resolved consistent with the terms of the individual contracts; all the contracts are worded a little bit differently. We will – if there is physical equipment we do not deliver, we will evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis to determine the most appropriate disposition of any equipment, including taking into account the cost and other factors. Some equipment could be put in storage, for example, while we continue to assess the situation.
QUESTION: So what’s your – because you must have a – naturally this was part of your calculations – you must have an estimate what that’s going to cost the U.S. taxpayer. I mean, these contracts are signed and so you’ve had a chance to look at them – not you personally, I hope, but somebody --
MS. HARF: I’ve gone through all of them last night. Can you believe that?
QUESTION: Excellent. I’m delighted. Well, then you can tell us: What’s this going to cost the U.S. Government?
MS. HARF: So on numbers – and it’s a good question because I’m sure there are lots of numbers questions – it’s difficult to give specific answers about numbers for a variety of reasons. There’s – it’s not as if there’s some finite thing that’s been stopped necessarily forever, right? So some of the money that might have been allocated toward certain things will be recalibrated in the sense that it will be repurposed towards other ends, like assistance that might have just been provided in the past as cash assistance, which we know we’re not providing right now, we could maybe use that in other ways to help the Egyptian people.
So there’s not a one-to-one calculation here, and I think that’s sort of the crux of why numbers are really tough to get at. We’re determining what all – what should happen to all of this right now, but when you add up the categories of things that we’ve mentioned will be held, it adds up to the hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance.
QUESTION: Yeah, but I – my question is not about the economic stuff, but specifically the military hardware. Do you not – I mean, you took a long time to do this review, months. Do you not have an estimate for what it’s going to cost the U.S. Government per day, per week, per month to withhold these deliveries?
MS. HARF: Well, I think folks are looking at all the contracts right now and seeing what they can do with each part of it – what the storage costs might be, if there are different options, better options. That work is ongoing, so I don’t have an estimate because it’s just very complicated and there’s a lot of, for lack of a better term, moving parts to what we’re doing now with things that aren’t being delivered.
QUESTION: I’m going to keep asking because I think it’s reasonable for the – for people to know what this – what are the implications?
MS. HARF: I probably won’t have an answer, but I can keep trying as well.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: So keep asking; I’ll keep trying.
MS. HARF: We’ll see what we can do.
QUESTION: Okay. Is the penalty cost or termination cost that you’re trying to assess, is there enough in the account to cover that? Is the 584 million that was obligated by the end of last month, is that going to be enough to cover --
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer.
QUESTION: And by the way, you said 584, or is it 585 as you said for many, many weeks?
MS. HARF: I thought it was 585, yeah.
QUESTION: It’s – but, well, no. But you guys said 585 for weeks, and then Jen said 584 the other day.
QUESTION: Jen said 584.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: And I’d like --
MS. HARF: I’ll double-check.
MS. HARF: It was my understanding it was 585.
MS. HARF: I will double-check.
QUESTION: It happened to --
QUESTION: Do you also --
QUESTION: And. it’s the same with cash assistance as well. Is that 250 or --
MS. HARF: 260.
QUESTION: It is 260.
MS. HARF: 260. Cash assistance is 260.
QUESTION: Notwithstanding the fact that I was told – I mean, it’s normally 250 million a year.
MS. HARF: Uh-huh.
QUESTION: I was told that because of sequestration, it was in fact 241 million for FY 2013. So I would love to know if it’s 241 or 250 or 260.
MS. HARF: Well, what I have --
QUESTION: It’s 260.
MS. HARF: -- from our experts is 260.
QUESTION: I have a follow-up on this.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: Do we know how many defense contractors are involved?
MS. HARF: I do not.
QUESTION: Are we talking a couple?
MS. HARF: I honestly don’t know. I’ll see if I can get more clarity.
MS. HARF: I don’t know.
MS. HARF: I can take that one for you.
QUESTION: Can I just flip a coin on the numbers, and possibly you can’t answer it this way around either --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- but as I asked last night in my email to you, is it possible to say what the value is of the programs that are left, the ones that were mentioned by one of the – some of the officials, the education, the health --
MS. HARF: That are continuing --
QUESTION: -- the economic reform, and so on and so forth?
MS. HARF: I think – and this is one of the reasons, actually, it’s hard to give a number, because some of what we’re not providing, we may repurpose that money for things we still are providing.
MS. HARF: Those calculations are ongoing. If we have numbers eventually to share, I’m happy to. That just may continue to be ongoing. We may never settle on a static number, but I’ll be happy to continue looking into it.
QUESTION: Operationally, where’s the storage facility? Are these things like sitting in a garage somewhere? (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: The answer is I don’t know. I think different places around the U.S.
QUESTION: Not mine. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: I know that the F-16s that weren’t delivered are someplace in the U.S. and – yeah.
QUESTION: But they’re staying with the manufacturer, or they’re sitting with, like, DOD?
MS. HARF: I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t know who – it probably varies from contract to contract, but I just don’t know. DOD would probably be able to answer that.
QUESTION: Is it possible they’ll get delivered to another customer in the meantime?
MS. HARF: That’s a good question. I don’t know.
QUESTION: Can you ask?
MS. HARF: I can ask.
QUESTION: Because that would reduce the costs on --
MS. HARF: That would. And we certainly are attempting to reduce the cost.
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MS. HARF: There just will be some cost associated.
QUESTION: And then --
MS. HARF: I’ll come to you next.
QUESTION: Sorry. And then are there any costs associated with – and maybe this is what you just asked, but are there any costs associated with terminating any of the programs that you are terminating, the non-military ones?
MS. HARF: We’re holding programs. We’re not terminating.
QUESTION: Holding. Excuse me, excuse me.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Are there any costs associated with holding the non-military programs that you are going to put on hold?
MS. HARF: That’s a good question. I don’t – I mean, there’s obviously no cost associated with the cash assistance.
QUESTION: You’re actually probably making money by having – making interest. But I’m thinking about other stuff.
MS. HARF: Also a good question.
QUESTION: Yeah. Can you ask that one?
MS. HARF: Yes. The answer is I don’t know and I will try to find out.
QUESTION: Yes, please.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: Regarding this – the holding and you do the – Arshad asked a question about the contract that they are not delayed or whatever.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: It was mentioned before certain numbers – I’m not sure, about 2 billion or whatever – but in the same time it was mentioned, one of the congressional aide mentioned that they maybe asked Egyptians to pay for the storage from the aid. Is it true that it can be done like that?
MS. HARF: I haven’t heard that. That’s not my understanding of how it works.
QUESTION: I mean, part of this 1.3 or 2 million – billion dollars --
MS. HARF: That’s not my understanding of how it works, but let me see. I can check and see if there’s any discussion of that.
QUESTION: So that --
MS. HARF: And basically, what happened to the 585 that we were – that we’ve been talking about is it got obligated into Egypt’s account, the Egyptian account, but never given to Egypt, right? We talked about this at the time. It had to be obligated by the end of the fiscal year, but the money was never obligated for specific contracts for anything for Egypt. So the money is sitting there right now and that’s some of the money we’ve been talking about, whether it will be needed for some of these costs associated with holding things. And that’s what Deb asked about, if it would cover that. So that’s where that money is right now.
QUESTION: I think I was – I read something related to this put-aside money so it can be used for similar things of storage and all these things. I’m not sure. That’s why I’m asking.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: My second question: You said about this – is this, the 260, which is maybe become 241 or --
MS. HARF: Well, I think it – I’m pretty confident it’s 260, but --
QUESTION: 260, okay.
MS. HARF: I’m sorry if there are different numbers floating around.
QUESTION: Is this economic assistance or military assistance?
MS. HARF: It’s cash assistance --
QUESTION: Cash --
MS. HARF: -- that goes directly to the interim government, which is – it’s not military assistance. It’s economic assistance.
QUESTION: So – okay. Now it’s economics. So my question is: When it was raised, this issue – not this, the number issue because it was raised that it was said that we will work directly with the Egyptian people --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- instead of – and in the projects of health and education and enterprise, economic enterprise. Is this going to be through this money, or other money is there?
MS. HARF: Well, the assistance that will continue comes from money that will fund a lot of these programs – the economic, the health programs, the – excuse me, education, health programs, things that we’ve talked about. But another thing that we’re continuing that I should mention is working with the interim government on security issues. When we talk about countering terrorism, particularly in the Sinai, we talk about training and education for their military. We have Egyptian military folks here right now. So I just wanted to reiterate it’s not just the economic part of it that’s continuing. There is some other --
QUESTION: I understand that part, but what I’m trying to figure out --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- when you said this which is cash assistance to the government --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- and it’s holded now --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- holding now that money, and then you said you are going to go work directly with the people --
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: -- to do what? I mean, what is the money? Where is the money?
MS. HARF: Well, it’s not – it’s from a separate – and I’m going to hate to use the term again but it’s from a separate bucket of money. And I’m not going to get too much in the weeds about different buckets of money. We’ve been through that and I’m just – we’re not going to do it again. But it’s just a separate funding for programs that are ongoing. But just a separate source of funding.
QUESTION: The question that – I recognize yesterday and today and maybe I’m – I hope I’m wrong – that we are talking about money but we are not mentioning numbers. I mean, that’s a very interesting concept.
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve mentioned a few.
QUESTION: I mean, it’s quantity. Money is quantities, not quality.
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve mentioned a few. We’ve talked about the 260. And look, we all know what the overall package is in terms of assistance to Egypt. So we know at a minimum, right, that 260 million in cash assistance is not being provided, and on top of that some fairly big ticket military equipment items are being held. So I think it’s fair to say that this is – demonstrates that – the amount that we’re holding demonstrates the severity of the situation but at the same time, what we’re focused on is maintaining an assistance relationship and an overall relationship going forward.
So where we provide assistance that speaks to our core national security interests on issues like counterterrorism, security in the Sinai, regional stability, helping Egypt move forward on its democratic transition – that work will continue.
QUESTION: Marie –
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. And then I’ll go to you.
QUESTION: Did you see the reaction from the Egyptian foreign ministry about the decision to hold the arms deliveries, which is calling it flawed and saying that it raises serious questions about the United States’ readiness to provide strategic support to Egypt’s security programs? What would be your reaction to that?
MS. HARF: Well, I think everyone’s been clear since we’ve announced this policy that we believe it is absolutely in our interest to maintain a strong strategic partnership with the Government of Egypt. That’s exactly why we’re continuing this partnership. And we’re continuing a lot of important work with them. It’s also why we’ve said this is not a permanent situation, that this is just being held, and that we will evaluate and assess the progress the interim government makes on its democratic transition and in other areas and continue to reevaluate our posture.
So I think we’re – everyone should come out of this policy review understanding that we believe it is absolutely crucial that we continue to have a strategic partnership. Business couldn’t continue as usual and it’s not. But we hope the goal, right, is for Egypt to make progress on its democratic transition, continue to move forward, and eventually to get back to a place that is more like business as usual.
QUESTION: And I wonder if business as usual – is that actually going to take on a different hue perhaps once all this crisis is passed and it will be less top-heavy military aid and perhaps a bit more diverse in the programs that you’re willing to support? Because as you mentioned on the call yesterday, as the officials were talking about, there are a lot of economic and political challenges that Egypt could really use the money for.
MS. HARF: Absolutely. And these were programs we’re already committed to but they’ll be ongoing because they’re so important for the Egyptian people and for the democratic transition. But I would also stress that the military-to-military ties – yes, while there won’t be – while some big-ticket items are being held, I think it’s important to understand that the military training in the U.S. will continue, the military education which in Egypt and other countries we’ve seen has actually been very successful at forming these military-to-military ties. And we’ll be continuing to work with their military on security issues, particularly in the Sinai.
So I think it would be incorrect to say that just because some big-ticket military items aren’t going forward that that – the military-to-military relationship is going to drastically suffer because of it in any way. But certainly, the programs that were mentioned are very important and I’m glad that we can continue to fund them. I think it’s important for the Egyptian people and for our relationship.
QUESTION: Does the Egyptian military need F-16s and M1A1 Abrams tanks?
MS. HARF: Well, those are a couple of the things that we will not be sending right now.
QUESTION: I know. I know. So why do they – but why do they need – I mean, I’m sure you know there’s been a large debate for years about the utility of U.S. military assistance to Egypt, and there has been a very widely held view on the part of officials in Washington that these are no longer necessary.
Former Ambassador to Egypt Daniel Kurtzer tells a wonderful story about attending an event in Egypt where – I forget what number it is – the 300th or the 500th M1A1 Abrams tank rolled off the assembly line and he’s there, and then he goes back a couple of years and that exact tank is like still on display – (laughter) – like it hasn’t been deployed, which raises a question, and I know it’s a question that people who deal with this policy have been asking for a long time: Why do the Egyptians need the F-16s that the U.S. Government pays for? Are they going to use them against Israel? Israel has much better fighters. Why do they need the tanks? Do they plan to fight a tank battle? And if so, against whom?
So the reason I’m asking is, why should the U.S. Government continue – I mean, you hold out the prospect of resuming these deliveries. The question I’m asking is: Why do the Egyptians need these particular things anyway? Why not use this as an opportunity to redirect them toward things that you think maybe are more important?
MS. HARF: It’s a good question, Arshad. And (a), I’m not an expert on order of battle or those issues and why certain things are needed for what, but I think broadly speaking, a couple of points: The first is that we constantly reassess and reevaluate what military equipment and hardware makes the most sense to provide to our friends and partners around the world. That’s an ongoing discussion, not just with Egypt but with a lot of countries, as we know.
And you’re absolutely right that that assistance and those deliveries need to match the operational picture and threat picture on the ground, certainly. But this has been a discussion that’s been ongoing for a long time. I would absolutely imagine that as we discuss the relationship going forward, and eventually if we get to a place where we’ll start with – back again with some of the big ticket military items, we’ll talk about what is – what could best meet their needs going forward. I don’t have any previews of that discussion, obviously, but it’s a fair question, certainly one people in this building think about a lot, not just with Egypt but with a lot of countries that we provide --
MS. HARF: -- this kind of hardware to, quite frankly. And it’s a good question particularly because we’ve seen sort of the operational picture and threat picture change a lot over the last decade, right?
QUESTION: So maybe --
MS. HARF: So I think it’s a fair question.
QUESTION: -- even if you resume these then, or if you resume big ticket military items, it’s conceivable that you might deliver other items, not these?
MS. HARF: I don’t want to venture to guess at that. I mean, if these are things that we’re contractually obligated to, who knows what the contract looks like. I’m not --
MS. HARF: -- in any way prejudging an outcome of that discussion. I’m just saying that I’m sure it’s an issue that people are thinking about, as they always do.
QUESTION: Marie, just to get into that a little bit deeper. I mean, back when you guys were briefing us on – in August on sort of the mechanism of the FMF fund money and how that’s distributed, I think Jen made it sound like it’s kind of a collaborative process, that there’s a dialogue between the Egyptians and the folks at DOD about what the needs are.
MS. HARF: Absolutely.
QUESTION: And then that’s when DOD signs off on certain items that get shipped over. But now that these big ticket items are being held up on, is there a possibility that that – the money that would have gone to those will then be repurposed to other things that might be more palatable for the U.S. to provide?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve said that there’s certainly an ability and a – we’re looking at now how to repurpose some of the funding. Quite frankly, I don’t know, for example, if the Apaches are already ready to go. If there’s a possibility for money – for any money to be repurposed or if it’s already been spent, I just don’t know the answer. DOD might have some more information about specifics on the military hardware side.
But we’ve said where there is funding or assistance that’s not being delivered, if we can repurpose it we will look at fair ways to do so. I just don’t know.
QUESTION: Is that one of the reasons why it’s so hard to provide numbers, because that money is fungible and can kind of be moved around a little bit?
MS. HARF: Absolutely. That is the crux of the reason why it’s so hard to provide numbers. Absolutely.
QUESTION: Change subject?
MS. HARF: Oh, Egypt?
QUESTION: Just a few questions.
MS. HARF: Okay.
QUESTION: I mean, more not strategic questions. I’m trying to be simple. How do you foresee the direct relations with the people and our experience or the U.S. Government experience with the Egyptians, whether it’s NGO and other projects in the last two, three years was really a lot of troubling? I mean, is there a way to get to the people directly without barrier or let’s say the filter of the government?
MS. HARF: Well, that’s exactly what I think some of our programs are designed to do, the programs that are continuing. Working directly with the Egyptian people on education or health, civil society, that’s absolutely what we’re going to continue doing. That’s why that assistance isn’t stopping.
QUESTION: Yeah, I mean, the other question, which – I mean, that the reason I’m asking how you are seeing it because the experience tell us our experience or, let’s say, in general experience told us that it’s hardened, it’s – especially in this type of the countries and populations. The other thing, it was mentioned yesterday that this is not – there is going to be a regular or let’s say periodical review of this relation. Is there a timeframe for that, or is just like --
MS. HARF: No. No time frame.
QUESTION: On that note, Marie, have you outlined specific objectives for Egypt to achieve, as in writing a constitution, parliamentary elections, election of a new president?
MS. HARF: It’s a good question. We’ve obviously welcomed the interim government’s commitment to a political roadmap that they’ve talked about to restore democratically elected civilian government. And that’s what we’ll focus on in the coming months. We’re not going to get into specific criteria, but we will review our assistance levels against several factors, including progress the Egyptian Government is making towards restoring – towards again restoring a democratically elected civilian government.
Some of those things you mentioned certainly fall into that category. I’m not going to set specific milestones, but certainly those are part of the larger conversation.
QUESTION: But wouldn’t it be easier if you did? If you said, when you elect a new government, we’ll turn back on – like while they sit in the penalty box, we send some mixed signals, maybe mixed signals to our allies?
MS. HARF: No, no. I don’t think it’s mixed signals at all. I think the holding up hundreds of millions of dollars in assistance isn’t a mixed signal; I think it sends a very clear signal. But suffice to say we’re having more specific conversations with the Egyptian Government, and we’ll continue to do so about what they need to do. I’m just not going to outline all of those publicly.
QUESTION: Understood. And you say we’re still supporting in counterterror, but couldn’t some weapon systems like an Apache helicopter be useful in counterterror, especially in the Sinai?
MS. HARF: Well, they already have some. We’re just not delivering new things. They already have a lot of military equipment that supports counterterrorism. And as we said yesterday, we will continue to supply spare parts, replacement parts for what they already have. We won’t let those things just go derelict. So they have a lot of that already.
QUESTION: And lastly, could some of this been done in private, some of these – yesterday, it was very quick, abrupt, we’re pulling the aid. Was some of this discussion done in private, and when you didn’t see certain things taking place, that’s when you turned off the aid?
MS. HARF: Well, we’ve been having discussions – you mean discussions with the interim government in private. We’ve been having discussions with the interim government in private since July 3rd, and we’ve been clear with them that there’s an ongoing policy review in place. You’ll remember that right after it happened, we didn’t take immediate steps. We sort of let the situation play out on the ground to see what was happening. Then we came up against a few immediate deliveries that we decided to hold, which prompted a larger review, right, of the entire assistance as things got worse. At every – that a lot of steps in the process things continued to get worse on the ground, and that really led us to a place where we were forced by the interim government’s actions to undertake an entire policy review. So that’s what we’ve been doing for the last few months. It was a very thorough and comprehensive review, which is why it took a little while. But those discussions were going on privately and publicly in some cases, and they will continue to. Absolutely.
QUESTION: One more on Egypt? Sorry.
MS. HARF: One more – last one on Egypt.
QUESTION: Senior Israeli governments – both in public and in private – have made clear their unhappiness at the U.S. decision to withhold this equipment and money. And the thrust of their argument is that they are concerned that the withholding of the military and economic aid by the United States may, in and of itself, vitiate the Egyptian Government’s commitment to the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. How do you answer that concern?
MS. HARF: Well, first that we would never undertake any policy that put Israel’s security at risk, period. Across the board, we would never do anything --
MS. HARF: We would never undertake any policy that we believe would put Israel’s security at risk.
QUESTION: Even if you felt that U.S. security were imperiled?
MS. HARF: Well, I mean, I don’t know if you’re talking about something hypothetical, but certainly, in this case, we would never undertake any policy with Egypt that put Israel’s security at risk, period. That’s one of the reasons, quite frankly, we’re still committed to counterterrorism, particularly in the Sinai. And we’ve talked for a long time about Egypt’s commitment to maintaining the peace treaty, which they’ve done.
So we’ll continue those conversations, but we believed that this was the best decision for U.S. national security interests, including regional stability, which is also, of course, an Israeli national security interest. And we’ll continue the conversations with our Israeli friends about how this will all be implemented going forward.
QUESTION: Can I change --
MS. HARF: Jill and then I’ll come up to you.
QUESTION: Other subject?
MS. HARF: Yeah.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Back in the news.
QUESTION: Yeah, amazing. He – because we haven’t heard much from him for quite a while. But his father’s there and it just raises this issue – number one, if you had anything to say about that, period. But it raises that issue of he is the father, so it’s an immediate family member, but is there anything legally that he is precluded from doing when he’s there? I mean, can he – because after all, Snowden, Jr., is on the lam. So can he --
MS. HARF: Is there anything his father is precluded from doing, or else --
QUESTION: Yeah. Like can he meet – would it be a violation of some type of law to meet with his son?
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge. And the father really isn’t our concern, and even the father meeting with the son really isn’t our concern. Our concern really is Edward Snowden returning to the United States. He’s accused of very serious charges here, and he’ll be accorded full due process and protections applicable under U.S. law. It’s not really our – I think our concern about the meeting or our place to comment on it, and I don’t think we’re focused on his father at all in any way. I think we would just encourage Mr. Snowden to return.
QUESTION: Yeah. Well, I mean, obviously it would be kind of a legal question. Is there really something – like, if you were to meet with, I don’t know, a terrorist to be in collusion with a --
MS. HARF: I will take the legal question. I don’t think there is, but let me ask my experts.
QUESTION: Just for the future, it might be interesting.
MS. HARF: Yeah. No, it’s a good question.
QUESTION: And then also, is there anything – any update on consular access?
MS. HARF: No.
QUESTION: Has he talked with U.S. officials?
MS. HARF: No, he has not.
MS. HARF: Nothing.
MS. HARF: To my knowledge, nothing. No.
QUESTION: So you have --
MS. HARF: Scott --
QUESTION: You have no reaction or – to the visit by – or no comment on the visit of Mr. Snowden to --
MS. HARF: Well, I mean, the reaction is the same it’s always been. Mr. Snowden needs to return to the United States to face these charges. Yeah, I really don’t have anything to say about the specific meeting with his father. It’s just not really what we’re focused on.
QUESTION: He didn’t contact anybody, as far as you know, within the Administration to say he was going?
MS. HARF: His father?
QUESTION: Yeah, the father.
MS. HARF: I do not know the answer to that question. I don’t know --
QUESTION: I’m just wondering if he – if it was perhaps timed by – that he might have had some discussions --
MS. HARF: Did he have to get a visa with --
MS. HARF: I just – I have no idea. I can try to find out. I don’t think so, though.
QUESTION: Okay. I just wondered. He might have had discussions with somebody. He might be carrying a message to his son.
MS. HARF: Not to my knowledge, no. Nothing at all like that. No, nothing.
MS. HARF: Scott, yes.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: The OSCE says the vote did not meet international standards. The Azerbaijani Government says it was a historic moment for a country committed to strengthening its democratic society. So which is it?
MS. HARF: Well, I think we would agree with the OSCE here. And I just put out a statement on it, but let me talk about it a little bit. As you know, the elections were yesterday. I would reiterate here that the electoral process doesn’t begin or end on election day and we’re following events closely. We repeatedly called on the Government of Azerbaijan to ensure free and fair electoral process and we regret that this election fell short of international standards.
You mentioned the OSCE’s report. It noted serious problems on election day, such as ballot stuffing and irregularities with vote counting. They also noted significant shortcomings in the pre-election period. Embassy Baku observed similar problems, and of course, we are disturbed by these shortcomings in the process. And as we all know, the immediate post-election period is as important, I think, to the overall process as what occurs on election day, so we call on Azerbaijani authorities to respect the freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and speech, and urge restraint and avoidance of violence.
QUESTION: So do you expect there to be any implications for the future of U.S.-Azerbaijani relations as a result of this?
MS. HARF: We’ll keep evaluating the situation and take a look at our policy and see where things may go from here.
MS. HARF: Mm-hmm.
QUESTION: Does the U.S. believe that the North Koreans have restarted their reactor at Yongbyon?
MS. HARF: I think I’ve addressed this a few times, and I’m still in the same place, that I am not going to confirm those reports one way or the other.
MS. HARF: As Arshad pointed out yesterday, I’m going to address a hypothetical for once, that if it were the case, they would, of course – now twice, now twice, two days in a row – but if it were the case, they would, of course, be in violation of UN Security Council resolutions and their commitments under the joint statement from September 2005. I’m just not going to comment on those one way or the other.
QUESTION: Because the reason I ask is this background briefing you guys sent out. A senior State Department official was asked about Yongbyon and said that Secretary Kerry and President Park discussed some of the specific actions that North Korea is taking and said that in this conversation there’s no disagreement about what North Korea is doing. But can you tell us what North Korea is doing?
MS. HARF: I am not going to go any further than the background readout, but thank you for the question.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: The same question I asked yesterday on North Korea. In informal meeting with North Koreans and ex-U.S. Government officials, including Ambassador Bosworth --
MS. HARF: Right. None of those are current U.S. Government officials. They’re all former.
MS. HARF: There was no official State Department representation there.
QUESTION: Okay, okay. And at that meeting, North Koreans said they are prepared to take – if the Six-Party Talks resumed, they are prepared to take some steps to build confidence. Those includes moratorium on nuclear test and missile testing. And do you have any comment on that kind of proposal?
MS. HARF: Well, I’d reiterate that the D.P.R.K. committed on numerous occasions, including in the September 2005 joint statement of the Six-Party Talks, to abandoning all nuclear weapons and existing programs. That’s a pretty broad commitment. The onus is, of course, on North Korea to take meaningful steps towards living up to those obligations. I’m not going to outline specifically what that might look like, but they committed to abandoning their entire program and we hope that there would be some movement in that direction.
QUESTION: Can I ask you two questions about Africa, please?
MS. HARF: Always, yes.
MS. HARF: Yes.
QUESTION: What is the hope there?
MS. HARF: Well, I believe that it was adopted this morning -- the Security Council resolution. I think it was adopted unanimously. And we see this as a positive first step towards enabling political stabilization and an end to the ongoing violence in the Central African Republic. The resolution demands that the Seleka rebels and other armed groups immediately lay down their arms and expresses the UN Security Council’s readiness to consider appropriate measures against those who undermine peace, stability, and security. We were also pleased that the resolution expresses the Council’s unanimous support for the political transition roadmap which should lead to elections in 18 months, as defined by the transition charter which took effect in August of this year.
MS. HARF: More than you would think, Scott, actually. How did you know? That was my secret.
QUESTION: The Minister of Presidential Affairs Momodou Sabally has accused the United States and the United Kingdom of sponsoring a series of coup plots.
MS. HARF: I did see those comments, actually.
QUESTION: Is the United States at present actively engaged in overthrowing the Government of Gambia? (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: We have seen and reject the baseless accusations made in recent statements by the Government of the Gambia. We have a longstanding relationship with the government and its people. Our desire and intention is to pursue healthy bilateral ties.
QUESTION: Good enough for me. (Laughter.)
MS. HARF: Anything else?
QUESTION: Thank you.
MS. HARF: Thank you all.
(The briefing was concluded at 2:22 p.m.)
DPB # 167